The Half-Crunchy Mama

Trying to live a natural life with balance


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Lentil and Rice Salad

The days leading up to payday are always a challenge for me. I am the budget and after all these years, I still stink at it. I hope that I can learn someday so we can get back to digging ourselves out of debt. For now, you get to benefit from me having to get creative in the kitchen in order to provide healthy meals to fill our bellies. After rummaging through the refrigerator on Tuesday, I saw enough things in there to work with and get my mind moving. A package of vacuum-packed, precooked lentils, leftover basmati rice, black olives, and some items from the vegetable drawer. I started throwing things together in a bowl and kept adding to it. This was the result: Lentil Rice Salad - The Half-Crunchy Mama Leave it to Trader Joe’s to help a girl out. I am an avid label reader (the crunchy side) and there are some things from there that I won’t touch, but there are lots of things you can find in Trader Joe’s that are not only healthy and cheap, but are real time savers. This is one of them…not that lentils take all that long to cook, but still. I have a three year old and I can use all the help I can get. So I took these and the leftover rice (enough to fill one of those plastic Chinese takeout soup containers, maybe 2 cups?) and popped them in the microwave to get them softened up and brought back to life. Then the creativity came and I was pulling things to the counter left and right. Lentil Rice Salad - The Half-Crunchy Mama I threw in a large handful of bagged, organic shredded carrots, 3/4 can of sliced black olives (Trader Joe’s), 2 tsp minced garlic (from a jar), and 1 small onion finely diced in my chopper – one of my top kitchen favorites that I love so much that I have given it as gifts. The one I have linked is not the same brand, but it’s the same thing (and the one that I buy for people).

Lentil and Rice Salad - The Half-Crunchy Mama

Then I added 2 Tbsp fresh chopped cilantro plus about 1-2 tsp from the squeeze tube, quite a bit of salt and fresh ground pepper, squeezed the juice from two limes and one lemon, and finished it off with a few turns around the bowl of  extra virgin olive oil. And this is what I got. YUM!Lentil Rice Salad - The Half-Crunchy Mama


Lentil Rice Salad

Easy on the budget, this quick protein-filled dish can help stretch your dollars and your time. Sorry for the vagueness in quantities, but this is how I do it 🙂 Thinking back, I wish that I had some English cucumber and/or organic bell pepper lying around, too. That would be even better. Just use your own judgement and taste buds to perfect your own! 

INGREDIENTS
  • Approximately 1 lb of cooked lentils (I used Trader Joe’s 17.6 oz package of steamed and refrigerated lentils)
  • Approximately 2 cups of cooked rice (I had leftover Basmati)
  • Large handful of bagged, shredded carrots (approximately 1-1.5 cups)
  • Sliced black olives, drained (I used about 3 ounces of a 3.8 ounce from Trader Joe’s that I had left in the fridge – more would be better)
  • 2-3 tsp minced garlic (from the jar – time saver!)
  • 1 small onion, very finely diced
  • 2 Tbsp freshly chopped cilantro
  • 1-2 tsp cilantro from the tube (or 1-2 Tbsp more fresh)
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Few times around the bowl with EVOO (1-2 Tbsp)
  • Quite a bit of fresh ground pepper and sea salt (start with 1/4- 1/2 tsp each and taste from there)
DIRECTIONS
  1. In medium bowl, stir together lentils and rice. Warm (in microwave) if needed. (yes, I still use a microwave – half-crunchy)
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients, giving a few stirs now and then to combine well.
  3. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if needed. Enjoy!

 

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It’s time for me to leave. We all need it.

This Friday, less than two weeks before my daughter turns three, I am going to go away for the first time. Without her.

Sugar Bee has been traveling since she was three months old, with me wherever I went. We have traveled to New York and Florida many times to visit my mom and dad in their respective states. We have been to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic on our first family vacation with her Russian side of the family. We have driven to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Phenix City, Alabama, and Panama City, Florida. She has been on more airplanes than some of my adult friends. We have always been together.

In the first 14 or so months of life, this was because I was breastfeeding. Pumping never worked for me, so there was little chance of a separation then. And to be honest, I never wanted to leave her. I was truly cherishing every moment, even the colic, the allergy issues, the early onset of her seriously fiery personality, and I had no desire to miss a beat. I am fortunate enough to have my career and work from home, making traveling places easier since I can work from anywhere. I haven’t had a traditional office in years and the thought of ever having one again makes me physically ill. It would be nice, I suppose, to get to leave the house and all the stresses associated with it behind for a few hours (out of sight, out of mind) and then be able to leave work behind to come back and focus on home life. Being able to still have my career while raising my daughter for the past three years has given me so much satisfaction and a healthy sense of pride, and I constantly remind myself how lucky I am to be able to have it both ways. But I need a break in the worst way. And the time is now.

