Homemade Playdough (Play-doh)…Pastels Just In Time For Easter

This is a super easy recipe for homemade playdough your little ones will LOVE.  I have four boys and they wanted all the colors so I actually double this recipe.

Ingredients:

• 2 Tbsp salt
• 1 cup water
• 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
• 1 Tbsp cream of tartar
• 1 Cup all-purpose flour
• food coloring (liquid food coloring works, I prefer gel)
(Makes 1½ cups, approx. size  of a softball)
  • Food Coloring can be added to the dough before or after cooking.

To add color before cooking -  put a small amount of gel food coloring on a toothpick and mix it into the water before it is added to the dry ingredients.

To add color after cooking – (the dough will be white) make an indention in your dough and  place a small amount of gel food coloring into the indention. Knead the gel into the dough until evenly colored.
**If you don’t want your hands to get temporarily stained wear gloves.  My boys loved seeing the color slowly mix into the dough.

Directions:

Mix dry ingredients in a sauce pan.  Add water and oil, whisk until smooth.
Turn stove on to medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, making sure to regularly scrape the bottom of the pan.
Lumps will begin to form and it will look a bit like chunky like a dumplings consistency.
Continue to stir until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan.
Once a ball has formed remove from the heat. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board. The dough will be quite warm/hot so wait to begin kneading once dough has cooled enough. Knead dough until smooth. If the dough feels too dry at any point, simply add a small amount of oil on your hands while kneading.  When dough is nice and smooth form into a large ball.

You have officially made your first batch of uncolored playdough!  Now it’s time for the fun part!  Seperate the dough into however many colors you would like to make.  I would suggest making a double batch if you want several different colors.  The amount you see in the pictures is a double batch.  Color the dough to your choosing.  (See tips below!) We chose to use basic gel food coloring and make pastels just in time for EASTER!

Tips:
  •  Food Coloring:
  1. The amount gel food coloring depends on the actual color and strength of the color you want. If you buy a box set of color, the back usually has a chart to make different color combinations.  Craft stores have a larger variety of colors. They also have full strength. For example – the red you get at the grocery store tends to turn out to be pink.
  2. Start with a small amount of coloring and then increase until you get the desired color. (Follow box instructions)

As always, have fun and ENJOY!

 Happy Easter!

Cheesy Baked Potato Soup…Healthy Recipe Makeover

Oh so creamy, oh so cheesy potato soup.  Fantastic taste without the guilt of eating all those calories and fat.  This is one of our favorite fall/winter recipes.

    • Ingredients:

      2 tbsp of olive oil or butter

      1 large onion, minced

      2 clove garlic, minced

      1/4 cup all-purpose flour

      1 teaspoon salt

      1/2 teaspoon dried basil/italian blend

      1/2 teaspoon pepper

      3 large baked potatoes, peeled and cubed

      2 cups of Chicken broth

      2 cups 2% milk

      1/2 cup water

      1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (optional)

      3 bacon strips, crumbled

      1 1/2 cup of 2% Shredded Cheddar Cheese

      Directions:

  1. Cooked bacon to your liking – I cook bacon in the microwave on a paper towel lined plate or use our Makin Bacon dish to make the bacon crispy without all the fat.
  2. In a large saucepan over medium heat, warm oil or melt the butter. Saute onion and garlic until they are tender.  Stir in flour, salt, basil, and pepper, mixing well.
  3. Slowly whisk in broth, water, and then milk.  Add hot sauce.  Bring mixture to a boil. Continue to boil and stir for 2 minutes.
  4. Decrease heat to medium and add the potatoes.   Simmer for 20-30 minutes until potato is tender.  Next, remove the pan from the heat and use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth. If you want a little more texture - use potato masher to mash the cubes of potato.   
  5. Return the soup to low heat. Add the cheese a handful at a time.  Stir continuously until cheese is melted and smooth after each handful.  Serve warm with crumbled bacon on top.
Note:  You can also add the cheese as a  topping with the bacon of each individual servings versus adding into the soup in the end.
As always, ENJOY!

