Natalie’s Juice – a fresh take on juice

Between shopping with a 5 year old who thinks she needs to have an opinion on everything I buy (or pass by) and navigating nutritional labels, grocery shopping is more and more challenging these days. I am trying to balance making healthy choices with not allowing a fear of additives and GMOs, etc. to overwhelm me, but it is hard to know what are good choices.

Being a Christian parent my faith is part of everything I do, including grocery shop.

I want to be a good steward of the body God has given me and teach my daughter to do the same.

When I saw a sample table in our path, after an hour of negotiating the commissary with a cranky 5 year old, I was hoping for a little pick-me-up.Natalie's Juice - a fresh take on juice that I feel good taking home to my family. Heaven Not HarvardI was willing to let my daughter try a few sips of a juice and move on, but as I listened to the representative, I got excited about Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice.

Ever wonder why most store bought juice is nothing like fresh-squeezed?

Concentrating juice doesn’t just remove water, it also removes the flavour. After it has been reconstituted, manufacturers add ‘flavour packs’ — cocktails of chemicals which restore ‘natural’ oranginess. 

Doesn’t that sound tasty? 😛

In contrast, Natalie’s was started by a mom who wanted to give her child the healthiest juice possible, just like ME. Okay, so now, I’m listening. Then the representative said those magical words, “No ADDITIVES!” Only the lemonade varieties had any added sugar, but 100% pure cane sugar, not GMO sugar beets.

As my daughter diligently tasted each juice, I picked up a brochure. Natalie’s juice is made from handpicked, non-GMO Florida fruit and fresh-squeezed daily to order (not sitting around on a shelf or in a freezer!) It is also pasteurized at the lowest temperature for the shortest amount of time to make sure the juice retains fresh flavor and vitamins. Natalie’s Juice never has any added flavor packets or chemicals!

The company takes the entire process beyond healthy and delicious to environmentally responsible by making sure every part of their packaging is made in America and is 100% recyclable, while maintaining the smallest carbon footprint in the juice industry.

I was sold, but how does Natalie’s Juice taste?

We squeeze our own often, so I know this is the closest, freshest, and sweetest juice I’ve ever tasted from a store.

All the varieties we tried were delicious: Orange, Orange Pineapple, Honey Tangerine, Grapefruit, Orange Mango, Lemonade, and Strawberry Lemonade. Our favorite was probably the Honey Tangerine (which is made from honey tangerines) because we both like our juice a tad tart, but all were refreshing and crisp.

We found Natalie’s juice delightful. The friendly sales representatives chatted with my enthusiastic daughter, who loved playing taste tester. They even gave me a few samples to take home.

Better still, when I mentioned I was a Christian blogger, they pointed out the ichthys fish symbol on their packaging.  I love supporting responsible, female-owned, small businesses, especially faith-based ones. Win-win-win!

Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Company is a home run. But don’t take my word for it – they’ve received many national awards including ones from Good Housekeeping, Woman’s Day, and Cook’s Country.

And they’ve earned my business. I feel good sharing this juice with my family. I hope you will look for it next time you make the magical journey through the grocery store.

Blueberry Muffin Bread Pudding Recipe

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Some days, dragging myself out of bed is hard enough, much less trying to find something more creative than cereal to feed my kiddos. I was really excited when my brainstorm blueberry muffin bread pudding recipe was a hit!

This week, I had a rare occurrence in leftover muffins. They had gotten stuck in a container and hidden WAY in the back of the fridge. You know the kind of ‘Tupperware’ that originally had food in it, and you forget what’s really in there? Yeah, we’re that family.

Scrambling for a different breakfast idea? Need to use up leftovers and make something delicious? Try this quick bread pudding recipe!I didn’t want them to go to waste, but the nutritional value of just muffins for breakfast was not what I wanted for the kids, and we were running low on just about everything since we had just returned from vacation!

Brainstorm – bread pudding!

I rough chopped the muffins into chunks and put them into a loaf pan. (You’ll want to grease your pan if it isn’t a miraculous non-stick pan like mine – Farberware nonstick! – that rarely needs any greasing. I have used these pans for all sorts of delicate recipes that usually require greasing or even flouring, and the cookies, cakes, etc, just slide right off!)

For the 7 muffins I had, a loaf pan was perfect, but if you use a larger amount, you might want a 9×9. You want to have the bread be about 1 1/2-2 inches deep in the pan loosely packed.

