Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Muddy Buddies!

This is my 18-year-old brother's favorite Christmas treat.  :)  The recipe is adapted from chex.com, where there are LOTS of yummy things to do with that versatile little cereal!

You need:
9 cups rice or corn Chex cereal
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Measure cereal into large bowl and set aside.

In microwaveable mixing bowl, microwave chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butter uncovered on HIGH one minute.  Stir.  Microwave about 30 seconds longer until mixture can be stirred smooth.  Add vanilla.  Stir.  Pour over cereal.  Stir until evenly coated.  Add powdered sugar.  Toss to coat.  Allow to cool.  Store in an airtight container.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Thanksgiving Kids' Craft

We all know the old stand-by that mommies around the country treasure--the hand print turkey!  I have expanded on that idea so Mom can have both the precious little hand print AND the sweet little foot print and finger prints to go with it!

You will need:
Construction paper of a light fall color (yellow/gold or light green works great!)
Smock to keep your little one *fairly* clean

Put smocks on all participating children.  To make the turkey, slather your little turkey's hand with a good "turkey" color (brown or red both look fantastic).  Help your child press his/her hand on the left side of the construction paper without too much smudging.  Head to the bathroom right away to wash off the paint before you wind up with a wall mural.  Next, it's time to make a cornucopia!  Without too much tickling (resist the urge!) slather a good cornucopia color (brown, red, orange) on the bottom of your little tickle-bug's foot.  Help your child press the right side of the construction paper to his/her foot (sideways) to transfer the foot print.  Carry the child in to wash off the foot right away to avoid perma-footprints on your floor.  Next, let your child dip one fingertip in a good fruit color (orange, red, green, yellow, etc) and press the finger print onto the construction paper just outside of the cornucopia where the toes side (opening of cornucopia) is.  Make a few finger print fruits of different colors.  Wash up again!  Put the construction paper up to dry.  When dry, your child can draw an eye, a beak, and feet on the turkey hand print and sign his/her name along with the year at the bottom.  Display the masterpiece for Thanksgiving and then put away with the baby book or in another safe place as a keepsake that will be "oooh"ed and "ahhhh"ed over for years to come.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Healthier Thanksgiving Recipes!

I LOVE Thanksgiving!  The food, the memories, the sitting and eating with family until we're as stuffed as the turkey was!  However, with being a Prediabetic and trying to lose weight, I can't indulge the way I have in the past, so I've been looking for good, healthy versions of my favorite Thanksgiving foods.  Here are three of the yummy made-over recipes I've found.  All recipes are taken from EatingWell.com.  Happy Cooking!

Green Bean Casserole


  • 3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  • 1 medium sweet onion (half diced, half thinly sliced), divided
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 cup low-fat milk
  • 3 tablespoons dry sherry, (see Ingredient Note)
  • 1 pound frozen French-cut green beans, (about 4 cups)
  • 1/3 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons buttermilk powder, (see Ingredient Note)
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a 2 1/2-quart baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add diced onion and cook, stirring often, until softened and slightly translucent, about 4 minutes. Stir in mushrooms, onion powder, 1 teaspoon salt, thyme and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the mushroom juices are almost evaporated, 3 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle 1/3 cup flour over the vegetables; stir to coat. Add milk and sherry and bring to a simmer, stirring often. Stir in green beans and return to a simmer. Cook, stirring, until heated through, about 1 minute. Stir in sour cream and buttermilk powder. Transfer to the prepared baking dish.
  3. Whisk the remaining 1/3 cup flour, paprika, garlic powder and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a shallow dish. Add sliced onion; toss to coat. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion along with any remaining flour mixture and cook, turning once or twice, until golden and crispy, 4 to 5 minutes. Spread the onion topping over the casserole.
  4. Bake the casserole until bubbling, about 15 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Tips & Notes

  • Ingredient notes:
  • Don't use the high-sodium “cooking sherry” sold in many supermarkets. Instead, purchase dry sherry sold with other fortified wines.
  • Look for buttermilk powder, such as Saco Buttermilk Blend, in the baking section or with the powdered milk in most supermarkets.


Per serving: 212 calories; 10 g fat (2 g sat, 5 g mono); 10 mg cholesterol; 23 g carbohydrates; 7 g protein; 3 g fiber; 533 mg sodium; 259 mg potassium.

