31 March 2011

How Does This Even Happen?!

(Please read Failure and Oh, Diapers before pursuing this post.)

I've been washing my cloth diapers differently, again, and using the remains of my Allen's detergent. At night, I put on the Huggie's Naturals disposable diapers and that seems to be working just fine. The other day, I decided to put another set of disposables on them after I took their nighttime diapers off just for kicks. When I took those diapers off to prepare them for their naps, I noticed that Piper had peed only once or twice and Heidi hadn't peed at all (in about a 3 hour span) yet she was RED. WHAT?! Granted, this was no where near the caliber of what we've been experiencing, but it was certainly redness that didn't need to be there. Remember, this was a disposable diaper that wasn't even wet! How does this happen??

On the bright side, the coconut oil has just about cleared both of them up completely. What is left of the rashes they had is hardly noticeable at all, which makes me very happy.

Maybe I'm jumping to conclusions too quickly or I just need to vent about how seeing that redness made me feel. Honestly, though, what else is there? Will I have to potty train both of them right now? Should I follow Heidi around with a bucket? Hook her up to a catheter (yeah right, can you imagine that? Ha.)? Yes, I'm feeling punchy, please don't hold it against me. :)  

30 March 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Heidi's Artwork

29 March 2011

Fabulous, Tasty Salad Dressing!

I've decided to share my treasured secret for the most tasty salad dressing ever. OK, it's not really that impressive, but I like it, Heidi and Piper like it and my mother likes it. I first came up with it when I suddenly ran out of Newman's Own Olive Oil and Vinegar dressing, which has been a favorite of mine for a long time. I tried to replicate it using some of the ingredients he listed (those I had on hand) and this is what I came up with! So if you feel compelled, please try it :)

First, I take an extra light Olive Oil and using my handy squeeze bottle, I squeeze a steady stream back and forth over the salad across it and back again (confusing? maybe.) Essentially, I squeeze enough to cover the salad.

Then, I take my red wine vinegar, and sprinkle it over the salad, but not as much as the olive oil because it can become quite strong. (Of course, any of the ingredients can be adjusted after a taste.)

 Then I sprinkle my Bragg's all over the salad in a similar manner, also being careful not to over do it because I don't want it to be too salty. There is a perfect balance that comes with just the right amount of vinegar and Bragg's that gives this the most perfect taste.

At this point, I ad-lib. For this salad, I chose to sprinkle onion powder and Mrs. Dash's Garlic and Herb blend (slobber slobber).

Sometimes, I'll also sprinkle dried parsley in addition to the above seasonings, or use any combination of the three. It's totally up to you and what you feel like having at the time. Here is the finished product, though you can't really tell how delicious it is/was.

28 March 2011

I Keep Forgetting About This

If you missed me posting a link to my "Wiggle Worm" post on Knickernappies, go check it out. It is a purely satirical piece and I hope it made a lot of people laugh. :)

A Letter for Hoffman

A long time ago, I was asked to write a letter of support for Ms. Barbara Hoffman's nomination for the CASE award, one given for outstanding teaching. Hopefully it will help to reiterate how much she meant to me. Also, please revisit my post about what I plan to do for her, if you haven't already. And please forgive my poor writing. I was young(er).

April 20, 2006
Letter to Support Barbara Hoffman’s Nomination for the CASE Award

Before I even went to Marywood University, my mother told me to make sure I had Barbara Hoffman as a professor while I was there. She knew that Barbara’s creativity and uniqueness would complement mine, and I would feel right at home in her class. From the first day of Writing Skills in fall of 2003, I knew my mother was right.
            On the first day of class, a small woman wearing white face paint stood at the door of classroom 115, waiting to greet me and welcome me into her dungeon. She described to my class that day about how she was a clown, a harlequin to be exact, and then she walked on the tables gracefully and delicately. I had never before experienced such a fantastic display by one of my teachers, and I would not soon forget it. That semester I wrote down every word she wrote on the board, everything she had to say, and I listened attentively to every presentation she made during class. A field trip to the graveyard further impacted my impression of her, especially after she described the funeral once given to her by former students, as well as the gravestone they purchased for her. I had never met a professor who was so creative and hands-on with her students, bringing them right into the piece they were writing, so they could not just write it but feel it, too. I made up my mind, from that point on, to take every class of hers that I possibly could so that I could share as many of her experiences as possible.
            From Writing Skills to Introduction to World Literature and from Creative Writing to Mid and Far Eastern Literature, I’ve done it all. But no one, not a single professor at Marywood University, could do it like Barbara Hoffman. Throughout each of these courses, she has brought in more historical artifacts, relevant books, and miscellaneous pieces than I have ever seen in my life. I feel as though she has taken me around the world with her and back many times over, without the airsickness. It is because of her that I long to travel to India. After we studied that nation and its culture and literature and discovered what a gem of a country it truly is, I wanted to make it a part of my life. It is also because of Barbara Hoffman that I have a broader look on our world, a greater sense of what goes on, and a deeper respect for cultures other than my own. If she had not taught about China, Japan, or India the way that she did, I would still be living in the dark, wondering why those cultures are as they are, rather than relating them to my own culture and beliefs in a civil manner.
            In short, Barbara Hoffman has made an impression on me that no other teacher could ever touch and has brought out skills hidden within me that I never knew I had. I have been able to express myself through writing, painting, and even acting thanks to the variety of ingenious assignments and projects she has allowed me to do. On occasion, I have been able to see her outside of class, in her natural habitat, doing what we all do best: eating. Moments like those I wouldn’t trade for the world, and I have been known to plan my life around a class outing with her.
            In my eyes, and the eyes of so many before me, Barbara Hoffman is the greatest living relic ever to walk the earth, being able to share so much with so many people in her short lifetime. To be considered for the CASE award is a great honor, but as I have shown, she has already received the admiration and appreciation of hundreds of students who have had the privilege of being in her class. I hope my opinions are regarded heavily in the decision for the winner of this award and that Barbara Hoffman’s name will remain high on the list. Thank you for your time and consideration, just as we thank her for coming into our lives.

