Saturday, November 28, 2015

Sweet Potato Asada Fries with Recipes for Taco Seasoning and Pico de Gallo

I was lucky enough to be a part of the Influenster Pumpkin VoxBox, designed especially for moms! Inside was a bunch of goodies, including a full-value coupon for one Alexia product! We were challenged to come up with a recipe using one of their products, and since I love Alexia's products, this seemed like a no-brainer! Here's a pin of the product I chose:

  • 1 bag of Alexia Sweet Potato Fries
  • 1 pound grass-fed ground beef
  • 1 batch of taco seasoning (recipe below)
  • 1 bag Shredded cheese
  • Pico de Gallo salsa (recipe below)
  • Guacamole (I used the complimentary Yucatan Organic Guacamole I got to try in my Influenster Pumpkin VoxBox!)

I picked up this little bag of goodness at Target. I had my coupon from Influenster for a free package of these, but they were also running a coupon on Cartwheel for 20% off, or something like that. No, I didn't get any money back! How do those couponistas do it?

I started out buy preparing the fries according to the directions on the package. My oven cooks kind of cold, so I always use the maximum time suggestion. Even after that though, the fries still needed about 5 minutes. The Sprout ate a bunch of them! These are definitely toddler-approved!

Next came the ground meat. There is no way I am going outside and barbecuing carne asada when I'm so cold I can barely type up this blog! This California girl is not prepared for any "winteresque" weather coming her way! My husband laughs at the fact that I came up with the idea to visit the Grand Canyon and Salt Lake City during my winter break... What was I thinking!?! Anyway, I digress.

So I decided to throw some seasoned ground beef on top of my fries to give it that asada flavor, without needing to bear the cold. It also gave me a chance to work on my taco seasoning recipe. Growing up, my father used to make us American-style tacos with ground beef, using the infamous packet of Lowry's Taco Seasoning; a savory sodium death-bomb of deliciousness. It also has wheat and milk products, and there are times when we're following a strict paleo diet and those don't work for us. Here is my current recipe for taco seasoning:
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • dash of cayanne
  • 2/3 cup of beef broth or water

Just get your ground beef all browned up like this, sprinkle the dry seasoning mix on top of the meat and stir it around for about 30 seconds to let the flavors of the chili powder and garlic start to bloom. once it's all incorporated and smelling good, pour the beef broth or water over the meat and simmer until the liquid is mostly gone. You'll love it. delicious and comforting.

Another important part of this dish is the Pico de Gallo! AKA red salsa, Pico de Gallo, is a staple in traditional Mexican dishes. It's really easy to make and adds a ton of flavor to any dish! Here's my basic recipe:
  • 2 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 of a sweet onion, diced
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • salt to taste

Toss all of the ingredients in a bowl and add the salt a little at a time until it tastes great. Of course you have to keep tasting it, so have some tortilla chips at the ready! It's that easy! You can substitute with serrano peppers if you like or a different kind of tomato, but for classic Pico, this is it!

Assemble the Sweet Potato Asada Fries with the fries on the bottom, then some ground beef, a sprinkling of shredded cheese, Pico de Gallo, and a dollop of guacamole for a delicious anytime dish that your whole family will love!

Sunday, November 8, 2015


We love bananas in this house! We usually go through 10-15 a week and it's just the three of us. The Sprout was eating a whole banana by himself by the time he was one and a half! Due to this intense banana love, I find myself buying two bunches a week on our weekly shopping trips. Sometimes the bananas will be gone in a few days, but sometimes, if we're out and about for a couple days out of the week, a couple of bananas will go rogue and way too brown before anyone can enjoy one for breakfast or throw it in a lunch sack. I know, I know... these bananas are still good and useful for banana bread and smoothies and banana pancakes, but it's not always easy to get around to making those things. In an effort to keep my bananas fresh longer, I've undertaken a few experiments recently to see if there were some banana saving tricks that I could use to save the banana goodness on those weeks where it just doesn't work out. Here's what I pinned:

Make Your Bananas Last Longer

So for the first experiment, I got my two bunches as usual and put them in our hanging basket; one bunch in tact, one bunch broken up into individual bananas. According to the pin, your bananas will last longer if you break them apart instead of keep them in the bunch. To be honest, this seemed a little counter intuitive to me, but heck... it could be the very thing that would save my bananas for good! Worth a try!

