Wednesday, November 19, 2014

DIY Kool-Aid Lip Gloss (In Under 10 Minutes)!

At this busy time of year, I'm only interested in two words when it comes to DIY anything - quick and easy.  Let me tell you, this recipe embodies both of those words!  With just four ingredients, in less than ten minutes, you have a gift-worthy product that a six-year-old can make.  In fact, my six-year-old did make the lip gloss pictured above.  When she was finished, she even modeled it for us:

I found this recipe on Adventures In All Things Food and my daughter and I totally fell in love.  Kool- Aid + coconut oil + sugar + water = one happy little girl that can pick the color and flavor of her homemade lip gloss.  It doesn't get much better than that, folks.  The coconut oil in the lip gloss softens lips and gives them a nice shine, while the Kool-Aid provides a gentle stain.  Make sure to follow Andrea's instructions on how to combine the mixture, though - I tried a few different ways, and hers was by far the best.  Also, if you do let your six-year-old make the lip gloss, and you have beige counters like me, do yourself a favor and put a plastic placement underneath the mixing station.  Kool-Aid stains! :)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Ease Ear Pain With Essential Oils (Tested!)

After a bit of a sabbatical, (which, in Homeschooling Stay-at-Home Mom language means, "I'm too darn busy to write a blog post",)  I'm back to tell you about my experience using essential oils to ease ear pain.  First, let me give you a little bit of background information:  My six-year-old has a horrible history with ear infections/ear drum ruptures.  She was in day care for the first three years of her life, during which time she suffered from almost constant ear infections (and two ear drum ruptures), jumping from one antibiotic to another to yet another, and often, the meds didn't work very quickly (sometimes they didn't work at all).  At that time, I was completely ignorant to alternative methods of treating ear infections or ear pain, and I almost feel guilty for my ignorance, because I could have saved her a LOT of suffering.  Long story short, I refused to have her tonsils/adenoids removed when she was ten months old, and elected to take the "wait and see" approach.  By the time she was fifteen months old, the ear infections began to slow down, practically coming to a stop by the age of two.  Since then, she has gotten approximately one ear infection per year, if that, but her ears do seem to be a weak point, and are usually affected by respiratory infections where there is a lot of drainage involved.

That being said, a few weeks ago she contracted a respiratory virus with lots of drainage involved.  It was a rather mild cold, though, and seemed to begin to resolve with the usual regimen of Fire Cider and Elderberry Elixir (click on the words to link to recipes/info).  However, by the fifth day, she began to complain about ear pain/popping, which is usually a sure precursor of an ear infection for her.  In an effort to avoid a trip to the doctor (and more antibiotics), I did some research and decided to try using lemon and lavender essential oils to try and ease the pain.  To my surprise, they actually worked, and she was pain-free within 3 days and the drainage had stopped!  This was the first time we had ever successfully reversed the beginnings of an ear infection for her using a natural alternative.

How I Used Essential Oils (EOs) To Ease My Daughter's  Ear Pain Naturally:

1.) Lemon EO Mixed With Coconut Oil (Or Other Carrier Oil):  I mixed one drop of high-quality lemon essential oil** with a 1/2 teaspoon of coconut oil and rubbed it behind her ears and then under her chin and down the sides of her neck.  Many sources claim that you should put garlic mullein oil in ears to ease ear pain, but I didn't have any, and my limited knowledge of Western Herbalism led me to believe that putting a "cool, dry" oil like lemon on a "hot, wet" condition such as ear pain or infection caused by drainage would have a more favorable outcome than putting a "hot" oil of garlic on a "hot" condition.  (There would be no "cooling" or "drying" of the hot, wet condition taking place in that case.)  We did this twice per day for 2 or 3 days.

2.)  Lavender EO On A Cottonball:  I let a cotton ball with 2 drops of lavender essential oil rest in the outer part of her ear - NOT INSIDE of the actual ear canal, just resting there on the outer part.  No shoving involved!  If it fell out, she picked it up and set it back in.  We left it in for a few hours each day for 2 or 3 days.  She did mention that the cottonball approach reduced the pain while it was in, which makes sense, since Mountain Rose Herbs identifies lavender EO as containing "analgesic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory [and] antimicrobial" properties, among others.

If you give these alternatives a try, let me know how things turn out!  I'm very happy to have yet another natural remedy in my detoxed medicine cabinet.

**Not all EOs are created equal.  You can always tell when an EO is of good quality by it's smell (if you happen to have a lower-quality oil to compare it to, the difference in smell can be very significant).  Also, if it's super cheap, that's usually a red flag.  I like to purchase EOs used for medicinal or therapeutic purposes from Mountain Rose Herbs (I do not get anything to recommend them (I wish I did!) - I just really like the quality of their products).**

Monday, September 29, 2014

Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate-Chip Cookies

This cookie is perfectly paired with a hot cup of coffee or tea on a cold, rainy October day!  Unfortunately, there is not much that is healthy about the recipe, but it can easily be made gluten-free by substituting gluten-free oats and gluten-free all-purpose flour, or 100% whole wheat pastry flour (which is what I used in the cookies pictured).  Also, I don't find the cookie to be overly sweet like other pumpkin cookies I've had in the past, and the texture is great - not too soft or wet as pumpkin-based cookies can sometimes be.  These are always a big hit in my house - everyone comes back for seconds (and sometimes thirds if I'm not carefully guarding the cookie jar)!  

