Quick Chicken Fried Rice

When you have 3 kids doing multiple activities in the evenings, it’s tough to get everyone together for a meal. Some weeks, we may only have 1 day where everyone is able to be together. Many nights 1 or more kids eats quickly and alone. It saddens me that we can’t all sit together all the time, but I do my best to spend time with each child while they are eating to make some kind of a connection. #doingmybestEven on the days where we are available to be together, we are often busy working on projects before dinner or in a rush to do something after eating. It’s important to me to atleast have some sort of a meal together even if it’s in front of the TV or multitasking something. Together in any way possible.Just yesterday, I spent my entire day working around the house on some back-breaking projects and I was exhausted. Usually I would have to quit at least an hour before dinner time to prepare something for our family, but last night I was outside working until 8 PM. Phew.We normally eat at 6 PM so I asked my husband to feed everyone leftovers. No problem but I missed out on that time with my family and came inside during shower time.I still have some mom guilt about missing our togetherness window last night, so I am planning a meal that we can eat with everyone tonight. Unfortunately, I still have more back-breaking work to do today and we have family plans for later in the evening, so this meal is going to have to be a quick one.Finding shortcuts to make family meals is perfectly acceptable. It’s all about the time together, right?One of my favorite shortcuts is my Instant Pot, but cooking lots of chicken for the whole week is also a fave. Or, go buck wild and buy a rotisserie chicken and use that. #whateverittakes I find that if I cook the food ahead of time, it forces me to make sure I use it. So here is a fun and quick recipe from The Recipe Critic using already cooked chicken and rice and it only requires one cast iron pan. Another HUGE bonus. Am I right?Protein, veggies and some grains all together. I just love ethnic foods and anything that can be eaten all together from a bowl…..I’m a simple gal.INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pound of Chicken (around 2-3 chicken breasts) cooked and shredded
  • 3 cups cooked Rice
  • 2 Tbsp Sesame Oil
  • 1 small Onion, chopped (or less depending on your audience)
  • 1 cup frozen Peas & Carrots thawed (or if you have fresh, that works too – just make sure you give em a quick cook before adding to pan)
  • 2-3 Tbsp of Bragg Liquid Aminos (or soy sauce)
  • 2-3 Eggs, beaten
  • 2 Tbsp of chopped Green Onion

Heat a large skillet at medium heat, add sesame oil to skillet and cook onion, peas and carrots until tender. Shove to one side of pan.

Add eggs to other side of pan and scramble. The veggies may get slightly mixed and that is fine because once the eggs is scrambled, you are going to mix everything together anyway.

Add rice and chicken to skillet and pour your aminos on top. Mix and heat through!

Make a bowl for everyone and sprinkle some green onion on top (if ya like). My kids all liked this dish which is a huge help for busy weeknights! Better than takeout.

When you have the precooked chicken and rice, this takes no time at all and you can all have a delicious meal together at the table (even though one kid was in the shower…..oh well). I tried.

Happy Eating!

Busy Busy Busy

I had a busy day full of back breaking work. No time to create or write, sorry. My only tip to share is this:

Do NOT try to take apart pallets by using a pry bar. If someone said that was the way to do it, don’t trust them. They are not trustworthy. Trust me when I say, you can only cut them off into smaller pieces with a circular saw or use a Sawzall (reciprocating saw) to cut the nails.

I brought home 12 pallets last Friday to work on a project for a friend and to maybe make something for myself. After shoveling more trenches for our drainage project this morning and grocery shopping, I decided to take care of the pallets. I know it’s going to rain tomorrow and I need to be able to put a kid or two or three in my car, so the pallets gotta go. (did I mention that my stow ‘n’ go seating rocks!? 12 pallets!)

I cut the boards into small pieces on the first 5 and then used the sawzall on the rest…it took me 4 1/2 hours and 3 reciprocating saw blades. My whole body hurts and I’m completely exhausted.

Takeaway: pallet deconstruction is not a simple afternoon task.

Good luck everyone. Zzzzzzzzz

Everyday Bread

My family eats lots of bread. Lots. PB&J, toast, egg in a basket, BLT, cinnamon toast, submarine sandwiches, french toast, rolls, whatever. We are definitely not a gluten free family.

