Thursday, September 26, 2013

Citrus Lane September Box Review

Greetings! I am going to start adding Citrus Lane box reviews to my blog because the boxes are just so much fun and because so many people either don't know what it is, or wonder if it is worth the money. My friend referred me to Citrus Lane. Her son and mine got their first boxes this month. They are close in age, right around 2 years old, so they get the same box. If you aren't familiar with Citrus Lane, they send monthly boxes with age appropriate goodies for your little one (baby to age 3) and a little something for mommy! They are just so much fun and they send wonderful items. Here is our first box:

 He was pretty curious about what was in the box. He took his time removing each item. THEN, he found food! Exciting, right! There was Super Toddler Bar from Happy Family. When they say "Super", they aren't lying! This bar was huge and it was organic! Even better! He scarfed it down after sharing a bite with mommy and daddy. It really was delicious and like I said, it was really large.

Another item included was a charming board book, "Charlie Harper ABC's" from Ammo Books. The illustrations in this books are absolutely beautiful. We love to read, so this was definitely nice to receive this.

There was also a 3.4 oz. tube of Playful Wash from Episencial, which doesn't sound big, but it was a good size tube. My son was excited to play with this for some reason. This is a wonderful smelling wash that contains tangerine oil , aloe, and calendula. I particularly love it because it rinses quickly (and I mean quickly!) from hair and doesn't burn the eyes. My son hates having his hair rinsed, so this is a great wash for him! We love the smell too!

The last item for him was a set of City Planner Blocks from Hape Toys. These are so neat. None of us could stop playing with them! We enjoyed making all sorts of different towers with them. They are brightly colored which makes them even more fun!

Mom's goody this month was a bottle of nail color from Julep. Mine was a beautiful dark, rich shade. I love it.

Also included were coupons and coupon codes for each item that was included in the box.

So was it worth it? Let's do the math.

Charlie Harper ABC Book- $7.96 (Amazon)
City Planner Blocks- $9.99 (Amazon)
Playful Wash- $9.00 (Episencial)
Super Toddler Bar- $0.84 (Amazon)
Nail Color- $14.00 (Julep)

Total= $41.79

I would say that is a pretty good deal considering the cost of the box is regularly $25. I had a referral from a friend which made my box even cheaper, so I'm totally happy with our first box.

If you would like to try Citrus Lane for your little one, you can use my referral code and get $10 off your first box. Try it out! I know you will like it! It makes a great gift from grandmas, grandpas, aunts, and uncles too!

Use this link for your referral:

Thanks and have a great day!

Momma Makes it Better!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Homemade Ranch Dressing

 Good bye bottled Ranch dressing! You are going to absolutely LOVE this homemade Ranch dressing. It is simple to make and you can make it full fat or light. I of course make it full fat, because well, that is just what I do. I don't buy low fat or skim products due to the fact that they have to replace that fat with something else, usually a high sugar carbohydrate, as I learned in my college Food Science courses. And you can forget artificial sweeteners! No thanks. I'll take the real thing. 100 Days of Real Food has a snippet on why to not choose the low-fat versions. Check your labels before you buy. You may not realize what you are actually getting. Ok, end rant. Back to the Ranch. Go make some!
First, you will need to make the seasoning mix. This can be used to season other things as well, not just to make the dressing, so it is handy to have in the cupboard. There are two recipes below. One is for a small supply, and one is for a larger bulk supply to keep on hand. Caffeinated Chronicles was nice enough to break the larger recipe down from The Crafty Blog Stalker. Choose whichever you wish.

Small Batch
2 1/2 T Parsley Flakes
1 1/2 T Onion powder
1 T Garlic Salt
 1/2 T Black Pepper
 1/2 T Garlic Powder
3/4 t Sea Salt
3/4 t Dill Weed

Large Batch
1 1/2 C Parsley Flakes
3/4 C Onion Powder
1/2 C Garlic Salt
1/4 C Black Pepper
1/4 C Garlic Powder
2 Tbsp. Sea Salt
2 Tbsp. Dill Weed

Now to make the dressing. This is the mixture that I have come up with and think is the best tasting. I have tried other mixtures from other blogs and mine mixture is my favorite, go figure. Mix together:

2 Tbsp. prepared seasoning mix
1 C Sour Cream
1 C Plain Greek Yogurt
1/2-1 1/4 C Whole Milk (Depending on desired thickness and taste. Start with 1/2 C and add from there.)

There are many ways you can make this dressing. This recipe is how I make it, but you can experiment using any combination of milk, buttermilk, plain Greek yogurt, sour cream, and mayo. I will add that I do not care for it with buttermilk in it. It is too sour for my taste.

I really hope you enjoy this Ranch Dressing. We find it to be delicious!