When Sugar Bee entered our lives in 2011, my husband was still in the Army Reserves and working full-time. He would leave for his weekend every month, getting his break from this new, crazy life we now had. (We joked about how he was going off to “camp.”) Then he started back at school to finish up his degree, going to school at night after working all day. He would have his 2-3 week leave each spring for his regular spring Army commitment, and then it would be just the girl and I for more than just a long weekend. He has gone to visit his parents in Russia at least 4 times for 2-3 weeks at a time, including long layovers in places like Rome, Paris, and the Netherlands where he had time to explore those cities. (It’s important for him to visit his family, and he works hard and deserves these breaks.) When his time with the Army was fulfilled and he was released in September of 2012, he really ramped up his course load. For the past year and a half, there have been semesters where he says goodnight to our daughter on Sunday night and doesn’t see her again until Friday after work. (Let’s not even address how this has changed our marital relationship because we never see each other.) All week long, it is all me. All mama, all the time. And I love it, but I’m tired. No, exhausted. I don’t even think that word is enough sometimes.

I feel like I have been a single parent for a lot of her life, and I want to send a huge shout out to all the single parents out there. You are amazing and have my utmost respect for everything you maintain, and for doing and giving your best every day for the little ones. For all my complaining, at least there is someone around on the weekend so I can go to the store by myself, go to church, take the dog for a walk, or work in the yard. I do take her to a preschool four mornings a week (three days for camp this summer) from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. to give me time to focus on work. She (thankfully) takes a nap for 2-3 hours when she comes home so I can get a few more hours of work done, but after she gets up, the rest of the afternoon and most of the evening is shot. After I finally get her to bed, I’m back at my computer to do more work, often until 11 p.m. or later. It makes for very long days and I’m pooped.

So when my good friend was over one night a few weeks ago, we were chatting about all sorts of things (as wine can sometimes make happen) and she mentioned her bachelorette weekend was coming up and that I should come along. I have never been to Charleston and I really enjoy this group of girls. Friday through Sunday? That’s only two nights….SURELY they can survive without me. I immediately started to get excited. I wasn’t even sure how it could happen as my husband would have to take a vacation day, but I decided that I was going to give it a try.

The next day, the Russian and I were instant messaging through our chat system at work (we both work for the same company), so I asked, “Can you take a look at the calendar and see if it might be possible for you to get the 25th of July off?” His response was, “I already have that day off. And the 24th.” I immediately asked him why, figuring he had taken the days off to go get together with his Army buddies for their summer boys weekend (forgot to add that one to his list of breaks that he’s had), and started to feel bummed. When he explained that he already had those days off because he has to work the weekend before (which happens every other month or so), I was cautiously excited again. Is it possible that the stars had aligned to make this a real possibility? Am I actually going to get some time away to just be me and relax with some girlfriends? Of course he immediately asked me why I was asking. “Well, Tina’s bachelorette weekend away is that weekend, Friday through Sunday” I wrote. It was followed by an immediate response back, “GO!”

This was quite possibly one of the nicest gestures from the Russian ever. I have never asked to have time away, to leave my family and my responsibilities as mother, wife, maid, cook, dog caregiver, and my job, but for the past 10 months or so, I have talked about how I felt that I was really needing a break. That we all need me to go somewhere, to recharge for a few days. It never mattered where to or for how long, and now this was the perfect occasion. He has always supported me going somewhere, and for a long time, I really thought I needed to go alone. In fact, I had started talking to people that I know around the country to see who I could stay with for free to get some time away. I have lots of miles for someone that doesn’t travel for work and can fly anywhere, but I didn’t want to blow up the budget (I’m the accountant) to do something for myself. Why do I/we as mothers feel guilt for that? Why have I felt guilty sometimes going to get a pedicure? That is ludicrous. He’s never felt guilty leaving or buying a new gadget, so why do I allow it within myself? For all that I do on a daily basis, I should be able to give myself a little luxury, a small treat, yet I often find my brain wandering while I’m relaxing, thinking about bills or some expense that is coming up in the future, a meeting I need to prepare for, something to do for Sugar Bee’s school, a vet appointment…the list is endless. Guilty is the wrong word, but I don’t know what else to call it.

Two weeks later, the post When It’s Mom’s Time to Leave, came out. Holy crap there were so many things that resonated with me, even to the point of a few tears. This was possibly one of the best ones I’ve read this year. I love when I read something that makes me feel a little less crazy, or mean, or guilty, or alone in this whole mom thing.

“It has become all too common for moms to carry the entire burden of child-rearing, all while not inserting a single need of their own. But it doesn’t serve our children, it doesn’t serve our families and it breeds resentment to play the martyr all the time.”

There are some things that are just part of my personality. I’m a nurturer. I take care of people and always have. My friends are treated as my family. I’m terrible at asking for help, but I have definitely gotten better at it since having a kid. I suck at taking care of myself; the emotional self. I’m fine with the physical one as I put my health and body in my list of important things, but I don’t take any other time for me aside from my time at the gym. I allow myself that, but very little else.

