Monday, March 3, 2014

Speed Cleaning

I have not been working the past two weeks and I am preparing to return to work with a former employer on Tuesday. During the past two weeks I have been doing major cleaning and organizing around the house to make life easier. I was inspired to clean and organize my own home after spending some time cleaning, purging and organizing at my parents home.  My Mom was diagnosed with frontal lobe dementia in the spring and before her diagnosis she spent most of her time purchasing items that she has never used and my Dad was unaware that this was happening (that is a post for another day).  The house is not at the stage of a hoarder, but every nook and cranny of  that house is filled with unnecessary stuff that is not being used or will never be used.
Mom likes books, especially self help books.  Dieting books and cleaning  books have her book shelves overflowing. This is a sampling of some of the cleaning and organizing books that I brought into my house hoping to help me kick the clutter habit.
 I started to read some of these books and was becoming discouraged because some of the actions they suggest are ridiculous, time consuming and not made for real people.  However, what I did take away was cleaning for 15 minutes.  I fall into the excuse trap of saying I do not have enough time to do this or that.  I did take away a helpful hint that does work. It involves setting a timer for 15 minutes and working on a small project such as a drawer or cabinet for 15 minutes and then stopping when you hear the timer.  You stop whether or not you have completed the task.  If you have additional time to complete the task, set the timer for another 10 or 15 minutes and work some more, but do not continue without an end time.  It is amazing how motivating and rewarding this type of cleaning can be.  It makes cleaning a game of beat the clock. This method is very helpful if you are prone to "Cleaning ADD", the affliction where you go from room to room starting projects and never finishing any (I am sure I am not the only person with this affliction). This simple rule allowed me to organize my china cabinet catch all cabinets, home to glass ware and miscellaneous junk. The photo may not be magazine worthy, but is a huge improvement.

This is a cabinet in the kitchen that is home to craft supplies, coloring books, candles and my address book.  My children have not opened a coloring book in seven years, but I had about twenty-five stashed in this cabinet with a container filled with thousands of crayons.  Cleaning these two cabinets took less than forty-five minutes, but I had been putting it off because I never had "enough time".  I also cleaned my linen closet and organized the bathroom cabinets, each taking less than 30 minutes

 Getting rid of the clutter gives you a feeling of control. It may not surprise you, but now my family can find any item they want.   Keep your kitchen timer handy and get to work! You will be amazed at what you can accomplish. I tried this method on my children and it worked for them also.  This could be the miracle cure for our messiness.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Quinoa Granola Bars

I am guilty of getting caught up in the latest health food kick and purchasing the largest quantity possible of that ingredient at my local Costco.  After a few weeks the newness of the item wears off and then I am stuck with an ingredient that either my family or myself is not crazy about or I have to find a new way to use.  Quinoa is a grain that I have heard great things about and it is high in protein and fiber.  My family is not in love with it yet, but we are working on it.  I have been searching for recipes to utilize my Costco purchase and the following recipe is what I found.
Of course I did not have all the ingredients available in my pantry and did not feel like braving the Polar Vortex to find them at the market, so I improvised to accommodate the ingredients in my pantry.

I used quinoa, oatmeal, honey, chia seed, coconut oil. Yes, the chia seed and coconut oil were also some fad foods I have purchased. I obviously was cleaning out the pantry.

Preheat your oven to 350F. Toast the quinoa, chia seeds and oats in a pan over medium heat until it has a nice fragrance. Cool and combine with nuts, dried cranberries and coconut in a large mixing bowl.

In a small sauce pan, combine honey, peanut butter and coconut oil and heat until melted. Pour over dry ingredients and fold until coated.
Line a 9x13 pan with parchment paper and pour mixture into the pan and press down evenly.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until edges are toasted.

After removing from the oven, sprinkle with chocolate chips and let sit until chips are melted.  

Spread melted chocolate chips with a spatula to cover the entire pan. Sprinkle with sea salt.

Cool in pan until chocolate is set and cut into 24-30 bars.  These can be frozen in snack bags and thaw in lunches. These granola bars received rave review from my husband and daughters.  I was shocked to say the least.

Quinoa Granola Bars

1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup chopped peanuts (any nut of your choice)
3/4 cup slivered almonds
1 cup of coconut flakes (I used sweetened because it was what I had)
1 cup of dried cranberries or cherries (I used cranberries)
2 cups of oats (I used old fashioned)
1 cup of uncooked quinoa, rinsed and dried
1/2 cup of chia seeds
1/2-3/4 cup chocolate chips
Sea salt

Preheat oven to 350F.  Toast quinoa, oats and chia seeds in a pan over medium heat until fragrant. Cool and combine with nuts, coconut and dried fruit. Combine honey, peanut butter and coconut oil and heat until melted. Pour honey mixture over dry ingredients and fold to combine until coated. Line a 9x13 pan with parchment paper and pour mixture into pan evenly and flatten. Bake 25-30 minutes or until toasted at edges. Immediately sprinkle with chocolate chips and allow chocolate to melt.  Spread chocolate with an offset spatula to cover entire pan.  Sprinkle with sea salt and allow to cool until chocolate sets.  Cut into 24-30 bars.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Baked Mozzarella Bites

I recently saw a recipe for baked  mozzarella sticks and decided to try it.  Who doesn't love melted cheese? This is a great appetizer for drop in guests or a satisfying snack when you get a little hungry during a "Polar Vortex". This recipe can be made low fat and gluten free. Feel free to experiment with your favorite crumbs and spices.

These three ingredients plus an egg.  It does not get easier than that.

Mix the bread crumbs with the oil and place in a 350F oven for 5-10 minutes to brown.  Stir occasionally.  This crisps the bread crumbs and will make the outside of the cheese brown and crispy.

Cut the string cheese into thirds.
Dip in beaten egg and roll in bread crumbs to cover; repeat.
Place on foil lined baking sheet and bake 10-15 minutes.
Serve with warm marinara sauce. Yum!

Baked Mozzarella Bites

6 string cheese sticks (unwrapped and cut into thirds)
1 cup of Italian bread crumbs
1 Tablespoon canola or olive oil
1 egg beaten
1/2 cup of marinara sauce

Mix bread crumbs and oil in a small oven proof dish.  Bake for 5-10 minutes at 350F until brown, stir occasionally. Dip pieces of cheese into beaten egg, coat with bread crumbs; repeat.  Place on foil lined baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining cheese.  Bake for 10-15 minutes at 350F.  Serve with warm marinara sauce for dipping.

*Can be prepared ahead and refrigerated on baking sheet until ready to bake.
*Low fat string cheese can be substituted

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


I had big plans to post low carb recipes, tell you about my natural weed killer, or natural weed preventer.  The truth is I have not had much time to do anything.  It is the end of the school year, which means endless band concerts, programs, meetings and finding the perfect care giver for your children during summer break.  Then add a daughter's birthday, a shopping excursion to find clothing and shoes for your daughters that have outgrown everything, a trip out of town for the holiday and meeting with an attorney to establish guardianship for a failing parent and you wonder how you even had time to take care of the basics of food, laundry, career and sleep.  The food I have prepared over the last few weeks has been simple fresh, raw or steamed vegetables, simple grilled meats or I have placed a carryout order for pizza.  You don't need a recipe for that.  I made a natural weed killer with Dawn Dish Soap, vinegar and salt and sprayed it on some problems areas and then we had torrential thunderstorms for five days.  My natural weed preventer is corn meal sprinkled on the ground of my garden, think of it as weed birth control, but after the four plus inches of rain and tropical humidity I probably have created Polenta in my garden. I will try these items again and update you soon.  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I just hope it is not a train.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Living Low-Carb in a High-Carb World

I started following a low-carb diet with a friend last week, because the weather finally warmed up and I can no longer hide under winter clothing.  It is amazing how many carbohydrates I consumed on a daily basis. I am a carbohydrate addict that loves crusty bread and fruit. The good news is that I feel great following this diet, energy is abundant, I do not feel hungry and I am down 9 pounds. My mood is improved and I am finally able to consume half my body weight in ounces of water. The bad news is that I miss the bun for my burger, pasta and bread, pizza, unlimited fruit and alcohol. Why can't someone develop a low-carb pizza that tastes great?  We can put a man on the moon, but can't get the low-carb thing down? Living low-carb, while observing the unrestricted carbs of others is not fun. I did partake in carbs over the weekend (pizza and beer), because my willpower could not handle the sight and smell. My diet has been pretty basic protein and leafy greens for the past 9 days, but now I am ready to experiment with some recipes to cure the deprivation.  I have been searching the Internet and trying to come up with some of my own.  I expect to post some recipes soon.  Meanwhile enjoy my low-carb snack ideas that have helped keep my sanity.

Low Carb Snacks Ideas

Hummus served with cucumbers and celery
Broccoli slaw mixed with tuna and Italian dressing
Plain Greek yogurt sprinkled with cinnamon and almonds
Peanut Butter (no sugar added) and celery
String cheese
Tomato and Mozzarella Salad
Spinach or Artichoke Dip served with celery, cauliflower, broccoli and cucumbers

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Joining the Sandwich Generation

Yes, I have officially joined the "Sandwich Generation".  You do not receive a membership card, but you have the joy of caring for your young children and aging parents, while trying to have a career.  Who knew I would be making orthodontist appointments and seeking advice from attorneys that specialize in elder care at the same time?  I was not expecting it.  If you have been following my blog, you are aware that my 68 year old Mother has some medical issues.  I am able to report that after over four years of pleading with physicians for answers we are finally being pushed toward a diagnosis of frontotemporal dementia, because everything else has been ruled out.  Sadly my family has witnessed Mom's personality fading over the past 4 years.  Behavioral changes and personality changes caused us to seek answers. Mom has evolved from an extremely independent, outgoing individual who was involved socially in groups and activities to a withdrawn individual who is apathetic and lacks initiative to complete daily living tasks and lacks judgement to make decisions. There is no cure for frontotemporal dementia and progression can not be slowed. Frontotemporal dementia differs from Alzheimer's disease, as there is no true memory loss in the early stages of the disease, but instead changes in the personality, social skills, ability to concentrate and reasoning. These changes in personality are what make this disease so challenging and difficult.  Although my Mom has not been physically lost, emotionally and socially we will never enjoy the same connection and I mourn this loss.  I miss the hour long conversations about nothing, which Mom and I had almost daily, but I am enjoying my developing relationship with my Dad during this latest chapter in our lives.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Using Leftover Candy

I do not want to mislead you, but typically my household does not have leftover candy.  This Easter my Mom who has memory issues forgot that she had purchased candy for her granddaughters and purchased about triple the amount  she would normally give.  Grandma then gifted all of this candy, which I am guessing weighed about 15 pounds.  I love my dentist, but do not feel that I should completely fund her retirement.  I have hidden some of the candy, but wanted to use some of the candy.  My inspiration came from those Two Bite Brownies that are sold in the store.  We had about 3lbs of Hershey's Kisses so I decided to combine Peanut Blossom Cookies and Two Bite Brownies and came up with Chocolate Peanut Butter Tarts.  My motto is "cook once eat twice" so I doubled the recipe and made 8 1/2 dozen cookies in less than one hour, including prep, bake time and clean up. No one has time to be in the kitchen, so why not make the most of your time. Store a couple dozen in the freezer for later.

 This recipe is a great time saver because there is no shaping the dough into balls and the cookies are baked in the muffin tins, so if you have a few tins you can bake many cookies at once.

Place an upside down Hershey's Kiss in the center of each cookie, after 8 minutes of baking.  Then return the pans to the oven for 1 minute so the chocolate gets all melty and delicious.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Tarts

Makes about 4 dozen

1/2 C shortening
1/2 C peanut butter
1/2 C granulated sugar
1/2 C packed brown sugar
1 egg
2 T milk
1 t vanilla
1 3/4 C flour
1/2 t salt
1 t baking soda
1 bag of Hershey's Kisses (unwrapped)

Cream shortening and peanut butter.  Gradually and sugar; cream well.  Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well.  Add dry ingredients gradually into creamed mixture. Using small cookies scoop (2 teaspoon size), place dough into mini muffin tins.  Bake for 8 minutes.  Remove from oven; press an upside down Kiss into each of the cookies; return to the oven for 1 minute. Remove from the oven and let cool until cookie is set. Remove cookies from tins and cool on wire racks.  Cookies are easier to remove if edge is golden brown.