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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Cosleeping and onions in your sock

Ha...bet that's a title you never thought you'd read.

Destructo-boy is sick.  And, when Destructo-boy gets sick..he get's SICK.  Days of misery.  Social-butterfly and Fairy-princess...well they get sick for a little bit, plug on and recover quickly. Destructo-boy drags it out..and out...and out.

Social-butterfly seemed to get it first.  She woke up this morning with a low-grade fever, but within an hour of waking up, was totally fine.  Weird..but we didn't think too much of it.  She was fine all day, but tonight she wasn't feeling well again.

Anyway, those of you who know me, know that I LOVE home remedies.  The weirder the better, I say.  So, when Destructo-boy got sick, I searched through my archives of home remedies to find something that would work for a 2-year old.  A 2-year who refuses to eat or drink anything other than breastmilk when sick that is.   And, voila..I came across the perfect home remedy.  Onions in your sock.  Yes..that's right...placing cut up onions in your sock helps a fever.

It's actually scientific in a weird sorta of way.  Onions are well known for having antimicrobial actions.  The soles of the feet are well known for being highly absorbent (surely you mom must have warned about the perils of getting worms from walking around barefoot outside).    So, the onion is absorbed through the feet and into the blood stream where it fights the infection.

Raw garlic would actually also work except for the fact that raw garlic is so strong, that it can actually burn the skin.  So, we'll stick with onions.

Anyway, Destructo-boy is now sleeping in MY room with cut-up onions in his socks.  Yes...he sleeps in my room every night.  So, I just entered my bedroom to check on him and well...the entire room smells like a burger joint. Ah..the joys of co-sleeping.  Can't wait to go sleep in my oniony smelling room.  Ha...at least we'll probably get the whole pew to ourselves tomorrow at Mass.  No one's going to want to sit next to us!

Sugarless Cookies

I have finally perfected my recipe for a healthy, mostly sugar-free cookie.  This recipe is my own invention, and with the exception of the chocolate chips (hey you gotta have a little fun!) contains no refined sugar at all.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup coconut oil
1 egg
3/4 cup honey
2 cups whole wheat flour (I use white-whole-wheat flour)
2 cups oats
1/2  natural peanut butter
1 cup instant non-fat dry milk
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup chocolate chips (or if you want to be really healthy...nuts or dried raisins)

Beat coconut oil, eggs, honey, peanut butter and vanilla until smooth.  Stir in flour, instant milk, baking soda and salt.  Add chocolate chips. Dough should be fairly stiff, if it's not, add more flour.

Bake on a greased cookie sheet at 375 for 10 minutes or until done.  Be careful, since honey burns easily.  The cookies will be slightly brown on the bottom but still look a little "undone".  That's okay.  They'll finish cooking on cookie sheet.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

My little urban garden.

My parents got me some garden boxes for an early birthday present so I could try my hand at urban container gardening.  We used to have free access to their huge, organic vegetable garden and I really miss it.

Here in the sub-tropics you can grow fruits and vegetables all winter...so I'm trying my hand at container gardening.   I planted strawberries, kale, chard, red lettuce and basil in the one little section of our drive-way that gets full sun.
 Can't wait to see how they do!







Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Biggest Loser and Weight Loss

Up until 3 weeks ago, I have never watched The Biggest Loser.  Actually, I never watch regular TV at all, however we know live on a law school campus....a law school with LOTS of married students with families.  Some of other other wives started a  Biggest Loser challenge.  We all meet at my neighbor's house on Tuesday nights, weigh-in and then watch The Biggest Loser.   Actually, like any group of women that get together, we do way more talking than watching...but that's all part of the fun. 

Anyway, I must say that watching this show was a bit shocking to me.  I can't believe these people actually let themselves be yelled at by trainers and submit to really, really public (as in on National TV) weigh-ins (not fully dressed either I might add).  It all seems rather disrespectful and shaming, but then I guess we probably only see the "dramatic" parts on TV and not all the nice, supportive parts.

Anyway, since starting a few weeks ago, I've managed to lose around 7 pounds...all in all I would like to lose around 20-25 lbs total..putting me back at my pre- (first kid) weight.  Kids have this really annoying habit of making one gain weight....really annoying. 

Anyways, in other ways of exploring weight loss with the Pater Familias, we have been exposed to Dr. Fuhrmann's Eat to Live  program.   Personally, I'm not a huge fan of it.   It should be called Starve to Live since it basically has you eating nothing but vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and legumes. Supposedly people who eat this type of diet live longer.   Now, I don't know about you, but personally I don't want to live to 110 if it means eating nothing but vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and legumes.   Not that those aren't all fine foods...but  life has a lot better food to offer than spinach and black beans.

However, one part of Dr. Fuhrmann's diet is rather good.  He suggests eating 1 lb of raw vegetables a day, 1 lb. of cooked vegetables a day and 5 fruits.   I'm not eating that many servings of fruit a day...probably between 1-3, but I am aiming to get that many veggies in.  Unfortunately, we can't afford to eat them all raw, since frozen vegetables are so much cheaper.  So, many days I have been eating 2 lbs of cooked veggies a day...and therein lies the key to weight loss, I have found.   When eating that many vegetables, there's not as much room for other foods. 

The other key to weight loss I have found is nutrient density. I've found that eating very nutrient dense foods really decreases all the cravings for the bad stuff.   We've been eating lots of lentils and other dried beans lately...not only are they very inexpensive (a MUST for us right now)..they are really nutrient dense...especially lentils.   I've found some excellent recipes lately..that I'll have to share in later installments.

On that same note, we've been trying to eliminate caloric dense foods that don't offer much nutrition (like cheese) and stick with caloric-dense foods that do (ie. avocado, nuts, seeds) which are great. 

However, the vast amounts of veggies is key, I think.  My kids have been eating more veggies..it's great.  I get lots of comments from cashiers when they see my grocery cart is 1/2 full with vegetables, but that's okay...I'm used to being a bit weird.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Lentil/Rice Tacos

I apologize for not posting in awhile.  We've recently moved 1500 miles away and the Pater Familias is now in law school!.  Plus, I've been quite busy on http://www.my-home-remedies.com, but I'm ready to start blogging again.

I wanted to share my most recent, new favorite food recipe.  It's quite tasty, nutritious and super easy!

Lentil/Rice Tacos     (The Pater Familias likes these better than regular taco meat, and so do the rest of us).

1 cup lentils
1 cup brown or wild rice
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp salt (I use "real salt")
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. cumin


 Shredded cheddar cheese
Corn tortillas
Tomatoes/Lettuce, etc.

Throw the lentils and rice in a pot with enough water to cook them (follow the specific amounts for your rice and lentils).  Add onion, garlic, salt and spices. Let simmer for 45 minutes or so until done. 

Cut the corn tortillas into quarters and gently pan fry the "chips" in a small amount of oil (I use olive or coconut oil) until they get slightly crisp, but not burnt.

Serve with shredded cheese, lettuce and tomato.

Enjoy!!


Friday, July 9, 2010

Happy National Sugar Cookie Today

Today, July 9th,  is National Sugar Cookies Day, a little known holiday which I find a bit strange plopped into the middle of summer.   After all, cold winter days and rainy days cry out for cookie baking....sweltering hot days in July cry out for ice cream!   Nonetheless, today is National Sugar Cookie Day, and if you've followed my blog at all, you will know that we are rather fond of cookies around here.  Most of our cookies involve chocolate chips, but every once in awhile we detour from that.   And, no I actually didn't make these today.  Hot July days, without central air conditioning don't make me inclined to want to spend my time in the kitchen baking cookies.