Nutrition Bonus: Calcium (16% daily value).
1 1/2 Carbohydrate Serving
Exchanges: 1/2 starch, 1 vegetable, 2 fat

Maple-Roasted Sweet Potatoes


  • 2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces (about 8 cups)
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Arrange sweet potatoes in an even layer in a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. Combine maple syrup, butter, lemon juice, salt and pepper in small bowl. Pour the mixture over the sweet potatoes; toss to coat.
  3. Cover and bake the sweet potatoes for 15 minutes. Uncover, stir and cook, stirring every 15 minutes, until tender and starting to brown, 45 to 50 minutes more.

Tips & Notes

  • Make Ahead Tip: Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Just before serving, reheat at 350°F until hot, about 15 minutes.


Per serving: 96 calories; 2 g fat (1 g sat, 0 g mono); 5 mg cholesterol; 19 g carbohydrates; 1 g protein; 2 g fiber; 118 mg sodium; 189 mg potassium.

Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin A (230% daily value), Vitamin C (15% dv)
1 1/2 Carbohydrate Serving
Exchanges: 1 1/2 starch, 1/2 fat

And, of course, the TURKEY!
Herb-Roasted Turkey


  • 1 10-12-pound turkey
  • 1/4 cup fresh herbs, plus 20 whole sprigs, such as thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano and/or marjoram, divided
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • Aromatics, onion, apple, lemon and/or orange, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 3 cups water, plus more as needed


  1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven; preheat to 475°F.
  2. Remove giblets and neck from turkey cavities and reserve for making gravy. Place the turkey, breast-side up, on a rack in a large roasting pan; pat dry with paper towels. Mix minced herbs, oil, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rub the herb mixture all over the turkey, under the skin and onto the breast meat. Place aromatics and 10 of the herb sprigs in the cavity. Tuck the wing tips under the turkey. Tie the legs together with kitchen string. Add 3 cups water and the remaining 10 herb sprigs to the pan.
  3. Roast the turkey until the skin is golden brown, 45 minutes. Remove the turkey from the oven. If using a remote digital thermometer, insert it into the deepest part of the thigh, close to the joint. Cover the breast with a double layer of foil, cutting as necessary to conform to the breast. Reduce oven temperature to 350° and continue roasting for 11/4 to 13/4 hours more. If the pan dries out, tilt the turkey to let juices run out of the cavity into the pan and add 1 cup water. The turkey is done when the thermometer (or an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh without touching bone) registers 165°F.
  4. Transfer the turkey to a serving platter and cover with foil. Let the turkey rest for 20 minutes. Remove string and carve.

Tips & Notes

  • Make Ahead Tip: Equipment: Large roasting pan, roasting rack, kitchen string, thermometer


Per serving (without skin): 155 calories; 5 g fat (1 g sat, 2 g mono); 63 mg cholesterol; 0 g added sugars; 25 g protein; 0 g fiber; 175 mg sodium; 258 mg potassium.

Exchanges: 3 1/2 lean meat

Friday, November 5, 2010

Perception is Reality

While I was in college, I had a professor whose mantra was "perception is reality."  Nearly all of the lessons he taught us came back to this simple truth.  I had a recent run-in with this idea in my own reality that I thought I should share in case someone else has the same problem I had. 

Over the past year, I have dealt with many hardships.  My husband has lost his job 4 (yes, FOUR) times in the past 12 months, and now is working for only $9 per hour to support our family of 5, so finances have been front and center in my mind for a year now.  In addition to that, I was cited in October for driving without proof of insurance, and was sentenced to a $900 fine, 40 days in jail, and a suspended driver's license.  My only break was that the judge suspended $500 of the fine and the jail time upon my meeting all the conditions of my 1-year probation.  This left me feeling helpless and picked on since my only crime was in being too poor to pay the car insurance bill.  Add to this unresolved issues from a year ago where my mother-in-law came to my home, accused my husband of unspeakable (and untrue) atrocities, and then proceeded to attack me about it online, going so far as to threaten us with having the police take away our children (for which I consulted a lawyer, who said she didn't have a leg to stand on), and you can imagine the negative feelings that were building up inside of me.

Yesterday I hit a low point.  I was in the shower, thinking about Thanksgiving, and all of the negativity finally boiled over.  I found myself in tears, unable to function, believing all of those voices that I've heard from others over the past year who have told me that I'm a no-good, lazy, indecent, stupid, heathen criminal who is going to Hell, who is unworthy of time or help, and who basically doesn't deserve the air that I breathe.  I perceived all of these to be correct.  How could they not be?  They had been spoken by bishops, by family, and by the criminal justice system.

I put out an unusual status message (for me) on Facebook relating my perception, and the response was overwhelming in the other direction.  I was reminded that I am a strong, loved, supported individual with a good education and a loving family, and that while I've been going through some hard times, they do not reflect on who I am and have no bearing on my reality.  I was counseled to look deep within myself, to where my own reality resides, and when I did so, I found that inner strength that they were assuring me was there.

