Saturday, November 5, 2011

Stimulate the economy with small businesses.

You have to be living in a cave if you haven't heard of all the "occupy" protests going on around the country.  Surely you know the economy is in a slump. If you really want to make a difference with the economy shop at small local businesses.  I have several friends who sell products from home and friends who make their own products to sell.  I would like to showcase them today.

With only 49 days left until Christmas, many of you are already thinking about holiday shopping.  Maybe you will consider one of these online shops instead of going to a big box store this year.

Heather Fraser makes cute hair things for girls.  I've known Heather forever.  We went to high school together.  Not only is she going to school, she is also a mom to two cute kids.  I don't have little girls, but if I did I would totally buy some of her things :)

Over at Heart Shaped Leaves you'll find my friend Samantha.   Samantha is one of those moms all other moms are envious of.  She is always doing some awesome project with her kids.  Samantha dreams of becoming a Certified Lactation Consultant.  She sells kids books to help her make that dream a reality.

Christina is an Army wife in Colorado.  She knits, crochets, and sews.  She also sells her handmade creations over at Pit Chick Fashions on Etsy.  She makes some nice, warm, thick scarfs for winter.  She also will customize colors for you.  I have mine in Michigan blue and gold :)  You can sometimes find coupon codes on her shop's facebook page or you can click on the picture below to go right to her shop.

Friday, October 21, 2011

More Green Smoothie Attempts

I am really loving these green smoothies for breakfast.  My favorite is definitely Blueberries, strawberries, bananas, spinach, milk, greek yogurt, and honey.  I have made attempts at other flavors that didn't quite work out so well.  I thought I'd share them with you so you didn't make the same mistakes.

First, I really wanted to try peach and mango together.  So I put some frozen peaches and frozen mangos in the blender with the spinach and added the usual milk, yogurt, and honey.  It didn't taste so good, so I added a banana.  It was better and then I realized duh...should've used orange juice instead of milk.   I drank about half of it, but it was really too milky tasting for me.  I mean it wasn't horrible and if you like milk it would probably be okay, but it just wasn't for me.

I was going to try the peach and mango smoothie again this morning with O.J., but I am out of bananas.  I am also out of berries so I decided to try chocolate.  I first used one package of Carnation Instant Breakfast, a cup of milk, a half cup of yogurt, and lots of spinach.  I added the yogurt thinking oh it will be like ice cream and taste like a shake.  Yeah, not so much.  It tasted too much like plain yogurt.

Since I wasn't wasting a lot of expensive fruit, I dumped it all out and started over.  This time, I put in the Carnation Instant Breakfast, a cup of milk, a bunch of spinach, and a half cup of ice.  It was too watery so I added a second packet of Carnation Instant Breakfast.  Found a keeper!   Now this chocolate smoothie makes half as much as the berry smoothie did and had about the same amount of calories.  It also didn't fill me up quite as much as the berry smoothie normally does, but I think it would do if I was desperate.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Berry Green Monster Smoothie

I have a serious addiction to Pinterest.  These Green Monster Smoothies are all the rage over there right now.  So I decided to give it a try.

Basically, a green smoothie is any smoothie with a whole lot of spinach added to it.  Mine isn't green, but I have a feeling that is because of the color of the fruit I chose.  Actually, mine looks a lot like a glass of puke.  Doesn't that sound appetizing?  I swear it's really good.   I had my Mom and Dad both taste it and my Mom drank the whole glass.

There are probably a hundred different ways to make this and apparently some of them are actually green.  I got my inspiration from this photo found over at Sing For Your Supper

Now that looks good doesn't it?  I didn't exactly follow her recipe though.   

I used:
1 small banana sliced
about 5 strawberries cut into chunks
about 1/4 cup blueberries
about 1/2 cup raspberries
about 1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
about 2T honey
about 1 cup milk
and a large handful (easily a cup) of spinach

I threw it all in a blender until it was a smoothie.  It makes about two 16oz glasses (maybe less not sure of the size of my glasses).  You CAN NOT taste the spinach in any way shape or form.  So if you don't like veggies this is a good way for you to get them in.  I think this is something I need to make for my kids for breakfast since they aren't fans of traditional breakfasts or breakfast foods.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Praying Mantis

My mom was outside cleaning up the flower bed and weeds along the back deck.  She came into the house with a stick that had a weird looking cocoon on it.  I immediately started searching google to figure out what it was.  The cocoon reminded me of dried foam insulation.  However, just googling "foam cocoon" will lead you to a million links for this:

Clearly not what I was looking for.  It turns out that we have a Praying Mantis egg case.  Thanks to a forum over at Garden Web I figured out what it was. This excites me as I've always been a nature freak and Praying Mantis are cool. Once I knew what I had I did a search for praying mantis egg case, and found out I can keep it in the garage over the winter and hatch it in a paper bag in the spring.  Apparently people order these egg cases because praying mantis are so cool.  Nature's Control is one place where these can be ordered.  They also have great instructions for how to hatch your egg case.  

I took a couple of pictures so if you ever find one you'll know what it is too.

