Tuesday, April 27, 2010

"fried" rice

In our efforts to a healthier eating I have tried recreating out to eat dishes to help the size of our wallet and our waist line.  I put the fried in quotations because when I was making it my husband informed me that it really wasn't fried rice because it wasn't sizzling enough.  I made sure to just keep cooking it till some pieces got a little crunchy and that seemed to satisfy everyone.

"fried" rice

2 tsp. butter
3 eggs
3 cups cooked short grain brown rice
1 package of frozen mixed vegetables
splash of Braggs Liquid Aminos or soy sauce

 Use one teaspoon of the butter to cook your eggs.  Crack them in a hot pan with the melted butter and let cook on one side before they turn brown.  Flip them over so they can cook all the way through- you don't want a runny egg just a fried egg.  You can even us a fork and puncture the yolk a little bit when you first put it in or scramble the egg all together (which is what we did this time because one kids just ate eggs).

Set eggs aside and cut them while you add the other teaspoon of butter along with the vegetables.  Let soften up a bit then add the cooked rice, cut up eggs, and splash of Braggs Liquid Aminos or soy sauce.  Cook or "fry" till ready to serve.

You have an endless choice of vegetables with this.  Maybe onions, mushrooms, whatever your family likes.  Frozen was convenient for me this time but I would love to add some other variety.  It actually served as a great lunch for my 11 month old the next day.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Blender Pancakes

This was actually a first for me and quite convenient if you don't have any ground flour on hand.   My kids loved it and had it for breakfast and brunch before church.  We topped ours with a little butter and pure maple syrup with some sliced strawberries on the side.

Whole Wheat Blender Pancakes

1 1/4 cups water, skim milk or buttermilk (the liquid can really just depend on what you have and like)
1 cup whole wheat kernels
1 egg
1 T butter or coconut oil
1 T honey
1/4 tsp. salt
1 T baking powder

In blender mix liquid of choice and wheat kernels on high for 3 minutes.  Add egg, butter, honey, and salt.  Blend for 20 seconds.  Add baking powder and pulse three times just enough to mix.  Mixture should foam up and get very light- if it is heavy add some more liquid.  Cook immediately on a hot nonstick griddle.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Battle of the Popcorn

Awhile ago my husband was on a popcorn kick and bought three different kinds.  I was persistent that my homemade-healthier popcorn was better then the bagged microwave stuff.  We decided to make a night of the little disagreement and invite some friends (who are major popcorn lovers) over for a little tasting.  Can you guess which bowl of popcorn was the winner?  Would I really be blogging about it if my homemade popcorn didn't win? :)

Faux Kettle Popcorn by- GreenSmoothieGirl

1/3 cup coconut oil (in liquid form)
1/3 cup agave
1 tsp salt

Mix in blender and pour over air popped corn and toss

*This time I only added a half of the salt in the blender and then very carefully sprinkled the rest on while tossing until the desired saltiness.  It seems to me that it gets saltier the longer it sits.

The way I pop my popcorn:

2/3 cup of popcorn kernels in a paper lunch bag.  Fold the top over, loosely.  I usually set the time for 2 minutes and just listen and wait till it slows down.

I usually stop my popcorn to early to prevent from ruining it but it leaves lots of kernels.  I found that once I empty the popped stuff out I can put it back in the microwave and finish off the rest of the kernels- no wasting.

Friday, April 23, 2010


Preferably black beans at our house, and we eat a lot of them.  Awhile ago I decided to do away with buying cans of beans.  It started becoming ridiculous at how fast we would go through them and I would be right back at the store stocking up again.  I also heard many "reports" on how much cheaper it is to make your own beans.  I trusted those reports and bought a 25 pound bag of black beans. 

I had a method of cooking the beans but it seemed to start failing the more I used it.  I finally took a break from making them and we bought a few cans here and there but our bean intake went down.  It dawned on me recently that my little guy hasn't had any beans and I didn't want to miss the window of getting him to like them.  What would I do if one of my kids wouldn't eat beans? 

I consulted with a friend and she said her method has always worked for her and she didn't soak them (which for some reason that was a big pain for me).  I think what I was doing wrong before was trying to cook too many beans at a time.

2 cups of black beans- sorted through picking out rocks and the cracked ones
8 cups of water (appx.)- I just fill my crockpot

Rinse beans thoroughly, place in a crockpot, and cook high 3-4 hours or low 5-6 hours. 