There was another thing she was right on about. No one can tell you when it’s the right time because there is no answer. I’m sure some of you reading this have never left your kids. My mom tells me all the time how back then, “taking a break” was never a thought to her. She’s right. I don’t ever remember a bunch of moms going off on girl trips together, leaving their young kids behind. I remember when my parents had an opportunity for her to join my dad on a business trip to Japan and China. She was so worried, even though both of our grandmothers were staying with my sister and I. Of course, I ended up getting really sick while they were gone, but I’m sure that won’t happen this weekend. Right?

As Kiri Westby writes in her post about her mom, “…her generation of moms were fighting just to be allowed to work outside the home, while my generation of moms are expected to work outside the home, raise amazing kids and still look good in a little black dress come date night… thus, most of us feel like we’re failing.”

My mom went back to work when I was ten and my sister entered high school because she wanted to and she felt we were old enough. Times were different then. Today, most of us need two incomes to just survive, let alone have extra left at the end of the month. The internet and social media has given us a ton of places to compare ourselves and our lives with others that may seem to be doing it right or better than us. We are all different, not better or worse. None of us really knows what we are doing and if someone says that they do, they are full of it and probably have less of a clue than I do.

She also mentions in the article about how her husband wants his daughter to know he can be there for her and take care of her. That goes along with why I say, “We all need it.” The Russian and Sugar Bee need me to go away, too. I want her to know he’s always there for her, especially now that he’s absent so often between work and school. I want them to bond, to do things together without me around. I want them to do something different and new while I’m gone. I’m always taking her to places for the first time or am at least part of it, and maybe he will take advantage and do something new with her himself. Or maybe not. It’s not my problem to worry about, I just want them to be together and have time without the distraction of mama. She should know and trust that he can do what mama does, for the most part.

Once I had been given the day off from the flight school where I work part-time on Saturdays, it was real. The Russian didn’t have to worry about work, I had Saturday off, and I was actually going to go away. Without my kid. Eeek! The next thing I knew, I found myself almost bragging about leaving. Anytime someone asked me what was new, that was the first thing that came to mind. “I’m taking my first trip away from my family!” I have some friends that have left their kids behind for girls’ weekends and trips away with their spouses several times, even when there’s a little-little one around. It doesn’t make them cooler than me or make me better than them. I’m happy for them that they have had the opportunity and the ability to take the time for themselves. I think it’s great. And I’m thrilled that I am finally ready and actually doing it. As I said, we are all different.

My daughter has stayed overnight at Gigi and Jack’s a few times through the years. They are close friends, more like family to us than friends, and we refer to them as our Georgia family. But one night with her a mile away when I’m picking her up around 9 o’clock the next morning isn’t the same thing. This is going to be a whole new experience for me. I’m sure they will both be fine and I know that I deserve (and need) to do this for myself. Considering how much of my daily life is spent thinking about and tending to my family’s needs and the demands of my job, of course I’m excited about the prospect of getting away and focusing on myself and this ridiculously fun weekend that lies ahead. But I’m also nervous, anxious, worried, and feeling a little guilty. (There’s that damn word again.)

Three consecutive days of being Shannon again. I’m sure I will miss her terribly and wonder if she’s eating enough, sleeping well, or missing me. But maybe not as often as I’m imagining right now. I will have to write about it when I get back.

Of course, the next thing is to plan time away alone with the Russian. That will be the next big thing.

 

I stumbled upon a few more great reads on the subject of the importance of us moms having a break before writing this post. Here they are:

10 Reasons Every Mom Should Leave Her Kids for the Weekend

Going away–without the kids? Feeling guilty or worried? Read this.

Mom’s Weekend Pass: Two Nights Away to Recharge Your Batteries

When was your first time leaving your kid(s)? How long were you gone? How did it go?


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Cheesy Broccoli Egg Muffins

I love to eat breakfast any time of the day. And by breakfast, I mean eggs. I could eat eggs three times a day and never get bored. There are so many ways to eat them! I even have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to recipe ideas that involve eggs; Breakfast Anytime. Most of them are frittatas (my favorite things to create) and muffin things like this one, but there are some others on there that I make quite often, like this Kale and Feta Egg Bake recipe. You should check it out. But you won’t find any other kinds of breakfast recipes, like the carbtastic ones, because we don’t really eat food like that in our house. I have never been a pancake/waffle/french toast kind of person, except maybe a few times when I was pregnant. I blame my Sugar Bee for that.

