Saturday, April 27, 2013

Breakfast Pizza

So yesterday I shared that we were going to make homemade pizza for dinner using the recipe for crust from Crystal at Money Saving Mom. We made sausage, pepperoni and bacon pizza and I swear it was the best pizza I've ever had! The crust was so easy to make that from start to finish it took 30 minutes or less, I kid you not! Jonah was so excited he said he could eat pizza for every meal and suggested we have pizza for breakfast. Well, Steven embraced that idea so this morning we whipped up another batch of pizza dough and started brainstorming. In the end we came up with this:

It was so amazing we knew that we had to immediately share it with you! It's basically our favorite breakfast casserole on a pizza crust! What's not to like?!?! 

pizza dough
1 package of country gravy
6 eggs
1- 1 1/2 cups frozen hashbrown potatoes
1 Cup of sausage browned
1/3 Cup bacon bits
2 Cups of shredded cheese (we like to use mild cheddar and mozzarella)

1. Make your dough. I really do love the recipe from Crystal. So easy and so yummy! I don't think I will ever use another recipe. Spread dough out on greased pizza pan and place in a 450 degree oven for about 5 minutes to pre-bake so the crust doesn't get all soggy after the toppings are added.

2. Brown sausage and drain on paper towel to soak up extra grease. Or if you made pizza the night before for dinner like we did just use the extra sausage! ;-) If you are browning a whole sleeve of sausage you will end up with more than a cup. Put the extras in the fridge for an awesome pizza on Friday night!

3. Soft scramble 6 eggs. We added a dash of onion and garlic powder and some fresh ground salt and pepper. When I say soft scramble I mean cook them until they are starting to form but are still pretty runny. If you cook too long when you put them in the oven they will turn rubbery.

4. Mix up a packet of country gravy according to package directions. 

5. Microwave 1- 1 1/2 cups of frozen hashbrown potatoes for about 3 minutes. Basically you are just trying to warm them up and evaporate some of the extra water so it doesn't make your crust soggy. (I think next time we might use the potatoes O'Brian with the peppers and onions. That would add another dimension that would be awesome!!)

6. Once the pizza dough is pre-baked and the country gravy, eggs, sausage and potatoes are ready start assembling your pizza. We put the gravy down first (1 Cup of gravy, or 1 packet was perfect to cover the pizza crust). Then spread out the potatoes. On top of the potatoes layer your bacon bits and sausage. Pour the eggs over top and spread across the top. Add the cheese. 

7. Bake on 450 for 10-15 minutes until the cheese is melty and the crust is golden brown. 

8. Let it cool for a few minutes before you try to cut into it or you will loose all your toppings. Plus, you'll burn the roof of your mouth and tongue and then nothing will taste good for at least a week!

So there you have it! Our new favorite breakfast pizza! So easy, so yummy! So perfect for your next brunch. I think it would be great served with some fresh fruit. I hope you enjoy!

Oh, and if you decide you want to make pizza for dinner tonight I highly recommend this sauce from Smashed Peas and Carrots. It was delicious!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Weekly Wrap Up- Friday Phone Dump Edition

Another busy week has come and gone in the Fischer home! Steven spent Monday and Tuesday at home, sick with an ear infection and sinus infection. I've been busy trying to finish up some organizing projects that got started but never 100% completed (like the playroom! It's almost finished and then I'll share it with you!). I've also been doing lots of laundry and dishes. We are winding down the school year- the kids get out on May 22nd, which means that we have 26 days left of til summer vacation, and 24 until Jonah's Kindergarten graduation! Being out before Memorial Day is kind of nice, but it also means that I have 5 weeks from the time they get out of school until we leave on our big road trip to Yellowstone! There is so much to plan, pack and figure out still. I'll be doing some count down to vacation posts soon and show you how we camp (and keep our sanity doing it!) with 4 kids!

I'm doing lots of reading still about the new "diet" we are trying to implement in our house. I found a great website the other day on Pinterest called the The Gracious Pantry. It looks like she has some awesome recipes, and I've gotten a lot of inspiration from her already. I can't wait to start following her! Today I'm hoping to experiment with making my own pizza dough so we can do homemade pizza tonight! I've never made my own pizza dough before but I'm going to be trying the crust from Crystal at Money Saving Mom. I'll let you know what we think! 