As a teen, my friends and I used to make fun of my mother for stuffing her freezer with almost entirely bread products. It was hysterical. Most families had popsicles, ice cream, frozen desserts, veggies and TV dinners and my Mom had bread. Loaf after loaf after loaf. Rye bread was her favorite.

We all say we aren’t going to become our parents, be we all do and I am no exception. Now, I freeze bread. Lots of it. If I didn’t, I would be going to the store for bread every few days and grocery shopping is not my favorite pastime.

With my clean and simple living journey, I hoped to be able to find a way to make healthy and easy homemade bread instead of buying bread and freezing it constantly. But, bread is not exactly a simple process so I knew this way going to be a challenge.

Mixing the ingredients, letting the bread rise several times and then baking the bread takes time and can get complicated. (just see my sourdough cheat recipe!) I need something “on hand” to be able to make a loaf of bread every afternoon if needed.

After reading some library books and making some trial loafs, I think I finally found what I need: a premade homemade dough that can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks and only requires 1 more rising (around 45 min-1 hour) and takes only 30 minutes to bake. This, I can work with.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp of granulated yeast
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp kosher salt or other coarse salt
  • 6 1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached all purpose flour (scoop and sweep measured)
  • cornmeal or more flour for for working with the dough

Warm water helps the dough rise faster before you put it in the fridge for storage, so make sure it’s around 100°F – or a little warmer than body temp.

Add the yeast & salt to the warm water in a sealable container – nothing airtight, though. A simple tupperware container works perfectly. They even make bread dough lidded buckets if ya want one. Mix in the flour, any way that you want, but do NOT knead it. I just used a wooden spoon at first and then my fingers to really get the dough completely incorporated. This only takes a few minutes and the dough should be moist.

Now, let the dough rise. Cover the container with your lid (make sure it’s NOT airtight or something bad could happen) and let it sit at room temp for around 2-5 hours depending on water temp and room temp. Letting it go longer will not harm your results. Now throw it in the fridge until you are ready to bake a loaf.

When you are ready to bake, give yourself around 2 hours before mealtime. Take the dough container out of the fridge and with a pair of kitchen shears or a knife, cut off a piece of dough that is around a grapefruit size or 1 pound.

Dust the dough and your hands with a little flour. Take the dough and do what is called a “gluten cloak” (check out the quick video). This is when you stretch the top of the dough down the sides and under the loaf so that the top of the loaf looks tight – it takes seconds.

Let the loaf rest on a cornmeal or flour covered “pizza peel” or small wooden cutting board (which is what I use) for about 40 min or more. It does not need to be covered. Just keep it out of the way of traffic. It may rise a little more or not.

Preheat oven to 450° F with a baking stone in the oven and another small tray to hold water on another shelf.

Dust the loaf one more time and slash a 1/4″ deep cut in whatever pattern you like with a serrated knife.

Slide the loaf of bread onto the preheated baking stone with a quick jerk and then quickly pour 1 cup of water into the other small tray and close the oven right away to trap the steam.

Set the timer for 30 minutes and make the rest of your meal while it bakes. Bam. Super crusty and crackly crust with a soft and dense center. Perfection.

The coolest part of this is that you can keep it in your fridge for a couple weeks and just cut off the dough and bake as you go. Then restock the dough and keep going. Or, you can even freeze 1 pound sections in airtight containers and just defrost overnight in the fridge. This master recipe can be used to make so many different variations of breads and even pizza crusts and desserts.

I am going to continue testing out more simple and easy loaves of bread for my family to enjoy for sandwiches, french toast and dinners. But, I am definitely on the right path towards a quick and easy fresh loaf of bread that can be baked a few times a week. Check out more ways to use the Boule master recipe in this awesome book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I am floored by all the options.

Next step: sew some linen bags for storing any bread!

Happy Baking!

Simple Suburban Living

I woke up this morning thinking I better get myself a pair of overalls so I can wear them in the yard while taking care of the garden and chickens and whatever else I dream up for my backyard farm. Then I smiled and laughed at myself and just put on my sweatpants. I mean, really….sweatpants are everything.