Speaking of Sugar Bee, she’s a broccoli fiend. This kid goes through phases of obsessions (like all toddlers), but the broccoli one seems to be pretty consistent. The odd part to me is that her preferred way to eat it is raw with hummus, which completely thrills me as eating raw foods retains their nutrients. Steaming is the next best option, but raw broccoli maintains its high levels of vitamins A ,C, and K, and none of the other bonuses (calcium, iron, fiber, and the cancer-fighting sulforaphane) have a chance to deteriorate like they do when cooked. Of course in this recipe, the broccoli is steamed before a quick bake in the eggs, but I couldn’t help rambling on about the reasons for my broccoli love. Now on to the recipe!

Everyone complains about egg muffins sticking to the pan, but I haven’t found using liners to be a much better solution. This time, I decided to spray the liners with cooking spray (yes, I use PAM – gasp! – and Trader Joe’s makes a good coconut oil one but coconut and eggs don’t go together) to see if that would make a difference. It did help make the paper a lot easier to remove from the muffins…no little pieces left behind after removing the liner…especially in the ridges along the sides where little pieces would hide. I don’t care much for paper in my food.

Cheesy broccoli muffins

After setting up the liners, preheat the oven to 375ºF and get a pot of water heating up to steam the broccoli. I use a stainless pot with a steam insert similar to this one, but it’s a lot nicer than mine. (That’s why there’s no picture. I really need a new one.) Chop up about 2 cups of broccoli into small pieces and steam for a few minutes, just until you can poke a fork through and there is a bright green mess looking at you when you lift the lid.

Cheesy broccoli muffins

In a large bowl, crack in 8 eggs and whisk together. I like to add a little water to make it fluffy. Add about 1 Tablespoon dried chives. I didn’t have any fresh on hand, but if you do, always go with fresh herbs. Add salt, pepper, garlic powder, a few circles around the bowl of sriracha (or other hot sauce), and shredded cheese. I used a cheddar/Mexican blend, but any flavor will do. Add the steamed broccoli and stir to combine.

Cheesy broccoli muffins

Spoon into the muffin liners so they are almost full and top with more cheese. You can never have too much cheese. Unless you can’t eat cheese. And that thought just makes me sad.

Cheesy broccoli muffins

 I had some left in the bowl after filling the 12 muffin liners, so I grabbed one of these little ramekins and poured the rest in. (If you don’t have a small ovenproof baker or two to use, you might want to omit an egg or some of the broccoli or cheese from the recipe.) This made a nice portion for the Russian when he got home from school that night.

Cheesy broccoli muffins

Bake for 12-15 minutes. The magic number for me was 14, but my oven is so old, just check on it and use your judgement. They should fluff up and be pretty when they are done, with a slight golden sheen.Cheesy broccoli muffins

  So yummy! I couldn’t stop eating them. I think I had three for dinner that night. Sugar Bee enjoyed hers, too!

Cheesy broccoli muffins


Cheese Broccoli Egg Muffins

Breakfast can be any time and any place with these portable, protein-filled muffins. Broccoli is high in vitamins, fiber, protein, and cancer-fighting nutrients. This is a tasty way to get more broccoli into your diet. Superfood!

INGREDIENTS
  • 2 cups chopped broccoli
  • 8 eggs
  • Splash of water
  • 1 Tbsp chives (dried)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • A few circles of sriracha, or hot sauce of your choice
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • 1.5 cups shredded cheese, divided
DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Add cupcake liners to 12-muffin baking tin. Spray liners with cooking spray.
  2. Steam broccoli for 2-5 minutes, until can be pierced with a fork and are still bright green. Remove from heat.
  3. In large bowl, whisk together eggs and water. Add chives, garlic powder, hot sauce, salt, pepper, and 1 cup of cheese. Stir to combine.
  4. Spoon mixture into muffin liners and top with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake 12-15 minutes. Muffins will fluff up and have a few golden spots on them when done. Enjoy!

 


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Snoring? Backache? Hangover? Allergies? Bug bites? My oil solutions (Part 1)

Essential oils are the newest addition to my natural lifestyle. In some of my posts, I will be sharing uses, recipes, success stories, and basically anything that will be a good resource for you. After these posts about my initial successes in my own personal life (I can’t control my excitement and MUST share NOW), I will spend time focusing more on each of the oils that I currently use to give you a sense of how much you can do with these little bottles of magic.

WhyYL (1)

Did you know it only takes 21 minutes for Young Living oils to reach every cell in your body? Talk about fast! This is serious competition for all the medications that you have in your house. One thing that I need to stress to you is that the essential oils that you choose must be 100% therapeutic grade in order to be effective and not cause any harm. The information I will be sharing on oils will only apply to Young Living Essential Oils as that is what I choose and know.

D. Gary Young started Young Living over 20 years ago. They are a world leader of essential oils. They own their own farms in Utah, Idaho, France, Ecuador, Peru and Oman. Their oils are exclusively used in over 50 hospitals in the US for treatments and complimentary care. The quality of these oils is above and beyond industry standards. The FDA classifies essential oils as a food additive, therefore, there are oils out in the market containing less than 3% essential oil, labeled as 100% pure. The Young Living Seed to Seal process ensures that the products you purchase from them are genuine oils, free of synthetic chemicals, and of unmatched purity. These oils are so pure that you can ingest them!

