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Dani Jean

Quickie Gourmet

Get Your Greens

Green-Shake

Having a hard time getting the leafy greens in your toddler’s daily diet? A green shake might just be the answer. It’s the perfect quick breakfast – you can whip one up in under 5 minutes. Before you balk at the thought of chugging down a salad in a glass, read on to learn about all the tasty and vitamin packed ingredients.

In our house we feel our best when we start our day with a green shake. (I’ve heard it’s how the Incredible Hulk starts his day too!) We prefer shakes over juicing because the soluble fiber is helpful for absorption of nutrients, blood sugar regulation and for regularity. Check out this article for more details about how fiber affects your body. The benefits of green shakes are endless. A shake a day keeps you regular without effort. It is packed with protein for steadying your blood sugar, vitamins and minerals and a touch of fruit for an extra energy boost. The best part is that I don’t have to battle my toddler to eat healthy foods; She actually asks for a green shake and is excited to help me make it.

Greens-For-Our-Shake

The ingredients are simple and easy to acquire. I buy organic when I can find it, especially for produce’s “Dirty Dozen” that carry the highest level of pesticides. Ingredients can vary depending on what you have in your fridge and include spinach, beet leaves, Swiss chard, turnip greens, dandelion greens, berries, hemp seeds or soaked chia seeds, a banana and cold water.

Get Your Greens! Recipe:

  1. 1 Ripe Banana
  2. 2-3 Cups (well packed) Spinach
  3. 6-8 Leaves of Dandelion, Beet, or Turnip Greens
  4. 3-4 Leaves of Swiss Chard
  5. 1/2 -1 1/2 Cup Frozen Berries (I use mixture of Strawberry, Blueberry and Blackberry)
  6. 2 TBS Hemp Seeds or Chia Seeds soaked in 2 Cups Water Overnight
  7. 1/2-2 Cups Cold Water

Blend all ingredients until smooth. I start with smaller quantities of frozen berries and add more as needed for sweetness, depending on the ripeness of the banana, and what greens are used in the shake. Sometimes this results in a shake that is more purple than green. Also start with less water, adding more as needed to reach preferred drinking consistency. Recipe makes approximately 2 1/2 to 3 servings.

A Word About Kitchen Equipment

The right blender will make or break the drink-ability or consistency of your shake. Originally I used the NutriBullet for my green shakes, however, after a thorough cleaning I found the seal was extremely difficult to remove, clean and reassemble. I noticed that there was some mold that was growing that couldn’t be scrubbed, bleached or otherwise removed (yuck, i know!). I messaged the company asking how to buy replacement seals and was told I needed to buy a whole new blade assembly. Um, if I can’t clean it, why do I want to buy another product from you that is going to grow mold??!!? So, I did my research and found a new blender, with glass pitcher and assembly that could be completely disassembled and cleaned with ease. I found the Oster Pro 1200. It is fabulous, a tad bit loud, but otherwise just fabulous.

Green Shake Nutrition Info

I’ve found the ANDI scores of most foods to be a helpful general guide to buying and incorporating the most nutrient dense foods into my family’s daily diet. ANDI stands for aggregate nutrient density index, and was created by Dr. Fuhrman. Basically, the higher the ANDI number the more nutrients per serving. Dr. Furhman’s theory is that your health is predicted by your nutrient intake divided by your calorie intake. His formula for scoring foods takes many variables into account, you can read more about it here.

Hemp seeds have a concentrated balance of proteins, omega 3 & 6 and Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLAs). Hemp seeds are renowned for providing sustained energy, possibly lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. I store them in the fridge and use them raw. Hemp seeds can found at most grocery, health food stores and Costco.

Chia Seeds have a whole different list of benefits to offer. Once a key staple of the Aztecs and the Mayans, these pack a huge vitamin load, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, B vitamins, zinc, fiber, omega 3 and protein. There is some discussion about chia seeds containing a concentrated amount of phytate, an anti-nutrient which binds many minerals making them unavailable for absorption. For this reason I only use them on occasion. Everything in moderation as the saying goes. I store these in the fridge dry and soak a serving in cold water the night prior to using them. Chia seeds can be found a most grocery, health food stores and Costco.

Dandelion Greens pack a powerful punch too. I am particularly fond of Dandelions, as they were the first flower my daughter learned to pick and smell and the first flower she gave me. You can find them growing freely in our grass and garden beds. A part of the Sunflower family, they have a rich history in folk herbal medicine. They pack over 500% RDV of Vitamin K, an important bone builder, and is also documented to limit neuron damage in the brain. They are also high in vitamin A (carotenoid), C, B6, calcium, iron, potassium, folate, magnesium and flavonoids. Dandelion greens are said to be a blood purifier and aid in settling digestion, regulating liver function and normalizing blood sugar levels. All parts of the Dandelion are edible. The ANDI score for Dandelion greens is around 347. Dandelion greens can be found in the produce section of most grocery stores. Alternately, you can grow them in organic dirt in your backyard and pick the leaves just before the flower blooms.

The difference between a flower and a weed is a judgement -author unknown

Turnip greens are another ingredient that scores the highest (1000) on the ANDI scale. It is considered a cruciferous vegetable. They are a good source of Omega 3 and 6, vitamin K, A, C, folate, calcium, copper, manganese. Turnips with greens can be found in the produce section of most grocery stores. Alternately, you can grow them in organic dirt in your backyard and pick the leaves throughout the growing season.

