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Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Ice Cream Experiment

Today I decided to do a little experiment. The whole milk and whipping cream in the fridge had been begging me to make ice cream for a few days, and I finally got around to it. We don't have an ice cream maker, so I was just going to make it soft-serve style in plastic bags. Making it this way would be a perfect summer activity for kids. Shaking up the ice cream is almost like a game, and the reward is yummy ice cream! It's a win-win. :)

I was getting everything ready when I decided to do a little experiment. A bag of xylitol has been sitting in one of our cupboards for quite some time, and I thought it might be fun to try to make one batch of ice cream with xylitol and another with sugar. Xylitol is a healthy sugar alternative that Austin wasn't home to watch me make it, so he was the perfect test subject. ;)

To make these ice creams, you will need:

3/4 cup milk (the higher fat, the creamier it will be)
1/4 cup cream
2 Tbsp. sugar or xylitol
Splash vanilla

These amounts make enough for one decent size serving. (I would use half this much for a young child.)

Combine all ingredients in a sandwich size Ziploc bag. I double bagged each one, just in case. I have had them leak, so I play it safe. For this experiment, I made one serving of sugar ice cream and one serving with xylitol. This way we could both try a little of each kind.

I labeled them to make sure I didn't get them mixed up.


After that, I put them in a container with lots of ice and some salt. I put the lid on and shook it up! Zia was especially fussy today, so it took longer than I expected to finish it. (I confess, I even put it in the baby swing for a little while so I could have my hands free to take care of Little Z. We think she's starting to get her first tooth. :( )

When the ice cream had gotten to a soft-serve consistency, the textures of the two batches were pretty different. That surprised me, since xylitol is supposed to behave just like sugar in recipes. The xylitol batch was not quite as thick as the sugar one. I split each bag into two different containers (so Austin and I could each have our own to taste), and stuck them in the freezer.

A few hours later, after Austin got home and we had dinner, it was time for the moment of truth. I got out the four little containers and we both tried them. Austin didn't know what made them different at first, but I told him once he had tasted both. The sugar ice cream was a little harder and sweeter, while the xylitol ice cream was a little easier to scoop with our spoons and was a little more lightly sweet.

After a few more bites, we decided that we actually liked the xylitol ice cream better! Austin said that one with both sugar and xylitol might be the best, but that's beside the point. The texture was just a little better, and I liked that the sweetness was more mild.

All in all, Experiment Ice Cream was a success. Next time, I think I might try making it with canned coconut milk. And maybe some fruit or something.

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised today by the discovery of (healthy) sugar free ice cream that tastes really good! It was even homemade.

Take some time with your kiddos to give this recipe a "shake." The results are delicious!

-Malia

Friday, August 2, 2013

Spice Cupboard Makeover

Hey, everyone!

Lately I've been spending more time in the kitchen. Not much more, but enough that my mess of a spice cupboard started getting to me.


Pretty bad, right? There was no real rhyme or reason to it, and I ended up having to take out half the spices to find what I was looking for. Since I've had a little more time to cook lately, I decided it was time for a change.

All you need for this cupboard makeover is a few small plastic tubs.

I started by taking everything out and organizing it into three categories--main dish spices, dessert spices, and birthday things/miscellaneous. I put each category into its own little plastic tub, like so.


Our cupboards are a little too shallow to fit the tubs with the skinny side facing out, so I put the tubs sideways with the most-used spices out front.


The birthday things and cupcake liners ended up on top, dessert things in the middle, and main dish spices on bottom. I like the way it turned out! Now I know where to look for things when I need them, and I can pull the whole tub out to look for what I need.

One cupboard down, lots more to go! Baby steps, right?

What are some of your tips and tricks for organizing in the kitchen?

Thanks for reading!

-Malia

Crock Pot Quickies

Hey, everyone!

This post is dedicated to one of my new best friends--my crock pot.



Some people call it a slow cooker--same thing. Point being, that thing is a lifesaver. As a new mom, tasks like cooking end up on the back burner (pun somewhat intended). You're busy enough nursing/making bottles, changing diapers, cuddling, and loving your new little person. Little Z doesn't give me much time to cook, so I have turned to my crock pot a lot more lately than I ever have before. I thought I might take a minute to share some of the quick-and-easy recipes that we have enjoyed. (Keep in mind that there are lots of more complicated recipes that would be considered healthier. The goal with these recipes is simply speed. It takes just a minute or two to throw these guys together, meaning you get back to your baby before they even know you're gone.)

Note: The amounts in my recipes are enough for dinner for two with leftovers for one. My hubby likes to take the leftovers to work the next day, which works out perfectly. If your family is bigger (or smaller), these recipes could easily be tweaked to suit.

Quickie Crock Pot Teriyaki Chicken
1/2 bottle Teriyaki marinade (I used Target's brand. You can find it near the salad dressings and such.)
2-3 chicken breasts (I always use frozen.)
1-2 cups brown rice
Twice as much water as rice (For two people, 2 cups water and 1 cup rice should be about right.)

Grease crock pot. Put in chicken and pour marinade on top. Cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-8 hours. Start rice about 50 minutes before serving. Boil water and rice (remember, 2 to 1), turn to low, cover, and allow to simmer for 45-55 minutes. I like to stir it once or twice just to make sure it cooks evenly. Remove chicken from marinade and shred. Serve over rice. Pour a little of the sauce back over the chicken to taste. Discard extra sauce.