But, honestly, I have been dreaming only of my backyard farm lately. I am obsessed. It’s all I want to do. I was asking around recently about getting a job at a local farm just to learn more. I would much rather shovel poop than work in front of a computer any day. (ironically, here I am writing this…)

In a way, I have been moving towards this lifestyle for quite a few months after a very successful year that in hindsight also felt very unlike me (it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement). Authenticity and acceptance of who I am, good and bad, is my goal now. For so many years, I suppressed this simpler side of me because I had a picture in my head of what I “should be” and what I “should be” making, which never involved raising chickens or making my own toothpaste. I’m a Jersey girl, for f*$# sake! But, hear me out…

Most people think that to live a “simpler life” we need to quit our jobs and move to the country and buy a cow. They immediately give up on that idea because no one wants to own a cow or thinks they can do it. But that’s just not true. Living a simpler life can happen in the city or the suburbs as well, you just have to create your own way and definitely don’t buy a cow if you have a 4th floor walkup….disastrous.

I surveyed my area. What do I have to work with? Small suburban fenced in lot. I know that I will not be moving anywhere any time soon because my children are in school and I wouldn’t dare take them away from their friends just to satisfy my need for a teeny tiny baby goat that hops and prances and let’s me take it for walks. My human kids come first (see what I did there? LOL). So, we make do with the space we have.

The easiest first step towards a simpler life is to start a garden. It can be in pots on your deck/porch or you can go rototill a section of your yard or even build raised beds like I did. Ask yourself what your level of commitment is before deciding. Not sure? Start small and just do container gardening. You can grow vegetables and herbs from containers. Sure, purchasing shiny waxy vegetables is easier, but let’s look at this for a hot minute…

We are a society of consumerism. It’s easier and faster to buy. I remember the day that I realized that brownies didn’t just come from a mix in a box. Eek, embarrassing. Back in the day, we all made our own clothing, grew our own food, made our own baskets, carved our own toys, built our own homes & chopped our own wood to heat them. Some people had specific jobs like blacksmith or schoolteacher, but most people were able to do a little of everything. We weren’t afraid of doing it all.

Now, I am not encouraging you to go out and build your own barn (unless you want to, then huzzah!), but we all should take a step back and see how much we purchase and where we are willing to slow down. Maybe try to make our own items instead. (this blog is my way of hopefully encouraging and inspiring you to do just that!) You do not have to do it all, but when you make even your own homemade salad dressing, the sense of accomplishment can make you feel like a celebrity. That sense of accomplishment is exactly what we need to get back. That confidence in ourselves and our abilities. Whip up some shampoo or hand lotion, grow some basil or fix a hole in your sock and realize that you can do this. Recipes and tutorials are everywhere, I have even shared a few so far on my journey. I am in no way an expert – far from it. Which means you can do it too.

We are all natural makers, us humans. We make things out of necessity and we make things out of love. At least we used to. Find that part of yourself and get back to being a maker. You never know how much it will fulfill your life to know that you can make instead of buy. Getting back to basics is is good for your soul, it’s good for your body, it’s good for your family, it’s good for your wallet and it’s good for our planet.

So start that garden, make some homemade cleaners, bake your own bread or maybe even raise chickens like me (I’ve never done this before – trial and error!) so you can feel that sense of accomplishment, that pride in yourself and your abilities. Think about how much happier we would be if we lived this simpler life? We can all do something.

Me, I am planning on growing as many veggies I can this summer and hopefully trying out some freezer/canning preserving ideas to stock up for the winter months. I am also going to raise these chickens to hopefully get some fresh eggs by the fall. I am also going to start baking my own bread and you know I am already replacing as many cleaners, candles and beauty products in our household as I can. If something doesn’t work out, then I will try another way.

Please share what you are planning on making yourself and are going to stop purchasing. I would LOVE to hear everyone’s plans so I can encourage you all.

Happy Making.

 

 

 

 

Cinco de Mayo Recipes

I adore Mexican food. Give me all the nachos, tacos, guacamole, fajitas, margaritas, burritos, enchiladas you can give me. When I go to a Mexican restaurant with its 12 pages of entrees, I have the hardest time deciding what I want (because I want it all). I probably make some sort of dish for the family every single week and I secretly love when there are leftovers so I can eat more for lunch the next day.

