Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Look Who's Still Alive!

...that'd be, me.  What an absence!  I'm a terrible blogger but we knew that already.

So... where to begin.  TONS of things have changed since two Easters ago, which was my last post.  (YIKES!) But I won't bore you with the day-to-day.  Just the big stuff.  Ready?

We used to live here.

Now we live here.

As someone who NEVER thought I'd live in a trailer, this was a REALLY REALLY REALLY big deal to me.  I'm learning.  Trailers are okay.  I know, I wasn't convinced, either, but we actually like it here.  A lot.

This guy was little.

And now he's BIG!

And the other ones got bigger, too!

Another thing I never-in-my-wildest-dreams thought would happen.

Legos are the new textbooks.  Just ask a home-schooler. 

And perhaps the biggest little thing... 
we've gone Paleo.  

I used to cook from scratch with whole wheat flour and raw sugar, source out whole wheat pasta and buy all this loot in bulk.  Nowadays I still cook from scratch, but I use coconut flour and raw honey, source out quinoa, and buy eggs as if all the chickens around the world are about to retire.  And you know what?  I think we're better for it.  If you're not sold on Paleo, that's really okay with me.  But we seem to be healthier on it.  At least, my husband does--I need to find someone to stand in front of my (DARK!) chocolate stash and slap me every time I meander over.  I do cheat too much, in the area of cocoa-related fare, but what are New Years resolutions for, eh?!  :)  We'll see. 

Our new [20 acre] front yard.
That's not our dog.

So, the trailer thing.  We LOVED our last house.  It was 2200 sq ft of everything we wanted.  But it wasn't ours (neither is this one, btw) and we couldn't do "whatever we wanted", so when our friend who lived a few miles up the road moved to town and left her 1200 +/- sq ft "antique" trailer setting empty on 115 acres beside two chicken coops and a 40' x 40' shed full of whatever we need to turn the ground, fix the fence, and work with a few animals, I knew it would barely take the gentle coaxing to "just think about it" that I laid on Hubby.  Tiny house?  We've lived in that sort of square footage before--not with 3 kids, but we're nothing if not adventurous!  And we could have chickens?  And we could have other animals, too?  And... and... and...  Our roomy, comfy, anti-chicken residence didn't stand a chance.  And so we moved.  

Our new doggie, Searge (Sarge?). 
Great Pyranese/Kommondor.  Love this guy!

Downsizing should have been the biggest challenge--we dumped at least half of our possessions--but the purging was good for us (and for Goodwill!) and we ended up feeling a lot lighter in the end.  The worst part was putting on hold all the things that "needed" to get done.  And the hardest part, in the end, has been catching up.  I've said it 100 times before, and I've never meant it more than now:  the next house I move into will be our forever-home!  'Til then, I'm NOT moving again!  (Yeah, yeah, yeah...  we'll see.)

It might be helpful in understanding our move to know that Hubby and I care a lot about the welfare of the animals we eat, the environment, our health, and our budget.  These are all reasons we went Paleo, too.  When you embrace the Paleo lifestyle, you eat a lot of HEALTHY, HAPPY meat, eggs, and veggies.  We're enthusiastic DIYers, so acreage and the opportunity to use it can go a long way in providing access to environmentally-friendly, affordable grass-fed, free-ranging meat and eggs, which hits all the aforementioned moral hotspots.  Even before going Paleo, we didn't want to eat CAFO meat or factory-farmed eggs.  But soon, convincing myself that "cage-free" actually means something on an egg carton (it doesn't) and picking the pinkest hamburger out of a shrink-wrapped line-up at the grocery store won't be a reality for us.  Insert Happy Dance. 

Little Miss with our 45 chickens.

And then there's homeschooling.  Little Miss is 6 and a half.  Kindergarten didn't traumatize her, per se, but she didn't exactly thrive there.  And the rest of us pretty much hated it.  So we're trying something different, and generally loving it. 

All in all, we're just as busy as usual and that's why I'm a terrible blogger.  Sorry!  And... it's likely to continue that way.  But if this wasn't your first blog post, you knew that already.  :/ 
Thanks for reading, see you again next year!!  JK--hopefully... 

Friday, March 22, 2013


I found a great way to use leftover breakfast oatmeal, that doesn't involve the dog or the compost pile!  

Unfortunately, I have no measurements, and neither will you, as leftover amounts vary.  
So here's what I did:

I took our leftover oatmeal (probably about a cup) which had some chopped strawberries, brown sugar, and ground flax seed added in already, and right in the pan I added a healthy scoop of peanut butter, a splash of vanilla, and a few tablespoons of whole wheat flour (I use either white whole wheat or regular whole wheat, always unbleached, for everything but diaper rash treatment).  Stir in enough flour until it has the thickness of cookie dough.  I want to warn you that it will not look like the cookie dough that you're used to, because the oats are already cooked.  It will be stickier than oatmeal cookie dough, but the thickness should be about the same.  And then add whatever else you want--I added a handful of chocolate chips, and diced fruit or nuts or coconut would be great, too.  

Drop by spoonfuls (mine are usually heaping) onto a cookie sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes at 375F.  
Letting them cool on the cookie sheet for about 10 minutes will help them to set up.  They'll be wetter than the average oatmeal cookie, again because of the pre-cooked oats, but that didn't seem to make any difference to my 2, 4, and 5 year olds.  They loved it, and although I couldn't have any because of my unfortunate inability to digest dairy (there was milk in the oatmeal), that's enough for me to say that they're at least "good" if not "really good".  

And, nutritionally speaking, they're just as nutritious as the breakfast that you were feeding your kiddos, with the added protein and brain-developing fat of peanut butter and fiber of whole wheat flour.  
And I'm with the French on the topic of chocolate: good chocolate (not the milky and over-sugared kind--we use at least 70% cacao) should be enjoyed often.  So throw some in there!  It's such a mood booster.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

HEALTHY Cookies... I'm Not Even Kidding

When I discovered I had a problem with dairy, my friend bought a bag of some hoity-toity expensive chocolate chips from a health food store, because I. LOVE. CHOCOLATE.  Well, I didn't stick with the chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Premium Baking Chips from Hy-Vee for about $3.79/bag), but the cookie recipe on the back was ahh-mazing!  I made it for a healthy pre-k snack on a regular basis, and one kid liked it so much that he asked his mom to start making them at home.  All the moms eventually got the recipe.  They are a huge hit for parents and children alike, without fail.  

I have already listed this recipe on here once, but here it is again: 

Vegan Chocolate Chip Nut Cookies

1/3c almond butter or peanut butter
2T canola oil
1c sugar
1/3 c milk substitute
1t vanilla extract

1c whole wheat flour
1/2 t baking soda 
1/2 t salt
1c rolled oats
1/2c chocolate chips
1/2c chopped macadamia or walnuts (optional)

1.  Preheat oved to 425F.
2.  Whisk together first 5 ingredients till very smooth.
3.  Combine flour, oats, soda, and salt, then add to wet mixture with chocolate chips and nuts.  Stir to combine. 
4. Drop batter by large spoonfuls onto prepared baking sheet (I use parchment paper).  Bake for 8 minutes, or just until they crack (or just a touch less).  
5.  Let cool on sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

In case you weren't already enjoying that slice of heaven, there it is!  And here are some modifications to make it suit anybody's tastes and dietary needs...

*If you're avoiding peanuts or tree nuts, try sunflower seed butter.  To make your own, leave sun flower seed kernels in a food processor longer than you think you should ever leave anything in a food processor, and it will eventually begin to look like peanut butter.  Add oil and/or honey, if you want. You don't have to. It's good. Or... just buy some. 

*If you're gluten-free, use oat flour instead of wheat flour (make sure they're certified gluten-free oats).  This might require you to throw in another small handful of oats.  No biggie.  Oatmeal is fantastic, nutritionally speaking.  Wait, what's that?  No oat flour?  Process a cup of regular oatmeal in the blender or food processor until it looks like flour.  Yes, that easy!

*If you want to give it extra texture and nutrients, throw in a big handful of shredded coconut.  Y-U-M.

*More dried fruit/nuts makes them even more nutritious.

*You can replace at least half (that's all I've tried so far--more might work) of the sugar with honey or agave nectar.  This also might require throwing in some extra oats or coconut flakes to thicken up the batter. 

*You can cut the sugar down to 3/4 c without noticing a difference.  I've been meaning to try brown sugar in its stead.  I bet that would add some nice flavor, and you could probably use even less.

*Of course, if you love and/or tolerate dairy, you can use dairy milk and butter instead of milk substitute and oil. 

*Coconut oil would be a good replacement for the canola, and applesauce is a great substitute as well. 

If you think about it, these can be breakfast (cutting the sugar down or replacing it helps).  And the healthier versions do often become breakfast at our house. It's also a fast and easy recipe to crank out, with a single bowl left to wash, if you're craving something sweet late at night.   Which is what happened last night at my house, and they were here for breakfast in the morning.  That's why I decided to share it with you today!  


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

It occurs to me that I cook... a ton.  I quite literally spend most of my day, every day, in the kitchen.  And, after years of people asking me for recipes, many of which I came up with myself, I decided I should probably start sharing a few here.  I keep thinking, for some reason, that the purpose of this blog is sewing, but that's not really true, is it?  That just happens to be my favorite part, however much I don't actually get to it because I'm busy with lesser favorite parts... 

Today, it'll be my go-to pizza crust recipe.  Adapted from something on allrecipes.com, this is AWESOME for pizza, calzones, and I'm about to try it for this:  http://rhodesbread.com/blog/blog/braided-spaghetti-bread.
I am entirely certain that it will be fantastic for that, as well.  I use it at least once/wk, and anybody who's ever tried it has LOVED it!  It's the reason we don't get take-out or restaurant pizza anymore.

Pizza Crust

1T yeast (or 1 pkg)
1c warm water (warm, but not burning your finger)
1t sugar
2T oil
1t salt
3c flour*

Proof your yeast with the water and sugar (mix it with the sugar and water and let it foam to prove itself worthy of your time).  Add salt, flour, and oil.  Mix and knead (a stand mixer is a god-send for time-saving here) until it forms a ball.  Let rest 5-10 minutes.  Knead all bubbles out and form a 14" diameter circle (a large pizza).  Top.  If you want a thick, puffy crust, let it rise until it looks thick to you.  Otherwise, bake it in a 425F degree oven for 12-15 minutes. 

You can top this crust however you like, and it's awesome.  Top half of it generously, leaving about an inch around the edge, fold it over, and crimp it with your fingers for calzones (I keep these in the freezer for Hubby when he doesn't have leftovers to take to work).  Spread olive oil, herbs, and cheese over it for cheesy bread.  There are TONS of options here!

*For the flour, you have a variety of choices.  It really depends on how you like your crust.  For ultra-puffy and soft, go 3c all-purpose flour.  For very puffy and soft but healthier, try half white whole wheat flour and half AP.  For a little tougher but a lot healthier, try half regular whole wheat.  I have recently made it all white whole wheat, which got great reviews.  We are trying to make the switch to at least all white whole wheat flour--and I have to be honest here, it's only because I'm not entirely sure of the details of the white whole wheat vs. regular whole wheat.  More on that later, I'm sure, as I navigate these finicky-term-infested waters!

Let me know how it goes, if you whip this one out.  Especially if you find a new dress-up for it.  :)

Another Awesome Blog! And a Recipe!

So, once in a while I'll mention a website or blog that I have fallen for, and I feel the need to give a shout-out to this one.  I can't remember how I found it--probably looking for a whole wheat bread recipe--but I have gone back to it day after day for recipes and information.  It's great!  We have been "naturalizing" our house for quite some time, and continue to work toward eating food and using products that are free of artificially-created ingredients, and this is an excellent site for that. 
Okay, okay, already!  Here it is:

And no, you don't have to be a Christian to glean tons of awesome information from it.  

And while I'm chatting about whole wheat bread, I'll give you my whole wheat waffle recipe!  It is newly discovered (one of the thousands of recipe sites--can't remember which one--and no doubt tweaked in my own kitchen) and Hubby even likes it, which is a big step.  I use white whole wheat flour, but the original recipe called for regular whole wheat flour.  To make it dairy-free, just use milk substitute (almond, soy, rice) and vegetable oil.  It's great!

[White] Whole Wheat Waffles

1 1/2 c (white) whole wheat flour
2t baking powder
1/2 t salt
2T sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 lukewarm milk (mine's usually cold--that's fine)
1/3 c melted butter or vegetable oil

Mix all the ingredients together well, and cook on a prepared waffle iron. Enjoy!