December 25, 2013

I love watching the kids open gifts on Christmas Morning, but...

December 12, 2013

Marshmallow-less Krispie treats

So, I wanted a treat for my daughter (and ok, me too) and what's easier than Rice Krispie treats, right??  But I don't keep marshmallows in the house most of the time. So here's what I came up with instead. I used organic raw honey, and all natural peanut butter, but the regular stuff works great too. 

3/4 cup honey
1 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups Rice Krispies
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Combine honey and peanut butter in saucepan and heat just to boiling, be sure to stir constantly.
Remove from heat and add vanilla, then stir in Rice Krispies (and chocolate chips, if desired).
Let cool a little, so not to burn your hands, then form balls, only lightly pressing the ingredients together, and place mounds into small cupcake/candy liners, and let cool.

You can also press into a greased 9" x 12" pan, cool and cut into squares.

Still easy peasy like the traditional treats... but it's got a healthier twist on it with less refined sugar, and when you go the organic honey and all natural PB, it's even better!! And to take it a step further, use the gluten free brown Rice Krispies and you have a glutten free snack!! 

Enjoy :)

December 4, 2013

Calming bottle

This time of year, it seems like we remind the kids to be good every 10 seconds.   With the holidays coming, and some certain bearded dude coming around at the end of the month, the kids are so excited it's like their on a constant sugar high. And then again, they may be, with all the Christmas cooking being passed around. Anyway, if you feel like your little ones are a little extra bouncy-off-the-wallsy... try out this calming bottle. See if it may just give you 5 mins of peace even.

It's also known as a calming jar, but the thoughts of a glass jar scared me.  I envisioned water and sparkles EVERYWHERE.  So I modified the idea, and I see a few others also did, by using a plastic bottle instead.  General consensus on the internet seems to be that the brand SmartWater has the best bottle, although, be prepared, it's probably one of the more expensive ones out there. I mean, it's not break the bank expensive, I paid $2.50 ish for it... but I'm also one of those people who never buy bottled water, so when I find myself in a situation where I need too, I expect .99cents... or, maybe $1.50 if you want to gouge me. But, this is strictly just my opinion... no offence to any water sellers out there.

Anywho.. Here is my finished product,


Take the plastic water bottle and remove any labels. Squeeze about a 1/2 inch of gel glitter glue into the bottom of the bottle. Next pour in a small amount of fine glitter. I eyeballed it, but I'd say roughly 1-2 tablespoons worth.
Now, fill the bottle water, be sure to leave an inch of space at the top.  It's best to use hot water so the glue softens and mixes well into the water and doesn't clump. It will however dissolve eventually, so if you do get some clumping, no need to redo it.  So now, go ahead and put the cover on and give it a good shake.  It's best to let the water cool now, and NOT glue the top on yet.  The glitter will settle differently once it cools, and you may want to add more, just just give it a bit of time to cool.
Once it's cooled take the cover off and wipe away any moisture, then you can use a glue gun to seal
it shut.  Just use a little around the rim, then replace the cover right away and close tight.  Leave it for 5 mins, and then try to take it off.  It shouldn't budge. Then it's good to go for your little one.
Hopefully the next time they are getting a little out of hand, you can pass them this bottle and watching the soothing, velvety texture will distract them, and settle them down.


DIY Holiday Potpourri

Make your home smell like the Holidays any time! 

This is a safe an all natural potpourri recipe that will have your home smelling amazing in no time! Just add the ingredients with 4 cups of water into a sauce pan and simmer on the stove top.

* Make sure to keep adding more water to the ingredients as it evaporates. 
You can put it in an air tight container in the fridge between uses as well, should last a week or 2.

December 2, 2013

DIY Burlap Garland

If you've been anywhere near Pinterest lately, you'll find burlap crafts everywhere! I jumped right on that trendy bandwagon because 1) It's CHEAP, $2.97 per yard at my Wal-Mart. 2) It's easily adaptable to all 4 seasons of decorating or any home decor theme. And 3) I feel like a member of the popular crowd on Pinterest now because I made something with it.

This is a really easy crafty activity that even the kids can help with. Some stores have rolls of pre-cut Burlap which will make this an even faster afternoon project doesn't require a sewing machine. They look like this:

My local store didn't have any of these neatly packaged little rolls of goodness so I had to take the long way around to getting my burlap strips ready.

