Decluttering Christmas presents – Kids edition

I have a few stocking stuff posts (like 50 Stocking stuffers for women,┬á and 100+ Stocking stuffer and small gift ideas for men, and Non-candy Easter basket and stocking stuffer ideas for children) that get a bit of traffic. If you’ve read them, you know that I am a huge fan of Christmas stockings full of goodies (and present-giving in general). This year, I really want to focus on fun, family, and the meaning of Christmas, rather than all the focus be on PRESENTS! This is becoming more important as my first born gets older (he will be 2.5 years old during Christmas) and with another one on the way. Also, if you have kids, you know how quick they accumulate stuff. I don’t even know how this happens, but it seems like magically, overnight, toys have multiplied. We rarely even buy toys, encourage family to gift other things, and yet still, there is a house full of toys!

I am taking a step back from filling stockings with toys and trinkets and little things that will get lost inside the couch or thrown away in a month. Well, there may still be things that get lost inside the couch, but the point is, I am trying to avoid the junk and clutter.

Have you noticed that some of the greatest toys your little ones have played with are actually not “toys?” Stacks of cups, a cardboard box, a pen and a back of an envelope, a table cloth fort, small pumpkins from the local pumpkin patch (I kid you not, my toddler is in love with his little pumpkins) – all of these things, and more, have entertained your child and didn’t come wrapped in plastic, secured with zip ties, and then sealed in a box. They allowed the children to use their imagination. That’s why this year I am focusing my gift-giving for my child on things that will allow him to play in different ways and offer creative freedom. I am also focusing my stocking stuffers on “needs.”

It may be early to start planning Christmas gifts (and I may have gotten my cousin’s kids’ gifts already, at Target, for 70% off during their toy clearance), but my little girl is set to make her arrival in January and I just love making lists, planning a budget, and all that fun stuff. So here are a few tips I am following to decrease the amount of “stuff” we don’t need (but still have fun giving gifts), and a what I am giving my son for Christmas.

decluttering christmas

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Wrapping those gifts

We have our little fake tree up and lightly decorated; an experiment since we have an 18 month old curious little boy. This weekend we put up a real tree to go in front of our bay windows. The mantel is decorated, I’ve been experimenting with the best sugar cookie recipe, and my Christmas shopping is about 2/3’s done. I can’t believe Christmas is 13 days away! I can’t wait!

Have you started wrapping your presents yet? Here are a few things that might help ­čÖé

Free Printable Labels

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Books kids love

I currently work at a school library that serves 1st thru 6th graders. I am in charge of making sure the children know how to use the library, check-in and check-out books, and pretty much anything else book related. I enjoy it, and believe it or not, it is actually fairly fast-paced. Also, I get a first-hand look at what books kids love! I read to the first and second graders and receive their input about the books, and I see what the 3rd-6th graders are checking out and requesting.

So what’s on the list?

favorite books for todays kids

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Healthy pumpkin pancakes – Low-carb and full of protein (and fluffy!)

This week I had a request from the husband to make a healthy pancake with protein, that was low-carb and grain-free. I’ve had some success with grain-free, healthy pancakes, but I’ve also had a few failures. This time I lucked out and ended up with a great recipe I’ve already made a few times. I even made a double-batch and stuck them in freezer for quick breakfasts or snacks.

Find the recipe after the jump!

proteinpancakes

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Simple and satisfying side-dish

About two years ago my husband found a recipe for a sweet potato and bacon “salad;” it was a little too rich for me, but my husband loved it. The other day we were going to a friend’s house for dinner and charged with bringing a side. For some reason, I thought that the sweet potato and bacon salad had brussel sprouts, which my husband assured me did not. But brussel sprouts, bacon, and sweet potatoes sounded like a fabulous combo, so we decided to give it a try and create something new.

Sweet potatoes, salty bacon, savory brussels; sounds perfect to me! I imagined something hearty and satisfying, yet still somewhat green and my husband wanted to make sure we made something paleo or primal. I also did not want to make a dish that had a million ingredients. I’m the type of girl who wants simple, wholesome ingredients, and not need a huge list for the grocery store.

