~Fun Lunches~

Here are a few ideas to kick it up a notch at lunch time. Sometimes (or all times) kids can be picky eaters. However, if their lunch looks like a smiley face or their sandwich is in the shape of a  bunny rabbit they might be a little happier to eat it. It’s worth a shot right?

I enjoy being a little creative with their lunches, but I don’t want to be spending too much time and energy on it. After all they’re just going to eat it 5 seconds after my masterpiece is finished. So these are very easy ways to just make it a little more colorful and fun.

Colorful Containers – I like to use fun cups like these (Target $1 section) or cupcake liners to put fruit, veggies, goldfish, etc. I don’t know why, but just simply putting food into something colorful makes the same old-same old feel more like new.

Shapes – Most of us already have some cookie cutters. They can be pretty inexpensive if you want to get a few more. I suggest cutting the bread with the shape cutter BEFORE adding the fillers (pbj, mayo and turkey, ham and cheese, etc). Then continue making the sandwich. Otherwise you’re wasting everything that gets cut out.

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Faces – Happy faces! This is one of the boys’ favorites. There are so many different ways you can make a silly face. And don’t feel bad if you have to tell them it’s a happy face lol They will still love it!

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Pizza Time

Interactive – Making lunch together is a really fun thing to do every now and then! We made little pizzas here and they had a blast. You can also take this opportunity to teach kitchen safety; ovens are very hot, knives are sharp, only mommy can use this or that, etc.

Other easy interactive lunches for kids:

  1. Corn dog muffins – cornbread batter in muffin tins with a piece of hot dog in the middle
  2. Quesadillas
  3. Pancakes – they can help you make the batter and then watch you cook and flip
  4. Nachos
  5. Calzones

Getting new cups, straws, utensils, and plates every so often is exciting too!

The Dollar Tree carries some and the dollar section at Target is great for that too. The most I spent on these items was $3 at Target for the Minion plate. BA-NA-NA! Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

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Lick it!

New foods can be scary for some children. Or they can get in a rut and just refuse any change. The oldest child I take care of doesn’t like trying new foods. The unknown of it all scares him. But his mom told me about an approach she heard to help with this. And it has helped him overcome some of his fear and realize he does like other foods. If you’re introducing a new food and they are hesitant about it, they can choose to do one of these 3 things:

  • Bite it
  • Lick it
  • Kiss it

This gives them some reasonable contact with it before completely banishing it to the black list of evil foods.

Now get out there and do some lunch art! 😉

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Buddy the Elf Christmas Party

We had a Christmas party last weekend and it was a blast! I especially had fun decorating and incorporating a Buddy the Elf theme. That is my favorite holiday movie! For the dessert table I had a cake with candy canes on top to imitate the 7 levels of the candy cane forest, chocolate peppermint bark, snowflake gumdrops, marshmallows, petite tree cakes, and sugar cookies.

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Dessert Table

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Peppermint bark, homemade snowflake gumdrops, & marshmallows

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We served Coconut Vanilla Bellini’s for a Christmas cocktail. The cup rims are coated in red and green sugar.

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I printed off quotes from the movie and set them around the party

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Coffee station with coffee quote: “You did it! Congratulations! World’s Best Cup of Coffee. Great job everybody!”

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Table Setting: I found a very cute book of Christmas scrapbook papers. I used these as place mats and every setting had a different design.

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Centerpiece: Pine cone filled basket and 2 large mason jars filled with cranberries and ice. (Secret: that’s not real ice. It’s water and plastic wrap)

Such a fun party! We served Olive Garden lasagna, bread sticks, and salad for dinner. For the entertainment portion of the party we played “Minute to Win it” games and Holiday Family Feud.

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Products I Love ❤ Organic & GMO Free

Recently my husband and I have decided we should really be more aware of what we are eating and putting into/onto our bodies. More information and research is being done everyday about the products we buy. I didn’t realize before exactly how harmful items could be to me because of the ingredients in them. Luckily, many other people are catching on and companies are realizing that it’s in their best interest to make more products for health conscious people. So as we are going through this journey of finding things that are organic, GMO free, etc. etc., I have begun to find products that I really like/enjoy. Here are a few of them:

Snacks

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From left to right we have:
1) Simply Balanced Granola Bars – You can find Simply Balanced brand items at Target. They have a wide variety of foods such as snacks, drinks, honey, frozen items, and tea. Some are organic, some are not.

2) Annie’s Snack Mix – Annie’s brand items can be found at both Target and King Soopers (local grocery store). They have a variety of snack crackers and fruit snacks, pasta, granola bars, and frozen foods. Some items have the USDA organic stamp, some do not. I usually only purchase the items that do have it. What does the stamp mean? The USDA organic seal verifies that the product has 95% or more certified organic content. You can read more about it here:

http://learn.eartheasy.com/2013/04/certified-organic-what-does-it-mean/

3) Bark Thins – I love chocolate and always will. So I don’t feel so bad when I eat these because they are non-GMO and the ingredients are fair trade certified.

4) Food Should Taste Good Blue Corn Chips – They were giving bags of these to the 5k Bubble Run participants and I fell in love with them the moment I ate one. They’re tortilla chips but they don’t even need salsa! I just eat them by themselves. The main ingredients are organic blue corn, sunflower oil, brown rice flour, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and Quinoa. Found them at King Soopers.

5) Kirkland Salsa – I’m a chips and salsa gal. Love it! This is one of my favorite salsas and it bears the USDA organic stamp of approval 🙂 Costco offers a lot of great organic and non-GMO items. It was also the only place I could find organic frozen chicken breasts.

6) Honest Kids Juice  Pouches – The boys I nanny love their juice boxes and this is what I usually get for them. Found at Target and King Soopers.

7) Below is Simple Truth Organic Italian Soda. My husband and I love this stuff! Particularly the Coconut Lime flavor. Simple Truth is a King Soopers brand that makes many different items that are usually very good.
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Food/Cooking

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8) Kirkland Organic Coconut Oil – As I’m sure you’ve probably already heard, coconut oil has many many uses. For cooking you can substitute it in for butter, oils, and eggs, to thicken sauces without using dairy, to saute, coffee flavoring, add in your smoothies, non-stick greaser, and cast iron seasoning.

9) Cascadian Farm Cereal – They offer a variety of good tasting cereals (with the USDA organic seal) like Graham Crunch, Fruitful O’s, Cinnamon Crunch, Multi Grain Squares, and more. They also make granola bars, frozen foods, fruit spreads, and juice. I buy this brand at King Soopers. I haven’t looked for it in other stores.

10) Avocado Oil – Found this at Costco and the great thing about it is that the smoking point is around 500 degrees Fahrenheit. It can be used in place of olive oil.

11) Earth Balance Buttery Spread – I use this for my toast, breads, and sometimes in my cooking. It is a great alternative for people who are dairy free.

Vitamins, Supplements, and Soap:

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GNLD/NeoLife is a company that makes high quality products. They’re GMO free, gluten free, organic, etc.

12) The Pro Vitality Vitamin packs contain 4 vitamins in each individual pack for the day. The Tre-en-en is for optimizing cellular nutrition and enhancing energy. The Carotenoid Complex protects cells and optimizes your immunity. The Omega-3 Salmon Oil Plus balances and regulates your cells and the Essential Vitamin & Mineral Complex nourishes your cells. It bridges the gap prevalent in many of today’s diets and supports digestion.

13) Green – this liquid cleaning concentrate thoroughly and gently dissolves dirt. The uses are endless! It can be used as an organic fruit and vegetable cleaner, shampoo, body wash, hand wash, clothing soap (for hand washing), pet bathing, and cleaning cuts. It also eliminates strong odors from onions, fish, meat, and animals. We keep one in the shower and one in the kitchen.

14) NeoLife Shake – Love this stuff! I am not a protein shake drinker. Blek! However, I don’t mind these at all. I usually add a banana, and make it with milk and a little bit of ice.  It comes out smooth and creamy. These make me feel so good. They’re a great start to your day as breakfast or an afternoon boost. It’s a rich source of protein with 18g per serving, contains 22 amino acids, rich source of fiber with 5g per serving, and contains no artificial sweeteners, colors, or preservatives.

This company has many other products. If you’d like to learn more about GNLD/Neolife products don’t hesitate to email me at perk4308@gmail.com with questions. Many people with health problems have found a wonderful solution in NeoLife.

Beauty:

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From the left:

15) Primal Pit Paste – Not the loveliest of names but man does this stuff work! Best deodorant I’ve ever used. It’s all organic and of course aluminum free. It seems like a small jar but it will last you a while. All my friends that have tried this also love it. They have great scents to choose from like Jasmine, Coconut Lime, Lavender, and Spice. They also carry a non-scented one. Best price will be through their website and they’re always offering coupon codes.

http://primalpitpaste.com/

16) Alba Botanica Very Emollient Body Lotion – Great lotion that really heals my dry hands. I have a dry hand problem but this stuff keeps a handle on it. Alba Botanica also offers sunscreens, body wash, hair products, etc.

17) Coconut Oil – I’ve used coconut oil as a mouth wash, face and body moisturizer, topical stress reliever, and make-up remover. I’ve read you can also use it as a make-up brush cleaner, hair detangler, lip balm, shaving cream (whip it first), sunburn soother, bath booster, and the list goes on and on.

Household Products:

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18) I am currently using Mrs. Meyer’s dish soap, surface cleaner, hand soap, and lotion. These cleaners are earth friendly, and made with plant-derived ingredients and essential oil. They also work great!

19) Method is another household cleaner I use. This Antibac spray for the bathroom is wonderful! My favorite part? It’s such a nice smell! It doesn’t smell like burning chemicals. So the bathroom actually smells nice AND clean.

20) NeoLife also offers cleaning products and laundry soap. The Super 10 multi purpose cleaner is great! My husband used it to clean the shower the other day and said it was awesome. If you’re interested in Neolife, again just shoot me an email! I’ll answer any questions you have.

I hope I’ve helped you out and/or given you some new products to try that you’ll end up loving! I don’t get any money from these companies for recommending them. I just know that its nice to have some suggestions when looking for healthy options 🙂 Feel free to chime in on organic products you love too in the comments below!

Country BBQ Pork Ribs (crockpot)

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BBQ Pork Ribs

Country pork ribs go on sale a lot. So you can get a lot of them for a good price and then freeze them for future meals. My go to recipe for these are throwing them in the crock pot with sliced onions, BBQ sauce, and some spices. They come out tender and delicious! You can use any BBQ sauce you like. I’ve used Sweet Baby Ray’s and Famous Dave’s.

Put the onion slices and garlic salt on the bottom of the crock pot

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Then place the pork ribs on top

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Pour the bottle of BBQ sauce over the ribs

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Sprinkle oregano and chile powder over that and cook on low 6 hours

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Add a side of potatoes or mac n cheese with a steamed veggie and you’ve got yourself a country comfort meal 🙂

Ingredients:

  • Country Pork Ribs (2 lbs)
  • 1/2 an onion
  • garlic salt (about 1/2 tsp)
  • 1 bottle of BBQ sauce (18-20 oz)
  • Oregano (about 1 tsp)
  • Chile powder (amount depends on how spicy you’d like them. I’m not a fan of spicy so I just do a light sprinkling)

Directions:

  1. Put the onion slices on the bottom of the crock pot and sprinkle garlic salt on top.
  2. Place the ribs on top and pour on the bottle of BBQ sauce.
  3. Sprinkle oregano and chile powder and cook on low 6-8 hours.

DIY Cookie Flooding ~AND~ Party Ideas for Little Man Baby Shower

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These mustache and tie cookies were for a baby shower I helped put together. The colors are so fun and I got to do this cookie flooding technique I’ve been wanting to try for a while. The trick is using these bottles:

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Wilton Mini Squeeze Bottles (Amazon)

I watched a few videos and found that some people mixed up their royal icing, outlined the cookies, then added a little water to do the flooding inside the cookie. Others just added the water at the beginning, outlined the cookies and filled it in, all with the same icing consistency. I tried both ways and ended up liking the second way better. As you can see, it takes a few practice cookies to get the hang of it:

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But once I did, I was very happy with it.

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Once you make the royal icing (recipe below), you’ll want to add 1/2 tsp at a time of water until you get the right consistency which is a 10-15 second icing. This means when you take a spoonful of icing and then drizzle a little design, it should disappear back into the icing within 10-15 seconds. If you end up getting it too runny, add in some more powdered sugar. I found this YouTube video very helpful:

Royal Icing Recipe:

  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Meringue Powder (bought mine on Amazon)
  • 5 Tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tarter
  1. Mix meringue powder and water in stand up mixer until foamy.
  2. Add powdered sugar and cream of tarter and mix on low for about 8-10 minutes. Yes, minutes. 🙂
  3. Transfer whatever royal icing you aren’t adding water to yet in an airtight container because it hardens quickly. So if you’re doing multiple colors, just keep out what you’ll need for the first color, and put the rest in the airtight container.
  4. Mix in your color and then 1/2 tsp of water until icing is right consistency.
  5. Put your 10-15 second icing into the squeeze bottle and outline the cookie. Then fill it in. If there’s some little holes where the icing didn’t quite fill, just take a toothpick and spread a little bit of the outside icing into the hole.

When they completely dry, they have a nice gloss to them and you can stack them without messing it up. Here they are on display at the shower:

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The party colors were green and blue with a mustache and tie/bowtie theme. My mom has the new Cricut Explore which was amazing for making the food labels and banner.

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Dessert Table

For appetizers we had bowtie pasta, meatballs & little smokies, sliders, white chocolate m&m popcorn and fruit (in a baby carriage of course 🙂 )

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Drinks were served in mason jars with mustache straws. I cut out the mustaches (with Cricut Explore Machine) and just hot glued them onto some straws.

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There was a photo booth where you could take silly photos with props and hats. You could also get a finger mustache tattoo there because those are awesome!

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Some other details were the chalkboard sign with a To Do List

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Envelopes to write your address for thank you notes

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And favor boxes with small cookies

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Chicken and Rice Burrito Bowls (crockpot)

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Chicken and Rice Burrito Bowl

I love getting the burrito bowls at Qdoba’s or Chipotle’s. I made my own version in the crockpot at home and it turned really good! Just 5 ingredients and it cooks on low 4-6 hours.

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My crockpot tends to cook fast so it only took 4 hours for me. Then you shred the chicken, mix it back in the crockpot with the other ingredients and its ready to be served on rice.

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Top with your favorite stuff, ie: cheese, sour cream, avocado, etc. It’s easy enough for a weeknight!

Here are the ingredients:

  • 3-4 chicken breasts
  • 1 packet of taco seasoning
  • 1 can whole kernel corn
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 cup salsa
  • Rice (cooked)
  • Desired toppings

Directions:

  1. Lay your chicken breasts in the crockpot. Mine were frozen because I know my crockpot cooks fast. Then sprinkle the taco seasoning on top.
  2. Pour the salsa, corn, and black beans in and cook on low 4-6 hours. When the chicken is done, shred it and mix it back in with the other ingredients.
  3. Cook your rice how you like it. I used a rice cooker and added lemon and cilantro.
  4. To serve we layered rice first, added the chicken mix, and then added cheese, sour cream, and avocado.
  5. Enjoy!

Southwest Sunburst Salad

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Southwest Sunburst Salad

I found this recipe a while ago in college and my roommate and I loved making it. It’s so yummy and tastes nice and fresh! Its got all the elements of a good salad including protein, crunch, amazing dressing, and low effort. Yes! 🙂

Chop up some iceberg lettuce, grill up the chicken on the George Foremen with some grill seasoning, drain some corn and black beans, slice a cucumber if you’d like, and whip up the ranch avocado dressing. For the final touch, crush some tortilla chips on top. Believe me, the crunch of the chips is great and a necessity in my book! Also, you may find yourself just dunking whole tortilla chips in the leftover container of dressing. Its fine, in fact its more than fine. It’s delicious! hehe

Ingredients:

  • Iceberg Lettuce
  • Grilled chicken
  • Whole kernel sweet corn
  • Black beans
  • Cucumber
  • Tortilla chips or strips
  • Ranch Avocado Dressing

Dressing Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Mayo
  • 1 cup Milk
  • 1 Ranch dressing mix packet
  • 8 oz Guacamole dip

Directions:

  1. Chop up the amount of needed lettuce depending on how many people you are feeding.
  2. Season and grill one chicken breast per person/salad.
  3. Drain the corn, drain and rinse the black beans. Cut up the cucumber. The amounts of these will also vary depending on how many people you are feeding. These are all toppings so usually just a handful per salad.
  4. To make the dressing, mix the mayo, milk, ranch packet, and guacamole dip until smooth. Put in an easily pour-able container.
  5. Put the lettuce on each plate, top with a handful of corn, black beans, and cucumber. Slice the cooked, grilled chicken and add to the salad. Add a handful of crushed tortilla chips and drizzle on your dressing.
  6. Enjoy!