Wednesday, September 28, 2011

WFMW: Gentle, Semi-Homemade Hand Soap

Ok, so it's not really 'homemade' if you just add water. But it is economical and good for you!

A while back I bought Dr Bronners Baby Mild Soap at Target to use in my homemade disinfecting wipes. A friend of mine mentioned to me that she thought that the sulfates and parabens in her hand soap (and mine too!) were causing a rash on her hands. So, I set out to see what I could find on the internet about healthy hand soaps. Isn't the internet amazing!? Sometimes I hate it because it can suck up all your time but it is a wonderful wealth of resources as well!

As I was reading about the different methods and products others use I thought, "Dr. Bronners!" I first mixed some with water in a normal soap dispenser but it was watery and while I didn't mind, it did make a mess. So, I thought some more and then read somewhere about using a foaming soap dispenser for homemade soaps.

I went out and bought the cheap Wal*Mart foaming soap ($1.97) and dumped it down the drain (I know, wasteful!) I then replaced it with an ounce of Dr. Bronners (which is concentrated) and filled the rest up with water (totals 8 oz). It worked perfectly! The only downside that I have read about is that sometimes the oils in the soap will clog up the pump. I'm thinking that running hot water through the pump every once in a while may help with this!

I am soo pleased with this method. Here is the breakdown in pricing:

Dr. Bronners 32 oz @ $18 = $0.56 per bottle of soap ~ Target

If you ordered this on Amazon, the price right now is $16.49 and qualifies for free shipping (when you add $8.51 of other eligible items). I plan on doing this the next time I'm stocking up on coconut oil, maple syrup or rapadura. So, the price per bottle would be slightly less.

So, why is this so much better for you?

1. It doesn't contain parabens and sodium lauryl sulfates (click the links to read some of the concerns of these ingredients) .

2. It is NOT antibacterial.

"Numerous studies show that antibacterial soap is no more effective than ordinary soap in cleaning your hands. Either kind lifts off germ-laden dirt. But antibacterial soap kills helpful bacteria on the skin, freeing up valuable real estate so that harmful bacteria can move in later. " Read the full article here.

Check out this post about the evils of Triclosan which is in numerous antibacterial soaps.

3. This is a personal result that for some reason I didn't expect! I have terribly dry hands because I wash them often during the day! I can hardly believe how in just a few days of switching to this soap how good my hands look! I even made the Hubs feel them a few nights ago to see the difference! No more rough, cracking skin! It's smooth and soft!

So, if you're looking for a healthy, inexpensive hand soap... give this a try! It works for me!

Just a little side note: I know that articles you read on the internet can be swayed one way or the other (though several are not blog posts but medical journals). Either way, there are gray areas in some of the information available on these subjects. But obviously there is research out that that has caused some concern, so I choose to err on the side of caution until scientific evidence is fully established.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Menu Plan Monday 9/26/11

We're eating out of the pantry, fridge and freezer this week! So, I've been going over what we have to come up with our meal plan! Here it is!

Chicken and Dumplin's, Peas (I've got several kind in the freezer), Corn Bread

Beef Soft Tacos, Corn

Cabbage and Navy Bean Soup, Leftover Corn Bread

Crockpot BBQ Chicken, Green Beans, Mashed Potatoes, Cheddar and Herb Biscuits (made with ww flour)

Chili & Fixins

I'm going to be doing a little baking too: Pumpkin Bread & Loaded Oatmeal Cookies (though now I make them with all whole wheat flour and only sucanat in place of the sugar)!

Check out OrgJunkie for more menu planning ideas!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Recipe Review: Tomato Bacon Egg Strata

On days when my hubby is off I love to make hot, healthy breakfast for us! Egg based casseroles are one of our favorite and I tried a new one today from The Hour That Matters Most by Les and Leslie Parrott. (You can read my review on the book here)

I love trying new recipes and this was no exception! Of course I did change the recipe up a bit by substituting some of what we had on hand (and used more real foods). That is what is so great about this recipe, you can interchange some basics and have a whole new taste! So here is the recipe with my substitutions in parenthesis.