Momma Makes it Better!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sausage Balls

Here is a great recipe to use with your homemade All-Purpose Baking Mix! We scarf these little goodies down at my house and they are really easy to make. I found the original recipe at Plain Chicken and we have been enjoying them ever since. They would be perfect for a party, picnic, or pot luck, but we just can't wait for such an occasion to arise, so we make them for dinner and serve them with a few side dishes to make a meal. The recipe below is fairly plain and simple. Keep in mind that these would be amazing with other items added in, such as diced apples or onions. You could also use different seasoned sausages or your favorite cheese.

Here is what you will need:
  • 1 pound bulk sausage, uncooked
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups All-Purpose Baking Mix
  • 4 oz. cheddar, grated (Yes, grate your own cheese. Much better and less additives!)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Mix all ingredients until well combined. I use my hands.
Roll into 1-inch balls and place on a jelly roll pan sprayed with olive oil.
Bake 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.

I hope you enjoy these! They are absolutely amazing!!!

Momma Makes it Better!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

All-Purpose Baking Mix

Here it is! This is the recipe I was so excited to share! Yes, baking mix! We have several recipes that we just couldn't stand to give up, but I am not too impressed with the ingredients in the boxed all-purpose mix from the store.

Needless to say, I was beyond stoked to see that one of my favorite blogs has a recipe for a DIY All-Purpose baking mix. Thank you DIY Natural!

So here is my version of the recipe. For the original organic version, please visit DIY Natural. Go make some now!

  • 6 cups flour- I use 3 cups whole wheat and 3 cups all-purpose
  • 1/4 cup Aluminum-free baking powder
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 cup cold butter-Yes, butter-no margarine please (Yuck)!
Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Cut cold butter into small pieces and add to dry mixture. Cut butter into mixture using a pastry blender or fork (I use my hands and it is much easier for me) until butter is thoroughly incorporated.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Mixture will keep until the expiration date on the butter that you used. You may want to mark that date on your storage container.

Now how easy is that! Plus, you don't have all those nasty added ingredients!

I will post some recipes using this great baking mix in the near future. Until then, you can check out DIY Natural for a biscuit and pancake recipe. Happy cooking!

Momma Makes it Better!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Absolutely Perfect and Easy Pizza Dough

Disclaimer: This recipe uses white flour! I have not tried it yet with whole wheat, but I will be experimenting with it soon.

So now that you have read the disclaimer and are okay with the fact that this recipe uses white flour (I know it's bad, but this recipe is oh so good), get ready to make a dough that comes out perfect every time! I have to give all the credit to Lauren's Latest for creating this superb recipe! She has far more amazing photos than I do and if you want step by step photos, check out her page.

Here is what you will need:
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 1/4 tsp. Active Dry yeast
  • 1 Tbsp. Honey
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 cups bread flour (give or take- I use all-purpose and it turns out perfect)

I use a stand mixer set with a dough hook, but a large bowl and spoon will work too. Stir yeast and honey into warm water. Allow it to sit for 5 to 10 minutes, or until it begins to bubble or foam. Add salt, oil, and half of the flour. Mix. Once that flour is incorporated, begin adding the remaining flour until you get a consistency that is slightly tacky, but does not stick to your hands. Lauren's Latest has great pics of this. Once the dough has reached desired consistency, knead in the mixer (or by hand) for 6 minutes (maybe longer if hand kneading). Yes, 6 minutes. Set a timer. I promise the ends results will be worth the effort of timing it. My son loves staring at the mixer going around and around for 6  whole minutes, so this provides toddler entertainment as well. :) After 6 minutes in the mixer, the dough should be very smooth and elastic. The bowl should be clean. Lightly grease bowl and dough. Cover and let rise for 1-2 hours, or until double in size. Then it is ready to be rolled out and used. Makes about a pound of dough.

For pizza: I sprinkle cornmeal on parchment paper and then roll my dough into a circle on that. That makes it really easy transfer to my pizza stone. I preheat my oven to 400-500 degrees F with my stone inside (I prefer 400 degrees. 500 will make a much more crunchy crust). Top with all of your yummy toppings and transfer to stone (simply lift parchment paper and put directly on stone. Easy!). Bake 15-20 minutes, or until cooked through.


Momma Makes it Better!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

I started making all of our bread and such at home, from scratch. This is what prompted me:

I found this bag of store bought bread in the back of my pantry. We had opened it several weeks earlier and didn't use it all. Still looks pretty good, right? That is what freaked me out. This opened package of bread had been sitting there for weeks and was still soft and had not signs of mold. I am concerned as to what additives and preservatives are being added to our foods and what they are doing to our bodies. This is why we are trying to make as many things from scratch as possible, to cut out these additives and preservatives.

