Sunday, July 20, 2014

Chocolate Mousse Smoothie: Secret Smoothie Ingredient #2

When I was around 12 years old, my mother quit making chocolate mousse because good mousse = raw egg.

The break with good mousse remains a point of contention between her and my dad, thirty-something years later, not least of which because we all continued to eat our fried eggs happily ever after.

I'm only revealing my parents' personal life that way to say that it's been a good, long time since I've had my mom's chocolate mousse.  So the taste of this smoothie probably doesn't measure up quite as well as I imagine.  Still, I think most people would be amazed at the taste of such a healthy alternative.

By the way, if you haven't made friends with Secret Ingredient #1, you should probably go backwards and try this recipe first.  For real.  It's like, all Paleo and diet and stuff, but still tastes like yum.

Meanwhile, my boy was saying how he wanted bananas in our smoothies, because of the smoothie-ness of bananas. So I went searching for thicker-than-peanut-butter-but-still-not-a-banana thickener. You know...because I don't like bananas. Or fruit. And yet I keep trying to pretend I'm a healthy eater.

And here is the winner, hands down:

Why yes! As a matter of fact that IS a green thing about to make its way into my delicious chocolate smoothie...

Here's the rest of the recipe for a smoothie you won't believe is actually semi-kind'a healthy:

Liquids always go into the blender first:

1 1/2 cups almond millk
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 - 1/3 cup coffee
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

That's because otherwise the blender makes all kinds of unhappy blender noises (kind of like the ones it makes when one forgets to pit the dates).

If you want it to be all Paleo and stuff, make sure and use a grade "B" syrup.  For reasons that I assume have to do with processing, getting an "A" in maple syrup is not always a good thing.

Next up, the not-liquid:

4 dates, pitted
1/2 a delicious, buttery, (ok so it HAPPENS to be green!) avocado
1/8 - 1/4 cup cocoa

On the other hand, if you don't care if it's Paleo or has sugar or whatever, I highly recommend throwing in a handful of chocolate chips at the very end and then blending 10-15 more seconds.  It's delicious that way.

You can actually adjust the cocoa from 1/8 cup to 1/4 cup depending on how rich you want it, and the coffee from 1/4 to 1/3 cup, depending much coffee your mom drank when you were a child.

And then blend!  I blended it forever. And ever and ever and ever. Because of my fears about dates.  But also because there's an amount of time that you're supposed to continue blending after everything has gotten all nice and blendy, and I can never remember exactly how much time that is.

In any case, it ends up all yummy like this:

And the only job left is to drink it!

Or, y'know...if you're me - photograph it while trying to keep your toddler from spreading the decorative coffee beans as far across the house as possible.

Happy Not-Drinking-Any-White-Sugar-At-All-While-Still-Having-A-Delicious-Treat Day everyone!!!!

Shared with (or soon to be shared with):

Texas Women Bloggers

Weekend Bloggy Reading

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Five Tips for Better Images! (Without Buying Stuff!!!)

The long awaited (by me!) first guest blogger at Do Try This at Home is Megan Love!

Megan is a professional photographer out of Gilbertsville, Pennsylvania and has just opened her brand new studio! She's helping me start the photography series with some easy steps that anyone can take, no fancy equipment necessary!

