Cold-Weather Vegetable Soup with Minestrone Variation

I don’t post many of my own recipes, and that’s because I don’t usually measure. You know what I mean–I add a little of this and a little of that, and it’s hard to figure out just what it I’ve done exactly.

The great thing about soups is that you don’t have to be exact! Add what you have and substitute what you don’t.

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Hearty Vegetable Soup

1/2 head of cabbage

6 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 head of celery, including leaves, chopped

I bag of frozen green beans (feel free to use fresh if you have them)

2 cans fire roasted tomatoes

2 32 oz containers chicken or vegetable broth

1 can kidney beans

1 1/2 tablespoons dried basil

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

Add everything to a large pot, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to low. Simmer for several hours. This recipe makes lots of soup, and it tastes even better the second day!

This recipe is also perfect for making in the slow cooker.

Minestrone Soup Variation (my grandmother’s recipe)

Swap the chicken broth for beef and add a cup of small noodles at the end of the cook time. My grandmother’s minestrone soup was the best ever, and I love to make it and remember her. If you’re a vegetarian, feel free to use vegetable broth instead of beef.

Free Christmas Word Art Printable

I don’t know about you, but I can barely wait for Christmas! I know it’s a little early, but I wanted to share this free printable jpeg with you. It measures 12″ x 12″. Feel free to print it out yourself or take it to a print shop. You can frame it and add it to your Christmas decor, use it for scrapbooking projects, size it down and make Christmas cards–really, anything you want. The only thing I ask is that it is used for personal use only. Enjoy!

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Click the picture, and it will take you to the download on Box.com!

See this image and more in my Christmas section on Zazzle.com. Here’s a few items for sale right now:

Homemade Christmas Gifts: How to Make the Best Heat Pack (It’s Not Filled with Rice!)

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Christmas is right around the corner, and if you’re making gifts this year–you’re running out of time! If you want a quick, easy gift, try making heat packs. I have a little secret for you–my heat packs aren’t filled with rice. Nope. They’re filled with flaxseed. They also have a removable, washable cover. That’s pretty awesome.

Why flaxseed? Well, the little seeds are filled with lots of oil. When that oil heats up, it stays warm for a long time, and it will never get that ‘scorched’ rice smell. Also, heat packs filled with flaxseed are considered to have a moist heat. They’re really, really wonderful, and I used to sell a ton of them.

I don’t craft for profit any more, but I still make these for friends and family. If you would like to make one (or six), here’s what you’ll need for each pack:

For the Pack

7″ x 44″ cotton quilting fabric (I like muslin for the packs)

1 1/2 lbs flax seed (you can buy whole flax seeds at health or natural food stores

For the Cover

7 1/2″ x 44″ terry cloth or other machine washable fabric (minky and polar fleece are also nice)

You’ll also need a sewing machine, thread, pins, and a ruler.

To Make the Packs:

1. Fold the cotton so you have a rectangle that is 22″ long. Sew 1/2″ around the whole piece, leaving about three inches open to fill. Turn and press.

2. Measure seven inches from the seam at the side, mark a line. Measure another seven inches, mark another line. These will be your stitching lines after you fill the pack. (Refer to the picture)

3. Fill the pack with flaxseed. Top stitch around the entire pack.

4. On a flat surface, spread the flax evenly through the pack. Where you have your first line marked, use the side of your hand to make a line in the seeds. Pin this line and sew through both layers, being careful to keep the seed away from your stitching area. Repeat the process, and then stitch the second line. This step will make sure you have your seeds evenly distributed in the three pockets.

To Make the Cover:

1. Fold the cover fabric so you have a 22″ rectangle.

2. Sew a 1/2″ seam on both sides (do not stitch the fold).

3. Turn under the raw outside edge 1/2″ and stitch. I like to surge this edge before I turn it, but that’s up to you.

That’s it! You’ve made a flaxseed heat pack!

To use:

Heat the pad in the microwave on high for 60 – 90 seconds. Do not overheat, and do not microwave a synthetic cover!