Tomato Bacon Egg Strata

4 cups cubed sourdough bread with crust
1/2 cup minced sun-dried tomatoes
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 tsp dried basil
2 Tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp chopped garlic (used 1 clove)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 cup cooked bacon crumbles (used local sausage)
2 cups shredded Swiss or mozzarella cheese (mozzarella)
1 cup nonfat liquid egg product (4 large eggs)
2 cups non fat milk (2% milk)

Spray (I buttered) a 9x13 baking dish with non stick cooking spray. Layer first 10 ingredients in the order given. Pour egg and milk over the top and cover (I beat my eggs and mixed them with my milk and then poured). Refrigerate over night or freeze to use later.

If you've frozen the dish, thaw completely. Preheat oven to 350. Bake covered for 35 minutes; then remove cover and bake another 30-45 minutes until golden brown. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

*As you see I used sausage but it would be great with bacon or even ham as well. I also used real eggs and did not use skim milk.

This recipe would work well with a variety of vegetables. I think adding sauteed onions would be great! And to get in some green veggies a couple of handfuls of spinach would work well!

The flavor was great! My only downside was the egg/milk mixture. I feel like I needed more eggs, less milk. I like a more egg-y, dense base. The ratio of milk/egg in the recipe leaves the casserole more custard-y and I'm not a big fan of that texture. I think I would rather have maybe 6-8 eggs and 1 cup milk. I will definitely try that next time! It really is just a personal preference! All in all it's a great recipe to have and is great for weekend family meals! I will let you know if I try any other recipes from the book!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Book Review: The Hour That Matters Most

I was recently given the opportunity to review the book, The Hour That Matters Most by Les and Leslie Parrott with Stephanie Allen and Tina Kuna.

The premise of the book is why the family meal is important and how to get the most out of that golden hour. We eat dinner as a family most every night. Of course, my boys are 5 and 3 so aside from soccer one night a week, our weeknights are free. Luke is homeschooled so all of our school work is finished early in the day, so no homework (Yes, lots of kindergartners I know have homework!), ect. Americans are too busy and the average Christian family is no exception. We spend too much time on extracurriculars, sports, practices, clubs thus neglecting family time. We are pulled in a million different directions and rarely spend any time as a whole family unit. And while these are huge soap boxes of mine, I understand that this book is not out to solve that problem. (Though I will admit that is all I could think about while reading the beginning of the book!)

So, what does the book actually attempt? To help you realize how important the family meal is and how to make the most of it. And I think it does a good job at this.

The book gives great statistics at the differences between families who have regular family meals and those who don't. Some of them really are surprising.

My favorite part of the book though would have to be the tips on conversation with your children. Drs Les and Leslie Parrot, practicing psychologists and family and marriage counselors, give numerous examples and ideas on how to engage with and relate to your children in conversation, as well as how to avoid unnecessary conflict! There is also a chapter on manners that I especially appreciated as sometimes I think that is a lost art! I know that these tips will definitely be useful in coming years as my children get older. For me, these tips will surpass the family table and will be helpful in all areas for my family.

I think this book would be a great read for anyone who is wanting to regain that time together at the family table. For those of us who already have regular meal times together, The Hour That Matters Most gives great advice on how to make the most of that time together.

At the end of each chapter there is a recipe and tomorrow night I'm trying out one! All of the recipes are simple to make and most of them are pretty healthy, although I'd have to make a few substitutions for a few of the ingredients! Check back for the review on Friday!

**I was provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange of my honest review.**

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Menu Plan Monday 8/19/11

Busy week means a late and rushed menu! Oh well! I hope you have a great week!

Beef Curry (I've never had curry.. but we're going to try it this week!), Sweet Potato Biscuits

Tomato Bacon and Egg Strata (recipe from the book I'm reviewing), Fruit

Cheesy Baked Stuffed Chicken Breasts, Easy Garlic Broccoli, Brown Rice (didn't get to this last week)

Beef Stew, Leftover Biscuits

Spaghetti, Salad

Other meals: leftovers, sandwiches, ect

I'm also planning on making some zucchini muffins! Tried anything new lately?

