Monday, December 23, 2013

Chocolate Chip Mocha Fudge Cookies

I try to attempt a new Christmas cookie recipe every year and see if it's a "keeper". This year I hit a home run & I have a feeling these will be making several appearances through out the year as a go-to chocolate cookie- the variation possibilities are pretty endless.

Here is what you'll need:
1 1/4 C Butter, softened
2 C white sugar
2 eggs, room temp
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 heaping tsp cinnamon
2 T instant coffee/espresso powder
1 16oz bag mini chocolate chips

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into a medium bowl.
Using a stand mixer w the paddle attachment, whip the butter & sugar into a fluffy dream of yumminess. Add the eggs, one at a time- keep mixin, add the vanilla.
Slowly add in the bowl of dry ingredients until fully incorporated.
Use a large, sturdy spatula and stir in the coffee/espresso and chocolate chips. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours. (I did overnight, but I think you'd be ok in 2 hours)
Preheat the oven to 350, use a spoon and your hands to form walnut sized globs, keep em kinda messy looking, not perfect balls.
Space about 2 inches apart and bake for 9 minutes, they won't look totally done. Let them sit on the baking sheet 5-10 minutes before you transfer them to a cooling rack.

They would be great topped with smashed candy cane, and I am pretty sure some shredded coconut is going in the next time I bust these out!


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Tis the season- budget friendly diy gifts

Tis the season to GIVE. That's truly (other than the food) my very favorite thing about the winter holidays. This year Logan is in a preschool group and I was excited to make something for his teachers, but have to be honest- as a stay at home mama, our budget it TIGHT and there are SEVEN amazing women who assist with his group. Pinterest is super helpful in times like these, and you can really get inspired, or overwhelmed searching all the amazing ideas!!

This is just a quick post to share what I ended up making. Due to the hoarding of glass jars that began here in October, the use of ingredients and materials I had on hand, this came in at around $3 per gift.

What you will need:

(as many jars as you will be gifting, I started saving glass jars from items we used in October for the project to keep budget in target range. Michael's also ran a sale at the end of November w Mason Jars for $0.99)
Burlap or fabric (I had this leftover from the GIVE THANKS banner I made last month)
Yarn or ribbon

Ornaments- I bought these on sale for less than $1 at Michael's- they were plain wood, I had my son help me paint them white so the gift is truly from him as well. While the paint was still wet we added some shimmer (iridescent glitter)

Mocha Mix:
This is pretty much unsweetened cocoa, sugar, powdered milk and instant coffee, I also add a bit of cinnamon. There are tons of recipes if you do a quick Google search.

My mix is pretty much 1 part cocoa, 1 part sugar 1/2 part milk 1/4 part coffee, pinch of cinnamon- increase volume to fill as many jars as you need. To save time, money and space, fill the jars only half or 2/3 full and top off with mini-marshmallows.
You can also sub a candy cane for the ornament idea!
I attached a card with instructions to mix 2 tsp with 1 cup warm/hot milk or water.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

Gearing up for our first time hosting family for Thanksgiving AND our first Thanksgiving as homeowners in our new place!
I thought I would share the menu, now that I've got it set, to help inspire anyone still working out their details- PLEASE share your menu and links (to recipes only please, spam will be deleted) so we can all get ideas & prepare for next week's food-fest!


Devil'd Eggs
Turkey-veggie tray (above is the one we made last year)
Sweet potato chips- Costco had the Terra Chips last week so I got those
Crackers- Trader Joe's
Hummus- I'm buyin it at Trader Joe's
Cranberry cheese log- Also Trader Joe's- I buy at least one of these a year- SO GOOD!
Nuts- Trader Joe's assorted

Turkey- I will have to post AFTER we make it, we will be smoking our bird in the smoker this year! First for everything!
Garlic Mashed (no-peel) potatoes- I make these often, will add a recipe in my wrap-up, basically when making so much other stuff to cut down on prep, I bake the potatoes whole then scoop the inside away from the peel instead of peeling the potatoes and boiling them.
Cranberry Relish (I am making my own version, similar to THIS (with apples & orange zest, but no celery)
Green beans with bacon & crispy home-fried onions- making this one up as I go so like the Turkey, look for this recipe after Thanksgiving.

Pumpkin pie
Cherry pie
Chocolate pudding pie
Cranberry Blueberry Crumble (THIS filling with an oat & brown sugar crumble crust topping)


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Matzo Ball Soup

I recently wrote THIS POST about fighting the sick season and sited Matzo Ball Soup as on e of my favorite defenses against the yuckies. I have never attempted to make this myself, but usually haul buns to a deli or Bristol Farms and buy it when things get under the weather over here. I know there are mixes for this, but really wanted a recipe for the homemade stuff. I found one, then lost it...somehow never pinned the sucker, so while at the market today I scooped up a container of Matzo meal and decided to try to make up my own recipe. It came out pretty good for a first try & now I'm ready to make it when we need it!! I also froze half for extra preparedness. Apologies for any errors that make this not-kosher or not "real" Matzo ball soup, this is the Italian mama version ;)

Here is what you will need:

2 large carrots
4 celery stalks
1/2 a brown onion
1 T salted butter
3 large eggs
2 32oz cartons chicken broth or stock
3/4 cup matzo meal
2 chicken breasts from a rotisserie chicken, keep it simple people. (chop up into bite sized pieces)

Chop celery carrots an onion into bite sized pieces
Place butter in stock pot on medium low heat and add celery, onion & carrot- stir about 5 minutes. Add chicken stock, raise heat to medium-high & start makin the matzo balls!
This is the recipe from the Manischewitz Matzo Meal container- figured stick with a professional opinion on my first try.
Separate the eggs.
Use a hand or stand mixer to beat the egg WHITES until stiff.
Use a spatula to fold in the yolks, then fold in the matzo meal & a pinch of salt.
Let the matzo mix sit for about 5 minutes.
When stock is boiling- use a spoon to form walnut-sized matzo balls & drop into boiling soup mixture. Lower heat, cover and simmer 40 minutes....WITH OUT UNCOVERING (apparently that's they way to do it.) Heat the chicken up in a little skillet so it doesn't get cooked to oblivion since it's already cooked- then just add it to serve.