Ingredients

  • 7 blueberry muffins
  • 4 eggs
  • a cup of milk
  • dash of vanilla.

I whisked the eggs, milk and vanilla together until well mixed and poured over the bread making sure all areas were saturated, and let it rest for 5 minutes to soak up the milk. Then I sprinkled cinnamon sugar over the top and baked for 35 minutes at 350. Then I dusted the pieces with powdered sugar and drizzled with maple syrup. This made one serving for each muffin, although the teenaged boys ate two pieces each.

My daughter who is notoriously SLOW to eat breakfast, finished her piece before I even started eating. VICTORY!! I took something that was nutritionally okay, added protein and calcium, and they liked it even better than the muffins alone!

and Mom for the win!

I am excited to share anything that makes being a Godly mom easier. We’re all trying to balance nutrition, time, value, effort, etc. with all the needs of our spouses and selves. This recipe took minutes to prepare; I could sip my coffee and get dressed while it baked, and used up things taking up space in my fridge.

This would also be something you could make using store bought muffins and make into a semi-homemade dish for a brunch. Who doesn’t need more impressive looking recipes that are too easy!?

Celebrating the Days of Summer

Looking for ways to make summer fun without breaking the bank? Us too, all the time! Even an outing to the movies can cost upwards of $100 with a family of five for all the bells and whistles, never mind the cost of an amusement park or out-of-town vacation.

Our income dropped in half when we moved here and decided I would stay home. We had to find different ways to make the summer days fun for our family without spending a small fortune.

Food seems to be the center of many family celebrations, so when I came across this idea, I knew I’d found a winner. We are celebrating the days of summer! Summers days fly by too quickly. An easy way to make each one special. Heaven Not Harvard

Everyday is a food holiday (see the Nibble’s list here). Yep, everyday. In fact some days are more than one. July 20 is hot dog day, lollipop day, fortune cookie day and ice cream soda day.

While we simply can’t do them all, we certainly are giving it our best shot. So far, we’ve celebrated holidays for strawberry shortcake, fudge, black cows (coke floats), cherry tarts, picnic day, vanilla milkshakes, peaches & cream, onion rings, pecan sandies, strawberry parfait, chocolate pudding, ice cream sodas (which gets celebrated several days a summer in various forms), creative ice cream flavor day (we made banana peanut butter chocolate ice cream from scratch), ginger snaps, chocolate wafers, BBQ ribs, apple turnovers, fried chicken day, strawberry sundaes, chocolate with almonds, pick blueberry day, blueberry muffin day, french fries, and beans&franks day, and tapioca pudding day last night for dessert.

We start the day the boys arrive for the summer and try to celebrate as many as we can. If there is a day that we can’t celebrate like alcoholic beverages or lobster which was not in our budget, we either finish off the leftovers of previous days or pick a day’s celebration that we will miss after they leave.

I usually grocery shop with the week’s holidays in mind, but don’t tell the kids the coming holidays so that they can be surprised each day as we prepare the treat for dessert or dinner.

Looking for ways to make every summer day fun? Try celebrating the "Days" of summer.Blueberry picking day came with an outing to a local orchard. It was hot and sweaty work, but that blueberry pie was so much sweeter when we picked those berries ourselves.

I have found different sites have slightly different lists. Foodimentary’s list is a little different than the Nibble’s, which might vary from another site.

Who cares if these are really real or really official? The fun is in making each treat. We can prep and cook as a family. This sneaky momma teaches cooking, measuring, and kitchen skills while they’re busy having fun.

I try to use a different list every summer for some variety. We have other traditions and summer activities, but celebrating all the days of summer is one way we make summer feel like one long holiday.

Smores Cheesecake

It’s 4th of July. While I was tempted to make apple pie, because what’s more American than apple pie? But we are making apple turnovers tomorrow for Sunday dessert, and I didn’t want to do two similar desserts back to back.

What to do, what to do?

When I think 4th of July, I think BBQ and smoke and smores. Our weather has been terrible today so making smores over the fire pit didn’t seem like it would happen. Instead I decided to make a Smores Cheesecake. The best of gooey smores and cheesecake in a delicious dessert.

I invented this recipe, so it may need some future tweaking. Feel free to try it and share your tips and tricks.

I used a pre-made Oreo crust because that is what I had on hand and yum, extra chocolate, but graham crackers would be more in keeping with the theme.

