Thursday, August 10, 2017

Lavender Essential Oil and Tea Tree Oil for Owies, Bug Bites, and General Wellness

            (Auto-correct doesn’t think “owie” is the right spelling.  But I think it’s just fine.)

            By far, the best essential oils for bug bites and general owies are lavender and tea tree oil.  Always keep these on hand to tackle any mystery bump or bite (diluted in carrier oil, of course).

            I became a loyal fan of lavender when I saw a few drops of it heal a red, hot, spreading spider bite on my toddler, a growing skin infection (cellulitis, I believe) from a mosquito bite, and a blood infection that was a black line travelling up someone’s arm from an infected burn.  It only took a couple drops, and all of these things went away completely.  The blood infection vanished within two hours of applying the oil once and the infected bites within two days after applying it a couple times each day.  (This was before I knew to dilute them, though.  I strongly believe in diluting them now so that you don’t become sensitized to them.)

            And my husband had a bad spider bite on his knee that made his knee hot and swollen and red.  We tried various oils on it, but the only one that worked was Tea Tree Oil.  It healed it within a few days.

            If you only ever buy two oils, make it these two. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Fakey Bacon

            There’s only one thing I never feed my children.  I mean, for the most part we avoid GMOs and artificial this and artificial that.  But the one thing I tell them never to touch is pork.  No ham, no bologna, no sausage, no bacon.  (So who’s thinking “horrible parent” right about now?)

            The only time we eat pig products is when we have marshmallows (gelatin) for s’mores on vacation once a year, when we take vitamins with gelatin (but we try to buy those without gelatin), and when we forget to not eat pie that we didn’t make (many pre-made pie crusts have lard) or bean dips at parties (most people buy the regular refried beans which contains lard). 

            But other than that … no pork!

Moist and Chewy Low-Sugar Chocolate Zucchini Breakfast Cake

            (Say that 5 times fast!)
            I am constantly cutting down the sugar in everything I make.  And yet I do like a nice chocolate cake.  And I also like finding ways to use up the abundance of overgrown zucchini that I get from the garden in the summer.  (From my father-in-law’s garden, that is.  I don’t get enough sun for much summer squash in mine.) 
            So I found a way to combine “low sugar” with zucchini and chocolate … and that’s what this cake is.  A good-for-you cake that we usually eat for breakfast.  (I am not a morning person so I do not cook breakfast in the morning.  But I make cakes like these the night before so we have something quick yet healthy to grab for breakfast.)

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Low-Sugar Zucchini Bread - Three Ways

(Spiced, “Carrot Cake-ish,” or Chocolate Chip)
A "go to" breakfast bread for us!

            I cringe – physically cringe and gag – when there is too much sugar in a recipe. 

            Whenever I make dessert for other people and I try to pour in the called-for amount of sugar (which is usually double what I put in for my family), I physically cannot make my hand pour the whole amount in.  I start to sweat and panic at the thought of too much sugar.  So I always stop short. 

            Personally, the ratio of sugar to flour that I think is perfectly sweet is about 1 cup sugar to 4-5 cups flour, maybe with a spoonful of sugar sprinkled over the top to trick your mind into thinking that it’s sweeter than it actually is. 

            But the recipe that I found for zucchini bread in a cookbook is more than 1 cup sugar to 2 cups flour.  UGH!  So I made this one with less sugar.  I think that the less sugar you have, the more flavor you can actually taste in your food and the better you feel about yourself.

Simple Tomato Salsa - Two Ways

#1  This is one of my favorite ways to use tomatoes from the garden.  You could make a whole meal out of just this with some chips or crackers, some cheese on the side, and some fresh fruit.  It would be great on a really hot day when you don’t want to cook.

            All you do is dice up some tomatoes and garlic cloves and add some rough chopped basil.  If you want, season it with a little salt and pepper and/or a drizzle of olive oil.


            That’s it!  So simple.  (I would say about a clove of garlic and a couple basil leaves per regular-sized tomato.) 

            It’s great on sliced, buttered, toasted French bread or with crackers, tortilla chips, pita chips, or other chips.  (I’m partial to Cracked Pepper and Olive Oil Triscuits.  Oh, so good!)

 

#2  This is almost the same thing, but not quite. 

            Just dice up some tomatoes, garlic, onions (red, if you prefer), and bell peppers (optional), and add a little salt and pepper.  (Use the quantities of each that you like.)  

            A friend made this once as an appetizer, but we experimented by spooning it onto our slices of cooked pizza.  It added so much flavor and pizzazz to an otherwise boring pizza.  And we have never been the same since.  It has revolutionized “pizza night” at our house.  Whenever I don’t make it, my cheese pizza slice looks really sad.  

            These would also be great on tacos, fajitas, or other such food!

Easy Garlic Butter


            Today, I am making garlic butter for my kids who all have colds.  I have one son who cannot swallow a pill or vitamin to save his life.  So one day, I made a ton of this garlic butter for him, and he ate it slathered all over a piece of toast. 

            Garlic helps you fight germs. 

            So this is not only a great butter to serve with dinner (especially on warm, homemade bread or French bread), but it’s also great for when you are not feeling well and need a boost for your immune system. 

            And it couldn’t be easier to make.  (The hardest part is peeling the garlic.)

Friday, August 4, 2017

Sick of Social Media Manipulation

I'm not talking about legitimate issues and concerns here ... But is anyone else sick of people using social media to manipulate our emotions with some tiny video or post meant to get us all worked up so that we join in on their political/social agenda without thinking critically about it first?  Aren't we all sick of feeling like pawns yet, letting others manipulate us into feeling what they feel so that we join them in some sort of protest or boycott because of some emotionally-charged video which hardly ever tells the whole story and virtually never gives a balanced, rational view of whatever the person is worked up about? 