What is the best way to buy beets at the grocery store? With the tops on of course! Buying with the tops still intact ensures they are the freshest and provide a source of nutrient dense greens for the price of the beets – twice the bang for your buck! Beet greens supply about 2g protein, and are high in vitamin A, C, K, calcium, phosphorus, zinc and iron.

Swiss Chard claims health benefits ranging from helping to regulate blood sugar levels to improving digestion, lowering blood pressure, increasing bone strength and preventing various types of cancer. The first documented use of chard in cooking was in Sicily. Rich in vitamins K, C, E, B6, and minerals including magnesium, potassium, iron, and copper. The ANDI score for chard is 1000. Chard can be found in the produce section of most grocery stores. Alternately, you can grow chard in organic dirt in your backyard and pick leaves as needed.

Frozen strawberries, blueberries and blackberries are high in antioxidants and vitamins as well. They score 182, 132 and 111, respectively on the ANDI scale. Frozen berries can be found in the freezer isle of the grocery store or Costco.

Bananas are a good source of potassium, B-6, Magnesium and about 1.3g of protein. The banana is optional, but does lend a smooth quality as well as a bit of sweetness to the shake.

How Do You Get Your Greens In Each Day?

Our family tends to feel best when we start or finish the day with a green shake. Try starting your day with a heaping serving of micro-nutrients. Get your greens and let me know what you think in the comments below!

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Diapers and Potty TrainingTravel

The Best Potty for Potty Training A Toddler

Best-Infant-Potty
9.8tech score

This is not a paid review, and I did not receive any discounts on this product in exchange for my opinions.
Looking for an infant potty seat? Look no further! Here’s how I found the best potty for potty training a toddler. If you read my last post on potty training you know that I used elimination communication with my daughter as an infant and into her early toddler months. We worked with her recently to transition to training pants and stop using diapers (except at night). I found a Travel Potty on Amazon a few months ago that was compact and easy to use, but didn’t want to spend money on another infant potty training toilet; we had one that my daughter liked already. It wasn’t until we took a recent trip out of state to visit family that I broke down and bought this Travel Potty by Cool Gear. Hands down, it is the best potty for potty training a toddler. As soon as I opened the box it I wished that I had purchased this infant potty seat months ago.

What Makes A Good Travel Potty?

Think minimalist. I wanted the potty to be compact enough to fit into an adult backpack. The potty needed to be light enough for my 20 month old to carry. I didn’t want to have to purchase any “special” product-specific bags to use the potty. Of course, the best potty for potty training would be one that I could seal and dispose of waste without having to wash the potty out after each use. – Think of all the stuff you could leave at home: water jug, clorox wipes, rags or paper towels…

Well the Travel Potty by Cool Gear scores points for all the aforementioned features. Additional points are given for side storage for extra clothes and a small book and/or place to stash a small reward or two. The seat surface is smooth and easy to wipe clean, and it has click-lock folding legs that make it feel super sturdy when set up. Best feature of all, it works with standard gallon size zip-lock bags, which fit under the toilet seat. So, not only is the part you touch to close the bag is never soiled, your child doesn’t have to sit on a plastic bag to go potty. Score! I know that may sound weird, but try to get a toddler to sit their bare butt on a piece of plastic and not want to play with it or scream about the way it feels weird (or sweaty in the summer).

There are only two minor drawbacks I found to the Travel Potty by Cool Gear. While the potty functions great, the packaging had no directions on how it folded and unfolded. I was excited when I got it, and opened it up right away. Legs of the potty unfolded and clicked into place easily, however, I couldn’t figure out how to fold the darn thing back up. There were no instructions with the potty or on the box. I think i nearly broke it trying to fold it back up-thankfully it was well made. When I unfolded it again, I noticed there are two tabs on the inside of the legs which say “push”. When you push them the legs easily fold back to their original compact position. The only other drawback, is that the potty seat is circular, and doesn’t have a very large “horn” in the front to redirect pee back into the potty. So I’ve taught my daughter to lean forward a little when she goes instead of leaning back and the problem was solved. Imagine my surprise the first time she used the potty though.

Needless to say, this potty goes with us everywhere. Whether we’re going to the grocery store, at the park, library, in the back yard, to Grandpa’s house, you can bet we have this potty with us! Bug loves it, and our routine is simple. If we’re out and about, she tries to go before we leave on the “big potty” in the house. Then when we arrive, she tries to go again. I set up the travel potty on the floor board, or sometimes the back of the truck. If we are going to a museum or theme park we’ll just throw it in the backpack. She’s reminded that we are going into a store or to play, but if she needs to go potty she is to tell me so we can stop to go potty. I tell her if she goes in her pants we will need to take a long time to clean up the mess (to which she replies a guttural “ukkkkkkck” in disgust).

This routine has really worked well for us. We’ve only had one public accident, which happened at the grocery store checkout counter, and it barely leaked through her pants thanks to the toddler training pants that she was wearing, click here to read more about those!

Since turning two last month, Bug has eliminated accidents during the daytime. As a reward she graduated to Big Girl panties that she got to pick out. She’s excited to wear them and they are easier for her to pull up and down because they are less bulky. She still wears a diaper at night time, because, well frankly, we’re only two months from welcoming a new baby into our world. This pregnancy has me exhausted, and tackling night time potty trips is a bit daunting for me at the moment. We are all proud of her success and growth in the last few months.

