Monday, January 27, 2014

Easy Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

My kids love banana bread for breakfast. I often find myself buying a few loaves on special at Bob's Produce and freezing them for later use. I had a few over ripe bananas on my counter and I kid you not, I almost threw them away! 

I wasn't planning on making banana bread last night, so I needed a recipe containing minimal ingredients I could find in my cupboards.

3 over ripe bananas
1/3 cup butter
1 egg (beaten)
1 cup sugar
1 t. vanilla
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup chocolate chips

2 loaf pans (I used disposable)
mixing bowl
small bowl
cooking spray


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mash banana in mixing bowl.
  3. Melt butter in small bowl in microwave for approximately 35 seconds.
  4. Add butter to banana.
  5. Beat egg in small bowl.
  6. Add egg to mixing bowl.
  7. Add sugar, vanilla, baking soda and salt to mixing bowl and stir.
  8. Stir in flour.
  9. Add chocolate chips.

Pour batter evenly into two lightly greased loaf pans. They should be about half full.  Cook both pans at 350 for about 1 hour. I cooked mine about 65 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool before cutting.

I like to use the disposable loaf pans because it makes it easier to freeze. Disposable pans also make bringing baked goods places like play dates and last minute dinners easier. I don't like going to my friend's homes empty-handed and this banana bread recipe is easy to share and super kid friendly.

If I use my disposable container at home I hand wash it for reuse!

While my kids and I love chocolate chips, I can imagine you could add all sorts of goodies to your bread like nuts or dried fruit. Also, you could bake this recipe in muffin tins.

Do you add anything special to your banana bread?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Easy Mom Way to Cloth Diaper

This post is written for the mom or dad, who want the basics of cloth diapering and who want a list of what to buy when starting out. No bells and whistles. Imagine creating a gift registry for yourself to satisfy the needs of your cloth diapered baby in a few months.

I don't consider myself to be a lazy mom. In fact, in my old age of 31, the act of being lazy makes me a little uncomfortable. However, I do need things to be easy- or at least seem easy. I want the title of this post to appeal to the mom who may be considering cloth diapering but may have been hearing over and over how "hard" it is.

Cloth diapering is not hard. In fact, in a lot of ways, it has made my life easier! Did you ever have to go on that late night diaper run because you only had one left for the morning and, God forbid, the baby wakes up at midnight with a dirty diaper?

Been there. No, thank you.

You wouldn't believe how many people ask me about cloth diapering and I find myself joyously spewing bouts of word vomit about the topic. There are so many ways to cloth diaper. No one way is the sole right way of doing it, but my way is pretty easy.

In my experience, here is what you need:

12 Small Pocket Diapers
12-18 One-Sized Diapers
5 Covers
15 Prefolds or Cotton Lined Inserts
Cloth Diaper Detergent
Diaper Sprayer
Wet Bag
Travel Wet Bag
Drying Rack

12 Small Pocket Diapers
     Suggested brand: Charlie Banana 6 Reusable Diapers 12 Inserts - Size Small
2 Sets of small Charlie Banana can get you though the first 6 months. Especially, if you buy any additional diapers that are one-sized. Some would suggest skipping size small diapers all together because once baby out grows them you can't use them anymore. In my opinion, it helped me get used to cloth diapering by using a sized diaper in the beginning.

12-18 One-Sized Diapers
     Suggested brand: Charlie Banana 2-in-1 Reusable Diapering System, 6 Diapers plus 12 Inserts, One-Size.
One sized diapers have multiple rows of snaps to adjust to fit your baby as they grow. Most one-size diapers fit babies 8-35 pounds.

5 Covers
     Suggested brand: flip Stay-Dry Day Pack - Neutral - One Size (Snap) or Econobum One Size Cloth Diapers Trial Pack (White)
Covers, with a prefold or liner laid in, can take up less room in the diaper bag and can keep you from washing everyday. They an be a little more tricky to change but are less of a fuss to fold after washing. Also, my middle child never leaked out of covers.

