St. Patrick’s Day Green

I’m an Irish girl. Er. Irish-American. Whatever. But, still, the vast majority of my ancestors? Irish peasants. I’m fascinated and proud of the heritage.

That said, I’ve never used the traditional “Irish” holiday as an excuse to drink. It’s an awesome holiday, of course, but the people who tend to go all out (whether Irish or not, whether they know a lick of information about St. Patrick himself) make me shake my head. I still remember going to a college class on St. Patrick’s Day only to observe heads in garbage cans and bodies of passed-out people riddling the common areas. At 9AM. I’m not a prude, but… No. Words.

But, if you’re planning on hitting the pubs this year, try a different green beverage before donning those green beads.

We recently tried out this recipe for super-simple “beginner’s luck green smoothie.” Dave hadn’t jumped on the smoothie bandwagon yet, and none of us had tried a green smoothie. Of course, Hadley LOVED the thing, and Dave enjoyed his more than I expected. Our variation of the original goes like this…


Beginner’s Luck Green Smoothie
(adapted from 100 Days of Real Food’s recipe)2 cups spinach
1 cup milk (any kind)
1 cup water
1 banana, in chunks
1 cup frozen strawberries
1 cup pineapple chunks

Blend the spinach with the liquid until smooth. Then add the rest of the ingredients and blend until you’ve reached the consistency you prefer. (Add more liquid if you like it thinner, or use all frozen fruits or ice cubes for a thicker consistency.)

***************************************


Ours was perfectly sweet with the mix of banana, strawberries (which Hadley requested) and pineapple (although the pineapple admittedly left a few random “strands” of texture here and there), but you could drizzle in agave, honey, or a sprinkle of sugar if you need it. 

Leftovers might just help alleviate a hangover. *wink, wink*

And if you wear some green in celebration (or, um, drink green beer), here’s a little trivia for you: The green (of the Irish flag) doesn’t represent the green grasses and shamrocks of Ireland so much as it does the many Irish Catholics who died at the hands of Protestant rulers. In the 1700s and 1800s, while England and Ireland clashed, Irish persons were hanged for wearing green.

So, please. Wear it proudly.

Or drink it proudly, as the case may be.

Today’s Tip – First Edition!

I’m starting a new series that I’m lamely calling “Today’s Tip.” I’m hoping to share little tips and tricks (or “life hacks” as the kids these days are saying) to make your life just a wee bit simpler. The topics will range from parenting to cleaning to green living to just general time savers…and anything else that pops into my brain.

“Today’s Tip” is a super simple way to cut back on waste that’ll save you time, money, and one by one, the EARTH!!!

{dramatic pause}

No, really. If you’re not already doing this, it’s completely worth the tiny amount of time and effort to get on it.

I know, I know. This tip has been around forever. Yet, I know a ton of people who still buy over-priced bottles of water at work or go through the {oomph} effort it takes to lug the &$#%@*$ case of water home from the store. Switching plastic for reusable and filling it with filtered water at home is by far one of the easiest switches we’ve make, and has made a huge impact on the sheer number of water bottle waste we produce.

I also have seen several news sources cite that there’s a possibility of increased cancer risk (particularly for females) caused by drinking water from a plastic bottle that has, say, sat in a hot car (due to the leaching of chemicals into the water). I know that there was a time that I did this — regularly. I’d rather not take my chances if making such a simple change can possibly help.

Now, we happen to live in a state that now charges a 5-cent fee per bottle (meaning that you can redeem it when you bring back your bottles and cans). But, between the effort of taking back ALL those bottles and cans, and the energy used to recycle that bottle into another (and, by the way, that’s not a never-ending process; one day, the plastic will no longer be able to be melted into another item…and where do you think it goes then?), it’s still a drain on our time, energy, and environmental resources. And, really, we used to have to bring bottles back at least monthly. Now, it’s a couple of times a year (more in the summertime…ahem, beer and hard cider).

The bottle that we happen to use is the Ello flip-top glass bottle (mine is in turquoise; Dave’s is in gray). We love the glass since it’s completely free of chemicals or leaching, and the silicone provides an extra layer of protection from breakage. Dave bought me a gorgeous glass one awhile back with a wood top and beautiful design, but a student knocked it on our *cushioned* library floor and, oye, what a mess. Still can’t believe that tempered glass broke. 

And one open-and-honest caveat: With our particular model, we have to keep an eye on the latch and ensure that the top is properly screwed-on. Totally user error stuff, but I’ve had the entire contents of my purse completely submerged (a couple of times). So, yeah. Keep that in mind! 

You don’t have to get this kind, though. Klean Kanteen provides durable aluminum options that are pretty cool, too. Just be sure that whatever you purchase is at least BPA-free and suits your needs. Some people like buying a larger option to ensure that they’ll get the recommended amount of water for the day; others want a smaller, more portable option. It totally doesn’t matter. Whatever you get, just be sure that it meets all of your own criteria.