Deep within myself, I am a warrior--a defender of family and self who has thick armor and a just heart.  I am supremely compassionate and will nearly always put others before myself.  I am a wise sage, both by learned knowledge from my educational background and by acquired knowledge from my (not always pleasant) life experiences.  I love deeply, serve selflessly, and defend what I know to be right and true.  This is my reality.

It was an eye-opener to see just how perception can cloud reality and how the two can be so entirely different.  I am so grateful to have family and friends who can see beyond the fog and remind me that my inner vision is so perfectly clear that the reality can overcome the perception.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Soft Autumn Sugar Cookies


1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
3/4 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 400*F.  Beat butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla.  Mix the dry ingredients together.  Add dry ingredients to sugar mixture, alternating with sour cream.  Chill 2-3 hours.  Roll out and cut into desired shapes.  Bake 10 minutes.  Cool on wire racks.

For frosting:
1/2 cup butter
Dash of salt
5 teaspoons milk
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix together and spread on cooled cookies.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Ghoulishly Fun Recipes

Witches' Brew

You need:
1 envelope grape cool-aid mix
1 envelope orange cool-aid mix
2 cups sugar
3 quarts cold water
1 liter ginger ale
1 disposable glove
Red food coloring
Rubber band

1. To make a frozen bloody hand, wash a disposable glove, fill with water, add a few drops of red food coloring, and seal with a rubber band. Freeze until hard.

2. Stir together grape cool-aid mix, orange cool-aid mix, sugar and water until solids are dissolved. Combine with chilled ginger ale just before serving. Dip the frozen hand briefly in warm water, then peel off the glove. Float the prepared hand in the punch bowl for a ghastly effect.

Dirt Trifle

You need:
1 pkg. brownie mix plus ingredients to make brownies
1 3/4 cups milk  (1% for lower-fat dessert)
2 small boxes chocolate instant pudding  (sugar-free has fewer calories)
8-oz. tub cool-whip (try sugar-free or low-fat for a healthier treat)
Gummy worms

1.  Prepare brownies according to package directions.  Cool thoroughly.

2.  In a bowl, mix pudding mix into milk until mixture begins to thicken.  Fold in cool-whip.

3.  Cut brownies into 1-inch cubes.  Place cubes in bottom of trifle bowl.  Top with half of the pudding mix.  Crush oreos over pudding mix.  Sprinkle gummy worms over oreos.  Crush more oreos over gummy worms.  Top with other half of the pudding mix.  Crush more oreos over the top.  Chill 30 minutes before serving.

Hot Spiced Cider

You need:
3 1/2 quarts apple cider
2 cinnamon sticks
1 package (3 ounces) cherry-flavored gelatin

In a 4-6-quart slow cooker, add cinnamon sticks to apple cider and stir.  Heat on high heat 3 hours.  Stir in gelatin.  Leave on high heat 1 more hour, until gelatin dissolves, stirring once or twice.  Turn on low heat to keep warm.  Remove cinnamon sticks before serving.  Makes 10-15 servings.  For a more intense cherry flavor, add an additional package of gelatin.

Recipe taken from 101 Things To Do With A Slow Cooker by Stephanie Ashcroft and Janet Eyring, page 18.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

My New Healthy Lifestyle!

A year ago, I was at a lower weight, but had just come out of an extremely Diabetic pregnancy, and my blood pressure peaked at 170/120.  I was drinking about 32-44 ounces of diet caffeinated soda per day and not exercising at all.  Every chance we got, we were eating fast food or buying sugary treats to enjoy.  What happened after that is no surprise.  I gained about 30 pounds, went on an awful blood pressure medication, and started to feel the effects of high blood sugars again (although I didn't check my levels).  I was dehydrated and stressed out.

Now I'm off my blood pressure medication with normal blood pressure levels.  I'm starting to make a dent in my weight loss, and I look better and feel better.  What did I do to make the difference?  Here's the step-by-step changes I made to my lifestyle.  I feel so much better and don't ever want to go back to my old destructive habits.

April, 2010--Joined the local aquatic center for its gym membership benefits.  Started spinning once or twice a week for 20-30 minutes.  Stopped blood pressure medication, although the levels were still a little bit high.
May, 2010--Tried Zumba classes at the aquatic center.  LOVED it.  Started taking Propel fitness water to drink for a healthier drink option.  Invested in some good workout clothes.
June, 2010--Made Zumba a weekly habit.  Worked out once a week for an hour.  Stopped the weight gain.
July, 2010--Switched to water instead of Propel.  No calories, healthier option.  Switched all our grains to whole grains.  Blood pressure levels nearing normal.
August, 2010--Increased Zumba to 4 times per week for an hour each time.  Increased fresh fruits & veggies, decreased fatty meat and sugar.
September, 2010--Gave up soda.  Blood pressure levels are normal.  Weight is going down.  Going in to the doctor for annual Diabetes screening and weight management consultation.

So, basically, it's been little steps over 5 months that are starting to yield awesome results.  Now I love discovering healthy new recipes and I look forward to (and really enjoy) exercising.  :)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Kraft's Chicken Vegetable Marinara

I subscribe to the Kraft Food & Fun magazine, and when I got this Fall's issue, I found this little gem of a recipe.  It's under 500 calories per serving, and it smells so wonderfully fragrant while cooking!

Prep:  15 minutes
Total:  55 minutes
Makes:  4 servings, 1 3/4 cups each

What you need:
2 slices Oscar Mayer bacon, chopped
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 tsp. dried oregano leaves
3 large carrots (1/2 lb.), diagonally sliced
3 cups fat-free reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 jar (14 oz.) marinara sauce
2 cups multigrain rotini pasta, uncooked
2 zucchini, quartered lengthwise, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1/2 cup Kraft 2% Milk Shredded Italian Three Cheese Blend

Make it:
Cook and stir bacon in large saucepan on medium heat 4 min. or until crisp.  Use slotted spoon to transfer bacon to medium bowl, reserving 2 tsp. drippings in pan.  Add chicken and oregano to drippings; cook and stir 4 min. or until chicken is no longer pink.  Add to bacon; set aside.
Add carrots to saucepan; cook and stir 2 min.  Add broth, marinara sauce and pasta; stir.  Bring to boil on high heat; simmer on medium-low heat 12 min.  Stir in zucchini and chicken mixture; simmer 8 to 10 min. or until pasta and vegetables are tender and chicken is done.

Top with cheese.

Calories 490, fat 11g (sat 3.5g), chol 80mg, sodium 1140mg, carb 51g, fiber 9g, sugars 13g, protein 47g, vit A 250%DV, vit C 50%DV, iron 20%DV

Recipe taken from Kraft Foods Food & Family magazine, Fall '10 issue, page 11.

You can find more awesome recipes from Kraft on http://www.kraftrecipes.com

Monday, August 16, 2010

Quick Healthy Breakfasts!

With back-to-school time here, it's important to get our families good, healthy breakfasts in record time.  This is a daunting task for the unprepared, but with a little preparation, it's really quite easy and rewarding!  Here's a sample list for an entire week's breakfasts, with shopping list!  This is what I do with my family.

Buy (on Saturday before the week begins):
Healthy, whole-grain cereal (ie Multigrain Cheerios)
Gallon of milk
Old-fashioned (NOT INSTANT) oatmeal
Light Margarine
Sugar-free preserves (your favorite flavor)
2 Dozen Eggs
Whole-wheat flour (PANTRY STAPLE)
All-purpose flour (PANTRY STAPLE)
Pancake mix (buckwheat is healthier)
Ground turkey breast
Pure Maple Syrup
Poultry Seasoning
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (PANTRY STAPLE)
Black Pepper (PANTRY STAPLE)
Whole Wheat English Muffins
Shredded Cheddar Cheese
8 McIntosh Apples
Baking Powder (PANTRY STAPLE)

SATURDAY NIGHT (Prepare Make-Ahead Waffles & Oatmeal):
Whisk together in a large bowl:
* 1 cup whole-wheat flour
* 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
* 1 tablespoon baking powder
* 1 tablespoon sugar
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
Whisk together in another bowl:
* 3 eggs, well beaten
* 1 cup applesauce
* 1 1/2 cups milk
* 1 tablespoon cinnamon
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and pour in the wet ingredients.  Gently whisk together until batter looks pebbled.  Spoon 1/2 cup batter onto well-greased hot waffle iron.  Spread evenly, and cook (closed) until waffle is golden brown.  Repeat with rest of batter.  Let waffles cool, and seal in freezer-safe ziploc bags (the big ones).
* 3 cups old-fashioned oatmeal (NOT INSTANT)
* 3 cups milk
* 4 cups water
* 1/2 cup brown sugar
* 1/2 cup raisins
* 1/2 cup craisins
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
Combine the oatmeal, milk, and water in a large, deep saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  When it boils, quickly turn the heat down to very low.  Stir in the brown sugar, dried fruits, and salt and cook at a low simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until very thick and creamy.  Stir often to prevent the bottom from scorching.  Cool completely and refrigerate in individual re-sealable containers to reheat on Tuesday.

