Friday, March 18, 2011

FOODIE: Easy Pita Pizzas

This post isn't so much a recipe as it is a really easy tip for feeding kids or pulling together a quick meal on a whim. We've made these for years now, since Lucy was a wee one. My girls, like most kids, are huge pizza lovers. Also, like most kids, they are incredibly picky eaters and we're lucky if we can get them to eat one vegetable and one fruit a day. And believe me, like most parents, we try like hell to introduce new foods and keep them on a balanced diet, yadda, yadda, yadda. But guess what? These little pizzas help mama keep her sanity on the whole food issue.

We always keep a stash of whole wheat or white pitas in the freezer, along with a jar of bottled pizza sauce. I take them out as needed; I broil the pitas a bit after rubbing them with olive oil and sprinkling with a bit of kosher salt to crisp them up. I usually take the sauce out of the freezer ahead of time to defrost on the counter or, if I forget, just put it in the microwave for a minute or so. After toasting the pitas, spread on some sauce and whatever toppings we can find in the fridge, pantry or leftover. The individual sizes are perfect for kids and my girls love 'decorating' their own pizzas. They love pepperoni, so I buy large bags of the lower fat turkey pepperoni. I often add fresh veggies to mine and feta if we have it. Leftover taco fillings with salsa as the sauce instead of tomato make great Mexican pizzas, as do fresh tomato slices and basil from the garden during the summer. Toss the toppings on and pop them in the oven. I often broil mine for just a few minutes if I'm in a hurry and, if not, bake on 350 degrees for about ten minutes. And I usually use a cookie sheet to bake our mini pizzas on, not a muffin tin, but it was already out on the counter and I was being lazy.

I love the simplicity of this for a quick lunch for the girls; kitchen shears cut up tiny slices perfect for little hands. These pizzas also make a delicious family dinner paired with a quick tossed salad.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

THRIFTY: Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

For the past four years, I've become increasingly obsessed with consumption, reuse and recycling. I chronicled our adventures about living on The Compact in 2009 here, as well as my turn as a radical homemaker. I've recently become very interested in this zero waste home and blog - a family in California who either composts, reuses or refuses unnecessary junk into their lives, particularly in the way of food and product packaging.

This year I've decided to experiment with a few homemade household items. When we ran out of dishwasher soap last week, I researched a few homemade options. There are a ton of recipes and recommendations out there on the Internets, but I decided upon 1 cup Borax mixed with 1 cup baking soda. Put in a jar and shake. It's that easy. I use a tiny plastic scoop that I think came with some coffee once as my measure. It is probably about a tablespoon in size, and I typically use one scoop per load. For the rinse agent, I've been using plain vinegar. So far, so good. The only problem are the hard water stains on our glassware, which admittedly were problematic even before changing up the dishwashing soap. Perhaps the vinegar isn't quite cutting it? Hmmm. Again, it's only been about a week, so in a sense the jury's still out on this one. I do think my new concoction is doing the job just as well as the more expensive commercial detergent we were previously using.

Stay tuned, as I'm moving on to making more household items from scratch. I gave up shampoo and conditioner in favor of baking soda and apple cider vinegar a few years back, and am excited to try my hand at homemade deodorant and toothpowder next.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

KIDDOS: Keva Blocks

We discovered KEVA blocks while attending our first Discover Engineering Day at Boise State University last year. The day is free for families and full of fabulous scientific fun stuff, like playing with robots and building rockets to riding a hovercraft and understanding atoms.

It was during the BLOCKFEST event, though, that we had the most hands-on fun. It lasted about an hour, and you rotated to different stations each 10 minutes or so. Different blocks were presented at each area, from giant cardboard ones that the kids used to build towering structures they could crawl inside of to these tiny maple planks.

We loved the KEVA planks architecture set, so asked grandma to buy it for the girls' as a joint birthday gift last year because they are quite expensive. For the 200 piece set, it's almost $70.
Here's the product description from

KEVA planks are construction blocks that are precision cut, identical in size and shape and made of Midwest hardwood maple. Each piece is approximately 4 inches long, 3/4 inch wide and an inch thick. These perfectly cut, identical blocks will stack with surprising stability. Their simplicity is compelling. KEVA planks are used in schools, museums, art galleries and homes to teach everything from physics to language arts to design and sculpture. By purchasing KEVA planks, we hope your home will be a creative institution as well.
We have thoroughly enjoyed these at our house. They are fun for adults and kids alike, and allow for more creative play than some other blocks we have. The blocks are pricey, though, so it might be the perfect thing to ask those grandparents or Santa for.