Approx. 6 servings

Nutritional Value:

Approx. 275 calories, 11 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 28 g carbohydrates, 3 g sugars, 2 g fiber, 12 g protein

 

Apple Crisp…Healthy Recipe Makeover

Ingredients:

1/2 cup Whole Wheat flour (can also use white)
1/2 cup old fashioned oats (not instant)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
3 tbsp butter, softened
6 med-large  apples or peeled and thinly sliced
1 tbsp butter, melted
Light vanilla bean ice cream  (Breyers light is all natural) or frozen yogurt(optional)

Directions:

  • Heat oven to 375 F.  Coat 10×6 deep baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Arrange apples in dish. Mix first 6 ingredients until crumbly and sprinkle over apples.  Drizzle melted butter evenly over topping.
  • Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until tender.
  • Serve warm with ice cream.

As always, Enjoy!

Beans and Greens…Healthy & Delicious

I simply LOVE beans and greens.  They can be used as a side dish or eaten as a soup with a great multi-grain/whole wheat baguette as a main entree.  My mother-in-law is the person who handed me my very first bowl  of beans and greens years ago.  I finally took it upon myself to find a great recipe and make them myself.  This recipe is pretty easy,  nutritious, and very delicious.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 large onion, minced

2 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

2 cans no-salt-added cannellini or other white beans (1 can with juice & one can rinsed and drained)

1 1/2 pound mixed greens, trimmed and roughly chopped, such as escarole, curly endive, mustard greens, spinach, kale or broccoli rabe

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 grated parmesan cheese or romano cheese

Directions:

Wash greens well. Trim and chop greens.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic & onion…cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes.   Slowly add chicken broth, stirring well.

Add beans (one can of beans with juice and one can of drained beans), greens, salt, pepper,  simmer on med-low for approx. 20 minutes.  Serve in bowls and top with parm cheese.

Note: *If you like a little extra spice – add 1/4 tsp of crush red pepper in while cooking garlic & onion.

As always, ENJOY!

Approx. Servings: 4

Calories 320 / Calories from Fat 79 / Total Fat 9 g / Saturated Fat 1 g / Cholesterol 0.0 mg/ Sodium 680 mg / Total Carbohydrate 35 g / Dietary Fiber 15 g / Protein 18g

Exhausted & Searching For Answers For My Littlest Man

Bare with me as I get a little more personal with what’s been going on in my life the last few months.  Mason, now 19 months, has suffering from  ”Infant Reflux” since birth.  Actually, all four of my children had reflux and a sensitivity to milk.  Thankfully by the time they reached 10-12 months it disappeared.   Well all of them except Mason.  He has been on Prevacid since 1-2 mo old and currently still is.

The prevacid seems to help the reflux but he doesn’t seem to have complete relief.   He still has issues now.  He gags, seems to have trouble swallowing, and has thrown up/spit up food more often.   He doesn’t sleep well and is fussy.   Many say he just seems like something is bothering him.  It doesn’t help that he can quite yet talk about how he is feeling.  Yes, my 19 month old only says a few words.  The good news is he can comprehend and understand just about everything we say.

We went back to his GI in July to discuss his persistant reflux symptoms.  As I said before, the majority of infants outgrow reflux by the age of one.  Well we are way past that. He wanted a upper endoscopy with biopsies performed in August. Visually everything looked pretty good.  The doctor didn’t think the biopsies would show much.

The biopsies came back with inflammation, irritation, white bood cells, and rare eosinophil cells. Eosinophil ( EOS) cells are a type of white blood cell that  aren’t typically found it the esophagus.  They can be due to reflux or be due to whay is called eosinophilic esophagitis (EE).  It basically is inflammation of the esophagus due to these rare allergic cells.  It’s a newer diagnosis and research is still being done to figure ins and outs of the disease.  Mason numbers weren’t high enough to be diagnosed but its suspicious.

Mason was sent to an allergist to see if he was allergic to the top foods that could trigger this EE.  His skin prick tested for the top 12 allergy related foods, all were negative. Great right?!  Not exactly.  At this point I would rather have something to explain his symptoms.  With this diagnosis you’re just hoping to find something that is causing it.  Finding nothing doesn’t necessarily rule anything out.  CRAZY!!  We are left with a request to do a food log to see if we can notice anything specific food that might trigger symptoms.  The problem is EoE presents differently that a normal allergy. The normal rules for allergies don’t apply.  The reactions/symptoms can be delayed by hours or days.  How in the hell am I going to figure that one out???

I am so exhausted from 19 months of sleep deprivation and overwhelmed with it all.  It’s affecting the entire family and I am left with more unanswered questions.  I just want my little man to feel better.

I’m questioning whether the GI took enough biopsies in the first place.  On top of that there is conflicting information in the pathology report.