Quickie Crock Pot Lemon Pepper Chicken
1/2 bottle Lawry's Lemon Pepper Marinade (Target makes the same thing for a little cheaper.)
2-3 chicken breasts
Brown rice

Instructions are the same as above.

We enjoyed this one for dinner tonight. Yum!



Quickie Crock Pot Salsa Chicken Quesadillas
1/2 bottle medium salsa (Any salsa would work--pick one that is as mild or hot as you like.)
2-3 chicken breasts
3-4 large whole wheat tortillas
1-2 cups shredded cheese of your choice (sharp cheddar is our favorite)
Butter
Sour cream, Guacamole, and any other fixings that you want on the side.
Optional: chili powder and seasoned salt for a little extra flavor. I've also heard of people doing salsa and a packet of taco seasoning. It's the same idea, but I thought it had plenty of flavor with just a little bit of extra spice.)

Cook chicken as described above. If adding extra spices, put them in after you've added your salsa. When chicken is done, shred it and set aside. Heat a large skillet to medium heat. Melt about 1/2 Tbsp. butter before frying your quesadillas. I like to layer it cheese, meat, cheese. We have found that they are a little less messy to eat if you fold them in half instead of putting your filling between two flat tortillas. Brown on both sides, making sure that the cheese is fully melted. Serve with sour cream, guacamole, salsa, and anything else that you like with your quesadillas.

Quickie Crock Pot Orange Chicken (via Six Sisters' Stuff)
1 cup orange marmalade
1 cup BBQ sauce (my husband's favorite is Sweet Baby Ray's)
3 Tbsp. soy sauce (I used Bragg's Liquid Aminos for a healthy, low-sodium substitute.)
3-4 chicken breasts
Brown rice

Combine all ingredients in greased crock pot and cook as described above. It doesn't taste quite like your typical orange chicken, but this version was a real winner with my husband. Probably because it has his all-time favorite BBQ sauce in it. :)

Those are just four quick fixes, and they can all be done with frozen chicken in just a few minutes. Give them a try when you want to give your family a yummy dinner without taking too much time away from your tiny.

Circle Quilt Play Mat

Hello, again!

I have done lots of projects in the past few weeks that I would like to blog about, including a sleep sack for Little Z, maxi dress, pencil skirt, organizing cupboards in the kitchen, and lots more! I hope to eventually teach myself to write tutorials, but most of these posts will be pictures of the finished product with a link to the tutorial I used. :)

This post is devoted to one of my latest projects--a personalized circle quilt play mat for my old boss's baby. The new little guy's name is Bo, and his name was so short, I just had to applique it onto something. I searched my Pinterest "So Much to Sew" board (link HERE), and I found this little circle quilt tutorial by Jaybird Quilts. I imagined putting Bo's name in the middle, and I thought it would be the perfect project.

I couldn't find the ten degree wedge ruler described in the tutorial, so I searched until I found instructions on how to make my own. I read a few different things, but I ended up making a ruler that was 22 1/2 inches long and 1 inch wide on one end, 4 7/8 wide on the other. It wasn't perfect, and I would probably go ahead and buy the ruler if you decide to do this project. Be that as it may, it turned out pretty okay. :)

Here are a couple of pictures.


The top uses 36 of the pieces cut with template described above. I repeated the main fabric and some of the solid colors, and I like the way it turned out. I free-hand appliqued Bo's name onto the center before I quilted the three layers together.

Since the quilt top was wider than the fabric I wanted to use for the back, I ended up piecing together a few long, skinny strips to widen it a little bit. I think I like the way it looks like this even better than I would have liked it with just one fabric on the back.

 Not too shabby! :) I am definitely an amateur blogger, and my picture taking skills are lacking. I wasn't really thinking about blogging about this blanket when I took these pictures. I just wanted to remember how cute it turned out! Anyway, I will try to take better pictures in the future.

And for you young wives and moms who don't yet have your dream craft room or even a desk to set up your sewing machine on--don't give up! You can sew anywhere. Since we got our two floral hand-me-down couches (one of which is behind my sewing machine in the picture), I haven't had a place for my craft table in our tiny apartment. I wasn't going to let that stop me, though! I set up my machine on the floor, and it worked just fine. (Though I will admit that my back didn't like all that time sitting and sewing!)


I hope you give this project a shot. It is pretty quick and easy, and the product is adorable!

Happy sewing! :)

-Malia

Brand New Day, Brand New Blog

Hello!

I'm Malia. Welcome to my blog! Let me tell you a little about myself.

I am a wife and stay at home mom--wife to Austin and mom to Zia, the "A to Z" of my life and blog title. :) They are my two loves. As far as hobbies go, I love crafts, sewing, baking, and trying things I see on Pinterest. I also love reading and writing, which is one of the reasons I originally started my old blog soon after we got married (link HERE). I called it "After I Do." It was full of tips and tricks for life after the honeymoon, including organizing, decorating, deals, and food ideas. We got pregnant not long after, so you can also see some of my pregnancy story on that blog. I loved blogging and sharing my ideas and projects, but I started to feel like I had outgrown the newlywed phase that my blog was all about. I have lots more fun ideas and projects that I have wanted to blog about, and after lots of thought, this blog was born. Here, you will find crafts, sewing, DIY projects, recipes, things I've tried from Pinterest (that may or may not have worked out), and updates on our little family (among other things, I'm sure). I didn't want to limit my new blog to any phase of life or niche, so it's simply "Everything Springer A to Z."

I hope you find your way back here soon!

-Malia