What you'll need:
Several Yards of Burlap ( I bought 6) or a couple rolls of the pre-cut garland
Fabric marker of some kind
Needle and matching Thread
Sewing machine (if you bought the burlap by the yard)
A friend with wine... I guess this is optional but it sure made it more fun!

How To:
The first thing I had to do was cut my trips of burlap. I wanted some thinner garland for my tree and some wider for various other places in my house, so we cut some 4" and some 6" strips. After the strips were cut we pulled a few of the outer threads so that there was a nice straight line to follow. You'll have some un-even threads protruding from the sides but don't worry, those will get trimmed! 
Sew a medium length and width zig-zag stitch all the way around your garland strips, using the last thread of the burlap as your guide. This will keep them from fraying and make it look much neater. Then trim any excess off so it's even all the way around.

Next grab a needle and thread it with a nice long length of thread. I used a big darning needle, it was easy to hold and the gaps in the fabric are plenty big to accommodate it, It's also safer for smaller hands because they're dull so if you have a child wanting to help this is the best step for that. Start at one end of your strip and pull the thread through and knot it to secure it to the end. Sew long even stitches in a 'S' pattern, gathering as you go, all the way to the other end.

How closely to gather your garland will be a matter of your personal taste. Here's an example of what the different sizes and gathers that I did before deciding on which I liked best.

Once you get to the other end and have your garland gathered the way you like it, knot off your thread securing that end in place and trim the extra thread. Now you've got Garland! 

Now go make 10 more strands of burlap garland and put it all over you house, just to make sure people know you're part of the trendy "I craft with burlap" club ;)

December 1, 2013

Porcupine Meatballs

This is a perfect meal when you are short on groceries, or failed to plan out supper. 
Kids and husband approved!! 
It's also gluten free!! 

1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup uncooked white rice
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 cup water

Mix the ground beef, rice, 1/2 cup water, onion, salt, celery salt, garlic powder, and black pepper in a bowl. Roll the mixture into 12 meatballs.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the meatballs. Cook meatballs, turning occasionally, until evenly browned. Drain and discard any excess grease. Pour the tomato sauce, 1 cup water into the skillet; reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the meatballs are no longer pink in the center and the rice is tender, about 45 minutes. Stir in more water if the sauce becomes too dry.
This made 13 BIG meatballs, so if you want to make them smaller adjust cooking time.

Tip & Trick: How to soften rock hard brown sugar

It's holiday baking time! But what do you do when you bring out your bag of poorly sealed brown sugar and it's a solid as a cement block? We got ya covered! All you need is a damp paper towel and a microwave!

How To:
~Empty your brick of brown sugar in a microwave safe bowl.
~Cover sugar with a damp paper towel.
~Cover bowl with a lid or plate.
~Microwave on high for 30 seconds, then use a fork to break it apart and stir to crumble.
~Continue microwaving in 15 second increments after, until the clumps eventually turn into granules again.
~Store it in an airtight container this time. ;)


November 28, 2013

Garlic Roasted Mushrooms

Looking for a great appetizer to serve this holiday season?  Or perhaps a mouth-watering side to a main course?  This is an easy, but delicious little dish you can prepare and cook in a matter of minutes. Any mushroom lover would be an instant fan, and those who aren't normally mushroom eaters may be asking for the recipe. 

Items needed:
7-10 Button mushrooms
2 tsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter (melted)
1-2 tbsp minced garlic
1-2 tbsp bread crumbs
1/8 cup shredded
mozzarella cheese
Salt & pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 400°F.  Clean mushrooms and sauté (stems up) in frying pan for about 4-5 mins. {You just want to start to cook the mushrooms, not cook through.} While that's cooking, mix butter and garlic together. Next arrange mushrooms (stems up) in an oven safe bake dish. Drizzle the butter/garlic combo over the mushrooms, then sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Lastly, throw some shredded mozzarella over it all and then salt and pepper.  Place in hot oven for 10-12 minutes, then broil on low for an additional 2 minutes.  Let cool before serving as it will be HOT! 

Now, try not to eat them all before the guests can try them ;p


November 15, 2013

Clean with food, not chemicals!