27 March 2011

Oh, Diapers

Before you continue on in this post, you might want to read my previous post about diaper issues here to understand where I'm coming from. Sorry it's so long.

Since the last post, I've gone through another 3 detergents. I tried All Free & Clear in January and about two days after I started using it, Heidi broke out in a rash, so I axed it. I tried Charlie's, and that was even worse. I have an entire tub of it because I think I used it twice, so I'm hoping to try and sell it soon. I went back to Rockin' Green when I had no other option, but then an opportunity presented itself for me to try something else new. I became the 500th blog follower of Doable Diapers and for that feat, I received a $15 gift certificate! I used it to get a Flip diaper and a trial box of soap nuts. At first, the soap nuts were perfect! Every day I'd take diapers off and I'd see clear skin! Amazing!

Unfortunately, after a few weeks I started getting this horrendous ammonia smell. When I say this, I mean this is the absolute worst ammonia I have ever dealt with in the time I've been cloth diapering. It wasn't just coming from Heidi, my classic heavy wetter, it was also coming from Piper, in the morning. Oddly enough, when the diapers were washed, dried on the drying rack or even in the dryer, there was no smell! I tried stripping them a couple of times, using different combinations for each of them overnight, but nothing worked. I even started washing the diapers twice, one regular wash and one short wash, followed by an extra rinse. Still, it got worse.

I know this is bad because it's not only Heidi that is having a reaction, Piper is too. *Disclaimer: I'm about to get graphic.* Both of them have an open sore right above their vulva region, in almost the exact same place. Piper has horrible raised bumps on the insides of her thighs and Heidi has horrible, dark red bumps on the outskirts of her butt. So today, I was depressed.

I sent Steve off to get some Huggies Naturals and some coconut oil and after one application of the coconut oil, they were both looking better. I'd been putting A&D cream, calendula and a 'Soothe Your Skin' salve on them, but all were slow going to making them better. Right now my number one goal is to get rid of these afflictions. After that, I really don't know where to go. I soaked today's diapers in Super Washing Soda for about an hour and now I'm going to try washing them with the trial packet of Country Save I remembered I had. I'll keep them segregated and see if they do anything to their skin after it's been healed.

What do I do now? I just don't know. I have a little bit of Allen's left that I could try again on the rest of the  diapers that were not used today, because I'm not convinced that that was the problem back in Dec/Jan. I could go back to disposables, and I'd have to downgrade Heidi's size in clothes ;), or maybe I could get Flip disposables that will really dispose. In that case, though, I'd have to spend some money to get a lot more covers, but really either direction causes me to spend money.

I'm really torn up about this, just as I said in my last post. I heartily appreciate any feedback/suggestions or whatever you want to throw at me.

25 March 2011

It Could Have Been Worse

No, that's not blood. It was ketchup.

I've decided to run a weekly post under this title detailing incidents I found to be unfortunate, problematic or distasteful, yet clearly not the worst they could have been. In this case, as I said, this was ketchup and not blood. It cleaned easily from the wall (fairly) and I moved on with my life. It could have been a lot worse.

My reasoning for this series is simple. In the moment, we often find things to be catastrophic and later look back and realize these situations weren't so bad, wishing we had done something different at the time. This is your chance to turn those situations around and realize that it could always be worse. In this moment above, I watched in horror as Heidi, with ketchup all over her hands, walked over and touched the wall. I stared for a moment, shrugged and went to get a wipe to clean her. Had I overreacted, the situation could have been much worse. 

I'm asking anyone who feels so inclined to 'link up' to this and future posts with your 'Could Have Been Worse' stories. It doesn't have to be a picture and it doesn't have to be a long post, just long enough to help all of us to get some perspective on what we consider 'problems' in our lives.

24 March 2011


Here is my rant for the week. Or perhaps century.

I implore you, beg you and simply ask you to read the ingredients on everything that you buy. As it was put somewhere recently (I do not recall the source) "Read ingredients like your life depends on it, because it does."

Here is one example. Today I was shopping for a few things at Wegmans and I like cheap things so when I saw a bunch of $0.39 cans of vegetables, my interest was immediately peeked. I wanted to purchase some corn for that evening's dinner and as luck would have it, whole corn in a can was before my eyes for only pennies! For some reason, I chose to read the ingredients, which seems so silly when the label says "Whole Corn," right? I'm immensely glad I turned the can because among the corn, water and salt there was something else: sugar. Now, can anyone tell me what the logical reason is behind putting sugar in a can of corn? Does it help the corn stay "sweet?" Does it keep it from getting too yellow? Is it a new fangled preservative? I don't know about you, but when I eat a fresh ear of corn, I don't normally reach for the bowl of sugar and slop it all over the kernels. If I had not had that momentary insight to turn the can around and read it, I could have unintentionally been adding some amount of sugar to an otherwise non-sugary meal. Gross.

Another similar example comes from Wal-Mart. I used to buy my beans there because they were the cheapest around (in canned form) so I would stock up whenever I went there. It never would have occurred to me to read the ingredients of a can of beans because like a can of corn, what else could you possibly need in there? One day, at home, we decided to read the label and what did I find? High fructose corn syrup! What is THAT doing in a can of beans?! When did it become acceptable for companies to add non-essential ingredients to our food?

Before I go on, I must make it very clear that I'm not perfect (I know, right?) Obviously, I let those HFCS riddled beans come into my home in the first place because I did not take the time to read the label. But, I am actively working at being a better consumer. I now even read labels of items I have previously purchased, just to make sure the ingredients haven't changed. (One such product is the Cascadian Farm Purely O's cereal.As I remember it, they used to be called "Simply O's" and did not include any form of sweetener on their ingredient panel. I remember this because this is the first O shaped cereal I purchased for Heidi to eat during the time when I was not giving her any added sugar in her diet. When I went to get this product for Piper, I was very surprised to see the change in ingredients.)