One of the best things about Mexican dishes is that they are fairly simple, full of fresh ingredients and are quick. I remember a restaurant my husband and I used to go to when we lived in western NY that would practically have your dish to you before you were able to put your napkin on your lap.

It is very easy to stock your pantry with the basic tex mex ingredients so you can whip up something delicious anytime. I always try to have these on hand in the pantry, fridge or freezer:

  • Tortillas/Shells
  • Beans & Rice
  • Tomatoes & Onions
  • Cilantro IS MY FAVORITE and I keep a bunch in a little jar of water on the counter
  • Ground Beef or Turkey
  • Avocado (I mean, c’mon)
  • Chips or Corn Tortillas
  • Salsa
  • Red Hot Sauce
  • Cumin (I use this so much, I buy it in bulk)
  • Limes

You can do SO MUCH with this shopping list.

Cinco de Mayo is my excuse to eat all the tex mex food I want and not feel guilty about it. I am a huge fan of chips and dips, but frankly, my family could care less about anything but guacamole. Don’t get me wrong, guacamole is my go-to dish so I love it like a 4th child. But, I also love a hot cheesy melty dip too. Not the queso kind, that is the one thing I do not like about Tex Mex food, just the real cheesy melty kind….with lots of stuff. Bring me all the stuff.

Today I am going to try out a Hot Mexican Corn Dip. I am halving the recipe I found from The Cookie Rookie because I know it will just be me eating this. While I bake the Dip, I am also going to make some homemade Tortilla Chips to go with it. They will all be ready at the same time so I can completely blow my mind with yummy goodness.

But, wait, there’s more! I will also be making some sweet and simple Churros and a tasty Mojito to round out this meal of meals. Or should I say, meal of calories. No guilt, be quiet, just enjoy.

Let’s get cooking….

CORN DIP INGREDIENTS: (remember, this is half the full recipe and it is still a substantial amount)

  • 1 can corn
  • 1 Tbsp chopped red onion
  • 1/2 a jalapeno, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp Franks Red Hot
  • 1/2 lime
  • 1 clove garlic (I can’t believe I stuck to this #garliclover)
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro or a big handful, whatever
  • 1 block of cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • shredded cheese – atleast 1/2 cup….I used a mexican cheese blend
  • feta or cojita cheese – about 4 oz

CHIPS INGREDIENTS:

  • corn tortillas
  • mister of oil
  • salt

Blend the softened cream cheese, half the shredded cheese, sour cream, red hot, squeezed lime juice and garlic in a blender or (to be honest) just use a spatula. I got out my Vitamix to do this and it seemed like overkill and kinda sucked to clean. Next time I am just going to mix by hand.

Add the cream cheese mixture to a large bowl and add the corn, the rest of the shredded cheese, the feta, the cilantro, the jalapeno and the red onion and mix together.

Throw it all into a baking container, sprinkle a little more cheese on top and bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes (20 would work better for me since my baking dish was small and deep).

⇒While the dip is baking, cut your corn tortillas into 8 little wedges with a pizza cutter. Lay them out onto a baking sheet and use a mister to spray them with some oil. I used avocado oil….duh. Sprinkle them with some salt and throw into the oven with the dip for the last 7-8 minutes that the dip has to bake. Keep an eye on them so they don’t brown too much. I like to use a stone baking sheet for these because I can heat the stone up in the oven while the dip is baking during the first half and it guarantees you get a crispy chip on both sides.

Hot Chips with Hot Dip. #winning

Now we need is a refreshing drink.

Most people reach for a margarita when having a taco or guac & chips but my favorite is the almighty Mojito. It goes perfectly with the fresh clean mexican ingredients. Fresh limes, mint and a couple shots of rum. Yes, please.

