Sunday, June 3, 2012

Teacher Appreciation

Just a little gift we made to let our teacher's know how much we appreciate them! 
Who doesn't love fresh strawberries?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Thanksgiving in May

Way back in December for some reason I decided to buy a turkey.  I've never cooked a turkey before.  Every Thanksgiving since I was born, someone else has cooked it and I have no complaints about that.  Something possessed me to finally try it.  But that poor turkey sat in my freezer for, oh, say 5 months (Mind you it was meant to be a Christmas or possibly a New Years turkey, then an Easter bird, but alas a May bird.  Who ever heard of a May bird?).  I know, I know.  I don't know what really made me take that 20-something pounds of poultry out to defrost, but I did.  And it took for-e-ver to defrost (I'm talking like after a week it was still frozen).  I'm sure it was my fridge settings or something.  It turned out really moist and the texture was awesome, but since I happened to be sick the day I decided to cook it (go figure), I didn't really spice it up the way I would have liked.  So I won't be posting THAT recipe, I'll just show a pretty picture of my pretty beautiful bird.

I wanted to kind of stay away from the traditional Thanksgiving feast that is accompanied by a turkey.  Seeing as my Marvel is allergic to most all of "traditional Thanksgiving" foods, that made my decision set in stone.  Instead of mashed potatoes smothered in butter and gravy made w/wheat flour, I mashed sweet potatoes, seasoned them with salt and that's about it.  I made a stock using the neck and giblets, then added a little salt and pepper to taste and some (I think) arrowroot starch to thicken it up (could have been Tapioca starch, can't remember).

Now here's to the good stuff.  I couldn't make traditional stuffing since Marvel can't eat it and stuffing made with gluten-free bread just doesn't taste the same.  Cornbread stuffing is good, but Marvel can't have corn either.  Hmmm.  I scoured Pinterest (since that's the only place where good ideas really exist, right?) and came across a Vegan, gluten-free recipe at The Wannabe Chef.  Looked good enough for me.  It was awesome!  Definitely the best quinoa I've had to date!  We'll definitely be recreating this for Thanksgiving this year!  The only change I made was I substituted the sugar for maple syrup.

  • 2 cups quinoa, rinsed
  • 4 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp parsley
  • 1/2 Tbsp rosemary
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (or cane sugar or any other kind of sugar-substitute)

Bring the quinoa and broth to a boil in a large pot.  Cover the pot and turn off the heat, letting the quinoa sit to absorb the water.

In a pan, saute the onion, celery, and carrots in 2 Tbsp oil until the onions are translucent and the carrots have cooked through.

When the quinoa is fully cooked, add in the saute├ęd vegetables, maple syrup (or sugar), and herbs.  Mix those in while fluffing the quinoa.

Move to a serving bowl and serve warm.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

I love Nutella.  It pretty much runs through my veins.  How can I be a Dutch/German-blooded American and NOT love it?  I'd seriously consider something majorly wrong with you if you're in dislike of the best spread ever created on the face of the planet.  As much as I love it, I try my very hardest to not buy it.  I eat it in the heaping spoonfuls.  I'll devour an entire a day.  Okay, not really, its more like 2 or maybe 3 days.  Lets be real here.  It's certainly not a good influence on my thighs.  Or rear.  Or any other part of me for that matter.  When we discovered Marvel was allergic to lots and lots of stuff, there were certain things we couldn't buy anymore, even occasionally.  It just wasn't the nice thing to do.  Nutella had to go (but to be honest, it wasn't really around all that much anyway, so the change wasn't drastic, just sad).  Santa was naughty and put a jar in my stocking.  Marvel snuck some.  Cap snuck some.  Music Man and Monkey snuck lots of some.  I didn't sneak.  I devoured.  And.  We all had tummy aches.  So sad.  But, a blessed, blessed thing called Pinterest enlightened me with this recipe.  I HAD to try it.  I did.  It was good.  We ate it all.  I had to give some away so I wouldn't eat it all.  They ate it all.  They thought it was yummy.  Life is back in balance again.  AND its dairy-free AND refined sugar free AND non-hydrogenated oil free AND...need I go on, really? Yippy! :-)

I did alter the recipe a bit since I don't have coconut sugar (which I would really like to try, by the way).  I made 2 batches.  The first was nasty, but I fixed it.  I accidentally used unsweetened chocolate instead of dark or semi-sweet.  Gross.  I ended up adding extra milk/sugar mix to it.  It was a little runny, but good stuff.  The second batch was pure heaven.  I didn't use the entire milk/sugar mix, so it was a little thicker, but delish!  It freezes really well, so you can make a ton and freeze it!  I'm too impatient to defrost it, so freezing keeps me from eating it all!