The point is, advertisers and companies don't want you to read the labels of their products because then you might not actually buy them. They want to keep you as focused on the front of the box/can/package as they possibly can so that you falsely believe that what is pictured on the item is what's actually in it. Please put on your thinking caps when you enter the grocery store. Teach your children the importance of reading labels. You can probably make a game out of finding the product with the least number of ingredients! When in doubt, remember this: Buy ingredients, not the finished product.

23 March 2011

Who Needs Taco Bell?

Tonight I made homemade tortillas to go along with our soft taco, Spanish rice dinner. This is a fairly easy recipe, but I find that anything that requires rolling makes it slightly work intensive, so be prepared. Luckily, while I was rolling, Heidi and Piper were enjoying a rousing game of 'hide and seek' in the cupboard beneath the butcher block I was working on.

Here is the original recipe: Flour Tortillas

Because there is no way I would ever need 24 tortillas, unless I was having a tortilla party, I cut the recipe in half and used the following:

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tblsp shortening
3/4 cup water

Yes, despite the warning she gives not to use vegetable oil or shortening in place of lard, I chose to use the shortening because A. it was what I had and B. I wouldn't be caught dead with a block of lard, although I have heard it's not as bad as we're made to believe it is.

Now, I'm not sure if I overfilled my measuring cup and didn't notice, but when I dumped the last remains of the water into the mixture, it became a sticky, soppy mess. I had to add A LOT more flour to get it to form into dough again and then still more when I was rolling the tortillas. So I would tell you just to add the water a bit at a time until you get a nice doughy consistency. (On a side note, once you notice the ingredients that go into making these perfectly adequate tortillas, wonder why most store-bought brands contain a paragraph of ingredients.)

What did I stuff these tortillas with, you ask? Well, I'll tell you. First I sauteed an onion and a few cloves of garlic along with chopped red, orange and yellow pepper. Then I added a can of corn and a can of black beans. You probably don't want to drain all of the liquid from one of the cans just so you can keep your mixture moist (I made that mistake this time and had to add some water). Then I seasoned with onion powder, garlic powder, Adobo and cumin. I brought it up to a boil and then let it sit on low until I was done with those stinkin' tortillas. (They gave me a lot of trouble because of the excessive water. You can have a much better experience!) I served this with Near East's Spanish Rice Pilaf (because it was on sale!) and some salsa on top. Both Heidi and Piper ate their weight in rice.

Steve altered the recipe further buy mixing the rice and beans with some Mexican blend of cheese and serving it with some chicken that he made. The possibilities are endless!

Wordless Wednesday: The Evolution of Soup


22 March 2011

Things I Always Keep On Hand

For those of you wondering how I generally manage to get by on around $300 per month for food, I decided to put together a list of what I always have in my house (food related) to better illustrate how I am able to accomplish this feat. Feel free to tell me what I'm missing!


  • Beans: I generally keep cans of black, kidney, and cannolini beans at all times, but I also use pinto beans on occasion. Lately I've been buying beans at Whole Foods because they are fairly cheap and contain the fewest ingredients of all brands of canned beans. If I'm running low, I allot myself $5 to stock up, but on most shopping trips, I will buy one or two cans anyway.
  • Lentils: Currently I have some red lentils, regular brown ones (or whatever they are) and some French ones that I mixed in with the 'regular' ones at Whole Foods. Since I found out that lentils really make Piper's bowels move (and I know you wanted to know that), I've always kept them in the cupboard. 
  • Rice: Right now, I have white, brown, arborio and two wild rice mixes in my cupboard. I'm trying to use less white rice and more brown so I've been buying it from the bulk bins at Whole Foods every time I go to fill up my rice container. If you read my previous post about Near East's Original Rice Pilaf, you have probably also gathered that I keep this in my house too. This is true, however, I will only buy it if it is around $2 or less. Thus, I do not always have it. But I find that keeping both the original and the Spanish rice varieties on hand can really help me in a pinch.
  • Pasta: I love starch. I try to keep just about every type/shape of pasta in the house because I'm a fan of variety. My favorites are angel hair and orzo and I love ditalini for making pasta fagioli. I also try not to spend more than $1 on pasta, which presents a problem when looking for healthier varieties. Unfortunately, Steve generally refuses to eat any pasta that even resembles whole wheat or similar, so I am left with looking for those with the fewest ingredients. There is a store near me that carries Polish products and their imported pastas have 3 ingredients and cost only $.99. 
  • Tomato Sauce: And by that I mean the 8 oz cans. The versatility of these wonderful cans of tomato goodness literally boggle my mind. I use them all the time and as an added bonus, they're cheap! I usually buy at least four when I go to the store, more if I'm running low. They're a great addition to soups, beans and can help turn plain ground beef into sloppy joes. 
  • Diced Tomatoes (canned): For the same reason as the tomato sauce, I like to keep at least a few of these around because I never know when I might need them. Add a can to soups, sautes or whatever you fancy.
  • Tomato Paste: It comes in handy more often than you'd think!
  • Pasta Sauce: I have not perfected the act of making my own sauce and even if I had, I wouldn't have anywhere to store it. Thus, I always pick up two or three jars of various types of Classico sauce because they are one of the most inexpensive brands that does not include a lot of crap in their sauce. Also to note here is that I will not buy any product (specifically of the canned tomato variety) that adds sugar where it is not needed. Some of Classico's sauces do not have sugar, but some do so I only buy those that don't.   
  • Broths: While I do like to make my own vegetable stock, I do not have the space to keep infinite amounts of it in my freezer (nor do I always have it on hand). Plus, sometimes you do need a chicken broth/stock or a beef one and I do not often have the chance to make those. Instead, when they're on sale, I buy the best broths/stocks I can so that I always have them in a pinch for whatever I might need. Granted, I do also use water to help my stock go a little further, but I think stock/broth generally gives a better flavor. 
  • Baking Supplies: Since there are so many and they vary by household, I decided to lump them together rather than make this post twenty pages long. I usually try to keep two kinds of flour (regular and whole wheat), many different spices, extracts, sugars and baking powder, soda and shortening. 
  • Quinoa: Recently I made some chocolate cupcakes with this fabulous grain and I think they were fantastic! I like to have this to put into soups, mostly, but I also mix it with lentils to make a protein powerhouse. I don't really use it that much in other respects, but I hope to start. 
  • Bulgar Wheat: This is another ingredient I like to put into soups to thicken it up a bit and add some extra nutrients. Also something I don't do much with, but I like having it because I never know when I'll find a great new recipe to try.
  • Barley: I still have more barley than I'll ever know what to do with, but that means I'm always prepared. One recipe in particular that I enjoy barley in is this one I posted not long ago for Chicken Pot Pie.
  • Pancake Mix: Call me lazy, but I don't always get the chance to make pancakes from scratch. I actually did it once, but I find this mix to be infinitely easier and quicker, especially when I have two hungry children crying for pancakes. I've tried a couple different ones, but I think the one we liked the best was Arrowhead Mills' pancake mix (the site won't work right now, but I'm pretty sure it was the buckwheat one). Right now we're using Bob's Red Mill Pancake Mix (I think it's this one) and I just don't find it to be as good.
  • Salsa: I never thought this would be a staple in my life, but it has become very important to me (sounds like I'm talking about my children!) I LOVE salsa on baked potatoes (sometimes with butter, sometimes without) and having it around means I can always whip up a nice black bean dish and some homemade tortillas and have a nice Mexican dinner. Mmm...is it dinner time yet?