Let’s make one…or two…or three…

MOJITO INGREDIENTS:

  • lime
  • bunch of mint
  • rum
  • club soda
  • ice
  • sugar

Take a tall glass, add 2 Tbsps of sugar, 4-6 wedges of limes and a whole bunch of mint….be generous…mint is amazing. Now muddle that goodness. Muddling is when you mash the ingredients with a bar tool that is like a pestle to release the flavor of the herbs or fruits. I don’t have a muddling tool but you can use the end of a wooden spoon to muddle your lime and mint. Once you are done muddling, add a generous amount of ice – at least half a glass. Now add your rum – 2 shots will do. Fill the rest with some club soda! Garnish with a lime wedge and a sprig of mint. Delish. This is great served with a stainless steel straw so you can continue to muddle the mint and lime in your glass as you drink to release more fresh flavor. Mmmmmmm.

Time for some dessert…

When my kids were young, they would always beg for a churro from Costco so it became and bargaining chip for me. Now that they are all in school, I can shop alone so they never get churros anymore. I am not a dessert person really, but these are so easy to make, I can’t say no.

CHURRO INGREDIENTS:

  • refrigerated crescent rolls 1-2 packages
  • cinnamon & sugar
  • 2-3 Tbsp of butter – melted

Roll out your crescent rolls, but leave them in rectangles instead of triangles. Brush 2 of them with melted butter and sprinkle with Cinnamon & Sugar mixture. Normally, the cinnamon to sugar ratio is 1 tsp to 2 Tbsp but my kids are getting a 1:1 ratio instead because sugar is a treat and they are sweet enough. Now put the other rectangle on top so you basically have a cinnamon sugar sandwich – my kids would eat these daily if I let them. Use a pizza cutter to slice them into 6 long strips. Twist each strip a few times and place on a cookie sheet and bake at 375° for 9-12 minutes. When they are done cooking, brush them one more time with melted butter and sprinkle more cinnamon & sugar on top. Eat one to make sure it’s OK before you give it to the family….

There you have it – some Cinco de Mayo dishes that are easy to make and fresh and delicious. I had some leftover fajita fixings, so I made a chicken quesadilla and some nachos as well…..man, mexican food is so easy and versatile. No guilt.

I hope you all have a great Cinco de Mayo this weekend! Make sure to get your avocados soon so they are ripe in time for the weekend.

Homemade Charcoal Toothpaste – 2 ways

<<If you make a purchase through any of my links, I will receive a small compensation at no extra cost to you as an Amazon Affiliate. Thank you for your support.>>

There was a time when the thought of making my own soap, detergent, shampoo or toothpaste seemed ridiculous to me. Way over my head. Now, I almost feel like I have super powers when I make a candle or shampoo or detergent. Why didn’t I start this earlier?

I know that my health journey with Plexus gut health supplements led to my devotion to toxin-free living and now I am more confident in making my own products because I know the value and importance of using clean ingredients.

But I did wonder today why more people aren’t making their own products too? My first thought was that is must be because they think they can’t do it. Then I thought it’s probably because they have no time. Or maybe even that they just don’t know or care about clean ingredients.

I feel it is important to show you that you CAN make these products yourself, you DO have the time and it IS important for your health.

Today, let’s start with toothpaste…..did you know that toothpaste doesn’t really do that much? Clean teeth come from the act of brushing and scrubbing, they are NOT cleansed from toothpaste. If toothpaste doesn’t really clean your teeth, why are we spending LOADS of money on these special toothpastes when we should really be perfecting our brushing technique (and most likely paying attention and taking our time)? I have an idea – it’s the attack of the killer consumerism. I’m no activist, but we are told to buy more and more special stuff every day when we REALLY should be purchasing less. Less purchasing = less waste. How many toothpaste tubes do you go through each year? (made ya think….) But, I am going off on a tangent here, back to toothpaste….

So if toothpaste is just a “cosmetic” thing and we don’t really need to use anything special, let’s stop buying it and make our own. It’s super simple to do and truly, there are tons of recipes. Since it really doesn’t matter, pick the one you like.

I am going natural. I tried 2 different recipes tonight and it took me less than 15 minutes to make them both. My daughter took a shower in the time I measured, mixed and cleaned up after myself. Although, that’s not saying much since she is a teen. But, truly, it was super quick and super easy.

Both recipes contain activated charcoal (as I am a firm believer in this goodness) but one is more syrupy while the other is more pasty.

The syrupy recipe was easy:

Just mix it together – it’s so simple. The messiest part was opening up the capsules of charcoal, but who really cares….we are kitchen scientists and we’re having fun!

