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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Vacation Travel made Fun!

I really do believe that getting there is half the journey, but I honestly felt ill when I map quested our destination and saw I will be in the car for 17 + hours with my little blessings later this month!  It has been a while since our last long driving vacation and the twins now being 3.5 should make it interesting!  We have been preparing mentally to hear 5 million times, "are we there yet?"  I've also been putting our traditional activity boxes together.  They get so excited as each ziplock bag full of goodies is packed away.  I find myself stopping obsessively at dollar stores and thrift shops looking for toys and games that will keep them entertained in between potty breaks.  Here are a few things we have gathered so far:


This is what the boxes look like put together.  There is one for the 3 yr olds and one for the 6-10 year olds.  My rule is you must put everything back into it's correct bag before a new activity can be checked out of the box.


This is why you must put your bags together before you leave, otherwise you will have all this trash and wrapping on your vehicle floor.


I found these boxes at Kmart.  They were $4.99 each, the perfect size and with the lid on they will double as a lap desk or game table!


Some packing tips:

Don't forget to bring glow sticks and bracelets!  My kids build some cool stuff with them once the sun goes down!!!  Flash lights and light up toys are very exciting at night when your almost there!

Remember to put everything you will need per activity into each ziplock bag.  (Like Qtips for paint with water, or scissors for crafts.). It would be a bummer to not have what you need on the road.

Check around your house and in the bottom of your toyboxes.  You'll be surprised at what you find that would be exciting if you were stuck in your seat.

Let your kids help pick items out.  It helps build excitement, but also plan a few surprises they don't know about.


The concept is really simple, the hard part is waiting to leave.  Doesn't he look pitiful! He will be thrilled when he gets to open his box in a few days.  It will feel just like Christmas!

Use your imagination and prepare to enjoy the travel days to your vacation destination instead of losing them to grumpiness and fussy bored kids!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Basic Vanilla Microwave Mug Cake

So here is the second post for the basic mug cake recipe.  This one is non-chocolate.  You can change up this recipe into so many different types of cake, it's crazy.   I will give you a few of my favorite add in's at the end.  Enjoy creating your perfect cake!

(Carrot Mug Cake with. Team cheese icing, pictured)

Basic Vanilla mug cake recipe:

1 Tbsp melted coconut oil
1/2 Tbsp sweetener of choice (I use Truvia)
1.5 Tbsp almond or oat flour
1.5 Tbsp of flax meal or coconut flour
1/2 tsp aluminum free baking soda
1 egg
Few drops of vanilla extract
Dash organic cinnamon and sea salt
1-2 tsp water or "milk" of your choice

Mix all ingredients together well in microwave safe mug or small dish.  Microwave on high for 1-1.5 minutes or until center is firm.  Top with your favorite toppings, fruit, yogurt or powdered stevia or enjoy plain!

Add these ingredients to make other versions: 

Cherry vanilla- chopped cherries and almond extract

Pecan coffee cake- chopped pecans, almond extract, 1/2 tsp blackstrap molasses or maple syrup

Orange dreamcicle- orange extract, orange zest (omit cinnamon)

Lemon poppyseed- 1/4 tsp poppy seeds, lemon extract, lemon zest

Carrot Mug Cake-(use oat flour) add coconut, raisins, shredded carrots, and carrot juice for the liquid.

Banana bread in a mug- 1/2 mashed banana, almond or caramel extract, chopped pecans

Strawberry coffee cake- chopped strawberries, walnuts, almond extract, melt 1 tsp butter on top after cooked.

Cherry cheesecake Cake- mix in 1 Tbsp softened cream cheese and 1 Tbsp ricotta cheese into batter and top with
Fresh cherries.

Caramel cake- add caramel extract, 1 tsp butter, 1 tsp blackstrap molasses

Blueberry muffin- blueberries, 1 tsp butter, almond extract 

......the possibilities are truly endless!!!!! 









Chocolate Microwave Mug Cake

As promised, here is the beginning of a mug cake series!  I've been eating these for breakfast for over a year now and am hooked!  It doesn't hurt that they help you lose weight, are gluten, dairy and sugar free and full of great stuff to start your day.  I change up the recipe based on what sounds good to me and what ingredients I have on hand.  I've decided to post the base for a chocolate and then show you what to add to make different flavors for this post.

