Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Vinegar ain't so bad...and baking soda is even better

So this cleaning with vinegar business isn't as stinky as I thought it'd be. And my favorite part? When I clean stainless steel or faucets, it resists water spots later in the day and week. It's amazing!
According to Wikipedia: 
"Among the items tested, vinegar (5% acetic acid) showed the strongest bactericidal activity against all strains tested, which was attributed to its high acetic acid content."
I thought this to be amazing. I have two bottles with vinegar. One with full strength, one two parts vinegar, one part water. I use the diluted vinegar for quick clean ups, on Luca's high chair and counter tops and such when I don't want the strong smell.
I use the full strength for everything else. Bathroom, kitchen, floors, cutting boards, rinse cycle in the washing machine for Luca's cloth diapers, anything gross or disgusting.
Also - vinegar is safe to use on paint, so I can use it to wipe down the walls, which is a common practice around here.
Please note - vinegar and bleach SHOULD NEVER be mixed. It creates toxic fumes that are likely to kill you. Nice, huh? I learned this from when I worked at Fridays. A cook knocked over a jug of vinegar while the cleaning crew was bleaching the floors. We all had to immediately leave and wait for the all clear.
Now to baking soda. I use it to pre-scrub the tub, shower, and pretty much anything gross in the bathroom. After that, I spray on the vinegar and scrub away. Note: it will fizz. And it will smell. And if you're sensitive to strong smells, then this may not be for you. Just stick with the vinegar. I have the exhaust fan on and another fan blowing when I do this. It's a very sour smell and extremely strong. But man does it ever do the trick. My shower stays cleaner, longer. I find that it seems to resist mildew and other gross happenings in the dark, moist areas.
I won't lie. I am the worst at scrubbing showers and such. So I am even happier that I can do it just as often as I typically do, and it stays clean!
Bestest, best part of all?!? There are no harsh chemicals that are bad for the kids, so I don't have to wait until they're napping to clean. Plus, I can clean pregnant. AND it's better for the environment. All things that make me happy.
So today, while the pizza was cooking in the oven, I cleaned with vinegar. Claire was a mere 10 feet away from me working on a puzzle and Luca was always within two feet. In that time, neither complained of a smell. And my fridge has never been whiter. And bacteria-free.
I'm so happy.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

PB2. Hmm...

PB2. I'm still on the fence about you. It still, to me, doesn't satisfy like Jif can. HOWEVER:

I found that baking with it is delicious. It doesn't make your product all oily and it isn't quite as filling. I had made some peanut butter cookies a while back with just PB2 and I couldn't tell a taste difference, just that it didn't leave me feeling slowed down and fat.

I'm starting with baby steps. Yesterday I made Peanut butter blondies with milk chocolate frosting. Thanks, Joy! It was flipping amazing. However, I made a few changes, just to make it not so bad for me. I mean, it's bad for me, but anything to curb a few calories, right?

Here's Joy's ingredient list for the blondies:

10 Tablespoons unsalted butter cut into 5 cubes
2 cups dark brown sugar
1 cup smooth and natural peanut butter: I used 1/2 cup regular peanut butter and 1/2 cup reconstituted PB2
 2 eggs: I used egg beaters
2  teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour: I used half white/half whole wheat
1 teaspoon baking powder
Now, it's still absolutely evil and bad for anyone, but it still tasted flipping amazing. My husband and daughter couldn't even tell the difference. And holy crap is it rich. I mean, I had half a square and that was enough for me. Matt and Claire, too. 
I didn't change the frosting recipe. However, if you're like me, I could have done with less frosting. I'm not a big frosting fan, just enough to add a little somethin' somthin'. I loved it, though. Joy's my new baking hero. No lie.
My husband is a sweet-aholic. I'm OK with that. I guess, this just shows that you can take something terrible and make it not so much. It's amazing how simple swaps can make a small difference. 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


I was searching through some old photos the other day on my computer and found some from when I painted a mural on Claire's wall.

I had purchased some 'decorative stickers' from Ikea and after a few weeks, they had begun to peel off the wall. It got to the point where Claire would wake up from a nap and be covered in a stem or a petal from the sticker flower. I figured then, that enough was enough.

Painting murals don't have to be difficult. You don't even have to be artistic, really. It does help, though.

Fortunately for me, I do have a small (very small) background on art and was able to make a pretty neat, and involved, wall mural for Miss Claire.