So if you haven't heard already, cleaning supplies are full of horrible chemicals. Chemicals that hurt you and your family.  Yes, even some of the ones that claim the don't  ...even the ones that claim they protect against germs! The germs can be less evil than the chemicals.  These chemicals disrupt natural hormone production, can give way to lung issues, are corrosive, and worse can cause cancer.  
The list can go on and on as to why certain cleaners are not good for you and your loved ones.  But the good news is, you already have a lot of the basic ingredients to make your own cleaners. As well as cleaners, these ingredients also can be used for more things around your home, and we'll include some of those too.  
We've listed a couple of items that you probably already have in your home and found a list of uses for each item, that you may or may not already be aware of.  Please feel free to share this information, and help someone else get away from the chemicals that are out there, and that are possibly hurting them and their family. 

Baking soda! Not just for baking a cake anymore.

1.  A foot deodorizing idea, is to sprinkle baking soda in socks and shoes before wearing.
2.  Remove car odors by putting a sprinkle of baking soda on the seats and carpets. Let stand 1 hour, then vacuum.
3.  Take the sting and itch out of insect bites by making a paste out of baking soda and water. Apply as a salve onto affected area.
4.  Rid those smelly litter box odors by sprinkling 1/2 cup of baking soda into litter box then fill.
5.  Dip your toothbrush with toothpaste into baking soda for extra cleaning and whitening.
6.  Remove coffee oils and stains from coffee decanters in a solution of 1/4 cup baking soda in 1 quart of warm water.
7.  Clean brushes and combs and remove natural oil build-up and hair product residue by soaking combs and brushes in a solution of 1 teaspoon of baking soda in a small basin of warm water. Rinse and allow to dry.
8.  For safe, effective cleaning of bathroom tubs, tile sprinkle baking soda lightly on a clean damp sponge and scrub as usual. Rinse thoroughly after.
9.  To unclog a sink, pour 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by 1 cup of white vinegar. When foam clears, rinse with hot, hot water.
10. Clean your oven without that nasty smelling, chemical filled stuff they sell specifically for the job. Just sprinkle baking soda onto the bottom of the oven. Spray with water to dampen the baking soda and let sit overnight. In the morning, scrub, scoop the baking soda and grime out with a sponge, or vacuum, and wipe with a wet cloth.
Picture Example Source: Happiest Mom on the Blog
Distilled white vinegar, no longer just for pickles!
(We're not talking about cider or any other kind of vinegar, just the white variety.)
1.  If you’ve recently burned dinner, you can remove any lingering smoky odor by boiling a cup of vinegar and a cup of water for 15 mins.
2.  Clean fruits and vegetables when you get home from the grocery store.  There is usually sprays, waxes or just some critters on your produce, so when you get it home, fill the sink with cold water and 1 cup of vinegar and put in all your produce items.  The vinegar cuts through a lot of the sprays and waxes, and hopefully and critters will drown.  Let sit up to an hour, and then rinse everything and put away.
3.  Garbage disposal cleaning with vinegar cubes keeps disposals clean and odor free.  Vinegar cubes are made by filling an ice tray with a mixture of 1 cup of vinegar and enough water to fill the ice tray and then freezing it. Run the mixture through the disposal, and then flush it with cold water for a minute or so.
4.  Clean the refrigerator with a solution of equal parts water and vinegar. Cuts through the sticky, and deodorizes the smells.
5.  Pour 1 ½ cup to 2 cups vinegar in the bottom of dishwasher, along with regular dishwasher soap. Wash full cycle and get cleaner dishes and glasses.
6.  After a hem or seam is removed, there are often unsightly holes left in the fabric. These holes can be removed by placing a cloth, moistened with vinegar, under the fabric and ironing.
7.  A teaspoon of vinegar for each quart bowl of drinking water helps keep your pet free of fleas and ticks. The ratio of one teaspoon to one quart is for a forty-pound animal.
8.  For those cold winter mornings when there is frost on the car, wipe the windows the night before with a solution of one part water to three parts vinegar, and they won’t frost over.
9.  Freshen clothes by adding of 1 cup of vinegar to each load of baby clothes during the rinse cycle will naturally break down uric acid and soapy residue leaving the clothes soft and fresh.
10. To kill grass & weeds on sidewalks and driveways, pour full strength vinegar on it, or spray onto specific weeds or spots you want to get rid of. Best results are had when you do this on a very hot sunny day.  The combo of vinegar and sun does them in.
Picture Example Source:
Rubbing alcohol, or any high proof alcohol NOT designed for ingestion, is a great addition to cleaning and other household uses.
(If you want to drink a cocktail while doing housework we strongly advise using a reputable source of 'drinking' alcohol.)
1.  Combine with vinegar and water mix for cleaning glass. It helps with preventing streaks as it evaporates very quickly, as well as it helps cut grease and finger prints.
2.  Remove nail polish from wood or laminate floors use rubbing alcohol. It works better than acetone nail polish remover, which will harm the finish of the floor.
3.  Clean any second hand toys or hard plastic items.  It gets rid of dirt and sanitizes to kill any germs lingering on the item.
4.  Permanent marker doesn’t have to be permanent anymore. Alcohol will act as a solvent on it’s markings on most surfaces. Use a saturated cloth and lots of elbow grease.
5.  Make your own room/fabric deodorizing spray with alcohol by it’s self (or) with essential oils.  A few drops of your favorite scent and it will freshen the air or clothing, mattresses, pillows, whatever you spray it on.  No water should be mixed in, because the alcohol evaporates almost immediately, killing bacteria and odors, but leaving behind freshness and a hint of the scent from the essential oil. Water will only saturate and leave way for possible mold spores.
6.  Clean surfaces of cellphones, tablets, laptops, any electronics that you have.  Spray alcohol on a microfiber cloth and rub over the surface of your item, then let it dry. Using a q-tip and alcohol is perfect for getting all the gross out of keyboards. (Trust me, it’s gross) Again, the alcohol evaporates very quickly, so water damage isn’t a concern, but these items can get very dirty, grimy, and germ-y, so a cleaning must be done on a regular basis
7.  Clean your stainless steal with a spray of alcohol and a microfiber cloth.  No chemicals, no high priced cleaner that leaves streaks in the end anyway. Just spray, wipe and done!
8.  Alcohol is great for getting rid of sticker residue. Sometimes it is enough to rub an alcohol pad on the sticker goo and it will cut through the stick. But, for bigger jobs, soak the goo-covered object in a bowl of rubbing alcohol, then scrub with a scrub pad. The stickiness and goo should eventually wipe right off.
9.  With a combination of alcohol and aloe vera gel (ratio being 2 parts alcohol to 1 part gel), add a few drops of your favourite essential oil (i.e. lavender, lemon, tee tree oil) you can make your own hand sanitizer.  It works great, has no added chemicals, is the scent you desire, and make as much or as little as you need. Store in a tiny spray bottle and toss in your bag.
10. Using a sponge, alcohol, and determination, you can get microfiber furniture looking amazing once again.  You will end up using quite a bit of alcohol, which seems weird, but you want to spray liberally straight onto the spot and rub away the grime and dirt with the sponge.  The dirt transfers to the sponge and leaves only a wet spot on the microfiber, but it will quickly evaporate and not leave a stain behind. It's recommended to use a light or like colored sponge, otherwise you could possibly have the color transfer from the sponge to the furniture.  Once dry, the fabric could seem stiff, so a brushing with a stiff brush can soften the fabric once again.
Picture Example Source: Chris & Robin's Nest