So now I had to find a bread recipe. I wanted one that didn't use white flour and had as few ingredients as possible. I stumble upon the perfect recipe at Make it Love it Share it. There is a dandy recipe for Honey Whole Wheat Bread. I decided to give it a try and it is what I have been making ever since. No bagged store bought bread has found its way into my house. Not a hot dog bun, hamburger bun, or tortilla! Be sure to check out my homemade whole wheat tortilla post. Now on to making this delicious bread!

You will need:
  • 3 Tbsp. Active Dry Yeast
  • 4 cups really warm water
  • 1/2-3/4 cup honey
  • 10- 11 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (freshly ground, if possible-I don't have a grinder, unfortunately, so I just buy already ground flour)
  • 3 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4-1 cup add-ins, if desired: oats, ground flax seeds, sunflower seeds, etc. (I use oatmeal because I love it and for its health benefits. I would love to find ground flax seeds around here because I love those too.)
  • olive oil (I have mine in a stainless cooking oil sprayer as an alternative to commercial cooking sprays. I LOVE it!)
Now to make your delicious bread:
  1. If you need to grind your wheat, do so now. Otherwise move ahead.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl, if not using a mixer), add water, yeast and honey. Mix well and let sit for 5-10 minutes, until a bubbly foam appears.
  3. Add flour. I attach the dough hook and stir while adding flour. I add all 10 cups, 1/2 cup repetitively, until all 10 cups are in. I have never needed the extra 1 1/2 cups.
  4. Add salt and any of your add-ins and mix gently until incorporated.
  5. Knead in the mixer for 4-6 minutes (maybe longer if hand kneading). I usually set it at speed 4-6 for this and let it do the work. This is a sticky dough. Knead just until it pulls away from the bowl.
  6. Let dough rise for 15 minutes.
  7. Grease the back of your hand and punch down the dough really well.
  8. Form into loaves. I shape mine into a large loaf on the counter and cut into 3 pieces with a large bread knife.
  9. Put loaves into 3 greased pans. I don't have 3 loaf pans so I use what I have. 
  10. Let rise in pans for 30 minutes. (*Tip from Make it Love it Share it: Let dough rise in the microwave with a steaming cup of water, microwave off, of course. This works great.)
  11. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 30 minutes. (*Tip from Make it Love it Share it: Put a large glass baking dish of water on the bottom rack while baking the bread. I do it and my bread comes out perfect.)
  12. Remove from pans and cool on wire racks.

For additional pictures during each step, visit Make it Love it Share it.


Momma Makes it Better!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Taco Seasoning

I have used this recipe for years as an alternative to the taco seasoning that comes in a pouch at the store. The ingredients are most likely already in your spice cupboard and this tastes much better, without additives and msg. I am from Ohio, in the heart of Amish country. I found this great little cookbook at a store in Mt. Hope and it has long since been one of my favorites! It just so happens to have a great recipe for taco seasoning. Also, Mt. Hope has this great health food store, run by local Amish, that sells bulk spices, as you can see below. We no longer live in Ohio, but my dear mother-in-law sends me what I need and keeps me supplied! God bless her!


Here is what you will need:
  • 1 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
Combine all ingredients and mix well. Store in an airtight container if not using right away. This recipe is equal to one store bought packet, about 3 Tbsp. You could make a large batch and use 3 Tbsp. each time a "packet" was needed. This is such a great blend and a wonderful alternative to the pre-packaged taco seasonings. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
Momma Makes it Better!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Homemade Ketchup

I had never had homemade ketchup in my life. I had never even thought about making such a thing. I just always grabbed a bottle at the grocery store. As I become increasingly aware of all the additives and preservatives in our food, I decided to give making a ketchup a try. We live in military housing, so we don't have much room for a garden. We planted tomatoes in a container garden this year and the NC coast heat pretty much left ruined our crop. There definitely was not enough to make and can anything. I did, however, find this great recipe at the DIY Natural blog that anyone can make. No garden needed! They have perfected this homemade ketchup recipe. It is delicious!

Here is what you will need:

  • 1 can (6-7) ounces tomato paste (they called for organic, but I use Hunt's all natural)
  • 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup water (they called for filtered water, use what you are comfortable with*)
  • 1 tsp. sea salt (is there any other type of salt? Just kidding, but that is all I use)
  • 1/4 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/8 tsp. garlic powder
Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan over med-high heat. Whisk to blend ingredients until smooth.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, scraping sides and bottom of pan as needed. Simmer until desired thickness is reached, 20-25+ minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Transfer to a jar, seal, and refrigerate.

This recipe made about 3/4 of a pint. It should keep in the refrigerator for at least a month*. You can also preserve large batches using the water bath canning method, if desired.

*Betsey Jabs from the DIY Natural blog states that "Regular tap water would work, but it may shorten the shelf life of your ketchup because tap water contains contaminants. If using tap water, boil it for about 15 minutes before adding it to your recipe & this should help."

Thank you, DIY Natural, for another delicious recipe!

Momma Makes it Better!