My mother is an amazing cook and my parents both love to try new foods. I grew up in a house where one night you had Greek food, Cuban food the next night, and the following night Iraqi food.  Needless to say, I was shocked when my husband told be he had never eaten Indian food. But then I learned he was allergic to nuts, which includes peanuts, tree nuts, & coconut (recently considered a tree nut).  Many Indian dishes contain nuts or coconut milk, so an attempt to eat at an Indian restaurant would likely lead to a hospital visit.
At first I looked in stores for a prepared sauce or dish. For some reason I had it in my head that cooking an Indian dish would be difficult. I found one jar of mango curry for $7.00. We tried it and it was great, but it made a small dinner.  However, one day I ran across this recipe on cooking section.  It has become a staple meal at our home now. It is very tasty & simple to make.  The cooking goes really fast, so make sure you have all your ingredients prepped before starting. Also, you can make it vegetarian by using potatoes and/or chick peas instead of chicken.
  • 2  tablespoon(s) cooking oil
  • 1   onion, chopped
  • 3   cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1  tablespoon(s) chopped fresh ginger (I have used ginger paste & ground ginger when fresh isn’t on hand)
  • 1  tablespoon(s) ground cumin
  • 1  tablespoon(s) ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon(s) turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon(s) paprika
  • 1  teaspoon(s) salt
  • 2   jalapeño peppers, seeds and ribs removed, minced (I have left this out & the dish is still wonderful.)
  • 1/2 cup(s) canned crushed tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 cup(s) heavy cream (Most of the time I use half & half to cut down on calories)
  • 1   cinnamon stick
  • 1 1/2 cup(s) water
  • 2  packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed (I tend to add a lot more spinach)
  • 4   boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 3 pieces each
  • 1/2 teaspoon(s) salt
Here are the directions & a few pictures. Please note I made a double batch, so we could have a meal ready in the freezer.
1) In a large frying pan, heat the oil over moderately low heat. Add the onion and cook until starting to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes longer. (I used ginger paste this time)

Onion, garlic, & ginger

2) Stir in the cumin, coriander, turmeric, paprika, and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Cook until the spices are fragrant, about 1 minute, and then stir in the jalapeños and tomatoes.

Spiced added in. This is when things really start to smell great!

Crushed tomatoes & jalapeños added in

3) Add the cream, cinnamon stick, and water. Squeeze the spinach to remove excess liquid and add the spinach to the pan. Bring to a simmer. Cover the pan, reduce the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.

Half & half, water, cinnamon stick, & spinach added in. (I also put in cut up cooked potatoes)

4) Stir in the chicken and the remaining 1/2 teaspoons salt, cover, and simmer the stew until just done, about 10 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick before serving. I usually serve with brown rice. Sometimes I will make or buy Naan (Indian flat bread).

Finished Indian-spiced spinach & chicken

Let me know if you try this dish & what you think!


I have a 2 year old son who has never had a granola bar. Every brand I see in the store is has nuts or dairy or soy (all of which he is allergic to), so I decided to learn how to make my own. I began with what I thought would be a quick search online. However, I was shocked at the amount of sugar in all these so-called healthy recipes!  It took me a while to find something I could work with. I finally found Ellie Krieger’s Energy bar recipe at . I changed the recipe up a bit based on my son’s allergies and what I had on-hand, but it is based off of Ellie’s original recipe.

These bars taste great! They are not overly sweet and sticky. However, every bite has a taste of dried fruit or sunflower seeds.  Also, they are surprisingly filling.  They really remind me a lot of a Cliff Bar.


1 1/4 cups old-fashioned oats

1/2 cup sunflower seeds (raw preferred)

1/2 cup wheat germ (I used 1/4 stone ground oats 1/4 cup wheat bran because I was out of wheat germ)

1/4 cup whole wheat flour (pastry flour preferred)

1/2 cup dried apricots

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup dried figs

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

1/4 cup honey

2 large eggs


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit & coat a 9 X 13 pan with cooking spray.

Place all ingredients except the eggs, honey & maple syrup in a food processor.

Next add the honey, maple syrup, and eggs. Pulse until just incorporated. (Tip: Spray your measuring cup with cooking spray before pouring in the honey or maple syrup & it won’t stick inside the cup.)


Both wet & dry ingredients mixed together

Transfer to baking pan & spread evenly. if you spray your spatula with cooking spray it will be much easier.


Granola bars before cooking

Bake 20 minutes until just done. Let cool some & cut. Store in air tight container for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

When I make these again I will add ground flax seed for the healthy fats. I also can’t wait to try them with pumpkin seeds & dried cherries or blueberries!

Happy Toddler Toy

January 12, 2011

For a few months now I had been keeping an eye out in stores for some sort of buckle toy. My son is obsessed with buckles, snaps, buttons, & zippers, but especially buckles. He is my little Houdini. For at least 8 months he can get out of anything. Highchairs, car seats…you name it. What better toy than one with lots of buckles. I never found one in stores. However, when I started looking for sewing ideas I ran across a blog ( ) where a mother made a buckle toy. Wow! I felt stupid not thinking of it before!

Here is a picture of what I made. Please note this is my first sewing project since Home Economics.