Here's how it went down:
What you need:
1. Acrylic paint
2. Tape and more tape
3. Poster board or thin cardboard
4. Small paint brushes, varying in size
6. Chalk

I sent Claire to my Mom's for the day, so I would be able to finish it without wanting to hurt myself.

The rest is based on your creativity and ambition. I'd post a step by step guide (and I had started to type it) but to be honest, I did most of it free handed. I did, however, tape out the stems.

The birds and 'happy sun' (as Claire calls it) is courtesy of Noggin's music video for Bob Marley's "Three Birds." Again, free handed.

The best part? When Claire gets sick of it, all I have to do is take a 240 or so piece of sand paper, gently sand the top of the paint and then paint on over. That's why I chose acrylic paint.

When Luca moves into his new room once the baby is born, I plan on giving him something too for his walls. I'm still kind of up in the air, since I tend to refuse to do anything 'cutsie' or seen on Nickelodeon. (Other than something related to Bob Marley.) I'm more into the whole contemporary and modern notion. It seems to me that it's more timeless.

Where was I going with this post?

Oh yah. Murals. Matt likes it because he says it's one less hole in the wall. I like it because I made it. Claire likes it because it makes her happy. All in all, I say, if you own your home, have some free time and are feeling extremely creative, go for it!

Any questions, I'm happy to answer them.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Eyelash in your food?

Have you ever gone out for dinner and found a foreign body in your food? Hair, eyelash, spit? Should it be in there? Probably not. 
That's how I feel about processed foods. 
There's absolutely no reason for food to have MSG, high fructose corn syrup, modified food starch, 'natural flavors'...none. 

That's just me.

Stepping off my soap box...
So today's meal is Black Bean Burgers! I love, love, love 'em. My husband? Not so much. I wanted to order it when I went Max & Erma's, but I looked online prior to it's nutritional content. Ouch. That's what I'll say:

Serving Size: Portion as served
Total Fat: 28 g
Saturated Fat: 4.3 g
Cholesterol: 20 mg
Dietary Fiber 9.3 g
Sodium: 1495 mg
Calories: 649
Calories from Fat: 252
Carbohydrates: 79.1 g
Protein:: 32.7 g

So here's how I made it husband-friendly.

Black Bean Burgers a la Matt (makes 4 burgers)

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 tbs garlic powder or 3 cloves minced
1 egg or 1/4 cup egg beaters
3/4 cup bread crumbs
1 tbs chili powder
1 tbs cumin

Preheat oven to 350. In a bowl, smash the black beans with a fork. Then add all the above ingredients. I tend to eyeball my bread crumbs, because I find that too little and they don't keep a nice shape. If you plan on making the burgers ahead of time and freezing, then you could probably go with 1/2 cup. Otherwise, stick with 3/4 cup. 

Using your hands, make the mixture into 4 patties. Place onto a tinfoil covered cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes, flipping over about half way through.

To make this pleasing to my husband, I sautéed onions and mushrooms until caramelized. I then topped his burger with swiss cheese and the onions and mushrooms and served it on a toasted Arnold. 

For me, I just like plain 'ol ketchup. And only Heinz. Is there any other brand? (It's the Pittsburgher in me.)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Chicken Tettrazini and Banana Bread

Chicken Tettrazini! I'm so super excited for this one. It's SO super delicious and the perfect comfort food.

Back when I was a kid it was an easy casserole for our Mom to make and I remember it fondly. I, of course, have changed the original recipe to my liking since I'm such a stubborn and picky eater.

Chicken Tettrazini
1 or 2 chicken breasts (you can also use turkey breasts, but I find it to be too dry)
1 can of cream of chicken soup (I use the 98% fat free kind)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 package of frozen peas (I LOVE Bird's Eye super sweet peas)
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (must be sharp)
1 package of cooked spaghetti noodles (I actually prefer capallini. It's just a touch thinner than spaghetti.)
Assorted spices

Preheat oven to 350. While preparing the pasta, in a saucepan, add in about a 1/2 inch of water, crushed pepper, garlic powder and pepper. Cube the raw chicken and add to the simmering water. Cook until the outsides are no longer pink and strain out the remaining water.
In a large (and I mean large) bowl, mix in all other ingredients starting with the liquids first, then adding the cheese and peas, then chicken, then add the cooked pasta.
Pour contents into a large greased casserole dish and cook for 35 to 45 minutes, until bubbly.