Lemons are not just for juicing!  
1.  If you just don’t like the smell of vinegar, but still want to loose the chemical cleaners, use a few tablespoons of lemon juice and water in your spray bottle for windows and mirrors.
2.  Diluted lemon juice not only cleans stains from cutting boards, but helps kill germs as well. Rub the juice full strength onto the stain and let sit until the stain fades. Be sure to rinse well.
3.  Clean the dirtiest of grout with a toothbrush and a mixture of lemon and salt.
4.  Remove stains from tupperware by squeezing lemon juice in the container and then add baking soda. Scrub around the stained areas and then let it sit overnight before scrubbing the stains.
5.  Scrub your grill with lemon juice and salt to cut through the grime and get a nice clean cooking space. The combo will bust right through the stuck on; burnt on grime.
6.  Remove stains in white clothing by soaking the stained area with lemon juice and letting it set in the sun. The lemon and sun act as a bleach on stubborn stains . (Natural fabrics are recommended for this; delicate fabrics such as silk should be tested first)
7.  Remove odors from your refrigerator by placing half a lemon on a saucer. (Change once a week.)
8.  Clean your microwave and remove odors by placing a cup 3/4 full of water with a couple tablespoons of lemon juice in the microwave. Heat to boiling, but be careful NOT TO OPEN the door for about 5-10 minutes afterward (the steam is HOT). Once it's sat, wipe away any food particles with a clean cloth.
9.  Make a facial scrub of sugar and lemon juice.  It’s a great cleanser, smells lovely and leaves skin feeling soft.
10. Use a half lemon and coarse salt to clean even the most heavily discoloured brass, copper and chrome (please DO NOT use on BRASS PLATED items)
Picture Example Source:

