12.19.2011

pinterest (almost) killed the blogging star.



ok. i'm not one of those who goes around saying they are "addicted" to it, but in the wee hours of the morning, what am i doing? dissolving aspirin to make face masks, drawing on oranges with sharpies and putting vaseline on my eyelashes (plus a host of other insane things found on pinterest). it really is a quick and easy way to search for new ideas, but seriously, who ever thought of rolling up their hair in a sock until now? i still use the gawker family of sites: here and here. (there's also a wedding one.) i like them because there aren't as many repeats and there's no social networking element, which i'm apparently very bad at. but i appreciate pinterest for that fact that i can see what inspires others, which i find fascinating, and i love the collection of photographs that i've amassed.

i just had to address this little phenomenon. everything is getting really cute and i'm getting a little burned out.

12.12.2011

petite lasagnas


12 oz meat (i use shredded chicken breasts)
1/2 tsp. salt, divided
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 cup chopped onion (i buy frozen chopped...so easy!)
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
14.5 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1 ½ cups part skim ricotta cheese
24 square wonton wrappers (near the tofu in the refrigerated section of the produce dept)
8 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese

preheat oven to 375ºF.  in large skillet, saute onions, garlic and mushrooms in a small amount of olive oil and 1/4 tsp. salt and pepper. add whatever meat you are using (if any) and saute for an additional 10 minutes. add the crushed tomatoes and oregano and bring to a gentle boil. reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.

in a separate bowl, combine the ricotta, 1/4 tsp. salt and the basil. stir to mix well.

coat a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. place 1 wonton wrapper into each of the 12 cups, pressing firmly in the bottom of the cup and up the sides. using half of the ricotta mixture, divide it among the 12 muffin cups. next, using half of the meat/tomato sauce, spoon it evenly over each of the ricotta filled cups. sprinkle with big pinch of mozzarella. gently press another wonton wrapper on top of the mozzarella layer.

repeat the process with the remaining ricotta, then the remaining tomato sauce, and finally the rest of the shredded mozzarella.  sprinkle with dried parsley to garnish.

bake for 10 minutes, let cool slighlty, then enjoy with a side of greens!
i love the prep and cook time of these and the individual servings are always a big hit. 

11.28.2011

cheap and easy photo canvas



i've always loved the look of these, but i just couldn't cough up the $100+
that everyone seems to want for them. 

first of all, i ordered the 16X20 poster online from walmart for about $12.  (they are cheaper if you wait for the sales.)  i had this canvas already, but you can buy 2 16X20 canvases at hobby lobby for under $5.  (use the 40% off coupon if they aren't already half off.)  i painted the sides of the canvas black and just tacked the photo on the front with spray adhesive.  the entire process took under 10 minutes and the total cost was under $15.  i am going to mod podge over the front to give it that professional, finished look, but i can't decide if i want to use the glossy or the matte...

i would like to find some thicker, square canvases and do this again.  this wall also needs at least one more of this size, but i just wanted to share a work in progress.

11.17.2011

dark chocolate cookies


first of all, i'd like to admit that i'm not a big fan of chocolate.  give me nerds, peeps or candy corn, and i'm a happy girl.  i could actually live without chocolate...until i found these little flourless/butterless gems.  i've been making them for all the "chocoholics" in my life and receiving rave reviews so i thought i'd share:

dark chocolate cookies

1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips, divided
3 large eggs whites
2 cups powdered sugar, divided
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt 1 cup chocolate chips in microwave, stirring twice, about 2 minutes.  Set aside.  Using electric mixer, beat egg whites to soft peaks.  gradually add 1/2 cup powdered sugar and continue mixing on high until mixtures resembles marshmallow creme.

Whisk 1 cup powdered sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt in medium bowl to blend.  On low speed, beat dry ingredients into meringue. 