Enough about the reasons why I choose to use Young Living Essential Oils (YLEO), let’s move on to the good stuff! I had three MAJOR wins within a 4 hour period of time.

Snoring

The one I am most excited about is benefiting both the Russian and I. One of the YLEO blends is called Valor. It’s referred to as a chiropractor in a bottle, but that isn’t even the best use for it! For ten+ years, there has been a snoring issue in our bedroom (not it). I have never been a fantastic sleeper and if I wake up, it’s sometimes difficult for me to go right back to sleep. Especially if there is an incredibly loud rumbling coming from the body next to me. Sometimes I swear it’s like a train. So you can see how neither of us have been experiencing good quality, uninterrupted sleep (forget about the fact that we are parents)…me from the droning snore and him from my pushing him, rolling him over, waking him up to move, and just the waking up that occurs when you snore and have borderline apnoea.

Picture this: It’s 4:30 a.m. on July 5th. I had been drinking the night before (well it was the 4th of July), so I woke up at my usual time. 4:30 a.m. is when my liver and adrenals have dealt with the alcohol and I almost always have crappy sleep from that point on. And I never learn, but that’s not the point of this paragraph. So the Russian Express is running along side of me and it was among the loudest and worst that it had ever been. In his defense, he was still getting over a cold and was quite congested, but still! Oh. My. God it was loud!! I had been reading testimonials about putting Valor on the bottom of the feet, specifically the big toe area, and I knew one of my best friends, The Oil Girl, had used it on her husband with great success. I stumbled into the dining room where all my oils currently are, rummaged through the box to get the valor, and blindly applied it to the bottom of both of his big toes (and a little extra around the area for good measure) as I was still half asleep. Holy crap!! It WORKED! And I’m not talking in an hour. It was MINUTES!

Now, I’m half-crunchy so I believe in a lot of things that others don’t (and scoff at) and I embrace natural relief, therapies, medicine, etc., but even I had my doubts. Not anymore! And even the Russian believes this one!valor There was silence. It was better than silence. It was seriously the first time that I have ever heard him have peaceful sleep in more than ten years. I was so excited about it that I couldn’t fall back to sleep. There I was, just lying next to him, listening to him quietly breathe, taking the empty sound in. Then I thought of my dad and his girlfriend. I bet she is going to go buy a case of this stuff for my dad. This is magic in a bottle. For real. The Russian has used it every night since. I don’t even have to say anything.

Backache

Since I had been drinking the night before, my sciatica and hip were also keeping me up that morning. The pain was so bad that I could barely relax my leg, so there was little chance of me drifting back off (in addition to my excitement over the snoring cure). After about an hour, I remembered (still new to the oils) reading about Valor and the back. I decided it was worth a shot, especially after my huge win with the Russian snoring machine a short while ago. I got up and rubbed a few drops into my lower left side where my generally uncomfortable SI joint is, and by the time I got back into bed, I was feeling relief. What the Hell?!! Was this for real?!?! Why, yes; yes it was. I was not dreaming, although I wished I was since I was so tired, and the pain was decreasing by the minute. I fell back to sleep for the next hour and a half until I had to get up for work. Enter in my third win.

Hangover

Well, it was the morning after the 4th of July. And I never learn. You would think at my age that I would be past this behavior, but I’m pretty sure it’s a part of me for life. It is what it is. I awake from my final hour+ of sleep, thanks to some Valor on the back of my left hip, and I can tell it’s going to be a bit of a rough morning. Most people rejoice when the 4th falls on a Friday. For me, Saturdays are the only day of the week that I have to actually leave the house in a presentable manner. That is the day that I work my part-time job at a flight school. It’s the day I get to be me again; not mom, not wife, not maid, cook, accountant, dog keeper, etc., etc., etc. It’s just ME. So while I grumble some mornings that I have to get up, I do enjoy my Saturdays, even if they cramp my social life sometimes. What? Wait, I’m a mom. Whatever. I make my way to the bathroom and think, “Why did I do this. Again.”

hangoversmallI remembered reading something about using lemon and grapefruit to help with a hangover. I couldn’t remember and was in no shape to go do any research, so I went ahead and put about two drops of lemon on my fingers and rubbed the back of my neck. Then I took another two drops and rubbed it on my stomach over the general location of where my liver is. Then I repeated both steps with the grapefruit oil. In a matter of minutes, the brain fog cleared up and nearly all the things associated with a mild to moderate hangover were gone. I got ready for work, reapplied both oils a second time, and was on my merry way.

If you take baths, and have time for one, another option is to add a few drops of each oil to the bath and relax. Diffusing would also be a great idea and I was kind of inhaling them as I got ready since my hand still carried their scents. Where has this remedy been all my life? Ha! I don’t meant to imply that I’m hungover all the time, but things happen. Now that I’m a mom, it happens a lot less frequently, but I sure could have used this when I was in my 20s.