And, remember that the price is a one-time thing vs. a continual cost that adds up over time. We grabbed our bottles at Target, but they were around the $15 mark. It sounds like a lot, but if you estimate a bottle of water is $1 (in our work vending machine it’s actually $1.50, but it’s far less if you buy in bulk, so let’s take the average), you’ll be paying it off in about two weeks’ time. I kid you not, though: I love having more than one on-hand to bring along (kept in a cooler…or not, doesn’t matter) when we hit the road. It’s worth its weight in gold since I’m far less likely to grab a beverage along the way.

So, raise your hand if you already have/use your own reusable bottles! What kind do you like? Do you use them for hitting up the gym (not I, says the pig) or for daily use?

The above post may contain affiliate links. This just means that, if you happen to buy the item (or anything else from Amazon purchased after clicking that link), you’ll be supporting this blog. Win-win! You’re under no obligation to buy anything.

Anti Clorox Wipes

In a house full of cats and an active toddler around, messes are inevitable. Namely, messes of the bodily function variety.

That’s right. Cat pee and potty training smears.

It happens. Daily. Gross, but it’s kind of a moot point when you’re in love with those little rascals.

So, when we recently ran out of my OCD-ish husband’s favorite clean-up tool, disposable Clorox wipes, I found myself hesitant to buy some more. I knew full well that it was contributing to an eco-hater status, which I cringed over every time we wiped a potty seat. Plus, the nasty chemical makeup of the wipes bummed me out.

Of course, I did what every mother does when faced with a dilemma: I took to Pinterest.

There actually wasn’t as much as I thought I’d find, but I really only needed to find one great pin. And I found an awesome resource for you guys at Live Renewed. You’ve got not one but TWO recipes for a natural disinfectant.

I decided to take her Castile soap (ahem, I hope you all know we mean Dr. Bronner’s when we say that, right?) and tea tree essential oil recipe and run with it, mainly because I had all the ingredients on hand.

Side note: My essential oil experience has been a fun experiment that’s working out quite well so far, and I still haven’t ordered my replacement lemon (and any new ones I’d like to try out, so any suggestions for new “flavors” would be welcome in the comments!), which is why I didn’t try the other recipe. I’m loving the quality and non-pressure system that Native American Nutritionals has in place compared to others.

Anyhoo, back to the wipes. Here’s how I put this shebang together:


 
For the reusable wipes, I just cut up a couple of (*cough* too small *cough) soft old T-shirts, which gave me…like…maybe 16-20 wipes per shirt, depending on how big you make your wipes. You can also use old cloth napkins (I cut up a few of those for the days I’m out of T-shirt rags) or your husband’s old boxers or whatever. Just check first. Let’s just say I’m waiting for mine to give up on a couple of crappy white tees to sacrifice for the cause. I’m not sure if color really matters or not; it’s not like I care whether they get stained since they’re rags, but I’ll be sure to update you if the color runs. (That said, if you have something white to cut up or use, um, choose that. Probably best.)


Here’s the stuff I mixed up. Per her recipe, I used about 10 drops of tea tree oil (which actually SMELLS like it’s disinfecting, I kid you not! Like Lysol, but natural!), two tablespoons of Dr. Bronner’s, and a cup of water. I ended up splashing a little more water in to moisten all the wipes, but I think it’s because I put the solution on the bottom of the container instead of pouring it over the top.

Doubt that this stuff works as well as Clorox? Behold…doesn’t this look all disinfecty? If that were a word, of course…

Right?? So, I put the solution at the bottom of my empty, de-labeled and washed Clorox container…

Sexy. Anyhoo, this is the point that I cut up my reusable wipes. I wadded them together, kind of in a roll, and pulled them up in the middle (I didn’t end up using the old white napkins on the outside since there wasn’t room in the tube)…



Don’t overthink it. Just shove it in and pull in the middle. It works. Okay, this is probably the point I should have poured the solution over everything, but I had already put it in the bottom hoping that it would seep upward. I’m sure it probably would have seeped just fine, but I’m an impatient mama and love to see results. So, I splashed a bit more water on the top and shook the thing. Here’s our final product:


Yup, I grabbed a marker and labeled it with a cheeky description. It also has the recipe in small lettering on the other side, just in case my husband feels like whipping some up next time, or in case my incredibly shoddy memory fails me. Again.

I’m keeping them where we kept our old wipes, under our bathroom sink. It’s where we dump Hadman’s potty and where they get used most frequently. This also happens to be where our laundry hamper lives, so it’s perfect. If I think it’s gross to toss these in with the laundry, I’ll grab our old wet bag from cloth diapering days and keep them in there ’til all the rags and linens need to be washed. No big deal.

Whatchya think? Would you try reusable wipes, or are you addicted to your current method of disinfecting? No judging here.