Best-Infant-Travel-Potty

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Mama

Annnnd I’m Back! With Big News To Share

Big-Sister-Baby-Brother

Big News! Our Little Family Is Growing

It’s been a while since my last post, but I am still here and still loving mama life. In fact I love it so much we decided to add another kiddo to the mix. We are so blessed!

Since finding out the good news at the end of last year, we’ve been working diligently to get our house in order and prepare our toddler for becoming a big sister. She is doing great and I know she’ll make a great big sis. She helps out around the house and is loving her new big girl room (more on that later). Bug is now fully potty trained and proudly sporting Lightning McQueen and Tow-Mater panties that she insisted we buy for her. A major key to success was finding the best travel potty and taking it with us everywhere we go.

We’ve also worked to button up some of our lingering house projects like landscaping the backyard, clearing out the junk room (yes, we not only had a junk drawer, we had a whole room), and organizing our storage for maximum livability with minimum stress over toddler safety.

We look forward to welcoming the newest addition to our family in late August! Only three more months to go. I won’t leave you hanging any longer: Over the next few months stay tuned for Summer gardening info, preparations for the arrival of our little boy, tips on beating the heat and having some summer fun with our 2-year old!


Impromptu Photoshoot for Gender Reveal, Photo Credit: Aunt E

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Micro FarmerPlanting

Garden Planting Schedule Spring 2017

Happy-Harvest

With the Winter season coming into its final month here in the southwest desert, it is that time of year to start planting again. I love planning my garden planting. At the bottom of this post you will find my garden planting schedule for Spring 2017.

Garden Planning Resources

Important components of a good garden plan include the schedule of when to plant which plants, the best days for planting each type seed, and the actual layout accounting for companion crops (that’s a whole ‘nother post). I use this FREE guide from Farmer’s Almanac determine best planting times for specific crops in my local area. They list counties and cities for every state. I’ve found this resource to also be highly accurate when combined with their Gardening by the Moon Calendar . This Free planting guide is based on the age-old wisdom of how the moon’s phase and position affects the growth of crops.

The theory behind gardening by the moon is that Earth is affected by the gravitational pull of the sun and the moon. The moon’s pull is greater because of it’s proximity to Earth, even though it’s mass is much smaller. This force affects the rising and falling of the tides, air currents on earth and the occurrence of thunderstorms. It is greatest when at Full Moon and New Moon phase. Interestingly, the water content of the earth follows the same tide cycle as the major bodies of water on earth. More water in the soil means seeds sprout and grow better, with a stronger start. So, it makes sense to follow the moon for key planting times. Direct experience over the last several years planting my garden confirms that this works. Last year I purposefully planted a few seeds on days that were considered poor for planting and while the plants did grow, the yield from these plants ranged from bleak to nothing at all.

Ute York, in her book “Living by the Moon” says:

“The old-time gardeners say, “With the waxing of the moon, the earth exhales. ” When the sap in the plants rise, the force first goes into the growth above ground. Thus, you should do all activities with plants that bear fruit above ground during a waxing moon. With the waning of the moon, the earth inhales. Then, the sap primarily goes down toward the roots. Thus, the waning moon is a good time for pruning, multiplying, fertilizing, watering, harvesting, and controlling parasites and weeds”
“Living by the Moon”, by Ute York. Bluestar Communications. Woodside, CA 1997

Now you know the method to my gardening madness. Below is my planting plan for the next two months. Succession planting of single-harvest items will keep your fridge or root cellar stocked as long as possible. I always plant garlic, carrots, celery, parsnips and onion sets in approximately two week intervals, Leafy greens in 3-4 week intervals. This staggers your harvest, and extends the life of those crops. Once these veggies get growing, we rarely have to purchase from the grocery store, and we get to eat organic produce for pennies. Another bonus is that my daughter will grow up knowing exactly where her food comes from and hopefully have respect for the effort that it takes to grow it! She’s already had a blast helping me plant peas this week!

Garden Planting Schedule Spring 2017

February
2nd & 3rd, & 26th: Sugar Snap Peas, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Celery
13th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 25th: Garlic, Onion, Beets, Carrots, Parsnips, Potatoes (not sweet)
16th, 17th & 26th: Kale, Lettuce, Spinach, Swiss Chard

March
2nd, 3rd, 29th, 30th: Above Ground Crops, Corn, Lettuce, Peppers, Tomato, Celery
6th, 7th, 25th, 26th: Beans, Cucumber, Summer Squash, Zucchini,
13th, 14th, 20th, 21st, 25th, 26th: Root Crops, Onion, Beets, Carrots, Leeks, Radish,
15th & 16th: Leafy Greens, Lettuce, Swiss Chard
25th, 26th: Watermelon, Eggplant, Melon, Strawberries

What garden planting schedule or planning resources have you found useful? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below. Happy planting!

Below are a few links to products that I’ve used and found to be great gardening tools for very little investment.

