Monthly Archives: June 2014

New Uses for Coconut Oil

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Coconut oil is great for cooking, but I use it more frequently for a myriad of other uses. I buy the 54 ounce jar at Costco and put smaller amounts in Tupperware containers for using outside of the kitchen. I keep some in my bathroom to use on my skin after showering (in lieu of costly natural lotions), and I had another container in my twins’ bedroom to use on Little Sister’s eczema during the colder months. The Carrington Farms brand is cold pressed, unrefined, organic, and has a great price at Costco. This blog has well-researched information about this brand of oil, and I’ve always been pleased with the quality and taste of the oil.

Recently, I read this blog post on how to refinish furniture with coconut oil, and decided to give it a try on our kitchen cabinets. We have only been in this house for twelve months, but our kitchen cabinets are made of knotty alder, which is a softer wood than oak. We loved the look of the wood when the cabinets were new, but it didn’t take long for them to get terribly scratched, nicked, and scuffed. 20140610-221924-80364979.jpg I figured if coconut oil worked on an old table, it could help my scratched cabinets too. I was amazed at the difference.

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After I saw how great this cabinet door looked, I started using coconut oil to clean and repair the rest of the cabinet doors. I don’t mind using this while the babies are running around because the oil won’t hurt them at all and could even moisturize their skin.

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These drawers have taken a beating. When the babies started crawling around the house, I put a small dowel rod vertically through all the handles to keep them out. Hubby didn’t like that, so I removed everything from the bottom two drawers, and the girls climbed in and out. They love to play in those drawers! One day I will get them back. I digress. Anyway, the reason he didn’t like the dowel rod in there was because the drawers were getting scratched as you can see in the photo above. He was so upset over how easily scratched our cabinets were that he wanted to replace them. It’s a good thing I learned how to fix them. Here is what the drawers look like now. Beautiful again.

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I read several months ago that you can use baby oil on your stainless steel appliances to remove finger prints, but I don’t ever buy baby oil, so I hadn’t tried it. I hadn’t ever thought about using coconut oil until I had it on my cloth right there under the microwave. It worked well on stainless steel too! Here are before and after photos of the oven door.

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This is not a terribly time-consuming project unless you are type A and have to finish the whole room at one time. I have been taking my time and working on the worst cabinets first. I have been using a clean spoon to get a scoop of oil out and just set it on my counter while I work below it. One spoonful of oil will do several doors. I take a clean paper towel and get a grape-sized amount and smear it over the scratches and then wipe to cover the whole door–inside and out. After everything has been covered, I use a clean cloth to remove any excess oil and buff the wood. I have found that the coconut oil not only moisturizes and repairs scratches, it also cleans the little milk splatters and water marks. I think my cabinets look better now than they have since we moved in. I can’t wait to try this on our antique dining room furniture, but I should really finish the kitchen first.

Garlic Pesto Chicken with Tomato Cream Penne

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I had planned to just grill chicken for dinner last night, but I guess we’ve done that too frequently in the last few weeks because Big Brother groaned and said, “Again?” I decided to try a new recipe from the hundreds I’ve pinned on Pinterest. It took much longer than grilling chicken, but it was tastier and different.

I used this recipe (posted below), but I made a few changes, since I hadn’t planned ahead. I didn’t have the marinade the recipe calls for, so I used olive oil, fresh garlic, ground oregano, onion powder, salt, and pepper on the chicken, and I didn’t let it marinate at all because I didn’t have time.

I didn’t have any prepared pesto, but I found this recipe for basil almond pesto (also posted below), and I had all the ingredients. I just had to run out to the garden to snip some basil. I love having fresh herbs!

I just used regular milk instead of half n half in the sauce. It was rich enough for us with milk. I added the flour to thicken the sauce, but it still wasn’t very thick. I think I will add the flour with the oil after sautéing the garlic next time.

Oh! Big Brother served himself and thought his food looked so nice that he wanted a picture, so here you go.

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Also, I have one very picky eater who will not eat any sauce on her pasta, so I did not toss the pasta with the sauce. The rest of us poured sauce over our pasta and placed the chicken on top. We added the extra Parmiggiano reggiano on top.

We enjoyed this recipe, and I plan to make it again. I think I will add more pesto and fresh garlic to the sauce next time, but it was good like this too. I just prefer more spice.

I have the worst luck with websites/blogs changing and not being able to access recipes later, so I have included the two recipes I used to make it easier for you.

Garlic Pesto Chicken with Tomato Cream Penne
Chicken
1/2 bottle of Lawry’s Herb and Garlic Marinade
2 large spoonfuls of pesto
2 boneless chicken breasts
Cut chicken into one inch strips. Using same knife make slits into chicken. Pour marinade and pesto over chicken. Marinate over night.

Sauce
8 ounces of your choice of pasta
2 tablespoons of olive oil
3 cloves of garlic
2 spoonfuls of pesto
1/2 cup of chicken broth
8 ounces of tomato sauce
1 cup of half and half
Boil water and prepare noodles according to package directions.
Pour entire batch of chicken, marinade and all, into skillet and cook chicken fully (the marinade will evaporate/cook down).
Heat olive oil, cook garlic. Add pesto. Add chicken broth and simmer until half has cooked down. Add tomato sauce. Then add milk. Simmer for 5 minutes. Toss pasta in. Add flour if it needs to be thickened. Place chicken on top.