Sunday is usually a calmer morning around here, so I make a good breakfast then.  This recipe is adapted from Rachael Ray's recipe.
* 2 tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
* 1 pound ground turkey breast
* 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
* 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
* Salt and Pepper
* 8 eggs (or use just the whites for a healthier meal)
* 1/4 cup milk
* 4 whole-wheat English muffins
* 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Optional Toppers:
* Thinly sliced apple
* Tomato slices
* Sliced Dill pickles
Preheat the broiler.  Preheat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, once around the pan.  In a mixing bowl, combine the ground turkey, maple syrup, poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper.  Form 4 large, thin patties and cook 10-12 minutes, turning once.  Remove and reserve.  Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet.  Beat the eggs with milk, salt, and pepper.  Pop the split English muffins under the broiler to toast when you add the eggs to the skillet.  Scramble the eggs until they are done to your taste, and remove the muffins from the oven when nicely browned.  Top each muffin bottom with a sausage patty, one fourth of the eggs, and 1/4 cup of the cheese.  Place the sammies without their tops under the broiler for 1 minute to melt the cheese.  Top with any toppers you would like, or just set the tops in place and serve.  Serves 4.

Cereal is the quintessential go-to quick breakfast, and the whole grains give a great start to the day.  Just watch your portion sizes!

For instant, healthy oatmeal quickly, get the pre-made oatmeal that has already been refrigerated in individual portions out of the fridge.  Warm in the microwave, and serve with extra milk.

Get the whole-wheat apple cinnamon waffles out of the freezer and toast them.  Spread fruit preserves over them or drizzle with maple syrup to serve.

Preheat skillet over medium-high heat with some light margarine to just coat the skillet.  Beat as many eggs as your family will eat with some milk.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pour eggs into skillet, and scramble.  Once eggs are almost set, sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese.  Serve warm with ketchup or salsa.

It's great to end the week the same way you began the week--with a quick, whole-grain breakfast of cereal.

I grew up having pancakes for breakfast on Saturdays.  I love the tradition, and found this healthier version from Rachael Ray, which I have adapted here.
* 8 medium McIntosh apples, peeled, cored, and diced
* 1/2 cup apple sauce
* 1/4 cup water
* Cinnamon
* 3/4 cup pure maple syrup
* Nonstick cooking spray (as needed)
* Pancake Mix (Buckwheat is healthy and great here)
Preheat oven to 150*.  Combine the apples, applesauce, and water in a medium sauce pot.  Add cinnamon to taste, and cook until the apples break down and become a chunky sauce, 12 to 15 minutes.  Stir in the maple syrup and reserve over low heat.  While the apples are simmering, preheat a griddle or large nonstick skillet and coat with cooking spray.  Mix up the pancake batter and make 8 pancakes, keeping the finished pancakes warm in the oven.  When the pancakes are ready to serve, layer two flapjacks with lots of homemade apple-maple sauce on each plate.  Serves 4.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Good, Clean Fun

Soapmaking 101!

The easiest soap for beginners to make is glycerin soap. You'll need to make a trip to your local craft store to get glycerin soap base, color drops, and fragrance drops. If you don't have any flexible molds at home--plastic & silicone are both fabulous, and even ice trays work--then you may want to check out molds while you're there. Once home, microwave the glycerin blocks in a glass container to melt--DO NOT BOIL THEM! Then stir with a wooden spoon, add color & fragrance drops a little bit at a time until you get your desired color & scent strength, and pour into the molds. Refrigerate to set. Once set, pop them out and wrap in plastic wrap to store or gift. You can also line a bread pan with plastic wrap and pour your soap in, then once set you cut slices of soap to make the bars. Same technique would work with a brownie pan. For kids, try putting a little plastic toy in the soap before it sets so they have to remember to wash up in order to eventually get the toy.

Soapmaking 201!

To make creamy lye soap in a blender, you need:

lye (RedDevil brand is excellent)
distilled water
liquid cooking oil (olive, canola, palm, coconut)
essential oils (for fragrance)
any additives you'd like (try oatmeal with vanilla-scented essential oil)
1/2-gallon bowl (Rubber-maid type)
sturdy plastic stirring spoon
Pam cooking spray
kitchen food scale
plastic wrap (if desired to line molds)
For safety, you need rubber gloves, goggles, and long sleeves.