Anyways. We whipped the sweet potato, bacon, and brussel sprout salad up and it turned out great! It was a hit at the party and something we will definitely make again, probably for a 4th of July BBQ!

So here’s the recipe – simple, and very forgiving! If you change the quantity of the ingredients here or there, it should still be pretty tasty.

photo(2)

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Paleo pizzas: easy and delicious

Paleo pizzas

I had seen a few “paleo pizzas” on Pinterest, like this one and this one and I had to give it a try. Ground beef is the cheapest cut of meat and when you are buying grass-fed beef, it can get expensive! That is why we try and use ground beef more than other cuts of meat, so these “pizzas” are a nice way to switch things up. These have actually turned into one of my favorite meals.

I guess if you are adding cheese they would be more “primal pizzas,” but either way, these rock.

These pizzas are really easy to make and personalize, so don’t be scared to do your own thing! Here’s how we make ours:

Ingredients:

Patties:

  • 2 pounds grass-fed ground beef (we make 6 large patties)
  • 3 tbsp tomato sauce
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dehydrated chopped onions
  • 1/4 tsp paprika

Pizza sauce:

  • 1/3 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • a dash of pepper
  • 1/4 tsp beef bouillon (I’m not a fan of sweet sauces and this mellows it out)
  • 1/4 tsp Italian seasoning

Toppings:

  • You choose! We like to use:
  • Sliced olives
  • Raw sharp cheddar
  • Pepperoni
  • Prosciutto
  • Onions (any kind!)
  • Sweet peppers

Directions:

  • Combine your patty ingredients with your hands and form into patties
  • In a large pan, grill, or BBQ grill, cook patties until cooked through
  • Place patties on tin-foiled cookie sheet and pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
  • Top your patties with whatever pizza toppings you want
  • Place in oven and cook until toppings are cooked to desired “done-ness” and cheese is melted
  • Turn your broiler on for a minute or two if you want your toppings to get a little crispy

Enjoy!

This week’s meal plan (2/4-2/8)

It was a sad day yesterday in our house after the Niners lost the Super Bowl. So close, yet so far away. You know what was also so close? The number on my scale being lower. But then I splurged a little too much at our Super Bowl party. Oh well, back on the wagon today!

I’m working out and eating healthy and looking forward to pushing myself to be healthier and more fit (and growing a butt would be awesome sauce, too). I’m trying to work up the courage to post my progress so that I will be challenged and accountable! Maybe soon.

We ordered grass-fed ground beef and fajita meat from a local company and subscribed to eggs from grass-fed chickens. We bought chicken from a family member that works for a chicken company and I bought pork ribs on sale. I stocked up on lots of fruit this week to make protein smoothies.

I really need to learn to like fish. Maybe next week I will add in some sea food. Although, Lent is coming up and I am sure we will be adding more sea food at that time.

meal plan

Need more dinner ideas and meal plans? Click HERE for grain-free and gluten-free, budget-friendly, and even Whole30 meal plans and recipes.

What’s on this week’s meal plan for you?

Italian chili recipe

We have a new dish at our house; we call it “Italian Chili.” It’s a little bit Pasta e Fagioli, a little spaghetti sauce, and a little bit chili, edited and added together. It’s easy, it’s tasty, and it fits our version of healthy, too!

If you are counting carbs or you aren’t a bean or grain eater, this recipe has no beans and is grain-free. It doesn’t have dairy in it either, but it tastes great with shredded Parmesan or mozzarella cheese on top… I really like Parmesan cheese on top…

Italian Chili

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Protein powder review and smoothie recipe

I enjoy drinking a smoothie as a meal replacement. I think they are yummy and easy and it helps me not to make bad food choices when I don’t the motivation to eat leftovers. Is a shake the healthiest option for a meal? Maybe not, but I’m not sure. It works for me and I like it. I’m not a health professional and everybody is different, but drinking a smoothie for breakfast or lunch helps me out.