By the way, that is NOT a picture of Megan!  It is just a Pinterest sized picture so that everyone and their brother will run to go put this post on Pinterest.  Megan is much prettier than that.  And has better hair.

~~~~ *~~~~~ * ~~~~~ * ~~~~~
Tips for Creating Better Images 

1 Try New Angles.

Growing up my mom took a lot of photos and she still does. I can actually remember her standing with a camera in her hand. She did it the same way resulting in photos that were always similar. To create an image that is more interesting change your angle. Get on your stomach or stand on a chair while shooting. People might look at you a little weird but your images will definitely be more interesting.

2 Shoot vertically and horizontally.

When people take pictures they tend to just pick up the camera and shoot. But you can create a totally different feel to your images if you just turn your camera vertically. Try to shoot everything with your camera vertical and then horizontal. Eventually you will start to see your images in both views and see what works best in any situation.

3 Place your subject on the sides of the frame.

This is what photographers call shooting for the rule of thirds. When everyone starts taking pictures its natural to place the subject in the middle. Try to place the subject on either side of the frame. This will create a more dynamic image and it’s actually more pleasing to the viewer’s eye.

4 Take the picture before having the subjects look at you.

When people are interacting with each other or nature it’s ok to take the picture without them looking forward. It can actually create a more intimate feel when an image is taken and the subjects don’t even notice. It’s allows you to capturing real emotion and true moments.

5 Capture the details.

I really enjoy details and people forget to shoot them. There are details everywhere all you have to so it look for them. Including details in your images will give your images more power to tell stories.

Now grab your camera and go out and shoot. Some of your best shots might be done when you are just practicing!

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If you LOVE these pictures and want to see more of Megan's Work, visit her here! And if you've got a tip along these lines, let's hear it!

The next guest blogger in this series will be the fantabulous Valerie Laramee on tips for improving FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY and in particular a wonderful secret to making the soupier recipes look less like barf!

Shared on:

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Friday, July 11, 2014

Getting Your Kids in the Picture: The subtle differences between bribes, threats, and good natured cajoling

I have done my first guest post on blog of the fabulous Megan Love!

The great thing about this method is it not only works for getting kids in front of a camera, but it can work wonders for all sorts of chores once you get your tone of voice just right.

If you are in the Philadelphia area, go check out Megan's BRAND NEW STUDIO!!! And if not, go see her blog right here!

In more exciting news, Megan will be guest posting for me here next week as the first in a series on photography tutorials!

(Shared with Much Ado About Monday on Huckleberry Love)

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Naturally Sweet Peanut Butter Cup Smoothie: Secret Smoothie Ingredients, Part One

There's nothing I like more than pretending to be all healthy while satisfying my insanely sweet tooth. I will eat just about anything "healthy" if I can cover it in enough chocolate.

The fact that I don't really like fruit and can't stand bananas in particular means that I don't enjoy the average smoothie so very much.

It was in this way that I accidentally discovered my secret smoothie ingredients. They're so secret that you might not even want to tell yourself you're eating them.

In fact, what I did was test them all on my boy for a good few weeks before telling him what he was eating. Actually, I STILL haven't told him he spent the last half of his sophomore year eating Secret Ingredient #1. Or Secret Ingredient #2 for that matter. Luckily, he does not read my blog.

Ready? Here is secret ingredient #1. Don't worry, it only LOOKS threatening. It's actually quite harmless.

A year ago, I could barely stand to touch one of these things, much less eat one. I live in Texas and they just look a bit too much like a giant cockroach. But there you have it:

Dates are magic.

Their mere presence sweetens any smoothie and no one can tell they're even there!

The Peanut Butter Cup Smoothie is far from my favorite. It's more like, "That smoothie I make when we're fresh out of the stuff I usually use."

But you can't go wrong with chocolate and peanut butter. It's tasty and it only introduces ONE of the foods that I am suggesting maybe aren't quite as terrible as they've seemed to me for my entire life. So that's why I chose it to go first.