I started mine on high for 6 hours and at hour four started to checking them it was pretty close to the  6 hours mark when they seemed done enough for me.  One time I let them be on the warm setting for a little too long and they started to be mushy and fall apart.  That isn't an issue for me (it actually worked better for my little one) but you may want to start checking your beans as I did to make sure they are where you want them to be.
-Remember don't add the salt till they are done cooking.
-You can add some things to season during the cooking like chopped onion, minced fresh garlic, or other herbs and spices.Other things to not add until the beans are done cooking are acidic and calcium foods.  Both of these react negatively with the beans and causes for them to toughen and take much longer to cook.
-After I make them we eat them that night and then I store the rest in ziploc bags in the freezer for up to four   months.
You can also puree them and freeze them in ice cube trays to feed to your baby (starting at 9 months).  My little guy is old enough that he can eat beans whole- the mushier the better and I think he likes them.

Keep in mind beans do tend to cause gas so start your baby off with small portions to get their bellies used to  them.  You want a smile like this to last.

Have you found another full proof method to make other kinds of beans?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Another treat- this time on the healthier side

We have been munching and sharing these for the past two days.  I just can't get over how good they are and at the same time a much better choice for a treat.

Chocolate Crispies -by Green Smoothie Girl -and tweaked by me

1 cup natural peanut butter
1/2 cup agave
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
1/4 cup cocao powder (raw for a greater health benefit or the unsweetened is fine)
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 T. vanilla
1/4 tsp. sea salt
5 cups crisped brown rice or until reached your desired consistency (can find at a health food store)

Cream together all wet ingredients in a large bowl, by hand.  Add flaxseed, cocoa, salt and mix well.  Add crisped rice and stir until evenly mixed.  Form into balls or press in a 9x13 pan.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

If you haven't gotten the coconut oil or agave yet- do!  Go buy a small thing of it to give it a try or if you are ready to make the plunge I can tell you where you can get it in larger quantities

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Texas Sheet Cake

I have never heard of a Texas sheet cake before- is that weird?  I am not even sure why it is called that except for maybe the fact you make it in a large cake pan.  I got this recipe from one of my favorite food blogs.  I don't follow too many consistently but Your Homebased Mom is one that I check daily.

She gave a challenge to compare her recipe with another food blogs recipe.  I had planned on doing this until  I had another chocolate recipe fail earlier in the week and I needed a for sure thing so I just went with hers and was not disappointed.

This was a yummy moist cake and makes enough for a big crowd- or to pass out to neighbors.

 Texas Sheet Cake by: Leigh Anne at Your Homebased Mom

Mix together in a bowl and set aside:

2 C flour
2 C sugar
1 tsp salt

Mix together in your mixer:

2 cubes/sticks butter
1/4 C  cocoa
2 eggs
1/2 C buttermilk
1 C hot water
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp vinegar

Mix together.  Add dry ingredients and mix well.  Pour into a greased 15×10x1 pan.  Bake at 350 for 25 minutes

1 cube/stick butter, softened
6 Tbsp milk
1/4 C cocoa
3 3/4 C powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Mix butter, milk and cocoa together.  Add powdered sugar and vanilla.  Beat well and spread on hot cake as it comes from oven.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

tortillas- how you want them

I have to say I truly get giddy when I learn how to make something from scratch. 

Years ago we were visiting my sister-in-law and she led me on to a marvelous thing- homemade tortillas!!  Seriously what could be better?

It all starts with a tortilla press.  However, my mother-in-law said she was going to try it and just roll it out- now that's really homemade!!  My tortilla press is electric which helps keep the tortillas a little longer.  I think it is well worth it.

The original recipe calls for:
8 cups of flour
1 cup of shortening
2-3 T. of salt
3 cups of water

I have switched the recipe up now using-
     whole wheat flour and white wheat flour
     olive oil and sometimes organic butter

Take the flour, fat, and salt and blend with a pastry blender.  You can even use a fork for this.  Get it to a crumbly consistency kind of like when you make a pie crust.

Add the water (I tend to use warm) and knead by hand or with a kneading hook on a mixer.

Make small balls of dough.  If the dough seems to get sticky take a break and let your hands cool down then go back to it.  Once you have the balls formed get to pressing or rolling out.

I stack my tortillas in fives, line them with wax paper, and store in a Tupperware container in the refrigerator.  It seems the "healthier" I make them the harder it is to pull them apart after they have been cold for awhile.  Sometimes I put a little stack of five in the microwave for 8 seconds to help them loosen a bit.

Before you eat warm up both sides on a dry non-stick pan- a griddle is great for big quantities.

A fresh tortilla is the best thing- I can't even imagine going back to store bought.

My next experiment is making a veggie tortilla- I have some ideas just need to put it into action.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Solution to dust...or just a big help

As I was dusting the other day I was shocked that my shelves (that are up high) had little to no dust on them.  I knew it had been awhile since I had dusted -- our glass t.v. stand was in desperate need of a good dusting.  It dawned on me that the last time I dusted my shelves I used a little dusting solution.  If it can help me have to dust less in this desert air then I am a firm believer.

1 Tablespoon White Distilled Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Mix it up and use a cleaning cloth to wipe down wood furniture.  As with all cleaning solutions test first.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

building up immune systems around here

I kind of think the little stomach bug was a fluke thing.  We did just switch the little fella from his carrier car seat to a big car seat.  Meaning- he now sits in a shopping cart which also means he sucks on the shopping cart- yuck!  That's a good way to catch something.

Just in case I am building up the immune systems around here and we had one of our favorite vitamins- fresh fruit and vegs in a smoothie.  This time color change...

 Purple Smoothie

2 cups water
lots of spinach
mixed berries
1/4 of a lemon peel and all (this will have a strong taste)
1 banana
appx. 1 cup of frozen strawberries

The amounts aren't exact.  Our smoothies taste different every time.  Adjust to your blender size and taste buds.  Make sure to get the first four ingredients blended real well- I have a whole juice button that I use.  The whole point is to get a good dose of vitamins in you!

It was a hit can you tell?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

And that's life...

I had planned on posting something else today but life happened.  My (almost) 11 month old baby boy got his first stomach bug- changing all the plans around for the day.  When he wasn't sleeping I was holding him- he was so pathetic and miserable it was sad.  As soon as everyone was in bed for the night I got busy making sure things were ready for any other unexpected things.  Now I am exhausted and ready for bed.

Despite all this I still have a little tip for the day.  I put drops of peppermint essential oil in a little bit of water and gave him a little through out the day.  Peppermint soothes the stomach and it seemed to do the trick for my little man.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Dishwasher Detergent

Did you know that commercial dishwasher detergent lets off low levels of chlorine fumes when mixed with water?  The levels are considered "safe"- but I prefer to keep chlorine fumes out of my home as much as possible.  With how much I have to run my dishwasher I will start there.

If I do buy dishwasher detergent I get one that doesn't have phosphates.  My choice lately has been Seventh Generations Automatic Dishwasher Gel.

Or better yet- make your own-

Approximately 2 Tablespoons of Borax and 2 Tablespoons of Baking Soda will do a load.

We have pretty lousy water here and a not so top of the line dishwasher so I have found that the homemade solution works a lot better when I have done a good rinsing of the dishes before I put them in the dishwasher.

You can also add some vinegar to the floor of your dishwasher with any load to help reduce spots and such.  You know kind of like that Jet Dry stuff.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

bucking up to raise little mom's

A few months ago a friend of mine shared how she was letting her four children help plan out meals and follow through with helping to prepare the meal they picked.  My thoughts were, "That is so neat for her, but there is no way I could do that."

As time went on I started thinking about how much my two oldest girls would like that.  I remember when I was little and I used to sit and do my homework in the kitchen while watching my mom cook. That is where, I believe, my love for cooking and being a mom started.  I would really hate to deny my daughters of that same opportunity.

So I softened up a little bit and figured that losing control over my kitchen for two nights a week was worth the teaching experience and bonding time. We haven't been structured enough to do it each week but when we do it is very rewarding.

The first few meals have been their favorite foods.  Salad is on the top three choices for my oldest daughter.  Here is her salad creation for one of her dinners-
tomatoes, carrots, celery, apples, cheese, black olives, cilantro, dry roasted cashews, and deviled eggs

Avocado Dressing by- GreenSmoothieGirl

2 avocados
1 C fresh lemon juice
2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
2 T of Bragg Liquid Amino Acids
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
2-4 T of water to reach desired consistency

Blend all ingredients in a high powered blender until smooth.

I think the next time I make this I am  going to go maybe half on the lemon juice, a smidge less on the oil and Amino Acids.  I liked it but it was a little bit bitter, tangy, tart taste or something for the little ones.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Super Porridge

This is what the book is all about.  Making your own rice cereal for your baby.  It is super easy and has great health benefits using unrefined whole grains.

Suggested age to introduce: 6 months

Finely blend brown rice.  You want this super fine just let your blender break it down to powder form.  You can go ahead and blend as much rice as you want and store the blended stuff in your refrigerator/freezer in a tightly closed glass jar for up to a month.

Bring one cup of water to a boil on the stove top.  When it starts to boil turn the heat down to low and gradually sprinkle 1/4 cup of ground brown rice while whisking.  Cover the pot and keep it on low for about 10 minutes.  Stir frequently to prevent sticking or burning.

See it's that easy.  Depending on your babies age will make a difference in a few things- the consistency- and how much they eat.  Adjust to meet your needs.  You can store extra cooked cereal in the refrigerator for 2-3 days or in the freezer for 2-4 weeks.  Make it easier on yourself and store in individual servings.

Other whole grain homemade cereals you can make are: millet,barley,oatmeal, quinoa, etc. and mixed with an equally blended bean provides a super protein.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Clean the air

Simmer 1/4 cup of vinegar in a pot of water, uncovered, to clear the air of lingering cooking odors.  Add 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon to the water for an extra special air cleaner.  I have also used a drop or two of essential oils. 

This makes for an amazing air cleaner and one that you can adjust to personal preference.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Spinach Artichoke dip

This is one of those recipes-believe it or not- that you can actually make healthy.

The original recipe is from kraft foods but I have found a way to transform it to give you more health benefit and homemade style- depending on how extreme you want to go.

The thing that helps give it a nutritional benefit and more homemade is using a homemade Mayo

Garlic Mayo from: GreenSmoothieGirl
5 garlic cloves
1 egg yolk (organic, free-range)

1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c. flaxseed oil
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

Put all the ingredients except for the oils and puree briefly.  Gradually add the oils in a very thin stream, with blender on low, until smooth and well incorporated.

The oils used in this mayo along with the artichokes are considered to be healthy fats.  Remembering still all things in moderation.

Spinach Artichoke Dip

1 (10 oz.) package of frozen spinach
14 oz can of artichokes
1 lb Mozzarella Goat cheese or Mozzarella Cheese
3/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
Garlic Mayo (recipe as follows)

Mix ingredients together. Put in a greased baking dish and cook for 20 minutes on 350 degrees.

We eat it with some great organic tortilla chips from Costco, with carrots and celery, or sometimes just by itself.

My next attempt is using fresh spinach.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The cleaning basics

In my books (Super Baby Food and The Vinegar Book) they give specific ratios of what to use for certain cleaning surfaces.  When I started making my own cleaner I had a few different bottles for all the different things and it was kind of a pain.  I shortly came to the conclusion that a basic 1:1 ratio would work just fine in my house.  So that is simply what I do.  Fill my spray bottle half way with water and top it off with white distilled vinegar.  If my kitchen counter, bathroom counters, or tubs need a little extra scrub I simply sprinkle borax or baking soda on them and then spray my cleaning solution and scrub away.  I have even used the same cleaning solution to clean my couch.  I haven't yet had any problems but do be mindful that you should not use vinegar on granite.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

First foods

I will start at the beginning with the baby food- it will be hard to hold back since it can be so easy- and mostly rewarding.

Starting solids- when baby is ready.  Meaning- showing interest when you eat, can sit up, etc. I rushed my first two into solids but got smart with the last two and held off as long as possible (or in my case the Dr. said they need solids- eh!).  Between 4-6 months is the recommended ages but I have known people to do earlier and much later- and I will leave it at that.

The first baby food I give my babies- besides the organic commercial rice cereal (for the iron)- is avocado! Yum!  Avocado is a great first food.  It offers a nice healthy fat creating an amazing brain food, easy to digest, and high in calories. 

--Make sure you wash your avocado before cutting into- you don't want to cut any pesky germs right into this wonderful creation you are providing for your baby.  --Scoop out the "meat" and toss it in the blender with water to provide the appropriate consistency for your tiny little one- or older infant.  --Blend blend blend once again reaching the appropriate consistency.  

If you make a lot take advantage of your trusty ice cubes and pour it in there.  Once it freezes toss it in a freezer bag and wahlah you have yourself individual servings that you can heat up when needed.

Another first food recommendation is bananas but I wait awhile on those.  My reasons: too sweet and constipating.

Friday, April 9, 2010

What we are drinking

The weather is getting warmer and it makes it so much easier to drink a smoothie... we take ours in many shades this being one of the favorites...

A basic Green Smoothie in our house

2 cups of water
2-3 oranges peeled
many handfuls of spinach (I buy a big bag from Costco and put it in the freezer.)
frozen strawberries
and 1 frozen banana
-amounts depending on the size of your blender-

Some of our favorite additions
pineapple- I buy one let it ripen cut it up and freeze it
1/4-1/2 lemon (rind included)
mixed berries

Yum!  If you haven't made a green smoothie do it- you just may be pleasantly surprised.  If for some reason you aren't let me know and I can give you some tips.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

How I clean

I was tired of the strong chemical smell of cleaning products- I was tired of using brands that I thought were safer only to find out they weren't- I was just plain fed up with my cleaning rituals.  Until one day I sat down with a marvelous book that my mom had given me years before.  That's when it began-- with this book and this book hand in hand I transformed my cleaning to a more natural, safe, and cheap experience.

The main ingredients I use for cleaning are:
White distilled vinegar
Baking Soda
and good 'ole water

I do have to say that it takes some getting used to the smell of vinegar.  I have become accustomed to it. However, my husband is fed up with it so I now keep a bottle of Seventh Generation, Fragrance Free, All Purpose Cleaner on hand for those ever so few moments that he gets the desire to clean.

So why vinegar?  Vinegar is an antibiotic.  Meaning it kills those pesky germs in a much safer way then Lysol or bleach.  It is natural and safe- you can drink it for goodness sakes!

Why baking soda?  Once again it is natural and mixed with vinegar can create an awesome foam germ killing action with a little extra scrubbing factor and you can ingest it too!

Why Borax?  You probably guessed it- yes it is natural.  It is a mineral that occurs naturally and is safe for the environment.  However, you do need to be a little more cautious while using this around babies.  Sometimes you do need something a little stronger to get parts of your home clean. It also serves as an antibiotic and deodorant.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Feeding your baby

Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron is what I like to refer to as my baby food bible.  My sister suggested this book to me when I had my first child.  I liked it then but it has taken me three more kids to actually get deep into the book and do all that it has to offer.  It gives great guidelines on the appropriate age to give foods, when to buy, how to prepare, how long it is good for once frozen and so much more.  I know that in the past 6 years I haven't even read the whole thing but what I have read has helped me tons.

When I would give my baby new foods my older girls would ask, "Mom, does your book say it is okay to give him that?"  That just shows how much I rely on this book as I start solids with my babies.

I have done both- all jarred- some jarred some homemade- and all homemade.  Even though it may seem a little time consuming I prefer all homemade.  You have a greater selection of choices and you are in complete control of what you feed your baby.

My baby is moving on to table foods now but I have enjoyed making his baby food so much that I am excited to share my tips and ideas with others.  

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Healthier Eating Habits

In the past year I have been transforming my families eating habits to being healthier.  We aren't full on health nuts- we still have our treats and out to eats every so often.  One step at a time is my motto about this and we are all on different levels.

One of my biggest accomplishments is that I gradually switched from regular peanut butter to natural peanut butter.  My kids haven't even noticed - but there are times that I miss JIF.

I got my jump start from Greensmoothiegirl.com and her 12 step program. 

We were already hard red wheat eaters (that's actually the base of our food storage at this point).  We did add soft white wheat to give us a closer feel to the white flour that we like for cookies and so forth.

Next was to replace refined sugars.  We use molasses, agave, local honey, and sucanant.  Of course any sweetener is recommended to use in moderation but to make the switch is a great step.

Fats we use are extra virgin coconut oil, organic butter, and extra virgin olive oil.

Other tips for the baking area is aluminum-free baking powder, cage free organic eggs, and sea salt.

I do keep a small stash of sugar, white flour, and butter on hand for my every so often treats and splurges.  Like I said- we are not die hards here.  I have chosen to make a few gradual changes in our eating choices and have been very happy with the results.

The only reason why I explain this to you is because I have found some great recipes that incorporate these "better for you" ingredients that are really good and I don't want you to be intimidated by new ingredients.  Go to your local health food store look for the bulk bins and buy in small quantities -if needed- to get you started.  I think you will be surprised how you can fit it into your budget.

Now that I have said that- don't judge me when I post a completely unhealthy recipe.  I don't claim to be perfectly healthy just a homemaker.