Yummy Pumpkin Chocolate-Chip Oatmeal Cookies

1-1/2 cups brown sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour (unbleached or whole wheat)
1-1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice, or more to taste**
dash of ginger and nutmeg
1 cup canned pumpkin
1-1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

**Make sure to use new pumpkin pie spice - I have noticed that it loses its flavor rather quickly.  You might have to add more spice than listed above if yours is on the older side.**

Directions:  Heat oven to 350-degrees Fahrenheit.  Cream butter and sugar, beat in eggs and vanilla.  Combine the remaining ingredients.  Drop by teaspoonful onto a greased cookie sheet.  Bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool and enjoy!  (Makes about 2 dozen cookies.)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

COPYCAT Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough "Larabar" Bites

No, they don't look very appetizing, but let me tell you - these are RIDICULOUSLY GOOD.  Do they taste almost exactly like their "Larabar" counterpart?  Yes.  Do they taste like a cookie?  Absolutely yes.  Do they have any added sugar or flour?  Nope, not even a little.  Can I eat just one?  Ahh, no.  I go for at least 3 every time I touch the container they are in.

The kids love them, my picky husband likes them, and they only contain 3 ingredients.  However, after much trial and error with these types of energy balls, I have discovered two very important things:

1.)  Dates Matter.  You can't buy a package of Sunmaid dates and think you will get the same end product as you would with a fresh package of soft, Medjool dates.  I bought mine at BJ's (and they were grown without the use of pesticides - added bonus!)  Fresh Medjool dates give these a crazy soft, delicious texture, and they stick together and stay together without any problem.
2.)  Cashews make for a lovely texture and taste.  They are not as hard as almonds, and not as overpowering taste-wise as sunflower seeds or peanuts.

These are now a staple in my grain-free snack repertoire.  Do yourself a favor and reach for one of these instead of a chocolate-chip cookie the next time that craving hits!

COPYCAT Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough "Larabar" Bites


20 Medjool dates
1/2 cup cashews
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


Blend the dates by themselves in a food processor until they clump together.  Remove the dates from food processor, place them in a mixing bowl, and then add the cashews and chocolate chips to the food processor.  Process until crumbs form.  Add the cashew/chocolate chip mixture to the dates in the mixing bowl and mix together with slightly wet hands (to avoid the mixture sticking to your hands).  Once the ingredients are well incorporated, roll into bite-sized balls.  Place in an airtight container in the fridge.  Will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, but chances are they won't be around that long!

This recipe yields approximately 40 to 50 bite-sized energy balls.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Flourless Chickpea Nut Butter & M&M Cookies

Yes, that says "chickpea cookies", and yes, that means there are chickpeas IN the cookies.  Call me adventurous, call me crazy - call me whatever you want.  I'm always looking for healthier versions of my favorite cookies, and this is definitely a cheap, tasty alternative that doesn't require expensive or hard-to-find ingredients.  Just 5 ingredients, folks.  That's it.  No flour, refined sugar, butter or eggs.  Plus, they deliver in terms of taste.  That's a necessity for me when it comes to flourless anything, since foods lacking traditional ingredients are usually also lacking in flavor or texture (or both).

Which brings me to my next point:  Use a good blender or food processor, and you won't notice the "chickpea" texture.  You definitely won't notice the chickpea taste.  The cookies are soft and will stay soft, but aren't as crumbly as you might think they'd be.  They keep in the refrigerator for several days, but are still best when eaten the day they are made.  I have numerous, random experiences with GF baking, and these puppies have landed in my top 3 favorite GF cookie recipes.  Live on the wild side and give them a try - I think you might be pleasantly surprised!

Chickpea Nut Butter M&M Cookies
(Recipe adapted from My Whole Food Life)

1 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs. nut butter (I used Wow Butter soybean butter)
1/3 cup honey
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 to 3/4 cup M&Ms

Directions:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Blend chickpeas, nut butter and honey until smooth.  Stir in baking powder.  Roll into balls and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet.  Press a few M&Ms into each cookie.  Bake for approx. 15 minutes, or until cookies are lightly browned (on the top and bottom of the cookie) and slightly cracked on the edges.

Recipe makes approximately 15 cookies.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Easy Brownie Ice Cream Cake Recipe (Plus Rainbow Birthday Party Ideas!)

Who doesn't like ice cream cake, especially when there are brownies involved??  I made this Brownie Ice Cream Cake for my daughter's 6th birthday party, and it was BY FAR the easiest cake I have ever made (and very tasty, I might add). 

For this particular cake, my daughter chose Cookies n' Cream as the ice cream flavor.  The flavors worked very well together, but that's the beauty of this recipe - there are soooo many ice cream flavors to choose from.  You can even use two different types of ice cream if you want!  See below for the directions, and read on for some fun "Rainbow Birthday Party" ideas!