  • Peas: I don't like peas, but both Heidi and Piper love them and eat them plain, even straight out of the fridge. I usually have two bags at any given time because in a pinch, I can boil them quickly and give them as a snack or a veggie addition to any meal.
  • Green Beans: Green beans are one of my favorite vegetables and I like to throw them in wherever I can. Both girls also enjoy eating them plain so I will often combine them with the peas. At Wegmans, I can get large bags of both 'cut' and 'french style' for $.99 so I stock up on them whenever I have room in my freezer.
  • Waffles: I know they're not the best food to eat, but I don't think they're the worst either. At Sam's Club, I can get a box of 60 Eggo waffles that lasts me a few weeks considering I eat a peanut butter and jelly waffle sandwich every day for breakfast. On occasion, I also give Heidi and now Piper a waffle for breakfast on days I don't feel like doing much.
  • Tilapia: Another Sam's Club staple, I enjoy having their industrial size bag in my freezer for those days when I want a really easy, totally oven based meal. Tilapia is an extremely versatile fish because of its light flavor, so it can really go with just about any seasoning and side dishes.


  • Eggs: Now that Piper is over age 1, we go through four eggs every other day. Heidi has been eating two eggs (scrambled) for a long time and now Piper has joined her so in order to keep my shopping trips to a minimal, I often buy two dozen eggs at a time. Of course, I also use them for baking and other things, so it's probably time for us to consider owning some chickens.
  • Butter (Salted and Unsalted): Eh, you know what this is for...artichoke sauce!
  • Bragg's Liquid Aminos: Obviously I always have this. To read why, click here.
  • Lemons: I tend to put lemon on almost every vegetable, along with Bragg's and onion powder. Besides that, it has a lot of other uses, even for cleaning. Plus it smells nice. 
  • Yogurt: Heidi eats yogurt about every other day, but I stopped buying flavored yogurt several months ago. Instead, I buy plain organic yogurt and put honey and vanilla into it and she gobbles it down.
  • Salad: Sometimes, there's nothing better than a nice fresh salad with some tasty dressing to please the palate. Lately I've taken to buying romaine hearts at Whole Foods because they are organic and only cost $2.49, which is really good compared to organic romaine at other stores. I also hit the organic field mix bin at Wegmans whenever it's around because I can usually get enough for two salads (for all four of us) for under $2, but it doesn't keep as well as the romaine. Of course in the summer time I grow my own so this is not necessary.


Since I do not have infinite pantry space, my counter picks up the slack. These are the items I just don't have room for anywhere else.

  • Onions: I could not live without onions. I use them in practically every dish I make so not having them literally causes me to scratch my head wondering what I could possibly make. I usually buy another bag when I have one or two onions left because I am that anal. 
  • Garlic: Much like onions, I try to use garlic all the time. It has many health benefits, plus everything tastes better with it anyway :)
  • Potatoes: The potato is such a versatile vegetable, healthy and tasty it is another one of my absolute staples. When I'm all out of ideas, I make roasted potatoes as an easy side dish for dinner using olive oil and rosemary garlic seasoning. Mmmmm.
  • Apples: I try to give Heidi and Piper fruit at every meal, or at least two out of three (and sometimes in between), and apples are a great option because they keep for a reasonably long time and can be used for so many things. I usually shred one apple into my muffin mixes, regardless of type, I bake them with cinnamon or I make 'apple snow' (plain shredded apple, sometimes topped with cinnamon, specifically for those who do not chew as well).
  • Bananas: I keep meaning to keep track of how many pounds of bananas we go through in a month or in a week, but I always forget. Let's just say, it's a lot. There was a time when Heidi would eat two bananas a day, every day for a solid two or three months (she must have needed potassium!). Bananas are a great snack and an all around great fruit to have on hand because they help regulate blood sugar levels and also help you sleep. Plus they're cheap and it is not necessary to buy them organic, so I can get them just about anywhere. (Just a side note, Sam's Club specifically advertises their bananas as 'Free Trade,' but I have not seen many other places besides Whole Foods do the same.)
  • Olive Oil: I use olive oil almost as much as I use onions and garlic, especially since I make my own salad dressing, which I will post about sooner or later. We buy two different types: the light olive oil for sauteing and salad dressings and the regular for just about anything else. 
I'm 99% sure that this includes everything, short of every random condiment I have in my fridge that you don't need to know about. As I said above, if there's something that you have that I don't, or you think would make my life easier, please share! I'm always looking for new, nutritious foods to feed my children. :)

21 March 2011

The Tao of Barbara

It was almost fall and everything was new, an oddity for sure since autumn is not generally associated with beginnings. For me, it was the start of my undergraduate career marked by nervousness and insecurity. The first day of classes was the most frightening of all, but even on that scary day, one in particular excited me. I had been able to secure a spot in a certain professor’s section who I had heard many interesting and wonderful things about. I walked to this class with a new classmate: across campus, through the rotunda, to the door and was finally greeted by…a clown.
“Writing skills?” She asked.

