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Magic Popcorn

MMMMMMM....

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MAJOR SUGAR ALERT HERE!

If you’re a Trim Healthy Mama or otherwise trying to watch your sugar intake for any reason, look away now!!

This stuff could throw you way off track, and you’ll have a hard time going back.

Not that I don’t love you for reading, but seriously, you should go. Now.

Last chance.

OK, don’t say I didn’t warn you…

Now to me this is a special treat type of thing. It’s not like I’ll constantly have it around my house for a quick snack. This is party food, and it makes a lot!

I am going to come up with a healthier, sugar-free or at least reduced-sugar alternative, but this is what I’ve got right now, and my mom’s group has been begging for the recipe since Christmas. Nevermind I reminded them yesterday at our Valentine’s party. 😉

I call this “Magic Popcorn” because it disappears like magic… Seriously, people love it! I got the idea from a former coworker who would make it for parties sometimes and we couldn’t get enough. We actually called it “crack corn” because once you started eating it, you just couldn’t stop! It is seriously addictive. You think to yourself over and over again, “I should really stop eating this,” but before you know it, you’ve finished off the last half of the gallon bag that was sitting in front of you. Not that I’ve ever done that. 😉

Her version of the recipe was: melt almond bark, add food coloring or sprinkles for fun, pour it over the popcorn. Uh. Yeah. That’s helpful. I don’t know about you, but I prefer to have a little more guidance on amounts for a starting off point, so after some Pinterest scouring for inspiration, this is what I came up with for the base recipe.

There are SO many fun variations you could do with this. I made it Christmasy with some of it white with red & green sprinkles, some red with green sprinkles, and some green with red sprinkles. The pictures above was my chocolate strawberry version for Valentine’s Day. While I was making it, I thought of all sorts of other fun flavor variations. Stay tuned!

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Magic Popcorn

 

Time: About 30 minutes

Makes: 2 gallon bags nearly full

Servings: 1? (I told you this stuff is addictive. I highly suggest portioning it out into cup-size servings. Good luck eating just one.)

Ingredients:
Approximately 15-18 cups popped popcorn

(3/4 cup unpopped kernels, popped. I use my microwave popcorn bowl and pop ¼ c at a time. Or you could use 3 – 3.5 oz bags plain or lightly buttered microwave popcorn according to other recipes I’ve seen for candied popcorn. I haven’t bought microwave bagged popcorn in years, so it’ll be a trial and error)

OR replace some of the popcorn with pretzels, cereal, whatever other snack food you like

12 oz vanilla almond bark or 1 – 12 oz package candy melts (you can buy these already colored)

Food Coloring or flavorings (optional – see below for inspiration)

Sprinkles
Directions:

Pop the popcorn and remove any un-popped kernels. The easiest way I found to do this was to let the popcorn cool, shake the bowl (or bag) to help the un-popped kernels settle. Then use your hands to move the popcorn into a large bowl.

You could also add in 1 medium bag M&M’s, any color or flavor to match your theme/flavors (the plain bag is 12.6 oz) or replace some of the popcorn with pretzels or cereal.

Break or cut the almond bark into smaller pieces.
Melt the almond bark or in a pot on the stove on low heat, stirring constantly.

Alternatively, you could also melt it on the DEFROST setting on your microwave. Melt the bark in 3 minute intervals and stir in between.

If using candy melts, just follow the directions on the package. I haven’t use them yet, but they’re a great easy option to avoid adding your own food coloring. 🙂

When the vanilla bark is completely melted and smooth, add the food coloring or flavoring if using. Pour over the popcorn, and stir well using a large spoon or spatula to coat the popcorn evenly. Add the festive sprinkles so they stick to the popcorn mixture.
Spread the popcorn mixture on a silpat or piece of waxed paper until the popcorn is dry.
When dry break into smaller pieces and add back to a large bowl.

FLAVOR OPTIONS:

Although you can get chocolate flavored almond bark, I prefer to start with vanilla for the customizability. I don’t think that’s a real word. I just went with it anyway.

You can really have some fun with this! I have a thing with 3’s. Must be the OCD, but I really like to use at least 3 colors when I make something colorful. I do like leaving one third plain vanilla as it adds some interest and a pop against the other colors.

Since the almond bark is divided into 2 oz squares, you can easily divide your almond bark into 2 squares each. When making different colors/flavors, only melt 2 squares at a time, then add in your coloring or flavor at the end. 2 squares melted almond bark would go into each batch or bag of popcorn as it’s popped.

I love using powdered freeze-dried fruit as it provides natural color & flavor at the same time.