Or is it just me?      

(Note to social studies students:  This would be a great research project - studying how easy it is to manipulate masses of people through social media and how little we examine the issues before forming our opinion and running off and joining some protest.)

Easy Meal: Potatoes Two Ways

            This is so ridiculously easy that it almost doesn’t warrant a post.  But I thought I’d share it anyway because sometimes the simplest things are the most overlooked things.

            Occasionally, I make this super simple meal at our house.  And almost no one complains.  It takes about an hour but includes almost no preparation or mess at all.
 

            All I do is scrub up some potatoes (sweet or russet), wrap them in foil while they are still wet, and pop them into the oven or toaster oven at 450 degrees for an hour.  Then when they are done, unwrap them, slit them, mash lightly, and then …

            1.  For the russet potatoes, simply top with butter, shredded cheddar cheese, salt and pepper.  You could also add sour cream, chives, onion powder, garlic powder, cooked sloppy joe meat, chili or taco meat, etc.  But even just the cheesy potato makes a really simply, satisfying meal.  (Maybe with some carrots, corn, green beans, or other veggies on the side, too.)       

 

            2.  For the sweet potatoes, I like to top it with butter, dried cranberries, nuts, shredded coconut, pepper, cinnamon, and maple syrup (or you could use a sprinkle of sugar).  It’s one of my favorite ways to eat a sweet potato for lunch when the weather gets cooler in the fall. 
 
(Trust me, it tastes better than it looks!)


            This is a go-to meal when I do not want to make a lot of dishes or do not have the time to do a lot of preparation.  I just pop them in the oven and get other things done while they cook.  And then an hour later – voila - lunch is all ready in a few short steps.                

See!  I told you it was pathetically simple!
             

Out of the mouths of babes!

            We went to the movies the other day, and there was this commercial that played before the movie.  It showed a bunch of moms taking a stand for something – like a breastfeeding mom and a working mom and a mom who bribes her kids to do work, etc.  And the message was “This is my choice.  I am a strong mom and woman, and I will not let myself be shamed by you.”

            And, yeah, I kind of liked it.  But then it ended with this, with what the whole commercial was about: 

            A mom steps up and says (an interpretation of its tone and message) that she doesn’t care if the particular food item that she was feeding her kids wasn’t organic or non-GMO or a healthy, hippy-dippy, crunchy-granola-mama, blah-blah-blah kind of food.  She says that her kids know what they like and don’t care what’s in it.  And she’s proud of her choice to give her kids this less healthy product and she’s not going to let anyone shame her into feeling bad about it.

            Okay, I get that.  We all give our kids unhealthy foods from time to time, treats or snacks or a quick, packaged meal.  And no one should feel shamed about doing that on occasion.

            But what I loved most about this commercial was my 7-year-old son’s reaction.  He turned to me with a horrified look on his face and said, “So… what!?!  They’re saying that you should just give your kids any gross thing!?!  That you should feel good about giving them junk!?!  They’re making it sound like it’s a good thing!”

            Out of the mouths of babes!  Babes who can see through a pathetic ploy to embolden you to give your kids unhealthy food and to make you feel like a pitiful, over-worried, manipulated-by-the-health-food-companies mom if you make careful, informed, healthy choices!    

            I’d love to meet the brain-child behind that pathetic commercial, to meet the people who really think that mocking health-conscious parents and that encouraging parents to feel good about themselves for making deliberate unhealthy choices would actually sell their product.  It made me want to laugh and cry at the same time.
 
 
 
 

Pan-Fried and Shredded Chicken Fajitas with Candied Carrots

Another easy meal for a hot summer day!  I like pairing the spicy fajitas with the slightly sweet carrots.  It makes a nice complimentary contrast!

This dish comes together in a snap if you have pan-fried and shredded the chicken ahead of time.  I like to make a double batch of the shredded chicken and use one for dinner that night and then freeze the rest for a quick meal later. 

 

 
(Okay, you'll just have to get used to the fact that my pictures of food will not be the best.  I'm too busy cooking and serving it to a family of 6 to care about the pictures.  I'd much rather be taking pictures of flowers anyway.)
 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

My Favorite Smoked Turkey and Pasta Summer Salad with Homemade Zesty Italian Dressing

When I was first married, I made this salad sometimes with Kraft's Zesty Italian Dressing, which I loved.  But on our journey to healthier eating over the years, we stopped buying most bottled Italian dressings.  And since I never bothered to come up with a good alternative, I stopped making this salad altogether. 

But then with the arrival of summer's heat and the first homegrown tomatoes and cucumbers of the year, I started on a quest to make a homemade zesty Italian which could rival the store-bought stuff and do this salad justice.  And I think I came up with a fairly good version (but I am still tweaking it here and there).  And I am now once again making this salad that I love so much (but unfortunately, I can't say the same for all my children).

This salad is so simple and it's perfect on a hot summer's day with some buttered bread on the side and a glass of ice water or lemonade.


(I know it's not the best picture,
but we were already eating it for dinner when it dawned on me to take a photo of it.)

Motherhood



Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Dangers of Technology

I learned something new today.  I learned that technology is evil.  My son's "face recognition" program on his 2DS just recognized me - his mother - as an "adult male."  

No one asked for your opinion, you stupid technology!  

(And my bearded husband was a "male infant."  Why couldn't I be "male infant"?  If I was destined to be labeled as "male," I think I'd rather be "male infant" than "adult male" because infants are softer and sweeter-looking than adults.  Then again, if it recognized bearded people as "infants" then I guess I should be thankful that it called me "adult."  I probably couldn't win either way with that one.