On tap for this weekend: nothing tomorrow. I'm sure Steven will be studying for his series 7 test that is coming up. I'd like to work on painting the bathroom. We'll see! Then Sunday we have PSR and church and then a birthday party for Steven's stepsister, Kayla. That's always a fun group to be with! No, really! They are really fun! I wasn't being sarcastic! lol

Now for photos from the phone from this week:

Spring is popping up everywhere! My Dogwood tree decided to show off this week!
We love Fisher-Price Little People! Micah created a world with daddy's help on Monday. A little later they created a circus which I forgot to take a picture of before it got destroyed!
Getting out invites for a cousins' baby shower. I can't wait til next Saturday!
This one is perfecting the art of the temper tantrum! The funniest is when he throws his head back and "cries" while he rocks himself back and forth. But there are no tears to be seen. He's watching and learning very well!
First batch of homemade taco seasoning. I really liked it, except that I felt like it dried out. I'm going to try to tweak it more to our liking and then I'll share it with you!
So that's our week in a nutshell. How was yours? I hope you have a great weekend! It's FRIDAY!!!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Crop for CareNet

It has been FOREVER since I have shared any scrapbook pages with you all! I have been scrapbooking for 13 years now, and while I still love it I have less and less time to do it these days. So I get very excited when I can get my butt off to a crop and get some work done. Anyone with more than 1 kid will tell you that you will never get caught up, but it sure is fun to try!

A local church here hosted a 12 hour crop this past Saturday with the proceeds benefiting CareNet of Northern Kentucky. My scrapbooking buddy Jannene and I thought "Why not? We like babies!" Plus, it had been almost a year since we had done our last crop together so we were due. 12+ hour crops are my favorite! (We used to go to a 24 hour Crop for the Cure years ago...I miss those!) I get so much when done when I have nothing to focus on besides scrapping. Well, in between the eating, and talking, and eating, and talking, and get the picture! I was very excited with what I was able to get accomplished at the crop! All in all I finished 12 layouts-some 2 page spreads and some 1 page. Some were multiphoto layouts and some were single photo. Most of them were for Eli, who only had 1 stinkin' page done at 8 months (so sad!!) and a few for Bri and Jonah with school pictures from this year and last year. But enough talking! Here are some of my favorites that I got finished!

As you can see I still use the traditional method of scrapbooking, good 'ol paper, cutters and pens. I know a lot of people are moving to digital scrapping or Project Life, but I enjoy the whole process of the "old" way too much to ever give it up. Plus, I've invested too money in it at this point to change now! I scrap mainly in 12 X 12 now and I love it! 

I just found a program last night that will allow me to scan layouts and then stitch them together so that I can digitally back up my layouts and share them with you! I am super excited! It's a little time consuming because I have to scan each layout in 4 sections to make sure I've got everything on it but it's worth it now that I've gotten it down to a science! 

So that's it! Hopefully I will be able to share more layouts with you in the future!

Do you scrapbook? What are your secrets to keeping up with it?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

DIY Laundry Detergent

On our quest to save money this year and to give me an outlet to be more crafty (and feel like a Martha Stewart DIY-er) I decided I wanted to try making some of our cleaning products. Two of the biggest expenses for us in the cleaning department are laundry detergent and dishwasher detergent. I easily do 3 loads of laundry a day, 5 days a week. I don't usually do laundry on the weekends unless there is something that is specifically needed by someone. I try to save in energy by using only cold or cool water (I tend to use more cool than cold these days, probably because I don't trust cold to get out the stubborn baby messes!) I would love to have a clothes line but I think they are banned by our HOA (pain in the butt I tell ya! Pain in the butt!!!) I might get a retractable one anyway and tell the HOA to shove it! lol I'm sure that would save some money too in the spring and fall (I don't think I could use it in the summer, it's too humid here in the river valley, and in the winter I'm sure our clothes would freeze!)

Laundry detergent is expensive! Even with coupons. I love Tide as much as the next person but when a large bottle costs $28.00 and I can use all of it in a month it's too much! The powder is usually cheaper but I found that using it cold water didn't work for me because it never dissolved all the way and I ended up with chalky residue on our clothes. Not cool!

I saw around that the "in" thing right now was to make your own laundry detergent. I was skeptical at first but as I started to read comments and reviews by others I thought it was worth giving it a try. Some said it worked really well for their kids who suffered from eczema. Since 3 of our 4 have eczema I thought, "Why not?!" The initial investment in all the ingredients seems like a lot but knowing that you will get multiple batches out of the same boxes makes it easier to swallow. There is also some time involved but I promise it's easy!