Grease your molds with Pam. Measure your water and lye. POUR THE LYE SLOWLY INTO THE WATER, NOT THE WATER INTO THE LYE. Stir until dissolved and let cool until clear (you started with cool water, but the chemical reaction will make it very hot very quickly). Measure oil and pour into blender. Slowly pour the lye solution into the oil. Lock blender into place and secure cover. Place towel over top for extra safety. Blend at lowest possible speed. Stop blender often to watch soap for when it just begins to thicken. For safety, each time you stop the blender, wait a few seconds before removing the cover to avoid "burps" as air rises to the surface. Once the soap has begun to thicken, check for "tracing" by stirring soap and taking a spoonful of soap to drizzle water across--if the water leaves a trace you're ready for the next step. Once the soap begins to thicken, add your essential oils and any other additives. Blend these in for a few seconds. Pour into the molds and cover with the blanket (or a towel) to avoid cooling too quickly. Let soap harden 1-2 days, then pop it out of the molds and let it age for 3 weeks before using it.

Try this recipe for Oatmeal Cinnamon Soap:
8 oz. palm oil
6 oz. coconut oil
2 oz. olive oil
1/3 cup regular oatmeal (well blended)
2.4 oz. lye
6.4 oz. water
1 tsp. cinnamon essential oil
(Mix lye into water--let cool. Mix oils in blender. Add lye mixture. Blend and check until begins to thicken. Add oatmeal and cinnamon essential oil. Blend a few seconds until thoroughly mixed. Pour into molds. Cover with blanket. Let set 2 days. Remove and let age 3 weeks.)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Better-for-You Mexican Chicken & Rice Burrito Dinner

Simple swaps to whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats, and increased veggies make this a tasty better option!

1 tsp plus 1 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 can no-sugar-added supersweet corn
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast--any fat trimmed off
1 tbsp taco seasoning
2 cups uncooked instant brown rice
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups chunky salsa
1 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend
Whole wheat tortillas

Add 1 tsp of the olive oil to a large skillet; heat over medium-high heat 1-3 minutes (until shimmery). Meanwhile, drain corn. Add corn to skillet in a single layer. Cook without stirring 5 minutes or until caramelized on one side (this adds color and texture). Remove corn from skillet and set aside.

While corn is cooking, cube chicken breast. Combine chicken and taco seasoning. When corn is out of the skillet, add chicken to the skillet. Cook until no longer pink (about 5-7 minutes), stirring occasionally. Remove chicken from skillet and set aside.

Add remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet. Add rice and stir until coated with oil. Add broth and salsa, bring to a simmer. Cover skillet and reduce heat to low. Simmer 5 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed.

Spoon chicken over rice and sprinkle cheese and corn on top. Cover skillet. Turn off heat, and let stand 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

To serve, spoon into warm whole wheat tortillas and roll into burritos. Serve with your favorite veggie side (possibly a salad with low-fat Ranch dressing that has been mixed with additional taco seasoning). Enjoy!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Who ya gonna call? STRESSBUSTERS!!!

It's been a stressful year in my household, and I've learned to survive in this turbulent, stressful world, you need some excellent stress busters! I took a stress management class in college, and have combined what I learned there with what I've learned going through my own stress, and have put the best of the best (for me, at least) here. :)

Go to a quiet place where you can sit, close your eyes, and concentrate on just your breathing. Slow it to a slow, calm rhythm. Envision a point of light in the darkness behind your eyelids. As you watch the point of light, let it grow, larger and larger, until you find yourself in your special place. For me, the special place is standing on a hillside opposite a mountain of pines. The wind through the pines brings a quiet whisper to me that all will be well. I listen to the breeze reassuring me, and give myself to the wind, leaning into it, and feeling it buoy me up. I stay in this place until I feel totally relaxed and calm, and then slowly retreat back into my conscious mind to "wake up."

Primal Scream
When all the stress is pent-up and ready for release, find a good pillow, put it over your mouth, and let it ALL out. Scream and scream until you feel exhausted. It's a great outlet for the stress. This is named for the theory that our first extremely stressful experience was our birth, and babies come out screaming. It's a very natural response to stress, and is really very helpful when used.

I have two forms of exercise I love: spinning and Zumba. On the spin bike, I set the resistance to a comfortable level, pop in my earbuds, turn on my MP3 player, and start slow and then build up to as fast as I can go until I feel the endorphine rush and the ensuing release of pent-up stress. In Zumba, there are so many positive, happy people all dancing, laughing, and working out stress that you can't help but leave feeling much happier than you were when you arrived.