Check out for more menu plans and recipe ideas!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Skin Deep

Pssstt... It was a CRAZY week! But God is good and I am thankful. So thankful. I mentioned a book review and it is coming... next week. I just did not get to it this week! :)

So, a friend of mine and I were talking a few weeks ago about body products and what we use. Over the past year or so I've began to be more and more cautious about what I put on my skin and what I put on my families skin. I've done more research on the subject just in the past few months and it really is amazing what companies are allowed to put into products these days. I'm thankful for the information that is available and I think it's wise to research to avoid ignorance on the subject. I've never been one to just take someones word for it (especially the governments!!). I like to know myself.

My only battle with finding good, clean, healthy skin care products is price. Sadly, just like food, the real, good stuff is typically going to cost more! The way I see it is, in life we have choices. We can ignore things and hope for the best or we can make sacrifices and do the best for our families. We (as in our personal family) can't do it all. We don't have the resources or finances to do that but we do what we can!

The numbers you see out beside each product is a rating from the Skin Deep website. They rate products according to the ingredients in them. Unsafe ingredients = higher rating. I like for my products to be 3 and under.. but that isn't always the case! I dare you to go check some of your products!! Double dog dare you! I haven't always used these products so I know what it's like to check and see a really bad rating!!

Some of these things I buy at WalMart/Target but most of them I get online. I keep up with them on Amazon and watch for deals.

So here is a list of the current healthier skin care products we use:

The Boys:

~Although, I've been using Dr Bronner's Baby Mild Castile Soap (1), because a certain little boy emptied almost a WHOLE bottle of Burt's Bees in the tub (yes, I almost cried). Dr. Bronner's seems expensive but it is highly concentrated so a tiny amount goes a long way. I use it in my homemade disinfecting wipes for extra cleansing power but it's perfect and gentle for a body wash. I'm also thinking about using it as a hand soap, diluted of course. I'm learning that this soap can be used for TONS of stuff. Homemade dishwashing detergent even... hmm!


*Before I go into my products let me explain my skin. I have oily skin and lovely adult acne. It's plagued me since my early 20s and it's so annoying. I'm continuously on the search for the product that will cure it all, but I haven't found it yet. I had hoped that changing to more natural products would have helped but alas, it hasn't. So, my next thoughts are that it's hormones or dietary. Who knows? Here's what I'm using currently but some is subject to change!

~Kiss My Face Whenever Shampoo & Conditioner (I actually just bought this for the first time and like it. I got it on clearance at WalMart. Prior to this I had been using Suave and may go back to that if I can't find good deals. Shampoo/Conditioner is one of those areas where I have to be forgiving because of budget!).

~Dessert Essence Thoroughly Clean Face Wash (1): I use this as a body wash & face wash in the shower. I buy the refill bottles and it's a GREAT buy! This is another product where a tiny bit goes a long way. I actually read in the reviews where someone uses a small bottle to refill and uses a 50/50 solution of wash and water. I might have to try that!

~Neutrogena Naturals Purifying Facial Cleanser: I use this to take my make up off at night, right now. But I'm not impressed with it. I will probably go back to using the Dessert Essence face wash, day and night, when it's gone.

~Face Naturals Deoderant (0).... GEEZ. I just checked the prices and they've gone up! They work, smell good and don't feel goopy. But they are expensive. I ordered two sample sizes and they lasted me all summer. Can I be honest? I don't wear deodorant that often. I don't smell (at least I don't think I do?! Please someone tell me if I do!) and so I don't feel it's necessary unless I'm going to be somewhere where I'm going to sweat a lot. So, that's why the samples lasted all summer. And that's why I spent a little extra on them! :)

~Nutiva Coconut Oil: This is what I use on myself pretty much every day. A tiny bit will do you! It can be greasy if you use too much, so there is an art to it. It works AMAZING on feet, slather it on before bed with socks and you'll have super smooth feet! It's also what I used on the boys when they got sunburned this summer (only once!). I also use it on them in the winter for dry skin. It smells like coconut going on but the smell goes away. And FYI, I buy one jar for cooking and one for body use. ;)

~Say Yes to Carrots, Daily Facial Moisturizer: This is what I wear under my make up. It does a good job keeping me moisturized without being really oily.