 I have found a formula that I am in love with and I wanted to share it with you. I shared it with my aunt over Easter. They have 5 kids and she does about as much laundry as I do so I knew this could save her money too. She messaged me on Facebook the other day and said she had been using the detergent and she loved it! She couldn't believe the results, especially because you don't have to use very much. It's my favorite thing so far this year! :-)

What you need: Purex Crystals (any scent-I love the blue one!), Borax, Arm & Hammer WASHING soda (some people will use both washing soda and baking soda. I have found this unnecessary, but the washing soda IS necessary!), Zote Soap (I like the pink!), and OxiClean (you could use a store brand too if you prefer.)

To make the soap you will need a cheese grater, a big mixing bowl and a blender or food processor (not shown). You will also need a 1 Cup measuring cup to measure the ingredients and a spoon to mix (I use a plastic spatula.)
You need a container to put it in. I used to just use old Purex Crystal bottles but I found the detergent clumped up in them. I found this great glass container at Wal-Mart and fell in love with it. I also love the little measuring cup.
Here's a close up although the quality isn't great. This is a little glass measuring cup from Anchor. It looks like a shot glass. It's probably meant as a liquid measuring cup but I use it for my detergent and it's worked out just fine. You can find one here at Amazon for $5.50. I think I paid around $5 for mine.
The first thing you will do is grate the soap. I use the medium shred side. This can take a few minutes and gives your arms quite a work out. But stick to it. My kids love to help with this part so I put them to work! lol
Use a measuring cup to add 1 Cup of Borax to the blender or food processor.
Add half of the soap flakes and then top with 1 Cup of washing soda and 1 Cup of OxiClean. Pulse the mixture until the soap has been blended in with the other dry ingredients.
It should look fine and powdery. Put into large mixing bowl. Do another batch in the blender. Add to mixing bowl.
Add in your Purex Crystals. I use anywhere from 2-3 Cups of these, depending on how strong I want the scent to be on my clothes. Mix it all up.
Pour in your cool container. Voila! Sit back with a cup of tea and enjoy your handiwork!
Isn't it pretty?!?
So, don't worry if you didn't get the recipe by reading that! Here it is in it's entirety!

2 C Borax
2 C Arm & Hammer WASHING soda
2 C OxiClean
1 bar of Zote soap
2-3 C Purex Crystals (depending on your preference)

1. Grate soap.
2. Add dry ingredients (EXCEPT for Purex Crystals) to the blender or food processor in layers and small batches. I like to do two batches and put in a layer of dry ingredients, then soap flakes, then more dry. This keeps the soap flakes from sticking to the blades of the appliance (believe me...this just makes a mess!!) Pulse until everything is combined and powdery.
3. Put in large mixing bowl. Add Crystals in the amount you choose. Mix well.
4. Put detergent in container of your choice. 
5. Use 1 Tablespoon for a regular size load. Use 2 Tablespoons for a large or heavily soiled load.

A few notes:

1.When I first started making my own detergent I used Fels Naptha soap (made by Purex) because that's what I found first. Those bars are smaller so if you can only find Fels Naptha you will need 2 bars of soap instead of 1. I like the smell of the Zote better, but some prefer the smell of the Fels Naptha, it's just a fresh, clean smell.

2. Purex Crystals are NOT fabric softeners. I always thought they were but they are scent enhancers, just like the Downy Unstoppables or the Gain Fireworks. You can choose to use Unstoppables or Fireworks if you would like. I used the Unstoppables in the second batch that I made but they started to discolor and turn brown after a while. I don't know if this was from extra exposure to oxygen (maybe from the OxiClean) but it didn't look very pretty and it bothered me. The Purex Crystals haven't done this. And I like the pretty look better :-)

3. Because the crystals are not a fabric softener I still use distilled white vinegar as a softener. I just add it directly to the softener distributor in my washer. I know others who put it in a dispenser in the machine like the Downy Ball. 

4. If you want to try this out without making so much start with half a bar of Zote soap (or 1 bar of Fels Naptha), 1 C of each of the dry ingredients, and 1 C of the crystals. A formulation like this lasted me about 6 weeks. That was enough time for me to determine if I wanted to make changes or not. For example, when I first started I didn't use OxiClean or scent enhancers. The 2nd batch I added those things but used the Unstoppables, which I mentioned I wasn't thrilled with. The third batch I switched to Zote soap (because that's what I could find, I wasn't intending to do this!) and I switched to the Purex Crystals. This is my favorite formula so far!! 