When there is someone else causing my stress, I cook something that I can beat (like punching bread dough or slapping my food chopper repeatedly). I feel better after pulverizing the food, and then my family and I get to enjoy the end result--yummy food!

This one has been awhile since I don't have access to a piano, but I used to choose a music selection that fit my mood (In the Hall of the Mountain King was a great one for stress) and pound it out on the piano, and then would move to either soothing or bouncy/happy tunes. I improved my piano skills and felt much better when done.

Selective Muscle Relaxation
Lay on your back in a comfortable, darkened place. Tighten your toes, then relax them. Focusing on keeping them relaxed, tighten your other foot muscles, then relax them. Keeping your entire feet relaxed, tighten your ankle muscles, then relax them. Move up to tightening your calves, while keeping your feet and ankles relaxed. Continue to move all the way up to your face and ears, while keeping relaxed the muscles you've already released the stress from. Once your entire body is relaxed, just lay there for awhile enjoying being completely relaxed.

Stimulates your happy center in your brain. Need I say more? ;)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Wisdom of a decade?

For our 10-year wedding anniversary, we opened up a time capsule of sorts in which we had put predictions and fun thoughts from our family as well as our own predictions, hopes, and promises for our first 10 years of marriage. Some of what we read through was humorous (one brother-in-law predicted we'd join the mile-high club) and some was wise (advice that marriage requires open communication and honesty). All of it has caused me to reflect on the past decade of marriage. Here are my thoughts.

1. Arguments will happen. One or the other of us will occasionally be in a bad mood, and even in an antagonistic one. What we fight over will rarely matter. What will matter is how we conduct ourselves during and after the fight. It really does take two to fight. If the issue really doesn't much matter to me, I've learned to stand down. If the issue is actually important (which it rarely is) then I will stay and fight, but that is when I must be careful to fight in the right way--without put-downs or blame (and this can be hard at times).

2. Humor really is the spice of life, and it has become the life of our marriage. We still make each other laugh and enjoy silliness even after 10 years of sharing the same stories and jokes.

3. Tough times can cause a great amount of stress and even threaten a marriage in the short-term, but when it is seen through, it ultimately strengthens the bond. Great people aren't born out of the good times, but out of trial and tribulation.

4. Dreams of perfection are just that--dreams. It takes work to achieve anything near perfection, and even then, perfection is rarely perfect. Marriages aren't 50/50. I have learned that I have to give 100% all of the time.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Healthier Calzones

I LOVE my homemade calzones, and so does my hubby. The problem with them, though, is that they are high in fat, and hence high in calories, too! So while I was making them the other night, I was dreaming up ways to improve on them. Here's what I've come up with to keep all the flavor and lose some of the fat, and to improve the healthiness of the finished product!

Start with 1 pound of whole-wheat bread dough (instead of the white bread dough). Divide it into 4 portions. Turn each portion into a 4-inch-diameter circle.

Mix an 8-ounce package of low-fat (neufchatel) cream cheese (in place of regular cream cheese) with 1 cup low-fat shredded mozzarella cheese (in place of regular mozzarella cheese). Stir in Italian seasonings to taste. Divvy up into 4 portions and spread on dough rounds, leaving about 3/4" around the edges.

Top with low-fat ham, red bell peppers, and diced pineapple (in place of fattier meats like pepperoni or sausage).

Fold each round in half over the filling and seal the edges with a fork to make the calzone. Brush the top with extra-virgin olive oil (a healthy fat). Bake at 400 degrees for 5 minutes. Brush with more extra-virgin olive oil. Bake another 10 minutes or so until it is browned to your liking. Enjoy! (Makes 4 calzones)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Sorry for the long hiatus! Many things have happened over the past 3 months in our family. Here's a glimpse at what I've been up to:

Hubby got a new job in mid-February! He started selling cars, and even sold one on his very first day! YAY!!! Here's the initiation he had celebrating his first sale:


Haleigh took dance lessons from mid-March to mid-May! There is something so cute and uplifting about watching a group of 3- and 4-year-olds doing their best impressions of dancing princesses!

Christopher started playing machine-pitch baseball in early May. This is his 4th year in some sort of baseball program! He really enjoys it, and to add to the experience, his daddy is his coach!

Erika started rolling, army-crawling, and sitting independently! At 10 months old, she now has 2 teeth and is a cute, babbling, raspberry-blowing little ball of energy!

Cameron lost his car-sales job on May 12. He loved selling cars, and is currently looking for a new job in the same industry.