What Happens When I Avoid My NaNoWriMo Novel

I have a major case of writer’s block. This is not something I deal with often, but writing for this NaNo is driving me crazy.

So, instead of writing today, here’s what I did. I know. Totally useful.

Photoshop, anyone?

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Day 8 of Eating Clean

I’ve officially been eating clean for one week now (let’s just forget about those two little fun size candies I had on the day my desktop computer almost died). I feel awesome, and my headache is finally gone.

It’s definitely harder starting to eat clean again the second time around. For so long we were eating kinda-clean, and doing that really cements some bad habits. We started splurging on soda, white-sugar, white flour, and fast food. We still ate a ton of fruits and veggies, so I figured we were fine. Nope. We were all feeling horrible and the kids were hyper and crabby.

We’re back on track now, and these are a few things we’re really loving on top of all the fruits and veggies we’re eating:

Sweet Potatoes – After about day 4 they started tasting sweet even without the sugar.

Celestial Seasonings Teas – Our new favorite is Caramel Apple Dream. It’s so good.

Greek Yogurt with Berries and Homemade Granola – Thanks to Now Foods Dairy Digest Complete I can eat yogurt again. So exciting!

Local Honey – We use this in moderation, but it is nice to have as a sweet treat in tea. Hopefully soon I will be able to buy honey from my niece! Her mama is quite the homesteader. You can check out her new blog here.

Bob’s Red Mill Whole Wheat Pastry Flour – I found a whole wheat pastry flour that isn’t awful! I tried it in biscuits (the ultimate test of whole wheat pastry flour), and they turned out fabulous! They were tender, soft, and decadent.

Coconut Oil – Nothing new here, but, you know–it’s just as awesome to cook with as it is to make soap. And it’s pretty awesome in soap. Use it in place of shortening in any baking recipe.

My Desktop Computer’s Near Death Experience

You know what’s fun? Losing the first 17,000 words of a novel you’re working on and almost all  your children’s baby pictures. My old desktop computer died today.

So I did what any rational eating-clean person would do. I broke down and ate a fun size Kit-Kat bar and a baby Tootsie Roll. It’s called willpower. I am the queen.

I did not have a diet soda, though. If you read this post, you’ll see what an accomplishment that is.

The good news is there are tons of people out there who are way more computer savvy than I am. After a few searches, I found out the horrible alarm going off when I tried to start my computer wasn’t just its death call–it was trying to communicate with me! That was lame. Sorry.

Anyway, the five alarms on startup and the black screen meant the cmos battery needed reset or replaced. It took lots of searches to figure out what in the world a cmos battery is, but we got it! It’s like a watch battery in your computer, and apparently it’s more important than it looks. We opened the computer up (terrifying), popped out the battery, waited about fifteen minutes, and then we put it all back together and plugged it in.

It worked! Oh, it worked! I can’t even tell you the joy.

So now I’ve done my version of open heart surgery on a computer.  I feel pretty good about that, even if all you high tech people out there are laughing at me right now.

Oh, and yes, I know I should have my pictures backed up. I have been talking about getting it done for years (once again, please refer to the title of my blog).

Elsa Dress Costume

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Guess what Chelsea’s costume was?

I tried to talk her into something else–anything else–but she had to have the ‘it’ costume of the year. I didn’t care for how puffy all the Elsa costumes were in the stores (I’m sorry, but Elsa’s dress was not puffy). Instead I used a pattern I had for the bodice and then continues the cut out into an A-line. The fabric is a little too dark, but it was covered in sparkles, so Chelsea had to have it.

I started this dress at about 8:30 the night before she needed it and finished at 10:30. I would have made these changes if I’d had the time: I would have used a sheer fabric for the shoulders of the bodice and made a modest sweetheart neckline with the satin, and I would have added the long sheer sleeves. I would have also made some translucent snowflakes and appliqued them to the dress.

Oh well, you can’t have everything. I guess I should let it go

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

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10 Interesting Facts About Eating Clean

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Interesting Fact #1 – When I stop eating clean, I get fat.

Oh, not funny. But true. So true.

(Keep reading for the real facts. I didn’t taunt in you the title.)