Here are my bunches of bananas, ready for the experiment! The top basket of bananas have been separated and are now individual and the bottom bunch are still attached.

Three days later... (we've eaten a few)

Five days later...

One week later... the banana on the left is from the top basket, the right banana is from the bottom.

Verdict: Leave your bananas attached together! Separating them does nothing, and may actually make them brown faster (unless that's what you're going for).

Life Hack Zombie Banana!

So this YouTuber Brandon Queen has a video that's been circulating that shows him reconstituting a banana. I saw it on a friend's Facebook feed and I was in awe! I didn't do any research, otherwise I would have known off the bat that this one had been busted already, but I still went for it and tried to copy his results! Without further ado, here's my attempt in response:

Bottom Line: just eat the bananas!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Seventh Generation Energy Smart Dishwasher Detergent Test

Product testing is awesome. What's even better is when the products that you're testing are in line with your philosophies about health and the environment. I have been a part of Seventh Generations's Generation Good for a few months now and have not been disappointed by one thing I have been asked to test, which is not something I can say about all of my other product testing opportunities. Here's a pin I made of the product I was able to test for free this time around:

Seventh Generation's new Energy Smart automatic dishwasher detergent uses a plant-based formula designed for high performance cleaning whether in cold or warm water settings, and without phosphates or chlorine.

Some fun facts about Seventh Gen's Energy Smart Automatic Dishwasher Gel:

- Formulated for high performance cleaning in low energy settings.

- Plant-based gel formula

- Formulated to clean even tough loads without phosphates, chlorine or synthetic fragrances

- No harsh fumes

- Septic-safe

Well I gave this stuff a month of testing, versus my usual dish washing detergent and this is what I found:

This product smells great. It's not an overpowering, so-far-up-your-nostrils-it's-in-your-brain scent, but it's clean and fresh smelling.

There is way less residue left on my dishes than with my regular detergent. I have hard water. It's just something I deal with all throughout my home, but I've been resigned for awhile to the fact that my dishes would never be totally clean. Well, I am so pleased to say that I was wrong! This has probably been the cleanest my dishes have ever been. I've used detergents with bleach, other natural detergents, powder detergents, individual "pak"-type detergents, rinse aids, you name it! This was the best (and least toxic) by far.

It is not messy! The gross thing about those wrapped detergent "paks" is that sometimes, some of the pack gets left behind in the detergent cup. I've also had it make the dispenser get stuck, and therefore not release the detergent AT ALL (extra disappointing and frustrating. Waste of water and detergent)! This gel formula is easy to pour, and stays in the cup until it's needed.

My dishwasher is not a new one. Admittedly, I have no idea how old it is, because it came with our condo when we bought it two years ago, but it looked old, even then. Even though my dishwasher may be on it's last leg, this detergent has helped it be effective, even though it's days are numbered.

All in all, I am impressed with the effectiveness of this product. Green or not, this is one of the best dish washing detergents that I've ever tried and I highly recommend it!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

SB&J Burgers

Okay, so this was the first thing I was actually nervous about trying in a very long time. All the ingredients I love separately.

Burgers? Delicious!

Strawberries? I grew up in Santa Maria, California. We live strawberries.

Sunbutter? Awesome.

Together? Ehhh... Yep, that's right! Hesitation.

This is what I pinned:

The Sprout and I took a trip to the farmer's market today and then went to get the usual groceries. After the little guy went down for a nap, I decided I was hungry and started poking around a copy of Well Fed 2 I borrowed from the library to see if anything looked good. I couldn't believe it when I thumbed over this recipe from The Clothes Makes the Girl's Melissa Joulwan. Sunbutter and Jelly... ON A BURGER? Woah.

I had all the ingredients... Why not? Besides, it's Whole 30 compliant and I've got a day and a half left to go!

I started by washing and cutting up our fresh strawberries. I ended up only using one of those lemons, but I think I probably could have gotten by with a half a little lemon.

I added in the ginger powder and set this bowl aside. I got the burgers made with the salt and pepper and got them in my pan. In the recipe, it says to grill your burgers, and I'm sure that tastes 10x better! They still came out pretty good.

While those were cooking away, I dumped my strawberry mixture into a small skillet and got to stirring! I didn't want these to burn, especially because all of the fruit sugar, so I kept a close eye on these berries.

So everything got all bubbly and delicious! I put the mixture into a bowl and set it aside to cool. I popped a bit of the Sunbutter into the microwave for a few seconds to get it all soft and easy to pour.