  • 1 1/2 cups hazelnuts
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut milk (canned, preferably full fat)
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup (or coconut sugar or any other sweetener you'd like)
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  • 3 bars (3.2 oz each) dark (or semi-sweet) chocolate
Preheat oven to 350°F.  Toast hazelnuts on a baking sheet for about 15 minutes.

While they're toasting, in a small pan heat the coconut milk, maple syrup (or other sweetener), and salt. When the sugar is melted, remove it from the heat.

Meanwhile, melt chocolate over double boiler (or in the microwave at 30-second intervals).

Remove the toasted hazelnuts from the oven.  Transfer them to a clean, dry kitchen towel.  Rub the hazelnuts in the towel to remove as much of the skin as possible (don't worry if you can't get it all, it'll be blended anyway).  Add them to your food processor.  Puree until the hazelnuts are very fine.

Add the melted chocolate.  Puree till creamy and smooth (about 2 minutes).

While still pureeing, add the milk mixture.  Puree till smooth.

Store in the refrigerator or freezer.

Try not to eat it all in 1 sitting! :-)

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Few of My Favorite Things

In my quest for a healthier lifestyle for my family and myself, I've learned a whole lot about food and health.  I've learned that, although modern medicine is amazing for emergencies and certain medical needs, our ancestors were amazing.  They had a wealth of knowledge that has been forgotten and poo-pooed over the years.  It really is unfortunate.  With all of the negative I've come across, its very encouraging to know that so many out there share the need, want, love for this healthier, more ancestral way of living.  So, to get on to the point of this post, I've listed a couple of my favorite things that I have discovered in the past year or so.  They really all could use their own post, so I'll try to keep it short and sweet and post in more depth about each later.  (My favorite things are certainly not limited to this list, and this list is in no particular order)

1 - Coconut - They're amazing!  I really got on board with the power of coconut after reading Coconut Cures.  It sparked my curiosity....could coconuts really be this miracle food they claim it is in the book?  I did my research.  Lots of it.  And from what I have found through research AND experience, it really is that awesome.  We're big on coconut oil here.  My favorite brand by far is Ojio.  It has the best flavor and easiest to get down if you take it plain (as gross as that sounds, its actually good for you!).  We use it for cooking, dry skin, chapped lips, sunburns, fungus, fading scars, even our sons eczema.  I really like coconut water too.  It has natural electrolytes in it, so its basically natures Gatorade.  We don't do Gatorade here because of all the dyes and junk in it, but we DO do Coconut Water!  The only brand I'll do, though, is C20...its BY FAR the BEST!  I've won many over with this brand!  In addition to the oil and water, we use the milk very often, as do we use the flour and dried meat.  I'm anxiously wanting to try coconut sugar!

2 - Enjoy Life - a brand I feel I really can trust.  They are a company that dedicates themselves to allergy-free products.  They're the ONLY chocolate chips I'll buy (soy, corn, egg, peanut, dairy, name it-free).  I personally think their chocolate is better than anything else I've tried.  Their chocolate bars and granola are a hit here in our house as well.

3 - Vinegar - I use white vinegar for all of my cleaning needs, as fabric softener in my wash loads, and for the rinse aid in my dishwasher.  Apple Cider vinegar (the raw, organic kind with the mother in it...I use Braggs) is awesome.  I'll have to do a whole post on vinegar one of these days.  A good use for the not-as-good, cheaper apple cider vinegar, is to catch fruit flies (I'll post this later).

4 - Maple Syrup -
Probably my favorite sweetener right now.  I'm talking the 100% pure maple syrup, not the junk you get that's corn syrup with maple flavoring.  I use it in my baking and cooking.  I use it to sweeten plain yogurt, caramelized onions, even spaghetti sauce.  No more white refined sugar here!

5 - Aloe Vera - We've been long time aloe fans.  Its good for more than just sunburns.  Oh yes.  We use it for hair gel and mouse, moisturizer (I like to mix 1/2 coconut oil with 1/2 aloe), sore tushies (especially for those just learning to use t.p. on their own...if you get my drift).  Aloe is good for settling ouchy tummies, too.

6 - Fermented Cod Liver Oil - When I first heard about cod liver oil, I was totally grossed out.  Then I read about all of the benefits, as did I see such an awesome health transformation in others, that I had to try it.  We get ours from Green Pastures...the fermented Cinnamon Tingle kind.  We may be switching to the butter oil blend soon, though.  If you want to learn more about the amazing benefits of cod liver oil, read on here.

7 - Essential Oils - I'm new to essential oils, but the more I read, the more in love I am with them.  Its amazing how incredible nature is.  Tea Tree Oil is the #1 used essential oil in our home.  I use it for cleaning and for preventing and killing mold.  I throw a few drops in my laundry to rid it of stinky smells (cloth diapers and stinky, nasty wet rags).  Lemon Oil is another fave.  It works great in cleaning products.  If I'm in need of a quick "fresh smell" in my bathroom or kitchen, I sprinkle a few drops in my sinks and it smells the bathroom right up.  I really could go on about essential oils, but I'll stop here.

8 - Baking Soda - Awesome cleaning agent.  Its my go to non-abrasive scrubbing cleaner.  It cleans pans with baked on junk, takes the hard water deposits right off of glass dishes, great for cleaning a bath tub, freshens refrigerators...not to mention you can use it in your baking!

9 - Raw Local Honey - Another great sweetener.  I give this to my kids to help prevent (or at least tame) bad allergies.  Its also good for sore throats.

10 - Wholesome Chow Pancake Mix - I just recently discovered this brand.  When at all possible, I'm all about making things from scratch, but lets be honest, I'm a busy mama and sometimes I just need something quick and easy to feed my kids.  Amongst other things, most GF pancake mixes contain soy or xantham gum (which comes from corn), which Marvel is allergic to.  Wholesome Chow DOES NOT.  It has no soy, corn, eggs, wheat, nuts, I missing anything?  And for a GF mix (I'll be honest, nothing really compares to good ol' wheat-filled pancakes), it really is tasty.  Wholeseome Chow has a lot more GF, Allergy-Free products as well, but FYI, not all are corn-free.

11 - Lemons -
Lovely lemons.  Not only can we make delicious lemonade (Captain's favorite), but its good for all sorts of cooking and cleaning.  Lemon water daily is a good metabolism booster.  Lemon juice can be used as a bleach alternative to brighten or bleach whites.  It can freshen garbage disposals, sanitize cutting boards or counters, or used in the dishwasher to cut down on hard water deposits.  

Well there you have it...11 of my favorite things.  What are some of your favorite things?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Farfalle With Sausage, Tomatoes, & Cream

This is definitely by far my family's and my favorite pasta.  I get leaps and giggles from my children when I announce we're having it.  No moans and growns...not. ever!  It is amazing.  I've never found anyone who has walked away from this dish more than ecstatic.  My sister-in-law introduced it to me and I've made a few changes over the years.  I recall one time many many years ago when Marvel was about 1 or 2, I was really really sick with some sort of flu or something.  My s.i.l. brought me some of this pasta and I was seriously better within a couple of hours.  I'm not at all advocating that this has medicinal qualities like Thai green curry does for Music Man, but it got food in my body and there was absolutely no way my body was going to let it go.  Be careful, if you're not prepared to eat way more than you should, don't make this.  None of us have any portion control when I make this...we can't help ourselves!

  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 lb hot Italian sausage, castings removed, crumbled (Don't worry, it really isn't that 1 year old eats it.  If you have a really whimpy mouth, still use the Hot stuff, just crumble it in big enough pieces that you can pick it out, but the hot gives it delicious flavor....believe me, from experience, if you use anything different, its not the same!)
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (28 oz) can Italian plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1 pint (2 cups) whipping cream
  • 1/2 tsp salt (more or less to taste)
  • 1 lb Farfalle (aka bowtie) pasta (since we have gluten intolerances here, I used penne rice pasta)
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Heat oil in large, heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add sausage and pepper flakes.  Cook until sausage is no longer pink, stirring frequently, about 7 minutes.  

Add onion and garlic to skillet and cook until onion is tender and sausage is light brown, stirring occasionally, about 7 minutes.

Add tomtatoes (break them apart with your clean, bare hands or with clean scissors, or just chop them in the pan with a spatula), cream, and salt.  Simmer until mixture thickens slightly, about 4 minutes (can be prepared a day ahead up to this point, cover tightly and refrigerate or freeze). 

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.  Drain.

Bring sauce to simmer.  Add pasta to sauce and cook until pasta is heated through and asauce thickens, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes.  

Divide pasta among plates.  Serve passing Parmesan separately.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

In Love

I LOVE where we live!

The Lucky One

I LOVE my boys!!!

I am the luckiest mommy out there to have such wonderful children...

and 3 awesome boys at that!

They're growing up WAY too fast.  I'm so grateful I get to be a stay-at-home mom and witness their journeys through childhood.

I'm grateful that they have such a good daddy who loves us and cares for us all.

I'm the luckiest girl on the planet!