We nodded and stepped inside. Everyone looked as confused as we did, especially when she got up and walked on our desks. The first day of class, she proclaimed everything she could do despite her nervousness. After that, it would be up to us to keep learning and discussion alive.

Show and tell was a regular occurrence for this and every other class I took with her and it was certainly not limited to her own treasures. Though she showed us everything from pictures of herself in the Holy Land to pomegranates to foreign currency, if we brought in a rock and somehow made it relevant to the class, she’d love it.

We often took field trips, both during class time and after hours, to places like a local Indian restaurant, the graveyard next to the university and relevant movies. We studied the literature of the world in every class she taught and we were almost always able to have a real-life experience bring our education full circle. Each day in her class was a new adventure and I have never felt as good about writing as I did when I wrote for her.

In an effort to celebrate the life of this wonderful woman, I plan to spend a week in April sharing my own creative writing and hopefully that of many, many other people whether they knew this woman or not. Miss Barbara Hoffman taught Writing Skills, Introduction to World Literature, Plath, Sexton and Company, Creative Writing and Mid and Far Eastern Literature. If you feel compelled to write a piece relevant to any of those topics, please send it my way so I can include you in this tribute. Or, if you prefer, post your work on your own blog and allow me to link to it. Once again, I encourage you to think about writing something even if you did not personally know my favorite professor because she would be very glad to give anyone an excuse to write.

20 March 2011

How I Eat An Artichoke (Or Two, Or Three, Or Four)

*Please note: This has the potential to be a very time consuming process, especially if you are going to share with your children. Even if you do not, you may find yourself running to the store for more artichokes once you've finished your first batch. You have been warned.

Ahh, the baby artichoke. Such tender, tastiness waiting to be unearthed from its leafy shell. Mmmmmmm.

OK, on to the actual recipe. For me, baby artichokes are a bit more work than full sized ones because I like to trim them and skin the stems rather than just chopping them off in the larger variety. Of course, you don't have to do it this way, but I like to eat the whole stem with the heart (of the baby artichoke) and if I don't cut off the outer layer it just isn't tasty.

First, I break off the outer leaves until I see a light yellow and a white color around the base of the leaves. Then, I take my paring knife and skin the stem, chopping off the very end, until it is that nice shade of light green. Then I throw them all in a steaming basket above a large pot of water and boil them until the leaves come off easily. For these, it took about 40 minutes. I also added a few cloves of garlic to the water (which I will discuss later) but you could also add lemon slices to infuse a bit of flavor into the artichokes.

Steam away!

When they were finished, I took a few out and started breaking them apart to give to my hungry children. They were probably a tad overdone as you can see how dark they became, but nevertheless a fantastic treat.

Most of the time, the outer leaves are fairly inedible, providing very little 'meat' that would normally be scraped off with one's teeth. I had to peel off quite a few of them to get to the nice yellow leaves that are tender enough for Piper to eat. Heidi actually eats the whole leaf, no matter what kind you put in front of her.

Once I get to this point, I rip each leaf in half (or wherever it offers the most give/tenderness to break) to make the plate for Piper. For Heidi, I leave the leaf intact as I would for myself.

As you can see, the right side of the plate has the bottom, tender part of the leaf for Piper to eat (or what you would eat) and the top part is discarded.

Now, you may be wondering if we just eat these fabulous vegetables plain or if I make some sort of mind altering sauce to dip them in. It's the latter. And here is how I do it.

Note that the bowl seen here has already been used for this sauce and is not simply a dirty dish.

First, I fill the bottom part of the bowl with fresh lemon juice. Ultimately, the sauce is all up 'to taste' so you can always add more throughout the process or less the next time you do it. Then I add some sprinkles of Bragg's Amino Acids, generally enough to change the color of the lemon. (To see my post on Bragg's, click here.)

In the above photo, I added a clove of the boiled garlic to the lemon and Bragg's.

After I added the luscious clove of garlic to the lemon and Bragg's, I added about a tablespoon of butter. 

Then I pop it into the microwave for 30 seconds if the butter is ice cold, maybe 25 seconds if it is room temperature, depending on your microwave. Then you'll want to check it to see if all the butter has melted or if it needs a bit more time. 

As you can see, the butter is not completely melted, but with a quick stir, it almost dissolves. However, I like to have the sauce reach a slight boil, so I would put it back on (in the microwave) for another 8 - 10 seconds. Also at this point I crushed the garlic with my stirring fork and incorporated it into the sauce before microwaving the additional time....someone stop me!

At last! The sauce is complete! Be careful, it will be hot, but it will provide the most delicious dipping sauce for your artichokes you have ever tasted! Generally speaking, I like to use this sauce on any vegetable I eat, though I do not always use the butter (and of course I don't always have garlic).

Heidi enjoyed dipping her entire leaf into the sauce and sucking it all off before gobbling the whole thing.

Try it, love it, use it on everything for the rest of your life! :)

19 March 2011

Meh...I bought Some Cascade

This is a follow up post to 'Try it in Your Dishwasher,' so if you haven't yet read that, click here.

Yes, I caved in and bought some cascade. I know I should wash my pots and pans by hand, but I hate the idea of slaving away over the sink when I could be doing something else more important. Thus, I throw everything that isn't wooden into the dishwasher.

The homemade detergent did a find job on regular dishes (plates, cups, bowls, most silverware) but really failed to get any of my stainless steel clean. I tried adding some kosher salt to the mix (as an abrasive, a tip I found somewhere), but that did not make much difference. Maybe I should have tried using less of the detergent, something I may try in the future, but for now I want to keep things rolling smoothly. Washing something twice is certainly not economical and I prefer to use the dishwasher because I know it is more efficient than I could ever be.