A quick tip about green onions: try putting them in a cup of water when you come home from the store. They will last a lot longer, and they'll keep growing! You'll get way more for your money! Just change the water every other day. I use my kitchen shears to cut off just what I need.

And... they were pretty darn good! I think that I could make two improvements. 1. I would put less lemon in the strawberries. I got a little too lemon happy. Hazard of not being a person who measures. 2. I would try to get the hubby to grill these bad boys up. I was not down to clean the grill tonight, so that will definitely be happening for round two... YES! Round two! These are just weird enough to be really, really good! Melissa also has a variation on her recipe that's called "Fat Elvis". That's exactly what it sounds like; a burger with banana, bacon, and Sunbutter (or almond butter)! 

That has to happen.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Class Syllabus Infographic

Handing out a paper syllabus is so 2008... haha! I thought I'd try something new and creative for my students this year and appeal to their visual sense as well as make the information easier to understand and process for students and parents. Here's where I got my "pinspiration":

I decided to try to build one from scratch and it took just as long as you think it would! I ended up using Piktochart, just as the owner of the above syllabus did. Making an account was easy. I just used my work Google account and signed up for the free account immediately. It took less than a minute.

They have pre-designed templates that you can choose from, so I found one that seemed like it would fit my purpose. I chose the Minimalist template and got to work! I opened my traditional syllabus and began conveying the information that was already available onto the template. I decided that I wanted the information to be chunked in blocks like the one I found online, but I wanted to use a bit more color. See for yourself:

I'm really proud of how it came out! While it's not perfect, I don't think it's too bad for a first try! I really wanted to print a big size from my classroom, but I had to get a little creative because the poster maker at work can only print from PDFs... so I Googled "JPG to PDF converter" and used the first site that came up to convert it! It worked great. If I had the Pro version of Piktochart I would have been able to simply download it as a PDF, but they only give you the options of low to medium resolution JPG or PNG files. You also have to put up with having their logo on the bottom. Not a big deal really... especially since I just cut it off on my poster! 

When you opt for pro, you also get access to their full library of templates, no logo on the bottom, and way more upload space. I'm fine with the free account for now, but if I use this much more, I might ask my school district to look into it for me. Pro is priced at $29 a month (!) but if you're an educational institution or non-profit organization, you can get it for $39.99 a year.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

No-Sew Fleece Blanket

I love giving handmade gifts and I especially like giving ones that can actually be used in some kind of practical way! Fleece blankets are warm and durable and great for the park, camping, the baseball game, or wherever you go (even if it's just your couch)! I've made a couple of these for friends, family, and even myself! I, of course, learned through clicking on a bunch of pins, but this one is closest to the method that I continue to use. (She has way cooler tools than me though!)

Disclaimer: I hate measuring, so all measurements given are approximates and you can do with that what you will. Measuring is for suckers!!! (I say until my stuff doesn't work out... haha!)

I picked out a Sanrio character print for one side and a somewhat-matching pink for the other side. I don't usually like to do a print on both sides, because it just looks too busy. The little girl this blanket was for was having a Hello Kitty party, so I wanted to keep with the theme! A few years earlier, I gave her brother a Yankees-themed blanket for Christmas, so I wanted her to have her own similar, but distinct, blanket.

The first step is to cut all of the selvages off of the edges of the fabric. It will be on two sides. Usually one side has printing on it, and the other will not. It can be kind of tricky to see where to cut on the side that doesn't, especially on fleece.

If you look closely at the side opposite the printing, you can see two tiny rows of punctured dots. This is actually on the printed side, too. When I cut off the selvages on my fleece, I use these dots as a guide. 

My pile of selvages!

The next step is to stack your two pieces of fleece together so that the edges match up and the two wrong sides are facing each other. Rarely are they exactly the same length. To maximize the usable part of each piece of fleece, I match one corner exactly, then smooth the rest out. I used my bed to get a big, flat surface to work on. When I felt like they matched up as closely as I could get them, I cut off the excess to make sure they were the same size.

Next comes the cutting! Now, when I was learning how to do this awhile ago, one blog (not this one I pinned) suggested using a ruler and measuring all of these cuts in advance. WAY TOO MUCH WORK! Especially when after you tie it all up, the edge is going to be kind of messy anyway. If you're the measure-y type, try cutting a 5" x 5" square off each side, then measure each cut to be 1"-1.5" wide and 5" long... or just wing it like me! Either way, I'm sure you'll get good results.