Basic chocolate mug cake:

1 Tbsp melted coconut oil
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 Tbsp almond flour
1 Tbsp flax meal or coconut flour
1/2 tsp aluminum free baking soda
1 egg
1/2 Tbsp sweetener of your choice (I use Truvia)
Few drops of vanilla extract
Dash organic cinnamon and sea salt
1-2 tsp water or "milk" of your choice

Mix well in a microwave safe coffee mug or ramikin dish.  Microwave in high for 1-1.5 minutes until center is firm.  Enjoy plain or with your favorite toppings.

*I top them with powdered stevia, whipped cream, Greek yogurt, fresh fruit or even a Tbsp of cream cheese. I've also made a yogurt and cream cheese icing to store in the fridge for a weeks worth of mug cake breakfasts!  You can't mess this up, just jump in and get creative. 

Here are a few other versions I've made:

Chocolate banana: add 1/2 mashed banana and 1/2 tsp almond extract

Orange chocolate: add orange zest and  a few drops of pure orange extract

Chocolate covered strawberry: add almond extract and chopped strawberries

Caramel chocolate: add caramel extract and melt a tsp butter on top after cooked

Cherry chocolate: almond extract and chopped cherries

I think you get the picture!  Now go have fun and create :)








Family Sized "Mug" Cake

I'm slightly obsessed with microwaved mug cakes.  It brings out the Easy Bake Oven little girl in me.  It's also an excuse to have cake for breakfast!  Who doesn't love that?  And if you need another reason, which I don't, it's healthy too!!!!  Kind of like no guilt happiness in 1.5 minutes.  Well, with seven kids you can imagine one mug cake isn't going to cut it.  I've lined up our mugs and created a mini cake factory, but found that most mornings I prefer to just quadruple the recipe and make it once.  

Here is today's yummy version:


In a large glass deep dish pie plate mix

3 Tbsp melted coconut oil
2 mashed bananas
4 eggs
3 Tbsp almond flour
3 Tbsp flax meal
1/4 cup Truvia (or sweetener of your choice)
1 Tbsp aluminum free baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Dash salt & vanilla extract

Mix well, sprinkle in blueberries and 1/2 cup chopped strawberries.  Microwave on high for 11-13 minutes, until the center is firm.  I served it sprinkled with powdered stevia and chopped pecans.


I just realized that I've been eating mug cakes and become quite a pro at them I might add, for over a year now.  I can't believe I haven't blogged them!  So get ready for a bunch of recipes to come.......




Friday, June 27, 2014

Homemade Dog food



Our beloved pet Nicky has battled hot spots and skin infections his whole life.  I've watched our family's diet so carefully over the years that it was just instinctual to watch Nicky's too.  I noticed he would get more scratchy and inflamed with certain commercial dog foods over others.  Eventually he seemed allergic to all of them.  Our vet recommended keeping him on Benadryl. Nicky hates Benadryl!  I started researching homemade dog food about a year ago, but to be quite honest, it intimidated me.  I am even hesitant to share my recipes, because I know how delicate a dog's system can be and know how some foods are even toxic to dogs.  I've learned that giving your dog commercial food is like you living on a diet of Doritos and Eggo waffles.  If you wouldn't be healthy on highly processed food, why would your pet!

I encourage you to:

READ...A LOT!  And from many sources.

AVOID at all costs:
Chocolate
Xylitol
Onions
Avacodo
Garlic
Yeast dough
Raisins
Macidamia Nuts
Cooked bones of any kind
Candy and gum

Be cautious of:
Grapes (some say they are safe, some say no)
Bananas (again some say yes, some say no)
Dairy (can cause diarrhea, yet they need calcium....more on that in a minute)

Here are some good reputable links to begin your reading:
http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-behavior/foods-are-hazardous-dogs
 
http://www.m.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/ss/slideshow-foods-your-dog-should-never-eat

http://m.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/foods_poisonous_to_pets.html

Be aware of a dog's dietary needs.  A general rule is 1/2 meat, 1/4 puréed vegetables, 1/4 rice or other starch carbohydrate.   Check out multiple recipes and sites that recommend a dogs's dietary needs.

Here is where there is a big debate....carnivore or omnivore?  Depends on who you read.  Paleo type people really push all meat and bone diets.  I'm balanced more evenly in my own family's diet so I prefer (as well as my doggie) a more varied approach.

I read so many different opinions my head was spinning.  One thing everyone seems to agree on is commercial dog food is overall bad bad bad.  It's chock full of fillers, by products and super high in salt.  Mealtime for my (used to be overweight) Nicky was dull and boring.  Now he chases his tail in circles whenever I go near the fridge.