15 Prefolds or Cloth Lined Inserts
     Suggested brand: OsoCozy 6 Pack Prefolds Unbleached Cloth Diapers, Size 1 or Flip Insert: Stay Dry 3-Pack
Unbleached prefolds (versus bleached) show less staining. I always trifolded prefolds into covers so I go with the smallest sized prefold, like size one or newborn.

Cloth Diaper Friendly Rash Cream
     Suggested Brand: CJ's BUTTer Tub o' BUTTer - Mango Sugar and Mint
Many rash creams for baby contain ingredients that can coat your cloth diapers and make them prone to leaking.

Cloth Diaper Detergent
     Suggested brand: Rockin' Green Classic Rock REMIX Formula in Bare Naked Babies Scent 45oz
I also use cloth diaper detergent for soaking towels every few months or spot cleaning on carpet.

Diaper Sprayer
     Suggested brand: Cloth Diaper Sprayer--styles may vary
The sprayer is not a necessity but it really comes in handy with spraying diapers down and all kinds of other kid messes.

Wet Bag
     Suggested brand: Planet Wise Hanging Wet/Dry Bag - Owl - 17" x 21"
Holds 20-24 diapers. A large wet bag is easy to leave near your toilet, tucked in a corner for no one to see or smell. You can also easily dump all contents of the bag into the washer and toss the bag in as well. I also use the bag to bring clean diapers up from the laundry.

Travel Wet Bag
     Suggested brand: Skip Hop Grab & Go Wet/Dry Diaper Bag, Chevron
Holds 8-10 diapers. Good bag to keep in your diaper bag or for near your changing table for the day.

Drying Rack
    Suggested brand: Household Essentials Folding Wood Clothes Drying Rack, Pre assembled
Most cloth diaper manufacturers suggest tumble trying diapers on low or hang drying to preserve the life of your diapers.

Now you are thinking, how much is all this going to cost me? Let's do the math on the high end of things. As in, shopping directly from Amazon without any research to the best deals or sales. There are so many options out there to cloth diaper your child.

Cost to cloth diaper:
12 Small Pocket Diapers $90.80 x 2
12-18 One-Sized Diapers $119.88 x 2
5 Covers $49.99 x 2
15 Prefolds or Cotton Lined Inserts $12.99
Cloth Diaper Detergent $15.95
Diaper Sprayer $15.97
Wet Bag $29.95
Travel Wet Bag $13.00
Drying Rack $16.00
= $625.00

Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. You are thinking, I thought you said this was supposed to be lazy! I thought you said this was supposed to be easy!

I agree. The list I gave you has a very high price point. Higher than even I have spent. Before we do the math on disposable diapers, I will remind you to do your homework on cloth diapers and buy when you can on sale! Also, I have cloth diapered 2 of my three children and used the same set of cloth for both.

Here is an approximate cost breakdown by age to disposable diaper one child until they are two and a half:

Cost to disposable diaper:
1 child 
0-3 months
15 diapers a day
$.20 a diaper
90 days x 15 diapers = 1350
1350 diapers x $.20= $270.00

4-8 months
10 diapers a day
$.20 a diaper
120 days x 10 diapers = 1200
1200 diapers x $.20 = $240

9-15 months
7 diapers a day
$.20 a diaper
180 days x 7 diapers = 1260
1260 diapers x $.20 = $252

15-30 months
5 diapers a day
$.20 a diaper
450 days x 5 diapers = 2250 diapers
2250 diapers x $.20 = $450

$270 + $240 + $252 + $450
= $1212.00

You can see how much money you save in the end by cloth diapering. Here are a few websites to learn more about cloth diapering and for purchasing:

Shop local and online:
All Things Diapers located in Blaine, Minnesota
Pea Pods located in St. Paul, Minnesota

Shop online:
Cotton Babies
Kelly's Closet

I would love to hear your comments about cloth diapering basics or any other items you think are necessary to cloth diapering!