The pasty recipe was simple too:

Mix together the dry ingredients and add the water slowly until you reach desired consistency then add your oils and mix. Make sure this is not kept in a metal container of any kind because clays absorb impurities such as toxins and heavy metals and can possibly pull from the container. Stainless steel is A-OK.

So, what do these ingredients do?

  • Coconut oil will pull bacteria and other toxins out of your gums and crevices.
  • Baking Soda will clean your mouth and whiten your smile.
  • Activated Charcoal works wonders by pulling the stains off your teeth.
  • Bentonite Clay absorbs toxins, impurities, heavy metals and other internal contaminants. It’s is also great for remineralizing teeth because of its high mineral content. This can help with any tooth decay.

So, you choose which one to try. Or try them both, it takes no time to make and they are so much more cost effective than buying those expensive toothpaste tubes. It also helps reduce waste – say no to plastic!

I tried them both (wow my teeth are clean tonight!) and I prefer the pasty toothpaste. It has the right feel in my mouth and holds the Spearmint ‘taste’ better. The activated charcoal, clay and baking soda aren’t the best tasting ingredients, so having the spearmint makes all the difference. My teeth feel exceptionally clean (and I am a stickler for that – I love going to the dentist for cleanings) so I am VERY pleased with this experiment.

I hope this inspires you to try it too. Remember, you have the time, the means and the reason. Happy Brushing!

Backyard Chickens

So I did a thing.

I have wanted chickens for years, but my town wouldn’t allow them. I watched as friends around the country raise their own flocks with envy. Finally, last Spring, they changed the law in our town after years of pushing. I was so excited for the change, but knew I couldn’t get any chicks due to lack of planning. I also knew I was travelling a ton last year and didn’t have my yard ready to protect my own den of hens.This year, however, is perfectly set up to bring up some chicks: very little travel, lots of home time and a homesteading journey mentality. I am ready for this next step!I researched the local laws which told me I was allowed up to 6 chickens for my property and no roosters. I looked into chicken breeds to see what would fit into our lifestyle – time, committment, space, cost, weather, need. I knew I wanted chickens for fresh eggs, but I also wanted chickens purely for the pet too. Living more simply and sustainably is my goal and raising chickens is just one more step in that homesteading journey.There are a bunch of chicken breeds and even more hybrids. I narrowed down my choice to the Barred Plymouth Rock breed. Barred Rock chickens are an Anerican heritage breed first seen around 1850 in the Boston area. They were the most popular chicken breed for much of the early twentieth century – a classic, mainly because they were great egg layers AND good meat chickens. They are just gorgeous with their black and white stripes, red comb and yellow beak. Barred Rocks are very docile, tame birds which makes them great around kids and as pets. I was drawn to them because of their heritage, their disposition, their beauty and their cold hardiness. New England weather is a big consideration.Since Thursday, we have housed 6 chicks in a simple dog crate box lined with pine shavings. They need a heater because they haven’t developed their feathers yet, but they are already growing fast! Fresh water and starter crumbles to eat and some love and affection. They peep and sleep and eat all day.The chicks will live inside the house with me for awhile until I get the yard ready and build their coop (besides, they need to grow their full feathers before going outside for good). Luckily, coop designs are EVERYWHERE. The kids are really enjoying the chicks (and so am I) and I have been doing lots of coop design planning. I think I have narrowed down my plan, but it’s still going to be a trial since this is my first year raising chickens. We all have to start somewhere.Chickens tend to lay an egg every 24-48 hours depending on the breed and start laying around 5-6 months of age. It all depends on how much daylight they receive too. So, winter months when the days are shorter could mean less eggs. Having fresh eggs is going to be so rewarding as is caring for these beautiful hens. We have already named 3 of them….My point is this…if you really want to raise chickens like I do, look into your local laws and do your research. Chicks are SUPER cute, but they are animals and they grow fast and have lots of needs. Beware before you buy. Be prepared. Be committed. I had been calling the 3 local tractor supply stores for weeks trying to find the breed of chick I wanted so when the day came that one of those stores said they had them, I jumped in my car and flew there right away. The excitement was ridiculous. I was happy to see that I had to sign a waiver before I took them and was asked if I had all the proper supplies. Keeping chickens is not so.ethinf to be taken lightly.Once you do the research and make a committment, I cannot imagine anyone not enjoying the experience of raising chickens. I am still only less than a week into this new chapter of our lives, but very excited for the future.