However, I just couldn't let the day pass by, without at least  mentioning it.   So, in honor of National Sugar Cookie Day, I thought I would share my favorite, "healthier" sugar cookie recipe.  But, before we talk about the cookies, let's discuss frosting.  After all, what's a sugar cookie without frosting, or at least colored sugar?  We greatly prefer frosting in our household.  With the exception of the Pater Familias who is a bit weird in the fact that he doesn't like frosting (nor chocolate for that manner!!??)...the rest of us merely view cakes as a conduit to hold the frosting,  

Frosting is actually quite easy to make yourself.   We try to stay away from artificial colors, so we just keep it white (or brown for chocolate) unless it happens to be fall and we have lots of red beets and can use red beet juice to color the frosting pink.   Try it, the next time you have beets.  It really does work, and doesn't change the taste at all.

Cookie Frosting (works for cakes too!)

4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter
5 tablespoons milk  (decrease this slightly if using red beet juice for coloring)
1 teaspoon vanilla.

Cream the butter and sugar together.  Beat in the vanilla, milk and beet juice (if coloring pink) until smooth and thick.


"Healthier" Sugar Cookies
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
2 cups white-whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg


Cream butter and sugar.   Add egg, vanilla and milk.   Stir in baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and flour.   Shape into 1 inch ball and place on ungreased cookie sheet.  Flatten each cookie slighltly with a fork.   Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes. Do not overbake!  Frost when cool!  Enjoy!

Monday, July 5, 2010

New Year

Well we've started our school year.  Our first official day was June 29th.....Social-Butterfly is now 3rd grade (or so...homeschoolers don't really have grades) while the Fairy-Princess is kindergarten(ish).  Yes, we start in the summer and go year-round!  I like being able to be more relaxed all year....there is no pressure to fit school in 4-5 days a week, and if we don't finish one day, we just finish the next.

So far, things have gone just swimmingly.  I am LOVING our phonics program...Alpha-Phonics Primer and Phonics Pathways for the Fairy-Princess.  It is SO MUCH easier than what we had been using before (Teach your child to read in 100 Easy Lessons).  Fairy-Princess seems to be picking things up well!

Lesson Pathways is working out find too.  The kids love it, since it is so much more fun and interactive than just a textbook.  Social-Butterfly is loving learning about time lines and helping dogs.  She had a lot of fun making a family timeline, and  it helped her visualize the passage of time easier and realize that mommy and daddy actually lived lots of life before she was born!

All About Spelling seems to be working very well too!  The Social-Butterfly likes it better than just plain lists of spelling words anyway.

We'll see what the rest of the year brings!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

New Look....New Ideas.....New Website

We have a new look for our blog!!  I'm always up for a change,  and changing my blog template is as much fun as rearranging the living room furniture..... except I didn't even have to break a sweat  or ask for help to do this!

Hope you like the new look! 

As I've talked about in recent posts, I been experimenting with new ideas about food, mostly about soaking grains!  The purpose of soaking grains is to break down phylates.  It requires advance planning, which actually makes things EASIER, in that I HAVE to plan ahead, so there is no last minute "hemming and hawing" over what to make for dinner, or not wanting to start my bread.  If my flour or rice is already soaking, then the decision is already made for me!  I LOVE easy decisions.  And, believe it or not, it's actually much easier to decide what to make for dinner when dinner is hours (or even an entire day away).   I tend to balk at making "last-minute decisions"....just ask the Pater Familias how annoying I am every time we go into a restaurant...but decisions made for the future (even just tomorrow's dinner)..are easy!

I also wanted to introduce my loyal readers to my NEW website.  The result of much hard-work and research...and MUCH more to come.  It is still very-much a work in progress, but it's been loads of fun and I'm learning a lot.  Home remedies have been a passion for mine for the last several years  so without further ado...MY website.....(duh, da, duh, da, duh,  da.... can't you just hear the music?!?).   My-Home-Remedies.

I hope you like it.  I hope IF you do like it, you link to it.  I hope you share YOUR story on it!  But, most of all I hope you find it useful, and reference it over and over again.  Remember..new pages are being added  a couple of times a week so keep coming back and see what's new!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Soaked Muffins

My adventures in soaking grains continues.  I tried this recipe for soaked muffins, and they were DELICIOUS!!   Really, really good.  The only change I made was I used plain, home-made yogurt instead of raw milk, since we don't have raw milk, and I didn't feel comfortable letting pasteurized milk sit out on the counter.  For my add-ins I used chopped walnuts and raisins.   I omitted the ginger as I don't really care for ginger as a spice, and instead added a pinch of allspice.  YUMMY!! 

Right now, I'm soaking flour for pizza crust, for Saturday night pizza.  Can't wait to see how that turns out!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Soaking Grains

As promised in my last post, I am updating on my experience  with soaking flour to make bread.

Soaking flour, involves, allowing the flour to sit in an acid medium for 12-24 hours before using it to bake bread.   The "acid medium" could be water with lemon juice, cider vinegar or kefir (cultured milk, similar to yogurt).   The purpose of soaking grains is to break down the phylatesPhylates are sometimes called "anti-nutrients" since they prevent the absorption of other nutrients.   See this link and this link for more information on soaking grains.

Since reading this information I have adapted my bread recipe, to involve soaking most of the flour.  It has come out wonderfully, rises nice and high and is quite tasty.  The only difference is that the rising times are a bit longer.  Instead of  1 hour for each rise, it might take 4 hours...but it's still simple enough, and it's not as though I need to *do* anything to make it rise.

Whole Wheat Bread with Soaked Flour

3 cups warm water
3 tablespoons vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar)
5 teaspoons yeast
2/3 cup honey
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon salt
7-8 cups white-whole-wheat flour

The day before you want to make your bread, combine the vinegar with 2 1/2 cups warm water, 6 cups of flour and 1/3 cup honey.  Mix well, and cover the bowl tightly with saran wrap.  Allow to sit on the counter for 12-24 hours (I usually do around 18-20 hours).

The next day, mix 1/2 cup warm water with, the yeast, 1/3 cup honey and 1 cup flour.  Let sit for 30 minutes or until it is bubbly and slightly risen.   Add the melted butter and the salt.   Add the soaked dough to this mixture and knead well for at least 5-10 minutes.  I usually knead my dough right in the bowl as it saves a mess on the counter.  You may have to add more flour.

Let rise until doubled in size, between 2-4 hours.  Punch dough down, divine into two loaves and place each loaf into a greased loaf pan.  Let rise another 2-4 hours in a warm place.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until done.  

Enjoy!! 

Many people swear by the greater digestibility of soaked grains. So far, I have only soaked beans, oatmeal and rice.  The rice and beans came out great! The oatmeal, I probably should have used kefir or yogurt instead of the lemon juice I did use.  The Social-Butterfly complained that her oatmeal was too sour, and she kept wanting to add sugar to it.  Next time, I soak oatmeal for breakfast, I'll use kefir or yogurt.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I'm been busy....

I apologize for not blogging in several weeks.  We've been rather busy over here. Out countdown is on....only 2 more months until we pack up and move 1000 miles away for the Pater Familias to begin studying law.   Lot's of preparations have been going on lately!

In the meantime, I've been choosing and buying curriculum for next year.  You might remember a previous post I made about choosing curriculum.  Well, forget about all that...I've changed my mind on just about everything.. (Isn't that what always happens).  I'll be using Math-U-See (as usual)...Primer for the Fairy-Princess and Gamma for the Social Butterfly. However, in other changes, I'll be attempting the FREE lesson plans on LessonPathways for History, Science and Language Arts.  ( Level K for Fairy Princess and Level 3 for Social Butterfly).    Social Butterfly will be doing Shurley Grammar (Homeschooling..Level 3).  We'll be continuing with Maps, Charts and Graphs for the Social Butterfly.    However, for the Fairy-Princess I'll be trying Phonics Pathways, and Alpha-Phonics for reading instruction.  For Religion, we'll continue with the Faith and Life Series.