I'm sure you could doctor this up six-ways-from-Sunday with other herbs, rice, noodles, whatever grabs ya!

Logan liked it, he ate 2 of the matzo balls and lots of the chicken, he also spilled some on Leela's head and Arthrur enjoyed licking it off of her so everyone wins.

If you have a family Matzo Ball recipe you are able to share, please do- we'd love to try it!!! I will try a version using the crackers next! Stay tuned....

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Easiest Halloween Party "recipe" ever....

This is easier than it looks, if that's even possible, like, I suppose you could do it in more than the 30 seconds I spent & make it a little more "pretty" ;) - this is 2 bags of organic carrots at .79 per bag- peeled and chopped into sticks and 2 cans of olives (that were 2 for $1) drained & rinsed.
We are talkin $3 total here people. Plus $4 on a big tub of Trader Joe's Hummus Dip (my favorite)- boom. Big, festive pumpkin face party plate for under $10!! HOORAY!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Pumpkin Bread/Muffins

It's pumpkin MANIA~ This is an easy, not-too-awful-for-ya recipe- my favorite kind!

Here's what you'll need:

3 1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour ( I used 1 cup whole wheat flour, 2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose because that's what I had here)
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tablespoons + 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice mix
1 15oz can pumpkin
4 eggs
1/2 c veg oil
1/2 c apple sauce
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
(I made 1 standard sized loaf and 12 regular sized muffins- I also use THESE baking pans, sheets etc so no greasing or foil lining required and muy, muy easy clean-up. I can't recommend them enough.)


Preheat your oven to 350.
Sift the flour, baking soda, salt and spice mix into a medium bowl.
Combine the eggs, pumpkin, sugars, apple sauce, oil and flax in a large bowl- mix until all ingredients are incorporated. Slowly mix in dry ingredients, until everything is well mixed together.
I filled one standard size loaf pan about 1/2 to 2/3 full & 12 regular size muffins/muffin tin 1/2 to slightly over 1/2 full.
I put both in at the same time.
Pull the muffins out at 25-30 minutes, cook the loaf 50 minutes- until a butter knife inserted in to he center comes out clean.
Serve w some coffee....mmmmmmmmm.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Homemade play-dough

This has been a long time coming. Logan loves play-dough, but leaves it out and it gets dry and we tend to go through lots and lots and lots of play-dough over here. Not an option on my budget. I have pinned at least 10 different blog posts for homemade play-dough and today, finally, tried one- and can totally delete all the other pins now.

I also found a great, useful blog with tons of other great ideas too!

This recipe comes from Erika at Musings from a Stay at Home Mom. (you probably have this pinned too and just haven't tried it yet.....I say again, delete all your other homemade play-dough pins, this one RULES.)

A single batch is about 2 normal or 4 small sized store-bought container sizes. This will be fun for us to play with regularly, but also, the next time I have a kid-party, this is totally gonna be the favor.
My struggle with this first trial batch was the color. I had some candy melt coloring that I used conservatively, but would definitely kick up the color next time- with some all-natural food coloring (beets= red, purple from cabbage, green tea etc...) Promise to try that soon and update the results here!

Here's what you'll need
a 2 qt saucepan
1 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup salt
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup room temp water
1 T. vegetable oil
food coloring
wax paper

Whisk the dry ingredients together in a bowl (the flour, salt & cream of tartar.)
Lay a sheet of wax paper on the counter to cool the dough on.
Place the sauce pan over medium-low heat- pour in the water, add the oil- and stir in the bowl of dry ingredients. Keep stirring- it will start to thicken pretty quick. Keep it thickens a bit more (after stirring a minute or 2) add the food coloring....keep stirring.....stir some more.
Stir until it is thick, and gathers around the spoon, clinging to it.
This happens pretty fast, she's not joking when she says it takes 10 minutes to make this stuff.
Transfer the dough to the wax paper to cool.
Once cooled, kneed it a bit to get out any lumpiness and create uniform texture.
Keep in an airtight container.

See Erika's original post HERE and her blog Musings from a Stay at Home Mom that's full of other great ideas as well.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Fighting the Sick Season, get your dukes up!

I have a two year old. I teach exercise to loads of moms, students, doctors, and every type of person you can imagine. My husband works in an office. There is NO WAY to avoid whatever the heck may be "going around" (doesn't hearing that make you want to slap someone) at any given point during "sick season"....which by my Facebook math, anytime I've seen someone describe their symptoms in a status update and had someone comment that whatever it was is "going around", the "sick season" is pretty much 300-350 days a year long.

Pre-child, we would usually get sick, like legit sick, once a year, maybe twice (like the year we both got the swine flu, that was rad.) Now with the little guy around touching everything he can in public places and then immediately shoving a hand in his, my or daddy's mouth our risk factor is a little beyond constant hand washing and eating an obscene amount of garlic. However, with the garlic, hand-washing and other tips-n-tricks I use, even with the toddler on the scene we keep the sick days to a minimum and when something does strike we are usually well in a fraction of the time it takes others we know who are dealing with the same yuckiness to bounce back....did you hear? It's really going around right now......