The "thumb" method of measuring... just made that up.

Here it is all cut up and ready to tie!

So, the thing about these knots is that however you decide to tie them, you've got to stay consistent. I like to tie my knots so that a bit of the color from the other side of the blanket shows. I've seen versions on Pinterest that have the knots showing the same fabric as the side you're on. Just try it out and see what you like. I do two overhand knots in a row.

Here's the second pass.

...and all tightened up!

I make my way all around the blanket, tying the knots the exact same way each time. It's helpful to have a movie or some guilty-pleasure TV show to hold you over as you tie all these knots! I stop in the bottom corner and leave myself a foot opening so that I can embroider the child's name on the blanket. It's a nice extra touch, if you have the time. I think it also makes it more special for a kid than just any old blanket. I clearly remember a towel that my grandmother bought for me when I was 5 or so that had my name and ballet slippers on it. I loved that towel more than any other towel we owned, through there were better quality ones in the house, simply because it had my name emblazoned on it.

I used about four strands of embroidery thread and an embroidery needle to make her name. I used the chain stitch. I didn't make a stencil or anything. I never do really. It's kinda like measuring. I think I probably could have done a little better on the cursive here, but for winging it, I think I did alright!

All done! A front/back view.

All tied up and ready for gifting! I used the extra part of the printed fabric that I had to trim off (because the two pieces of fabric were different sizes) to make a pretty bow. I rolled up the blanket so that her name was on the top. I really enjoy making personalized gifts for children, especially when they're practical! 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Generation Good and Seventh Generation's Healthy Home Baby Party!

Hey everyone! Long time no blog! I've had a super busy-but-fun summer and I have lots to share with you all over the next few days. I've got back to school coming up and of course, there will be pinning involved! Something that I've been into for awhile now is product sampling. There are lots of different websites that offer to send you complimentary products, either trial or full size, in exchange for some reviews and buzz about their products, usually through social media. If you have young kids at home, I want to share with you a great opportunity to sample a whole big box of goodies with your friends that have little kids, too!

Generation Good is giving parents the opportunity to host a Health Baby Home Party for free! Seventh Generation's Healthy Baby Home Parties are fun and informative for you and your guests, and together you will create a healthy environment for your families! They will send you a big box of goodies, both full-sized and sample-sized, as well as coupons and information on how to keep your home and family toxin-free.

The Healthy Baby Home Party kit contains educational information from non-profit partner Healthy Child Healthy World, a fun party game to help you share tips, and products and coupons from Seventh Generation, bobble, Zarbee's Naturals, and other brands. Hosts and guests will also be invited to join Seventh Generation in asking our U.S. Senators to reform chemical policy.

"How do I sign up", you say?
  • Sign up at to join the Generation Good community first.
  • Accept the Healthy Baby Home Party Application offer on your Generation Good dashboard and complete the application.
  • Applicants will be notified in mid August on whether or not they have been selected to host a party via an email to the email address assigned to their Generation Good member profile.
  • All selected applicants will then be asked to confirm their participation by accepting the Healthy Baby Home Party Mission and confirming their shipping address before they are sent the Healthy Baby Home Party Kit. 
  • Full terms and conditions are available within Generation Good in the "Healthy Baby Home Party Application" offer.

This is a great opportunity for you to get some really cool stuff for your little one and to spread the love to your friends and family, too! The party doesn't stop there though! Once you're in Generation Good, you'll occasionally get opportunities to sample other products from Seventh Generation, sometimes before the products even hit the shelves! 

If We Can Get Monsters Out of Closets, Bring Toys Back to Life, and Heal Scrapes with a Kiss, We Can Get Toxins Out of Our Kids.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Almond Milk

So my darling husband has decided to do his first Whole 30! The Whole 30 is a kind of detox where you do nothing but eat whole, non-processed foods, while eliminating food groups known to irritate the gut, so that your body has time to heal from any inflammation that your current diet is causing you. After the 30 days, you then begin reintroducing foods one at a time to see what it is that causes any kind of negative reaction in your body. It's pretty darn awesome, and can be a challenge, but I'm helping him out. Mostly by eating up all the cheese and wine in the house, but you know, some cooking, too!