So now you have 4 great items, that probably are in your pantry already, that you can now start putting to use for everyday cleaning and more!  It's even, probably going to cost you less!! (BONUS!) 
Let us know if you have any other tips & tricks for basic ingredients already hanging out in your home.


November 10, 2013

Orange Julius "Wannabe" Smothie

I call this a “wannabe” because I wanted an Orange Julius, but most “copycat” recipes called for sugar, juice from concentrate, or ice cream, and I didn’t want all that refined sugar in my drink. I wanted something healthy, but would also squash that craving I was having for an Orange Julius Original.

2 whole ripe oranges 
1 cup lactose free milk
1 small frozen banana
1 tsp. vanilla
3 frozen yogurt cubes (see post about saving yogurt)
4 ice cubes

Put all of the ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth.  

At the same time, I made my house smell yummy, check out my other post here to find out how.


DIY Air Freshener

If you are using plug ins, certain candles, stick ups, sprays and other air fresheners bought from your local grocery or big box store, please stop!  They are FULL of nasty and harmful chemicals!
Ultimately it is your choice, so you don't have to listen to me, but please do your research on the whole subject.  And if you decide you're done with the chemical filled stuff, here's a start to an alternative.
It's very simple to start.

Eat an orange, & save the peels.
Get a small pot.
Grab some vanilla extract from your pantry.
Throw together the peels, the vanilla (1/8 cup) and some water (1.5 cups) in the pot.
Simmer it on your stove.

It is SO easy, it almost makes itself.  I urge you to at least try it and see if you don't like it.  

There are many other combinations out there. Basically let your tastes and your imagination go wild. Essential oils can definitely be used also!  Combine raw ingredients with the oils. Combine just the oils. You can even grab a oil defuser and use a combo of essential oils, but be sure to use a carrier oil, like grape seed for example.  Something that has a high smoke point, so the heat won't just burn the oils. (Vegetable oil will work also)

Some favorite scent combos of mine for inspiration are
Lemons & Orange
Orange & Mint
Orange & Lavender
Orange & Cinnamon
Lemon & Sage
Lemon & Rosemary
... so you get the idea.
And this is just my personal choices.  The scent combinations are endless if you get into drying flowers & herbs and combining other fruits with them.

Just please, consider a more natural choice YOUR choice.  Your health, and the health of your family will thank you!


November 8, 2013

MMmmmm Soups!

Colder months bring comfort food, and for me hearty soups are a favorite. There is just something about a hot bowl of savory smelling goodness! Mmmm!! 
They are a great make ahead meal, that can be easily frozen for later. They are easy to make, and usually quite budget friendly. Here we have rounded up some really tasty recipes to share with you.

Broccoli Cheese Soup

1/2 cup butter
1 onion, chopped
1 (16 ounce) package frozen chopped broccoli
4 (14.5 ounce) cans chicken broth
1 (1 pound) loaf processed cheese food, cubed
2 cups milk
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2/3 cup cornstarch
1 cup water


In a stockpot, melt butter over medium heat. Cook onion in butter until softened. Stir in broccoli, and cover with chicken broth. Simmer until broccoli is tender, 10 to 15 minutes.
Reduce heat, and stir in cheese cubes until melted. Mix in milk and garlic powder.
In a small bowl, stir cornstarch into water until dissolved. Stir into soup; cook, stirring frequently, until thick.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Apples and Bacon

1 (3 pound) butternut squash - peeled, seeded, and cubed
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 strips bacon, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
6 stalks celery, chopped
6 carrots, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 Granny Smith apple - peeled, cored, and cubed
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup apple cider
1 1/2 quarts chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg(optional)
1 1/2 cups sour cream

Preheat an oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
Place squash in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil; mix to coat; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread squash into a single layer on a baking pan. Roast the squash in the preheated oven, turning once, until fork-tender and caramelized; 30 to 40 minutes.