If you want to make your own crumb crust, it is essentially 1 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers, 1/3 cup sugar, 6 tbsp melted butter combined and pressed into a pie pan, baked for about 8-10 min. at 350.

Filling Ingredients:

  • 1 pckg cream cheese
  • 1 bag marshmallows – large (what I had)
  • half bag of chocolate chunks (or more if you want)
  • graham crackers or graham cracker cookies -enough to cover the bottom crust.
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • scant 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream (milk should work) Just dampen marshmallows
  • lemon juice – 5 drops

Place half the bag of marshmallows on a plate and into the freezer while you prep the rest. Carefully separate. You want them frozen enough that you can cut through them easily, and the freezing will help them not overcook.

Put the other half of the marshmallows into a microwave safe bowl, pour whipping cream over the marshmallows and add cream cheese. Microwave for a minute. Add 30 seconds increments until mostly melted. Add eggs and sugar. Use hand mixer to thoroughly incorporate, adding lemon juice drop by drop and blending. You don’t want to taste the lemon, just a hint of acid to cut the sweetness of marshmallows and richness of cheesecake.

Layer bottom of cooled crust with graham crackers and chocolate chunks. Pour cheesecake filling into crust. Place cut, frozen marshmallows gently around the top of cheesecake. Sprinkle remaining graham crackers crumbs and some chocolate chunks over the top as desired.

Bake 40-50 minutes at 350. My marshmallows expanded and overflowed onto the baking sheet under my pie pan. Next time, I’ll probably try cooking it for a few minutes before placing the marshmallows into the mixture.

Easy ganache – Use other half of bag of chocolate chunks and a splash of whipping cream or milk to melt and create an easy chocolate drizzle if you want. Just microwave by 30 second increments and stir. Add more milk to create desired thickness.

If you try this, let me know how it turns out!

Taming the Laundry Monster

Housework is part of how we serve and love our families, but it can feel disastrously overwhelming. It is the job that is never finished. Sometimes, late at night, I have a moment the house is clean, organized, and smells good. The laundry is finished, and the dishes are done.

A brief moment of housework nirvana that I bask in deliciously, the master of all I survey . . .

.  .  .  for about ten seconds. Because if I look longer than that I’ll see the blinds that need dusting or the baseboards I’ve been ignoring. So I’ve started using the good enough standard – is it good enough to keep my husband happy and make his life easier? is it good enough to keep us healthy? Is it good enough to be welcoming to guests without feeling like a museum.

Our homes are supposed to serve us, be a shelter and refuge, not an idol that we break our backs to serve. Whether you’re a neat-nick or not, getting housework done quickly gives us more time to do the things that matter, like read stories and kiss cheeks because those days will be gone before we know it.

Several of my friends have been struggling with the sheer volume of laundry this week. The piles and piles of it gathering makes them feel like an army is mounting an offensive.  I’ve found a solution to taming the laundry monster. Housework is part of how we love and serve our families, but it can feel disastrously overwhelming at times. Use this strategy to tame the laundry monster.

I’ve divided up my laundry to one load per day. One day it is my husband’s things, the next our daughter’s, then mine, then towels, the next sheets, etc.

First thing in the morning, I start a load of laundry. You could even put it in the night before and start the washing machine in the morning. By the time I’ve brushed my teeth, gotten dressed, etc. the load is ready for the dryer.

Folding is the longest part of this process, but I’ve realized that I spend more time dreading it than just getting it done.Restart the dryer over and over rather than just fold it - heavennotharvard.com

When I open the dryer, I start pulling out the clothes and separating them into piles: socks, underwear, shirts, pants. Anything that doesn’t fit in one of those categories gets folded and set aside. Then I fold all the pants since those go the fastest. T-shirts are the largest laundry group in our house, so I found a way to fold them faster.

Then I stack or fold all the underwear and any miscellaneous items left before tackling the socks. I lay them all out and start to match them. By laying them all out before I start to fold them, I eliminate digging through the pile to find matches.

I found that I can fold almost an entire load of laundry in about five minutes. It feels like less work as well when I approach it in essentially five-minute increments: 5 minutes to gather and put in the wash, 5 minutes to transfer to the dryer, 5 minutes to fold.  I spend 10-20 minutes a day and never have a laundry monster.

Plus, once I got ahead of the curve on this one, I’ve had days that I didn’t have any laundry to do . . . whoa.

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