Make a McDonald’s Shamrock Shake at Home

If you are like me, St. Patrick’s Day always brings back fond memories of slurping McDonald’s Shamrock Shakes as a child. The green-tinted ice cream, the cool mint flavor, the whipped cream, the yum! I think it was also a welcome reminder that spring was right around the corner.

As a kid, I never worried about what nasty ingredients might be lurking in my shake. I just knew it tasted good. But now living in the information age as an adult and mom to two kids, I am more conscious about the things we put into our bodies. Sure, we eat “junk food” now and then, but I generally try to keep healthy foods in our home so we can easily make good choices.

When I saw the HuffPo’s article about the 54!!! ingredients (including High Fructose Corn Syrup, Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 1, and artificial vanilla flavor), 820 calories, 135 grams of carbs and 115 grams of sugar in McDonald’s Shamrock Shakes, I knew I could make a healthier and just as tasty version at home with far fewer ingredients and no artificial dyes or HFCS. (Read a post I wrote about the problems with artificial colors.)

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I used organic vanilla ice cream, 2% milk, mint extract, and a bit of frozen spinach for color. There were 10 ingredients in the ice cream, plus the milk, mint flavor (three organic oils) and spinach makes a total of 15 ingredients! If you add whipped cream on top, that’s about 5 more ingredients or less if you whip your own from whipping cream.

Homemade Shamrock Shake Recipe

  • A few large scoops of vanilla ice cream
  • About a cup of milk (add more if needed)
  • Several drops of mint extract
  • A handful of frozen or fresh baby spinach (for coloring)

Blend until well combined and pour into glasses. Add whipped cream on top if desired. Serve and enjoy!

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The kids, hubby and I all agreed that they were better than McDonald’s version (which *ahem* we did recently partake in) and so easy to make at home.

Now you don’t have to wait for St. Patty’s day to roll around once a year. You can enjoy delicious mint shakes year-round!

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A mama’s thoughts on sending her daughter to kindergarten

Last Wednesday, my little girl grew up a little bit more. She went from attending a small home-based Waldorf preschool to attending kindergarten in a classroom of more than 20 children (I think there are 27) in a school of more than 400.

As I said previously, I’ve been filled with a mix of emotions with Ava starting kindergarten in “the big school.” There are some things about it I’m not fond of: like that they use hand sanitizer before lunch and snack instead of washing hands, that Ava – who is normally a social butterfly – said she was an “only lonely” at recess on Friday, the not-so-healthy snacks, that the hot lunch program is pretty much all fried, unhealthy foods, and that after two full days of school her teacher doesn’t appear to know her name yet.

I could be overreacting. I mean, I want my girl to be happy and safe and healthy, but it was only the first week of school. Perhaps once they get into their routine, hand washing will happen more regularly instead of hand sanitizing (the teacher did tell me that washing was her preference – if there’s time). And I’m sure her teacher will learn her name soon. This week they are focusing on “making and keeping friends” and maybe that will help Ava fit in a little better.

Yet, regardless of all of this, there was something about taking Ava to school that first day that just didn’t feel “right” to me. I’ve made a lot of parenting decisions in the past five years and I have to say I’ve felt peaceful about pretty much every one of them. Sure, I made some wrong choices here and there, but as for the big decisions, I’ve felt good about them. However, there was something about dropping Ava off that didn’t feel peaceful to me.

Last week I reread a post I wrote almost a year ago called Is Home Schooling Right For Us? At the time, I was leaning toward home schooling, but wanted to keep my options open. Jody and I ended up visiting a few public schools including a charter school, a regular public school and an International Baccalaureate World school (also public). We made our decision and hoped for the best. Somewhere in there the idea of home schooling got lost in the shuffle. Also, I was dealing with some heavy duty anxiety as I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder this winter and didn’t feel like I could add another thing (home schooling) to my plate.

Now here we are, a week into the school year and I’m reconsidering home schooling. There’s a great, very active home schooling community in my area and I feel like, if I wanted to pursue this, I’m in a good head space to do it now. However, I am not going to make any rash decisions. We are going to see how it goes for now. I’m going to do more research. There were a slew of helpful comments with links in my Is Home Schooling Right For Us? post and I need to read up on them. What I’d like to do is supplement a bit at home while Ava is in kindergarten and see how she responds to that and how I do with it too. If the supplemental home schooling goes well and I feel like she could learn from me and if I don’t fall in love with her school over the next several months, then we might give home schooling a try for first grade. We’ll see.