Place the bacon in a Dutch oven and cook over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until evenly browned, about 10 minutes. Remove the bacon slices to a paper towel-lined plate, reserving the drippings in the pan.

Place the onion, celery, carrot, bay leaf, curry powder, thyme, and salt and pepper in the Dutch oven; cook in reserved bacon drippings until the carrots and celery are soft. Mix in the apples and cooked squash and cook another 5 minutes. Stir the garlic into the mixture and cook another 1 minute. Pour the apple cider over the mixture; reduce heat to medium-low and bring to a simmer; allow to reduce to about half its original volume. Stir in the chicken stock; simmer over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes.

Puree the soup in small batches in a blender, or use an immersion blender. If using a blender, don't fill the blender more than half-way. Always remove the center lid piece of a stand blender when blending hot liquids so the steam can escape. Cover the hole with a dish towel while blending. Stir the nutmeg into the soup. Garnish each bowl with 1 tablespoon of sour cream and some of the bacon pieces to serve.

Hamburg Soup
1 lb of ground beef (lean)
1 onion (chopped)
1/2 red pepper (chopped)
1/2 yellow pepper (chopped)
3 carrots (sliced)
2 zuchini (sliced)
3 celery sticks (sliced)
2 cups baby spinach (fresh)
1/2 cup brown rice
1 can beef consomme soup (beef broth)
2 cans of water
1 tsp celery salt
1 tsp cumin
pepper to taste

Cook and drain ground beef. Slightly sauté onion & peppers. Combine with other ingredients in stock pot and let simmer 1-2 hours.

Note: You can replace fresh spinach for frozen, thaw, but don't drain off excess water, simply add 1/2 cup less of water

Optional other ingredients to throw in: Canned baby corn, canned diced tomatoes, mushrooms, potatoes or pasta (instead of rice), barley and lentils.

Tortilla Soup with Black Beans
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 cans (14 1/2 ounces each) diced tomatoes in juice
2 cans (15 ounces each) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 package (10 ounces) frozen corn kernels
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 cup crushed tortilla chips, plus more for serving (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving

In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium. Cook garlic and chili powder until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes (with juice), beans, broth, corn, and 1 cup water; season with salt and pepper.
Bring soup to a boil; reduce to a simmer. Add tortilla chips; cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in lime juice, and season with salt and pepper. Serve soup with lime wedges and, if desired, more chips.

French Onion Soup

1/4 cup butter
3 white onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 cups water
2 cups beef broth
1 French baguette
1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
A few sprigs of parsley

Combine butter, onions and sugar in a sauce pan. Cook over low to medium heat for 15-20 minutes . You must cook them slow for the flavor to be right. You should look for them to be translucent first, and then as they just start to turn golden, that's when they are ready. Next stir in flour and balsamic vinegar until well blended with the onions and pan juices. Add water and beef broth and heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low. Cover soup, and let simmer for 10-15 minutes.

While the soup simmers, cut 1 inch thick slices from the baguette and toast the slices until browned. Place oven safe bowls on cookie sheet, and ladle out the soup into the bowls (leaving enough room for bread on top). Place 1 slice of the toasted baguette on top of the soup in each bowl. Liberally sprinkle cheese over top. To finish, add a small sprig of parsley (stem removed) on top of the cheese. Bake at 425 degrees F for 10 minutes, or just until cheese is melted.

Smoky corn chowder with bacon

6  slices bacon, chopped
1  leek (white part only), finely chopped
1 russet potato, finely chopped
2 cups frozen or canned corn kernels
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups milk
398 ml can creamed corn
1 sprig of thyme or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf

Heat a large pot over medium. Add bacon and cook just until crisp, 4 min. Discard all but 1 tbsp of bacon fat. Add leek and sauté until tender, 1 min. Then add potato, corn, broth, milk, creamed corn, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender, 20 min. Remove thyme and bay leaf before serving. Season with fresh pepper. Soup will keep well in refrigerator up to 2 days, or in freezer, in a covered container, up to a month.
Creamed corn adds richness to this soup without adding a lot of fat.

Sausage, Lentil, and Kale Soup
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
2 celery stalks (with leafy tops), thinly sliced
1 medium yellow onion, diced medium
1/2 cup dried lentils
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 bunch (about 1/2 pound) kale, preferably Tuscan, stems removed, torn into bite-size pieces
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar

In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high. Add sausage and cook, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add celery and onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add lentils, broth, and 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a rapid simmer, partially cover, and cook until lentils and vegetables are tender, 25 minutes.
Add kale and season with salt. Return soup to a rapid simmer, cover, and cook until kale wilts, about 5 minutes. Remove soup from heat, stir in vinegar, and season with salt and pepper.

Carrot Ginger Soup
3 cloves of garlic
1 large onion (coarsely chopped)
2 tbsp of butter
6-7 large carrots
2 tsp minced ginger
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cups chicken broth
4 cups water

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat, and add garlic and onion.Stir often until soft, (approx 5 min). Meanwhile, grate ginger, peel carrots and slice, then add all to onion mixture. Sprinkle with cumin, salt and nutmeg, stir in water and undiluted chicken broth and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, stirring often, until vegetables are very tender, (approx 30 minutes).
When finished cooking, use an immersion blender to puree soup. I'm told you can also use a food processor, but then you have to let the soup cool, it's messy, it's more work... Just my opinion. I'd suggest an immersion blender, but hey, it's your choice!!

Pizza Soup
Chef Michael Smith
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 28 ounce can whole, crushed or chopped tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth
2 carrots, peeled and grated
1 tablespoon dried oregano
8 ounces pepperoni, thinly sliced
a sprinkle or two sea salt and freshly ground pepper
4 slices whole grain bread
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Sauté the onions and garlic in a large stockpot with the olive oil until the onions are lightly browned and your kitchen smells amazing.
Add the canned tomatoes. (If you use whole tomatoes crush them with the back of a wooden spoon.) Add the chicken broth, carrots and oregano. Simmer for 15 minutes or so until the carrots are tender.
Add the pepperoni and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Preheat the broiler in your oven.
Ladle the hot soup into 4 onion soup bowls or 4 large ovenproof soup cups. Cut the bread into large circles and cover the top of each soup bowl. Sprinkle on 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella onto the top of each bread slice and then place bowls under the broiler in your oven. Cook until the cheese is golden and bubbling, about 2 or 3 minutes.

Herbed Chicken And Potato Soup

Readers Digest
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 strips bacon, trimmed of visible fat and finely chopped
1 chicken thigh (on the bone, if possible), about 140 g, skinned
2 onions, finely chopped
500 g potatoes, peeled and diced
3 cups reduced-salt chicken stock
leaves from 4 sprigs fresh thyme or 1⁄2 teaspoon dried thyme
pepper to taste
1 1⁄4 cups low-fat milk
chopped parsley, or a mixture of chopped parsley and fresh thyme, to garnish

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the bacon, chicken and onions, and cook over low heat for 3 minutes. Increase the heat and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring the ingredients occasionally and turning the chicken once, until the chicken is pale golden-brown in colour.
Add the potatoes and cook for a further 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour in the stock, then add the thyme and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pan, and leave to simmer for 30 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a plate. Remove and chop the meat and discard the bone, if necessary. Return the chicken meat to the soup. Stir in the milk and reheat the soup gently without boiling.
Ladle the soup into bowls, garnish with chopped parsley or parsley and thyme and serve.
Hope you enjoy these recipes!

November 7, 2013

Thirsty Thursday Vanilla Cranberry Smoothie

A friend of mine created this yummy combo, and said it's a must try!  So I did, and have to agree!!  It has to be tried, it's so tasty!!

1 cup milk
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
3/4 cup fresh cranberries
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp of vanilla extract

Blend and enjoy!


November 4, 2013

Half full? Half empty?

"A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the “half empty or half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: ”How heavy is this glass of water?”
Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.

She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.”

She continued, “The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything.”

It’s important to remember to let go of your stresses. As early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don’t carry them through the evening and into the night. Remember to put the glass down!"

Author Unknown


November 2, 2013

My take on Matt Walsh's Blog Post: Dear daughter, you’re beautiful

First, if you are unfamiliar with Blogger Matt Walsh, check out his blog at The Matt Walsh Blog.
I'm still somewhat new to his fan base, but so far, I'm finding myself to be agreeable with his points of view, and the topics he talks about are what I relate to. I recommend you check him out for yourself.  