Stir in melted chocolate and 1/2 cup chocolate chips.  Place 1/2 cup powdered sugar on small plate.  shape dough into 1 inch balls and roll in sugar, coating generously.  *i will say here that this is the messiest, stickiest cookie dough that i have ever worked with.  you might have to chill slightly before shaping.*  place on cookie sheet (sprayed or parchment-lined) and bake for 10 minutes until top cracks.  let cool slightly on sheets before transferring to wire rack to cool.  

makes about 24 cookies.  i adapted this recipe from epicurious.  the original called for more sugar, but these are so intense, sweet, and well, just perfect. 

enjoy!  



11.14.2011

la madeleine's tomato basil soup


i adapted the original recipe to make it healthier and much easier:

4 cups canned crushed tomatoes (i like hunt's brand)
12 fresh basil leaves (by the mushrooms in the refrigerated produce section)
1/2 to 3/4 cup heavy cream
3-4 Tbsp. butter
1/4 tsp. pepper
salt to taste

puree the tomatoes and basil in the blender then simmer on the stove for 10-15 minutes.  add butter, cream, salt and pepper and stir until heated through. 

the original recipe calls for one stick of butter and 1 cup heavy cream and is more complicated to make.  i tried to make it healthier by substituting half and half, but it didn't taste like the original.  this taste EXACTLY the same and is a current favorite at our house served with cheddar grilled cheeses.

10.15.2011

day seven: water


divide your weight in half and that's how many ounces a day you need to be drinking of pure water.  not coffee, not tea, not crystal light.  i know it's hard, but it comes down to this: the days that i get my water in, i feel great.  the days that i don't, i'm sluggish. 

sound simple?
the best things usually are.

10.14.2011

day six: food


i approach this day with a little hesitation, because i feel that too much importance has been placed on food in the lives and minds of women today. our culture has told us that there is only one kind of beauty, but it is a LIE.  God made every single woman on earth to be uniquely beautiful and His design is perfect.  food has become something to fantasize about, over-indulge in, and despise.  this guilt cycle has to be broken! 

when i am out or at a party or special occasion, i don't say "i can't eat that" and i have no guilt when i actually do because i know that in my DAY TO DAY life i am eating what i feel comfortable with.  it doesn't have to be a public show.  i won't label myself because food doesn't control me, i control it, but i do believe in eating whole foods and three healthy meals a day.  we have strayed from the way that God intended us for to be eating, and he certainly never meant food to be such a source of agony for so many people.  if a food label has a paragraph of ingredients that i can't pronounce, i don't buy it.  i also don't like "lo-fat" or "fat-free"-they have also been chemically altered.   

i decided to make these small changes last fall: 

1. i sweeten my coffee with stevia.
2. i switched to whole wheat and multi-grain on everything.
3. i don't serve a starch at dinner (unless we have company). 
i replace it with another vegetable side. 
4.  we don't eat out as much (as a bonus, we've saved a lot of money).

they've made all the difference.  i did not start this to lose weight, but to be healthy for my family, but i have gone down one dress size, much to the dismay of my mother.  i don't spend the money on organic (even though i do love organic yogurt and cereal), and i shop at sprouts, kroger and my wonderful local farmer's market.  i've made friends with the owners!  i cook with chicken, fish and lean red meat, and make dessert almost every day-of course they are mostly made with fruit!  we love homemade pizza and burgers and my meals have actually become more simple and easier to prepare which has been nice. there are so many amazing recipes online and i will continue to post some on this blog.  i have supportive family that enjoys my cooking and is willing to try new things.  if you are unhappy with how you feel, don't try to do an "all or nothing" change- just do little things throughout your day.  reach for food that has one, two ingredients at the most, that God created for us to enjoy, and as a new friend reminded me the other day, it's all about moderation.  