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Diapers and Potty TrainingMama

Early Potty Training – Save Money (Over $1300)

Training-Potty

What if I told you I haven’t changed a poopy diaper since my daughter was 4 months old – would you believe me? Well, it’s true! No, I don’t have a full-time nanny to take care of the smelly task for me either. While all my other new-mom friends were lamenting the messy “blow outs” and stinky toddler poo diapers, I just had to laugh. And, I really smiled on the inside when I found out how much i’ve saved without any coupon clipping – over $1300! Want to know my secret? It’s elimination communication, infant or early potty training. It works more like mom & dad are trained to pickup on baby’s cues and react accordingly. We started when Bug was around 3 months old and haven’t looked back.

Infant Potty Training History

Before you think I’m crazy, hear me out. What do you think parents did before disposable diapers? Yes, in the late 1800s to early 1900s there were cloth diapers, but prior to that, and in developing countries still today, families rely on elimination communication or early potty training.
In fact, in the USA in the 1950’s 95% of all children were potty t
rained by 18 months. By the 1980’s about half of all parents used disposable diapers and the number of children were potty trained by 18 months declined to about 50%. Today only approximately 10% of children are potty trained by 18 months.

Benefits of Early Potty Training

  • Few to No Messy Diapers To Clean Up After
  • Reduced Diaper Expenses
  • Gives Your Child Dignity To Not Sit In Their Own Waste & Makes Use of Natural Infant Hygiene
  • No Diaper Rash – Ever! Nope, Not Even A Little Rash
  • Way Healthier For Little Girls, Especially Those Prone To Bladder Infections
  • Babies Are Ready & Eager To Learn, So Why Not Teach Them A Vital Life Skill?
  • Earth Friendly
  • No Need To Rinse Cloth Diapers In The Toilet Prior to Washing
  • Baby Never Gets Used To Sitting In Wet/Dirty Diaper, Making Complete Potty Training A Breeze
  • For Those Who Are Consistent, Full Potty Training Can Be Achieved As Early As 12-20 Months of Age
  • Can Use Elimination Communication Full-time, At Home Only, Or Part Time, As It Fits Your LIfestyle
  • Did I Mention It SAVES BIG $$ On Diaper Expenses!!!

How Elimination Communication Works: It’s Easier Than You Think

  1. It is easiest to start anywhere from 1 week to 3 months after birth, but can begin as late as 16-18 Months.
  2. Spend a few days watching your baby closely for cues prior to going pee or poo, usually they will make a face or a certain sound just prior to relieving themselves. Sometimes they will pause for a few seconds from their activity to eliminate. There is almost always a pattern/habit.
    It can be easier to do with observation a few hours a day with baby naked on a cloth changing pad or blanket with a puppy pee pad underneath. I love this cloth changing pad that a friend gave me as a gift. They are around $15 and I plan to buy a few more when we have kid #2.(Not an affiliate link, just an honest opinion)
  3. After you feel confident you’ve begun to identify your baby’s cues, begin acting on them. The goal is to start teaching your child to make the connection between the physical sensation that precedes elimination and the location where they should eliminate. So, when you notice your baby is about to go, take her/him to an infant potty, the sink, toilet or other receptacle and hold them over it while making a signal noise such as “psssss” or “wissss” or “poop” (we actually used the Super Mario Bros theme song with all high notes changed to “poop” for our little one’s poop cue – gotta keep it fun, LOL)
  4. Continue doing this as consistently as possible and after a few a few days to a few weeks (depending on age when started) your little one will actually begin to wait a few seconds to a minute for your cue.
  5. We replaced the majority of diaper use with training pants. I bought a few different types, some from China with cute animals on the butt, some lightly padded hanes underpants in the smaller sizes, and some Scotty Potty padded underpants. I had to purchase all of them online, since early potty training isn’t very common these days. The Scotty Potty padded pants were our favorite, hands-down. If given a choice, Bug always chooses to wear the Scotty Potty pants too. Though they are made for boys, they have a more absorbent lining and they must be more comfy too.


Voila your little one is virtually trained, or well, actually, you are trained which will help your tot out in the long run and save you from stinky toddler poo messes later on!

Additional Tips (From Experience)

    Consistency is key, but we never stressed over a missed potty. We only used this at home and later on long road trips. When Bug was about 18 months we started bringing her potty out on errands and play dates.

  • You will have people (read: Family) tell you you’re crazy, harming your child, etc. Not true. “Back in the day” this was the primary way things were done. You may also have the old-school relative tell you how their kids were trained when they were 12 months, 10, 9, or even “6 months – what are you waiting for?”. Really you just have to do what is right for you and your child.
  • This is where a steam mop entered my life. It is one of my favorite cleaning tools and will sanitize the floor with no chemicals if your little one has an accident. Read my unpaid review of the Oreck Steam-It Mop here.
  • Afraid of the initial mess? Grab some cloth pre-folds or towels to care your baby around on while you are first learning their cues. Lay the baby on these during tummy time as well. Like I said above, I used a KangaCare Cloth Changing pad and loved it. Throw them in the wash as needed. This will help you to learn to recognize their cues without having to check their diaper.
  • As your baby grows into a toddler, the transition to independent toilet use changes things a bit. Once they begin to walk, I found it useful to reward my daughter with praise and stickers to encourage her. Later as she was even more mobile and really began asserting her independence we started using a chart system. She would go on the potty and then get a star on the whiteboard. Every three stars she would get to play an educational game on my phone or watch a 7 minute video of her favorite show. As a bonus this helped her learn to count to three by the time she was 16 months! The key is to find what interests and motivates your child. We tried a “treasure chest” of new toys, puzzles and books she could choose from, but it wasn’t as strong a motivator for her.
  • Changes in routine for my child always brought about a new challenge. We recently had our backyard landscaped and began playing outside after breakfast every day. I learned that I needed to bring our potty chair outside for a visual reminder, and so that she didn’t feel her outside time was cut short by going inside to potty.

This process isn’t for everyone, and I don’t look down on those who choose to go the new-conventional route of potty training at 3, 4, or even 5 years old. Early potty training is time consuming when you first start out. Some days feel like you hoover over a toilet 50% of the time, especially when they are babies and go more frequently. You tend to watch the clock more closely, 45 min, okay, “let’s try to go potty…again”. When they are toddlers you turn into a broken record “Tell mama when you need to go potty, please”.

All-in-all, I am grateful that we stuck to early potty training. I would rather instill these habits now, than when I am dealing with a stronger-willed threenager with more deeply ingrained diaper habits. On the upside, our 20-month old has learned to count to 12, can verbally communicate when she needs to go potty and wears a look of pride when she accomplishes her goal of making it through the day without an accident.

Bonus: We’ve also saved nearly 75% what a traditional household spends on diapers in the first two years (or over $1300). According to Jessie’s calculations from MoolaSavingMom.com the average family buys about 175 Jumbo packs worth of diapers in the first two years, and at an average of $10 per pack, that’s $1750 in diapers alone! Let’s be honest, when it comes to raising kids, we could all use a few extra bucks in our pocket.Save-Money-Early-Potty-Training

What are your experiences with potty training? If you had another baby on the way would you consider early potty training, or elimination communication?

Here are quick links to check out our favorite training pants:

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Dinner Ideas

Crave-able Chicken Casserole

craveable-chicken-casserole2

Winter is the best time for comfort foods. Warm, hearty, rich meals that call to you when it’s chilly outside. Anytime is a good time for eat-some & freeze-some meals. Crave-able Chicken Casserole is a family favorite. It’s a recipe that I’ve shared with friends more times than I can count. Although I’ve made a few tweaks to the recipe, I must give credit to my brother-in-law for passing along the recipe to us: many thanks bro!

What is in a good casserole? Protein, veggies, sauce, carbs, and of course, cheese. The crave-able chicken casserole has it all. You probably know I am a big advocate of non-GMO foods and in my house we do our best to grow our own veggies and fruits. When we can’t grow ‘em, I make sure that I do my best to buy organic veggies, or exclusively grass-fed, or free-range meats. I make sure the dairy I buy comes from cows not treated with RBST, which is a synthetic hormone that causes the cow to produce more milk than is natural. I don’t have any paid or affiliate links in this post but will list which brands I’ve found that are produced without GMOs.

Crave-able Chicken Casserole Recipe

  • approximately 12 Chicken Thighs
  • 2 Large Cans Cream of Chicken Soup (I prefer homemade dbl batch)
  • 2 Boxes Herb Seasoned Stuffing (I prefer Mrs. Cubbisons)
  • 3-4 Carrots, washed and sliced
  • 3-4 stalks of Celery, washed and chopped
  • 1 Medium Yellow Onion, chopped
  • 8-16 oz of Cheese, shredded (I prefer Tillamook cheddar)

Season and grill the chicken thighs. Meanwhile wash and chop your veggies and shred the cheese if not pre-shredded. Remove thighs from grill, making sure not to over cook, set aside. Place water according to Stuffing directions into a pot with veggies and set to boil. Once boiling add stuffing and mix, cover and turn off heat, set aside. Chop or shred chicken into small pieces. In a separate pot, add the soup and one can of water, mix and allow to come to a slow simmer, stirring occasionally. Fluff stuffing with a fork after 5-10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Take out two 13×9 pans. Add soup to cover bottom of pans, then layer with stuffing. Layer chicken on top, then more soup, more stuffing, more chicken and finally cheese. Repeat with the second pan. Depending on how generous you are with your layers, you may only have enough for a second 8×8 pan.

Place one pan in the oven for 30 min. This will help the flavors to meld and the cheese to melt. Cover the other pan and stick it in the freezer for a no-prep dinner another day.

Craveable Chicken Casserole
Craveable Chicken Casserole

Dish up your Crave-able Chicken Casserole and enjoy! I like to use a knife to line out serving sizes in the pan before scooping it out with a spatula, it helps me to know how much i’ve indulged, LOL. We don’t drink sodas anymore, but back-in-the-day when we did, the best pairing for this dish was an ice-cold Coca Cola Classic. Yum!

In our house Crave-able Chicken Casserole goes by many names: Chicken Slop, Chicken Goodness, Chicken Puke (My husband’s favorite). It isn’t a pretty plated dish, but it sure does taste good.

Over the years I’ve experimented with adding (on different occasions) croissant rolls to the top of the dish, pie crust to the bottom, with leftover turkey instead of chicken, and served with homemade cranberry sauce as a dip on the side. They all came out yummy, but I still prefer the basic recipe as it is posted.

Let me know how yours turns out and if you have any tasty modifications you made, please share them with us in the comments below!