You could also use some lavender as it is a natural calmer for both the body and the mind. I didn’t try it, but maybe if there’s a next time.

 Two words of caution: You could/should probably dilute the oils or coat with the carrier oil of your choice. Direct application had no effect on me to cause concern, but if you have sensitive skin you may want to dilute. The other more important thing is that lemon and grapefruit can cause sensitivity to direct sunlight for 12 hours following application. I didn’t have any issues, but just be careful where and when you apply it to the skin.

When I started thinking about writing this section of the post, I decided to dig around and see what else might help with the morning flu. People have found that the high amount of antioxidants in Young Living’s Ningxia Red helps to ease symptoms. I woke up a little “slow” again yesterday and downed one of the 2-oz pouches of this stuff after applying only one round of oils and I was no longer operating in slow motion. I will definitely be bringing a bunch of these pouches on my trip to Charleston in two weeks for a bachelorette weekend (first trip away from my kid! eek!), along with the oils, of course.

There are many benefits from drinking this stuff, but here’s what I found out for this use. It’s recommended to drink 4-6 ounces of Ningxia Red before bed and 4-6 ounces upon waking to aid in recovery from abusing the body with alcohol. If it’s a really bad morning, continue to drink 2 ounces every two hours until you feel better. Again, where was this stuff when I was in college?? ningxia-red

Bug bites

If you follow The Half Crunchy Mama on Facebook, then you already saw this one since I couldn’t wait to finish writing this post to share the news. These are before and after pictures from last Thursday. Bugs love my Sugar Bee and she has such a bad reaction to them. The site of the bite spreads out into strange shapes of puffiness. She actually started scratching them that day after getting bit. That was the first time that she has shown discomfort from a bite. Of course if I had sprayed her with the bug spray I made she wouldn’t have been bit up in the first place. My bad.

This first collage are the bites before nap. I applied Young Living lavender essential oil and topped it with a diluted allergy trio mixture that I made with their lemon, peppermint, and lavender mixed together in franctionated coconut oil. I keep this handy in a roller bottle as I’ve been applying it almost daily to her for her crazy seasonal allergies. 10435927_250890581785291_6535451595347202282_n You can barely see the bite sites in this collage of pictures taken after nap, just two hours later. This stuff is amazing! 10488027_250890601785289_1722104004942372258_n The pictures don’t really to the reaction justice, but the fact that I had to look back at the pictures from before nap to make sure I was looking at the right places shows how well and fast they healed. This is so incredible and I’m thrilled to have completely natural relief for her. If I can get better about remembering (and carrying) the bug spray, then I shouldn’t need to use this very often.

I have so much more to share with you. This is just a snippet of what these amazing little bottles of oils can do. I felt that it was best to start off with my own personal success stories instead of sharing some of the amazing things that others have experienced.  After I post Part 2 of this, I will get to writing individual posts about one oil at a time to discuss all the things it can be used for. For now, it’s all about what I have witnessed with my own eyes.

Until next time.

If you would like to purchase any of the oils that I mentioned above, visit my store and order directly from there.

If you’re interested in Young Living Essential Oils, whether to browse or sign up as a distributor yourself to get the 24% discount on products, visit here to get started (My Sponsor/Enroller ID  1876381). You won’t be disappointed and you’ve got me to help guide you through it!


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Creamy Zucchini Noodles

This recipe is a huge favorite with the Russian and I. After I made it once to try it out, I added it into my regular rotation of dishes. It’s fast, cheap, and easy, all very important characteristics with everything I’m juggling these days, and his eyes light up whenever I mention making it again. There is little doubt that once Sugar Bee* gets over her “it has skins” phase about everything put in front of her that she will be chowing down on this one, too. She still loves avocado (her first food) and is a total veggie-head. Don’t be fooled by the word “creamy” in the title. This dish is non-dairy, gluten-free, vegetarian, paleo-friendly, you name it and it probably fits, like nearly every recipe I will ever post.

The recipe originates from the blog of Empowered Sustenance. Her original recipe can be found here. She is an amazing resource and I have really enjoyed her posts. You should follow her blog, too!

First, I have to mention (brag) that the zucchini used for this blog was successfully grown in my own container garden. This is only my second year taking a crack at growing my own food and I’m quite impressed with myself. If I actually had time, I would research a lot about how to successfully grow each individual crop and spend a lot more time tending to the plants. I’m sure I would probably have actual garden beds, a greenhouse, and compost everything, but containers are about all I can handle at this point in my life. Just take a look at this beauty!!