1. Keep your hands clean, and OFF YOUR FACE. As mentioned above this can be out of your control at times, but as much as humanly possible, wash your hands after touching stuff that could be germy (the grocery cart, the gas pump, every time you use the restroom) I know this may seem crazy obvious, but if you really pay attention and work to keep your hands clean, it really will help you be more likely to miss out on whatever is....well, you know, out there. The second part of this may take a little more awareness & effort. DON'T TOUCH YOUR FACE. Seriously. Hair on your lip? Nose itch? Eyelash in your eye? Get a tissue. Get somewhere where you can scrub up before poking at your mouth, nose or eyes and I promise you will exponentially increase your ability to avoid the nasties. It's a great skill to try to teach the kiddies as early as possible too.  My son is a little over 2 years old and 75% (and growing) of the time he will go get a tissue to wipe a runny nose vs using his hand.
We use the hand sanitizer spray pictured above and LOVE it- kid safe too, I use it on Logan after the park, the market, the aquarium etc.
Here is a helpful link if you are interested in making your own Homemade Hand Sanitizer

2. Humidifier- this is one every mommy is familiar with. A COOL MIST HUMIDIFIER. I was like, wtf is that?!? I remembered us having a steam humidifier when I was a kid, but couldn't imagine what "cool mist" even meant, or further, how the heck it would help anything, EVER. We did not get one prior to Logan's arrival- but if you are expecting, or have a newborn and are like me, don't wait till that first cold hits- go get one as a staple right away. Everyone seems to be a fan of the Crane (pictured above), but we went with a Safety First because it was on sale at target and we were still super skeptical as to what this whole thing was all about.
I have been turned into a believer. Basically, I believe, the idea is that when you are congested- your body is producing an excess of mucous...if you are in a dry environment your body will be cued to produce MORE moisture (mucous, oils in your skin, etc.) to balance that out. Use of the humidifier during naps and overnight (and really any time there's excessive dryness due to weather, heater or a/c running etc) will help maintain the balance and keep mucous production down. When the Santa Ana winds kicked up a few weeks ago, I ran Logan's humidifier during naps and overnight, even though he was totally healthy just for comfort sake, and out of jealousy ordered one for our room at that point, and was SO happy I did- it makes my skin happy!

Humidifier cleaning & care note: for this to be a helpful tool in your home, you MUST keep it properly cleaned and when not in use- completely dry & well stored. When you are using it, it helps to use filtered water, not tap water- I have no idea why, but from experience, this is true. EVERY day, in the morning, un plug it and empty all the water, rinse with a 1 part vinegar 1 part water mixture, rinse well (till you can't smell the vinegar) and let dry as much as possible before you need to use it next. If for some reason it gets funky- there's some pink mold or other spore growth (awesome, right?) use straight vinegar and about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of epsom salt in the tank part- cover any openings best you can with your hands and shake the bajeezus out of it- this should clear up any build up- use vinegar on q-tips to clean any funkiness that grows in the base part that can not be filled and shake-a-shake-a'd. All humidifiers are built a little different so it depends on how yours is put together.

3. Essential oils- I started using oils before Logan was born, while I was pregnant and couldn't take prescription or over the counter medication when I got a sinus infection, allergies or other ailments and they became a necessary life saver. I've really started to learn more and use them regularly....and use "medicine" lots less. Since I had my son, taking even two ibprofen makes my stomach hurt and I feel disgusting. It was super helpful to have a friend that is a DoTerra rep, that's how I found the two blends (Breathe and OnGuard) that are so very essential (unintentional oil pun) to our getting well and staying well here.

I use a variety of oil brands to fit my needs, and budget- but so far my experience with the DoTerra oils is that they are the highest quality and the two blends I'm now completely addicted to are just not available anywhere else. I know if you use them you agree, it's true fact, I got hooked FAST and have not been with out the "Breathe" or "OnGuard" blends in my house since I first tried them.

If you want to start using oils, you will probably want to get a diffuser- initially I was adding the oils to some water in a pot on the stove and just keeping it on super low- it smelled awesome, but then I learned that heat affects the composition of the oil, and it's effectiveness. Diffusers can be EXPENSIVE. Since I am an oil addict and use them sick, well, rain, shine, etc- I have several of THESE (spa vapor) diffusers, I'm saving up to invest in a really good one soon though, it will totally be worth it.

Another thing you may want to get are empty gel caps my first attempt at ingesting oregano oil was INTENSE. That shit burns! SERIOUSLY. These are great for blending a few drops of various oils or of one powerful oil like oregano that you would mix with a carrier oil like olive or coconut. (also great if you are on a budget, like me, and would loooove to order those OnGuard softgels AND the oil blend but have to pick one...makes it easier)

Here are the get well/stay well oils I use all the time and a bit of info about them:

OnGuard is a blend that combines some FIERCE stay-well, go-away-cold essential oils, I diffuse this pretty much all the time. I love the way it smells and feel like I've got soliders garuding the wellness fortress when it's in the air over here. (dramatic much?) I also use the OnGuard cleaning concentrate, see #8, and just ordered the softgels.

Breathe blend- this is how I found the DoTerra product line in the first place. My friend posted about her baby daughter being congested and this really helping out....then about a week later, Logan got his first cold and I was a MESS. I emailed her and ordered the Breathe blend to try for myself. It seemed expensive at the time. I was totally skeptical, and worried that I had just spent WAYYYY too much money on a teeeensy bottle of something that could do NOTHING. Then Logan caught his second cold not too long after I had the blend at home and I mixed it with some coconut oil, rubbed it on his little feet before both naps and at bedtime and was pretty shocked at how much quicker his congestion vanished than it had the first time. I also used it on myself for a horrible sinus infection not too long after that and can vouch for it's effectiveness first hand. I diffuse it in his room & in the kitchen whenever anyone here is congested.