Easy Brownie Ice Cream Cake

1 box brownie mix (For an 8x8 pan - I used Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix)
Egg, water and oil called for in the mix
1 container ice cream of choice (I used Cookies n' Cream)
1 container Whipped Topping
Sprinkles or garnish of choice
Aluminum foil to line the pan
A 9x13-inch baking dish

Directions:  All I did was bake a box of Ghirardelli Double Chocolate brownies according to the package directions in a 9x13-inch baking dish lined with aluminum foil (the Double Chocolate kind has chocolate chips in the mix that do not melt, so you get a nice "crunch" while eating the brownie portion of the cake).  Make sure the aluminum foil hangs over the edges of the pan so that you can pull the entire cake out of the pan when it is finished.  I used the smaller-sized brownie mix in a larger pan so that the brownie would be a bit thinner, and there would still be room to add the ice cream and whipped topping.  Once the brownie is completely cooled, spread softened ice cream over it, and then spread the whipped topping over the ice cream.  Garnish with sprinkles or toppings of choice.  Freeze for at least 2 hours.  Make sure to take the cake out at least 15 min. before eating so that it can thaw a bit.  Remove the cake from the pan using the aluminum foil, remove the aluminum foil from the cake, and it is ready to eat!

Rainbow Birthday Party Ideas

Looking for ideas for my daughter's Rainbow Birthday Party on Pinterest was fun, but making the ideas a reality was a blast!  UNICORN FOOD:  The "Unicorn Food" pictured above is strawberry-flavored marshmallows on lollipop sticks.  You simply place the marshmallows on the sticks, dip them in water and roll them in sprinkles.  That's it!  The kids loved them.  We used a lot of rainbow crepe paper for decorating.  RAINBOW CAKE:  I looked at a lot of different cake pictures online, but came up with this one on my own.  The rainbow is made from a piece of cardboard with M&Ms attached to both sides with cookie icing.  (If I had to do it again, I would probably use hot glue instead, because it was VERY fragile.  I only picked it up to place it on the cake right before we blew out the candles.) It's hard to see, but there are mini marshmallow "clouds" where the rainbow inserts into the cake.  I just pushed it in and it stayed!  The unicorn is actually a salt shaker that I picked up from Target for $3.  I filled the holes with icing and they were not noticeable.  CRAFT TABLE:  One of the activities we had for the kids was a craft table - I separated beads from the Dollar Tree into "rainbow" colors in baby food jars and had twine out for the kids to make bracelets.  I did the same thing with the crayons - separated them by color and put them into baby food jars decorated with ribbons of the same color.  I printed out unicorn and dragon coloring pages, and also had some stickers, glue and construction paper available.  My daughter is very artsy, so she loved this, but only a few of the other kids actually made anything.


PRETZEL STICKS/SNACKS:  We drizzled pretzel sticks with cookie icing and sugar sprinkles to make them a little more festive.  Other snacks we had included "rainbow" fruit kabobs, coconut black bean brownies for those who had food allergies, and cheese and crackers.  UTENSIL HOLDERS:  I love Mason jars.  I use them for everything, including to hold utensils at parties.  I just added some ribbon to the top to make them a little more decorative.  RAINBOW SCAVENGER HUNT GAME:  The kids loved running around the house during this game!  I used this scavenger hunt as a general template and changed it according to my needs/house.  On the back of each clue, I glued a cute rainbow/cloud.  I placed the "treasure" under the Balloon Rainbow (see below), which included their treat bags, gemstone ring pops that I found at the Dollar Tree, and chocolate coins.

RAINBOW BALLOON GAME:  I found the idea for this game on Pinterest, but the one I saw used darts to pop the balloons.  Six-year-olds and darts just didn't seem like a good idea to me, so we modified it a bit:  Instead of using normal darts, my husband super glued a tack to the end of ONE Nerf Rebelle dart.  He then placed one craft pompom into two different balloons, so that the two kids who popped those two balloons won a prize.  Now, please note that my husband NEVER LET GO OF THE NERF REBELLE with the tack dart in it!  He held it and helped each child aim it so that no one would get hurt by the tack.  The kids had a blast popping all of the balloons!
I'm not sure who had more fun with this party theme - me or my daughter!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Coconut Black Bean Brownies

Come on, you know you want to try one.  My kids did, even though they saw the beans go in!

Despite how they smell prior to baking, these brownies are surprisingly delicious, decadent and satisfying.  I personally don't think you can find a simpler - or better - way to make flourless brownies.  I used this base recipe from Nature's Nurture Blog, and made some minor modifications, including doubling the recipe (if you're going to go through the trouble of blending the beans, you might as well make enough to fill a 9x13 pan...just sayin'.).  Take a walk on the wild side and give these a try - you won't be sorry, I promise!  I think I'm going to have one right now...

Coconut Black Bean Brownies

2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 cup virgin coconut oil
1/2 cup cocoa powder
4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (plus more for sprinkling)

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Prepare a 9x13 inch baking pan with cooking spray.  Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  Pour into a baking pan, smooth the top, and sprinkle with additional chocolate chips.  Bake for approx. 30 minutes or until the brownies pass the toothpick test.

*Note:  I keep these refrigerated.  They also freeze well.*