Chocolate Strawberry (pictured)

Add 1 tbsp cacao (raw, unprocessed cocoa) to one part, sprinkled with white flower sprinkles & red sugar sprinkles

1 tbsp powdered, freeze dried strawberries (just throw about ½ cup of freeze-dried strawberries into your food processor, blender, coffee grinder, or pestle and smash them up), sprinkled with rainbow hearts and red sugar sprinkles

Leave the last section as vanilla, sprinkled with rainbow hearts and red sugar sprinkles.

Then I got a little overzealous and made a double batch of the already huge amount of popcorn, so I also made a section with cacao and strawberry powder, and some that was the vanilla tossed in after that so it had all the flavors, just lighter.  With all that mess, I ended up with 4 gallon bags nearly full. I took 2 bags to our Moms Group Valentine’s party, sent a bag with hubby to work, and kept one here for the kids as a special treat.

These are the other options I thought of, but haven’t tried yet. I’ll update as I try them and I’ll probably add more too:

 

Chocolate Raspberry

Add 1 tbsp cacao (raw, unprocessed cocoa) to one part, sprinkled with white flower sprinkles & red sugar sprinkles

1 tbsp powdered, freeze dried raspberries in one third

Plain vanilla for the final third

 

Pina Colada

1 tbsp powdered, freeze dried pineapple in one third

1 tsp coconut extract or 1 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil in one third

Plain vanilla for the final third

Add 1 cup toasted coconut flakes

Sprinkle with unsweetened coconut flakes & fun flower shape sprinkles

 

Strawberry Shortcake

Replace 2 cups of the popcorn with plain Or Multi-grain Cheerios

1 tbsp powdered, freeze dried strawberries in one third

Red food coloring in one third (either with another 1 tbsp powdered, freeze dried strawberries for serious strawberry flavor, or leave it vanilla)

Plain vanilla for the final third

Sprinkle with red sugar sprinkles and strawberry or flower shapes

 

Strawberry Lemonade

1 tbsp powdered, freeze dried strawberries in one third

1 tsp lemon extract and 1 tsp lemon zest in one third

Plain vanilla for the final third

Sprinkle with red & yellow sugar sprinkles, strawberry, lemon, or flower shapes

 

Strawberry Banana

1 tbsp powdered, freeze dried strawberries in one third

1 tbsp powdered, freeze dried bananas in one third

Plain vanilla for the final third

Sprinkle with red & yellow sugar sprinkles, strawberry, lemon, or flower shapes

 

Strawberry Margarita

Replace 2 cups of popcorn with pretzels

1 tbsp powdered, freeze dried strawberries in one third

1 tsp lime extract or 1 tsp True Lime zest in one third, add a little green food coloring for more contrast if desired

½ tsp orange extract for the final third

Sprinkle with red & yellow sugar sprinkles, strawberry, lime, or flower shapes

 

Fruit Cobbler

Replace 2 cups of the popcorn with plain Or Multi-grain Cheerios

1 tbsp powdered, freeze dried blueberries, freeze dried peaches, freeze dried apples, or freeze dried cherries, in one third

Color one third (either with another 1 tbsp powdered, freeze dried fruit for serious fruit flavor, or leave it vanilla and add food coloring)

Plain vanilla for the final third

Sprinkle with red sugar sprinkles and strawberry or flower shapes

 

Chocolate Peanut Butter

Add 1 tbsp cacao (raw, unprocessed cocoa) to one third

Add 1 tbsp peanut flour or 1 tsp peanut butter to one third

Add 1 tsp cacao and 1 tsp peanut flour or ½ tsp peanut butter to the final third

Add Peanut Butter M&M’s or Reese’s Pieces

 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana

Add 1 tbsp cacao (raw, unprocessed cocoa) to one third

Add 1 tbsp peanut flour or 1 tsp peanut butter to one third

Add 1 tbsp powdered freeze dried bananas to the final third

Add chocolate chips, Peanut Butter M&M’s or Reese’s Pieces

 

Quick & Easy Red Beans & Rice

Red Beans & Rice

Quick & Easy Red Beans & Rice

(Low Fat / THM E Option)

Time: as little as 20 Minutes to 1 Hour*

Serves: 6

This is one of my hubby’s favorite dishes, and it’s perfect for busy, cold winter days! It’s so easy he can even make it himself without asking a million questions. 😉

The use of frozen veggies, canned beans, and pre-cooked frozen rice makes this so easy to throw together. If you’re more inclined to dice your own fresh veggies, soak your beans, and spend an hour cooking rice, feel free… 😉

 

What you’ll need:

 

1 cup cooked brown rice – I use Lundberg’s Sprouted Tri-Color Rice Blend, which includes brown, red, and black rice. Because it’s sprouted, it cooks more quickly (only 20 minutes) and is gentler on sensitive tummies (think no bloating, gassy grossness). I always cook up a double batch when I make rice, so I can freeze half for busy nights. If I have pre-cooked frozen rice, I can get dinner on the table in about 15 minutes!

