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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.