All I do is take about a cup and a half of almond milk, three tablespoons of peanut butter (I use the organic, nothing but peanuts kind), 2 tablespoons of cocoa, 2 tablespoons of honey, and 4 dates, and blend them in my grandmother's "vintage" blender.

And because the last thing I want to see in my chocolate is a fruit that looks like one of the aforementioned Texas residents, I blend them forever and ever. And ever.

If you happen to hear a clanking sound rather than a "happy blender" sound, it might be that you forgot to pit the dates. Don't worry - you can just put the whole smoothie through a strainer. There will be (hardly) any pit left in the delicious results!

Here's an honest to goodness recipe card, although this recipe barely requires one. Happy sort-of-like-healthy eating, and stay tuned for Secret Ingredient Number 2!

Shared on

Serenity Now

Texas Women Bloggers

And many of
these nice places!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Don't Wipe Your Tushie With Tulle: A No-Sew Patriotic Tutu

People have told me that making tutus is super easy.  I didn't believe them of course, because sewing machines and I are NOT friends.  Not friends at all.

Sewing machines and I were frenemies for a semester or so back in high school.  I argued with a bobbin for awhile, fought with thread, and got a couple of cute teddy bears out of the deal, not to mention a tank top that was so scandalous that it made my mom gasp and that I never ended up wearing.

But then Pinterest happened.

And I saw a pin from Jackie and noticed that there was very little sewing involved.  I figured there had to be a way to cut that down to NO SEWING.

I went to Hobby Lobby and explained to the nice woman there that I had no idea how to even buy fabric, and she was wonderful and helped me pick out all this stuff:

My first few tries were duds.  First off, I just stuck whole strips of tulle through the stretchy ribbon instead of looping it through.

So I pulled them out and started over.  But this was fine with The Boonga, since it gave her time to play with the carpet tape.

My second mistake was that I spaced the tulle too far apart.  I went back and filled in each little square on the stretch ribbon.

This was also fine with The Boonga, since it gave her a chance to invade the 90%...Yes!  90% BAKING chocolate I had on the counter.  I won't even eat that stuff.

Did I mention that I don't sew?  I also don't measure.  So the first one turned out to be too small.  Which was also okay.

It gave The Boonga another chance to experiment more with the materials.  And use some of the nice white tulle to wipe her tushie afterward.

Why did she decide that her tushie needed wiping, and not the chocolate all over her shirt?  Who can really say.

Meanwhile, in my determination not to sew, I just tied the ends of the stretch elastic ribbon together.  I meant to buy some stick on velcro, but I forgot.

And the too small one wasn't a total loss, since she could wear it as a veil:

I hot glued on some little stars - some of them buttons and others little hang-y things I had found in the July 4th section at Hobby Lobby.  Finally, the correct size was finished!

The only problem was that she a little bit hated it.

Did I mention that I don't measure?  It was too long and she kept stepping on it.

So I wrestled with the scissors again and made it shorter.  Much better.

All said and done, it was tedious, but only because I started from scratch so many times.  If I had only done it once, I think this would be about a $10 project, maybe $15 at the outside.  And most importantly, NO SEWING!!!!

(Surgeon General's Warning:  This post may or may not be linked to some or all of these informative and entertaining blog hops).

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Oprah Loves My Play Dough! Well...Oprah Never Tried My Play Dough. But She WOULD Love it if She Did.

It's the summer of the eternal play dough. Apparently. And I invented a new kind of coffee play dough that Oprah would love. Because it has coffee. And plus, I threw in some coconut oil so I could say it was good for my skin and nails.

The-Guy-Who-Knows-A-Song-About-A-Chicken drinks a LOT of coffee. Which is lucky, because our coffee maker is broken and the only amount of coffee he can make is ten cups.

Yes, ten cups at a time. And it's a lot of coffee, but it's also a lot of coffee grounds.

A LOT of coffee grounds. I saw a ton of recipes on Pinterest for No Cook coffee play dough, but because I went temporarily insane, I decided it would be a good day to cook with The Boonga repeat the words, "That's hot!" and "Ick! Get your head out of the garbage can!" as many times as humanely possible.

Plus, I had cream of tarter that I wanted to use up.

We used pickling salt, because as per the rules, I couldn't find the plain ole' salt until 10 seconds after we finished making the play dough.  It might have been eight and a half seconds.