We are beginners though so I would love to hear from any chicken parents that have advice they wish they knew before starting their flock! Please share with my readers and with me!

Peep peep!

Worms: the Gardeners BFF

20190424_183011Yup, I said it. I am BFFs with worms. Ask any gardener and they will say the same. Worms are beneficial to the garden because they aerate and fertilize your garden. They break down plant and leaf matter and turn it into worm castings (worm poop doesn’t sound as cool) that fertilize your garden. They are nature’s best garden helper. Having worms in your garden is a sign of a healthy soil.

There are many different types of worms. Worms that live near the surface, worms that live in vertical burrows that descend several feet below the surface and worms that live in horizontal burrows just below the surface. With all these different and dissecting burrows, it’s no wonder the garden soil is aerated and the roots are watered so easily when you have worms in your garden.

As any gardener will tell you, the nutrients in your soil and the health of your soil is extremely important. All the minerals in your veggies come directly from your soil. Veggies just won’t grow properly in nutrient-depleted soil. So, how do we create nutrient-dense soil?

Encouraging worms to work their magic is definitely one way to do this. Worms love to eat decaying matter and turn it into castings that are very fertile – containing more iron, calcium, phosphorous and nitrogen than the soil around them. More organic and nutrient dense soil is everything a happy growing vegetable needs. So we need to create a worm garden….

20190423_153517

The best way to create a happy and healthy worm garden is first to find some worms and then to make sure they are fed and not disturbed. The best way to find some great garden worms is to wait until a wet and rainy evening and then go out in the yard with a headlamp and a bucket….sounds like a funny situation, right? – I should know. My family has 4 fishermen in it so we know when to take advantage of a good spring rain. Nightcrawlers are the big fat worms that are great for the garden and for the end of a hook. It makes sense to keep a good supply of them for when needed while also creating a better garden!

Now, FEED them: Worms love their plant matter and leaf litter, so make sure to keep your garden full of compostable material. Do you remember The Magic School Bus? Ms. Frizzle taught us all about how much life is actually in dead and decaying matter (The Rot Squad – 1st season) and how important it is to so many other creatures in our circle of life. Don’t be afraid of a little light composting in the garden, it’s super easy. Even if you just put out your coffee grinds, a banana peel or some dried leaves for the worms, they will be happy and happy worms stay put.

Now, DO NOT DISTURB: Another important way to create a happy worm garden is to NOT till your soil. Just leave it be. Worms don’t like to be tilled (duh) but if you must dig, use a garden fork so you wont disturb or dissect any of them. They will not grow into two worms if they get cut…..one side of the worm maaaaay live, but more likely, you just killed one of your free garden workers. I don’t think their coworkers will want to stick around.

Work with your garden worms and they will keep your garden growing happily for years.

Happy Digging!

20190424_183525

 

 

Sheet Pan Lemon Chicken

I love a sheet pan, one pot, easy peasy meal. I hate washing dishes and let’s face it, when I convince my kids to wash them…..I gotta do them again afterwards. The solution is just to use less dishes.

My instant pot makes some incredible weeknight dishes for our busy family of 5. The crock pot would too, if I was a better meal planner. The sheet pan is my best friend. Ya know when you finally feel comfortable enough with a specific cooking method that you can stray from following recipes exactly? That’s a sheet pan meal for me.

Sure, I’ve still made mistakes, but who cares…..I only got one pan to clean.