5. How long will this last me?? Well, that depends on how much laundry you do. Like I said I do at least 3 loads a day most of the time, 5 days a week. If you only do a 3 or 4 loads for the whole week, halving the recipe could last you 3-4 months. I expect this doubled recipe will last me 3-4 months, but it could last you 6-7 months. It's all relative to how much laundry you do. I do all super sized loads, so I almost always use 2 Tablespoons at a time. I made this last batch the week before Easter...I've barely put a dent in it so far! 

6. How much will this cost? That's a hard one too because it depends on where you get all of your ingredients at. According to Amazon all of the ingredients right now would run you about $42.87. But again, except for the soap you will get at least 3-4 batches of soap out of each box of the Borax, Washing Soda, about 2- 2 1/2 batches out of the OxiClean, and about 1 1/2 batches out of the Crystals. I figured I am probably making this and spending about $0.20- $0.25 a load. With Tide I'd be spending about $0.38 a load so that is a definite savings. And it lasts me a whole lot longer than a bottle of Tide would. So that's awesome. Plus, I'm LOVING the way it smells!

7. Can I use this in my front loader? Yes, yes you can! The Zote Soap and Fels Naptha are low sudsing soaps, which is exactly what you need to use in a front loader. I have read some people saying this gums up their detergent dispenser so they just started adding it directly to the drum and then added their clothes and it works fine. I still have a top loader so I can't give you much more information about that but I've read people have used it in front loaders with no problems. 

8) I use the blender, cheese grater, etc. that I use to cook with. Some people might freak out about that but I figure I use a lot of the same ingredients in my dishwasher detergent recipe so they come in contact with our utensils anyway. All the ingredients rinse off really clean and I see no residue after I clean them that concerns me. If it concerns you you can invest in appliances just to make cleaning products but I find that very expensive and not necessary! 

So there it is! My laundry detergent recipe. We love it! It gets everything out (even stubborn baby explosions!!) when I am diligent about pretreating stains like I should and it smells wonderful. I don't know that I will ever go back to commercial laundry detergent ever again!!

I'm still tweaking my dishwasher detergent. I loved it at first, but I'm not loving it as much right now. Once I get that perfected I will share it with you too! Happy cleaning!!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Family Field Whole Foods

You knew it was coming! This past weekend we took our first family trip to Whole Foods Market. We have two in our area, a smaller one that is 18 miles away and a larger one that is 28 miles away. We chose to go to the smaller one and just browse around and check things out. This trip was very informative for us and I wanted to share some of the things that we learned. 

#1- Saturdays at Whole Foods are very busy! I think this is true for any store but it seems like on Saturdays Whole Foods pulls out all the stops. There were samples everywhere!! It was great because we got to try a few products that we ended up buying (or will be buying in the near future-but more on that in a moment!) We also learned that buying any premade products from the deli (like tuna salad) are going to cost you big! (A small container of tuna salad-the half pound size was $8! Yikes! But admittedly- it was the most amazing tuna salad I've ever had! lol) So that leads us to rule #2.

#2- If you want to save money at Whole Foods stay away from the premade items. Don't journey over to the salad bar unless you want to drop some major dough! The soups and various salads taste fabulous but they will seriously drive up the end cost. 

#3- Not everything in Whole Foods is organic! I didn't know that! But everything in the store has to follow the list of banned ingredients so things there are considerably healthier than their counterparts that I might pick up at Kroger or Walmart. 

#4- The store brand 365 Everyday is very good. We got several items just to try them out and we have been very pleasantly surprised. We got their ruffled potato chips seasoned with sea salt. They were yummy. But we also learned that there quite a few brands of chips that would be considered "acceptable". For example, Kettle brand and Tarro. And these are often on sale at my local Kroger. Now, having said that chips are still junk food so buying them is for treats only and are not something we will suddenly keep in the house all the time just because they aren't full of artificial colors. 

#5- According to Steven "Eating healthy is expensive!" (I told him to shut up and stop being counterproductive! lol) And it definitely can be. But I learned that at Whole Foods just like other stores you want to shop the perimeter of the store and stay away from the inner aisles which house all of your prepackaged foods. That's where you are going to drop the money and get into the idea that "Well, it's from Whole Foods. It must be OK." Well, chips are still chips and boxed Mac and Cheese is still boxed Mac and Cheese. You don't want those things to make up the majority of your diet. But, I will be buying them occasionally because the break from cooking from scratch every meal, every day is one that I will be welcome I'm sure! 

So what did we buy? Well, let's take a look at a few things we were especially excited about, especially after we tasted them. 