Much of this, I've been able to buy USED on homeschooclassifieds.com.  LOVE saving money and it makes it easier to just buy what we need.  For example, with Math-U-See, we only use the DVD, I don't even read the teacher's manual, so it's nice to just get the DVD used, and not spend lots of money on a book which isn't used.

I'm super excited to try All About Spelling for phonics/spelling for both Social Butterfly and the Fairy Princess.  I'm thinking All About Spelling might even help me too...can always use a good review of phonics and spelling rules.  I'm afraid, I've gotten a bit lazy and overly dependent on spell-checker.

Stay tuned for future reviews on how this new curriculum works.  We school year-round...so we should be starting our "new" year by July!  (Aren't my kids LUCKY!!  If they complain, I remind them of all the 2 and 3 days weeks they get during the year.

On the real foods front., I've been reading up on soaking grains to make them more digestible. The Passionate Homemaker has a wonderful blog post, explaining in very simple terms how to soak flours and other grains to make them more digestible. Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon also has instructions.

The purpose of soaking grains is to break down phylates and make them more digestible. Phylates are not digestible to humans, and sometimes are called an "anti-nutrient" since they prevent the absorption of other nutrients.  The idea, is that phylates need to be broken down to achieve maximum nutrient absorption.

Yesterday, I soaked my rice for 7 hours before cooking (used yogurt as the 'acid medium') and it came out very tasty.  I also added lemon juice to my soaking beans, and our beans and rice last night was very digestible!

Today, I started soaking my white whole wheat flour to make break.  Stay-tuned until tomorrow to see how that works!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Chocolate Formula?!?!?

I think this article basically sums up everything wrong with American society and eating.  Chocolate formula for toddlers??  Let's replace the most real, natural food toddlers normally would be getting, breastmilk, after all the WHO recommends a minimum of two years of breastfeeding, with fake overly sweetened, drinks that contains 4.5 teaspoons of sugar per 7 oz. serving!   That's A LOT of sugar!   Instead of eating real food with real vitamins, let's just eat fake stuff and add vitamins in!.  From there, it's just the natural leap to colored, sugar-frosted cereals and neon-glowing yogurt, 

Not to mention, that even if a mother can't breastfeed up to two years of age, formua isn't recommended or necessary after 12 months.   To quote
This is a terrible idea. Infants and toddlers do not need formula—they need to transition from mother's milk to eating nutritious table foods, drinking milk, and developing healthy eating behaviors
It is not likely to bode well for subsequent eating habits and food preferences.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Whole Wheat, Flax Seed, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yep...that's a mouthful...and so are these cookies!  A mouthful of yumminess!

Whole Wheat, Flax Seed, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/4 cups whole wheatflour

1/2 cup ground flax seeds

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 pinch salt

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

1 cup chocolate chips

Directions

1. preheat oven to 350°F Grease baking sheets or line with parchment paper.

2. In a small bowl, combine flour, flaxseed, baking soda and salt.

3.  In a large bowl, cream sugars and butter. Beat in egg and vanilla. Beat in peanut butter until smooth. Fold in flour mixture.   Add in chocolcate chips

4. Shape dough in balls, using about 1 tablespoons dough per cookie, and place 2-inches apart on prepared baking sheets

5. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool on baking sheets on wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove to rack to cool completely.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Italian in me....

always loves a good, new pasta recipe.  We tried this one tonight...DELICIOUS!!  I've never mixed lentils and pasta before, but it's now going to be a regular addition to our mealtimes.   It's also delicious over rice (for those gluten-free, it is also delicious over rice!!)

Sicilian Lentil Pasta Sauce

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

2 large zucchinis, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup dry lentils

3 cups water

2 (8 ounce) cans diced tomatoes OR chopped fresh tomatoes

1/2  teaspoons basil

1 1/2 teaspoons oregano

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup water

Directions

1.In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions, zucchini, and garlic. Cook and stir until tender, about 5 minutes.

2.Add lentils and 3 cups water to vegetables. Bring to a rolling boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook 45 to 60 minutes.

3.Stir in tomato sauce, tomato paste, salt, spices, and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. If necessary, add more water to keep the sauce from sticking. Be careful not to dilute; the sauce should be quite thick.
 
4. Serve over your favorite pasta (we always use whole wheat pasta) OR rice.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A simple, yet beautiful meal.

Dinner tonight came out looking so beautiful and  artistic I couldn't resist snapping a picture of this tasteful (pun intended!) meal.  Other than the fact that my pancakes are bit misshapen....it's a breakfast worthy of any New England Bed and Breakfast.   The sausage is just regular Italian sausage and the raspberries are organic, frozen berries from the raspberry bushes in our back yard.

Wheat-Germ Whole Wheat Pancakes

Ingredients


2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/4 cup coconut oil

2 cups buttermilk

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 cup wheat germ

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

Directions

1.In a medium bowl, mix eggs with oil and buttermilk. Stir in baking soda, wheat germ, salt and flour; mix until blended.

2.Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium-high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides, turning once.

Gluten-Free Pancakes  (these are on the green plate in the picture
Ingredients


1 cup rice flour

3 tablespoons tapioca flour

1/3 cup potato starch

2 cups buttermilk

1 packet sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

2 eggs

3 tablespoons coconut oil

2 cups water

Directions

1.In a bowl, mix or sift together the rice flour, tapioca flour, potato starch, dry buttermilk powder, sugar substitute, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and xanthan gum. Stir in eggs, water, and oil until well blended and few lumps remain.

2.Heat a large, well-oiled skillet or griddle over medium high heat. Spoon batter onto skillet and cook until bubbles begin to form. Flip, and continue cooking until golden brown on bottom. Serve immediately with condiments of your choice

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What children eat in France

I just found this article on school-kids eat in France. It is very interested and sounds to me as though all the food they eat is "real"....no frozen pizzas, no overly processed "chicken sandwiches" , no canned, soggy vegetables.  The French have their problems.....but I think the area of "food/eating" is one area why they get it right.  How great would it be if American children were served organic fruits and edam cheese for lunch....and even better if they actually had longer than 20 minutes to eat it?


On Mondays, the menus are also posted on the wall outside every school in the country. The variety on the menus is astonishing: no single meal is repeated over the 32 school days in the period, and every meal includes an hors d'oeuvre, salad, main course, cheese plate and dessert.




Americans struggling with obesity epidemics have for years wondered how the so-called French paradox works: How does a nation that ingests huge quantities of butter, beef and cakes keep trim and have such long lives? It could be the red wine, as some believe. But another reason has to be this: in a country where con artists and adulterers are tolerated, the laws governing meals are sacrosanct and are drummed into children before they can even hold a knife. The French don't need their First Lady to plant a vegetable garden at the Élysée Palace to encourage good eating habits. They already know the rules: sit down and take your time, because food is serious business


But I do know that on Feb. 4, he ate hake in Basque sauce, mashed pumpkin, cracked rice, Edam cheese and organic fruits for lunch








Read more: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1967060,00.html#ixzz0llMQ2cwx




Read more: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1967060,00.html#ixzz0llLzD28c

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ten Thrifty Food Tips

We're now five days past tax day, and tax day of course has everything thinking about money...and how to save more money....since making more money just means you have to pay more taxes...so saving more money can actually be an "easier" way to build wealth. So, on that thought...

My Top Ten Thrifty Food Tips

1) Reuse tea bags.  My grandmother taught me this. Lately I have been drinking rather large amounts of decaf green tea which has numerous health benefits.  I can honestly say that I haven't noticed a difference in a new tea bag or a used one.  Of course, this only works if you drink multiple cups of tea a day.