(By the way, there’s an affiliate link or two included in this post. Just a warning. It won’t blow up your computer, and if you purchase anything off of Amazon after clicking through my links, even if it’s not a product I listed, you’ll be helping to run this here little blog. Which is awesome of you and earns you a gold star for the day.)

Mama Must-Haves

Today’s post contains affiliate links. They won’t make your computer explode or steal your identity…I hope.

So many friends and acquaintances on Facebook (and, y’know, in the real world) are having babies left and right. We’re in talks ourselves, but are still putting off a second bambino for the time being. We’re also pretty private about things; that “don’t tell anyone until the second trimester” thing is law for us, outside of one or two close family members or a BFF.

All these gorgeous shots of tiny shut-eyed beauties got me thinking about Hadman and what it was like to bring him home those 2+ years ago. Oh, how terrified and unprepared we felt. I’m tons more laid-back now, and Dave’s improved immensely. We’re kinda rocking it, parentally. Most of the time. 

Whenever we choose to have another (if we should be so lucky, knocking on lots of wood), I’m excited to try some things that, for one reason or another, didn’t work out with our first little guy. I’ll admit that, while I “tried” cloth diapering, I didn’t succeed — okay, I failed at it. So, that. There’s that.

Also, with how humongous our monkey was, babywearing didn’t really work out, either. It is what it is, but I hope to try it in the future. Maybe a future babe will enjoy it (and it’ll probably make life a bit easier with a bigger brother running around).

But enough of the stuff that didn’t work for us. Here are some of the stuff that I wouldn’t live without that worked out awesomely for us…

#1 – It took awhile to decide on a pump to use at school everyday, so I took a risk purchasing this Medela In Style Advanced Breast Pump. Turns out, it wasn’t such a risk, after all! This thing is a work horse. It comes with everything you need (you’ll need to replenish your storage bags, but that’s pretty much it). Once you get the hang of, y’know, feeling like you’re being milked in a small space at work, it feels like routine — thanks to this machine. Considering how nerve-wracking the whole concept of pumping can be, having a pump you can trust with such a delicate process is golden.   

#2 – I know, I know. You’re thinking, “isn’t this supposed to be essentials for parenting a baby?” Yup. We read to Hadley from week one, and it’s pretty much his favorite thing to do today. And he’s two. This was our first Mo Willems book, and we’ve been addicted ever since. Have you met Elephant and Piggie? If not, you totally should. They’re the gateway drug to Pigeon. I also foresee some Knufflebunny in our future.

#3 – This Fisher-Price Space Saver High Chair (in a neutral color; ours is tan with polka dots) is probably the baby product with the most longevity. We used it from about 5-6 months until the present, and I foresee using it for awhile still. As the name implies, it saves the space of a regular high chair by utilizing a regular old dining chair as its base. When the time comes, this thing will store awesomely, too. I just can’t say enough good about it. Seriously.

#4 – Dave insisted that I include Sophie, and I can’t blame him too much. She’s a classic, she’s adorable, and Hadman lovingly chomped on her for quite awhile. Plus, giraffes turned out to be his spirit animal during his first year, so it was a perfect match. Don’t mind the price tag on this one; she’s worth it.

#5 – Glass bottles?! Are you insane?? Yes, but that’s beside the point. These classic Evenflo glass bottles worked wonderfully and put my super-obsessed mama mind to rest about BPA and all those other nasties, especially when warming. We also used the smaller 4 ounce size, especially when he was holding his own bottles. Side note: When the kiddos get bigger and you’re heading to a place that you know will have a tile floor, just keep an extra eye on the bottles. Made that mistake once; will never make it again.

#6 – If you’re a new mama and you’re having a hard time getting your little one to sleep at night, all I can say is — SWADDLE, SWADDLE, SWADDLE! Then swaddle some more. These organic muslin blankies are what I prefer thanks to their breathability (especially when your newborn is a summer baby) and flexibility, which allows just the right amount of movement and comfortable snuggliness. Seriously, it sounds crazy, but these were a lifesaver. Probably the only reason we got ANY sleep.

#7 – The sooner you get a potty chair, the better. Santa brought this Bjorn Baby potty, which has since lived in the kitchen (under the above Space Saver chair, actually) and is utilized daily. He’s not fully trained yet, but the fact that he’s shown an interest since about 18 months is incredible. Thank you, Santa! He also knows that it’s HIS special potty, so that’s pretty great, too. Quick tip: Get a cheap little plastic bin and leave a handful of board books, along with dipes and wipes, next to your main potty. You’ll get sick of the books (seriously, we could recite our four books from memory), but it’ll make potty time way easier and fun for everyone.

#8 – We got a few bottles of Baby Bee shampoo-and-body-wash for our shower, and I’m so glad we did. I don’t think I’ve had to buy a bottle yet! I just keep refilling my small one from the huge bulk-sized one. This is Hadman’s main soap (he’s also used one I had to review, which was fine), and I prefer it because a) it works, b) it’s natural, c) it smells AWESOME (he doesn’t smell like a little hippie baby; he smells just like a BABY…you know the smell…the one you want to bottle and never let go), and d) it makes for a super fun bubble bath. I’ve even been known to use it as shampoo when I’m low from time to time. #noshame #notsorry

What were some of your essentials? Do you agree/disagree with any of my suggestions?