I actually spoke to our GI today and they want to automatically put him on a steroid that he will swallow twice a day.  This lovely steroid can cause  increased appetite/weight gain, irritability, and decreased immune system.  They say the side affects are 10% likely but I was told is more like 90%.  Lovely more crankiness and staying away from people who are sick.  That’s going to be easy!  UGH!  Regardless if it’s going to potentially give him significant relief I will do anything.

I saw our pediatrician today to address my concerns.  He is my saving grace.  I trust him and his judgement to the highest degree.  He is AMAZING!   He believes there is to much uncertainty.  Mason is in the grey area and we need to figure out what exactly is going on. Whether it’s reflux, EE, or something else we need to find answers.  Mason is only 19 months old and has been dealing with all this since birth.   Medications have helped but are not making him better.  Today is D Day.  We will find out if we will be taking a trip to the Children’s Hospital in Boston for a second opinion.  They are the best of the best and have more in depth knowledge and experience.

So that’s where I am at, what has been going on in our lives, and why I am not blogging as much as I would like.  All of my boys are feeling the stress of it all and need more of mommy.  Sometimes there’s just not enough of me to give.  I just have days when I’m struggling to stay sane.  I’m mad that I have never been able to 100% truly enjoy my children as infants, especially Mason.  I have days of complete and utter mental and physical exhaustion from all that’s been going on, including figuring out if I have lupus.

I am a positive person.  I have a good life, great husband, four beautiful boys, and a wonderful support system.  I am truly blessed.  I know it will all work out.  I realize other parents are dealing with circumstances far worse than mine.  I’m just in a funk and having a moment.

Yahoo Women Who Shine…Celebrating An Amazing Women & Doula

From the second I found out I was pregnant with my first son I knew I wanted to have a natural childbirth.  I decided a midwife was the best choice for me.  It was my impression that midwives were more supportive in having a natural childbirth experience, allowed things to be more relaxed, and were there for you throughout your labor process more than a typical obstetrician.  To make a long story short, I had naturally deliveries with my first two boys.  Unfortunately, I was extremely disappointed with my third delivery.  The lack of my midwife not coming in because it was in the middle of the night and complications that weren’t initially taken seriously by the nursing staff was so disheartening.  If that wasn’t enough I had very bad back labor with no one there to help me through it.  I ended up getting an epidural.  I’m not saying there is anything wrong with getting one.  There isn’t.  My body didn’t react well to the epidural and my blood pressure dropped significantly.  In the end I had a healthy baby but the process wasn’t exactly a positive experience.

When I found out I was pregnant with my fourth child I wasn’t going to allow my previous experience to happen again.  That’s when I decided that a doula was absolutely what I needed.  Just a few months later I found an amazing women, Chris Goldman.  She is a doula and owner of Doulas of CNY. Chris and I clicked the second we spoke for the first time.  There is just something about her.  She is full of great knowledge and  is doing such wonderful things for women.

Chris Goldman

When I learned of Yahoo Women Who Shine, I knew Chris was a person in my life who deserved the recognition.  Yahoo Women Who Shine celebrates the women out there who are blazing new trails, touching lives and/or are amazing by doing something extraordinary every single day.  The woman who receives the most overall votes will receive a $10,000 cash prize.

Chris Goldman is a mother of five children. She is spectacular at what she does.  She is dedicated to empowering women and educating them on all of their options throughout their pregnancy and birth experience.  She actively stands up for a women’s right to their own birth plan.  Chris is there for women like no other person I have known.  As she states, “Being a Doula is similar to motherhood…it’s a calling…of servanthood.”  Her guidance, helpful advice, and endless amount of love & support through your pregnancy and birth experience is astonishing.  She made my final birth, along with so many other mothers, the best experience I could have ever asked for.  It was calm, well focused, and empowering.  Chris has inspired me to become a doula and follow in her footsteps .  She is truly one of a kind and SHINES both inside and out.

I have nominated Chris Goldman as a “Women Who Shines.”

 I truly hope you will help me give her the recognition she deserves by voting for her at Yahoo Shine!

Nominate someone in your life today!  Visit Yahoo Women Who Shine below.

“I was compensated for this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms blogging program.  The opinions and ideas expressed here are my own. To read more posts on this topic, Click here!

Healthy Turkey Chili…Healthy Recipe Makeover

A healthy leaner twist on a classic fall chili recipe.  This recipe is out of this world delicious.  It has so much flavor and just the right amount of spice.  You won’t even notice it’s healthier or made with ground turkey.  My husband gave it 5 BIG stars, in which, he gives out sparingly.

 

Ingredients:

1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 pound ground turkey
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 med onion, chopped
2 cups Low Sodium All Natural Chicken Stock
2 (14 ounce) can petite diced tomatoes with jalapeno
2 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tsp brown sugar
2 tbsp flour

1 (16 ounce) can canned black beans – drained & rinsed (can use kidney beans)
1 (16 ounce) can corn (optional)

2%  shredded mozzarella or cheddar cheese

 Directions

  • Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat.  Saute onion and garlic until fragrant.  Add turkey into the pan and cook until evenly brown.
  • Next add chicken broth, diced tomatoes, chili powder, paprika, oregano, cayenne pepper, cumin, salt,  pepper, sugar, and flour.  Mix until well blended.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 30 minutes.  Mix in black beans and corn.  Continue to heat about 5 minutes or until beans and corn are heated through.
  • Place chili in soup bowls. Sprinkle small amount of cheese on top. Serve!

As always, ENJOY a healthy & Delicious meal!

Servings: 6
Approx. 350 Calories /9g fat /Cholesterol 89mg / Sodium 440mg  /Carbohydrate 45g, Fiber 12g, Protein 30g
Note:  Chili will thicken with time.  If you would like a thicker chili – mix one tbsp of melted butter and one tbsp of flour well.  Add to chili mixture after simmering for 10-15 minutes.
Slow cooker: 
  • Cook first 4 ingredients in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Chopping up meant with spatula, cooks until turkey crumbles and is no longer pink. Place mixture into a 5 1/2-qt. slow cooker. Add remaining ingredients except the cheese. Mix until well blended.
  • Cook at HIGH 4 to 5 hours or at LOW 6 to 8 hours. Serve with a small amount of cheese on top.

Are You “Living Your Best Life?”

We all want to be happy, that’s a given.  But are you truly doing everything you can to Live Your Best Life?

Are you focused on your passions, dreams and goals?
If not, what’s holding you back?
How are leaving your mark?
Are you living your best life every day? If so, how?

Life is full of ups and downs.  Sometimes circumstances change, our own insecurities get the best of us, or just the stress of the normal daily grind can get in the way.

One thing I have learned is that life is way to short to wait for tomorrow.  We need to learn from the past, have hope for the future, but most importantly live in the present.  It’s doesn’t always seem easy but it’s a conscious decision.  I can honestly say I am making a big effort to Live My Best Life.  I am learning how important it is to take care of myself, be true to who I am, and pursue my passions.

I began blogging to simply reach out to mothers, reflect on personal experience, share what I learned, and talk about the unknown.  Unfortunately I got wrapped up in my stats and what everyone else was doing.  I lost track of why I was here and where I wanted to be.  I’ve had to take steps back on more than one occasion and re-evaluate where I wanted to be.

As a wife and mother of four young boys I have naturally put everyone’s wants and needs above my own.  Obviously at times it’s important and needed.  The problem I ran into is that I found myself losing my own identity.  I wasn’t taking care of myself and nourishing my mind and body.  I have realized that in order to be the best wife, the best mother, and the best blogger I can be,  I have to nourish myself and be happy from within.  I need to not take myself to seriously, take a moment daily to unwind, and simply take a breathe to enjoy what I have.  If I can do that I will be Living My Best Life.

What steps am I taking to pursue my passions and encourage my family to do the same…

  • I am a mother first but I’m making my passions apart of my everyday life.  Since giving birth to my children I have developed a love for all things related to pregnancy and especially childbirth.  It is such a powerful moment in a women’s life.  I recently made it a point to pursue that passion and am working to becoming a certified doula.
  • I have always been very health conscious and strive to live a healthy lifestyle for both myself and my family.  I enjoy helping others take the steps towards living a healthier life.  I will be a nutritionist someday!  Until then I will continue to share my knowledge with all who will listen.
  • A large canvas marked with a FAMILY quote hangs on my kitchen wall.  It’s a daily reminder to our family to be the best we can be.  In an nutshell it basically states to encourage and inspire each other, treat people kindly, have fun, be grateful, be fearless, and don’t be afraid to fail. I believe children need this positive encouragement from a very young age.   We as parents are one of their biggest role models.