I really, really want to keep this egg case so I can hatch it and release all the praying mantis in my yard.  I live out in the country and part of our land is a swamp.  We have A LOT of bugs.  Oh, and did I mention praying mantis are REALLY cool?  But, my oldest son is in 7th grade and his science teacher has the coolest classroom I have ever seen and this egg case would fit in perfectly.  I'm contemplating emailing him and seeing if he'd like it for his classroom.  Maybe I can still get the babies after they hatch for my yard.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Please Don't Text and Drive

I frequently scold my friends for texting while driving; especially when I'm in the car.  People don't seem to understand that when they are texting while driving their lives aren't the only ones at danger.  The lives of everyone around them is in danger as well.  I would like to share a picture with you that shows what can happen when you are the one texting while driving and you aren't the one that gets hurt.

This accident just happened today. This vehicle was at a stop sign in a residential area.  It was rear-ended (at 60mph) by a 16 year old girl who was texting while she was driving.  Inside the vehicle is a 15 month old baby.  Fortunately the baby survived this crash, but not without injury.  The policeman is reaching in to comfort her until paramedics arrived.  The baby has two broken legs and cervical sprain (hopefully not severe).  She is currently in the hospital.

Please, please, please don't text, check facebook, or play with your phone while you are driving.

Friday, August 12, 2011

My Favorite Gluten-Free Brands...

So I've recently had a couple of people asking me about eating gluten-free.  I frequently post reviews of foods I've tried, but this time I want to make a list of my favorite go to foods and brands.

Pasta - Tinkyada  hands down!  It can be found in some regular grocery stores and definitely in stores like Whole Foods or Trader Joes.  Follow the directions when cooking.  If you cook it like I do regular pasta by throwing the pasta in the water and then putting on the stove to boil it won't come out right.

Bread - Rudi's Gluten Free.  Do not confuse with Udi's (nasty).  Rudi's Gluten Free is found in the freezer section.  It is a little harder to find.  Some regular grocery stores carry it and I've found that not all Whole Foods carry it either.  When you bring it home keep it in the freezer and toast it when you are ready to use.  It tastes just like regular bread.  If you don't toast it, the bread is very dry and falls apart easily.

Flour Mix - King Arthur's All Purpose Gluten free flour mix...this is better than having to mix your own flours and makes it much easier to follow regular recipes.

Cake Mix - King Arthur's Chocolate cake...OMG best cake ever and super, super moist.  I think this cake mix is good without frosting on it as well.  This is also a little harder to find in regular grocery stores.  But Whole Foods always has it.

Pretzels - Glutino  I have found this in pretty much any grocery store in the same section as the regular chips and pretzels, but sometimes in the gluten-free section.  Tastes just like regular pretzels.  My kids love them.

Crackers - Again, Glutino...The table crackers are a good substitute for saltines.

Pancakes - Gluten-Free Bisquick.  My kids love pancakes made with this mix too.

Pizza Crust - Udi's this time.  They make personal pizza sized crusts.  They are very good.  I think they would also make good bread for homemade paninis.  There are a lot of crust mixes out there, but I haven't tried any of them yet.  I'm lazy.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Chicken Fajitas

I love fajitas, but I don't like big chunky peppers.  I also like A LOT of peppers and onions on my fajitas.  I feel like I never get enough  My kids will eat the chicken, but don't like peppers or onions.  To accommodate all of us I decided to get a little creative in the kitchen.

You will need:
4-5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 red bell peppers; very finely chopped
2 medium sweet or yellow onions; very finely chopped
shredded cheddar cheese
fajita seasoning
flour or corn tortillas

The peppers and onions can be chopped ahead of time. Raw peppers and onions also freeze well.  You could chop them up and freeze them in a freezer bag when you have time so they are ready to go when you want fajitas.  Because I have O.C.D., I chop all my vegetables by hand so each piece is the same size and shape.  But, for those of you without O.C.D., a food chopper or food processor also works.

Cook the rice according to package directions.  While the rice is cooking, add the onions and peppers to a skillet with a small amount of oil.

Saute the onions and peppers over medium heat until soft; stirring frequently.  I sauteed mine for about 20 mintues. When the veggies are softened turn up the heat and cook a little longer to get them slightly browned.   Remove veggies from the pan.

I refuse to cook with raw chicken so I start with frozen chicken breasts, boil them, and then cut them up.  I boiled the chicken the night before and then sliced it up right before heating. Yes, I even shred my cheese by hand.

Put the chicken in the same pan you used for the veggies.  Sprinkle fajita seasoning on the chicken (about 1tsp) and heat through.  Obviously if you use raw chicken this step will take longer than it did for me.

Since I can't eat flour tortillas, I also have to fry the corn tortillas.  The man tried the fajitas with both flour and corn tortillas.  He said he couldn't decide which was better, because the tortillas each had different flavors.  If you decide to try corn tortillas you just heat up some oil in another skillet, put a tortilla in for a minute and flip for a minute.  Stack between paper towels to cut out some of the grease.