10.13.2011

day five: the misses

deodorant:  well, i tricked you.  what i have been making all year is technically an "antiperspirant" and the original recipe i tried was found here. i made the solid and it worked so well!  it even got me through the hot texas summer.  what i loved the most about it was the fact that it didn't stain or rub off onto my mostly all black wardrobe.  the problem was that it gave me a slight rash.  i tweaked it and even tried other recipes, but my skin stayed slightly irritated.  i've gone back to crystal roll-on, which is made of mineral salts and can be found anywhere (usually on the bottom shelf).  it doesn't stain my clothes either!

the oil cleansing method:  i wanted this to work and didn't give up on it until quite recently.  i suffer from dry skin and last fall when i started doing this my skin became so supple.  it works in theory (oil dissolves oil).  i got all of my original information here and even thought i didn't have breakouts and my skin was soft, i didn't like the way my pores felt.  the day i switched back to my trusted aveeno, they opened up in thankfulness.

skin moisturizer:   this page really got me thinking.  if it's THAT good, why don't we just bathe in it?  well, i didn't to that, but i did try to use coconut oil as my body and face moisturizer.  it feels (and looks) amazing on the skin, but i found that it transferred to my hair somehow, leaving it greasy and limp, even when i just used it on my body.  

hair care:  homemade shampoo was the most massive fail of all.  i'm not going to even post the link.  i moved on to organic shampoos and tried several before i realized that as terrible as "sodium laurel sulfate" is supposed to be, my hair needs it to have some sort of shine and body.   i'm sticking with my suave professionals. 
 

10.11.2011

day four: cleaning supplies



actually, you don't have to, because i don't hate to clean anymore! my favourite thing about this entire experiment has been my discovery of non-toxic cleaning. i collected "recipes" and tried almost everything and found them to be just as effective, if not more so, than store bought. i know what i'm using is safe for everyone and i have no idea how much money i've saved. i bought my containers at the dollar store and walmart and everything is very simple to make. my main ingredients are vinegar, baking soda, washing soda, lemon juice, borax, castile soap and of course, my essential oils. (excellent descriptions here).  try a few!




day three: green smoothies


i have been drinking a smoothie *almost* every day for the past year and i started with this one.  i wanted to save some fruit for snacks so my smoothie has morphed into a green concoction...that i absolutely crave if i miss!  i love blending whole foods because every nutrient is released, and it makes it easier for the body to absorb the vitamins and minerals.  i make it differently every day, but only add 1 or 2 servings of fruit to keep it "green".  this is what i had this morning:

3 leaves romaine
2 large handfuls baby spinach
1/2 cucumber
1 cup water.
one banana
1 small orange
2 TBL. ground flax seed
1 packet stevia
 blend the vegetables and water then add fruit and blend again.

these also work well:  red leaf, green leaf, avocados, celery and any fruit (fresh or frozen).  what doesn't work (in my humble opinion) are arugula, kale and swiss chard  (vile weeds).  if you use fresh fruit, add ice.  i will say that blueberries are the absolute best fruit to cover the taste of the vegetables if you are trying to get little ones (or husbands) to drink this.  

10.10.2011

day two: scrubs


i have always hated wasting money on jars of scrubs to find out that the chemicals (i guess) irritated my sensitive skin, but i really like exfoliation.  so, after many experiments, here are my favourite three.  they cost pennies to make and i can make them in under a minute with ingredients that i always have on hand.

face scrub: 1 part olive oil to 1 part sugar.  i do this about once a week.  i can skip the moisturizer afterwards too.  it's important to use pure extra-virgin oil.

microdermabrasion: 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water.  make a paste, apply to clean skin in small circles and rinse well.  these kits are SO expensive and having it done professionally is even more.  i find this to be just as effective and do it about once a month.

body scrub:  i made up my own recipe on this one.  i found olive oil to be too heavily scented to use all over my body.  i also tried salt scrub, but i tend to cut myself and rubbing salt on my skin just didn't seem like a great idea.  you don't have to, but i've enjoyed experimenting with my essential oils in this scrub.  the scent lingers on the skin.  do NOT use fragrance oils.  they are not the same.  they are synthetic and highly irritating to the skin (or at least mine) and mostly used for candle making.

10.09.2011

the simple life: day one


it's been exactly one year since i began my personal challenge of living as naturally as possible.  (i haven't worn deodorant in 12 months...more on that to come.)  i had been saving bookmarked ideas and recipes for years, but i decided to make the jump last fall and i'm not really sure what took me so long.  i guess i'd never thought of myself as one of those on the fringe, "granola" if you will.  i surely did not want to become obsessed with any one thing.  i was at an age that seemed like a "halfway point" of sorts and found myself with less energy than i needed to take care of two little ones.  i just wanted to be resourceful and know that i was my best self. 

so, for the next week, i'll be sharing a few tips...and a few misses.  i'll preface this week by saying that i do not take myself too seriously in this newest walk.  we are fortunate to even have breath and i'm just grateful to have stewardship over this body and home that i've been given. 

10.03.2011

current reads





9.15.2011

flourless peanut butter cookies


1 cup creamy natural peanut butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cocktail peanuts

ganache:  1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1.  heat oven to 350.  beat peanut butter, sugar, egg and baking soda until smooth and blended (about 2 minutes).  stir in the 1/2 cup peanuts.   drop by tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheet.  bake 10 minutes or until puffed and slightly golden.  move to wire rack to cool.

2.  make ganache:  microwave cream 40 seconds.  stir in chocolate until melted and smooth.  spread over half of cooled cookies and garnish with additional chopped peanuts.

makes about 20 cookies.

9.08.2011

lettuce wraps



start by preparing the stir fry sauce:


1/4 cup water
1 tsp. cornstarch
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sugar (i use a little less)
1/4 cup vinegar
2 tsp. sesame seeds
1 tsp. chili oil (i use sesame dynasty brand found on oriental aisle)
a few red pepper flakes
pinch of minced ginger


combine water and cornstarch until cornstarch is dissolved. combine this and all other ingredients in small saucepan and simmer over medium-low heat while you cook the chicken, stirring occasionally.


saute 4 chicken breasts in 1 tbl. oil and cube. add 3-4 chopped green onions, water chestnuts, mushrooms or anything else you might like. add stir fry sauce (which should be starting to thicken at this point) and cook on medium heat stirring constantly for 3-5 minutes.


serve in bibb or romaine lettuce.


i do have the recipes for the traditional sauces that are served with lettuce wraps (peanut and ginger), but they are flavorful without them. just comment if you would like the dipping sauces...

8.30.2011

chocolate cake in a mug



do you (or someone you love) ever need a "little something" and you don't feel like making and keeping an entire cake around the house?
well, here you go!


1 large coffee mug
4 tbs. flour
4 tbs. sugar
2 tbs. baking cocoa
1 egg
3 tbs. milk
3 tbs. oil
splash of vanilla
3 tbs. chocolate chips, optional, but they make it much better!


add dry ingredients to mug and mix well with fork. add egg, mix thoroughly. add milk, oil and vanilla and mix well. add chips, if using.
microwave for 3 minutes.

8.21.2011

newspaper print and lace nails



aren't these fun?  paint nails a pale base color (i use revlon's gray suede) and let dry.  dip fingertip into rubbing alcohol and press newspaper (cut into squares) onto nail and hold tightly for a few seconds.  gently peel away and finish with a top coat.





these don't last as long as the printed nails, but they are perfect for a night out.  to apply, lightly spray nails with adhesive and press lace onto nails.  trim with small scissors and apply a top coat
(not just clear nail polish).
thanks to pinterest for inspiring me.

8.14.2011

sweet cream ice cream


combine:

2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

cook mixture on stovetop, stirring constantly, until sugar is just dissolved.  (this only takes about 5 minutes.)  chill well and make in ice cream maker.  this makes enough for 4-6 people.  you really should put it in the freezer for an additional 2 hours because it is quite soft, but that's awfully hard to do when you have toddlers holding empty bowls in anticipation.

it is good plain, but there could be endless varieties. 
here are two that i've tried:

strawberry: chop 1 lb. fresh strawberries and puree 1/2 of them.  mix puree into milk and cream before chilling, and stir in remaining when ice cream is frozen..

cookies and cream:  crush 20 oreos and add to frozen ice cream. 
(my homemade oreos would be perfect for this.)

8.04.2011

crayon stains


just in case anyone needs to know, WD-40 is magic for cleaning crayon off surfaces.  i have one little pack of "unwashable" crayons in my desk, and my youngest managed to find them.  i am doing a little remodeling around the house, but orange and purple "ovals" on my tiled kitchen floor weren't exactly what i had in mind. 

