Thank you for stopping by! Here you will find a variety of things as I post whatever happens to be going on in our home - recipes, crafts, homeschool, birthday parties, travels, meals in muffin tins and more! I'd love to know what you think so please feel free to leave comments!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Real Food Journey: Goals, part 1: Guidelines

When I wrote my first post regarding our real food journey, I noted that I would soon be including a list of our goals and changes that we want to make. I have sat down several times to make this list but never finished it. So, I decided that I would take a different approach to it. The Weston A. Price Foundation has two lists that I am basing pretty much all of our dietary changes on, so rather than sit here and try to make up my own lists, I will instead include the Weston A. Price lists here along with a brief explanation of how we are doing or plan to incorporate each one into our lives. I'm breaking this into two posts since the lists are a bit lengthy.

Dietary Guidelines

1. Eat whole, natural foods.
     This is still a work in progress for us. While we do eat mostly whole, natural foods, we do still have a few processed foods that we continue to use (mostly snack items). This is an organizational issue for me. I need to better plan my days to allow for snack food preparations as well as regular meal prep.

2. Eat only foods that will spoil, but eat them before they do.
     This is also a work in progress as there are still a few items we use which are convenience or processed foods.

3. Eat naturally-raised meat including fish, seafood, poultry, beef, lamb, game, organ meats and eggs.
      We haven't been able to fully do this yet because of the cost but we have stopped buying grocery store meats that come from CAFO lots and have started buying locally raised meats and eggs. We also make sure to purchase fish & seafood that is wild caught and not farm raised.

4. Eat whole, naturally-produced milk products from pasture-fed cows, preferably raw and/or fermented, such as whole yogurt, cultured butter, whole cheeses and fresh and sour cream.
     In June last year, we started buying raw milk from a local farm that pasture feeds their cows. Besides drinking the milk, we use the cream to make butter & sour cream, and the milk to make homemade cheese & yogurt. I also use the buttermilk for biscuits & other recipes and whey in recipes and for lacto-fermentation.

5. Use only traditional fats and oils including butter and other animal fats, extra virgin olive oil, expeller expressed sesame and flax oil and the tropical oils—coconut and palm.
     We have completely eliminated industrial oils such as corn, soy & canola and have been using butter, coconut oil, olive oil, lard & tallow.

6. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, preferably organic, in salads and soups, or lightly steamed.
     We have been increasing the amount of produce we eat. Last spring, I planted my first organic garden and we enjoyed fresh produce from it all summer. I also preserved some of the produce we harvested for later use. We plan to plant a garden again this spring. We try to purchase organic produce as often as our budget allows, especially the items on the dirty dozen list.

7. Use whole grains and nuts that have been prepared by soaking, sprouting or sour leavening to neutralize phytic acid and other anti-nutrients.
     This is a work in progress. I try to plan ahead so I can soak my grains & nuts but I frequently forget or end up changing my mind about something last minute and use unsoaked flours, grains, etc. This is also an organizational issue for me. I've also been trying to incorporate sourdough into our diet, but a few days after starting sourdough starter, it seems to die on me so I need to figure out what I'm doing wrong there.

8. Include enzyme-enhanced lacto-fermented vegetables, fruits, beverages and condiments in your diet on a regular basis.
     We are doing pretty well with this - well, I am. I'm having a rough time getting the kids on board. I have started brewing my own kombucha and I've recently made sauerkraut (2 kinds) and lacto-fermented ginger carrots. I've also been making lacto-fermented lemonade punch and raw milk yogurt. Laural will drink the kombucha, eat yogurt and I can usually talk her into eating a little of the other stuff but Micah will have nothing to do with any of it except the yogurt. He will drink the store bought kefir I've brought home a few times but that isn't really all that ideal since it's pasteurized. One of my short term goals is to get some water & dairy kefir grains and start making that as well.