I turned 30 on May 15th! Do I feel any different? No. In the words of a favorite movie of mine, I'm "thirty, flirty, and thriving!" (13 Going on 30)

I've discovered Zumba! This high-energy aerobic dancing done to a Latin beat is so much fun! I go to the gym for a 1-hour Zumba class at least once a week!

I'm hoping to update on a much more frequent basis again. Thanks for sticking with me through the ups and downs!

Monday, February 15, 2010

My Love Story

With Valentine's Day only a day behind us now, I have been asking friends to share their love stories with me, as I'm a sucker for a good love story! I decided to share my own here.

I met Cameron in July, 1999 while we were both working at Lagoon. We were both rides operators on the same end of the park, but did not meet until the foods department was shorthanded and recruited some rides operators to assist in catering a party. I was assigned to ensure the meat servers didn't run out of meat, and Cameron was assigned to serve meat. We and the other 2 meat servers had a lot of fun joking around and having a break from our usual work assignments, and after the party was finished being catered, we had some time before our evening rides shifts, so we went to the employee kitchen to get something to eat and to relax. Our friendship started there, and grew over the next month.

In August, Lagoon held an after-hours work party at Lagoon-A-Beach called the Beach Bash. I spent a week prior to the bash convincing my dead beat boyfriend that it was over, and I informed Cameron's girlfriend that I was stealing her boyfriend. (I don't think she believed me, but it happened.) We spent the night dancing and laughing, and became Lagoon's newest couple. For almost two months, everything went really well.

In early October, Cameron called me on my ride's phone to tell me he wasn't going to wait for me in the park at closing because he was going to walk a female friend out, but would see me at the rides office when I got there. When I did get there, I couldn't find him, so a friend told me where he was, and walked me to where Cameron and his friend were, just in time for me to see her kiss him. I was really upset, but I was Cameron's ride home, so on the way, I gave him a little glimpse of my thoughts by telling him she was a slut. That night he dumped me via email, saying it wasn't ok for me to say bad things about his friends.

After a couple of days, he wouldn't answer my phone calls or emails, and he called in to work, so I showed up at his house to talk to him about what had happened. We decided to remain friends and see where life took us.

After another couple of days, we were at my car after work when a friend in his mid-twenties told Cameron, "Man, if I had a girl who treated me the way she treats you, I wouldn't be dumping her; I'd be proposing to her." Cameron mulled this over for another couple of days.

In mid-October, we were watching Titanic at his house, when out of nowhere he asked me to marry him. I said, "Sure." After an engagement of nearly 8 months, we were married June 9, 2000 in my stake center.

This June marks our 10th anniversary. Our story has been rocky at times, dream-like at times, filled with challenges and achievements. We've been blessed with 3 beautiful children. And I really wouldn't want to edit our story at all. :)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

'Twas the Month After Christmas

I found this on myephit.com, and just had to share!

'Twas the month after Christmas and all through the house
Nothing would fit me, not even a blouse.
The cookies I'd nibbled, the eggnog I'd tasted
At the holiday parties had gone to my waist.

When I got on the scales there arose such a number
When I walked to the store (less a walk than a lumber) -
I'd remember the marvelous meals I'd prepared;
The gravies and sauces and beef nicely rared.

The fudge and the fruit cake,
the bread and the cheese
And the way I'd never said, "No thank you please."

As I dressed myself in my husband's old shirt
And prepared once again to do battle with dirt-
I said to myself, as only I can, "You can't spend all winter disguised as a man!"

So away with the last of the sour cream dip,
Get rid of the fruit cake,
every cracker and chip,
Till all the additional ounces have vanished,
I won't have a cookie - not even a lick,
I'll want only to chew on a long celery stick.

I won't have hot biscuits, or corn bread, or pie;
I'll munch on a carrot and quietly cry.
I'm hungry, I'm lonesome, and life is a bore -
But isn't that what January is for?

Unable to giggle, no longer a riot
Happy New Year to all and to all a good diet!


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Helpful Household Tips For New Year's Cleaning

To shine your appliances, rub them with rubbing alcohol.

To remove a bathtub ring, let warm water sit in the tub with vinegar (approx. 1 cup) in it. Wipe away with a damp sponge.

Either a baking soda paste or rubbing alcohol will remove permanent marker and crayon marks on walls/floors. Test a spot first to make sure it works with your finish!

Vinegar water will counteract pet urine smells.

If you sprinkle your carpets with baking soda prior to vacuuming, it will draw out odors.

Sprinkle baking soda in kitty litter pans after filling with fresh litter to prevent your stinky kitty from stinking up the whole house when she's done.

WD40 prevents soap scum from sticking to your shower doors. Wipe a thin film over the doors after cleaning.