Basil Almond Pesto
Ingredients
2 cups fresh basil
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup roasted whole almonds
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 garlic clove
salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions
In a food processor, pulse the whole almonds and 1 garlic clove until all are ground well.
Add basil, Parmesan and olive oil and pulse together until well incorporated, but don’t over mix.
Taste for seasoning. Add additional olive oil if needed.

Nature Girls

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All of my children enjoy being outside, but it seems like the twins are more interested in everything outdoors. They cry to go outside, cry when others go out and leave them behind. They like to “help” in the garden, dig in the dirt, move rocks, pick up bugs and snails, and take time to smell the roses or whatever flowers they find. They don’t mind getting dirty and want to touch everything. Grandmother has started calling them her little nature girls.

Sissy found a snail this morning but didn’t want to show it to me for a close up photo.

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Grandmother has a huge wildflower bed, and the girls love to look at the flowers and pull the petals off. Little Sister is looking closely at the petals in her hand.

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I don’t know if we will ever have any ripe tomatoes because the twins like to pick them when they are green. This photo shows Sissy trying to put a tomato back on the vine after picking it.

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Here are several random photos I’ve taken over the last two months of them enjoying the great outdoors.

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The next two were taken after we got home from Big Sister’s kindergarten graduation, so they are a little too dressed up for playing outside, but as soon as we got them out of the car, they grabbed their tools and headed for the driveway.

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This last one was taken at an arboretum, where they had so much fun being outdoors, seeing flowers, running in lush grass, chasing a squirrel, etc.

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Our 5th annual Easter party

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20140610-173753-63473019.jpgBeginning when Big Brother was in pre-k and Big Sister was just a toddler and a little sister (above), we have hosted an Easter egg hunt and party every year, rain or shine. I tried to get out of it last year since we were in a rent house and had six-week-old twins, but the kids insisted we continue our tradition, so I modified the party and had two smaller parties during each of the babies’ naps. For at least two of the parties, it has been too wet to have the egg hunt outside, so we have hunted inside the house (below). It was a little chaotic but still fun.

20140610-173754-63474309.jpgThis year, I wanted to control the chaos as much as possible, so I decided to offer several stations for the kids to have constructive and fun activities to do while we waited for everyone to arrive and while we hid the eggs. I created a checklist so they could mark which stations they had completed. I asked parents to help with some of the activities, but most of them were self-directed.

20140506-110219.jpgBig Sister and some friends from school are playing an Easter-themed Bingo game, using a 20-sided die to roll for numbers. (There are actually 24 numbers on each board, but I forgot to print and cut out numbers to draw, so we improvised with the die, and they got plenty of Bingos.). I placed a small Easter bowl full of wrapped Smarties on the table with the die and Bingo cards. Each child could open a package of Smarties, use the candy pieces to cover their numbers, and then eat their candy.

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I saw an idea on Pinterest for plastic monster eggs and found some solid white, one-piece, plastic eggs at Walmart this year. I just provided pipe cleaners (pre-cut into various lengths), googly eyes, pom poms, Sharpies, feathers, etc. for the kids to use to design their own monster egg. I asked a couple of moms to help with the hot glue guns.

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The kids enjoyed creating their monster eggs, and we had plenty of supplies leftover for my kids and their cousins to create more monsters a couple days later when we got together on Easter.

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Big Brother and some of his friends are playing an egg hunt board game that I found on Pinterest. It was cute and good for the older kids. My mother-in-law was so sweet to cut out the pieces and put it together.

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The simplest station was an Easter activity sheet that the kids could color, complete a crossword, etc. I just provided the sheets and a container of pencils and crayons.

I was too busy to get photos of every station. The others were an Easter bunny mask and estimation jars (baby food jars filled with either cheddar bunnies, gummy worms, jelly beans, or bunny grahams). Before the party, the kids helped me decorate balloons like Easter eggs, which we hung over the kitchen table (see the second monster egg photo above). I also made Peeps on a stick and egg-shaped Rice Krispy treats.

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I just washed three plastic eggs and then buttered the inside of each piece. I stuffed rice krispy treats in each half and snapped shut for several seconds and then placed them on a plate until set. The kids loved these and ate every one.

All of these activities and treats were fun, but the main reason we have this party is to share the real reason we celebrate Easter–Jesus’ death and resurrection. We hid dozens of eggs, but one dozen contained specific items to tell the Easter story. This year we used the “resurrection eggs” my son made in pre-k. I told the kids before they started hunting that there were lots of prizes in the eggs, and there were plenty of numbers inside eggs to choose prizes from a table as well, but there were twelve eggs with numbers on the outside of the eggs that were for something special. We gathered on our front porch as the kids finished up, and we went through the whole Easter story together. It was so fun to listen to the younger children share what the items represented. Their eagerness and joy were refreshing.

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My wonderful mother-in-law, holding Little Sister, helped me so much in preparing for this party while my husband was out of town. I couldn’t have done it all without her.

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My terrific mom, holding Sissy, brought extra treats to fill eggs I had leftover, brought more jumbo eggs to put some of my treats in, and also provided some of the white eggs for the monster eggs. She and my stepfather drove over two hours to come help with the party and watch the twins’ first egg hunt.

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