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Mama

My Prayer For Those Fighting Addiction

sunrise-light-prayer

I spent last half of the past year trying to figure out how to best reconnect and help someone very dear to me who has an addiction problem. After only a very superficial small success with reconnecting, I began to wonder how many others have similar experiences with a friend, Aunt, Uncle, Sister, Brother, Child or Parent. The feeling of not being able to do anything to help a loved one to break the cycle of addiction and self destruction can be heartbreaking. Heading into the new year, I thought it would be appropriate to share with you how I maintain hope through prayer for those fighting addiction.

The holiday season can be particularly hard for those who are battling with an addiction problem. Often family ties that are strained or severed, due to the erratic and irrational behavior caused by the addiction, are particularly difficult to reckon with during a time of year that is about friends and family and sharing how much you care. There is a tendency for the addict to maintain a facade, to constantly lie or to just disappear, to avoid the pressure of their family’s expectations.

Addiction is something nobody likes to talk about; Not the addict, not the family, nor friends, nor children who are affected by the addict’s behavior. But the hard truth is nearly everyone has at least one family member or friend who has an addiction problem.

Now, I would describe myself as more spiritual than religious. Yet, when I lay my head on my pillow at night and when I wake each morning I literally recount the things that I am grateful for and then I say a prayer for the people I know who are afflicted by addiction. I know how helpless it can feel to watch people you love continue to make horrible choices. For me, this small daily act provides hope. Which is why I wanted to share this prayer with you.

My prayer for those fighting addiction:

  • I pray that you find inner peace; That you realize what truly matters in life and that you focus your actions around this.
  • I pray that you open your heart to a higher power, and accept the strength which comes through that relationship.
  • I pray that rather than a foundation of sand, you use the strength from that newfound relationship to rebuild your life on a rock. An immovable, solid foundation that will outlast the turbulence and turmoil, the cravings and the loneliness, and will provide you with the basis for lasting inner peace.
  • I pray that from that rock you find your tribe; your extended family of people who really do want to see you succeed, not just in on the surface but in living an abundant life that truly matters.
  • I pray that you help yourself decide to own your current situation and absolve yourself of all influences that helped enable you to arrive and stay in your present situation.
  • I pray that from your newfound family you find strength to engage your willpower to leave your past connections in the past.
  • I pray that you know that I am here to listen to you when you need to talk.
  • I pray that you know that I will help support you along your difficult journey.
  • I also pray that you know that I will not enable you to hide from your demons nor will I enable you to continue down a destructive path.
  • I pray that you are able to return to a life where you know that you deserve the love that is bestowed upon you. And where you love and respect yourself enough to not take your life for granted any longer.

Prayer Transforms and Heals

Research has proven the influential power of positive intention, positive thinking and positive prayer. One of my favorite studies on this was done by Dr. Masaru Emoto, from which he produced a free ebook for children.

The study is a demonstration of the effects of thought, words, prayer and music on energy. Since everything is made of energy, Dr. Emoto directed specific thoughts to water and froze it, which very apparently affected the patterns in which ice crystals formed on freezing water. In the same wayt, a prayer for those fighting addiction is a form of positive energy or intentions. So, even though you may not be able to do something for your loved one that produces immediate and tangible results, your prayer and positive thoughts are as important as ever before.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. -Reinhold Niebuhr

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Dessert

Fall Caramel Apple Pie – Yum!

apples-caramel-apple-pie

What do you do when a friend gives you two grocery bags full of the best little apples? You make a fall apple pie of course! But not just any apple pie. Today we are making the best Caramel Apple Pie you’ve ever tasted. Yum!

Fall Caramel Apple Pie
Fall Caramel Apple Pie

Caramel Apple Pie Recipe

1 Pie Crust (boxed, Ice Water or Granola)

Pie Filling

  • 5-6 Large Apples or 10-12 Small Apples
  • 1.5 TBS Cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp Nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp Ginger (optional)
  • Pinch of Cardamom (optional)
  • 1/2 C Brown Sugar

Streusel Topping

  • 1/4 C Packed Brown Sugar
  • 2 TBS Flour
  • 2 TBS Butter, Melted
  • 1/4 tsp + Pinch More Cinnamon
  • 1/2 C Pecans, Chopped

Caramel Topping

  • 1 Can Sweetened Condensed Milk

About 8 hours before making your pie, open a can of sweetened condensed milk, pour about 2/3 of the can into a pint sized mason jar and seal the lid. Place in crock pot full of water (covering the mason jar by about an inch) and set to low for about 8 hours. Place remaining sweetened condensed milk in a ziplock bag in the fridge.

Prepare your pie crust. Take apple coring tool and core washed apples. Slice in half and then in rings about 1/4” thick. As you work, place sliced apples in a bowl of cold water with juice of 1/2 lemon to prevent browning.

Once finished slicing apples, drain the water from your bowl and dry apple slices on a tea towel or paper towels. Place back in dry bowl. Add pie filling spices and brown sugar and mix well. Next, arrange apples slices in pie pan on top of crust.

Add several thin tabs of butter on top of apples.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Now we will make the streusel topping. Mix brown sugar, flour, nuts and cinnamon together with a fork. Then add in melted butter. Stir until well combined. Sprinkle evenly over top of the apples.