To serve: lay a tortilla flat on a plate, add a thin layer of white rice, followed by a layer of shredded cheese.  Put desired amount of chicken in the middle of the tortilla and top with the desired amount of the pepper/onion mixture.  Fold in half and enjoy!

If you cook the chicken and chop the veggies before hand and you aren't using minute rice, the rest of the process should be completed in the time it takes to cook the rice.

Celiac Disease SUCKS!

I do not wish Celiac Disease on anyone.  It sucks.  It sucks even more when you don't find out you have it until you're almost 39.

I will say there are a lot of tasty alternatives for gluten containing food.  For the most part, I have embraced my new wheat free lifestyle.  But, every now and then, I really want to eat "real" food.  For instance when the kids are eating pizza from Pizza Hut.  I can't just grab a slice and go.  If I want to eat at a restaurant I have to send the waitress to the kitchen with a list of items from the menu to find out if they contain gluten or not.  Sometimes I can find the allergen menu online and check it out before hand.

You'd be surprised how many odd things have wheat/gluten in them.  For instance, I bought some fajita seasoning today.  Guess what?  It has wheat in it.  Regular nacho cheese flavored Doritos? Yep, wheat in them too.

I do occasionally eat a piece of regular cake or half the bun on my burger from McDonald's.  I do not tempt fate very often.   I tried that once.  It almost killed me and landed me in the hospital for four days.

So, the next time you go to a cookout and you're eating your hot dog on a bun consider yourself privileged.   

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Ken's Chicken Angelo

I had never heard of Chicken Angelo until our friend Ken made it for us.   It's a little different than recipes I've found on the internet for Chicken Angelo, that's why I named this Ken's Chicken Angelo.

4 chicken breasts; cooked and cut into bite sized pieces
2 12oz or 4 6ozjars of quarted, marinated artichoke hearts; drained
2 2.25oz cans of sliced black olives; drained
16oz whole fresh mushrooms sliced 
1 lemon
olive oil
Shredded Parmesan or Romano cheese

Coat a deep skillet with olive oil.  Add chicken, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, and olives.  Cut lemon in half and squeeze both halves into the pan.  Cook on low about 10-12 minutes.   Serve with pasta and top with the cheese.

- You can cut up the chicken and fry it.  I prefer to boil the chicken and then cut it up.
- The recipe originally called for canned mushrooms, but I much prefer fresh mushrooms.
- Ken served this dish with angel hair pasta.  I prefer bow tie pasta.  
- Next time I make this I will probably also add a couple cloves of chopped garlic because garlic is good in everything.  I think a jar of roasted red peppers would also be a nice addition.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pawn Shows

My family and I like to watch Pawn Stars on The History Channel.  We like to see all the items that get brought in and learn about the history of them.  It's very interesting to learn about some of the items, where they've been, and what they are worth.  It's kind of like PBS' Antiques Roadshow in a pawn shop.

My husband and I also like to watch Hardcore Pawn on TruTV.  This is a pure trash show.  But, it's in Detroit and that is where we are from.  The idiots that come in to the store are something else.  That show is true Detroit.  There is nothing historical about it.  This show could be called The Real Housewives of Wayne County (LOL)!

Watching these two shows has made me realize a few things about people.  Most importantly I've learned that people are idiots.  Ok, I didn't learn that from pawn shows.  I've known people are idiots for a very long time.

I don't know if the History Channel made the Pawn Stars shop an antiques dealer or if they always dealt with antiques, but people come from far and wide now just to bring their antiques to this store.  It's funny because some people think that just because their item would fetch a certain price from a collector or at auction, they are going to receive the same offer from the pawn shop guys.

Hello!  If you're trying to sell your highly collectible, very rare item at a pawn shop you're not going to get what it's worth.   Pawn stores are kind of like the middle man.  You sell you're item to the pawn store and the pawn store resells it at a higher price.  The pawn stores need to make money too.

The other thing about the customers on Pawn Stars that cracks me up is that they think because they saw their same item in an Ebay listing for a certain price that is what their item is worth.  Just because an item is listed on Ebay doesn't mean people are actually buying it.  The price of the Ebay listing doesn't necessarily mean that is what you're item is worth either.

Lastly, just because you have something old doesn't mean it's worth money.  Some girl brought in an original rubix cube that was still in the box.   You can still buy Rubix Cubes in the store.  That is hardly a collectible item.  I mean, ya, it's cool cause it's an original, but it's not worth a ton of money.

Now that Pawn Stars has gained popularity I see more and more people on the show getting upset over the amount of money they are offered for their items.  I think some people bring antiques in for the sole purpose of having an expert look at it and appraise it.  I wonder how the producers decide which items to feature on the show.

I am also seeing people on Hardcore Pawn who think they are walking into the shop on Pawn Stars.  American Jewelry and Loan, the shop featured on Hardcore Pawn, is NOT the same as the shop featured on Pawn Stars.  They don't deal in antiques.  They don't have a slew of experts.  They all carry guns.  The deal mostly in jewelry and electronics.  They look up the value of items on Ebay.  Stop bringing your antiques there.  You're not going to get a free appraisal and you're not going to get anywhere remotely close to what you think your item is worth.