And then I let The Boonga pour stuff in and stir it up.

Secret preschool teacher trick! Or maybe it's just a mean mom trick...notice that the stove is NOT lit. She just THINKS the pan is very, very hot. Honestly, I've even gotten away with this with five year olds.

I just light the pan for a few moments to give the kids that nice, warm, "I'm cooking!" feeling and then turn it on again afterword.  Presto! Danger reduced to a minimum.

 Of course, it doesn't work for things like cranberry sauce, where seeing and hearing the popping is half the experience, but it's perfect for play dough.

This play dough didn't come out as coffee scented as I thought it might (probably because despite the ten cup a day minimum, we ended up using water as the liquid).

But the texture is super fun, and The Boonga thought it was delicious.

It also makes for a very nice and incredibly inexpensive eye mask, since caffeine is easily absorbed into the skin and is a vasoconstrictor. It can help rosacea, sunburn, and dark shadows under the eyes.

No really! OPRAH SAID SO!

This play dough has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Or Oprah for that matter. But it's still awesome:

Here's where I got the card for the recipe:

Thank you Erin! Not my sister in law Erin. An Erin I met through my friend Google.

And that's it for now!  I'm starting link party next week.  Please comment below if you'd consider participating...because I'd hate to go through the whole set up and have it be a dud!

Friday, June 20, 2014

"Don't Put Cat Food in Your Ears!" and other parenting triumphs

The Sweet Pea texted me that my having put a piece of fresh pita bread in with her ukelele that I was sending to her at camp was "the most Jewish mother thing you've ever done!"

I, on the other hand, thought I had reached that pinnacle some years back.  I was on the phone with my aunt the evening before My Boy's sixth birthday when I ended up telling him,  "If you don't be quiet until I'm off the phone, I'm not going to let you turn six tomorrow and you'll have to stay five!"

Did I mention I teach parenting classes?

Well, that kid is 16 and old enough to know that even if Mom's a control freak, she can't actually prevent birthdays (But oh the money that I could be making!!!!!).  I have different parenting problems, like trying to get him to hug his baby sister.

I try not to really force him to interact with the baby too often, for fear that I'll drive him even further in the other direction.

It's not that I suddenly reverse strategy without warning, so much as how EASILY the guilt pours forth with no notice whatsoever that catches me by surprise:

Baby - "Hug!  Hug!"

Me, to my boy who is totally ignoring her - "Give her a hug!  You're going to give her a...a...complex?...What is he going to give her?"

Older Gal - "Yeah.  A complex."

Boy (still doing his best not to get anywhere near her)

Baby (continues trying for a hug)

Me - "Yeah, you're going to give her a complex.  And poor relationships with men.  And then she'll probably marry a drunk."

Boy (no reaction)

Me - "And then you'll have a drunk for a brother in law.  And he'll probably hit you up for money all the time."

Boy (attempts hug with as little bodily contact as possible).

Incidentally, the line is kind of long for my parenting classes.  You might want to get on the waiting list now.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

My New Favorite Play Dough On Earth is Almost the Same Thing as Getting a Hand Massage at a Luxurious Spa

It's that time when the school year is plummeting top speed toward summer break and the entire school feels as if it's about to get a speeding ticket at any given moment.  Obviously the perfect time to pull out all the stops at home too, and head for the messy zone.

To that end, I discovered my new favorite-play-dough-on-earth.  I made it a little differently, because I didn't want to waste my good vanilla or good cocoa on something that would ultimately end up in the trash.

I can't even stand store bought play dough.  Or chalk for that matter.  And that's why I'm a preschool teacher.

But the coconut oil and oatmeal feel so nice, and coconut oil is supposed to be GREAT for your nails.  So here's what I did:

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups oatmeal
1 cup water
2 tablespoons coconut oil
a few drops of orange essential oil (for smell, because I didn't want to use up my vanilla.  I think you could use anything)

Stir dry stuff together, stir in water and oil, knead in coconut oil.  Knead for three minutes.

Now that I'm looking at the recipe more carefully (which I hardly ever do), it says one cup of flour and two cups of oatmeal, which probably would have come out EVEN BETTER.

Have a great summer all and don't forget to visit me at Do Try This at Home, since that's where I mostly hang out internet-wise these days!

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