~Yes To Cucumbers Soothing Eye Gel (1): I really love this! No, my eyes don't look much different after using it but I just like it. I've used it all over my face before if I'm out of moisturizer!

~Alba Botanical Very Emollient Body Lotion (3): I use this on my hands during the day. It's easier to use than the coconut oil, which I usually just use after the shower. I only buy it when I have the money. It's one of those extra things but I use it sparingly so when I can buy it, it lasts a while. The skin on my hands are extremely dry!! I'm a hand washer... and a dish washer and a kid washer and a toilet washer... well you get the picture. My hands need lots of help!

The Hubs:

*note the Hubs could care less what he uses. But I love him. So I do my best to budget in safe stuff for his skin too. He uses regular ol' deodorant and shampoo at the moment. He tried the 'fancy' deodorant and didn't like it. And if he ever needs lotion for dry skin he uses mine. :)

~Burt's Bees Men's Bar Soap (1) I get this most often!

Sunscreen for us all:

So, what products do you use? Do you have any good quality, good priced all natural, healthy skin care products you'd like to share about? Have any homemade products that work for you? I want to know!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Banana Peanut Butter Oatmeal Muffins

Ok, you get it... we like muffins. I like making lots of different kinds because I get tired of the same ol' thing! The boys really liked this one!

I found this recipe and adapted it to make it a little healthier. This muffin was really yummy and very filling! Perfect breakfast or snack!

Banana Peanut Butter Oatmeal Muffins

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup quick cooking oatmeal (I used 2 pkgs of instant oatmeal with flax seeds)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 TBS melted butter
3/4 cup sugar (I used sucanat)
2 eggs
2 medium size bananas, mashed
1 cup buttermilk
6 TBS creamy peanut butter

Preheat oven to 375. Lightly grease 12 cup muffin tin (I made mini's). In a large bowl mix all dry ingredients together. In medium size bowl mix the wet ingredients well. Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix until no flour streaks remain.
Divide batter evenly into muffin tin, filling almost to the top. Bake 16-20 minutes until toothpick stuck in center comes out clean.
Cool a few minutes before moving to wire cooking rack.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Menu Plan Monday 9/12/11

Last week was a busy week! No blogging time! Hopefully this week will be a little more relaxed. And I'm hoping to have a few posts up this week (including a book review!). Here is what we're eating this week:

Chicken Fried Steak Strips, Green Beans, Sauteed Squash & Onions

Cheesy Basil Stuffed Chicken Breast (new recipe that sounds so yummy!), Easy Garlic Broccoli, Brown Rice

Homemade Pizza

Hot Ham and Swiss Sandwiches, Veggies and Ranch Dip

Last week I came up with a new muffin recipe (you're shocked, I know). They were really yummy. Hopefully I can share it this week, too. The ingredients included: bananas, peanut butter and chocolate chips!

I found a super good sale on Bob's Red Mill Organic Pancake Mix and picked up a package. I'm planning on trying the mix this week so we'll have pancakes & fruit for breakfast a few days. I love my favorite from scratch recipe but it will be nice for breakfast to have a mix. Other days will be cereal. :)

Lunch is totally boring around here... PB&J's or leftovers. :)

Homemade Snacks/Treats*:
Crunchy Granola Bars (we crush them up and make granola bites, which btw is yummy on yogurt or in milk as a cereal!)
And these healthier Peanut Butter Brownie Cups

*I do buy snacks as well... Kashi Fruit bars are a favorite around here... As well as Annie's snacks. I buy a few boxes when Target has them on sale to keep for quick snacks. And we usually have some kind of cracker, right now we have some Cheez Its and some Kashi Pita Crackers. And of course cheese, yogurt and fruit! I'm the mean mommy who makes their kid eat fruit or yogurt when I hear "I'm HUNGRY!!".. then if they're still hungry, they get something else.

Have a great week!

Check out OrgJunkie for more menu planning ideas and recipes!