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Now let me focus your attention on one of the best things ever invented, next to the Kitchen Aid  stand mixer. I LOVE this thing! You can spiral fruits and vegetables into noodles or chips in minutes. It’s so easy to use and clean. If you don’t have one, go buy it. Now. Amazon usually has the best price. Look, I’ve even given you a place to click and get one here. If you are a clean eater, paleo, or GFer and you still don’t have one, I’m not sure we can talk anymore. You should have had this yesterday. But if you don’t have one, you can use a julienne peeler like this one to make the noodles.

Creamy zucchini noodles

Another nifty item to have is an avocado saver. There are those rare occasions where we actually have half an avocado left in our house and this thing actually works. You do have to pull it real tight to make sure air can’t get to the flesh, and there might still be a little discoloration when you get to it, but it’s a very thin layer that scrapes off very easily.

Creamy zucchini noodles

This was after two days in the saver in the fridge. I think that’s pretty darn good! The lighting  in this picture stinks, but as you will see in the picture down below in this post after it’s been scraped into the bowl, it was still nice and green. The only thing was that those little stripes appeared. TWO DAYS. Here it is on Amazon, but I bought mine in Publix. My mom found one for herself up in NY at Stop N Shop, so I’m sure you can get one anywhere. Do it.

Creamy zucchini noodles

To make the zucchini noodles, trim the ends off the zucchini, position it in the slicer, and turn the handle. Yep, this is really hard stuff here.

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I like to make my noodles on the short side. When I first started making this, I would make them too long, making cooking, mixing, and even eating them a little difficult. I break them off after a few turns and drop them in the bowl. Then I turn and make some more. One of the easiest things going on in my world of cooking prep.

Creamy zucchini noodles

When you are done making the zucchini noodles, it’s time to cook them. Heat the EVOO in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the zucchini noodles, some Italian seasoning and garlic powder, and turn the noodles around in the pan to coat them in the oil and spices.

Creamy zucchini noodles

While the zucchini is cooking, get the sauce ready. Scoop the avocado into a medium-sized bowl with juice from half a lemon, a giant tablespoon of mayo (you could use yogurt, if tolerable), salt, and fresh ground pepper to taste.

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Mash the ingredients together with a fork until it looks like a creamy guacamole.

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When the zucchini has finished cooking, it should still have a nice green color and be soft, but not mushy. Remove it from the heat and let it stand a minute or two. Don’t let it cool too long as the warmth from the zucchini helps the creamy avocado sauce to coat the noodles.

Creamy zucchini noodles

 After it has cooled for a few minutes, add it to the bowl of creamy sauce and stir to combine. I try to drain some of the oil off of the noodles before placing them in the bowl or the sauce can get too runny. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Creamy zucchini noodles

* Sugar Bee is what I call my three-year-old daughter. I actually call her My Sweet Sugar Bee, but this shortened version will work fine for my blog.


Creamy Zucchini Noodles

These quantities make two servings if made as a side dish, one if you eat it all by yourself as a meal…which you might want to do after the first time you make it. This is easily doubled and since I have found that it does last until the next day, I usually make a double batch. I have also sauteed fresh garlic in the oil before adding the zucchini for extra flavor (then omitting the garlic powder). We love garlic! Happy cooking!

INGREDIENTS
  • 1-2 tsp extra virgin olive oil (or the oil/fat of your choice)
  • 1 medium zucchini, made into noodles with a spiral slicer or  julienne peeler
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/2-1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • Juice of half a lemon, freshly squeezed
  • 1 heaping Tbsp of mayonnaise (or yogurt)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
DIRECTIONS
  1. Heat oil in saute pan over medium heat. Add the zucchini, Italian seasoning, and garlic powder, tossing to coat. Saute for 3-5 minutes until noodles have softened, but not mushy and are still bright green.
  2. While noodles are cooking, mash avocado with the remaining ingredients in a bowl with a fork until it has the consistency of a creamy guacamole.
  3. When zucchini is finished cooking, remove from heat and let cool for 1-3 minutes. Add to the bowl with the avocado mixture, allowing some of the oil to drain off. Stir to coat noodles and serve. Enjoy!


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The Half-Crunchy Mama’s Baba Ghanoush

Yay! A recipe post! I’m glad you’re back. Food always brings people back.

The Russian* and I are obsessed with eggplant. Seriously obsessed. My daughter, now almost three, has eaten eggplant since she could eat food that only needed to be mashed a little before swallowing. Her favorite recipe is what I call “Eggplant Ragu” and I will surely post that one as soon as I make it again so  I can write it down. When they are 10 for $10 at Kroger, we are eating eggplant in a variety of ways. I like to slice and grill it, marinate with other veggies for a variety of dishes (one of several ratatouille recipes, eggplant parm, eggplant lasagna, eggplant salads…all future postings), and of course, baba ghanoush. If I could figure out how to freeze eggplants, we would be set! Hmmm….might have to start researching and experimenting.

