Saturday, June 30, 2012

Lemon Herb Pasta

If your kiddos are anything like mine, they love pasta! This is a quick, easy recipe that has minimal ingredients but lots of flavor. You can use any herbs that suit your fancy, and can also adjust the ingredients to your taste. I serve it alongside a green salad, and it makes a great weeknight meal that costs less than $1 per serving!

1 lb of your favorite pasta (my girls chose campanelle this time, "flower pasta")
olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 Tbs butter
Fresh or dried herbs, your favorite combo (I chose rosemary, thyme, and a bit of ground oregano)
Juice from two-three fresh lemons
Grated parmesan cheese

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add in pasta. Cook according to package directions (or not, if that's your style!).

Meanwhile, add a generous amount of olive oil , the butter, and your minced garlic to a large skillet over medium heat.

When the butter has melted and you can smell the garlic in your living room, add in your herbs.

At this point you may need to take a quick break to check on your toddler. He may have hidden his pants, and then proceeded to use a marker to decorate your television, and himself.

Once the herbs have been well incorporated, stir in your lemon juice and allow the mixture to simmer for a few minutes.

By this time your pasta should be al dente. Drain the pasta and add it directly into the pan of sauce.

Toss the pasta well until it is generously coated. Finally, add in a large handful (or three) of freshly grated parmesan cheese...

Divide the final product into individual bowls and give it another dusting of cheese. Just for fun.


Friday, June 29, 2012

Product Review - MamaJo Cloth Diapers

 One happy heinie!

I am a certified Etsy addict, so when I wanted to try a few handmade cloth diapers, Etsy was my first stop. I perused page after page of custom cloth diapers, and pored over reviews left by previous customers. I finally settled on placing an order with MamaJo Diapers and Pads. She had nothing but glowing reviews, and many repeat customers, but her dedication to reducing her carbon footprint and using all North American-sourced materials was what really convinced me to take the plunge. I am so glad that I did!

For my order I chose two, one size pocket diapers with organic bamboo inserts and hook and loop closures. Her diapers come in a wide range of adorable prints and cool solid colors, but I chose the "Ooga Booga" print, which features an assortment of fuzzy little monsters. When my diapers arrived I was immediately impressed with the quality of the materials - the bamboo inserts are nice and thick, the PUL outer layers feel durable, and the inner liners are soft as butter. The craftsmanship is also impressive - the stitching on the diapers feels much more substantial than that used in most of the national name brand diapers that I have tried.

After washing the diapers, Iain and Dayne took them for a test drive. I knew that Dayne would be a good challenge for the organic bamboo inserts - he is a super-soaker, and has managed to wet through the overnight inserts, and even the PUL layer, on most of our diapers. MamaJo has my vote of confidence, because Dayne has STILL yet to leak through her bamboo inserts! I also love the long aplix tabs that overlap and create a snug fit. They are much more functional than the smaller tabs that you find so often.  These diapers also provide a trim fit - they look just minimally more bulky under clothing than disposable diapers, and don't create that "fluffy butt" that can sometimes cause pants to be ill-fitting. Other small additions like a snap to keep the inserts in place make MamaJo's diapers a winner in my book. You can tell that she is passionate about her product, and that she has a cloth-diapering parent's wants and needs in mind as she crafts every one!

In addition to cloth diapers and inserts, MamaJo's Etsy shop also stocks cloth feminine products and reusable baby wipes. I can't wait to give them a try!

As a final note, I want to add that MamaJo didn't solicit this review - I am simply a super happy customer!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

5 Green & Clean Laundry Helpers

As a mother of five kiddos under the age of eight, I deal with a LOT of laundry. We can do upwards of twenty loads per week around our house, and a good portion of the items are kids' clothes that tend to get covered in tomato sauce, marker, and spit up.We also live in a very hard water area, so keeping the clothes soft, colors bright, and whites white is a constant battle.

Since most commercially available stain removers and fabric softeners are laden with nasty chemicals, I prefer to look for natural solutions to my laundry problems. Natural laundry remedies are also cost effective, which makes them winners in my book.  Here is a compilation of my top tips and tricks - feel free to add your own in the comments section!!

1. Baking Soda

Baking soda can perform a vast array of household wonders, and keeping your laundry clean, soft and odor-free is just the tip of the iceberg.  Soak stinky items overnight (cloth diapers, gym socks, the lovey that your child drags to the grocery store ... and the park ... and the bathroom) in a tub or bucket with a solution of baking soda diluted in warm water. To remove stains from cotton clothing, make a paste of baking soda and water and rub it into the stain. Allow the baking soda paste to sit for an hour or two, and then launder as usual. For general fabric softening, add 1/2 cup of baking soda to the rinse cycle of every load. In short, buy it in bulk!

2. Vinegar

Another superstar of household uses, vinegar is a great addition to your laundry room arsenal. Adding it to your fabric softener dispenser in every load will leave you with soft clothes. Vinegar will also help remove any built up detergent residue in your laundry, which will leave you with brighter colors and whiter whites! Finally, vinegar (in an ironic turn of events, considering how it tends to clear a room due to its tear-inducing aroma) is great at removing lingering odors in fabrics.

3. Fresh Air

Air drying your clothes is an excellent choice for several reasons. First off, it's FREE. I like free. By cutting out the use of your electricity-sucking dryer you are not only saving yourself a few dollars, but saving the environment, too.  Line drying is also much gentler on fabrics than the intense heat of a dryer, so clothes will stay looking new much longer. Your duds will also take on that irresistibly fresh scent of sunshine and blue skies that only line drying can provide. Plus, there's something inherently beautiful about a woman with a laundry basket on her hip and a bag of clothespins in her hand.