For now I’m going to try to stay positive (especially around Ava) and go to a volunteer orientation this week so I can start volunteering in the classroom and do some reconnaissance help out and see how it all works. I’ve already been emailing with the principal about the possibility of donating a Clean Well wall-mounted hand sanitizer dispenser for the classroom (by the way, I’ll be giving away some Clean Well products soon!) and to obtain the Material Safety Data Sheets (boy, are those a fun read :P) so I could take a look at what kinds of cleaning products are used in the school. I hope I’m not coming off as a pain in the ass, but rather a parent who’s concerned about the health and well-being of her child and all children in the school. The principal did encourage me to stay in touch, thanked me for my interest and said “parents like you are what make “X” the great school it is!” That last part struck me as a bit form letter-esque, but I’d like to think that she means it.

I like that I have choices and the option of changing my mind. I like that I can get involved and maybe make a positive difference. And I will keep asking my questions because knowledge is power.

I’ll be posting the rest of Ava’s first day of kindergarten pics soon. (Yes, I finally picked up my SLR again after a several month hiatus and it felt good.) :)

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When it comes to germs, are you a pacifist or warmonger?

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you’ve probably figured out that I’m a live and let live kinda girl – a pacifist if you will. For the most part that philosophy carries over to germs too. I don’t obsessive-compulsively clean my house (ha! far from it.). I don’t carry around antibacterial hand sanitizer. I don’t worry about my kids washing their hands after playing outside. I don’t balk about them being around another kid with the sniffles. I don’t buy antibacterial soap (although it’s almost impossible to find one that’s not these days!), nor do I own a bottle of Lysol. I figure it’s good for their immune systems to be challenged (in moderation) on a regular basis so that they build up immunities and their bodies learn how to fight infection. Heck, even the New York Times agrees A Little Dirt is Good for You (a very interesting read by the way).

Photo courtesy of hoyasmeg
Photo courtesy of hoyasmeg

For the most part, we live pretty healthy lives. Sure we get a cold every now and then, but true knock-you-on-your-butt-kind-of-illnesses are pretty rare in this house. That is until a couple of weeks ago.

A little over two weeks ago Ava started out with a cough, congestion and runny nose and a few days later the rest of us followed suit. Runny, stuffy noses, coughs, and the phlegm, oh, the phlegm! I ended up having to go to the doctor because the mucus I was trying to cough up was so thick it was lodging in my throat and I was having serious difficulty breathing. (How’s that for anxiety producing?! Like I needed help in that regard.) I started taking a prescribed drug to help thin up my mucus and began drinking a whole lot more water. I also took some homeopathic and herbal remedies (Cold Care, Kick-Ass Immune Activator, and Lymph Mover, just to name a few), as well as gave some to the kids (Elderberry Syrup, Cough Control, Sinus Relief). Jody (who’s not as concerned about treating himself using natural remedies) started on his own regimen of OTC (over the counter) meds. We also cut dairy out of our diets, were taking our vitamins and probiotics, drinking tons of tea and water as well as some fruit and veggie smoothies and kombucha, and even trying hot toddies (Jody and I, not the kids). Nobody was showing signs of getting better. There’s nothing like waking up day after day expecting to feel some improvement, like you are finally on the road to recovery, and then realizing you feel just as crappy and worn down as the day before. It gets old.

Finally, after two weeks of coughing and a runny nose, Ava is mostly recovered. Jody, Julian and I however are still fighting it and, on top of the crud, Jody and Julian developed the stomach flu today. (!!!) Nothing like getting hit when you’re down, eh? Ugh. But Ava’s recovery gives me hope that the other three of us will, at some point, hopefully in the next few days (pretty please??), recover from it too (and also reassures me that it’s likely a viral infection – which is what my doctor suspected – and not bacterial so antibiotics would be useless at this point).

This is, by far, the worst and longest we’ve all been sick at the same time and, seeing how many of my friends and their kids, both locally and elsewhere in the country, are suffering from illnesses lately as well, makes me wonder what the heck is going on? Could these be some type of superbugs or at least new viruses unlike any we’ve seen before? Is my lackadaisical attitude towards germs now biting me in the butt? Should I be arming myself with Lysol and spraying my house into a toxic-smelling box of germ-killing goodness? Of course that goes against everything I just said and would definitely contribute to the whole superbug phenomenon. Is there a fine line – a balance between the two?

How do you handle germs in your house? Are you a pacifist or a warmonger? And when the ickies do infiltrate your home, what methods do you use to get them out and everyone healthy again? I’m not reaching for the Lysol yet, but the longer this goes on, the more tempted I get.