They way I like to cook is kind of like how I get my news. I read a few different sources and make my own decisions on how to move forward. My recipes are usually a little from this recipe, a little from another, and some other piece or two from yet a different one, all mixed together with my own knowledge of cooking and what tastes good and works together. After reading several different recipes, I decided that I had enough information to make my own. I must say the first batch was pretty damn fantastic. After half a dozen or so batches, they seem to only get better.

One “mistake” I apparently made was cutting the eggplant before roasting it. Sometimes I read a little too fast and miss an important item. Kind of like when I’m supposed to read directions or instructions for putting something together. Well, after my maiden batch, I was pretty sure that this is the best way to do it and that everyone else made the mistake by keeping the eggplant whole.

First, slice the eggplant in half lengthwise.

The Half-Crunchy Mama's Baba Ghanoush

Then oil up the cut side with some EVOO.

The Half-Crunchy Mama's Baba Ghanoush

Place it cut side down on a nonstick baking sheet.

The Half-Crunchy Mama's Baba Ghanoush

Bake it for about 25 minutes or so, depending upon how big it is (or they are if you are making a double batch). You want the eggplants to have some give when you push on the skins…usually anywhere between 20-30 minutes. They should look nice and golden and be pretty smushy. Perfect for going into the food processor.

The Half-Crunchy Mama's Baba Ghanoush

 Now you will want to let them cool off before scooping out the insides, unless you’re impatient (I don’t know anyone like that). In that case, you will need a towel or something to protect your hand. However, I suggest giving them at least a few minutes. That will give you time to set everything else up.

Get out your food processor. I have a small one and large one, but it’s almost easier to make it in two batches than drag the huge one out. And clean it.

You will also need EVOO, that’s extra-virgin olive oil for those of you that have never watched any of Rachael Ray‘s shows. Sadly, much to the disappointment of all of my chef friends, she’s the one that actually got me cooking and helped me to realize how much I love to cook. In addition to the olive oil, grab a lemon, a few cloves of garlic, tahini (I like this one and you can get it in most stores), pepper (preferably fresh ground), and Kosher or sea salt. Yep, that’s all that’s in it. Gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, paleo, whatever your eating preferences or restrictions are, you can eat this! Unless you’re just picky and are afraid to try delicious things to put in your belly.

The Half-Crunchy Mama's Baba Ghanoush

 Now for the fun part.

Hopefully the eggplant(s) are cooled off now. Scoop out the insides into the food processor with a spoon. Now, I’m not really one for measuring anything. I go with how I feel, so sometimes my measurements are estimates. Taste as you go, stick your finger in and taste, and then adjust accordingly. Salt is the biggest thing I have a hard time with and I often under salt my food. It’s better than putting too much in.

For a single eggplant batch, I usually add two cloves of garlic run through the press (even though it’s going to get blended, it helps to distribute better), a heaping tablespoon of tahini, 1/2 of a fresh squeezed lemon, 1-2 tablespoons of EVOO, 1/2-1 teaspoon of sea salt, and a few circles of the pepper grinder around the heap of ingredients waiting to be blended.

The Half-Crunchy Mama's Baba Ghanoush

 You don’t want to process it too much or it will get really runny. I like it to be thick enough to pick up a bunch on the end of a baby carrot, not having to scoop it up with a spoon because it slides off.

The Half-Crunchy Mama's Baba Ghanoush

 Hopefully you will get something that looks as beautiful as this when you are finished and have plated it…or put it in a plastic or glass container that can be sealed up. Store it in the refrigerator and enjoy for several days to come!

The Half-Crunchy Mama's Baba Ghanoush

 Remember, there are no preservatives, so enjoy it sooner rather than later. Clean and fresh food is best!

* This is the endearing term for my Moscow-born husband that will be regularly used when discussing anything to do with him in my posts.

The Half-Crunchy Mama’s Baba Ghanoush

These quantities are for a single batch. I usually double everything, so multiplying ingredients does not affect the taste as happens sometimes with recipes. For two or twenty, Baba away!

 INGREDIENTS:

1 Eggplant (FYI, to pick a proper eggplant, it should feel heavy for its size and give a little when you squeeze it)
2 Cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
1 Tbsp tahini
1/2 Fresh-squeezed lemon
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus some for oiling the eggplant before roasting
1/2-1 tsp kosher or sea salt, to taste (I have used both at different times, so this one is your choice)
Several turns of fresh ground pepper, to taste

 DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. Slice the eggplant in half lengthwise. Coat cut side with olive oil. Place cut-side down onto baking sheet and bake in oven for about 25 minutes. Total time could be anywhere between 20 and 30 minutes, depending upon size. The  eggplant is ready to be removed when there is lots of give when pressing on the skin with your finger. Allow to cool.
3. Once cooled, scoop insides of eggplant into food processor bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until combined and the preferred consistency has been reached. (Be careful not to over-process or it will be like soup.)
4. Store in airtight container for up to a week in the refrigerator. Enjoy!