If you asked me to think of one person who inspires me and has encourage people to live their very best life for decades, it would be Oprah.  She is such an inspirational, empowering, women.  On October 2oth Oprah has an upcoming event O You!, at the Los Angeles Convention Center at L.A. Live, sponsored by Clorox!  Oprah, Gayle King, Suze Orman, Martha Beck, Peter Walsh and more fabulous experts will gather will O Magazine readers for a full-day of inspirational, life changing, discussions.

  • NOW is your chance to enter to WIN tickets to the event by playing fun games and entering a sweepstake at The Clorox Lounge. Every time you play one of the games you’ll be entered to win 1 of 10 Kindle fires & a subscription to O, The Oprah Magazine subscription, along with a chance at the grand prize – round trip airfare to Los Angeles complete with two nights hotel accommodations, airport transfers and admission to O You! (up to 12 entries a day)

What are waiting for?!  Visit The Clorox Lounge to play for a chance to WIN! 

For additional info:

All about the  O You! Event

Visit  The Clorox Lounge 

Clorox Ode to the Commode on Facebook

Follow @clorox on Twitter

Disclosure: “I was compensated for writing this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and The Clorox Lounge blogging program. The opinions and ideas expressed here are my own. To read more posts on this topic, click here.”)

Chocolate Pumpkin Bundt Cake…Healthy Recipe Makeover

 Just in time for FALL!  It was a huge hit in my home.  It’s super moist and has a spicy chocolate flavor.  Perfect for the upcoming fall and holiday season!  I promise, you won’t even realize it is a healthier version of a chocolate bundt cake.  Mmm…I might need to eat another piece!

Ingredients:

CAKE
1 cup all-purpose, flour (can also use WW flour)
3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, (not Dutch-process)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup nonfat buttermilk
1 15-ounce can unsweetened pumpkin puree
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 large egg white, at room temperature
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup  sugar & in 1 tbsp of water (replaces light corn syrup)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4  tablespoons mini chocolate chips

GLAZE
1/2 cup packed confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon nonfat buttermilk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat 12-cup Bundt pan with cooking spray

  • Place all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, granulated sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice and salt in a medium bowl.  Mix until well blended.
  • Mix 1 cup buttermilk, pumpkin puree and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer on low speed. Beat in whole egg and egg white. Stir in oil, 1/4 cup of sugar, 1 tbsp water, and vanilla. Gradually add the dry ingredients, stirring until just combined. Gentle mix in mini chocolate chips.  Transfer the batter to the prepared pan.
  • Bake cake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours or until  a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs. Let cake cool on cookie rack for 15 minutes. Remove from the pan and let cool completely on the rack, approx. 2 hours.

To prepare Glaze:

  • Combine confectioners’ sugar and 1 tablespoon buttermilk in a small bowl, mix until well blended and completely smooth.

Place the cake on a serving plate.  Drizzle the glaze over the top of cake and Serve.

As always, ENJOY!

Note:  Place glaze in a plastic ziploc bag.  Snip of a corner of the bottom and drizzle.

Nutritional Value:

Per serving: 254 calories, 5.5g fat,  13mg cholesterol,  46g carbohydrates, 4g protein; 3 fiber, 238 mg sodium.

Carbohydrate Servings: 3

Exchanges: 3 other carbohydrate, 1 fat

Crock Pot Tex Mex Cheesy Chicken ‘N’ Rice…Healthy Recipe Makeover

Ingredients:

2 cups brown rice, uncooked (you can use long grain white rice) *NOT Instant
28 ounces diced tomatoes, Hunt’s All Natural
6 ounces tomato paste, Hunt’s All Natural
3 cups hot water
1 package taco seasoning mix
1 pound boneless & skinless chicken breast (sliced into 1-inch-wide strips)
1 medium onions  (chopped)
1 medium green bell pepper (chopped)
1 cup corn
4 ounces green chiles (diced)
3/4 teaspoon garlic pepper

8 oz of 2% Shredded Mexican Cheese
2-3 tbsp Cilantro (chopped) – optional

Directions:
In a slow cooker, mix together all ingredients except cheese & cilantro. Cover and cook on low heat for 4 to 4 1/2 hours or until the rice is tender and the chicken is cook through.  Be careful not overcook otherwise the rice will be mushy.

 Top With Mexican Cheese Blend & Cilantro. Serve & as always ENJOY!

Simply, Healthy, and DELICIOUS!