Oh, and feel free to check out the rest of my baby list items (I’m still adding) if you need a few more suggestions. Hint: Cheapest organic crib mattress EVER. Just sayin’. 

A Bust

I knew as I wrote Friday’s post that my buoyant optimism was probably a jinx. And it turns out I was right.


Hell of a day, but the worst part was the death of my FIL’s aunt (with whom he was quite close). I didn’t really know her, although I feel terribly for the family. Trying my best not to be bummed and to be understanding (I succeeded at one of those things…), we ended up eating out at a family-friendly, non “local” joint since Dave’s parents were our original Hadley sitters. Won’t even say where, but (still feeling awful for their loss and not wanting to let any selfishness win over) I was bummed.


We had ended up making reservations once again to “The Tailor and the Cook”, which is pretty much the staple for local farm-to-table high-end cuisine. Had it been a usual date night (also, had it not been Food Revolution Day), I probably wouldn’t have been as disappointed. But, as they say on Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, “If something goes bad, turn it around…find something good!” (You have to hear it and sing it about 50 times before it becomes a part of your being. Forever. Dave and I sing it all the time.)

So, the next day, we packed up the car and headed to the first of the outside farmers markets for the season at the Utica train station. We go a handful of times throughout the year; Hadley loves talking to random strangers and getting acquainted with the trains, we like cultivating a relationship with the vendors and woman in charge of the whole shebang, and we stock up on yummies.

While we didn’t get many veggies (ramps…yeah, scallions aren’t a veggie, right? Maybe? So just ramps), we did grab some nice meat, a growler of homemade beer, and a variety of homemade cheeses. The heavy rain from the day before gave way to a beautiful, if not warm, day. We ran a few more errands and I licked my wounds sufficiently.

Looking forward, I can’t wait to have a FRD “do-over.” It might or might not be at “The Tailor and the Cook.” Until then, I’ll just see what I can whip up with my local ingredients.

Did anybody do anything cool for Food Revolution Day? Do tell!

Chobani vs. Stonyfield

I’ve stated my love for Chobani Greek yogurt here a long, long time ago. I’ve used it in tons of recipes (especially as a thick replacement for sour cream and in dips/dressings) and used to eat it religiously everyday as a snack. Since it’s a local business doing huge things, I’ve generally been proud of the work they’ve done.

Since we’ve gone mostly organic, however, and now that Hadman’s a toddler (ie it’s cheapest/easiest to buy generally the same products), all of our milk products are made of organic milk. Any time I’m cooking with a yogurt, I’d rather it be whole milk since he’ll be eating it, too (and there are plusses to whole vs. lowfat), although we “adults” still eat Greek.

So, we had to do some soul-searching on our yogurt choices.

That said, Chobani isn’t the best in the world as far as its ingredient transparency. While I try not to be down about such things, especially when they’re providing so many opportunities for local workers (although I have heard mixed reviews on working there), the fact that their cows are fed GMO ingredients (and, for that matter, are raised in the “traditional” less than humane way), I had mixed feelings about feeding the stuff to my son. Plus, Greek yogurt, by nature, is lowfat or 0% fat. Not the greatest thing for a youngin’.

So, we made a jump to Stonyfield. We were already buying their milk (since it’s from humanely-treated, mostly grassfed cows), so it was an easy decision…once I let the guilt of not purchasing Chobani fall off my shoulders.

Stonyfield makes all kinds of yogurts, but we purchase the regular (plain is always in the fridge; once in awhile vanilla, but since it has added organic sugar, I limit this), the Greek cups for work (I love the “super fruits” flavor with pomegranate and Dave’s a blueberry guy), and half the time I either buy Hadley the baby cups (way less ingredients than the toddler or kid versions, and less sugar) or make little take-along cups with my small Ball jars. Apparently we eat a lot of yogurt. 😉

Oh, and let’s just say we were shopping at a different store last week in a hurry and I found our Greek cups for $1 apiece. Let’s just say I literally jumped back a couple of feet and squealed amidst the very busy dairy area, I was just that excited. Yes, folks. A proud moment for my husband, I’m sure.

Yes, it’s usually kind of expensive, but not by much. Almost every week, I go onto Stonyfield’s website (that’s actually a link to sign up for special offers) to see if there are any printable coupons, and I receive the occasional email offer to print. Let’s just say that I had a coupon that was expiring the next day and I didn’t have use for the item, so when I saw a woman picking up that very item I stopped her and handed the coupon over. She couldn’t believe it and kept saying “Are you sure? Are you sure??” Yep. I’m sure. Spread the organic love, folks.

Oh, and if, by rare chance, I find organic no-name yogurt at Aldi, you know I grab every last carton I can find. Cheap + organic = gold. (Probably why that lady was so shocked I was handing her a coupon.)

I feel super happy, though, knowing that the cows that have made our yogurt aren’t pumping GMOs (through their corn-based feed…naughty corn), antibiotics, growth hormones, and pesticides into our milk products. The fact that they’re generally grassfed also helps me to sleep soundly (as soundly as one can with a toddler nearby). 

What about you? Are you a yogurt eater? Whole milk? Or Greek? What brand wins your own yogurt showdown?   

Food Revolution Day — Again

It’s that time again! Rollin’ right around the corner, May 16th is Food Revolution Day (#frd2014), hooray!!

What’s this? Well, simply, it’s a way to engage with food in a public way. This can mean a bunch of things and can be achieved a kazillion ways, but in essence it’s meant to bring attention to the fact that eating responsibly-grown and -raised foods is a) healthier, b) more beneficial to the local economy, and c) way better for the environment. All awesome things. It’s also about learning how to cook from scratch, which tends to be a bit cheaper and healthier for all of us.

(Side note: Clearly, hittin’ up McDonald’s and calling it a day won’t cut it. Sorry!)

Last year, I had high hopes of making an awesome meal, but the fact that Dave was out of town and I was feeling crappy took it down a peg. Luckily, I still found my own way to celebrate — even if in a pretty private way.

This year, I’m hoping to celebrate a little more as a family since, well, Hadley eats regular food now and Dave should be home. So, while we may just do one or two of these things, it may help you get your mental juices flowing (ew) if you decide to take part, too. Here are a few ideas I’ve got for our family (there are a ton more to check out here, and I’m sure you could come up with a ton more far better than mine):

Go out for a lovely dinner. I know what you’re thinking: “Isn’t this all about making your own food?” Yes, and I know what you mean. However, we have a handful of kick-arse locavore joints that we’re dying to try out. It’d be nice to have a date night with the hubby and know that the food we’re eating is Besides, we hardly ever get formal dates, so when we do we tend to try new places or old favorites (which, ahem, tend to be slightly more expensive places; we don’t eat out much normally, so we put more value in what we’re eating when it’s locally-grown and well-prepared).

Try something new. I’m thinking it’d be fun to trek out to the Cooperstown Farmers’ Market, buy a new ingredient (plus any other “needs” we might have), then try a new recipe. My meals lately have been pretty one-note, so this might help kick-start me into getting back into the swing of preparing summer-type meals (which tend to be more creative…or to me, at least).

Plant our garden. We’ve already drawn out (literally) a simple plan for our veggies (and one fruit), and one of my biggest issues is usually not planting early enough. Given that our frosts are gone for the season — which they may NOT be, given our crazy weather patterns — this would be the perfect weekend to buy our plants (I don’t think I’m growing anything from seed this year; I’m taking the lazy mama’s way out) and get ’em in the ground.

You may notice that these ideas are ones you really can’t complete in one day…er, at least, not at our house! I tend to look at Food Revolution Day as more of a weekend celebration than a one-day thing, especially since it generally lands on a Friday (a work day). It’s kind of like how some celebrate the whole weekend of Memorial Day, y’know?

So, you’ve got a little over a month. Are you planning on doing anything for FRD? (Or FRD weekend, as it were?) If so, what? I’d love to hear! 

Organic For Less

Happy Monday from a very snowy CNY! I’m back from a “mid-winter break” and ready to get back to normalcy. Now, if I could only find the energy to match my enthusiasm. Eh, on with the show…

Every couple of weeks or so, I find myself hitting up our local Aldi (a unique grocery store with mostly generic-ish brands where you rent your grocery cart, bring your own bags, and may only use cash, or debit or EBT cards) before making my usual Hannaford haul. It helps to lower my regular food bill, and I’m ecstatic to see their choices in organic products is generally increasing. Woo hoo!

Now, before I share my budget-trimming selections, I’d like to briefly state our current eating philosophy. I wish I could say that we eat only fruits and vegetables; minimal quantities of organic, grass fed, humanely treated meat and poultry (and eggs); whole grains; and raw, grass fed milk and cheese. Period. But, we don’t. A great majority of what we eat is organic OR grass fed OR GMO free OR 5-ingredients-or-less, but we still consume processed foods – frozen pizzas, part-skim cheese sticks, breads, snack crackers, granola bars, etc.  We try to eat minimal meat, but it’s still a part of most of our meals (most dinners, at least).

It is what it is. Our consciences are relatively at ease on the subject. About 90-95% of the food in our house is organic or at least GMO-free. That’s a heck of a lot further than we were a few short years ago. We don’t stress out over the occasional ordered-in pizza or diner breakfast or meal shared at a friend or family member’s house; they’re quite rare and we know the rest of the time we’re doing our best to put good things in our bodies. {And we’re still profoundly against fast food (I’m going to attempt to pack some appealing meals for our next vacation so we don’t fall victim).}

It’s an evolution that I’m not rushing. To force a thing means that it will be a stress rather than a pleasure to enforce in our own lives. So, for now, I let someone else make my bread. (Either an organic brand or a few-ingredient, locally made one.) And I sleep just fine. 😉

For some tips on grocery shopping for “whole foods”, check out this old post. I’ll have to do a farmers’ market one when things warm up. Yay!

So, anyhoo! I ended up spending a lot for an Aldi trip (less than $60), but couldn’t help myself. For once, I found so many new organic products, I felt like I was robbing the place. “Ohhhh, yessss!!” I shouted each time I spotted another. I’m sure folks thought I was crazy, but I know for a fact that crazier things DO happen…especially at this joint.

I’m showing my haul in categories – fruit ‘n veg (one organic pile – left, one non-organic – right) and processed stuff (bottom).

I still subscribe to a small extent to the “clean 15” list to cut back on cost (although it’s also a matter of supply/demand; if they supply an organic version, I’ll often buy it). So, at Aldi I purchased a pineapple ($2.49), mushrooms ($.99!), a trio of onions ($2.69; I’m a tad wary here; the last time I did this, I cut into them THE NEXT DAY to find they had soft/browning middles…happened recently at Hannaford, too, though), garlic ($.79!), green onions ($.79!), asparagus ($2.99…and already gone…I should’ve bought two), and a bag o’ potatoes ($2.99 for 5 lbs! But…on the dirty list, but it’s tough to find organic here :-P).

As for the organic produce, I FINALLY caught their fresh bananas (I think $.79/lb.), bag o’ apples ($4.49), spinach and spring mix ($1.99 each; if we don’t use the spinach by the time it starts to go, I can boil it quickly and flash freeze) and baby carrots ($.99; this is the price if you’re LUCKY for non-organic at Hannaford). Lots of “booyah!” and heel kicking in the aisles, I tell ya. Oh, and I grabbed two bags of frozen organic strawberries ($2.69 each) and one of blueberries ($2.99). If you want to count apple juice, I hunted down an organic container for $2.49 ($.50 – $1.00 less than usual).

Then we get into the more processed (yet organic) stuff. Diced tomatoes for $1.49, two boxes of $1.99 chicken soup, a box of $1.79 chicken broth, a box of $1.19 linguine, a $1.99 peppercorn ranch dressing, hormone- and antibiotic-free bacon (just like the kind we get at Hannaford, only $3.89…similar price, just want to check it out), $1.99 “toasted oats” (organic Cheerios, folks!), and TWO organic pizzas for $3.99 each (TWO DINNERS for $4.00 each! Yes, we’ll probably have salad, too, but c’mon…can’t buy a pizza from a local pizza place for that little, and they’re made with ORGANIC ingredients!!!).

Whew. So, yeah, minus a $2 bag that I purchased because I ended up finding way more than I had expected, it came to around $57.63. For comparison, I usually spend around $30 there. If only they’d start carrying WHOLE organic milk instead of 2% (don’t get me wrong — I was ECSTATIC to see that they even had milk).

On a final note, this is just an example of a random grocery trip. I’ve had some interest from folks to know what one of these trips looks like, how much we spend on stuff, and what selections we make. This is by no means a bragfest (although I was dancing in the aisles to see what deals I could find); it’s just putting myself out there to see if what I do might help any of you. 🙂

So, how about you? What are some ways that you find to eat healthier (no judgment zone: healthier doesn’t always mean organic; it’s just our personal philosophy) for cheaper?

C is for Cookie, That’s Good Enough for Me

Is it not the strangest thing in the world that the characters that we grew up with so many decades ago are still cherished by the youth of today? There must be something innately appealing to little ones. The fur? The colors? The voices? Hadley is enamored with Sesame Street characters (he watches the old episodes as well as the new ones, although we try to skip over that Abby Cadabby crap) as well as Mickey (I’m 50/50 on this one — I love that he enjoys “A Mickey Christmas Carol” from beginning to end, but I don’t want him to be surrounded with Disney paraphernalia or to feel the need to visit the “most wonderful(ly overpriced) place on Earth”). Along with his dozen or so words, he has gestures for each of his favorite Sesame Street characters — “bam bam bam” (arm with fist pounding) for Oscar and “nom nom nom” (open hand to mouth repeatedly) for his favorite, Cookie Monster.

So, while I made Christmas cookies last year, this is the first year that OUR little Cookie Monster can actually partake in the treats. I try to keep my versions “real food” friendly — using butter instead of Crisco, organic raw sugar rather than white, unbleached organic AP flour rather than the regular bleached (I didn’t do whole wheat because I wanted to try to keep the consistency relatively similar, but you could do half-and-half or even all whole wheat if you don’t mind a texture switcheroo), and so forth. Honestly, most of what’s in these is organic and GMO-free, which is our priority right now.

Oh, and fun fact time: I only make cookies my husband will WANT to eat. Sure, he’ll eat my favorites (anything with peanut butter), but he doesn’t necessarily WANT to, which means he ends up “forgetting” they’re sitting in our cookie container until they go stale or I eat them all (whichever happens first…ahem). So, I ask Dave what his favorites are, fully realizing that my mom or sis or someone equally lovely will provide me with a couple of peanut blossoms or chocolate-covered peanut butter balls at some point this holiday season…and I sleep soundly knowing that my hubby and son will eat the crap out of whatever I have made. It’s all good. Maybe one day (when he’s able to eat nuts; we’re not testing his allergy levels to nuts quite yet!) I’ll have a house full of kids that will override Dave’s aversion to “super peanut buttery” things. That’ll be the day!

I made these cookies in less than an hour each on two different nights, after Hadman had gone to bed. First was the jam thumbprints.

Now, back in the day, I used to make these with Ina Garten’s recipe (my mom LOVED them when I made them — isn’t that the greatest feeling, to make something for the person who made everything for YOU and to have them enjoy it that much?), which was so full of butter I can’t even stand it (yum!). But, I didn’t use that recipe because a) they made a million cookies (we don’t need a million) and b) they were covered in coconut. My husband’s a basic guy, so I made the equivalent of shortbread cookies…with a thumb smashed in…with some wayward jam poured in for good measure.

Here’s the recipe I used (from Love and Olive Oil – LOVE this site!) —

Jam-Filled Thumbprint Cookies

Yield: 40 cookies
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 ounces (or so) assorted jam

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
  2. Beat together butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla extract. Add flour and salt and mix until incorporated and dough comes together in a ball.
  3. Form dough into 1-inch balls and arrange on prepared baking sheet. Flatten balls slightly with your thumb or the back of a small spoon, leaving an indentation in the center.
  4. Bake cookies for 8 to 10 minutes or until bottoms are just barely golden. Remove baking sheet from oven. If indentations look shallow, further define them with the back of a spoon and then fill each with approximately 1/2 teaspoon jam. Bake for an additional 3 to 4 minutes, or until jam melts slightly and edges of cookies are lightly golden. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool.


Read more at http://www.loveandoliveoil.com/2013/09/jam-filled-thumbprint-cookies.html

Jam-Filled Thumbprint Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
6 oz. (or so) assorted jam (I used a test pot of “razzleberry” jam, some apple butter {Delish! And super sweet}, and some strawberry/blueberry/rhubarb jam)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (not waxed) or a silicon liner (I used parchment on one but ran out and used butter on the other; they both came out fine).

Beat together butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium high until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla. Add flour and salt and mix until incorporated and dough comes together in a ball.

Form 1-inch balls and arrange on baking trays (they won’t expand much at all). Press slightly with your thumb or the back of a teaspoon to form an indentation for the jam.

Bake for 8-10 minutes until bottoms are barely golden. Remove from oven. If indentations look shallow, press a bit more. Place approx. 1/2 tsp. of jam or jelly in each indentation before placing back in the oven for 3-4 minutes (until lightly golden). Transfer cookies to cool on a rack.

Jam-Filled Thumbprint Cookies

Yield: 40 cookies
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 ounces (or so) assorted jam

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
  2. Beat together butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla extract. Add flour and salt and mix until incorporated and dough comes together in a ball.
  3. Form dough into 1-inch balls and arrange on prepared baking sheet. Flatten balls slightly with your thumb or the back of a small spoon, leaving an indentation in the center.
  4. Bake cookies for 8 to 10 minutes or until bottoms are just barely golden. Remove baking sheet from oven. If indentations look shallow, further define them with the back of a spoon and then fill each with approximately 1/2 teaspoon jam. Bake for an additional 3 to 4 minutes, or until jam melts slightly and edges of cookies are lightly golden. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool.

Read more at http://www.loveandoliveoil.com/2013/09/jam-filled-thumbprint-cookies.html


The other cookie that Dave requested, which I also made last year, was Chocolate Crinkles (although he just called them “the chocolate ones that get wrinkles all over with white sugar all over them”). It took awhile to find one that just used cocoa powder (homey don’t got time for meltin’ chocolate), and all I had was some leftover Hershey stuff (and while it’s not organic, it’s natural, non-alkalized, etc so it’s pretty good), but my powdered sugar was organic from our trip to Vermont and they came out just right — puffy and “wrinkly” and tasty.

For this recipe, I turned to Williams-Sonoma. Wait, what?! Yep. I scoured the Internet (okay, the first page of the Google search) and it hit all the marks: 1) used cocoa powder vs. melted chocolate (or a combo of both) and 2) only made a couple dozen cookies (again, we don’t need a million hanging around that won’t get eaten and will turn stale). And, for future reference (to myself…hi, future self!), it’s from a kid-friendly cookbook…so, yeah, Hadley can help someday.