For softer brown rice, increase the amount of water and cook time… Generally, whole grain brown rice requires 2 cups of water to 1 cup of rice and a cook time of 40-60 minutes, depending on the brand. Increase the water to 2.5 cups and cook until the water is all absorbed, usually an additional 10-15 minutes. The rice will have a much softer texture, closer to that of white rice.

I actually made this recipe for an office Mardi Gras celebration in 2014, and it didn’t even occur to me to buy white rice to use (I haven’t bought white rice in years!). Everyone loved it, and a couple of people asked for the recipe (here ya go, ladies… in writing now!). When I started rattling it off, you should have seen the faces when they heard me say I’d used brown rice! One lady even said she wouldn’t have tried it if she’d know there was brown rice, but she later asked me to make her a batch so she could freeze it for later! I still think of her whenever I make this.

1 Link smoked sausage (Optional) – We’ve tried all different brands. This one is totally a matter of taste. For a low-fat THM E option, you could use turkey sausage or omit the sausage all together for a meatless vegetarian main meal or as a side dish. The brown rice and beans together combine to make a complete protein with all the essential amino acids we normally get from meat products.

1 bag frozen seasoning mix (blend of onions, peppers, garlic, and celery) – I prefer the Pictsweet brand. It’s usually just over a dollar a bag at Wal-Mart and the veggies are diced small, which I prefer. Bird’s Eye also has a seasoning mix which has bigger chunky veggies.

2 cans red beans – Bush’s are by far the preferred brand in my house. Since you’ll be using the juice also, it needs to be good. We’ve tried other brands because sometimes the Bush’s red beans are hard to find, and it’s not as tasty. I’ve also used red kidney beans (again, Bush’s brand) or one can kidney beans and one can red beans, and it was still good.

1 Tbsp Cajun or Creole seasoning mix – I use Ragin’ Cajun as it’s a mild blend, but if you like it spicier you could use Tony Chachere’s and add more seasoning. We’re wimps around here, so mild but flavorful is essential.

What to do:

  1. Cook rice according to package directions*, or defrost if using pre-cooked frozen rice.
  2. Slice or dice the sausage to your preferred size. I like to be able to get a little bit of everything in every bite, so I dice mine pretty small by first slicing the link in half lengthwise, then again slicing each half in half. Cut ½ inch pieces from those long slices. Some like big chunks that fill up the whole spoon… Go for it!WP_20151230_18_31_08_Pro
  3. Heat the sausage in a hot skillet. If using regular beef or pork sausage, you’ll get quite a bit of fat from the sausage, which is great for cooking the veggies and adds more flavor. However, I do not add extra fat when using lower fat sausage and the veggies cook just fine. Whoever said you have to add fat to cook veggies anyway??WP_20151230_18_36_19_Pro
  1. Once the sausage is heated through, add in the frozen seasoning mix blend. Cook until the onions are transluscent.WP_20151230_18_41_03_Pro
  2. Dump in the Cajun seasoning, beans (including juice), and rice, then stir it all together.WP_20151230_18_44_39_Pro
  3. Cook until the beans and rice (if previously frozen) are heated through.
  4. Eat it up! Yum!WP_20151230_18_52_27_Pro

See? This is really complicated stuff right here!

Hints:

* We like to eat it with cornbread or cheesy garlic biscuits, though the recipes I use are not THM compliant. Sometimes I restrain myself, sometimes I just go for it.

* Whenever I cook rice, I cook a double batch and freeze half of it for later use. This cuts down the prep time so I can have this dish on the table in less than 20 minutes if the rice is pre-cooked. Otherwise, if waiting for the rice to cook, it can take up to an hour, depending on the cook time of your rice.

* This recipe freezes really well. I’ve made a double batch, and froze in portions for lunches later or in freezer bags for full family meals when I know we’ve got a busy season coming up.

* This recipe is also fairly inexpensive. I bet if I had to buy all the ingredients at once if my pantry wasn’t stocked, it would probably cost less than $10. It’d be even less than that if you leave out the $3 worth of sausage. 😉

 

 

 

 

Construction & Detours

I guess I should aim for posting at least once a week… I’m not doing so well at the everyday thing yet. Progress over Perfection – even baby steps are moving forward.

If you’re in the Houston area you know we’re always dealing with construction and detours. Such is life in the big city (or the suburbs of the big city as it may be). I find they are a great way to learn your way around, and sometimes you run into some really pretty scenery along the way.

It occurred to me the other day that really is life… We’re all under construction, and sometimes to get to the destination, we have to take detours.

My original plans are on a detour right now… Hubby & I just decided a week ago that I will be homeschooling our four-year old while the boys are in school. The deal when I left my traditional job was that I had to crunch the numbers and make the budget work- if she was going to stay in her amazing preschool program, I would have to get a job to pay the tuition.

The problem was it just wasn’t working. Nothing I could come up with would give me the flexibility I need to spend time with my family, work on my schoolwork, and build my business.

The obvious solution? Take her out of preschool. When I mentioned it to my husband, he jumped on board immediately. No questions, no discussion, just, “OK. Let’s do that.” This guy is awesome. 🙂

My mom has this theory that God initially whispers get our attention, but he only speaks so loudly. If we don’t listen, he starts throwing pebbles, then rocks, then bricks… I avoided the brick this time! Hah!

I never dreamed I’d be a stay-at-home mom, yet here I am. So excited and at peace. This is where I need to be right now.

Our new adventure starts on the 14th.

So how do you handle the detours in life?

Any tips for this newbie who’s completely ignorant of the SAHM & homeschooling worlds? I can use all the help I can get…

Progress over Perfection

Hello. My name is Donna and I am a perfectionist.

I like to know everything there is to know about something before moving on. I also want it to look just right… fully and completely the way I see it in my head (and I have quite the visual imagination!). I’ve been saying for a long time I was going to get this out, but there are so many things I haven’t figured out yet. I’m afraid to just let it out there and go with the flow. What if {*gasp*} I do it wrong?

In my high school art class I had a teacher who kept telling me I overworked my projects. Sophomore year, she literally took a painting from me that still had completely empty spaces where I hadn’t finished filling in the detail, and without my knowledge, she entered it into the district art contest. You know what? That was the only piece I ever had that won an award.

I just picked up a lot of my old artwork from my parents’ house to bring home, and I still see the empty spaces in that painting. I see them now as what could have been. It’s been nearly 20 years since I painted that piece, and I have no idea what on earth was in that still life of glass vases, pitchers, and silverware. It was a wonderful challenge piece in watercolor (I do love a good challenge and watercolor!), and I learned techniques to bring light to life in the glass. I also learned that sometimes you just have to let it be what it is.

Looking at it now, I can still see the imperfections, where I wanted to finish the detail work, and how I could have made it better. I go back to the same place I was when I created it at 15 years old, and become my own worst critic all over again.

But if I let go of the analysis and criticism, and enjoy it for what it is… I can see the beautiful colors, how the greenery stands out, how the light reflects off the vases. And I see those empty spaces as their own perfection, spaces full of opportunity for creation.

If that wonderful teacher hadn’t made me let go of that piece, those wouldn’t be there. I probably would have never been happy with it anyway, but looking at it now, I love it just the way it is.

Below is one of my favorite quotes about perfectionism as self-sabotage… I don’t even remember where I found it years ago to give proper credit to the unknown author, but I’m grateful that it’s been stuck in my head ever since:

Perfectionism
Leads to
Procrastination
Leads to
Paralysis

My goal is Progress over Perfection… Even if it’s not exactly as I want it to be in the long-run (like that photo I couldn’t get quite right or the quote that I still can’t get to line up quite the way I wanted), as long as I move forward in some small way, that’s perfect enough. I fall back into the perfection trap sometimes and know I always will. Recognizing the problem is the first step and that in itself is progress.

In what areas of your life is perfection paralyzing you?

Well helloooo there!

Thanks for stopping by! So glad you could join me on this crazy coaster journey.

The countdown has begun for when I will leave my traditional full time job as an insurance agent. I am so excited to begin a new life, following my passion… Sharing encouragement, healthy recipes, and a good dose of natural options for body and home.

The past ten years have been quite a journey as a full-time working mom with a long commute, a wonderfully supportive hubby, a persnickety calico who is now 13 years old, a bold six-month-old who according to doctors would be an only child, who is now 10 and a big brother to a surprisingly cunning 5 year old brother and a daring 4 year old sister, my brothers moving in and out as they needed support, health issues of all sorts, and school work that just didn’t really fit… and then, I finally found my calling.

In the midst of it all, I began down a path that led me to studying natural health. With a limited time and budget, I completely changed the diet of a houseful of picky eaters, reduced the chemicals used by learning to make my own body and healthcare products, and became known as the “magic mama” who could do anything… and I can teach you how also.

Stick along for the journey… it’s gonna be a wild, mind-blowing ride!