Some of the foods you have to eliminate on a Whole 30 are dairy, grains, legumes, added sugar, alcohol, oils like vegetable, canola, and corn oil, baked goods and sweets (even paleo treats!). One of the things you've got to eliminate is carrageenan and that is found in most almond milks and has been linked to digestive issues and intestinal problems. So what's a Whole 30er to do?

Here's what I pinned:

To make this recipe I headed off to pick up some raw, organic almonds and cheesecloth. That's pretty much all you need to get. You've got to start by soaking the almonds for 24 hours. This serves two purposes. One is to get them nice and soft and easier to blend. The other reason is that by doing this, you remove much of the phytic acid, which makes the minerals in the almonds not useful to our bodies. Soaking them also releases some really good stuff. like the enzyme lipase, that helps us digest fats.

Here are my 1 cup of almonds and some water, all ready for their soaking! I just rinsed them, then added enough water to cover them. They're going to expand a bit, so put a little extra water. You'll be getting rid of it anyway.

I left them on the countertop for the 24 hours with a glass plate on the top and a note CLEARLY stating this was an almond milk project, not to be disturbed! 

They really puffed up! I was expecting them to get bigger, but not as much as they did, and not to take up as much water as they did. Cool! The water that they had been sitting in had turned a bit brown, so I dumped all that out, gave them a rinse and got on with the next part.

I don't have a Vitamix. I want one! I really do. But the Ninja is what I've got... and it's not even a new Ninja. But it works and it worked out for this recipe. So if that's all you've got, don't worry. Just don't try to cut corners and soak them for less time. You're going to need the almonds as soft as can be.

I decided that since the Ninja didn't have the most powerful motor that I would only do half of the almonds and water at a time. The recipe calls for 4 cups of filtered water, so I put about two in with half of the soaked almonds.

I blended them up for about a minute and a half. I wasn't sure how the Ninja would take it, so I started with pulsing the almonds, but the second time around, I just went straight to blending. They were soft enough and the Ninja handled it like a champ.

Next came the straining and this is where it got tricky. Now, if I had three arms, this would not have been a problem. Being that I don't have three arms, I tried a couple of different things to hold the cheesecloth on to my pot so that I could still use my "free" hand to pour the almond milk through. 

I did manage to get one good picture of what it looked like while I was straining the almond milk. This took some creative posturing, elbows, my chin and a very dexterous hand to get this shot for you. I really need an assistant.

After I had gotten the first batch through, I gathered up the cheesecloth and pushed what I could through, so that I got the most I could out of my creation. The cheesecloth I used was spent, so I cut another piece to use. 

The second batch was easier to whip up, due to my extensive experience. However, that false sense of confidence got me in trouble. Some of the non-strained milk fell into the pot, just when I was about to be done! So I had to strain the whole batch one last time. I cut another piece of cheesecloth and decided to strain it back into the Ninja pitcher. I tied the cheesecloth onto the handle and held the other side. I could then use my actual free hand to pour the almond milk through the cheesecloth!

I learned a lot while making this batch. This wastes a lot of cheesecloth. I tried looking for a nut bag at New Seasons Market, kind of like a mini Whole Foods, but they didn't have any. I should have just ordered one in advance, but I was anxious to try this out. I plan on ordering one soon, because cheesecloth will not happen again. I'm probably going to get this one since it has some really great reviews on Amazon. 

There was also a lot of almond pulp left over and supposedly you can dry it out in your oven at it's lowest setting (about 200 degrees Fahrenheit) and turn it into almond meal. I saved it and will try it out. It was late when I made this though and was too tired to cook anything else.

The Sprout LOVED the almond milk! He hates regular milk (I don't blame him!), but this was a hit! He asked for a second serving! He even got a little almond milk mustache, just to make him even cuter.

I'll continue to document our Whole 30 recipes. Pinterest has been a great help, but I am going to pick up the books. There's two that you might consider if you're thinking of doing a Whole 30 yourself.

It Starts With Food is the original book to come out not only explains the Whole 30 in detail to you, but helps you understand the reasons behind each of the things you'll need to eliminate from your diet and how to reintroduce foods once you're done.
It Starts With Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways

The newest book on the Whole 30 hasn't even hit the shelves yet, but is available for pre-order. It will be released on April 21st, and if you've ever pre-ordered anything on Amazon before, you know that you may even get it a day early! No guarantees, but it will at least arrive by it's release date.
The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom