Thursday, March 31, 2011

Super Healthy Tomato Sauce

Feeding your family is one of the most important jobs a mother has. Good nutrition in the first few years of life will help establish healthy life-long eating habits and condition their taste buds to enjoy food that is good for them. But if a child (or adult) won’t eat healthy foods, it doesn’t matter how nutritious they are.
I found this tomato sauce recipe by Jamie Oliver in the April 2011 issue of Parenting Early Years and made some adjustments to meet my family’s tastes. It features nine veggies, but your kids will never know it. To be honest, I didn’t think it looked or smelled very good when I first started cooking it, but when it was finished, it was very tasty. There is a little time involved in prepping the veggies, so this makes a big batch for you to freeze and have on hand to make a quick supper later.

Supermom’s Tomato Sauce
Yield: About 13 cups
Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour

1 large onion
1 small leek
2 stalks celery
2 red bell peppers
2 medium zucchinis
2 carrots
2-4 cloves garlic
1 T olive oil
2 T Italian seasoning
1 small butternut squash
2 – 28 oz cans whole tomatoes (best quality)
1 – 8 oz can tomato paste
2 c water
Salt and pepper to taste

Prep veggies (everything is going to go into a blender at the end, so no need to make everything look pretty and small): chop onion, slice leek lengthwise and cut into ½” slices then swish in a bowl with cold water and let sit, chop celery, de-seed and chop bell peppers, slice zucchinis lengthwise twice then slice, peel and chop carrots, smash garlic with the side of a chef’s knife.
Put oil in a large pot and add all the prepped vegetables except for leek. Spoon the leek out of the bowl with a slotted spoon. Do not pour off the water because it is full of all the dirt that settled. Discard water and add leeks to the pot. Cook over medium heat, covered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, peel butternut squash, slice in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Grate squash on a large box grater and add to sauce along with remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 40 minutes. Remove from heat. Put 2 cups of sauce in a blender and blend until completely smooth. Pour into quart size freezer bag and remove as much air as possible when sealing. Continue until all sauce has been blended. Lay flat on a shelf in the freezer to keep until needed.

Serving suggestions:
  • · Serve over pasta
  • · Use in lasagna or manicotti
  • · Pizza sauce
  • · Add a little cream or milk and serve as a soup
  • · Use anyway you would use jarred spaghetti sauce

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Natural Clues to Health

Have you ever cut an apple in half and seen the star inside? What about a carrot? Did you see the “eye”?

I’ve heard of some of these before. I don’t know if all the claims can be substantiated, but I still find it interesting. Nature is purely awesome.

A sliced carrot looks like the human eye. The pupil, iris and radiating lines look just like the human eye. Science now shows that carrots greatly enhance blood flow and function to the eyes.

A tomato has four chambers and is red, just like the heart. Tomatoes are shown to be good for the heart and blood.

Grapes hang in a cluster that has the shape of the heart. Each grape looks like a blood cell and research shows that grapes are profound heart blood vitalizing food.


A walnut looks like a little brain: A left and right hemisphere, upper cerebrums and lower cerebrums. Even the wrinkles or folds mimic the neo-cortex of the human brain. Walnuts help develop over three dozen neuron-transmitters for brain function.

Kidney beans actually heal and help maintain kidney function and yes, they look exactly like human kidneys.

Celery, bok choy, rhubarb and more look like bones. These foods target bone strength. Bones are 23% sodium and these foods are 23% sodium. If you don’t have enough sodium in your diet the body pulls it from the bones making them weak.

Eggplant, avocados and pears target the health and function of the womb and cervix of the female. Today’s research shows that when a woman eats one avocado a week, it balances hormones, sheds unwanted birth weight and prevents cervical cancers. And how profound is this? It takes nine months to grow an avocado from blossom to ripened fruit.


Figs are full of seeds and hang in two’s when they grow. Figs increase the motility of male sperm, increase the numbers of sperm and can overcome male sterility.

Sweet potatoes look like the pancreas and actually balance the glycemic index of diabetics.

Olives assist the health of function of the ovaries.

Grapefruits, oranges and other citrus fruits look like the mammary glands of the female and actually assist the health of the breasts and the movement of lymph in and out of the breasts.

 Onions look like body cells. Research shows that onions help clear waste materials from all of the body cells. They even produce tears which wash the epithelial layers of the eye.

Pretty amazing, right?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Pink Madness

This weekend, my step daughter's and I recreated one of their bedrooms. We bought our house over a year ago and have slowly made improvements, but this one was way over due.

Before the changes, the room was a typical beige-neutral (aka really boring-blah). I would imagine that's because the owner's before us had it set up as a guest room. Having been a teenager myself once, I realize the importance of having your own space that represents your taste where you feel comfortable spending time. Although we had discussed this project many times, my middle step-daughter, Angel, and I decided it was to get it done.
 We started Saturday afternoon by picking out the paint colors:

 Color match of Glidden 75RR63/207 Cotton Candy Pink*
Cotton Candy Pink
 Color match of Dutch Boy BHG303 Budding Romance*
Budding Romance
While we were out, I was looking for these circle foam things. I didn't know what they were called, but I had seen them at Home Depot and Michael's. They look like this:

But alas, the fates were against us that day. When I asked the associates if they knew where I could find them, they all looked at me like I had three heads. Very discouraging. However, while at the craft store, we found a great back up plan: Styrofoam circles. More on what we did with these in a minute.
We originally decided to do a two-tone color scheme. We were going to do the light pink on top and dark pink on the bottom. Angel taped off the wall and we started painting. About half way through the top section, I thought it would be cool if we did a faux-wainscot look on the bottom half by painting contrasting pink stripes. At the time, this was a great idea and all the girls were very excited. However, once we started taping off the rows one by one, we thought maybe we were in over our heads. An hour and a half later, we were ready to go with the first color. In hindsight, we should have painted the whole room light pink first, then done the dark pink stripes over the top.

Peeling the tape away after the paint dried was like magic. Beautiful, lovely contrasting lines of pink covered the wall. I was so delighted! I think I was more excited than Angel.

To add the finishing touch to the paint, we added a one inch black border between the solid color on top and the stripes on the bottom. It was then we realized the room looked very much like a Victoria's Secret shopping bag. But that's ok. Those bags are so cute.
As I mentioned before, I wasn't able to find the foam circles I originally wanted to use for the wall. So, using the Styrofoam stand-in's, we picked out varying sizes as well as some 3" spheres. We cut the spheres in half so they'd stick on the wall, then covered them with the same fabric I used to make her quilt and pillows last Christmas. Her bed doesn't have a headboard, so we made a "headboard illusion" by placing the covered Styrofoam in random spots above her bed.
I also hung up some of the leftover paper lanterns in the corner from the bachelorette party I had hosted a few weeks before. Because the room had so much pink already, we chose a dark purple curtain for the windows accented by a white curtain with bright colored dots and circles. I bunched the white curtain with a hair tie and slid in a large blue Gerber daisy.

We added some stickers under the fabric circles to frame the pillows on the bed...

...And voila: Here is the final product:

Friday, March 18, 2011

Conservative Bachelorette Party

A few weeks ago, I hosted a bachelorette party for my very best friend, Megan. Megan is slightly conservative, but still knows how to have a good time. I searched the Internet high and low looking for ideas and activities that weren't too corny or boring.

After a few hours, I gave up and decided to make up my own games. I took the basics of a bachelorette party and broke them down into the following elements:

What most bachelorette's feel like
after their party

- Liquor
- Strippers
- Feathers
- Glitter
- Cat Fights

Because of the conservative nature of Megan, I decided to swap these elements as such:

- Liquor Mountain Dew, Sprite, Strawberry Lemonade
- Strippers Seductive dance class taught by a local dance instructor
- Feathers Flowers matching the brides wedding decor
- Glitter Wrapped prizes for the games
- Cat Fights Awesome fun

Pink paper lantern with refreshment
table in the background
We really did have such a great time! The dance class was so much fun, especially since most of the women in attendance were complete tomboys.


I made little gift bags with the items needed for all of the games. Some of the games required some preparation before hand such as the "Strip Doll" game. I got a picture of Megan's face and Photoshopped it onto the body of a sexy lingerie model (with undies and bra - she's conservative, remember??). Next, I found pieces of clothing through Google Images that matched the pose of the model. I picked out a shirt, hat, pants, boots and a belt. I split the pants into two pieces to they could be used separately. Then, my husband helped me cut out all the pieces and carefully tape them to the card stock body on the corresponding body part.

The next game required drawing 3 large male heads (faces, not the other). I used some large artist paper so they would be big enough and traced the head shape so they'd all be the same size. Then, I gave them each unique features so they didn't look like the same fella. As part of this game, I also purchased some cheap red lipstick, one for each girl.

Finally, I got a pair of dice, a plastic bowl, a large black marker and the rest of the artist pad paper.

There were gifts for the winners of each game so I purchased some small (around $5 each) items such as a bag of Dove chocolates, a cute picture frame, the movie "Corpse Bride" and a few other things. Then I wrapped them in boxes with wrapping paper matching her wedding colors. I also added some pretty ribbon and "M" tags to make them more personalized.

For decorations, I bought some paper lanterns that matched her wedding colors (black and pink). I also bought some large lime green paper flower things from Zurchers to add some color. I had some silk flowers on hand that matched the color scheme beautifully so I used them to make a floral centerpiece for the refreshment table. I also had some little pink daisies set out on the table for "garnish". :)

The refreshments were simple as this was in the afternoon - right after lunch but before dinner. I did some cake balls, cupcakes, mini cupcakes (cupcakes are her favorite), and a strawberry banana bowl.

Let the Games Begin

We started the party with the dance instructor. We only had about 10 of us, so I made room in our basement so we could use the surround sound from our theatre. We danced to Brittney Spears, adding new moves as we practiced. I loved seeing my best friend being sexy! Hopefully she picked up a few pointers for the new husband.

After the dancing, I handed out the bags to each girl. The first game we played was the "Strip Doll". I had asked Megan questions about herself beforehand and had the answers on hand. Each time one of the girls got an answer correct, they could remove an article of clothing. Once they had her "undressed", they wont the game!

Next, we did the kissing game. I had all the girls take out their red lipstick and form into groups of 3 (for this part, I had cut out some numbers using my Cricut and had them already assigned to a team). The male faces that had been prepared earlier were taped to the wall. We played a relay-style race to be the first team to cover up the faces with kisses. This game was hands down hilarious. Everyone had red lipstick smeared all over their chin, cheeks, teeth, etc. It made for a great photo.

Stay classy, ladies.
The last game we played was top 10. During this game, there were various categories listed. The die and bowl were passed around the circle until someone rolled doubles. Once they rolled doubles, they had to take the pad of paper and write down ten things in that category before someone else rolled doubles. If someone else rolled doubles before they finished, the new double roller would start a new list with the next topic until someone else rolled doubles, and so on.

We ended, of course, with the winners of the games opening their presents and the bride opening hers. For the party favors, I had bought some plastic champagne flutes and filled them with (no surprise here) M&M's matching Megan's wedding colors. I bought some decorative plastic favor bags, cut a hole in the bottom, slipped them over the flute, then tied them off with a ribbon. I purchased some large diamond ring key chains from Oriental Trading Co. and added them to the bottom of the glasses for a final touch.

Considering I've never really been to a bachelorette party let alone hosted one, I think it went relatively well. Everyone had a great time and I loved putting it together. I didn't have to use any penis's or boobs, either! The wedding was awesome, Megan was beautiful and the Happy Ending can now begin. Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Chia Snowballs Recipe

These remind of of a dessert we would eat with school lunch in elementary school. We called them peanut butter krispies. This recipe is a healthier version is great for after school snacks or a light dessert. Another pro: Fun and easy for kids to make.

Chia Snowballs
Contributed by via Cindy Chandler

1 Cup peanut butter (or you could use almond butter)
1/2 Cup honey
1/4 Cup brown rice syrup (you can get this at health food stores)
2 1/2 Cup brown rice cereal (you can also use Rice Crispies, but the brown rice is better nutritionally. Also available at health food stores)
1/2 Cup oats
1 - 2 Tbsp chia seeds
1 Cup finely shredded coconut

Mix all but the coconut. Roll into balls, then roll in the coconut.

These can be eaten immediately or chilled in the refrigerator.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Nominate A Winner

I've talked recently about my annual goal to engage in acts of service. I enjoy giving shout outs to others who deserve them, too. So many people are taken for granted and often not thanked or recognized enough (here's one to you, mom - Thanks!).

I've been thinking a lot about these things as well as what our next contest would be. Then, last night, while cleaning up after my cat's "accident", it came to me: Nominate A Winner.

This is your opportunity to tell us about someone in your life who deserves a high five, an "atta-boy" or at least a little recognition. But, that's not even the best part. Not only does the person you nominate receive a prize, but so do you! Two nifty gifty's!

This is what came up when I searched "Nifty Gifty" on Google.
I should add a disclaimer that this will not be the actual
 prize for this contest. But I want one.

Here is how to enter:

Send us an e-mail or a message on Facebook with your story of the person you'd like to nominate. What makes them special? It could be someone who inspires, encourages, provides, advises or otherwise deserves a little extra attention. We will accept entries until midnight, April 3rd. We will then post all the stories along with a poll for our readers to vote on which they like the best. Get your friends, family, neighbors and strangers to vote on your story to increase your chances of winning.

Good luck to you, and THANK YOU for reading our blog. :)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sugar & Spice

Don't forget everything nice! That's what little girls are made of. With springtime inevitably around the corner, I was inspired to make some little girl twirly dresses. I found a pattern I liked online and got to work. There were a few things I didn't like about the pattern so I took it upon myself to, um, change them. I must say, I'm thrilled with the result! I love these little girl dresses.


 These are available in our store if you love them, too. Or, if you want to make your own, we're now offering pre-cut fabric and instructions if you like the look and want to make them yourself. Because the shoulder straps on these dresses are adjustable, the dress will fit most sizes through size 10.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Salmon Cilantro Burgers Recipe

I love salmon! It is one of the few meals my husband and I can agree on. These burgers are quite delicious and have a fraction of the calories of a beef hamburger. The ingredients list looks daunting but these are actually quite simple. Feel free to change up the amount of onion and/or jalapeno for more flavor if you prefer. I've also tried adding canned green chilies which give a great flavor.

Salmon Cilantro Burgers
Contributed by Elisa Garn

1/4 c mayo (you can use reduced fat or fat free for less calories)
1 T chopped fresh cilantro
1 T fresh lime juice (you can reduce this if you want a thicker sauce)
1/8 t salt
1/8 t ground black pepper
1 lb salmon fillet, skinned and cut into 1" pieces (we like to use the frozen salmon fillets for convenience)
1/4 c dry breadcrumbs
2 T cilantro leaves
2 T chopped green onions
1 T chopped seeded jalapeno peppers
2 T fresh lime juice
1/2 t salt
1/4 t ground black pepper
Cooking spray
4 whole wheat hamburger buns
4 lettuce leaves

1. Combine first 5 ingredients in a small bowl; cover and chill.
2. Place salmon in a food processor; pulse until coarsely chopped. Add breadcrumbs and next 6 ingredients (through pepper). Pulse 4 times or until well blended. Divide salmon mixture into 4 equal portions, shaping each into a 3/4 inch thick patty.
3. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add patties to pan; cook 2 minutes. Carefully turn patties over; cook 2 minutes or until done.
4. Spread about 1 T mayo mixture over bottom half of each bun. Top each serving with lettuce leaf.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Go On...Volunteer!

One of my annual goals (I call them goals instead of resolutions) is to become more involved in my community. Part of this is engaging in acts of service. I've done some research on various opportunities in my area and found there is a definite need for volunteers not only in Utah but across the country.

I want to encourage you, dear reader, to get involved. Even if it's only an hour a week, every little bit helps.

Right now, I'm involved with the Son Rise Program. This has been such a unique experience. I work with a little boy for an hour every Saturday. I'm told this is really helping him grow and develop, but I can honestly say it is helping me even more so. Children are such a blessing in this world. They remind us of life less complicated and rekindle feelings of innocence and hope. My time spent with this little boy is a blessing. I get to play, pretend and imagine anything I want. I can look in his eyes and almost see where he came from, forgetting about that "place" and learning how to function in ours. He has so much love and joy. Even after only working him for one session, he was giving me hugs and sitting in my lap reading stories to me. This is deeply personal for me as I have never had young children of my own.

I believe fate has shown me the way to this opportunity. It is helping me work through a pain which I know so many others can relate.

Again, I invite you to share your time, talents and energy to someone who needs it. You may just end up helping yourself more than the person you sought to help.

If you know of any service opportunities, please contact us! We will add them to our Volunteer section.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Grocery Shopping – Maximizing Your Dollar and Your Time

I love shopping. I should be more specific: I love shopping for fabric. I do not, however, enjoy grocery shopping. Don't get me wrong, I love a fully stocked pantry. It just seems so repetitive and...necessary. And with the sudden rise in the cost of living (up 6% nationally with the unrest in the Middle East), it's even more difficult to squeeze our weekly menu into our ever-shrinking budget. Good news is on the horizon, though. I've found a few tips that have helped me become more organized and a happier, healthier shopper. If you've got tips of your own, please share them in the comments section. Happy weekend!
Organize your coupons.
Use a small accordion-style book in your purse to keep coupons easily accessible. Sort them by expiration date so you know which one’s need to be used first. Visit websites of major brands to see if there are any coupons available for the items you buy (Gerber, Scott, Nature Valley, etc). Wal-Mart usually has a lot of great coupons - as well as free samples - listed on their website.
Do your research.

Many stores will honor competitor prices if you provide a current ad. Although this might cost you some time, the savings can be well worth it. In our house, we usually shop about once a week. Generally, we receive our grocer fliers once a week as well. Set aside some time to go through the advertisements making note of items you need and others you can stock up on that won’t spoil (canned items, flour, sugar, etc). To save yourself from having to travel to 4 different stores to get those special deals, go to the store that has the most products on your list for the cheapest amount. Then, take the rest of the advertisements with you to that store for price matching so you still get the benefit of the competitor prices without the extra trips.
Plan ahead.
Make a menu for your family for the week (or month, if you have the means to work this far in advance). Plan for breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks, side dishes, drinks, etc. This way, when you are perusing your grocery ad’s, you know what to look for and you’re not just buying on impulse. You will statistically spend less money if you shop with a plan or a list than without. You’re food will be less likely to spoil if you know what you’re going to do with it ahead of time. I’ve thrown away countless amounts of food for no other reason than we simply didn’t eat it before the moldy spores took over.
Be prepared.
Don’t shop hungry! You WILL spend more money. You’ll also be more likely to buy the junk that you’re undoubtedly trying to stay away from. If you can help it, don’t take your children with you to the store. Shopping within a budget is stressful enough; having your kids beg you for every item in every isle just adds to your stress. If you must take your children with you, AVOID THE CEREAL ISLE. I swear, the cereal companies know how to turn your little angels into cereal-craving demons. It’s the prettiest isle in the store because it has the most color, cartoons and is a kid-friendly environment.
Chill out.
Grocery shopping doesn’t have to be a dreaded task. Make it more enjoyable by listening to an MP3 player or book on tape while you shop. Just make sure you keep it at a reasonable level so you can be courteous to other shoppers. It’s very annoying when you’re trying to get your cart around someone who has been standing in the middle of the aisle staring at the cans of tomatoes for 5 minutes. Don’t be “that guy”.
Get moving.
Bring a bottle of water with you. Shopping is – gasp! – exercise, so you are likely to need a drink while you’re walking about. If you really want to trick yourself, don some ankle weights under some loose jeans (please, PLEASE don’t wear your pajamas or sweat suits to the grocery store!) so you can enhance your shopping workout.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Chicken Enchilada Soup Recipe

Chicken Enchilada Soup
Contributed by
6 corn tortillas
1 sm. onion (chopped)
1 clove garlic (crushed)
2 tsp. oil
1 (14 oz.) can chopped green chiles (undrained)
1 (14 1/2 oz.) can beef broth (undiluted)
1 (10 3/4 oz.) can chicken broth (undiluted)
1 (10 3/4 oz.) can cream of chicken soup (undiluted)
1 (6 3/4 oz.) can chunk style chicken
1 can or small package frozen corn (optional)
1 can black beans (optional)
1 1/2 c. water
1 tsp. steak sauce
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1/8 tsp. pepper
3 c. (12 oz.) shredded Cheddar cheese

Cut 6 tortillas into 1/2 inch strips (set aside). Saute onion and garlic in oil in a Dutch oven. Add next 11 ingredients marked A. Cover, heat and simmer for 1 hour. Add tortillas and cheese. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with paprika. Serve with tortilla chips. Makes 8 cups.