I ordered the buckles from for less than $1 each and received them within a few days. I purchased the Velcro & ribbon from a local store. Originally, I intended to use a heavier medium weight fabric and sew it into a place mat. Then I would attach the toy parts. However, I remembered I had a shopping cart seat cover I never use anymore that would work perfectly. Re-purposing and up-cycling are some of my favorite things! So I cut out the part you see here and sewed on the ribbons. I also used Velcro to be able to roll it up when it isn’t being played with.

My son already loved this toy & I see many happy road trips in our future!

This is the start of a series of blogs with ideas on how to make everyday items we would simply throw away into something useful.  If you have ideas please share them.  If you have something particular you throw away a lot & would like an idea on what can be done with it, ask.  Like I said before, if we all put our heads together we can come up with great ideas.

Homemade Egg Carton Fire Starters

What you need:

  • Cardboard Egg Cartons
  • Wax or Petroleum Jelly (Use the little bits leftover from candles you have burned, candles you pick up at yard sales, those gifts you have sitting in a box some where, or even  bits of crayons. This is a great way to get rid of the last of the petroleum jelly in your house if you are planning on no longer purchasing the oil-based product)
  • Lint

My parents have a fireplace & I used to make these for them.  These make great gift ideas for anyone with a fireplace, fire pit, or who goes camping.  If you start saving egg cartons & lint now, you can make some for Christmas presents.  This is a fun craft for kids too.

They are very simple to make:

1) Cut lids off egg cartons & cut into small pieces.

2) Pack each egg carton compartment generously with lint & the egg carton pieces.

3) Melt wax in the microwave or a double boiler. You can make a double boiler by placing a large tin can with the wax in a pot if water. If you microwave the wax, be sure to pull out the metal weights for the wicks.

4) Pour the wax into the wholes about 2/3 – 3/4 full.

5) When the wax is dry cut apart the sections.

If you use petroleum jelly pack the egg carton compartments about 1/2 full with lint. Then, add about 1 TB of petroleum jelly & pack with more lint.  Then cut apart just like you would the wax version.

Homemade Tea Bag Fire Starters

This is a great idea if your family drinks a lot of tea. I will definitely try this because I drink a lot of tea.

What you need:

  • Used dry tea bags
  • Wax

Simply let your tea bags dry after you’re done using them & store in a jar or tin.  Meanwhile, save those wax bits, crayons, or purchase second hand candles.

1) Melt wax in the microwave or double boiler

2) Dip the tea bags into the melted wax

3) Let the wax dipped bags dry on a tray or old cookie sheet. They will easily peel of the tray when cooled.

It is fun & simple.  Most importantly, it re-uses items that would just go to the landfill.  Many people buy wax fire starters, so this can save a little money too.  If you give it as a gift, you will be out little or no money & useful, thoughtful, homemade gifts often mean more than anything we could find in a store.

Hello, world. My name is Lisa & I am a wife & mother of two searching for ways to make my family’s life simple, natural, and healthy.  I feel I am on the right track, but I need your help.  The goal of this blog is to share what I have learned about simplifying life, natural cleaning & beauty products, reducing consumption & waste, and general money saving advice, while learning from others what they have learned.  If we all put our heads together, we can really finds ways to have a simple, natural lifestyle!

For years I heard whispers of cleaning with vinegar and other natural products, but didn’t bother to look learn more.  I was in college & only had one sink to clean anyway.  Then when I moved to an apartment, I doubted whether the stuff could really clean the grime & disinfect.  Of course I was “too busy” to take the time for a little research.  Well, once you have kids things change.  I didn’t suddenly become less busy. I simply realized that I didn’t want to expose my family to chemicals, dump those chemicals into our environment, & I wanted to save some cash. Ten minutes researching online & I knew I would use natural cleaners forever.

We didn’t always have 10 specialized cleaning products to clean every part of our homes.  Our ancestors made their own products.  Most of those products can clean multiple things.  We also don’t need special disinfectants because we have natural ones sitting in our pantries right now.  Below are the recipes to the 2 cleaners I use most often. Over time I will post more recipes & tips. I hope you will too.

Basic Glass Cleaner:

1 quart water

1/4 cup white vinegar

Simply pour in a re-purposed spray bottle & you’re set to go. I use this on mirrors, windows, and really anything I see dirty.  Sometimes I add a few drops of orange essential oil to cut down on the vinegar smell. However, the smell doesn’t last long.

Basic Vinegar Antibacterial Cleaner:

1 cup water

1 cup white vinegar

5 drops liquid soap (You can use any dish soap, but I like Dr. Bronner’s because it is natural & smells great. It really cuts out the vinegar smell.)

Pour in a spray bottle & use just like you would any store-bought antibacterial cleaner. It works just as well, but saves you a ton.

I use it for cleaning kitchen & bathroom surfaces & toys. You can add a tablespoon of coarse salt or baking soda directly on your sponge to act as an abrasive when using this formula on kitchen and bathroom sink fixtures.

Vinegar can be irritating to the skin, so use gloves. Important note about special counter surfaces such as granite: please do not use this mixture on stone surfaces, as acids can etch and damage the stone.