Friday, January 17, 2014

25 Distractions for the Treadmill

Sometimes, the phrase "Summer bodies are made in the Winter" replays over and over in my head. Why, oh, why does the Winter here in Minnesota have to be so bad sometimes?

My running adventures, since having baby #3 in July, continued 6 weeks post-partum. I started slowly, one mile at a time, and was happy with my progress before the first snow fell.

I have too many kids depending on me to risk a running injury. While not all injuries can be prevented, running on ice in the dark made the probability of an injury - a near certainty.

My husband and I decided a gym membership was the safest way for me to get my exercise. I really miss the soul cleansing outdoor runs, but I am just happy I can get out after 9 months of longing for a run.

The treadmill has been taking some getting used to. It's easier and it's harder. I definitely like running outside more, and like I said earlier, the outdoors has a way of cleaning out the cobwebs in my head.

I get a good 3 miles into my treadmill runs and my mind just can't take any more. I have run four miles - once. Even if my body feels great, I seem to just give up out of shear boredom. I know I need to decided to run 4 from now on, but I really need some distractions to get that to happen, I think.

After a little searching, I thought I would share 25 treadmill distractions with you. I am sure we are all in need of a little distracting this time of Winter. How many days till Spring?
1. Create a New Playlist
Keep your anticipated treadmill workout in mind and pick as many new or inspiring songs for as long as you want to run. 

2. Do the Math
Count how many people are exiting or entering the gym. Or, count how many treadmills are going, how many people are shooting hoops or how many pieces of machinery you see. Kill more time by adding or subtracting these observations.

3. Try Out New Gear
Maybe you have been longing for a new pair of ear buds or have a pair of Nike shorts you have wanted to break out. The treadmill can feel new with a change of workout duds.

4. Hydrate
Plan out a water sip every few minutes.

5. Watch the Clock
Cover your treadmill projections and loosely anticipate you run time according to the gym clock. 

6. Try Some Printable Work Outs
Online running magazines and bloggers, like Fit Fab Cities, offer countless amounts of resources for changing up your treadmill and work out routine.

7. Race your neighbor
Imagine your treadmill neighbor is running the same race as you. Who's going to finish first?

8. Intervals (source: Runner's World)
Try a 10-minute warmup, 20 minutes of random intervals, and a 10-minute cooldown.

9. Speed Intervals (source: Runner's World)
 Try 3 x 3 minutes at about 10 seconds faster per mile than 5-K pace. Give yourself two minutes of easy jogging in between.

10. Sitcom Tempo Run (source: Runner's World)
Start with a 10-minute warmup, and move up to your tempo pace. Jog during the commercials, and resume the faster pace when the show comes back on. Cool down for five minutes.

11. Take a Class Following Your Run
Make plans to further your workout after your run. Get to the gym with enough time to squeeze your daily mileage in before you need to go on to the next workout.

12. Bring a Buddy
Unplug and talk about your day with a treadmill running partner.

13. Watch the Tube
Pick a treadmill with a TV tuned to a channel you don't usually watch.

14. Count Steps Per Breath
Immerse  yourself in your run.

15. Change Up Your Running Style (source: Fit Sugar)
Try high knees, running sideways or walking lunges. 

16. Take a Break
Feeling a little burnt out? Swap your usual treadmill routine with an outdoor run, class, or weights. Revisit your treadmill workouts feeling refreshed.

17. Bring Some Entertainment
Save a magazine you have been wanting to browse for the treadmill.

18. Find Some Inspiration
Bring a note or picture to inspire your run.

19. Cover the Display
Allow yourself to run by how you feel instead of what your treadmill reads.

20. Go for Negative Splits
Track each mile you are running and improve the following mile pace by 10 seconds.

21. Set Goals
Inspire your treadmill runs by always trying to achieve a goal for that day. Let each day bring you a new goal.