Bake at 425 degrees for 40-45 minutes. Use a pie ring or foil to cover the edges of the pie crust after the first 10 minutes of baking. After baking time is complete, remove from oven.
Dulce De Leche Apple Pie
Caramel Apple Pie

Allow to cool completely. Now, take your caramel topping from the crock pot and pour into a small bowl. Mix in the remaining sweetened condensed milk from the fridge. Use a whisk and mix well until it is smooth. Drizzle this over top of the Apple Pie. Slice and enjoy a bite of homemade caramel apple pie goodness.

I think the caramel topping is more of a dulce de leche flavor, which works really well for a Caramel Apple Pie and any leftover can be put on the scoop of vanilla ice cream that goes with your pie. Yum! If you still have leftover caramel topping, put it back in a mason jar, seal and store in the fridge. It will keep for about 5-7 days.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Ice Water Pie Crust

1 Cup Flour
1 Stick Butter, Frozen and Cubed
1-2 TBS Ice Water

Mix in food processor until small beads of dough form, give a few pulses more. Put dough on floured surface, roll to just large enough to cover pie pan. Try not to handle dough more than necessary to avoid transferring heat from hands to dough.

Tip: If your pie turns out “soupy”, next time either dry the apples more thoroughly or add in a tablespoon of Corn Starch (non-gmo of course!) to the apple filling spice mix.

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Mama

Cure A Cold Fast (In 1 Day)

cure-a-cold-fast

Getting sick sucks. It sucks even harder when you have a toddler who is all up in your face all day long. You just want to keep your germs to yourself and curl up on the couch with your Kleenex box and jug of water. So, you give in and put in the Frozen dvd and hope that buys you an hour and a half of peace. Your little one is still right there comforting you, jumping on your head and stomach, knocking over your glass of water and trying to get you to play! Quick, you need to cure a cold fast.

Well that is how I spent last Saturday. Luckily I don’t get sick often anymore. In fact, last time i was sick was over 3.5 years ago. Being sick is a good reminder to be grateful for our good health, as it is one of the easiest things to take for granted. After all morning of Bug dancing on me and begging for my attention, I relented and turned on a movie in the afternoon. The next day I felt 99% better and I wanted to share my go to routine for the times when someone in our house gets sick with the cold or the flu. It has never failed to return us to good health quickly. Here is how we cure a cold fast.

Note: I am not a doctor, nor am I posing as one. See my full disclaimer at the bottom of this article. I recommend a consult with your doctor if you are taking certain prescription medications where contraindications may occur with certain foods.

Cure A Cold Fast

  1. Sinus Wash, 3-4 times during the day, using distilled water and sterile buffered solution
  2. Chicken Noodle Soup with Cayenne pepper, as hot as you can stand for lunch and dinner
  3. Crush a clove of garlic between two teaspoons, add honey to cover the garlic and gulp it down (take my husband’s hard learned lesson and do not chew). Do this 2-3 times
  4. Drink lots of filtered water (more than 8, 8oz glasses), add 1 TBS of Raw Apple Cider Vinegar per 16oz
  5. Gargle with warm salt water
  6. Do not eat any sugar, or refined foods (except noodles in the soup)
  7. Eliminate dairy from your diet for at least a week
  8. Get as much extra sleep as possible (Queue the laughter, no but seriously, its an important one)

You Want Me To Do What?! Here Is Why:

I want you to cure a cold fast! Your nose may feel like a leaky faucet, but your sinuses are likely getting gunked up with goo that could lead to infection or prolonged illness. Sinus wash can be found at your local pharmacy, usually on the cold remedy isle. In my non-professional opinion, this is really the only cold remedy that is worth buying. There are many brands, but Neti Pot is the best known. I have used several brands and they all seem to work the same, but Neti Pot only has one ingredient, which is nice. Make sure you use Distilled water. These washes work by rinsing your sinuses with a saline solution, which works to dissolve mucus and reduce inflammation. It’s like your mama’s remedy for sore throat “gargle with salt water”, but for your sinus cavity.

There is something special about chicken noodle soup when you are sick. I prefer a homemade bone broth soup, but lets face it we don’t always have that sitting in our freezer. Store bought soup still does the trick. Add in some cayenne pepper and you amp up the healing power tremendously. According to traditional Chinese Medicine, Cayenne pepper targets the spleen, stomach, lungs, and large intestine and moves qi, dispels cold, warms the middle and lungs. It is known for thinning mucus which reduces the symptoms of the cold as well. There are contraindications for using cayenne pepper, so be sure to look into those if you are taking other medications, like blood thinners or aspirin to name a few. I also understand that it shouldn’t be given to children under 2 years old, not sure what kid would actually eat anything with cayenne pepper in it, but thought it was worth mentioning.

Cure A Cold Fast with Cayenne Pepper
Cayenne Pepper

Garlic has allicin which has been used for centuries and a natural antiviral and anti-fungal. The clove must be crushed and allowed to sit for about 5 minutes to fully activate the allicin compound. Honey, specifically raw honey, also has antiviral properties. Combine them so that you can swallow the garlic without gagging. Yes, you’ll smell like a pasta factory for a few days, but there are worse things to smell like… Garlic also acts as a blood thinner, and honey shouldn’t be given to infants under 1 year of age.

Apple Cider Vinegar that is unprocessed and unfiltered has the “mother” intact and is beneficial to your gut’s good bacteria. Add a bit to your water and it actually helps to alkalize your body. Most of us eat processed foods and have habits that make our bodies more acidic than they should be, which weakens our immune response. As acidic as this vinegar tastes, the effect once consumed is alkalizing.