4. Sunshine

Speaking of sunshine, give it a try on stubborn, organic stains and dingy whites! The sun will naturally remove or diminish most organic stains (baby poop, spit up, etc ...), and will return most whites to their original glory. Hang items in the sunniest spot in your yard and allow them to sit for a few hours. Harnessing the power of the sun is a beautiful thing ... 

5. Lemon Juice

Did life hand you lemons? No problem! Squeeze those babies and add the juice to your next load of whites. Much like the acid in vinegar acts as a bleach alternative, one cup of lemon juice added to your regular detergent can whiten a whole load of whites without the harsh side effects of household bleach.

Happy laundering!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Natural Baby Products Giveaway!

THANK YOU to everyone who has started following me!! In appreciation, I want to give you all a chance to win some great, natural baby products that will come in handy for the summer months.

I had originally planned to do a giveaway at 100 followers, but to mix things up, here's what I want to do:

If I can hit 50 followers by 6pm Central Time today (June 27th) I will randomly choose TWO followers to receive both a travel sized Episcensial baby sunscreen AND a travel sized Episcensial soothing balm. These are the perfect size to keep in the diaper bag, your beach bag, or in your purse!

If we can get to 100 followers by Sunday evening (July 1st) at 6pm Central Time I will have another giveaway for one winner to receive both a FULL SIZED Honest Company sunscreen AND healing balm!! That is a $27 value!

Good luck and thanks again!!



Congratulations to JESSICA M. & SMCLAPP for winning the travel sized Episcensial products!! I will be contacting you to arrange delivery of your prizes!!

We are over 60 followers strong, so the goal of 100 followers by Sunday is in sight! I am REALLY excited to give away the full sized Honest Company products, so keep up the good work in referring your friends!

Homemade Hand Soap

Hand soap is one of those necessary evils that always seems to cost a pretty penny for something that you wash down the drain. Even worse, many popular brands contain chemicals that are unsafe for our families and the environment. Fortunately, there is a CHEAP and EASY solution! Homemade hand soap is a great first step to a cleaner household.

Here's what you will need:

1 bar of earth friendly soap (look for a bar with saponified natural/organic oils as the only ingredients, like those from Light Stone or Bubble & Bee)
An empty jug or other container to store your soap!

That's really it. Cool, right?! Big thanks to my friend Heather for sending me this particular bar of soap - it made a Heavenly batch of hand soap!

Start by shredding the soap. You can choose to use a box grater ...

... or you can be lazy and use the food processor like I did! You end up with these cute, curly little shreds of soap:

Next, add 10-15 cups of warm water to a large pot, and stir in your soap curls. Warm them over medium heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring regularly, until the soap flakes are completely dissolved.

Once the soap flakes are completely dissolved, remove the pot from the heat and allow the soap mixture to cool on the counter for a few hours. Feel free to wander around aimlessly.

Once the solution has cooled, pour it into your jug using a funnel. The soap will thicken as it sits, so if it is a little runny, don't worry.

When it is time to refill your hand pumps just give your jug a good shake, and fill away!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Leftover Uplift: Chicken Fajita Soup

This is a super quick, easy, and healthy meal! If you don't have leftover chicken, peppers, and onions from the Chicken Fajita Tostada recipe that I posted yesterday, you can saute those up quickly before working on the soup setup, or you could certainly cook another batch in the crockpot while you are at work, and then finish assembling and simmering the soup when you get home!


Cooked shredded or cubed chicken
Medium sliced onion, sauteed
Sliced sweet pepper, sauteed
Black beans (one can or 2 cups dried/soaked/cooked)
1 can diced fire roasted tomatoes, undrained
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
Taco seasoning to taste
Crushed tortilla chips or extra tostada shells, shredded cheese, sour cream, cilantro, etc ... for garnish

Combine first seven ingredients in a large pot and simmer until it develops a rich color and is heated through, about 30 minutes. Ladle soup into bowls and add garnish just before serving. YUMMO!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Menu Makeover Monday - Crockpot Chicken Fajita Tostadas

This is a great, versatile meal that can be defeated if you have time (I made it from SCRATCH! WOOT!) or cheated (I got home 20 minutes ago and am in no mood to slave over a hot stove). There should be leftover seasoned chicken, peppers, and onions to use in tomorrow's recipe, Chicken Fajita Soup, so be sure to set some aside!


3-4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (Cheat: a bag of frozen ones will work just fine!)
Green, red, and/or yellow sweet pepper, sliced
One large yellow onion, sliced (Cheat: use frozen, diced peppers/onions)
Taco seasoning - recipe below (Cheat: use store bought seasoning)
Corn tortillas (Cheat: store bought tostada shells)
Whole pinto or refried beans, warmed (Cheat: use canned!)
Your favorite toppings: shredded cheese, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, chopped cilantro, guacamole, salsa, scallions, sour cream, etc ...
Canola oil for frying tortillas

Combine chicken breasts, sliced peppers and sliced onions in your crock, and liberally season with taco seasoning.  Cover and cook on low all day long while you are otherwise engaged in mischief. About 20 minutes before dinnertime, shred the chicken and return to the crock. Turn the heat on up to high while you finish your preparations.

If you are making your own tostada shells, pour an inch or so of canola oil into a shallow frying pan and heat on medium-high until the oil begins to glisten (or it snaps at you when you flick a drop of water into it, at your own risk). Fry tortillas one at a time until golden, flipping halfway through. Place finished tostadas on a bed of paper towels or an old paper sack, allowing excess oil to drain off.

To serve, layer beans, chicken mixture, and toppings on top of your tostada shell.  These are a super fun finger food - the kids love picking them up like little pizzas! YUMMO!


This is one of those ingredients that is super easy to make yourself, and I guarantee that you will be pleased with the effort! I make a double batch and store it in an empty glass spice jar.

1 Tbs chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon corn starch (for thickening)