One of my absolute favorite sheet pan meals is my Fajita Bowl. It’s a perfect medley of chicken, peppers and onions and makes for great lunch meal preps for the week. During the winter, I love to do a medley of carrots, parsnips and brussel sprouts with chicken. But, today it is Spring, and I am trying out a new recipe from Erin at Well Plated. It caught my eye because of the asparagus. The asparagus is bountiful right now. It’s not in my garden this year (since I dug it all up) but the markets are overflowing with beautiful looking stems. Asparagus is one of my favorite veggies and roasting them in the oven is super easy (I also love to just saute them) and delicious.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound baby potatoes — cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil — divided
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary — divided
  • 2 pounds asparagus — tough ends trimmed and discarded, cut into 2-inch pieces (about 2 bunches)
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts — or thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 large lemon — juice and zest (you should have about 1/4 cup lemon juice total)
  • salt and pepper

I am going to wing the amounts on this recipe since I do not need to cook this much for my family. But, that’s the beauty of sheet pan cooking – throw what ya got on the pan, add some oils and herbs and roast away. So simple and satisfying.

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 400° and prep your veggies as listed in ingredients.
  • Rub or mist your sheet pan with olive oil
  • Put potatoes on pan and sprinkle with 1 T evoo, 1 T rosemary & salt/pepper
  • Throw in oven and roast for 20 minutes
  • Meanwhile, place the asparagus, chicken, and garlic powder in a large bowl. Drizzle with the lemon juice, the lemon zest, remaining 2 T olive oil, 1 T rosemary & salt/pepper. Toss to coat, then add to the baking pan with the potatoes. Loosely toss with a spatula and spread out evenly.
  • Roast for 15-20 minutes more, stirring a couple times.
  • ENJOY!

Cook time was quick and easy, but there was quite alot of juice from the asparagus which stopped my potatoes from getting nice and crispy (the way I like them!). So, I suggest you either do your asparagus separately (so much for one sheet pan!) or raise the food up with a wire rack under the food in the sheet pan. If the juice doesn’t bother you, no worries. The family still enjoyed it all and nobody had anything bad to say about the recipe. Success! It’s not easy to please 5 people at the same time.

Delish. Go make yourself some. Squeeze some lemon on top before serving and a little extra sprinkle of rosemary. Best part….I got leftovers for tomorrow. Mmm… Unless my kids eat it during the night.

Homemade Leave-in Detangler

Hair care products are one of the worst offenders when it comes to nasty ingredients that are absorbed into our skin. I want to keep all 5 heads in this house as safe as possible so I need safe and clean ingredients. There are certainly options out there, but they are NOT within my budget.

The boys don’t necessarily need a detangler since their hair is short, but my daughter and I definitely do. She has super thick hair down to her cheeks and my baby fine hair tangles if you look at it the wrong way. I am not a “roll the windows down” kind of girl unless I am wearing a hat. That would be disastrous.

I have tried many different kinds but the ones that make my hair super soft are always the ones that I don’t want to put on my hair and I definitely don’t want those chemicals on my daughter’s head either. I have come to grips with the fact that I may have to be patient or forgiving when it comes to moving to a more natural hair detangler and that’s OK. We shall see!

When looking at the varying recipes, I noticed that most of them used some sort of carrier oil (like jojoba or argan) or glycerin as the main ingredient and basically, the most active ingredient for detangling. Sure, that makes sense. But, with my baby fine hair, any amount of oil sitting on my hair can make it look greasy or wet. So, I need to be very light-handed with my spraying. There were also a bunch of recipes that use coconut milk, but I do not want to have to refrigerate my detangler….that’s just odd.

I found 3 recipes that seemed simple enough, so I am starting simple first:

20190422_172527

Grab a 4 oz spray bottle and mix in a measuring cup 1 Tbsp of either Jojoba Oil, Argan Oil or Almond oil. I used Argan. Add 10-15 drops each of 2 different oils of your choice. Lemon + Rosemary or Lavender + Lemon or Peppermint + Rosemary or whatever you like. I just used 20 drops of Rosemary since I also use a Rosemary Homemade Shampoo. An extra optional ingredient is 1/2 tsp of Aloe Vera Gel. Pour that into your spray bottle and fill the rest up with distilled water. This is from a recipe at Natural Living Family.

Shake and use before combing!

20190422_173104.jpg

Such a simple recipe that can be made in minutes – no joke.

Let’s see if it works…. YES!

This was not a full test run, since my hair was already washed, but I wet my head and sprayed and combed my hair with complete ease. Tomorrow I will do a full test after showering – stay tuned!

20190422_222634