Sugar is inflammatory, which provokes an immune system response, and if your body is already busy trying to attack the cold, you don’t want to distract your immune system with any extra enemies. Eliminate the sugar. And the processed foods. Yes, that includes the sugar drinks, including Gatorade, Powerade, Vitamin Water, etc.

Dairy is also an inflammatory, and mucus multiplying food. Eliminate it, at least while you are sick and in the few days following your recovery.

Sounds like a no-brainer, but sleep is essential to recovery. Us mamas rarely get the sleep we need when we aren’t sick. “How am I going to get extra sleep”, you ask? Tell you husband or SO that weekend plans are off and he’s on full-time kid duty. Phone a friend if you have to, and bribe them to entertain your little one for a few hours while you get some sleep. Nap when they nap and go to bed early.

I know it seems like a lot of torturous things to do when you don’t feel like doing anything at all, but to cure a cold fast, I haven’t found anything better. I promise that our family uses this every time we get hit with the cold or flu and we are back on our feet in no time. So, toughen up buttercup! Bite the bullet! And all those fun phrases of encouragement. A fast cold remedy is at your fingertips.

It’s your health, take care of it, because you are worth it. I wish you the speediest recovery.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or registered nutritionist. I do not claim to cure any cause, condition or disease. I do not provide medical aid or nutrition for the purpose of health or disease and claim to be a doctor or dietitian.

This is merely an opinion blog. The information held on this blog is merely the opinion of a laymen individual. The research and information covered in this blog is open to public domain for discussion and in no way breaches or breaks the boundaries of the law in any state of the the United States of America where I live. I am not a doctor nor do I claim to have any formal medical background. I am not liable, either expressly or in an implied manner, nor claim any responsibility for any emotional or physical problems that may occur directly or indirectly from reading this blog.

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DIYFun and Games

DIY Bubbles Recipe – Giant Bubbles

giant-bubble-solution-diy-3

Bubbles bubbles in the air, bubbles bubbles everywhere! Who doesn’t love to play with bubbles!? Small bubbles, giant bubbles, double-bubbles, bubbles that you can catch and bubbles that you can race. Bubbles are a great sensory science play opportunity, as well as an awesome excuse to linger outside and soak up this beautiful Fall weather we’re experiencing in the southwest. While playing one day, I noticed that our bubbles all came from China or Mexico which made me a little wary of the ingredients. Plus, bubble soap is expensive when you look at the per ounce price. This set me on a mission to make my own – DIY Bubbles Recipe. I wanted a strong solution that we could use for blowing giant bubbles and for having bubble races.

Giant Bubble String Wand DIY
Giant Bubble String Wand DIY

After testing many recipes I found online, (and suffering serious dry hands from a few bad recipes) here is the DIY bubbles recipe that I ended up making. I absolutely love it:

DIY Bubbles Recipe

  • 3 Cups Distilled Water
  • 1/2 Cup Blue Ultra Dawn
  • 1/4 Cup Agave Nectar (or Karo Syrup)
  • 1/2 tsp Glycerin (optional)

Use a wire whisk to mix all ingredients slowly. Take care not to form too much foam or bubbles on the surface. Carefully pour into a shallow pan, (i used an aluminum disposable pan) and bust out the giant bubble blowers! Voila, awesome GREEN bubbles. We call them hulk bubbles, or if you’re Irish: lucky leprechaun bubbles. If foamy bubbles form in the pan from pouring, allow them to settle/pop. Bubbles on the surface will steal the bubble fluid from your wand as you lift it from the solution.

Fun Bubble Play Ideas:

  • Blow giant bubbles with wands created from wire hangers
  • Create a string bubble wand with two straws, a needle and a piece of yarn. Thread the yarn onto the needle, then push the needle through one end of each straw. Then tie a knot to form a loop. Hold the straws and dip the string completely into the solution, hold the straws apart and drag through the air to create a bubble, bring straws together to close the bubble.
  • Blow several bubbles and have your child pick one; using their breath to move the bubble, race the bubbles across a designated finish line, first one there without popping wins!
  • Catch a bubble without popping it, sometimes you can bounce them off your hand
  • Have your little one count how many bubbles they can pop before they hit the ground
  • Challenge your little ones to pop bubbles only with their right foot, left foot, pinky finger or their nose! (This makes for fun photo opportunities)
  • Take a minute to explain to an older child why bubbles float when your breath is warmer than the outside air (warmer air rises). Have them experiment by holding an ice cube in their mouth while blowing bubbles and note the change in speed at which the bubble rises or falls.

A few notes:

  • Glycerin can be found at the pharmacy first aid section or sometimes in the baking isle of the grocery store
  • I used agave nectar because it was what i had on hand, but any sugar syrup should do. Karo Syrup is cheap and effective
  • The bubbles perform better a day or two after mixing them up. Leave them out overnight and have fun with them in the morning
  • This solution works well in dry weather
  • This solution will leave your floors sticky, best used outside in grass or dirt
  • What is your favorite bubble recipe? If you try this DIY Bubble Recipe, please come back and let me know how it worked for you!

    Bubbles Sensory Play
    Bubbles Sensory Play

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