My husband just loves banana bread. Every time my sister comes by, he'll say, "So when are you making me some more banana bread?" So finally I decided I had to figure out how the hell to bake it.

My first attempt was a few weeks ago. He said it was ... good, but not Carly's. Ouch. So I tried again. I pulled this recipe out of my head, so thank GOD I wrote it down. Because he loved it.

Banana Bread:
1 cup white unbleached flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
4 tablespoons flax seed
3/4 buttermilk (I use the powder and reconstitute it. It's MUCH healthier. And it keeps longer than fresh.)
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs (I used 1/2 cup egg beaters)
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
dash of salt
6 super-duper over ripe bananas

Preheat oven to 350. In a large mixing bowl, mix bananas into a pudding like consistency. Add in flax seed, eggs, butter, baking powder, butter milk, salt and brown sugar. Mix for 3 minutes on high. Reduce speed to the slowest setting and add flour.
Pour into greased bread pan and set timer for 1 hour and 5 minutes.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Stuffing and Chicken

I love good comfort food. I have been making stuffing and chicken for a while now. All you need is your trusty crockpot and you're good to go! I used to make this with Stove Top, but alas...

Enriched Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate(Vitamin B1), Riboflavin(Vitamin B2), Folic Acid), Degermed Yellow Corn Meal, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Onions*, Salt, Contains Less Than 2% of Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and/Or Cottonseed Oil, Vital Wheat Gluten, Yeast, Celery*, Parsley*, Maltodextrin, Monosodium Glutamate, Spice, Sugar, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Turmeric, Cooked Chicken and Chicken Broth, Annatto (Color), Artificial Flavor, Natural Flavor, With Bha, Bht, Citric Acid, and Propyl Gallate As Preservatives *Dried

Stuffing and Chicken:

Crockpot portion:
2 chicken breasts
*1 zucchini shredded (with skins on)
shredded carrots (I use a whole bag of the matchsticks, or shred 4)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/4 cup sour cream
1 cup cheddar cheese

Combine all ingredients into crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

45 minutes prior to serving, prepare the stuffing:

1/2 loaf of bread cubed (I use TJ's white wheat bread, it crisps up well)
2 tsp sage
1 tsp ground thyme
1 tsp marjoram (if you don't have it, don't freak out. I've used oregano before and hardly noticed)
1/4 cup butter melted
chopped celery (to taste...I don't like a bunch, to be honest, but it does give a good flavor)
dried minced onion (to taste)

In a pyrex pan, coat with Pam and place bread cubes in. Mix in all other ingredients, being careful to coat all pieces, but don't go crazy. Bake in oven at 375 for 25 minutes, or until the top layer is toasted (but not burned!)

Prior to serving, place stuffing on top of crockpot mixture. Don't do it too soon, otherwise the stuffing will absorb all the liquid in the crockpot, making it mush.


*Last night I didn't have zucchini, so I used broccoli florets instead. It tasted just as good!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

make tonight a tuna night!

Yah, and it was delicious, too. Ahi Tuna. Let me start by saying that I'm NOT a huge fan of fish. In fact, I pretty much don't like it...ever. If it is a steak-like, non-fishy-tasting, firm fish, then I'll give it a go. I enjoy shark, swordfish and tuna steaks. I buy my tuna at Trader Joe's and they assure me that it's wild caught and sold of free trade. TJ's hasn't let me down yet, so here's to hoping!
Here's how I made this meal:
The rice was cooked in low sodium vegetable broth and I added a hint of lemon juice.
The green beans were steamed. Nothing fancy.

Ahi Tuna Steaks:
thawed (if previously frozen) Ahi Tuna
fresh lemon and limes (one of each should be fine)
2 tbs low sodium soy sauce
oregano to taste
garlic powder to taste
a little water

Cut the lemon and lime in half, then squeeze one half of each fruit into a bowl. Save the other halves for later. Mix in all other ingredients. Using a brush, add the mixture onto the tuna. If grilling, put on aluminum foil, if broiling in the oven, put on cookie sheet and aluminum foil (it makes for easier clean up and less likely to burn/stick). Slice up the lemon and lime into rounds, and place on top of the tuna to bake. Depending on how you like your tuna done, I cooked mine for about 10 minutes on each side, reapplying the marinade and the lemon/lime rounds after flipping.