Oregano: (a good one for the grown-ups) I recently found a blog post via that talked about the amazing properties of oregano oil. It has been found to be an anti-fungal, anti-bacterial powerhouse that is awesome at helping you get well and stay well. When I say powerful, this oil is POWERFUL. It's not oregano like in your pasta sauce, this is super strong Mediterranean legit oregano oil- you will want to dilute it. Use olive or coconut oil w a 1 to 1 ratio- I suggest encapsulating this one. I know several mamas that use this to treat ear infections in their little ones, garlic oil too- I have not tried that yet, but if we get an ear infection over here, I will. I have also read it's best to limit use to 5-7 days when you feel something coming on or are actually sick.  Not a problem for me, this one makes my burps all spicy, bleh. I feel like it makes a huge difference when I'm fighting something nasty though, so it's worth the oregano burps. It's too intense for the liver to take all the time. Also DO NOT take oregano if you are (or may be) pregnant.

Tea Tree: My cleaning oil. This is a key ingredient in OnGuard for obvious reasons, I ordered a big bottle of this from amazon because I use it in my dusting spray, floor wash, insect repellent and lots of other household fun stuff. It a good one to have on hand as a regular use oil. I also like to diffuse it with lemon, mandarin and ginger when we are getting over a sickness.

Eucalyptus, rosemary, lavender & peppermint: This was my own version of the Breathe blend before I discovered it. I also use these oils to make THESE homemade "vapor rub" shower disks- these saved my life during a sinus infection when I was pregnant!! ( I follow her recipe, plus suggestions- read comments/notes, but I add a few drops of peppermint (start small, it's potent).

Lavender: This is probably the oil I have been using the very longest...for it's relaxing, stress relief properties, super yummy smell and overall likability factor. When there is illness about, that's when you need rest and stress relief most of all. I diffuse this- sometimes combined with other oils, sometimes on it's own- and also use it topically as a foot rub or on my temples (with a bit of peppermint) for headaches- mixed with coconut oil.

Coconut oil: We pretty much always have this in the house, Nate uses it to keep his beard manageable! I also use this as a base for all the topical applications discussed above.

If you do a little research, you'll see this is only the teenist fraction of all the essential oils out there and that they all have many, many uses, there are also lots of different brands, retailers and price points. I buy all of mine from DoTerra (website), Amazon & Whole Foods.....and, if you are like me, knowing this is just the tip of the iceburg will be appealing, addictive and fun trying them, learning about them and enjoying the many benefits they each deliver!
I will be writing a separate post about my other most used oil, Tamanu, it's in the photo above, but it's not really a "sick" oil, though it is a powerful healer, so I'll share more about that later.....

4. Apple Cider Vinegar- let's be straight here, this stuff tastes AWFUL (in my opinion), but like a gagilion years of many generations swearing by it are right, it is kind of a wonder-liquid.
You can drink it regularly as a preventative, or at the first sign of a bug & use it to help flush your system until you are well as can be! One of the benefits of apple cider vinegar is that it breaks up mucous and helps to clear the lymphnodes- making it fabulous for allergies, sinus issues, flu, colds, sore throats, headaches and general congestion (see more HERE)
My regimen: (once a day when well, 2-4x a day when under the weather)
I add 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to a mug of hot water and drizzle in a tiny bit of honey. Step the honey up a bit if you have a cough or allergies, it will help, more below. Squeeze some lemon or orange in there too and you'll really cut down on the "tastes awful" bit- making this "tea" makes it waaaaaaay more bearable. Really.
For the toddler, only when sick 1x/day:
I put 1/2 a teaspoon in about 6oz of juice for Logan. Most of the time, any juice he gets is 1/2 juice 1/2 water- but when I do the apple cider vinegar I do all juice and he has yet to complain or notice the vinegar.

5. Honey-  As noted above honey is GREAT for coughs and also can be a major helper with allergies. Be sure not to give honey to babies, check with your pediatrician- if I remember correctly they need to be over a year old, possibly closer to 18 months. Also, check with your OB if you are pregnant or nursing- but I definitely had honey pregnant and nursing and was fine.
1 Teaspoon a few times a day. Will soothe the throat and help break up the cough. For allergies, LOCAL honey from your farmers market and local bees will be the best bet.

Sore throat remedy- this is sooooooooo amazing, again- only for peeps old enough for honey......get a jar (I save jam, pickle and mason jars for fun projects like this) use a slicer to slice up 2-3 lemons, grate a big piece of peeled fresh ginger or 2, pour in enough honey to cover all that jazz & refrigerate. Keep this in your fridge all the time! When your throat hurts - scoop 1-2 teaspoons into a cup of hot water and enjoy- magical. Here area  few links to the "recipe":
Marin Homestead
Queen of Wishful Shrinking

6. Food/Drink: This is a MAJOR factor in staying well and really cutting down the time an ailment will linger: most important players: Citrus & Garlic. There is no such thing as too much, go yard on these two. Consume citrus in whole form, buy oranges, cuties, tangerines, lemons, limes- you don't want to start me on packaged orange juice. I'm not a fan.

I can not emphasize this enough- eat and drink WELL to be well and stay well.

I really feel that this is a huge part of why we don't get sick often, and when we do, we get well FAST. I think the amount of fruit, veggies and garlic we consume over here would rank in the neighborhood of "staggering". Logan eats a whole mango every day on his own (he has some at each meal...I give it to him like dessert- it's his favorite- and a super food PACKED with vitamin C).

At the first sign of sickness do your very best to focus on whole foods, and minimize your intake of anything processed. This will free up loads of energy that would be wasted breaking down refined sugar, science and processed whatnot to focus on healing you and getting you back in the game!