On a brighter note, I decided to use the mixture I have left as a 'dishwasher boost.' Both of the ingredients in the homemade detergent are laundry boosters, so why couldn't they boost the power of dish washing detergent as well? And if THAT doesn't work, well, I'll just have to eat it. :)

17 March 2011


Tonight I made a simple stir-fry using tofu I marinated in low-sodium soy sauce, garlic, onions, celery and the remainder of my frozen bag of pepper stir-fry. Piper ate all the tofu and left most of the other things on her plate while Heidi ate a bit of everything but stopped eating once she realized how amused Piper was by her spitting food out of her mouth. Awesome.

16 March 2011


Would you like to know how brilliant I am? Well, I'll tell you! I was able to use last night's leftover lentils in a completely new dish! OK, so I'm really not that brilliant, but I was pretty proud of myself for thinking of this and for reusing leftover food in a new way.

At least 6 months ago, I found and bookmarked this recipe on Mothering.com and have wanted to make it ever since, but never got the chance. I've been looking at it a lot in the past few days thinking I would make it during these 40 days of Lent and tonight it hit me. I already had the lentils, so all I'd need to do would be to make the rice and pastas! Brilliant!

Of course, as with most things I do, I did not follow the recipe exactly because I didn't have everything it calls for. I don't have chick peas right now (not that I'd eat them anyway), nor do I have elbow or vermicelli pasta. Instead, I made orzo and shells. Of course I had seasoned the lentils already with cumin and tumeric when the recipe only calls for salt and pepper, but when I added the tomato sauce to them and a little more salt, I thought it was really good! I didn't fry the onions either because I just didn't feel like it, but I think the meal was pretty tasty anyway. We did have a salad beforehand and Piper ate just about every leaf in her bowl. Here she is enjoying the Koushari.

This is definitely a different sort of meal, but as I said, I found it to be quite tasty and look forward to eating my leftover leftovers tomorrow :).

Try It In Your Dishwasher

Even though I don't use Rockin' Green for my diapers anymore, I still use it on my regular laundry. When I started running low on dishwasher detergent, I couldn't wait to try Rockin' Green in its place because I have heard from more than one source that many people use it as an almost 'universal' cleaner. Unfortunately, this is not the part where I tell you that it worked fabulously and I will never use anything else ever again. I found it to be fairly bad at getting my dishes clean, but this might be because I did not fill the soap dispenser in its entirety. Anyway, this prompted me to search for 'homemade dishwasher detergent' and this is what I found.

This website has a couple different recipes for homemade dishwasher detergent, but I chose to use 1 cup borax mixed with 1 cup washing soda. While reading answers on a forum discussing dishwasher problems, one reader suggested using the above mix with a few drops of dish washing liquid in the dispenser with straight vinegar as the rinse aid (which is what I had anyway) so that's what I did. I mixed 1 cup each borax and washing soda in a container, put two tablespoons and a small squirt of Dawn (it's hard to just do a few drops because it just comes right out :) ) into the dispenser and voila. Everything came out fine, no better or worse than when I used cascade. Of course, that was only one run and I am now on a quest to challenge this combo to see what it will and will not clean. I so hope it continues to work as this would be a very green (minus Dawn) and frugal option for me and anyone who wants to try it!

15 March 2011


As I stated in a previous post, I like to balance our meals over the course of a week so that we don't have too many heavy ones in a row, nor too many light. Since last night's meal was a bit more heavy, I knew I wanted to base tonight's dinner on vegetables. I also like to rotate pasta, potatoes and rice around so we're not having the same starch several days in a row (I love my starch!) so that is how I landed on tonight's hodge-podge-esque dinner.

I've been wanting baked potatoes for a few days now, so I cut a bunch of them in half and stuck them in the oven at 350. I also wanted to roast some brussels sprouts so I threw them in too. You can roast at any temperature, but the lower it is, the longer your roasting time, obviously. Since I figured that Heidi and Piper would not be interested in the brussels sprouts, I steamed the remaining green beans I had leftover from the Shepherd's Pie for them. Interestingly enough, they both found the crunchy leaves of the brussels sprouts to be good enough to eat. Then I knew we needed some sort of protein, so I made lentils. I didn't have any broth so I just used water and I have to say, it wasn't my best work. Piper enjoyed them though :). Plus I made too much, so it looks like I'll be eating lentils with potatoes and brussels sprouts for breakfast and lunch tomorrow. :)

14 March 2011

Chicken Cacciatore with Homemade Pasta

If you haven't noticed yet, which is entirely possible, I like to balance days of big meals with little ones, easy meals with more complicated ones, etc. I had originally intended to make this dish yesterday, but circumstances prevented that so I made it today. My crock pot is not currently functioning due to a broken lid, so I had to do this in a pot on the stove all day, much like all other 'slow cooker' things I've been doing. I did not follow a recipe, so here is what I remember.

Coat chicken in flour. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Brown in large, high sided skillet (I don't know the correct term for this, sorry) and remove chicken. Saute an onion and a few cloves of garlic in chicken juices for a few minutes. De glaze pan with red wine, scraping up chicken bits and incorporate them into the wine. Here is where I would have done it differently had I had the correct ingredients. I added a can of diced tomatoes and a bowl of leftover tomato sauce/sun dried tomato pesto/garlic mix I had left over from the naan pizza. Therefore, I'm not sure exactly how much tomato sauce mixture went in, but you can gauge for yourself. I did not have any fresh peppers, so instead I added about a quarter of a bag of frozen pepper stir fry mix (love this!). I also had a stalk of kale sitting on the counter that I did not use in Heidi's and Piper's omelet that morning, so I broke it up very finely and threw it in (didn't want to waste it :) ). Then I put the chicken back in, added more salt and pepper, oregano, basil, garlic powder and onion powder, brought it to a boil, reduced to a simmer and let it sit for about 8 hours.