2) Don't let any fruits or vegetables go to waste...freeze any fruits/vegetables about to go bad and use later in smoothies (fruit) of veggies (soup).

3) On that same note, don't let any food go to waste....use chicken or beef bones to make stock, save leftover bits of meat for soup, save breadcrumbs to make croutons or in recipes calling for bread crumbs.

4) Grow whatever you can yourself. If you don't have a yard, grow herbs in the windowsill, or tomatoes on the back porch.  Here is a handy website on container or apartment gardening.

5) Plan ahead for picky eaters.  If your child won't eat crusts...cut them off BEFORE you make the sandwich., you child will likely eat more sandwich.  Of course, save those crusts to make bread crumbs.

6) One of my favorite tips is from The Complete Tightwad Gazette. She talks about shopping to feed your pantry/stock piles.  Don't buy ANYTHING unless it is the lowest price, and if you find a good deal, grab it, even if you already have a lot of that (assuming you will be able to store it, before it spoils)

7) Here is another one of my favorite tips..and thinking in these terms really does make a HUGE difference...another perspective on spending.  Think about everything you buy in terms how long you have to work to earn that money.  (OK, so I cheated, this isn't necessarily food related).

8)  I mentioned this before, but it bears mentioning again..make your own...especially cakes, muffins, cookies, brownies, etc. The difference between using a brownie mix and making brownies from scratch is actually very small in time invested, but homemade is much healthier and cheaper.  Make in bulk (like baking several loaves of bread at a time) and freeze the extra.

9) On that same note, the more you cook, the better you get at it. One person might take all afternoon to bake a cake, while another person might whip it up in 10 minutes.  Cooking is definitely something where practice and time spent makes a huge difference.

10). Eat more beans...they're healthy, nutritious and especially if you buy dried...very, very cheap. The Bean Bible is a great resource for how to incorporate more beans into your diet.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Back on the Bandwagon

The Octave of Easter is ending (well almost a week ago), and I'm afraid we did a bit too much feasting that  week (and the subsequent one) .  Of course, it's a great reason to celebrate, but between all the Easter candy given us, and goodies we'd made and then Easter parties, I'm afraid our sugar consumption has been through the roof.  The Fairy-Princess has especially been a bit sugar-crazed lately, with the constant asking for candy and sweets.  Coming off a 7 (or 14)-day sugar-fest can be a bit difficult, and I'm afraid our normal, healthy eating habits went to the wayside,

So, today, we are back on the real food bandwagon.......the chocolate candy is gone, the goodies are gone, and we're back to only eating treats/sweets on Sundays.  I feel like we really need that routine and structure, and it helps the kids a lot to know that we don't eat /chocolate/ice cream/candy during the week.  (of course, I make exceptions for my good goodies or special occasions!

In my quest to get more iron-rich foods into Destructo-Boy (and the rest of us), I came across this recipe...chock-full of healthy blackstrap molasses!

Yum...another Good Goodie!

Cry Babies II (the title seems especially apropos for my household)

Ingredients


1/3 cup butter, softened

1 cup turbinado sugar

1 cup blackstrap molasses

4 cups white-whole-wheat flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup milk

4 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup raisins

Directions

1.Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease cookie sheets.

2.In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Stir in the molasses. Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger; stir into the molasses mixture alternately with the milk. Finally, mix in the chocolate chips and raisins. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto the prepared cookie sheets.

3.Bake for 10 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Destructo-Boy

Apparently The Grand-Mater Familias feels that poor Destructo-Boy is getting shafted in this blog and "he feels left-out." (Never mind the fact that Destructo-Boy just recently had his 2nd birthday, and despite showing signs of high intelligence, he still can't read).

Anyway, since I hadn't really written about him, I thought I would devote a post to the woes of Destructo-Boy.  Like all good mothers, I faithfully took Destructo-Boy to see Homeopathic Doctor for his 2nd-year check-up.  And, like all good Doctors seeing patients under the age of 3, Homepathic Doctor ordered a lead test for Destructo-Boy.  As any mom of a 2 year-old knows, getting a blood draw on a toddler is NOT a fun activity. So, like all procrastinators, I put it off, and put it off until finally getting it done in early April.

Much to our surprise, a  week later we got a very warm, inviting, friendly, helpful (read...the sarcasm folks) letter from the health department informing us that our child "was exposed to lead"   Like all "bad news letters", this one came on a Saturday, when all offices are closed and you can't do anything about it until Monday.   Anyway, on Monday, I obviously put a frantic call into Homeopathic Doctor and apparently his level was 14.  Not total and complete panic level, but high enough to pay attention to.

The suprising part, is we really have no idea how he could have been exposed to lead.  We don't live in an old house, so there definitely should not be any lead paint around.  I don't think it would be in our pipes or in soil either, however that might be worth testing.

Anyway, since iron, calcium and vitamin C are very important for protection against lead damage  I really need to work on upping his iron, calcium and vitamin C consumption.  Vitamin C is pretty easy to increase, we always have a 2 lb. bottle of sodium ascorbate powder on hand.  I also have some freeze-dried liver capsules , so I'm  trying to frantically  hide sodium ascorbate powder and dried-liver in his food.....usually peanut-butter.   I do have a cast-iron skillet, so I guess I need to season that up and use it more!

I'm still in need of other ideas to get iron-rich foods into a stubborn 2-yo.  He didn't go for my blackstrap molasses sundae, and isn't terribly fond of spinach.  Of course, we could go the supplement route, but iron supplements tend to not be very well absorbed, not to mention they are notorious for causing other issues.

I'm always a fan of getting necessary nutrients from REAL FOOD and I recently stumbled across this handy-dandy little chart and this one  listing the iron content of various foods.  Looks like we need to start adding canned clams to our diet!  Anyone with any good, toddler-friendly recipies..

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Curriculum choices

It's that time of year again, the time of year when every homeschooling mom starts losing sleep over curriculum choices for next year.  Well...not every mom., there are of course those who are blissfully happy with a satellite school or "curriculum in a box"....and of course there are those even more blissfully happy unschoolers.

However, for the rest of us....those who like to "mix and match" well choosing curriclum can be quite the experience, almost as difficult as choosing a house or a name for our child....we make it out to be some sort of momentuous decision that will profoundly affect our child for the rest of their lives.  Choosing the wrong curriculm could deem our child to being forever behind, missing vital parts of education and destined to forever working at Burger King, while not even knowing how to give change for $4.48 from a $5 bill.  Oh wait...there *a few* public schooled kids who could fit that desciprtion too.

Anyway, back to curriclum choices.  I'm fairy happy with what we use for reading, mathphonics, grammer and science for the Social Butterfly.  I'm NOT happy with what we used for history/social studies and writing.

So....l'm looking for recommendations.   Anyone know of any good (preferably Catholic or at least nothing anti-Catholic in ir)  history/social studies curricula and/or a good writing curricla for the elementary grades.  Yes, I know writing isn't THAT important for the 3rd grade, but I tend to think writing is the most important skill one needs to learn.  If my kids learn nothing else, I want them to know how to write well, if anything just so they can start their own blog that people actually want to read.

So.....I'm open to suggestions?  What curriculum do you use and why do you like it? 

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Kindergarten Kickoff.....

The Fairy-Princess has officially started kindergarten!!!  It's about 5 months earlier than she would start if she were going to public school, however seeing that she has an October birthday, it puts her just about at 5 1/2.  That's not a bad age to start "formal" schooling....not that much of what we do is all that formal, although she does frequently come to school in a "ball gown and tiara" so I guess we're pretty formal after all!


In a previous post, I talked about how the Fairy-Princess didn't like Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, and I was going to try a free curriculum I found online.....Free Reading.  Well, as the saying goes....kids always make a lier out of you.  Apparently the Fairy-Princess is very fond of Teach your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, and she has been enjoying the book.  We're in our 2nd offical week, and already on lesson six!!

Just to give you an idea, we are very relaxed homeschoolers, very, very relaxed.  I am more than willing to drop everything and meet a friend at the playground or spend time outside on a rare, sunny, warm day.  In a typical week, we only do 3 days of book/school-work...(don't worry we go year-round to make up for our laxness during the year).

The Fairy-Princess is a budding artist and loves coloring, writing and workbooks, so we have been supplementing the reading with MCP Phonics, level K, which because it has lots of pictures, the Fairy-Princess loves.

For Math, she is enjoying working through MCP Math K, and  we are learning handwriting with Handwriting Without Tears, although the Fairy-Princess basically learned how to write on her own...well let me re-phrase that.she learned how to write backwards all on her own. She writes her name in perfect mirror-image fashion.  Thankfully, another homeschool mom reassured me that her son also used to write like that, and now he is a genius...so there is hope for her!

I'm also attempting to get started with  Image of God, Who Am I, but we're still working on getting that off the ground.

Of course, we can't forget all the real-life learning that goes on.  Right now, the girls have around 20 wood frog tadpoles swimming around a plastic tank in their bedroom.   We're hoping to watch the magical transformation as they turn into frogs.....and then promptly release them back into their natural environment.  We're definitely NOT looking to recreate the 2nd Plague of Egypt as part of our history.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Gluten-Free Easter Goodies

Ever since she was 3 1/2 years old, the Social-Butterfly has been gluten-free. No, she doesn't have celiac, no we don't have any medical reason to keep her off gluten, other than we tried removing gluten from her diet and noticed an improvement in language skills and behavior issues.  Anyway, today we spent the day making chocolate candies and other goodies to fill Easter Baskets with.  Yes, the children helped, and no we don't "do" the Easter Bunny (nor Santa Claus nor the Tooth Fairy....not in the traditional sense anyway), so I'm not worried about them seeing what's in their baskets ahead of time.  

Off Topic Note; Just in case you are interested in why we are a Santa Claus/Easter Bunny/Tooth Fairy free household....check out this blog post I found, which expresses our sentiments and feelings better than I could.   Especially the last line 
Someday -- no matter how elaborate and colorful or touching and full of poignancy our stories are -- our kids will find out the truth. We were the ones who filled the stockings, hid the eggs, and left the money. The rabbits and fairies and workshop elves were just things we made up to make them happy. And then they will look at us and ask us about God.

What do we say then and why should they believe us?

Back to the topic at hand....since Easter is a time of feasting after the Lenten fast...I don't worry about nutrition as much.  It's a time of celebration...bring on the sugar and chocolate!!  After all, we have the greatest thing in the world....Jesus' Resurrection...and personally I can't think of a better way to celebrate than with chocolate and a glass of wine.

Here a couple of our favorite recipes.

Hedgehogs (this one IS actually healthy AND tasty!)

Ingredients

2 cups walnuts
1 cup dates, raisins OR dried cranberries.
2 1/2  cups flaked coconut
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1/8 cup applesauce

Directions
1.Grind nuts and dried fruit in a blender or food processor. Mix 2 cups coconut and remaining ingredients.
2.Scoop up in tablespoons, shape into balls and roll in remaining coconut. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet until coconut browns, 15 to 25 minutes, at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C)


Peanut Butter Yum Yums (tastes **just** like a peanut butter cup candy!)
Ingredients



1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups peanut butter
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon butter


Directions


1.Melt butter or margarine over low heat. Add sugars, peanut butter and vanilla. Mix well.
2.Press into a 9 x 13 inch pan.
3.Melt chocolate chips and butter, mix together and spread over peanut butter mixture.
 
 
Chocolate Truffles
Ingredients


20 oz. chocolate chips (semi-sweet or milk chocolate)
1 (8 ounce) package Cream Cheese, softened
Suggested coatings: coconut, cocoa powder, powdered sugar, crushed nuts

Directions
1.Melt 8 oz chocolate chips, set aside. Beat cream cheese in medium bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until creamy. Add melted chocolate; mix well. Cover. Refrigerate 1 hour or until firm. Meanwhile, cover baking sheet with waxed paper.
2.Shape chocolate mixture into 36 balls, using about 2 tsp. for each ball. Place in single layer on prepared baking sheet.
3.Melt remaining 12 oz chocolate. Dip chocolate balls, one at a time, in melted chocolate. Return to baking sheet. Sprinkle with suggested coatings. Refrigerate until chocolate is firm. Store in tightly covered container in refrigerator.

Happy Easter Everyone!!!!!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Fool's

I've always loved April Fool's Day. What a fun day!!   In our house, the day started out with 6:30 AM phone calls, and consisted of rubber ants in salad and rubber lady-bugs in sack lunches.  A (stuffed) cat ended up in the refrigerator and the garden was littered with plastic eggs.

Recently I came across this little practical joke!!

McDonald's to Debut Earth Shake


ha, ha!!!

However, my all-time favorite April Fool's joke was promegated by Dr. Jay Gordon. last year.

He sent a "fake" free release entitled. AAP Severs Ties with Formula Industry

All I have to say is it's a real shame that someone could even written such a satire in the first place.

Monday, March 29, 2010

A Sweet Problem

A sweet problem: Princeton researchers find that high-fructose corn syrup prompts considerably more weight gain

What an interesting study....not that it should come as any surprise.   I think people have been getting stirrings of the fact that HFCS is bad, for some time now, however of course the corn industry disagrees.  

However, this leads us to the question, which sweeteners are good...or at least not as bad?    I think most everyone can agree that refined sugar isn't that great for you.

It can be very confusing, sorting out all the differnt types of sweetners on the market.....granulated sugar, brown sugar, molasses, honey, maple syrup, stevia, splenda, aspartame, turbinado, rapadura,  sucanatagave nectar.. It's enough to give anyone a headache. 

Personally, I am a fan (to use facebook terminology) of keeping things as natural as possible....this means sweetners which are mainly unprocessed and whole.

Of course, the most "whole" sweetner out there is honey...if you can get raw honey, it's basically going straight from the beehive to your mouth.    Honey is said to have a whole host of health benefits.....everything from treating burns to anti-bacterial properties.  Raw honey is "best" but of course also more expensive, so in our current situation, we need to make-do with just regular honey.  Many of my baking recipies for the good goodies use honey.

Rapadura is also a very "whole" sweetenr.  Historically sugar was made by pressing the juice from the cane and boiling away the water. The product retained its critical vitamins, minerals and trace nutrients.  Yes, you read that right, sugar actually has some vitamins, minerals and nutrients in it.

Turbinado sugar is slightly more processed than rapadura, but it still retains some nutrients, the difference being that turbinado has been centrifuged slightly to remove the molasses.

Speaking of molasses, it is one of the most healthy, nutrient-dense sweetners, especially blackstrap molasses which is high in iron. Blackstrap molasses is actually good for you.

Brown sugar contains molasses, which therefore makes it a bit healthier than white sugar, depending on how refined the sugar actually was. Needless to say, most commonly available brown sugar is pretty highly-refined. Nonetheless, brown sugar is still a slightly better than option than white sugar, since it is *less refined*.

Maple syrup is also a "whole food", going basically from the tree to your mouth with only the minimal processing of boiling off the water.  Real maple syrup also has important health benefits.

I also wanted to touch on agave nectar.  While many people market agave nectar as a "healthy sweetner" similar to honey, it is actually very highly processed and  some claim it is worse than HFCS.

The last category of sweetners to discuss is "non-nutritive" sweetners (aspartame, sucralose, sugar alcohols, etc).  I think the title pretty much sums it up, anything which is non-nutritive must be pretty bad.   Here is an excellant article from the Weston-Price foundation detailing some of the dangers of artifical sweetners.   The one exception being stevia, which from all the research I have read, isn't so bad after all.  Unfortunately it is generally more expensive than other artifical sweetners, but a much better option, for people (like diabetics) who might need that option. Stay tuned for a future issue where I share my recipe for home-made soda using stevia!

Easter is almost upon us....that wonderful season where we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the ending of the Lenten Fast. Unfortunately in our current society, the holiday seems to be synonomous with chocolcate bunnies and eating candy ,instead of the focus being on the miracle of Resurrection. Nonethelesss our soceity being what it is, this Easter, our goal is make our Easter goodies using more healthsome, whole sweetners.   Stay tuned for homemade candy ideas!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Saturday Salvage

I have been reading Amy Dacyczn's The Complete Tightwad Gazette,  (checked out from the library of course), so every free moment has been spent trying to glean as much wisdom as possible before returning.   Now, for those who aren't familiar with this book, it actually isn't a typical book...with chapters 1, 2, 3, 4 etc. whereby each chapter talks about a different topic.  It is a collection of newsletters called The Tightwad Gazette that Amy Dacyczn wrote from 1990-1996.  Therefore, it jumps around a lot, with one page talkng about Budget Weddings  and the prior page discussing Those Pesky Juice Lids.   However, there is still a lot of wisdom to be learned from it, once I got past the fact that some advice is outdated, I learned that much of her wisdom is timeless.

Anyway, as I was reading it, the Social-Butterfly was partaking in that annoying pastime of children...reading over my shoulder.   She happened to notice a page entitled "Toys from Trash" of course the word toys caught her attention.  Despite the fact that they have an entire toyroom filled with toys, they are always looking for new ones, combine new toys with a "crafty activity" and you have a thrilling Saturday for an 8-year old.   So, Social-Butterfly decided that she wanted to make a "hockey rink" which uses nothing more than a cardboard box and a magic marker.


The book suggested using little 6-inch rulers and checkers for the hockey sticks and the puck.  Instead we used wooden pieces from  Handwriting Without Tears Wooden Letter Sets for hockey sticks and a checker we managed to scrouge up from the bottom of the toy chest.  It provided a few moments of entertainment at least, but most of the fun was in making it.  More importantly, I think it taught a valuable lesson in creativity and "making do"

The Frugal Zealot  also is very adamant about NEVER wasting food.  That is one area we really need to work on, however at least today I was able to make one food salvage.

I decided to try a new bread recipe, one which promised to be faster and easier.


Ingredients
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast


3 cups  white-whole wheat flour


1 1/2 teaspoons salt


1 1/2 tablespoons honey


1 1/2 tablespoons nonfat dry milk powder


1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 1/4 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)


Directions


1.Place ingredients in the bread machine pan in the order suggested by the manufacturer.


2.Select Whole Wheat or Basic Bread setting. Press Start
 
 
Notice how this recipe states to use a bread machine.  I don't own one, nor did I ever really care for the odd-shaped loaves that came out of it, when I did own one.  However, I decided to try making this recipe by hand using the mixing paddle on my Cuisinart Food Processor.   I figured I would just put the ingredients in the same order as I would in a bread machine (wet first, with dry on top, putting the yeast in a little well in the dry ingredients).  Well, it mixed up just fine, but did.not.rise!  Not at all, so we decided instead to use the dough to make pretzals...rolling it into shapes, then brushing the tops with melted butter, sprinkling with sea salt and baking at 350 degrees for around 15 minutes.
 
The results were quite delicious!! 
 
  The kids also had tons of fun rolling the dough into their favorite shapes (mostly hearts and letters).  I baked them on an aluminium pizza baking sheet (the kind with holes in the bottom) and it came out rather good.
 
As, a bonus, I was also able to perfect my bread recipe.
 
100% Whole Wheat Bread
 
Ingredients



1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast


3 1/4 cups white-whole wheat flour


1 1/2 teaspoons salt


1 1/2 tablespoons honey

1 1/2 tablespoons nonfat dry milk powder


1 1/2 tablespoons butter


1 1/4 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)


Directions


1.Place water, honey and yeast in the mixing bowl of the food processor.


2. Mix gently with a spoon and allow to sit for around 10 minutes or until the yeast is frothy.
 
3. Add rest of ingredients and mix using the mixing blade of the food processor.
 
4. Remove dough and place in a greased bowl and allow to rise in a warm place for around 1 to 1.5 hours. 
 
5.  Punch dough down, shape into loaf and place into a greased 9" loaf pan.
 
6. Allow to rise again for 1 to 1.5 hours.
 
7.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until done.
 
 
 

Since I mix and knead this using the food processor, it is even simpler than my other bread recipe and truly is something I can just "whip right up"....or course there is rising time involved...but not much actual work.  Please note, however that if using regular whole-wheat flour instead of white-whole wheat, it is recommended to add a small amount of vital wheat gluten to aid in rising.  

Altogether I think it was a pretty good Saturday Salvage day.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Good Goodies

Back in the 70's when I was born, my parents were what I like to call "Catholic Hippies"...that is they were into the "good" stuff that hippies did (breastfeeding, natural child-birth, organic gardening, whole foods, recycling) and of course none of the bad stuff (like drugs and "free love").  Anyway, when I got married, my mom passed onto me a book entitled "The Good Goodies" written by Stan and Floss Dworkin and published in 1974.  The book is a cookbook of sorts, and the premise is making "goodies"  that are good for you, the idea being that the goodies themselves are nutritious and part of a balanced diet....not just an empty-calorie add-on. 


 

But, the way we see it, if a candy can be made as healthy as any other wholesome food, then the candy IS food, not just something extra you tack on with a feeling of guilt, but a wholesome, natural, satisfying food. (pg. 37).

That's the way I see it too!

Of course, some nutritional ideas have changed since 1974 when this book was published., now we know that saturated fat isn't the devil  however the book still has some excellent recipes.

Therefore, part of real food eating quest is to making everything as nutritious as possible, even the "goodies". 

In my house, we LOVE cookies. absolutely love cookies, adore cookies.  My very picky fairy-princess will  eat anything if I call it a cookie and throw chocolate chips in it...and destructo-boy loves them too!  Of course, the real cookie fan is the Pater Familas, so we usually have some sort of "good, goody" in our house.

Here are a few of my favorite recipes: However, before we start just a few notes on baking cookies.  

1) Cookies continue to bake after being taken out of the oven, therefore to get perfect cookies you really need to take them out a minute or two before they are done, check them frequently, and always set the timer for the shortest time given in a recipie (or even a minute or two before)
2) There is nothing worse than cookies that get too brown on the bottom. To avoid this, you really need to use a LIGHT-colored cookie sheet.   I oftentimes line my cookie sheets with alumninum foil before baking. It may not be the thriftiest solution, but it does prevent the bottoms from getting too dark.  Since we bake cookies so much, I'm considering investing in a new cookie sheets, but haven't made the plunge yet.



Peanut-Butter Oatmeal Cookies (yield: 30 cookies)
3 eggs

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup natural (no sugar added) peanut butter

1/2 cup coconut oil

1/4 cup honey

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups  oats

1 cup white-whole wheat  flour

1 cup nonfat dry milk powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

Directions

1.In a mixing bowl, beat egg whites and brown sugar. Beat in peanut butter, applesauce, honey and vanilla. Combine the oats, flour, milk powder and baking soda; gradually add to peanut butter mixture, beating until combined.

2.Drop by tablespoonfuls 2 in. apart onto baking sheets coated with nonstick cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees F for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire racks to cool.
 
Gluten-Free Banana Brownies (yield: 16 brownies)

1/4 cup butter

2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips

2 large eggs

2/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1 small ripe banana, mashed

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup coconut flour

Directions

1.Preheat an oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease an 8 inch square pan.

2.Melt butter in sauce pan over medium-low heat. Remove from heat, add chips, and stir until melted. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes.

3.Lightly beat the egg in a medium bowl. Stir in the brown sugar, banana, vanilla, and salt. Pour the melted chocolate mixture into the banana mixture, and stir until well combined. Add the flour, stirring just until incorporated. Spread the batter into the prepared pan.

4.Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out with moist crumbs, about 30 minutes. Don't over bake. Remove, and cool pan on wire rack before cutting.
 
Pumpkin-Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies (yield: 30 cookies)

2 cups white-whole wheat flour

1 1/3 cups quick or old-fashioned oats

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup butter or margarine, softened

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup  pumpkin or squach or mashed sweet potato

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup chopped walnuts

3/4 cup chocolate chips

Directions

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease baking sheets.

2.Combine flour, oats, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in medium bowl. Beat butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar in large mixer bowl until light and fluffy. Add pumpkin, egg and vanilla extract; mix well. Add flour mixture; mix well. Stir in nuts and raisins. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto prepared baking sheets.

3.Bake for 14 to 16 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned and set in centers. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely
 
Coconut Cookies  (yield: 60 cookies)

1 cup coconut oil

1 cup  sugar

1 cup packed brown sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups white-whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut

2 cups rolled oats

1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup chocolate chips

Directions

1.Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets.

2.In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; gradually stir into the creamed mixture. Stir in the coconut, rolled oats, pecans and gumdrops. Roll the dough into walnut sized balls. Place the cookies 2 inches apart onto the cookie sheets. Gently flatten cookies using a fork dipped in flour.

3.Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Chewy Granola Bars

4 1/2 cups rolled oats

1 cup  flour (can use whole-wheat, coconut flour, brown rice flour, etc.)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2/3 cup butter, softened

1 cup honey

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

2 cups add-ins (nuts, dried fruits, chocolate chips, shredded coconut, etc)
DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Lightly grease one 9x13 inch pan.

In a large mixing bowl combine the oats, flour, baking soda, vanilla, butter or margarine, honey and brown sugar. Stir in the 2 cups assorted chocolate chips, raisins, nuts etc.

Press down HARD into prepared pan!! Really press these down!!! Press hard....that keeps them from falling apart and crumbling and helps them stay together better. Bake at 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) for 18 to 22 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool for 10 minutes then cut into bars. Let bars cool completely in pan before removing or serving.


Hope you enjoy some of these Good Goodies!!!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Strategic Sunday

Sunday, being the day of rest it is and all, also happens to be the day I end up with a largish block of free time to plan our strategy for the upcoming week.  Just like an expert chess player needs to think at least five moves ahead (or so the expert chess players tell me), a real food, thrifty mama needs to think at least five dinners ahead, so as not to be left at 5:00 PM staring blankly at the refrigerator.  I am unfortunately all too familiar with that blank refrigerator stare.   Those are the nights we either end up with a convenience food (but I gave those up..remember) or I end up rushing and cooking something that nobody (not even me) likes.

In the past, I have always resisted meal planning.  After all....how should I know on Sunday, what I'm going to *feel* like eating on Thursday?.Since I am the cook, I should get to choose to cook whatever I feel like eating on any given night, right? Some days I feel all healthy, crunchy, granola and am happy with curried lentils, or tofu stir-fry or quinoa and tabouli salad, other days I feel primal and want meat, and then of course there are the days I want nothing other than childhood comfort foods, pizza, macaroni and cheese, spaghetti and meatballs.  However, not planning ahead leads to that blank 5:00 PM stare and grumpy, over-hungry children who are simply staaaaarrrrrrviiiing.

Anyway, to solve that problem I have started planning dinners in blocks of seven, so I have a week's worth of meals planned, but don't necessarily assign any dinner to any particular day.   I am finding that meal planning is essential to real-food eating, especially since it involves doing things like making my own tortillas or cooking dried beans as opposed to buying canned.   I also find that meal planning really helps us balance our meals and nutrients better....so we're not eating macaoni and cheese and then pizza and then lasanga all  in the same week....but balancing the pizza out with the curried lentils or sausage/potato/kale soup. It is also imporant, in preventing food spoilage...knowing that the tomatoes should be eaten by Wed. or the lettuce/spinach by Thurs.

So...without further ado...here is my schedule of the following seven night's dinners.

- roast chicken, baked sweet potatoes and green beans(to do today...take chicken out of freezer).
- bean, potato and sausage soup (to do ahead of time...soak and cook beans, make broth out of chicken bones, take sausage out of freezer), homemade drop biscuits, cooked carrots
- beans and rice, take chicken broth out of freezer (I cook rice in chicken broth),  swiss chard
-meatloaf, baked potatoes and swiss chard  (to do ahead of time, take beef out of freezer)
-bean quesadillas (to do ahead of time, soak and cook beans, make tortillas), swiss chard
-crustless spinach quiche, brocolli
-pizza (with home-made whole-wheat crust), yellow squash

Also, on my do-ahead tasks.....soak and cook dried chickpeas.  I love having chickpeas around to make hummus  or roasted chickpeas...both foods we commonly eat for lunch or snacks.

Of course, when planning this, I have to keep in mind that only the pizza, quiche and quiesadillas are suitable for Lenten Fridays, so I do have to work around that restriction.

I don't generally plan other meals, since breakfast is basically a choice of eggs, oatmeal, nut-butter sandwich, fruit, homemade muffins/bread or plain yogurt.  Lunches are either dinner leftovers,  nut-butter sandwiches, home-made muffins, salads, hummus/carrots, yogurt, nuts, seeds or dried or fresh fruits.

In later posts I will share more recipies with cost-analysis'...not to mention I will soon be delving into the hazards of cooking meals for picky eaters (both husbands and children)...so stay tuned!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cheese and Breastmilk

I was talking with a friend today about making cheese at home, she asked me if I had ever done it (I hadn't) and mentioned a book with great recipies for easy-to-make homemade cheeses.  I adore cheese, especially raw milk cheese and artisan cheeses.  I've often thought I could quite happily be a goat-herder in Switzerland, living in the moutains and  eating cheese and bread each day for lunch.   In case you haven't guessed, I've always had a rather romantic image of Switzerland from reading Heidi.

Anyway, this conversation reminded me of a very recent uproar over a New York City chef who sold cheese made with his wife's breastmilk.  Apparently a lot of people's first response to such such cuisine is a resounding "ewww".  Personally, I will never understand how people can be so squeamish about breastmilk.  In my former life, I extensively studied the reproductive physiology of dairy cows and have worked on farms and milked many a cow and goat in my time.  Trust me, cows are way more dirty and disgusting than any human mother ever could be....especially a mother who takes the time and energy to pump her milk (it's not easy).   Cows, especially those raised on factory farms need to have their own waste cleaned and disinfected off their udders before each milking.  That's ewwwwwww!!!  

 However, despite witnessing this first-hand...I still love cheese.   In the future, I hope to experiment with making my own (and no, it won't be from my breastmik...I've never gotten into the whole pumping and storing milk thing). Stayed tuned for a future edition chronicling that experiment.

Also, please don't think I'm actually advocating that mamas turn their extra milk into cheese.  Absolutely not....a much better use of that milk would be donating it to babies in need.  Unfortunately there is no shortage of infants who are unable to receive their own mother's milk, and would greatly benefit from donated milk (check out the Human Milk Banking Association for more information on donating milk).

Anyway, since breastfeeding is one of my favorite topics, the article obviously caught my eye. Breastmilk is the ultimate REAL FOOD. (Formula on the other hand is one of the most highly processed foods around).  It's amazing to think that a single food could provide ALL the nutrition a baby needs for at least the first half-year of life.  It's even more amazing to me that the human body is capable of producing such a superfood!   I've always loved breastfeeding my own children  (as evidenced by the fact that destructo-boy is still nursing at age 2..and the girls both weaned shortly after their third birthdays).  Surprisingly enough, it is only with the 3rd child...little Destructo-Boy,  that I've had people question why I am still nursing a child over the age of 2.  My general thinking is that since by all accounts he appears to be  human (two legs, opposable thumbs, upright posture and the ability to make sounds which at least resemble speech) that human milk is probably a pretty darn good choice of food for him.  If at any time he sprouts a tail,  starts walking around on all fours, eating grass and saying "moo" then I will concede that perhaps it is best to put him on cow's milk.

Breastmilk is also the ultimate in frugal feeding of infants, .and it always comes attractively packaged at just the right temperature.....so while it may not be a top choice for making cheese with (mostly because babies need it more) it's a pretty darn awesome substance and the one food I am most proud of making myself!  It is my heartfelt desire that every mother have the support and help she needs to provide this remarkable real food to her baby!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Free Reading

The Fairy-Princess turned 5 on October 19th of this past year. I hemmed and hawed over starting real "kindergarten school-work" with her last fall, but since she wouldn't have been able to go to public school yet (you have to be 5 as of Sept 1st) and she wasn't really interested in doing any kind of of structured activities....well that took care of that.  I'm all for the easier route and keeping things relaxed.

However, recently Fairy-Princess has been expressing a lot of interest in learning how to read, she loves hearing stories and absolutely loves making up VERY detailed and imaginative stories of her own.  No doubt she will be the next Louisa May Alcott, so we figured it was time to get her started.

Anyway, since April 19th will be her 5 1/2 birthday, I set that date as my "goal" as getting her started on something *a little* more structured.  We "school" year-round, (although I hate to use that word "school" since it seems like some of our best learning isn't "schooly" at all), however we do the "structured-stuff" year-round, choosing to keep things more relaxed all the time.

We had used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons  with the Social-Butterfly, but the Fairy-Princess scorns that book.

So, I started my quest for something "new".  She taught herself how to write upper-case letters all on her own, she'd been playing around on Starfall and we did the first three, free lessons on HeadSprout, however I felt we needed something more.

Recently, on a homeschool list I am on, I came across the website Lesson Pathways which lead me to Free Reading.  Now, I'm ALL about anything with the word "free" in the title.   Free Reading seems like a great resource, the lessons are all very clearly spelled out, they involve lots of "games",  printables for free picture cards and video's demonstrating each lesson.  I'm still not 100% convinced it is exactly what we need, but it seems like a great start.  

Yay...another great, frugal, homeschool find!  Once we actually get started, I'll report back with how we make out using it!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Real Recipes with Real Food

In my last blog post I talked about miserly mom tip #2....never buy anything you can make yourself.  

I have recently been practicing that tip and discovered that home-made food, while being cheaper and healthier is far, far tastier than store-bought food.  

To begin with, I've started making all my own bread.  This is regular whole-wheat bread.  The Social-Butterfly is gluten-free so in the future I post about gluten-free breads!


Ingredients


3 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)

2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast

1/3 cup honey

5 cups whole wheat flour  (I find that using white-whole wheat provides a lighter, airier loaf that rises better.  Using all whole-wheat makes a denser loaf. The picture above was baked using typical whole-wheat flour.  I generally prefer to use white-whole wheat when I can find it on sale).

3 tablespoons butter, melted

1/3 cup honey

1 tablespoon salt

3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

2 tablespoons butter, melted

Directions

1.In a large bowl, mix warm water, yeast, and 1/3 cup honey. Add 5 cups white bread flour, and stir to combine. Let set for 30 minutes, or until big and bubbly.

2.Mix in 3 tablespoons melted butter, 1/3 cup honey, and salt. Stir in 2 cups whole wheat flour. Flour a flat surface and knead with whole wheat flour until not real sticky - just pulling away from the counter, but still sticky to touch. This may take an additional 2 to 4 cups of whole wheat flour. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to coat the surface of the dough. Cover with a dishtowel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled.

3.Punch down, and divide into 2 loaves. Place in greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pans, and allow to rise until dough has topped the pans by one inch.

4.Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 25 to 30 minutes; do not overbake. Lightly brush the tops of loaves with 1 tablespoon melted butter or margarine when done to prevent crust from getting hard. Cool completely
 
** Estimated Cost Comparision:
 
In my area, a loaf of "good, quality" whole-wheat bread...the "natural" kind without ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup runs between 3.79-4.19/loaf.
 
Home-made bread:
 
flour:  10 cups is approximately 2 1/2 lbs.  I can get 5 lbs for 3.55 for 5 lbs...so approximately: $1.76
honey:  2/3 cup honey is approximately. $1.68
butter:  6 tablepsoons is approximately 0.62
salt:  negligible cost
yeast:  approximately 0.23
 
Total:  4.29 for TWO loaves.   These loaves can be cut into around 16 slices...so a bit smaller than store-bought loaf....but still cheaper and healthier and definitely tastier! 
 
It seems like a lot of work, but it really isn't.  Most of the time is rising time, and once you get the hang of making your own bread, it's pretty easy to mix it up in the morning and then just let it rise.
 
My next foray into making my own food was homemade tortillas.  They are SO much yummier than the store ones. They aren't as pretty (well as least mine aren't...they are never perfect circles...always kinda odd-shaped)..but making them is actually pretty fun and relaxing.   The torillas cook really fast, so once you get the hang of it, it moves along quite nicely.  Here they are pictured in a chicken enchillada recipe.
 
 

Home-made Flour Tortillas
Ingredients


4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 tablespoons shortening (still looking for a healthier substitute....if anyone has any)

1 1/2 cups water

Directions

1.Whisk the flour, salt, and baking powder together in a mixing bowl. Mix in the shortening with your fingers until the flour resembles cornmeal. Add the water and mix until the dough comes together; place on a lightly floured surface and knead a few minutes until smooth and elastic. Divide the dough into 16 equal pieces and roll each piece into a ball.

2.Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Use a well-floured rolling pin to roll a dough ball into a thin, round tortilla. Place into the hot skillet, and cook until bubbly and golden; flip and continue cooking until golden on the other side. Place the cooked tortilla in a tortilla warmer; continue rolling and cooking the remaining dough.
 
**Approximate Price Compasion: 
 
Store-bought tortillas:  approximately $7.95/24
 
Home-made version:
 
Flour:  approximately  $0.71
Shortening: complete guess here...maybe $.10
Baking powder:  again..compete guess..perhaps $.10
 
Total:  $0.91 for 16 tortillas.  Wow...what a great saving!!
 
 
 
These are absolutely delicious!!!!  Absolutely!!!  We had a few left-over so I ate them with just lettuce and spinach rolled-up inside.  Just plain lettuce and spinach....no cheese, no mayo, no mustard.  It was surprisingly good!!    I've also made them with white-whole wheat flour before and they are still super good.
 
 
Both the bread and the tortillas can be made in larger batches and frozen....making the work involved really not much at all. I generally make two batches of bread at a time (so 4 loaves) and freeze them.....just pulling a loaf out when we need one.
 
It does take a little bit of organizing and advance planning, but the great thing is, the more you do it, the easier it becomes!
 
Stay tuned for more real-food recipe's in the future!
 
***When possible, in my price comparisons I use prices from items I find on http://www.amazon.com/.