Whole Wheat Honey Pizza Dough Recipe

I got this delicious whole wheat honey pizza dough recipe from my friend *Heather (A Mama’s Blog) a few months ago and have been enjoying it regularly ever since. It’s quick, easy and sooooo good. My family loves it too!

Whole Wheat Honey Pizza Dough

Ingredients:
4 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
4 tablespoons honey
2 to 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cornmeal
1 tablespoon olive oil

Mix yeast, water and honey and let stand 5 min.

Combine flour through cornmeal in a large bowl.

Add liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients, stir up a bit, then add in olive oil. Knead until everything is well combined. If it seems a little dry, you can add a bit more water at this point, but I don’t generally need to.

Cover dough in a bowl with a towel in a warm place for 30 min.

Punch down and roll out dough, add toppings and bake @ 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until done.

Makes enough dough to cover one whole cookie sheet (which is what I do) or (probably) two round pizza pans. I usually end up with a little extra dough too that the kids like to roll into balls and eat or last night I used the extra dough to make a big cinnamon roll for the family to share for dessert.

Enjoy!

* Recipe adapted from MyRecipes

Note: You should be able to use more wheat flour and less AP flour, but you might need to adjust other ingredients (like add more oil) to make the consistency work.

Trick-or-Treat : Halloween Candy Alternatives

This post was especially popular last year, so after a few updates and changes, I’m recycling it this year.

Candy aisleHalloween is right around the corner, but in light of my recent discoveries about damaging effects of artificial colors and flavors (and petroleum and coal tar) in candy, I haven’t been feeling very excited about a holiday that promotes candy consumption.

Consider this:

Americans spend a whopping $950 million on Halloween candy every year. So it’s not surprising that a 2006 Mayo Clinic article estimates that 1 in 3 American children are now considered seriously overweight or at risk of becoming overweight. That’s a staggering 25 million children who are at high risk for high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, bone and joint problems, exercise induced asthma, disturbed sleep patterns, premature maturity, liver/gallbladder disease and depression. — Go Green

So the idea of handing out “treats” that are laden with sugar (or worse, high fructose corn syrup AKA HFCS) AND chemicals was less than appealing to me. But what is a good alternative that won’t get my house egged the next day?

Using several different web sites, I’ve compiled a list of some alternative Halloween treats. (Please be aware that some of these may be choking hazards for small children.)

Non-food options:

  • Temporary tattoos
  • Stickers
  • Playdoh
  • Pencils
  • Small pads of paper
  • Fancy erasers
  • Pencil toppers
  • Crayons
  • Coins (pennies, nickels, dimes)
  • False teeth
  • Superballs
  • “Slime”
  • Kazoos or other small musical instruments
  • Tiny decks of cards
  • Origami paper & instructions
  • Bubbles

Healthier food options (buy organic and/or fair-trade if you can afford it):

  • Natural non-HFCS candy
  • Granola bars
  • Cereal bars
  • Pretzels
  • Glee gum
  • Packets of instant hot chocolate
  • Raisins
  • Fruit leathers
  • Prepackaged trail mix
  • Prepackaged cookies

Things to avoid:

  • Avoid costume jewelry, especially glossy, fake painted pearls and toys from vending machines, both of which may contain lead
  • Avoid cheap plastic toys that are just going to end up in the trash and go off to the landfills

Last year I passed out cereal bars to the older kids and stickers to the younger kids and I didn’t hear any complaints. In fact, the younger kids were often quite excited about the stickers.

Now what about for your OWN kids?

What do you do if your kids go trick-or-treating and come home with a bag full of stuff you’d rather they not eat? While my kids at 4 yrs old and almost 2 are still too young (in my book) for door-to-door trick-or-treating, we went to a Halloween parade yesterday (the kids dress up and walk down Main street) and the local merchants passed out candy after the parade was done. Last year I decided to buy some natural candies – suckers, cookies, fruit leathers, etc., to trade Ava for once she was done trick-or-treating. She was happy with that. This year, however, I didn’t stock up on the natural candies first because I recalled that we got so little candy from the excursion and I’m not going to sweat it. She and Julian have had a piece of candy yesterday and one today and I think that’s fine. Everything in moderation.

On Halloween night this year, I think we’re going to go to a Halloween carnival at our rec center. There are a lot of games for the kids to play, prizes, and fun. It beats going out in cold in the dark if you ask me and I think the kids will enjoy it more. :)

What will you pass out this year? Will your kids go trick-or-treating?

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