If you feel a little tired, a little stuffy, just not yourself, get your buns to the market while you still have the energy to do it and stock up on ORANGES, MANGO (get frozen if the fresh is not in season), PINEAPPLE (same as the mango, get frozen if need be), kale or spinach (something dark green and leafy)- or just get some green juice if you are short on energy, sweet potato (super easy to make and filling) and GARLIC- 2 heads at least. (we go through a head of garlic a day, minimum, when fighting something off.
On the first & second day of a bug we do a head of garlic- top chopped off- drizzled in olive oil- in the toaster oven on 350 for 30 minutes or until soft, spreadable and golden. Eat it on toast. Nate and I usually split the head of garlic (now we share w Logan too) and do this 1-3 days in a row. You may be a little stanky, but stanky beats sicky any day!

I usually get a super food juice blend too- try wholefoods or another small local market, if possible a place that cold presses the juice (if you go to a juice place, tell them about your symptoms and sensitivities and ask what they suggest and if you should drink the whole thing or half today half tomorrow).

Wondering wtf to do with the spinach or kale- especially when all you really feel like doing is laying face down on the nearest soft surface and doing NOTHING, blend it- throw it in the blender with coconut water, mango and pineapple- super smoothie- make a big batch and freeze some of it into popcicles! Or just buy green juice and drink it or freeze it into green pops- either way get those good green nutrients in the mix!
I've also found that a dish called Chicken Tammen Miso from a ramen place I love and good old Matzo ball soup both have sensational healing properties I will never be able to explain and I always eat one or both of those soup/meals when I'm not at my best. If you can't make homemade, find a friend, restaurant or trusted source- do not buckle and make a condensed can-soup, you'll be doing more harm than good.

Here is my EASY chicken noodle soup recipe :)

With any illness, or really even when you're totally well, stay hydrated.
For a stomach virus, the food tips here aren't super helpful- keep it plain, simple and anything that can be held down wins, but above all, if barf and bad digestive issues are involved,
Hydration is KEY.
My son won't touch pedialyte and I've tasted it so I don't blame him. You can buy electrolyte infused water at Trader Joe's, Whole Foods and I'm sure other sources as a much healthier alternative, or try COCONUT WATER!........ I mean 2/3 of what is in pedialyte seems counter-productive if you ask me. Last time I checked, whatever makes is orange or purple is not going to help anyone feel better asap.

7. Rest....I know what you're thinking...."ain't nobody got time for that!" but it is imperative. Even if this means going to bed early, taking any break you can during the day and just being still, sleeping as late as possible- hoard rest. This is a time when (in my book) it's aok to fork over that ipad to your toddler so the both of you can just be STILL for 30 minutes, or (gasp!) turn on the TV or a video. The value of the rest far outweighs any determent of "screen time".

8. Saline spray, vapor rub, nose suckers & vitamins- My husband and I both use saline spray for congestion and find that it works well, I've also used THIS nose spray when my sinuses make me feel like there is an elephant sitting on my face. I have tried the saline with Logan and he is NOT a fan. I will keep trying though, because it does wonders to flush out congestion and much like the humidifier help stop your body from coming up with any more mucous when you are already on overload. I have always been a fan of vapor rub. Before discovering the BREATHE oil blend, I would use the baby vapor rub on us and the kiddo at night. Especially when a cough is involved in the sickness- start with a good sit (try 10 minutes if the kid is willing) in a super steamy bathroom, followed by a warm/luke-warm bath. Use the nose sucker during the bath and immediately following to get out any congestion the steam loosens up. I know people swear by the NoseFrida, I am sure it's awesome but our post-natal nurse gave us 3 of those blue suckers at the hospital when Logan was born and I like them just fine, they work really well too.  After the steam, bath, nose-sucking...commence bedtime routine, with the addition of SLATHERING your kiddo's feet and chest with age appropriate salve (4mo-2yr baby rub, 2y+ regular rub, and any time BREATHE blend (mixed with coconut oil, see note on oil usage above).
When we were trying to get pregnant, and during my 40 weeks carrying Logan (a total of about 2 1/2 years combined) I took a daily prenatal vitamin, and felt like I got sick WAY less than ever before. I have continued to take it daily because I feel like it helps keep my system strong and makes my hair & nails look better, bonus! Do your research on vitamins though, be very cautious and find something that is gentle on your system, all natural, organically sourced and free of anything bizarre or GMO ridden!

Last but not least- clean the space around you. This one is particularly tough when you have zero energy and a little one or several little ones all over the place, but it really helps. The first day of a sickness I strip down all the sheets and towels and wash them, replacing them all with clean ones...and (try not to punch my face off my face) but do this at least 3rd day through out the illness and for about a week after (This is normally something I do just once a week). If you have kiddos- change their bedding daily- we sweat out all kinds of junk when we are sick and it's so nice to not sleep on junk crust the following night- this takes an extra effort when the tank is already on empty, but I promise it is worth it- if you can find a way to shower in the morning AND at night before bed, bonus points for that- especially to aid with congestion, a steam shower is REALLY helpful in moving things along.
Every night, wipe down as many surfaces as possible daily with a disinfectant cleaner. Yes, your son may sneeze and drool all over them again the next day, but this really will help stop the spread and get you well faster. I clean pretty much everything in my house with a 1 part vinegar/1 part water mixture.
If it's a stomach bug, and the carpet gets roughed up- sprinkle baking soda over the stain, then pour vinegar over & scrub, let dry completely and vacuum.

Keep on hand all the time- garlic, oils, cider vinegar, honey, saline spray, vapor rub, nose suckers (if you have babies or toddlers), regular vinegar, humidifier, diffuser.

At first sign of a bug invasion- stock up on the following: Fruit (especially high vitamin C fruits) Oranges, cuties, lemons, mangoes, spinach or kale to juice or make smoothies with (or to make popsicles w), anything that always helps YOU the way the Matzo ball soup or tammen miso ramen help me, JUICE- try to find the most nautral option possible- if you have a place that cold presses near you- that's your best bet.

This is such a giant, long, burley post....I think the best way to get the tips out there is to post this as is, but to make it more digestible I will break the tips into their own posts and put them up separately with links back to this beast for whenever you need it. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE comment on this post with your own tips, ideas, recipes and QUESTIONS!!!! I tried to make this all-inclusive and cohesive, but I'm a mother of a toddler who's on day 2 of a cold (thought I should get this posted ASAP!) so if anything is unclear, half-explained or needs more detail, let me know and I will get right back  to you!

Also, natural remedies are great, and often the best preventatives- but especially as a mom, trust your gut, know your illnesses and when a fever gets high, or the croup gets barky or you feel your little one is in danger in any way- get help & be there for them in the most responsible, important way possible. Hopefully you are as lucky as I am  to have a pediatrician who you really feel on the same page with and can trust not to medicate your child when it's not absolutely necessary, if that's what you are going for.

Other helpful stuff:
6 natural ways to fight the flu by O'mamas
Uses for Apple Cider Vinegar
Lemon Socks for Fever
Rice water for stomach virus

Friday, October 11, 2013

Orzo with kale

It really doesn't get too much easier than this with out picking up the phone and trying to be patient while you wait for the pizza guy...which reminds me, it's been a while since I've done that, and now pizza sounds really good. Blast.

Here is what you will need
1 package orzo pasta (from Trader Joes) cooked according to package... boil it about 9 minutes, drain then put back in the pot to make the rest of this "masterpiece"!
4 sausages, cooked and chopped into small pieces (I used chicken feta - grill em or if it just so happens to rain or you run out of propane like I did- throw em in the toaster oven!)
2 handfuls kale, chop fine
4 T cream cheese (halfa block)- cubed
1/3 cup tomato vodka sauce (this is a jarred pasta sauce I get at Trader joes and my son LOVES so I always have it- you can totally sub any tomato sauce you'd like)

After you boil the orzo, drain it & put it back in the pot, add the cream cheese and tomato sauce immediately, turn on the lowest heat possible and stir the sauce & cream cheese until cheese is totally melted. Add sausage & kale, stir about 5-10 minutes till kale is a little softer.
Since we used chicken feta sausage, I topped this with feta & it was soooooo good!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Power bowls of yumminess

I am so sure I didn't invent this "recipe" but love it and could eat one of these every day. Lately, to save time, money and make my meal prep quicker- I cook a batch of quinoa every Sunday, then on Tuesday or Wednesday make either a batch of pasta or a batch of brown rice. This was dinner on the night that I had just enough of the quinoa left and plenty of rice- it's been a massive help in my meal planning and getting dinner ready fast so we can eat all together more often

Here is what you will need (serves 4)

 1 cup dry quinoa (prep according to package)
1 cup dry Brown rice (prep according to package)
1 avocado, chopped
1 mango, chopped
1 cup shelled steamed edamame (you can buy this frozen, hullo easy fabulousness!)
1/4 cup pickled ginger chopped
a handful of kale "microchips" (from THIS POST)
Dried seaweed sheets (one package, you'll have leftovers- or skip this if you are not down with the dried sea weed!)
sesame seeds
Soy/ wasabi or ginger miso dressing  (you can buy ginger miso salad dressing, it's yummy....or, what we did, was mix a bit of wasabi in some low sodium soy sauce and drizzle it over everything!)

For each bowl, mix 1/2 cup cooked, cooled quinoa, 1/2 cup cooked, cooled brown rice- 1/4 avocado, 1/4 mango, 1/4 cup edamame, some ginger, sprinkle w sesame seeds & kale chips serve w seaweed sheets as an option.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Sweet Potato w White Beans & Kale

Ok, this barley qualifies as a "recipe" by any stretch of the imagination, but I am trying to incorporate more vegan meals into our routine and this was a SUPER easy lunch I made that Logan and I totally loved. I've also never posted about the amazingness of kale chips before so that made it worthy of a post on it's own.

Here's what you will need
Serves 4

2 sweet potatoes, scrubbed
1 15oz can white beans, drained & rinsed
Kale, finely chopped- stems removed
Olive oil

This was for lunch, with a 2 year old, feel free to oven bake the sweet potatoes when you make this- I didn't have time!
I punctured both potatoes & microwaved them on 70% power for about 7 minutes- until cooked through- split them in half, sit to cool.
Preheat oven (or toaster oven!) to 350
Cover a baking sheet with foil. Place a layer of the chopped kale on the sheet.
Spray or drizzle with olive oil and lightly salt w sea salt.
Bake for about 7-10 minutes until crispy but not dark brown, watch it- you want it to still be green!!
I chopped the kale super fine because I wanted to add texture to the dish, so we called them kale "microchips", then Logan called them "crunchies" when he asked for MORE, THREE TIMES, so now that's what they are.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Cheeseburger Casserole

This has been a go-to comfort food for me forever! It used to involve a certain box of shells and a silver packet full of yellow goo that could out live a hamster called "cheese". I promise you this will not be that much more time consuming, and you will feel SO much better knowing what's in it. Don't get me wrong- short cuts and shelf-life have a time & place, and I am aware that cream cheese counts as a processed food- but it's also a cheese product that requires refrigeration, so I feel better about it. Period.

Here's what you'll need (FYI this makes a GIANT skillet of food- we had this over about 3-4 nights for dinner and 2 lunches)

1 lb ground beef
1 small yellow onion finely chopped
1 bag elbow macaroni (16oz, Trader Joe's, 99cents!)
1 6oz can tomato paste
1 15oz can diced tomatoes, no sodium added, drained
4 big handfuls shredded cheddar cheese (get a big block and shred it, melts better, less preservatives you'll be glad you did)
8 oz cream cheese, cubed
2 carrots finely shredded w the cheese grater (sometimes I use carrots, I used to do finely chopped red bell pepper, but Logan is not down with that. You can also do sweet potato or add mushrooms- or ALL of that, get those veggies in there so you don't have to make a side dish!)

In a giant skillet cook the ground beef (about 7-10 minutes add onions when beef is nearly cooked, then sautee another 5 minutes or so. Add a bit of salt & pepper to taste. Drain on a plate covered in paper towels.
In a large sauce pot, cook the noodles according to package- & drain. Put the skillet back on the stove on low heat, pour the noodles in, add the beef and onions and slowly stir in remaining ingredients- carefully- this will be one FULL skillet. 
Once all ingredients are stirred in, heat on low and stir for another 5-10 minutes to get the cheese all melty and delicious. Add salt & pepper to taste. 
We topped this with fresh heirloom tomatoes & chives from the garden for some next-level yumminess.
A fun upgrade to a childhood comfort-food classic. You're welcome.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Spinach & Mushroom Pasta

I think I make this at least every 6 weeks, different variations, but the theme is the same- veggies, carbs, protein, one bowl- dinner for more than one night, boom.

Here is what you will need
Noddles ( I used a little more than half a package of Trader Joe's fusili)
Raw baby spinach finely chopped, several handfuls
1 large portabella mushroom, chopped
about 7 shiitake mushrooms, chopped
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
1/2 a yellow onion, chopped
1 T butter
1 T olive oil
Salt to taste
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

In a skillet, melt the butter, add olive oil, heat on medium about a minute- add onions and sautee about 5 minutes, add rosemary- reduce heat to low, cover 5 more minutes.
Remove cover- add mushrooms- stir, cook about 5 minutes. Turn off heat- cover.
Meanwhile cook pasta to al dente according to package directions- drain.
Put the chopped spinach in a large bowl, dump the super hot pasta on top of the spinach immediately after you drain it, let sit for a few minutes, then (remove rosemary sprigs from skillet) add mushroom/onion mix to the bowl.
Top with yogurt and Parmesan, stir until all are incorporated.
I served this with Trader Joe's meatless meatballs, and got a "so tasty!" from the two year old- so guess we'll do it again leftovers, tomorrow night ;)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Crock pot BBQ Garlic Chicken

Call me crazy, but I feel like loading up on garlic is one of the mainstays of our "stay-healthy" routine around here. I usually kick it up an extra notch or 10 right before we travel, must be a blast to work out next to me this week.
Here is one that came, as usual, from what we had and an extreme lack of time or planning. So much so, all I have is the blurry photo above from the day after we had it for dinner on potato bread as my quick lunch while getting ready for our trip! Sorry bout that guys!!

Here is what you will need:

1 package boneless skinless chicken breasts
about 1 1/2 cup bbq sauce
8-10 cloves of garlic (I used a whole head, c'mon!)- peeled and cut in half or crushed a bit
about 1/2 a cup water or broth (veggie or chicken)
salt, paprika, garlic powder

Put chicken and garlic in crock pot
add about 3/4-1 cup bbq sauce (cover top of chicken)
Pour water or broth in on the side, not over the bbq sauce chicken
Low for 4 hours or until chicken is cooked through & shreds eaisily- mine was done-da-da at 4 hours but well done, I probably could have finished it off at 3:30 or 3:45.

Transfer chicken to bowl, use a slotted spoon to transfer the garlic as well.
shred chicken using two forks
Sprinkle on about 1 tsp paprika, and 2-3tsp garlic powder
add 1/4-1/2 cup bbq sauce
use forks to mix well
taste, then add salt if needed

What you do with this garlic gloriousness is up to you! Top a salad? Roll in a tortilla? Stuff a yummy Hawaiian roll or pita pocket?  (or on potato bread for a blurry sandwich photo, perhaps??) lol.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Awesome Crock Pot Chicken Enchiladas

Wow, these were EASY and soooooo delicious! A while ago my sister told me I had to go get the Salsa Verde from Trader Joe's and mix it with Greek yogurt- then put it on everything, because it's awesome. The time finally came this past weekend, I tried it, and I'm hooked.
This is a perfect summer crock pot recipe that I will definitely make again and again, it's relatively inexpensive and could not be any easier.

Here's what you need:

1 package boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 package whole wheat tortillas
2 jars Trader Joe's salsa verde
1 container Greek yogurt (you will use about a cup)
3/4 a sweet onion diced
2 cups shredded cheese

Lightly spray the inside of the crock pot with olive oil to help prevent sticking. Scatter a small handful of onions across the bottom, place chicken on top of onions, pour about 2/3 of one of the jars of salsa over the top of the chicken. Cook on low about 4-6 hours or until completely cooked through and easily shreddable.
Remove chicken from crock pot, discard liquid.
Place chicken in a large bowl and use two forks to shred it up, let it cool a bit, then add 1 cup Greek yogurt and the remaining salsa in the first jar, use forks to combine well. (I did this on Sunday, then put the chicken mix in the fridge and did all the steps below for dinner Monday)

Preheat oven to 375
(for a freezer meal, follow the steps below, except baking, cover, freeze and bake for about 45 minutes at 375 from frozen when ready)
Line a 9x13 baking dish with foil
Lay a tortilla on a plate and scoop about 3 forkfuls of chicken mix onto the tortilla, top with a half of a handful of onions, 1 T of salsa and wrap shut- place in pan seam side down, repeat until you are out of chicken or the pan is full.
Pour salsa from the 2nd jar generously over the tortillas, top with lots of shredded cheddar cheese, reserve a bit to mix with the greek yogurt for after baking.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until cheese is all melted and bubbly.