7.29.2011

insect spray


1 part apple cider vinegar to 1 part water.

the vinegar smell goes away when it dries. 
this is also an instant soother for ant bites. 

the only time we've been able to play outside has been in the evenings due to the heat, and this has kept the swarms of mosquitoes at bay.  no more stinky insect repellent! 
(and the candles just don't work for us)

6.20.2011

non-toxic furniture polish


1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice

shake, lightly spray and polish thoroughly with a soft cloth.
it works amazingly well, and actually seems to repel dust.

6.06.2011

in my makeup bag

we are all so faithful to our beauty products
 and i thought i'd share a few of mine: 

revlon colorstay makeup in ivory with spf 15, then a light dusting of coty airspun powder in naturally neutral


maybelline lash stiletto mascara and liquid liner in blackest black.  if i could only have one item of makeup,
it would be mascara, and it would have to be maybelline.



my one indulgence (or at least it feels that way since i can't get it at the drugstore) is stila cosmetics.  i got this lovely set with a gift card at christmas (thank you nick) and it's the only color i've worn on my face all year. 


in the summer, i wear tinted balm, and natural products seem to work the best for me. 
burt's bees- red dahlia
kiss my face- amethyst and pearl

what works for you?

5.23.2011

homemade oreos


make 25 to 30 sandwich cookies

for the wafers:
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup baking cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
1 1/4 sticks butter, room temp.
1 large egg

for the filling:
1/2 stick butter, room temp.
1/4 cup shortening
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

preheat oven to 375 degrees. to make wafers, mix dry ingredients then add butter and egg.   place small pieces (1/2 inch) of dough onto parchment lined baking sheet and slightly flatten with moistened fingers.  bake 9 minutes.

to make filling, combine butter and shortening in mixer.  add sugar and vanilla and beat on high for 3 minutes.

to assemble the cookies, pipe the filling using a zip lock bag with a corner tip cut off.  it just takes a few minutes this way and there is plenty to make double stuffed.  they are soft, but get crispy like traditional oreos if stored in the fridge.   

recipe from the smitten kitchen.

5.21.2011

non-toxic cleaner


1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
10-15 drops lavender essential oil

who couldn't use a little aromatherapy while they clean?  this is low cost, safe to use around kids and pets and really works.  (the essential oil was $7 at sprouts.  lemon is nice too!)

5.09.2011

my summer salad


roasted corn (i usually cook the corn in the microwave and "roast" on the griddle.)
avocados
grape tomatoes
toss with a little olive oil and lime juice
dash of salt and pepper

a perfect combination!

5.03.2011

chicken tortilla soup


2-3 chicken breasts
1 can beans, rinsed (black or pinto)
1 cup all-natural salsa
3/4 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup frozen chopped onion
3-4 cans chicken broth
1 Tbl. lime juice
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 tsp. ground cumin

combine all ingredients in slow cooker and cook on low for 4 hours.  shred chicken before serving and top with crushed tortilla chips, monterey jack cheese and avocado (or sour cream).

this is so easy and delicious.  i recommend doubling!

4.19.2011

the perfect smoothie


one banana
a handful of fresh baby spinach
one green apple
one avocado
one small orange
frozen blueberries (will cover the taste of the vegetables)
frozen fruit blend (peaches, strawberries and grapes)
brown cow non-fat vanilla yogurt
two tablespoons ground flax seed
a little ice and milk to blend

i don't add everything every time, but i do make a variety of this almost daily.  my boys love it!

4.16.2011

pistachio chicken salad


1/2 cup pistachio nuts, finely ground
2 or 3 chicken breasts
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
romaine lettuce
grape tomatoes
avocado
fat free feta

preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  mix the nuts on a plate with a little salt and pepper and heat oil in skillet to medium.  press the chicken into the nuts and cook in skillet, two minutes per side.  place chicken into baking dish and bake for 15 minutes.

tear romaine and slice tomatoes and avocado.  top with warm, sliced chicken breasts and feta.  drizzle with olive oil and lemon (or lime) juice and you have reached perfection.