Thursday, April 7, 2011

Finally some craftiness!

Of course, it would be work-related craftiness, but a girl has to make do with what she's got, right?  

Last week I had to tie-dye a pair of tee shirts for a display at work.  The tie-dye kit provided enough dye for up to eight regular shirt, so I had a TON leftover.  What's a crafty girl to do with all that leftover dye?  I could have poured it down the drain, but where's the fun in that?  

Instead, I grabbed four new, white newborn baby bodysuits and proceeded to tie-dye the heck out of them.  

They came out pretty darn cute, if I do say so myself.  

Now I just can't wait to have a squishy little baby to put in them! 

Simple Foods: Tuna Helper? I think not!

I ran across another great recipe last week that is a perfect substitute for yet another convenience food pitfall.  You know the one I'm talking comes in the box.  With all the salt.  And the preservatives.  And the sauce powder.  

I'm the first to admit that I frequently grab for boxed convenience foods on evenings when I've had to work all day, or when the kitchen is cluttered, or when I'm just feeling plain lazy and don't feel like cooking.  Bad, bad, I know, but hey, nobody's perfect!  

Imagine my surprise to find a recipe that fits all the same criteria as that certain boxed dinner:  it's quick, it's tasty, the kids gobble it up, but it's healthier!  It's made from real ingredients, not freeze dried vegetables and seventeen other things I can't pronounce.  

Like most of my recipes, I found this one on  The actual recipe is here, accompanied by photos and reader comments, but I'll give you the quick and dirty version below:


  • 1 (12 ounce) package egg noodles
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 2 (6 ounce) cans tuna, drained
  • 2 (10.75 ounce) cans condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/2 (4.5 ounce) can sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup crushed potato chips

  • Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook pasta in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente; drain. 
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C)
  • In a large bowl, thoroughly mix noodles, onion, 1 cup cheese, peas, tuna, soup and mushrooms. Transfer to a 9x13 inch baking dish, and top with potato chip crumbs and remaining 1 cup cheese. 
  • Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until cheese is bubbly. 

The only changes I made were to omit the mushrooms (we're not fans), and to use cream of chicken soup instead of cream of mushroom, because it's what I had on hand.  The result?  A cheesy, flavorful casserole that the entire family enjoyed!  I will definitely make this casserole again, and I'm excited to have found a good standby recipe that works even better than boxed convenience food when I'm pressed for time or feeling like a lazy cook!  

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Crafting Sanity: How I Make Time

There hasn't been a whole lot of crafting going on in the Crafting Sanity household lately, what with the impending baby arrival (in 7 weeks!!).  Most of my time lately is spent trying to whip the house into shape, getting birth supplies together, and getting myself in the right head space to deliver a baby.  All these things are time consuming and leave little downtime leftover for craftiness, and I'm feeling the lack of creativity very much.  

But, even though I don't have the time to sit down and spread out a project on the kitchen table doesn't mean I'm not doing something crafty every day.  Even if I'm just picking up the knitting needles for ten minutes here or there during a cleaning break, I'm still making progress toward finishing a project.  My goal every day is to have at least 30 minutes of "Crafty Time" to work on one of the many projects I have in progress.  I've learned over time, that if I go too many days without making something, I tend to get a little grumpy.  So, for the peace of the family, I craft.  When Mama gets to craft, Mama's happy.  And when Mama's happy....well, you know how that one goes. 

Why does being crafty matter so much to me?  I guess because, in the end, home made matters.  I treasure things that are created out of love, and with a skill learned from family members, and passed on to loved ones.  Creating something from a pile of raw materials is slowly becoming a lost art in our consumerist, import everything culture, but I don't want to lose the magic and treasure of handmade items in my own life.  I want my kids to grow up with an appreciation of this type of skill, no matter the finished project, and to realize they don't have to buy something at the local mall for it to be worth something.  A handmade gift, however imperfect, is more precious than anything that can be bought in a store. 

Crafting keeps me sane.  It's as simple as that.  So it's important that I make time to work with my hands, to create something beautiful (or not so beautiful!) to feel healthy spiritually and mentally. 

Craft as about that?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Simple Foods: Homemade Chocolate Syrup

For a very long time, I've wanted to adapt my families mostly processed and commercially produced diet to one that concentrated more on simple, whole, healthful foods.  

I've discovered that the trick to making the switch is not to overhaul the entire kitchen at once - that's definitely a recipe for failure!  Instead, I'm concentrating on slowly replacing convenience or processed foods that we eat very frequently with simpler, healthier, homemade alternatives.  

Case in point: chocolate syrup. 

I love chocolate milk, and I drink it an average of three times per week, sometimes more now that I'm pregnant.  If I'm craving something sweet and chocolaty, I'll mix up some Hershey's syrup into a tall glass of cold milk, and my craving will be satisfied.  But, I don't kid myself that chocolate syrup is healthy for me in any way, shape, or form.  I mean, with ingredients like these:

High fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, waster, cocoa, sugar, potassium sorbate, salt, mono- and di-glycerides, xanthan gum, polysorbate 60, vanillin, and artificial flavor.   (Taken directly from the Hershey Syrup bottle.)
you really can't say there's any nutritive value in there at all!  

Yesterday, I stumbled across this recipe that someone on a healthy living forum shared.  You can find the original recipe, with photos and feedback here, but I've provided the ingredients and basic instructions below.

Homemade Chocolate Syrup


  • 1 cup cocoa powder

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar

  • 1 dash salt

  • 1 1/2 cups water

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • Mix all ingredients in a sauce pan.  Bring to a boil for 3-5 minutes, until mixture begins to thicken.  Store in an airtight jar in the refrigerator. 

    How simple is that?  Five easy (and easily pronounceable!) ingredients, and five minutes on the stove and you have your own chocolate syrup!  No guessing what's in it, no plastic bottle to throw away, no high fructose corn syrup going into your body!  

    Now obviously, even the homemade chocolate syrup isn't terribly healthy, but at least it is made with natural ingredients that weren't cooked up in a chemistry lab, yes?  So now I think I can feel much better about giving my kids the occasional mug of chocolate milk, or drinking one myself, now that I know I can make a much healtheir, more wholesome version of a much-relied on chocolate treat!  

    Have you tried out this recipe, or have another great homemade recipe that replaces a store bought, processed convenience food?  I'd love to hear about it!  Just drop me a note!