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies


1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
(reviews suggest between this and 3/4+; use what you like)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room  temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar

2 eggs1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


(Love that the recipe said this: “Be sure an adult is nearby to help.” I asked my husband to stand by. ;-))


Preheat an oven to 350°F. Grease 2 baking sheets with butter.

Put the confectioners’ sugar into a bowl and set aside. (I didn’t use half of this amount, so feel free to start with half and use more as needed.)

In another bowl, using a wooden spoon, stir together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until creamy, about 3 minutes. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add 1 egg and beat on medium speed until blended. Add the other egg and vanilla and beat until blended. Turn off the mixer and add the flour mixture. Beat on low speed just until blended.

Using a tablespoon, scoop up a rounded spoonful of dough. Scrape the dough off the spoon into the palm of your other hand. Roll the dough into a ball. Roll the ball in the confectioners’ sugar until covered. Place the balls on a prepared baking sheet. Repeat, spacing the balls about 2 inches apart.

When 1 baking sheet is full, put it in the oven and bake the cookies until they are crackled and puffed, 10 to 12 minutes. Using oven mitts, remove the baking sheet from the oven and set it on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Using a metal spatula, move the cookies onto the rack and let cool completely. Repeat with the rest of the cookies. Makes about 24 cookies.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Kids Baking, by Abigail Johnson Dodge (Oxmoor House, 2003).

I’m thinking of throwing together a molasses or ginger-type cookie since it’s another kind that I DIE for — maybe my grandmother’s recipe (though I’m not sure if I have the right “kind” of molasses for that; seriously, they can end up taking up the whole pan if you’re not careful, and I’m not aiming for molasses bars) or something like that. I also do cutouts, which we’ll probably attempt as more of a hands-on family thing if Hadley actually wants to “make shapes.” If not, I’ll still make them and hopefully get a good, soft texture (vs. crunchy…you know the kind) so he can at least eat them afterwards. And, a nice, fluffy white frosting sounds perfect — no dyes necessary. If I don’t make these, though, it’s fine — at least I made SOMETHING. But, if I do make something, I’ll be sure to share the recipes.

What about you? What cookies are you making this Christmas? Or if you’re not baking any, are there any kinds that you’re looking forward to eating? I’m always fascinated to hear what kinds of cookies folks consider a “Christmas cookie.” Some are traditional (like Polish Kruschiki or regelach – which I always thought was Italian, but the interwebs informs me is Yiddish – both of which I enjoyed as a child) while others make me go “huh?” (um…chocolate chip cookies? Really?) Do tell!

Meat Muffins

We hope you and your family had an awesome Thanksgiving! I didn’t have the meal at my house, but I’ll have some holiday food posts for you in the coming weeks — so stay tuned! But, on with this week’s Foodie Friday…

Hee hee. I can’t stop giggling over that post title. But, yeah, I made some muffins…made of meat. Meat muffins.

Pfthwahahahaha!!!

I’ve made meatloaf and mini-meatloaves plenty, but realized that I hadn’t shared a recipe. Yet, every time I make a loaf, I find a new recipe to try. I finally decided to get on the muffin tin mini-meatloaf bandwagon. While it was generally the same amount of work, it was easier to just shove the mixture into an oiled muffin tin rather than trying to get a loaf to hold its shape on a sheet pan, or split it up into mini-loaves — yeck, math ‘n stuff. 😉

This is also the first time I threw in a carrot and celery…just because.

Mini Meatloaf Muffins

1 lb. ground meat (beef, in this case, but use whatchya got; this was grassfed from, of all places, Australia)
1 egg
1/2 c. oatmeal, uncooked
1/2 – 1 onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 celery, trimmed and diced
Salt and pepper
Thyme and/or parsley
Worcestershire sauce
Ketchup

Topping (any measurements you like):
Ketchup
Mustard
Maple syrup (or brown sugar)

Place a few tablespoons of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Once you can see ripples, add your diced onion, carrot and celery. Season with a bit of salt and allow to soften, 5-7 minutes.

While veggies cook, place meat, oats, egg, seasonings, a squirt of ketchup and Worcestershire sauce in a bowl. Separately, mix topping together.

Add veggies to meat mixture and combine. Don’t overmix.


Fill muffin cups about 2/3 full (no need to smooth in your hands first, unless you want to). Use a spoon to spread topping on each “muffin.”

Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes (more if needed).

Serve with veggies and mashed potatoes (if you’re in a comfort food mood, which we were) or a nice light salad. Add a squirt of fresh ketchup if you like.

These are GREAT for little ones. Hadley adores his for lunch…or anytime, really. If your toddler or child isn’t a fan of veggies, this is a great way to get them to eat some carrots (and the rest of it) since they tend not to notice. But, we’re lucky, and Hadley likes veggies…he just prefers them wrapped in meat better. 😉

What’s YOUR favorite comfort food? A nice, meaty meal? A soup, stew or chili? Or is it all about the dessert?