9. Prepare homemade meat stocks from the bones of chicken, beef, lamb or fish and use liberally in soups and sauces.
     We are working on this one too. I have made bone broths on several occasions and we have started to drink it but it has been a little difficult for us to get down. We just aren't accustomed to it yet. We started doing really well with the broth a couple weeks ago and one night I used it to make the rice I was using in a stir fry. It tasted great and went over well. Even my picky Micah ate it! But later that night we all came down with a stomach bug and well, everything came up. After dealing with the undigested rice, the smell of the broth in crock pot made me sick so I made my husband dump it out. I haven't been able to start a new batch yet, but maybe soon.

10. Use herb teas and coffee substitutes in moderation.
     We don't drink coffee and seldom drink tea but when we do it is usually organic & herbal.

11. Use filtered water for cooking and drinking.
     We are hoping to get a Berkey filter later this year but for now we use water from our tap. I know it isn't fluoridated but I do believe there is chlorine added. All of the pitcher or faucet filters remove the chlorine taste & odor but don't appear to remove the actual chlorine. Not sure what that is all about really. I need to look into it more but until we can buy the Berkey, we will have to continue to use our tap.

12. Use unrefined Celtic sea salt and a variety of herbs and spices for food interest and appetite stimulation.
     We currently use Real Salt and Celtic sea salt. I've been experimenting with Bragg seasonings and have always used plenty of herbs & spices. 

13. Make your own salad dressing using raw vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and expeller expressed flax oil.
     I've been making my own dressing for a while though I do still crave a particular brand of honey french dressing that is full of high fructose corn syrup & soy oil. I don't buy it but I miss it.

14. Use natural sweeteners in moderation, such as raw honey, maple syrup, dehydrated cane sugar juice and stevia powder.
     We made the switch to local raw honey, local real maple syrup, organic sugar (occasionally) and stevia powder & liquid this past summer. I didn't realize how very yummy real maple syrup was! So much better that the maple flavored corn syrup!

15. Use only unpasteurized wine or beer in strict moderation with meals.
     Not an issue for us as we don't like beer and rarely have wine.

16. Cook only in stainless steel, cast iron, glass or good quality enamel.
     I used Christmas money to buy a new set of stainless steel cookware during the after Christmas sales. I threw away a bunch of my cheap & non-stick bake ware but still haven't decided what to do with my rather large set of aluminum cookware that was rather expensive and still in excellent condition. I hate to throw it away but don't want to give it away for someone else to use either.

17. Use only natural supplements.
     Working on this one too. I am planning to start using fermented cod liver oil and other natural supplements but the cost can be a little prohibitive. 

18. Get plenty of sleep, exercise and natural light.
     This is a tough one because I'm just not a day person so I'm up late, don't get enough sleep and really don't start to function until evening. Exercise can be tough due to some physical issues I have. I don't have a game plan for this one yet.

19. Think positive thoughts and minimize stress.
     I don't really have a lot of stress to begin with so that's not a problem. I do tend to be a worrier but I've been praying through that. 

20. Practice forgiveness.
     Another work in progress. That old human habit of holding a grudge can be so hard to get past sometimes!

Overall, we are doing pretty well with the guidelines. Some are easy changes, some not so easy and some can cost a bit more that we can afford, but we are taking things slowly and doing what we can with what we have. Even small changes can have a big impact on your health!

Tomorrow, I will post the Weston A. Price Foundation Dietary Dangers and how we are progressing with those. For more information on the Dietary Guidelines and Dangers, go to the Weston A. Price Foundation website.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Muffin Tin Monday: Angry Birds

So, it's been a while since we've done one of our typical cutie patootie muffin tin meals. I can blame that on our ongoing transition to traditional foods. This food change has been challenging enough without worrying about trying to fit traditional foods into a cute muffin tin theme. I think I finally have enough of a handle on things to allow myself a little fun in the kitchen again. 