22. Incline (source: Runner's World)
Do faster workouts with no incline as well as slower-paced workouts with an incline. The slower uphill workouts build strength, while the faster flat workouts help you develop stamina, endurance, and quick footwork. 

23. Sign Up for a Race
Take the plunge and sign up for an outdoor race. Pick a training plan to accommodate your distance and countdown to race day.

24. Don't Compare
Remind yourself that running is fun! Run on the treadmill and remind yourself you choose to be there for the betterment of you. Don't worry about what others are doing.

25. Use a Running App (source: Her Campus)
While I keep track of runs with RunKeeper, choose to  link to your social media accounts so people can send you cheers along your run!

Anything else you can add to this list? Happy running!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Crock Pot Chicken Thighs with BBQ

A few months ago my mom "gifted" me a pack of frozen chicken thighs. At the time, I wasn't sure I could use them, but I just can't turn down a pack of meat!

I searched for a few recipes on Pinterest and found the easiest one I could find with my limited pantry this week.

The chicken thighs are extremely easy to work with and cook a lot faster than chicken breasts. They also have a great, tender consistency for being pulled apart.

Crock Pot Chicken Thighs with BBQ
1 Family Pack Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs (8-10 Pieces)
Season Salt
1 Cup BBQ

  1. Rinse and trim fat from chicken.
  2. Place chicken on cookie sheet and dust both sides of chicken with season salt.
  3. Broil chicken for 8-10 minutes.
  4. Remove chicken from oven and place in crock pot on high.
  5. Pour 1 Cup BBQ Over Chicken.
  6. Cook for 3 hours.
  7. Do not overcook.
  8. After 3 hours, pull apart chicken with tongs.
  9. Keep chicken on warm and refrigerate leftovers.

Serving Idea
Crock Pot Chicken Thighs with BBQ
Hoagie Buns
Raw Onion

  1. Slice buns.
  2. Spread butter on both sides.
  3. Place cheese on one side of bun.
  4. Broil 2-4 minutes.
  5. Remove buns from oven.
  6. Plate with crock pot chicken and raw onion.

Supper around here really doesn't get much easier than that!
Do you have a go-to chicken thigh recipe you use?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Bread Crumb Chicken Tenders for Kids

Bread Crumb Chicken Tenders
I often go to the frozen, bagged chicken nuggets from the grocery store. However, recently I purchased some chicken tenderloins and decided I would try breading them myself!

My kids gobbled them up like they were any other chicken nugget and I was a much happier mommy giving them real chicken to eat.

It is too easy to bread your own chicken tenders, bake and then freeze for later meals! I used a $.89 tub of bread crumbs from Aldi, but I am sure you can make your own, too.

Bread Crumb Chicken Tenders
3/4 lb raw chicken tenderloins
season salt
1 egg
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup bread crumbs
  1. Rinse and trim raw chicken
  2. Season with season salt.
  3. Dip tenderloin in flour.
  4. Dip tenderloin in egg.
  5. Roll tenderloin in bread crumbs.
Place tenderloins in greased 9 x 13 pan and bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until internal temperature reads at least 160. Usually, the tenderloins are done at 30 minutes but I like the extra crispy on the outside!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Crock Pot Potato Soup for Two and a Top Sirloin Marinade

Here are two super easy recipes I used for our supper tonight! On the menu? Top sirloin steak sandwiches and homemade potato soup.

I had a 2 lb top sirloin in the freezer and wanted to serve it on bread since it was a cheap cut. I decided to soak the steak in a good marinade for a few hours to enhance the flavor! I was really happy with the results.

I halved the recipe I found via All Recipes. I had plenty of marinade for the steaks with a 1/4 or so of waste. I suggest using my recipe if you are using a similar sized cut of steak or have smaller steaks still equalling 2 lbs, or so.