I figured since dinner was already taken care of, it wouldn't be too much trouble to make my own pasta, right? Unfortunately, it ended up being a bit more involved than I had planned, but it still worked.
I followed a pretty generic pasta recipe consisting of adding two cups of flour and 1/2 tsp of salt in one bowl, beating two eggs and adding 1/3 cup water and 1 tsp of oil in another bowl, then combining them (after making a well in the flour) to make the dough. I kneaded it, let it sit for 10 minutes, rolled it out, let it sit for another 20 minutes, then rolled it to make 'linguine.' I ran into issues when some of the dough was too sticky and wouldn't unroll, so in the end I just ended up throwing them as smooshed globs of pasta into the boiling water. Everyone liked it though, so I suppose it was still a success.

13 March 2011

Tonight Was Boring

Every so often, we fall into one of those days where cooking just isn't an option. However, since we are working towards a goal during this Lenten season, not cooking was not an option. Instead, I gave Heidi and Piper what I call a hodgepodge dinner (because I do this often) including turkey, brown rice and sugar snap peas. Later on, Steve and I had grilled wings and french fries because we are so healthy. Sometimes, you just have to go the easy route with food because so much else in life is terribly complicated and draining.

If you are interested in how Steve prepares our grilled wings, take note. While on the grill, Steve bastes the wings twice with wing sauce. Then, once they are off the grill, they get tossed in the remaining sauce. To make the sauce, Steve buys a large bottle of Frank's Red Hot and throws several spoonfuls of minced garlic into it to marinate. When he's ready to make the sauce for the wings, he simply pours a lot into a bowl and adds butter. If you want to fry your lips off, add a squeeze of lemon juice into the sauce and it will burn like mad. I, however, like to have taste buds after eating my wings so I prefer it sans lemon.

12 March 2011

Shepherd's Pie

A few weeks ago, I tried this recipe out and we found it to be absolutely delicious. Within 24 hours, the entire dish was gone. (And there are only two adults in this house.) I found the recipe in a Wegman's magazine but is is originally from the Culinary Institute of America. I find it to be more on the work-intensive side so it's a better meal to make on the weekends when Steve is around to help distract H & P. For tonight's meal, I actually chopped all the vegetables last night while I was making my Naan Pizza (since it's so easy) so I could just dump them all in when the time came (I'd recommend that if you're making this alone). Without further adieu, here it is.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 lb lean ground beef or turkey
1 cup minced onion
1/2 cup minced celery
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup green peas (if frozen, thaw first)
1 cup green beans
1 1/2 c tomato sauce (I read that as "cans" not cups, don't know why, but it still worked for me :) )
3 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup dry red wine (optional, but I think it gives a better flavor)
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (I used dried parsley the first time I made it and it was fine)
1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano or thyme (I've always used dried oregano and think that thyme might be weird, but that's just me)
3 cups mashed potatoes

1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Crumble ground beef or turkey into skillet and saute, stirring frequently, until meat no longer looks raw, about 5 minutes.
2. Add onion, celery, carrot, peas and green beans. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent and all of the vegetables are hot, 8 - 10 minutes.
3. Add tomato sauce, tomato paste and wine, if using. Bring mixture to a simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer, stirring from time to time until sauce has thickened, 10 - 12 minutes. Remove skillet from the heat and stir in parsley and oregano or thyme.
4. Preheat oven to 350.
5. Transfer meat mixture to 2 1/2 quart casserole. Spoon or pipe the mashed potatoes into an even layer that completely covers the meat. Bake until potatoes are very hot with a light golden crust, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

You can make the mashed potatoes as much ahead of time as you want because they will be reheated in the oven anyway, so this can also save some time. The first time I made them, I only mashed them with chicken broth, a little salt, garlic and parsley and I thought they were lovely. This time, I didn't have any chicken broth so I used water and a little milk, plus salt and fresh parsley and I didn't care for them as much. But of course, you can make them however you want. Enjoy!

11 March 2011

Naan Pizza

I like Naan bread. I like pizza. Sometimes, I'm lazy (OK, more than just sometimes) and I really, really like easy dinners. One such easy dinner was this evening when I made Naan pizza. To make, purchase Naan bread, cheese, Classico's Sun Dried Tomato Pesto and whatever toppings you like on a pizza.

First, I brush the Naan bread with olive oil. Then I spread the pesto over it (tonight I also combined some pesto with a can of tomato sauce in order to make it all last a little longer) and I add some freshly chopped garlic. Complete with shredded cheese, pop in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted, and eat. Bam. Try it, love it, eat it.

10 March 2011

Things I Love #3

I LOVE Near East Original Rice Pilaf. Of course, I also love many of their other varieties, but the original is and always will be my favorite boxed rice. Here it is pictured as dinner for Piper (and Heidi) with lentils and kale chips.

As far as boxed rice mixes go, the Near East brand is one of the better ones I've seen because the ingredients are minimal and natural. I love the flavor, the combination of rice and orzo, and the fact that it goes so well with just about anything. I can eat an entire box by myself. And I have. One of my favorite meals is roasted garlic and rosemary tilapia with this rice and just about any vegetable. Make it an artichoke, and I'm in heaven. I would wholeheartedly recommend this rice to anyone. Buy it. You know you want to.


I always keep a bag of tilapia in my freezer. Why? Because in a pinch, I can throw it in the oven (still frozen) with my favorite seasonings and have a meal in about 15 minutes (minus prep time.) I have a favorite method for doing this, but I know that not everyone in my house is as in love with it as I am so I am always looking for new ways to prepare it. Tonight I found this recipe from About.com and gave it a whirl.

Being that I am who I am, I did not follow this recipe exactly. I sprinkled, of course, but I also did not have any mayo (nor would I ever eat it) so I simply spread spicy brown mustard on the tilapia filets before plunging them into the panko. I still found it to be delightful and a nice change from the ordinary, but Steve wanted meat (rawr) so he had to stop at the store and get pork. Ew.

Additionally, I made roasted potatoes and roasted asparagus (that I got for $1!) I cut the potatoes into chunks, covered them with olive oil and rosemary garlic seasoning, tossed them in a bowl and spread them over a baking sheet. For the asparagus, I just put them on the baking sheet, drizzled them with olive oil and sprinkled salt and pepper over them. They were baked at 400 for at least a half hour, but I cranked it up to 425 about half way through and the potatoes went an additional 10 minutes after that. Tasty.