We bought a couple different pasta sauces. One was this roasted vegetable. I guess it would be comparable to Ragu Chunky Garden Veggie. As soon as I got Steven to open the lid (Yup! I'm a wimp sometimes!!) I knew this sauce was going to be amazing! It smelled incredible in the jar. As we were eating dinner we just kept commenting on how it was so good. Steven couldn't believe I hadn't added anything to doctor it up. It didn't need it! It was just that good!

And take a look at the ingredient list. We were able to pronounce everything on it! Score!

Tomato Puree, Diced Tomatoes, Roasted Tomatoes, Roasted onions, Roasted Red and Green Bell Peppers, White Wine Vinegar, Roasted Minced Garlic, Salt, Expeller Pressed Soybean Oil, Cane Sugar, Basil, Oregano, Marjoram, Savory, Thyme, Parsley. 
 It truly was amazingly good. We have a roasted garlic sauce in the pantry that I can't wait to use. And at $1.89 a jar you better believe I will be stocking up on that stuff!

Next up was a cereal. It's made by a company called Three Sisters. This is their version of Lucky Charms. The marshmellows are colored with blueberry, pumpkin and other such natural colors derived from fruits and veggies. And the taste? Well, let's just say my kids will not miss Lucky Charms that's for sure! They love this cereal! And I will be going back for more of it, and others in the line. And the price- well, it was definitely comparable to other bagged cereals. One other thing I loved- they use 100% wind energy to create their product. How freakin' cool is that?!?!

What kid doesn't love Mac and Cheese- especially the kind that comes out of that blue box with neon orange cheese sauce?!? Well, I'm a little ticked off at the maker of that product right now so we are looking for an alternative. Yes, I know that making mac and cheese from scratch is super easy and much tastier (I make it, I know. It's awesome!) but sometimes you want an enjoyable shortcut. We haven't tried these yet, but I can't wait to see how they compare.

We wanted to try some of the body products so we snatched up the 365 Everyday Citrus Grapefruit body wash. It is yummy! It's made with essential oils, no artificial fragrances, no parabens and no sulfates. Win! Win! And this bottle was only $2.00! Not too shabby!

We also snatched up a big bottle of both the shampoo and conditioner. Again, no artificial colors, or fragrances. No parabens or sulfates. And it's is so scrumptious! And this big bottle of shampoo was only $3.89. Score again!!

As for toothpaste we are saying adios to Crest and Colgate and their neon blue messes! Our choice for right now is Tom's of Maine, which is a very reputable company. The good thing about Tom's is I can find it at any grocery or drug store around me so it's a good choice. The kids so far like the strawberry flavor, although I think the greyish tinge take a while to get used to when you're used to neon blue with sparkles! I'm already not missing the crusty blue mess left behind in the sink! lol

As an alternative to Goldfish crackers Whole Foods offers quack'n bites. Cute name. These little cheesy crackers are organic. And they are pretty tasty. They aren't as cheesy as Goldfish but since we don't buy them often I think these will be a good choice!

We got to try these awesome corn chips from Shagbark Seed and Mill at the store. The company is local-just outside of Columbus, OH. They are non-GMO certified (yippy!!) and in the next few years will be USDA certified organic as well. These chips were super crunchy. They will hold up to any salsa or cheese sauce out there. And I can pretty much assume that you could lather these things with some chili and they would not loose their crunch. The kids begged for a bag, and daddy was happy to appease! :-) These are going to taste awesome with my favorite local salsa from Remke!

Probably our favorite thing we tried was milk and butter from Snowville Creamery. They are a local creamery about 2 hours from us. Their cows are grass fed, they don't use growth hormones or antibiotics. Their milk is sourced, pasteurized, packaged and delivered to the store within 2 days! How fresh is your milk?  That's probably the freshest milk I've ever had! It was also the tastiest milk I've ever had. The kids went absolutely crazy over it, especially the chocolate, which tasted like a milkshake. It was amazing! It's as close to raw milk as we can get here since raw milk is illegal. And it is expensive- a half gallon was around $4! But we're discussing it because we think it would be worth it for good, quality milk. I wish they did home delivery in glass bottles. I'd totally be sold! lol I really want to try some of the recipes on their website. Wow! The custard style ice cream totally had me salivating!

So there you have it! Our first trip to Whole Foods and some of the things we learned and tried. I'm feeling very excited about this journey and can't wait to share more of it with you!

When a 3 Year Old Gets Your Phone

You never know what you're going to end up with!

Sometimes it's fun to see what the world looks like through their eyes! :-)