Top Sirloin Marinade
1/2 cup barbecue sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray's)

1. Peel & dice potatoes, layer on bottom of crock pot.
2. Add in onion, garlic & sprinkle seasonings evenly.
3. Pour in broth, cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours; the potatoes should be 'fork tender'.
4. Use an immersion blender or hand mixer to mash up potatoes until it reaches a thick, even consistency.
5. Add in sour cream, bacon, corn, cheese and stir until melted.
6.  Top with your choice of toppings!
I garnished our potato soup with some more cheese, crumbled bacon, and also added French's fried onions for a little crunch.
I had such a nice little Sunday night dinner with my little family. The soup and sandwiches were the perfect combination of food. I just love putting new spins on foods I familiar with, like steak. I also really enjoy trying something new! Especially, if I can get my husband to eat it and like it.

Did you do anything different for supper tonight?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

No Weekends for Moms - So What?

I can't help I still anticipate weekends. I hurry through Wednesday, watch my favorite TV shows on Thursday night, and finally - the glorious Friday finally arrives!
Ummm. Wait.
What the heck?! I am still doing all the usual stuff I do during the week. Where is mom's weekend? Do I sleep in? No. Do I get a break from household chores? No. If we run out of something, does someone else go pick it up? No. Does someone else clean? No. Does someone else cook meals? No.
To top it off, I had a long laundry list (oh, wait our wash machine is broken to top it off - joy!) of things to accomplish this Saturday with my husband working and also having a scheduled long run of 9 miles to complete at some point. However, one of my kids came down with a fever, snots and cough last night which hasn't gotten any better today.
After a quick breakfast of pancakes I pre-made a day ago, I smooched my husband on his way out to work, envious nonetheless, and hunkered down for an awesome Saturday trapped in the house. I groaned at the thought of it.
I sat in my "mama chair" for a little while, still crusty, bra less and crabby. I put on 101 Dalmatians for the kids, which we never do. They sat for a solid 15 minutes before getting bored and I was soon welcomed by two pink cheek faces at the foot of my chair.
"Ok, ok. " I thought to myself. This is ridiculous. Just because we can't go anywhere doesn't mean the whole day is ruined. I shook it off. I played with the kids for an hour or so, I tried to get my oldest to eat. I succeeded with an entire green apple.
I cleaned all the floors in the house, did the dishes, and picked up the bedrooms.
I took a shower, did my hair, and suddenly my day wasn't seeming so gloomy after all. Both kids where in great moods and I was clean! Those are two things I can't always count on...
When I take care of the things I need to in a day, it just can't turn out bad. If I would have sat in my chair all morning, waiting for Pete to come home, only to be re-crabby when he left for his run, I would have no good thoughts about this day.
But, I recognize this error in myself, to get all cranked up for no good reason at all, and I chose to make a better day out of day that was looking to be pretty ordinary.
After playing, we ate a "super special lunch" consisting of chicken tenders, cheese sticks, carrots and Popsicles. I made M&M cookies to kill some time, and I gave both the kids a bath. Which, I think, made them feel a whole lot better, too.
Post-bath silliness.
James started to wind down pretty fast and I put him down for his nap. David and I played with toys downstairs for a bit and cuddled under a big blanket, still wiping snot from his nose.
David went down for his nap shortly after James and now I am sitting in the peace and quiet of no husband, no kids, and no TV on. Just the ticking of writing this blog post. I even ate more than I should have of M&M cookies. Totally worth it.
Now that I accomplished things in my home today, I don't have a problem with asking my husband to sneak out for an hour and maybe go thrifting. Maybe I can run to Target and pick up a few things we need, and come home to surprise Pete with a 6 pack for tonight. Maybe we can watch a movie when the kids go to bed and hang out sweetly like we used to before we got married.
My day has a much more optimistic spin on it when I remind myself it wasn't ruined upon waking. It doesn't matter what day it is or what we planned for it. What counts, is that we make it the best day we can with whatever we are given.
I really need to think like this more often...

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