Since we got a Kindle Fire for a birthday present - our first android device - we have been introduced to the world of Angry Birds. We are really enjoying it! So much so that Laural thinks she wants an Angry Birds themed birthday party this year! I started looking up ideas for a party on Pinterest (such an addiction) last night and in the midst of all that, I started thinking I might do a muffin tin meal for lunch. But what theme? Well, hey, why not Angry Birds since I'm knee deep in birdie searching anyhow? Here is what I came up with.

Top Row (of each tin): Blocks made of PB&J on wheat; Red Bird made from Babybel Cheese, nori features & carrot beak; White Bird made of boiled egg, carrot beak & nori details.

Bottom Row: Boards made of carrot sticks and a piggie about to buy it; Little Pigs made from green grapes with cheese and bits of grape as details; "Grandpa Pig" (that's what we call him, not sure what he is actually called) made from half a kiwi, sliced grape nose, fruit leather mustache& cheese eyes.

Overall, I was pretty pleased with how it turned out. I forgot ears for the pigs, the eggs were super fresh so peeling them was messy & I could have toasted the bread to make it stand up a little better. It was still pretty cute and the kids really liked it. Here are a couple close pics of some of the things, just for fun.

Laural & Micah really got a kick out of their tins. Honestly I probably could have just put plain stuff in the tins & they would have been happy just because it's been so long since they've had a muffin tin meal but what fun is that?

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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Real Food Journey: There's Something Growing Behind My Slow Cooker

This sort of sounds like a kitchen nightmare! Yes, there is something growing behind my crock pot that is filled with beef bone broth, but I put it there and started it growing on purpose. Actually, there are several things growing. My ferments! I was a busy bee in the kitchen today and started several foods on their fermenting process today. 

From left to right: navy beans (not fermenting but soaking so they can start sprouting tomorrow), regular sauerkraut, sauerkraut with carrots, kombucha, lemonade, ginger carrots & sourdough starter. I cleared out the corner of my counter which was filled with odds & ends that have no permanent home and turned it into my fermentation corner. Since my kitchen stays pretty chilly during winter, I figured that behind the slow cooker would be a nice, cozy and slightly warmer place for my little cultures to grow.

Sauerkraut is amazingly easy to start. Shred the cabbage, salt it, beat it up a little & then pack it in a jar. Since I don't have a proper crock, I just used a couple of wide mouth pint mason jars (I made smaller batches since this is our first and I'm not sure how it will go over). To keep the cabbage under the brine, I used an upside down lid for a regular mouth size mason jar and then weighted it with a jelly jar filled with water. I used the Wild Fermentation website to learn the particulars on how to make my own sauerkraut.

This is my kombucha tea which has already been brewing for about a week. That funky white-ish looking thing on the right side is the scoby which is what does the work of fermenting sweet tea into kombucha. When it is ready, I'll mix in some fruit juices to flavor my kombucha. When it's ready to drink, it will be a fizzy, tart beverage that is full of healthy bacteria. I've been drinking store purchased kombucha and the past few days, I've been sipping wonderful kombucha from Fab Ferments that I got as a prize in the 30 Day Kombucha Challenge contest but I am super excited about making my own and can't wait until it's ready! For more info on kombucha and how to make it, check out Kombucha Kamp.

Next on the counter is lacto-fermented lemonade. This isn't my first time making this but if I don't mess it up, it will be my first time drinking it. While it was finishing in my fridge last time, I barely bumped the jar it was in with another jar which cause a quarter sized chuck of glass to break and my lemonade went pouring out onto the shelves of my fridge. Total bummer! My daughter is especially excited for this one to be ready. She loves lemonade! This is a Nourishing Traditions recipe that I saw on Kelly the Kitchen Kop.

Then there is my jar of ginger carrots. This is also a Nourishing Traditions recipe but I wasn't thrilled with the idea of using grated carrots so I cut them into matchsticks instead. I also decided not to grate the ginger and sliced it into tiny matchsticks too. The carrots & ginger are in a salt water brine with a little bit of whey from my homemade raw milk yogurt to aid in the fermentation. I used less ginger than the recipe called for and a little less whey as well.

This one is hard to see but it is a freshly started batch of sourdough starter. The one I started last week up and died on me. I don't know what happened. It was bubbling and doubling every day and then, 2 days ago, when I took the cover off to feed it and noticed it was not bubbly and hadn't increased at all. I went ahead and fed it again but again nothing happened. I was so disappointed. I hope I am more successful with this one. 

I've been wanting to start consuming cultured foods & beverages for some time now but I was already overwhelmed with all of the other changes that we were making or wanting to make. Since allowing myself time to make the changes more slowly and taking baby steps instead of trying to do everything all at once, I am finally able to be more successful in implementing new items into our lives. I'm excited to be taking this next little step and can't wait to sample our ferments when they are ready!

For information on fermented foods and why they are beneficial for us, check out this article or this article on the Nourished Kitchen website.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Fried Chocolate Oatmeal with Peanut Butter Molasses Topping & Bananas

My little boy has a lot of food issues. A good part of this is due to aversions and sensitivities to certain textures and flavors but a part of it can be attributed to him just being picky. He has a definite sweet tooth so sometimes, in order to actually get food into him, I cave in and add a little something to appeal to his tastes. He usually won't eat oatmeal, so I decided to jazz it up for him a little. I made chocolate oatmeal. It was a big hit and for the first time, he ate an entire bowl of oatmeal without having to be prompted constantly. He even had seconds! Success!

I always make a double batch of oatmeal so we can have fried oatmeal the next morning. We usually have regular fried oatmeal with butter & maple syrup, but this was going to be fried chocolate oatmeal so I wanted to kick it up a notch plus I was out of maple syrup. I remembered a recipe from Cooking Traditional Foods for Peanut Butter Molasses Pancake Sauce. I had already been thinking of fitting peanut butter into the plan somewhere to sort of mimic No-Bake Cookies, so this sounded just right. I looked up the recipe and, of course, I was missing ingredients but I didn't let that stop me. I just went with what I had on hand and this is what we ended up with.

This was probably one of the best breakfasts we've had lately. It was almost more like a dessert. The oatmeal had a pudding like texture with a little chewy crispiness on the outside and the topping was kind of thick & fudgy. So good! And I didn't have to keep after the kids to eat - they devoured it! Well, almost. Micah got full quickly ate all but half the oatmeal but he did eat all the bananas & topping. I was left wishing we had more so I could have seconds. 

To make Chocolate Oatmeal: Mix about 2 to 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder to 6 servings of cooked oatmeal. Sweeten with stevia powder to your preferred sweetness.

To make Fried Oatmeal: Put your leftover oatmeal into a square pan and spread out to a nice even layer. Put it in the fridge and chill it overnight so it's nice and firm. Cut the firm oatmeal into squares and fry it in coconut oil over medium heat for 3 or 4 minutes or until it starts to get a little browned. Flip It & do the same for the other side. Remove it from the pan to a plate and melt some fresh butter over it.

To make the Peanut Butter Molasses Topping (my way): Melt 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in a small sauce pan. Add 1/2 cup peanut butter, 3 tablespoons of blackstrap molasses and 1 packet of stevia. Stir over low heat until mixed & melty. Spoon over warm fried oatmeal.

Then top it with sliced bananas. Dig in and enjoy!

If you'd like to try the Peanut Butter Molasses Topping the way it appears on the CTF website, go here. Spend some time checking out the Cooking Traditional Foods site - loads of great info & recipes there!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Real Food Journey - Learning As We Go

I think some of the most important things to realize about making a commitment to making a major lifestyle change, such as switching to a real foods diet, is that you need to be flexible, you need to be open to learning new things and you have to be willing to try new things & then learn from your successes as well as your mistakes. I also think that it's important for other people to realize that whether you are new to the real foods journey or a seasoned pro or anywhere in between, we all seem to have moments where something happens that is not what we hoped for or expected. Sometimes these things are big and costly and sometimes they are just little things that have us slapping our foreheads in a "duh" moment. Today brought one of those moments for me.

I am not new to making butter. I've made it plenty of times, starting out the hard way making small batches using a stick blender and then kneading & rinsing it using spatulas as paddles and now my current method of using my KitchenAid stand mixer - the paddle attachment for beating the cream to butter followed by using the bread dough hook to knead it and wash the buttermilk out. The machine does all the work for me but I need to keep an eye on it because once the butter separates from the buttermilk, that big ball of butter sloshes that buttermilk around and has the potential to make a big mess. So while making butter today, I checked on my mixer and saw that my cream was getting close to that magic moment when suddenly it becomes two distinct products. As I gazed into the bowl, I realized that all my quart jars are in use or in the dishwasher so I need to wash one real fast else my buttermilk will have no vessel to call it's own. So, I made the mistake. I turned my back on my mixer and went to the sink to quickly wash a jar. I was just about finished - turning the water off after rinsing the jar - when I heard a loud splat behind me. I turned around just in time to see a nice big white wave of buttermilk come soaring up over the side of the bowl and onto the counter and floor. I ran across the kitchen, while shouting "No, no, no, no, no!" (as if that would stop it or something), getting a nice splash of fresh buttermilk on the tops of my feet as a reward for my efforts. After turning the mixer off as quick as I could and watching the paddle come to a halt, I surveyed my mess - which I have already dubbed my Buttermilk Fiasco. Yes, I took a picture of it. I want to remember the ups & the downs of this crazy ride. My floor looked even worse. I had splashes of buttermilk nearly 6 feet away from the counter. I didn't take any pictures of my floor because my floors are ugly to begin with and I didn't sweep today (or yesterday, to be honest). The butter was fine and I finished it after sopping up a pint of buttermilk from the counters, floor and a few toys my son had left in the kitchen. I feel a little silly for making a mistake when I knew better but no major damage is done. I have a pound of fresh butter and a quart of buttermilk chilling in my fridge. Everything is back to normal now and kitchen life is moving on.

So why do I share this with the general public? I mean I could try to make myself look like Perfect Mrs. Homemaker on my blog. Super Mom who does nothing wrong and creates only wonderful and flawless dishes making this real food thing looks like a breeze. I could, but in reality, it's far from the truth. While I have done a lot of things well so far, I still sit in my kitchen some days wondering: What the heck can I cook today? How do I even start on making _______? Does this or that count as real food? Am I a complete failure if I am just too tired or busy to make something traditional and just give my kids a pb&j on store bought bread for dinner tonight because I forgot to thaw the meat, bake the bread or soak my beans? Can we still be healthy if we can't find or afford grass-fed meats? What the heck am I doing? Why isn't my scoby floating?  Or any of a number of other things that dart through my mind.

Yeah, this journey can be a little overwhelming at first and even after you've been on it for a little while. But that's where you need to realize that this is, after all, a journey. It takes time to get to where you are going. There will be ups and downs and the occasional pitfalls. Sometimes you just need to take a break in the midst of it all. The important thing is to look around, get your bearings and don't give up. Give yourself a minute to take a breath and then move on from there. There is no failure as long as you are willing to keep going forward, learning a little as you go and do the best that you can, cleaning up the spilled buttermilk along the way.

Monday, January 9, 2012


My poor little blog has been sitting, abandoned by me for 2 months now. I haven't posted since early November! What has been keeping me from blogging? Good question! The answer is, that besides being busy with the kids, homeschool, holidays and family, we have been spending a lot of time making some changes in our daily lives - changes that have been keeping me busy reading blogs and books, planning and plotting, and cleaning out the old to make room for the new. It has to do primarily with food. For a little over 6 months now, we have been working on changing our eating habits - leaving behind processed, preservative filled, pre-packaged, convenience foods in favor of real, whole, fresh, traditional foods. Thanks to the encouragement of some friends, I've decided to blog about our changes once or twice a week or maybe even more if I feel led.

In my next "real food" post, I will share my personal prioritized list of changes we want to make and are working on implementing as well as why we are making or want to make each of the changes but we have already made a few changes:

We started (slowly) on this journey back in June last year by switching from pasteurized, processed milk products to farm fresh, raw milk from pasture fed cows. Besides just drinking the delicious milk, I use the cream to make butter and buttermilk which I use to make biscuits or pancakes, and some of the milk gets made into cheese or cultured into yogurt. I hope to start making milk kefir in the near future as well.

The next change we made was the meat we buy. Since most of the local grocery stores carry meat that has been shipped from somewhere out west (from meat processing companies that are notorious for tainted meats involved in numerous recalls), we decided that we would seek out a source for local meat. Ideally, we wanted to find an affordable source of grass-fed meat, but it is completely out of our budget at this time, so we decided to go to the next best thing we could get - locally raised meat that is butchered locally. It is grain fed but I find it to be a better choice than meat that has been raised in CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operations) conditions. We have very recently been purchasing locally raised grass-fed meats in small amounts on occasion from a local health food store. We also found a source for local, free range eggs.

Our next change was to significantly reduce our intake of grains. At first we were going to completely eliminate wheat but decided that we are not quite ready for that step but we have reduced the amount we do consume. We used to be a bread at every meal family but now we only have bread once or twice a week. We still have waffles & pancakes but we frequently use gluten free flours in place of wheat flours. At the same time, we eliminated soy from our diets with the exception of fermented soy, though it is something we rarely eat anyhow. We also eliminated corn oil, canola oil, soybean oil, and any other highly processed oils. In place of these, I now use coconut oil, lard that I rendered myself, olive oil and butter. 

In the midst of these changes, we also began purging the processed foods from our house. Considering I am a recovering coupon addict who had quite the large stockpile of items that I purchased for next to nothing using my crazy coupon skills, this was a nearly monumental task. Even though I don't think these foods are good foods, I could not throw them away when I know there are people all around me who are struggling to put food on their tables every day. I chose to donate the food because I believe that eating something is better than starving. This picture is approximately a quarter of what I ended up giving away. 
This was an exceptionally difficult change for me to make. I was totally addicted to the rush I got from walking into a grocery store with a handful of coupons and walking out with a couple cartloads of food for just a few bucks. My coupons saved me an average of 85% every time I went shopping. I also felt very secure having a large stockpile of food I could rely on in case of an emergency. I am working on rebuilding a stockpile but using real foods instead of processed. That is definitely a work in progress.

We have also: started drinking & using bone broth, started drinking & brewing kombucha, stopped using aluminum pots & pans in favor of glass & stainless steel, got rid of our microwave (2 days ago!), reduced refined sugars in favor natural sweeteners like local honey, local maple syrup & stevia, started drinking & cooking with filtered, fluoride free water, started buying organic foods & produce as often as our budget allows, stopped using canned foods, and started soaking and/or sprouting grains, nuts and beans. Plus, last spring we started an organic vegetable garden in our backyard.

This probably seems like a pretty extensive list of things we've already done. The truth is that this is still just the beginning. We have a long way to go to be where we want to be. This coming year is going to be a challenge for us as we make the desired changes. Many of the changes are very recent changes so they aren't habits yet and many of the things we have recently changed are still so new that I am unsure about how to continue to incorporate them into our daily life. For instance, just today I made sourdough starter. I am still a little confused about how often to feed it once it's established and I'm still not sure about how to make bread from it though I did find a few recipes for pancakes, english muffins and pizza dough using the starter.

I have a long way to go, but it is my hope that my blog posts will serve as encouragement for anyone else who might be unsure about starting out on this journey. It's not always easy but it's worth it. I'm learning that I don't have to know it all to make the changes. I just had to be willing to start, even with baby steps. I've started so now I just need to remember why I'm doing it and make sure we continue on this journey and see where it takes us.


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