This is in regards to his recent post: 
by                       Dear daughter,
You’re far too young to be aware of this, but, in the last few days, many people have watched a video of a model being “altered” by photoshop. It shows her artificial transformation from real and attractive to fraudulent and malformed — or, as they call it in the fashion world, “sexy.”

I have 2 daughters, both of which are beyond beautiful to me. And yes, ok, I do understand that by being their mom there is a bit of biased opinion floating around in that sentence. But I have also had, on many a grocery trip, strangers stop and tell me just how beautiful they are, so there may be more there than my own opinion.

Regardless, I admit my first thought is I must protect them from people who will want to steal them away for their beauty, but once my "protective mother bear" instincts cool down, my thoughts also go to what Matt Walsh is saying in his post.  Will they see their own beauty? Will they think they are ugly or too fat because of some stupid comment from a kid at their school? Will it stick with them only to be reinforced by the media and horrid plasticized culture we have all come to accept (willingly for some ungodly reason)? Will it become the thing that dictates the roads they take in life?
I want the very best for my girls, obviously, but I want them to first and foremost have a healthy sense of self. Without the brain washing of society's idea of the perfect woman.  Without needing any physical validation from anyone else, myself and their dad included. I want them to see themselves without vanity, but to be "okay" with what is in front of them. I want them to carry on from day to day, in school, in activities, in play, in dating, in their jobs, in their own parenthood, and not NEED to focus on their outside self, but instead use any efforts to build themselves inside. To be the perfect person that they can be inside their brain, inside their heart, inside their soul. I think we loose who we are on the inside before we even have a chance to "find" out who we are in there, because so much emphasis is spent trying to "fix" ourselves on the outside from the get go.

I believe how they feel about themselves will control what risks they take, and how much they put themselves out there into the world. With a healthy knowledge of what the bad risks are, of course. But I'm talking about the good risks.  The things you do that gets you places in life.  Will they take a course in school that challenges them, because it may lead to a better college? Will they try out for a sport after school because they will make friends and perhaps have those friendships for the rest of their lives?
Will they go out on their own after school, back packing across europe, start up that business idea they have hidden away in their intelligent beautiful brain, strike up a conversation with that hot guy at the coffee shop, and possibly find their soul mate and make a beautiful family.  I think that negative appearance issues can act as a ball and chain. Keeping people from taking these risks/chances, because they don't have the confidence to see a possible success, only failure, because when they look at themselves they see failure.

What it boils down to, is I just want them to be happy, and successful. Successful in the fact that they have never held themselves back. I would love for them to be accepting of themselves, in any way they are. I don't know how to ensure this. I guess if I did, I would feel better about my own self image.  I imagine if I could feel better about myself and be a role model for them, that could be the answer.  Still, that's a work in progress, that I guess I've had so may years of thinking one way, it's hard to change over night.
Although, I have the best motivation to do it!

What do you think?  Is this just an epidemic, never to be eradicated, only tolerated? Or is there some magical answer we're all missing?  Let me know what you think!?


Hamburg Soup

This is a favorite soup for the colder months.  It's hearty and filling, a meal all on its own.  It's a great soup for tight budgets too.  You could grab the reduced produce to use in it, or just clean up some stuff in  your own fridge,  that might be getting close to it's end date. It freezes well, so if you make a big batch just divide it up into mason jars for later. 

1 lb of ground beef (lean)
1 onion (chopped)
1/2 red pepper (chopped)
1/2 yellow pepper (chopped)
3 carrots (sliced)
2 zuchini (sliced)
3 celery sticks (sliced)
2 cups baby spinach (fresh)
1/2 cup brown rice
1 can beef consomme soup (beef broth)
2 cans of water
1 tsp celery salt
1 tsp cumin
pepper to taste

Cook and drain ground beef. Slightly sauté onion & peppers. Combine with other ingredients in stock pot and let simmer 1-2 hours.

Note: You can replace fresh spinach for frozen, thaw, but don't drain off excess water, simply add 1/2 cup less of water

Optional other ingredients to throw in: Canned baby corn, canned diced tomatoes, mushrooms, potatoes or pasta (instead of rice), barley and lentils.