My husband Marc is getting into power-lifting and gaining muscle-mass, so he is very interested in using protein powders. I like getting enough protein in my diet and protein powder is an easy way to do it. Marc came across True Nutrition’s website (through a variety of blog sources he follows) and we wanted to give it a try. A lot of protein powders (probably most of them) have undesirable ingredients like bad oils and preservatives and the like. It can be hard to find a protein that is “clean,” but True Nutrition seems to be pretty clean.

I went to pick the protein I wanted, and there are a million different choices. You can choose what type of protein (they have all sorts of different kinds) and you can mix them if you would like. You can also customize your mix with carbs, fats, or supplements. Then you can choose a flavor and sweetener from a very long list of options.

I’m breast-feeding and my little guy has issues with dairy, so I wanted to try a vegetarian protein source. I chose a pea protein, but because I really like whey, I made it 20% grass-fed whey protein as well. Marc chose the 100% grass-fed whey protein in double-chocolate mint, mine was orange creamsiscle. There was 54 flavors to choose from! The unsweetened chocolate or vanilla, or the plain, are the cleanest flavors, but we decided to go with the artificial flavorings. We aren’t perfect.

Trying out 2 of many flavor and mix combinations

Trying out 2 of many flavor and mix combinations

The Double Chocolate Mint? AMAZING. It is really tasty. The mintiness of it actually reminds me of the taste of too much Torani chocolate syrup. I know that sounds weird and not really all that great, but it does taste good. I find that a lot of chocolate protein powders taste like minty hotdogs (which I do not like)… but that could just be me. The point is, this protein does not taste like hot dogs and I like the flavor.

I can actually mix this protein in my banana and almond butter smoothie and it doesn’t give off a minty taste, it’s more of the chocolate syrup taste.

The other protein was the Orange Creamciscle flavor, 80% pea protein, 20% whey.

It was disappointing. You can actually taste the peas, and the orange doesn’t come through as much as you would hope. If I ordered it again, I would get the flavor “heavy” (you can specify the concentration of the flavor; light, normal, heavy). When I made my smoothie I ended up adding orange oil to it, which made it much better. I think adding the juice of an orange would make it pretty tasty as well, but by itself, I wasn’t a fan.

What is my favorite way to use protein powder? A smoothie! Or shake, whatever you would like to call it.

Here is my favorite recipe:

almond butter banana chocolate shake

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups milk or milk substitute – I use 1 cup coconut milk and 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 2 tbsp almond or other nut butter
  • 1/2 banana (better if frozen in chunks)
  • 1/2 or 1 scoop chocolate or vanilla protein powder
  • 1 or 2 tsp cocoa powder
  • A few ice cubes
  • Optional additions – greens, avocado, coconut oil

I use a hand blender now, so I no longer freeze most of the milk. Because only my banana is frozen, it is not a very thick consistency. If you want a thick, frozen-shake consistency, freeze half of the milk in ice cube trays and use that.

I also blend all the ingredients, except the ice, until completely blended. I then add the ice and blend it last.

Enjoy!

Note: I am using this as a meal-replacement. This is not a 100-calorie shake. Nor am I a dietician. Make sure you find out what works for you, even if it includes talking with a professional.

*I am in no way, being compensated for this review. I bought the protein myself and I am sharing my experience.

Macadamia-crusted chicken

I have a huge bag of macadamia nuts in my pantry. Personally, I am more of a pistachio  girl and those macadamia nuts were just not eating themselves (how weird would that be). I needed to use those nuts before they went bad! So I decided to throw them into my food processor and make them into a crust for chicken. It turned out pretty good.

Macadamia chicken

Ingredients:

  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 1 cup roasted macadamia nuts
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp dried onion flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg, beaten or 1/4 cup milk
  • Fat of choice to cook chicken

Directions:

  • Add nuts and seasonings to food processor and process until course. Do not over-process. Pour onto plate or other dish.
  • Dip chicken in egg or milk mixture then into the nut coating.
  • Pan fry coated chicken breasts until coating is crunchy and chicken is cooked through (about 5-7 minutes on each side).

The darker bits of the macadamia breading was actually the best. Next time I might strive to get it all that dark; the crispy, nutty crust was delicious!