So what does it cost and how much time is this going to take, I'm sure your thinking.  Well, anything I do homemade has to make sense for me to keep doing it and I believe this does.  Cost wise, it is about the same, because I use high quality ingredients.  Time wise, it takes me about an hour, tops (fit inBetween our family dinner time and clean up) ONCE per month.  

Here is the recipe I currently feed our dog:

5lbs browned ground beef (or mixture of ground beef, turkey, chicken and pork of your choice)
2-3 cups brown rice, after steamed or boiled it's more like 4-5 cups 
5 cups steamed and puréed veggies, mostly greens (I steam carrots, peas, celery, and tons of Kale in the top of my steamer and the rice in the bottom of my steamer at the same time).* I purée them in my ninja blender with some beef or chicken broth and add them to the browned meat.  Then, add the cooked rice and 1 can puréed pumpkin.

*It's important to finely chop or purée the fruit and veggies you give your pet to help them digest and absorb the nutrients.

This makes approximately 30, 1-1.5 cup servings.  I store them plastic containers in the freezer holding about one week's worth in each container.  I keep one in the fridge and the rest in the freezer, pulling out one container at a time as he is ready for it.  He gets a chopped apple or pear for lunch and 1-1.5 cups of homemade dog food with a raw egg (crushed shell and all) for dinner.  The shell provides needed calcium as well as the Kale.  I vary his lunch snack depending on what we have available and is safe.

His skin is looking so much better, he's at a healthy weight, finally, and he is one happy dog!

So don't be afraid!  Educate yourself, talk to your vet and get in that kitchen.  Remember,  a zoo doesn't order wolf, monkey, lion or giraffe food!  Our animals can eat real food too!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Gluten Free -Sugar Free AND Yummy Pancakes

It's been a while since I posted, but that doesn't mean I have been doing things naturally or homemade.  It has been between 1-2 yrs since I started eating low carb and no sugar.  I feel so much better and now when I have, oh maybe a donut or something like that, I feel nauseous within minutes.  I've lost 25 lbs and most importantly, kept it off.  I haven't shared what I've been eating regularly, so I'm going to try to post my favorites in hopes that you can see it is possible.  I've read many books on the subject and have called my diet "The God Diet". Eat foods the way God created them, minimally processed and as whole as possible.  I buy almost exclusively organic and have learned how to feed my family on a budget and remove the dreaded cereal addiction from my pantry.  We are not perfect, we cheat, we eat out, we are REAL :)

Here is my family's favorite breakfast, which I make in 5 minutes and bake for 20. (If you want to flip pancakes for 2 hours you may cook them in a griddle). It will last us 3-4 mornings and the kids beg me for it.  Enjoy, and feel free to downsize the recipe (or increase :) to fit your needs.  This recipe makes about 62 small pancakes.

Gluten free -Sugar free Pancakes

4 cups rolled oats 
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 Tbsp Stevia/Truvia or sweetener of your choice
1/2 tsp cinnamon

•pulverize it together in blender

•add 1 tsp vanilla, large container of egg whites, large container cottage cheese, 1 Tbsp coconut oil, blend well. 


•here's where you choose, oven baked or pan fried.  If you're using the stove top, make like normal pancakes.  If your baking in the oven, preheat it to 350 degrees and bake for 15 minutes per pan or until done in the middle.  This batch makes 3 pans 1/3 full.  I've found it is the perfect thickness. ( Any fuller and the pancakes are doughey in the middle.) be sure to spay your pans with nonstick spray, I use coconut.


•remove from oven and let cool.  Cut into bars.  


•serve with fruit, whipped cream, maple syrup, etc.

Store leftovers in plastic zipper bag in fridge for the next breakfast.  Hide from the kids or you'll be making them again tomorrow ��


Here is a pan fried batch:

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Hidden zucchini, lasagna ;)

My kids hate zucchini, so they say.  I made a regular lasagna last night for the kids and a veggie-noodless one for me and they just raved about how great their's was.  What no one (except you) knows is that I peeled and shredded 2 whole zucchinis and mixed it into their ricotta cheese layer.  I've tried that in the past and they complained instantly that there was some weird green things in their lasagna.  But not this time!  This time they went back for seconds and my oldest son, also the pickiest, had thirds.  So, don't give up mamas.  You know you can outsmart them and get some veggies in even the pickiest eaters, just don't give up!

This is the peeled and shredded zucchini.  When I mixed it with the ricotta cheese, eggs and spices it looked just like shredded mozzarella :)-