Serve with a dollop of the Greek yogurt/salsa sauce, avocado, black beans and rice!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Baked Falafel & 2 fun dips/sauces

My husband and I recently had a rare adult adventure to a grown-ups-only housewarming/birthday party. One of the highlights of the outing for me was the food- surprise, surprise. Our friends had prepared a gorgeous veggie-full spread, including homemade falafel tucked into little pita triangles with cucumber dip on the side for topping.
I haven’t stopped thinking about those yummy bean-balls since, and considering the frozen falafel I buy at Trader Joe’s is one of Logan’s favorite foods- hey, might as well make some from scratch, right?
Ok, I know, part of the joy of falafel is the fried goodness of it all, but to keep these on the good-for-you tip I baked them. So there.

Here is what you will need for the falafel:

2 15oz cans garbanzo beans, drained, rinsed & patted dry w paper towel)
3 cloves of garlic
1/3 of a small red onion
1 big handful each of fresh parsley & cilantro (I used one Trader Joe’s package, stems trimmed)- rinsed & dried lightly w paper towel
1 handful of shredded carrot (press dry with paper towel to remove any excess liquid)
1/3 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
Salt & pepper to taste (about 1 tsp of ea.)
Pita & veggies for serving and one of the two yummy sauces below...

Combine the beans, garlic, onion & herbs in the food processor, mix until all are completely blended smooth.
Move to a large mixing bowl, add flour, baking powder, salt & pepper and stir until combined. Cover and refrigerate minimum 2 hours- or overnight (which is what I did because I prepped everything one day during nap time, and made them the following day during nap time- this is real life people J )
To bake, preheat oven to 375.
Roll mixture into balls.
Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly grease, place balls about an inch apart and bake for 20-25 minutes. They crack a bit, but are still delicious.

For the cucumber sauce/dip (pictured in the bowl, not on the falafel in the topmost photo- keep reading for that recipe):

1 cucumber, peeled-seeded-grated- drained (press dry w paper towel) I had the small Persian cucumbers from Trader Joe's here, so used 3 of those and just sliced em super thin w my slicer- worked fine!

1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 T white vinegar
1 T olive oil
1 lemon (zest it, then cut in half and juice it- chop up the rest and toss in the garbage disposal for a quick freshener!)
1 pkg dill from trader Joe's, finely chopped (it was a big, overflowing handful)
Salt & pepper to taste.

Mix all of the above and refrigerate for at least an hour to let the flavors marry. It's good on everything, and my friend Scott says to try this with the addition of fresh mint- you won't regret it!

I have also very recently had the honor of becoming a contributing blogger for MODERN DAY MOMS (pause for applause) YAY!!! You can find my very first MDM blog post HERE and let me tell you, the coconut lime cilantro sauce is out of this world delicious- we made a giant salad with baby spinach, shredded carrots, edamame beans, 3 falafel balls and then poured the coconut, cilantro, lime sauce alllllllllll over it. Perfect cool, veggie-filled dinner for a summer-like day in spring!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Crockpot Angel Chicken

Hi Guys!!! Sorry it took me so long to get back to business here. We've been having way too much fun with the house, Logan and the gorgeous weather. Oh. Sorry again. I realize it's still dumping snow on many of my beloved and I apologize for that last dig about the weather....Here. I'll make it up to you- this is a FABULOUS crock-pot recipe that you will adore. Super-comfort food with out being too horrible for you. I've been meaning to make a version of this recipe for quite some time, but my husband hates cream-of-anything soup so I had to go rouge here, and truly enjoyed the results!! Hope you do too!! 

Here is what you will need:

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
6-8 shiitake mushrooms chopped
4 cloves garlic chopped
1/4 c chicken broth
1/2 block cream cheese
1 pkg Trader Joe's condensed portabella mushroom soup (no mystery ingredients in this one! YAY!)
2 tsp ITALIAN DRESSING MIX  Do yourself a giant favor and make your own, the packet has who-knows-what in it- takes no time and you will use it LOTS!

Toss it all into the slow cooker. Cook on low for 4-6 hours or until chicken shreds easily and is cooked all the way through. As I have stated many times, every crockpot I have ever owned seems to run on the hotter side- if I make a chicken recipe that says "low for 7-8 hours" I get dried out nastiness. So I check it's shredability around 4 hours, this recipe was ready at the 4 hour mark, I noted 4-6 hours just in case. It should shred easily and be at least 165 degrees internally. 
Use a big spoon, transfer chicken & mushrooms to a large bowl- shred with forks. Then add about 5 spoonfuls of the juice and toss well to keep chicken moist.
Serve with rice, your favorite pasta and a big veggie-filled salad on the side.  (or with shredded cheese and cheerios as Logan is demonstrating below....)

Hope everyone has their toes in the sand and face in the sun SOON. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Sweet Life HOME

Welp, once again, I've gone missing. NOT pregnant this time....but, we bought a house!! Like complete lunatics, we opened escrow the day after Thanksgiving and had the most stressful December I could ever try to explain. It's definitely a bit of a fixer, but with great bones, a big yard for weeine dogs and the boy and tons of space to run around and have fun inside too!

I will be starting a new blog of all the DIY projects and upgrades to post as we complete them (demo on the "Ocean threw-up-seahorse-theme" bathroom is up first!) but promise to keep updating the recipes here now that we are all settled in.

I will post the link to the Sweet Life Home page as soon as I finish getting all the "before" and some "during" photos sorted/uploaded. "Afters" will be coming shortly, much to our excitement!