My computer charger died yesterday, so I had to start NaNoWriMo on my ancient desktop computer. Yesterday the kids and I stumbled onto some old pictures. Lots were from when they were babies, some were before they were born, and the last few folders where from almost exactly to years ago.

What I found terrified me.

I was healthy. Really healthy. Like, what-in-the-world-happened-to-me healthy.

I showed Jake the pictures. He was a little too shocked. Mmmhmmm.

Needless to say this is my second day eating clean. I have a horrendous, mind-numbing headache, and I want to crawl back into bed. This tells me I’ve been really, really eating badly. I didn’t even have this kind of caffeine and junk food withdrawal when we first started our eating clean journey.

Feel the pain. It’s a good pain.

So here’s my list (the real one):

10 Interesting Facts About Eating Clean

1. The first few days you may feel like you were hit by a bus. Fun, right? This is your body getting rid of all the junk in your system. You’ll feel better in a few-ish days.

2. If you drink, drink, drink your water like a good girl (or boy), your skin and eyes will start to look brighter in only a few days.

3. Complex carbs and lean protein are partners. Don’t make the mistake I often make by grabbing one without the other. Don’t eat your morning oatmeal without some kind of protein. Don’t.

4. You have to eat fruit and veggies. I love vegetables, but when I want a snack, I almost always grab a piece of fruit. You must eat the veggies, too–and lots them should be green leafy things. Yes, they are a pain to prepare. Yes, an apple is infinitely easier, but you need to eat them both.

5. You mustn’t wait until you are starving to eat. If you do, you will likely consume something you really don’t want to eat. Like an entire sheet cake. Or something like that. Eat every 2 1/2 – 3 hours.

6. White flour will destroy you. I struggle with this. When I bake, I want my cookies/cakes/pies to be decadent. There are certain recipes that aren’t awesome with whole wheat flour–even the pastry kind. Don’t be me; don’t give in and use the all purpose. Grind oatmeal in a blender or food processor to make wonderful oat flour. It tastes great in many cookie and cake recipes–I like it much better than whole wheat flour in sweets. Also, make fruit crisps. They are much healthier than pies, and you can use coconut oil in the topping. (By the way, these are occasional treats–don’t make sweets very often).

7.  Prepping ingredients makes your life so much easier. Clean your kitchen before  you shop for groceries so it’s sparkling when you return. Cut up all the fruit and veggies before you put them away. If you are going to make hummus, make it now and put it in the fridge. By the way–do you have a good recipe for hummus? If you do, please, please let me know. I can’t find one that tastes as good as the stuff in our deli department.

8. White sugar, sadly, is not your friend. It’s like the snarky girl in high school that you really wanted to be friends with. She was nice to your face and then she gossiped behind your back. White sugar is sweet at first, and then it does horrible things in your body. It’s best to avoid it. There are unprocessed alternatives. Honey, molasses, raw sugar, and agave* are good substitutes as long as they are used in moderation. I can’t use any form of sugar in my coffee. I go a little crazy with it.

9. Diet soda isn’t clean. I should be in DSA – Diet Soda Anonymous. Hello, my name is Sharrie, and I am addicted to diet soda. I wish this were a joke. This is my stumbling block. I can give up everything, but diet soda is the siren on the rock calling to me. If you need something bubbly–oh, and I do–try sparkling water with a tiny bit of fruit juice. Cranberry is lovely. While a whole glass of fruit juice is frowned upon, a little isn’t too bad as long as it’s 100% juice. By the way, my kids love this. Weston would rather have grape juice with sparkling water than any soda.

10. The cravings will stop. I promise. It takes some longer than others–I was still struggling after three months, but by six I was fine. But–BUT–if you give in, and you start to take a forbidden nibble here and there, the cravings will come back. And that, friends, is how Jake and I toppled off the wagon. Don’t be us. Starting over after several years of kinda-clean really, really stinks.

*There are some debates about whether agave syrup is actually clean. If you’re interested, I’m sure you can find info on Google. I don’t use it, so–you know–I don’t really care.