Tonight was not that exciting, but I always take pleasure from a completed, homemade dinner (even if it's not that great).

09 March 2011

That Soup Was Supposed To Be Chili

For Day 1 of Lent, I wanted to make a variation of a Whole Foods three bean chili recipe. I have been car-less for a few days so I have limited ingredients at my disposal, but fortunately I always buy the same things when I go to the store. Now, I know this was supposed to be chili, but I had part of a box of beef broth in my fridge that needed to be used and I had a large container of my own homemade vegetable stock in the freezer I needed to make use of, so it became much more soupy than I wanted it to be. Anyway, here's what I did.

08 March 2011

40 Days of Homemade (Food)

Several weeks ago, I made a proposal to my husband that during Lent, we eat every meal at home, aka homemade goodness. Of course, he would not come home from work to eat lunch here but rather take his lunch with him every day and not purchase it from some cheap crappy place. At first, he nixed the idea citing how he couldn't live without Chinese food or something. Later, I revisited the idea and told him I would accept his compromise if it meant that we would up the number of homemade meals we consume.

So, starting tomorrow, I will be cooking 3 times a day, 7 days a week. Oh wait, don't I do that now as it is? The unfortunate answer is no, not really. While I do cook almost all of our meals, we eat from restaurants far more often than I'd like. Specifically, Steve eats from restaurants far more often than I'd like. I am hoping that limiting "outside" food will help all of us in one way or another, forcing me to try new recipes and think outside my comfort zone and helping Steve see that it is possible to enjoy food that wasn't 'manufactured.'

Steve also surprised me by adding an addendum to this Lenten offering, vowing to drink only water the entire time. This means no soda, juice, Dunkin Donuts iced coffee (gasp!) or honest tea. Though he has allotted for 4 slip-ups where he will consume honest tea and I'm OK with that. All in all, I'm looking forward to proving that this is possible for us and it could make us a better family. Now if we could only get rid of the TV....

The Top 10 Things Every Natural Household (with children) Should Have

Welcome to the March Carnival of Natural Parenting: Natural Parenting Top 10 Lists

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared Top 10 lists on a wide variety of aspects of attachment parenting and natural living. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


1. Vinegar: The cleaning powers of vinegar are nearly endless. It disinfects, sanitizes and leaves a fresh vinegar scent! OK, maybe that’s not a positive, but it is a very versatile product for very little money. You can even use it for your hair! Plus, if your children get into it, you won’t have to call poison control.

2. Baking Soda: It removes odors, forms a paste great for scrubbing stainless steel and can even be used in the laundry. When combined with vinegar, it fizzes and foams to help loosen grease and unclog drains. Some people put it in the fridge, litter boxes, diaper pails and garbage pails to remove odors. Just recently, I learned that some women even use it as a deodorant (I can’t believe I didn’t think of this).

3. Nature’s Miracle: I know this may sound odd, especially if you don’t have pets, but I have found this to be another one of those products I just can’t live without. It is generally made for cats or dogs and is used to remove stains and odors from their accidents. However, since it is made with enzymes, it can digest just about any stain you can think of. I’ve used it on the carpet to remove everything from cat vomit to smooshed blueberries and other things I’d rather not mention. It’s completely natural and can replace just about any other type of cleaner (besides vinegar).

4. Oscillo/Oscillococcinum: This homeopathic can be used at the first sign of the flu to shorten its duration and lessen the severity of its symptoms. Or, you can take it during the flu for a similar effect, though it does work better at the beginning. It lasts for a while so keeping one box on hand is a good idea so you won’t have to run to the store when you feel yucky.

5. Sambucol/Sambucus/Sambu Guard: Though the brand name may be different, and the ingredients may not all be the same, one thing reigns true: elderberry is a wonderful, natural immune system booster that almost everyone can take to prevent and treat things like colds and flu. In my opinion, it can probably combat a lot more than those simple ailments, but things like that are not evaluated by the FDA.

6. Rescue Remedy: When I was a child, my mother used this on me whenever I was in an emotionally unstable situation. Two times I remember specifically include being stung by a bee and having some sort of panic attack at a store (I don’t remember the details). In both cases, I instantly began to calm down after taking the drops and within a few minutes was restored to a restful state. You cannot overdose and there are no side effects because it is made from flowers. Since there is alcohol in the original version (though minimal) they do make one for children without it.

7. An aloe plant: Since aloe is in everything from shampoos to lotions and is one of the go-to remedies for sunburn, why not have a plant in your house? If you burn yourself in the kitchen, your child touches the hot stove or you have any other skin problem, break off a leaf and rub the aloe goodness on your skin. I’ve used it for cuts, burns and even diaper rash. Not only is it natural, safe relief, it’s a renewable resource!

8. Oatmeal Bath: Both of my daughters have eczema, or so I’ve been told, so I stocked up on this product a long time ago. Generally, I bathe them every few weeks in an oatmeal bath unless I see skin problems because I like to give them a break from the normal bath routine. A soak in oatmeal is good for most skin problems and can relieve the itchiness of problems like poison ivy and chicken pox. You never know when you might need it!

9. A good natural lotion and a good natural sun block: I’m leaving these choices up to you because everyone’s preferences are different, just as everyone’s skin needs are different. Currently, I use an olive oil lotion and another one that I consistently forget the name of on my children. In the coming months, I’ll be using sunscreen sparingly on them (after their 20 minute vitamin D fix), but I want it to be a natural one. The bottom line: everything we put on our skin is absorbed into our bodies so why absorb something that would be less than beneficial?

10. Tiger balm/Arnica: Tiger balm smells, Arnica doesn’t. Take your pick. Personally, I don’t mind the tiger balm smell as long as I’m not going to be in public. Both relieve pain from sore muscles and aches or whatever else is ailing you and both are natural treatments that have been used for years.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants: