Homemade Greek Yogurt

This past weekend, I did a bit of Trim Healthy Mama cooking, prepping special agent brownies, chocolate baked oatmeal, kai si ming, and homemade yogurt. Even though I’ve blogged about homemade yogurt before, I’m gonna talk about it again today, since I’ve learned a few things about making it, and it’s one of my favorite always-have-in-the-fridge-ready-to-grab food items. If you are following THM, this recipe is also FP, so you can eat it with any type of meal.

Just look at this yumminess:

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Trim Healthy Hamburger Helper

Growing up, our food was pretty simple. Dad was a meat and potatoes kind of guy, so that’s what Mom fixed. I never had Hamburger Helper or Rice-A-Roni until I was in college. The first time I tried it, I fell promptly in love. How yummy! How easy! How…fattening!

Now that I’m a lot more weight and health conscious, I really try to avoid eating too much processed junk like that, but I admit to still craving my hamburger helper every once in a while. This week, I decided to try my hand at making it myself. It was pretty good, if I do say so myself!

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Simplicity Saturday: Homemade deodorant

Those who know me know that I love my convenience items. Life is busy and I want to be able to get things done quickly and easily. However, I also love DIY cleaners and things like that – I think they are safer for the environment as well as for my family, and as long as I plan ahead a bit so that I always have some on hand, they are pretty quick and easy to make. One DIY item I’ve made and liked recently is deodorant.

I admit I was hesitant at first to make this since I sweat a lot and was really worried about being stinky all summer. But since I had the ingredients for this popular deodorant recipe from Passionate Homemaking, I decided to give it a try.

I started out with these 3 ingredients:

Coconut oil (I used Nutiva)
1/4 cup baking soda
1/4 cup cornstarch

And I decided that I would try to refill an old deodorant stick with it. I just took a knife and scraped out any last little pieces of the old deodorant so that it was fairly clean, like this:

First, I mixed the baking soda and cornstarch in a bowl. Now that I’ve been using this deodorant for a while, I admit that I’ll do something different with this next time I make it. This part is a little gritty and it kind of cakes in my armpit.

Then I added in the coconut oil and mixed it all up and started to scoop it into my empty deodorant tube.

When the tube was full I just kind of smoothed over the top – with one use it becomes pretty smooth, so there’s no use really spending a lot of time on smoothing it over.

I had a bit that didn’t fit, so I just put it into a small jelly jar. I did add a bit of tea-tree oil first, just to try something a little different in that part of the batch. And that’s it, quick and easy homemade deodorant!

Wishlist Wednesday

Well, since summer’s here, it’s time to think about what I want to get done! Of course I have some research/school goals, but I want to talk about personal and family goals here. I’d really, in general, like to focus on strengthening our family relationships, making our home more liveable, and making sure that I don’t get lost in this whole crazy world of marriage and family. To that end, here are my Top 10 wishes for a great summer:

10. Clean out the garage and junk room.
Here’s what I’m starting with.
This could take the whole summer if I let it!

9. Organize and clean out Pooh’s toys.
Then maybe we’ll have room to put the Wall Tracks back in his room.

8. Begin – and maintain – a regular workout routine.
I used to be much more fit before marriage and family.
Look at the definition in those arms! I want that back!

7. Eat more chocolate.
Skinny chocolate, that is!
I’ve recently been following the Trim Healthy Mama plan, and loving it.
More on that later.

6. Find a class to take, just for me.
Sewing? Computer programming? I’m not sure what yet.
But just because I’ve graduated doesn’t mean I can’t still learn something new!

5. Plan one full family activity every week.
Here’s a recent outing to check out the bluebonnets.
I love getting us out of the house and doing something different

4. Spend more time with extended family.
After almost losing Dad this year, we want to really appreciate our time left with him!

3. Have regular swim dates with Pooh.
He loves the water, at least after he gets a bit used to it,
and this can be our special time together too.

2. Have a weekly date with P-Daddy.
Maybe we’ll find more beautiful food presentations like this one at a local sushi restaurant.
Even if not, we’ll build our relationship together.

1. Tell P-Daddy and Pooh every single day that I love them.

Planning for Summer Success

It’s been so so long since I blogged much of anything. Suffice it to say that this past year has been one wild and crazy ride! I’m so glad that summer is finally here, we’ve made it through my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, and I can actually breathe again! I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about food and recipes and what to eat and what NOT to eat, and what I realize is that if I want myself and my family to eat healthy, I simply have to plan more.

Now, I’m not a big fan of daily menus; P-Daddy won’t follow them, and I’m not much good at being consistent with following them either. That doesn’t mean I can’t plan, it just means I need to do things a little differently. What works for me is to simply know what I have on hand for different meals, so that I’m not left thinking there’s nothing to eat in my totally stuffed pantry and freezer! Since I love freezer cooking, I have lots of stuff in there that I’ve frozen at various points in this past semester. Right now, I’m challenging myself to eat from my pantry and clean out some of the stock that I have. This is just a SMALL sampling of what’s in there. Many of them are labeled. Some are surprises :-)

Here’s what I am thinking for this week:

oatmeal (X3)
eggs, bacon or ham, flatbread (X2)
THM pancakes
Whole wheat sourdough bread with SF jelly

Lean turkey, lettuce, and tomato on a flatbread (X2)
Cheeseburger pie and green beans
Tilapia tacos, carrots
Frittata (X2)
Bean burritos w/ peppers and onions,

Sauteed salmon, broccoli, carrots
Tilapia fillets, spinach, focaccia
Cheeseburger pie, green beans
Taco salad w/ cheese, sour cream, and a few refried beans
Turkey hot dogs, carrots, popcorn (movie and popcorn night with Pooh)
Fooled Ya Pizza with cauliflower crust

Skinny chocolate
Greek yogurt with berries
Cottage Berry Whip
Ricotta Creme
Strawberries with whipped cream

I’m checking out all the other great menu plans this week at orgjunkie.com and linking up over there. Come on over and take a look with me!

Life is Sweet!

As I mentioned on Monday, I’m really trying to focus more this year on my health, and I’m making several changes as a result. One of these is related to my use of artificial sweeteners. I’ve been a fan of Splenda for years, and it’s still my favorite sweetener when I’m out and about. I generally always have a few of those little yellow packets on my counter and in my bag, and when I travel internationally, it’s a must-have in my suitcase.

So you see, I love Splenda, but P-Daddy is not as thrilled with it. He prefers that I not use it for sweet desserts or other items that we’ll both eat. And even though I love it for myself, neither of us are convinced that we should be giving it to Pooh regularly. He’s a growing boy, and he loves desserts, and we don’t want to always have a separate dessert for me and the boys.

Over the years, I’ve tried Stevia a number of times. I like that it’s a plant extract and not a chemical concoction, but it has a bit of an aftertaste. I actually really liked the bit of licorice aftertaste for my coffee, but I wasn’t as thrilled with it in herbal teas and other desserts. But recently, I was told about this NuNaturals NuStevia extract, and I’m loving it! It’s super concentrated, so a little difficult to figure out amounts in single servings, but working great for cooking larger batches of all kinds of desserts (with just a tiny bit of stevia). I don’t find the aftertaste to be as strong as other types of stevia, and overall, this one is totally working for me.

I’ll note that this Stevia doesn’t come too cheaply – that 1 pound jar is listed at $60. However, it’s also way more Stevia than I think I could possibly use in a year! I am splitting the jar with my sisters and niece, transferring smaller portions into much smaller spice jars for daily use. Plus, I got a really great deal on that jar!

As I stated, that jar is listed at $60 on iherb. Plus, iherb offers 5% off for orders $60 and over, and I had a discount code that gave me free shipping plus $10 off of any order $50 or over. So I got that $60 jar delivered to my doorstep for only $47 total. Woot! And now, having told you about that great deal, I’m gonna let you get as close to it as you can, by giving you a similar discount code! Here it is: QMN811.

Note that I cannot guarantee that all of the pieces of that discount will still be in place at the time of your order, but this code will definitely give first-time customers $5 or $10 off their order (any order from iherb, not just the stevia!). Also note that this is a referral code, which means that I get a kickback too – so we both get a great deal if you use it :-)

Focusing for Health and Fitness

It’s been a hectic month. Okay, a hectic past year. A hectic past couple of years, actually:-( In many areas, things are great, but one thing that I’ve done is really let my health and fitness slide more than I want to. This year, I really want that to change. In order to aid that, there are several things that I’m doing:

1) Making small steps toward better exercise habits
2) Revamping my eating to match the life I live now
3) Finding ways to save money on better products for my health

In terms of exercise, I know that I can’t create a huge massive plan that sets me up for failure. So I’m working on a day-to-day basis, doing what I can, and keeping my mind on the bigger picture of keeping moving.

In terms of eating, I’ve long followed a low-fat diet, with an emphasis on healthy carbs and natural foods. I like this practice a lot, but I’ve noticed that (a) my husband just doesn’t eat this way. He’s not a big carb fan, so there has been a major part of the food that I fixed that he has largely ignored. I’d like us to find ways to eat that work well together, so we’ve been exploring different options with fewer carbs and higher fat. NOT, mind you, trying Atkins or other typical low-carb approaches, but instead focusing more on the Glycemic Index and how different foods are affecting our bodies.

Finally, as always, I’m looking for ways to save money, but specifically trying to find reasonable ways to save money on products that improve our overall health.

I’ll be exploring these themes more intensely and in different ways as we head into 2013. Feel free to join me for the journey!

Visit Netrition.com for a wide selection of nutritional supplements, weightloss, bodybuilding and low carbohydrate items.

A must-read

Not too long ago, I posted about making the most of my mornings by joining a challenge over at Money Saving Mom. And now, she’s about to release a new ebook, entitled 21 Days to a More Disciplined Life.

I’ll note that I’ve been a follower of Money Saving Mom for a long time. And one thing that is for sure, this is a woman who knows about discipline! This book is sure to be a winner! I haven’t even read it yet and I am already recommending it – I’m that sure that it’s going to be great! I just bought it, and my 21 days will start this week – look for an update on how it’s going in about 3 weeks!

Calgon, take me away!

After a really tough week, it was nice this morning to get an email from the current renter in the Treehouse asking about the possibility of staying longer. It provided me with a needed reminder that this life as we know it will not always be our life. And after this week, boy did I need that reminder!