One young Catholic family on a Journey towards Intentional and Communal Sustainability. One Artist, one full time Mama and two babies, we'll tell you about all our successes, and failures, as we try to make it in our overly Consumeristic society on just the bare necessities.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Alabaster Jar - Penitent Thieves' Oil Infusion

While not the first creation, we are officially unveiling the first product of The Alabaster Jar: Penitent Thieves' Oil Infusion.

So... I have no idea why it won't post vertically. My apologies. Oh, and... the spelling error will be corrected on future bottles.
Thieves' Oil has a long (though albeit somewhat sordid) history of protecting people from disease and disinfecting homes and bodies. Britt's infusion was created by using the traditional methods of creating this disease fighting blend while honoring the Tradition of St. Dismas, more commonly known as "The Penitent Thief".

While the actual Thieves' Oil essential oil blend is too potent for direct contact with skin or surfaces that will come in contact with food, Penitent Thieves' Oil Infusion is both mild enough to use throughout the household but strong enough to help disinfect and protect those who dwell there.

Infusing Penitent Thieves' Oil Tincture with natural disinfectant qualities of fresh herbs.
Penitent Thieves' Oil Infusion was lovingly handcrafted by Britt in our home by brewing cinnamon bark, lemon rind, fresh rosemary and whole cloves to infuse anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-microbial oils into the tincture. Eucalyptus essential oil was added after the infusion had cooled to preserve the potency of the oil.

*Same disclaimer about weird verticallity problem as above*
Penitent Thieves' Oil Infusion can be diluted 8:1 with water and used as a general purpose cleaner to clean kitchen counter tops, bathrooms, children's toys, etc. By adding 1part vinegar to the general purpose cleaner it can be used to clean mirrors and glass surfaces. A wood cleanser and polish can be made by combining 3 tablespoons Penitent Thieves' Oil Infusion with 2 cups water, 1 teaspoon castille soap and 1 teaspoon olive oil. Or 3 tablespoons of Penitent Thieves' Oil Infusion can also be added to dish washing solution or a load of laundry to further disinfect and deodorize.

While Penitent Thieves' Oil Infusion is non-toxic, since it contains such a high cinnamon and clove profile care should be taken to prevent exposure to eyes.

If you are interested in purchasing a bottle of Penitent Thieves' Oil Infusion Britt will be brewing more batches in the upcoming weeks. Bottles hold approximately 2cups of Penitent Thieves' Oil Infusion and cost $5. Refills are $3.50.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Alabaster Jar - Teaser

This will (most likely) be the label for a new line of products that we will be making. 

Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Animals make nutrients more available

When we still had our chickens (yes, they're gone now, I'll tell that harrowing tale another day) I would often remark, usually audibly, about how incredible it was that our chickens would go around the yard eating weeds and bugs and turn those things into an easily stored package full of ideal protein, vitamin D and omega 3's all of which are in forms which I can easily digest and utilize.

Yes, I too could be eating weeds and bugs, but even if I ate proportionately the same amount that the chickens ate, I wouldn't be able to get the same nutritionally benefit from them than I can by eating an egg from pastured chickens. Our bodies simply are not as efficient at digesting plant matter as other animals are. Thanks be to God though that these animals are incredibly efficient at turning various foods (some of which it would actually be harmful for humans to eat) into nutrient dense, easily digestible foods such as eggs, milk and meat.

That being said, as with all truisms anymore, the case is better made via a meme with an endearing picture, so enjoy:


Friday, September 14, 2012

Thanks for hanging in there

I have so many thoughts to get out in this blog. Maybe in the next week or 2 you'll hear some, if not all of them.  I guess that depends... on everything!

You see, we're not in Colorado any more.  At least not for now, but maybe not for much longer at all?  I don't know!

God has answered our prayers for clarity regarding the future of our family.  We want to live in a more sustainable way, in a more sustainable place, but where is that and when should we go?

At the end of August, Joey had another interview for "the perfect job" for him- in Denver.  I gave it up to Jesus- if God wanted us in Denver, he'd get the job, which seemed in the hat.  If he didn't, he wouldn't. 

He didn't.  We have no idea why.  They never returned his calls or emails, which was, to say the least, frustrating.

And then friends who had been talking with us regarding our dreams for awhile, decided to move in the middle of September to a small town farm in Tryon, North Carolina.   Then, God pushed up their moving date to September 1st.  You can read about their journey here.  While we were helping them throw everything in a moving truck at the very last, last minute, we were feeling the tug...gentle at first, and then...

I was up late that night making sure they had plenty of food for their journey, and I was "trolling" on the craigslist jobs near where they were moving.  Sure enough, right there just an hour west of their new homestead, was the PERFECT job for Joey.  Short term, yes, but more perfect even than the other perfect jobs.  He applied.  And on Monday (labor day) the guy emailed and said "Hey, I want you, if you can come out!" 

We prayed about it, and finally decided that we would all go.  I have family in Virginia, just a few hours north, so we drove there first, and while the girls and I start to assimilate here on my parents' small homestead in the making, Joey is trying out North Carolina. 

Alright, so that's the short of it.  There's SO MUCH MORE going on in our lives, but the truth is, I feel that for the first time in a long time not only are things moving, and in a positive direction, but I FEEL the hand of God in everything that happens- down to the moment that my smart phone got run over by a tractor at the bottom of my parents' driveway.  Not that I have cell phone service here anyway!  God is detaching us from all these things and "conveniences" that we've been used to these last 5 years of living in the city, and preparing us for the next phase of our lives.  What it is, we're still not sure, but we KNOW that God is in control now. 

For those of you wondering what Joey is doing, it's super cool.  He's working with a tile maker in Brevard, North Carolina, remaking the 150 year old Spanish Street Tiles that line the French Quarter in New Orleans and were ruined and destroyed in Hurricane Katrina.  Here's an example of what he's remaking:
How cool is that!

So, please pray for us, specifically through the intercession of our Patron, St. Roch, who happens to also be the patron Saint of Tile makers.  In the next few weeks, we hope that God clears the way for us to know exactly where, and when, our little family will find a permanent home.

For those of you back in Denver who didn't know we were leaving until after we were gone (which is almost everybody since we left less than 48 hours after Joey was offered the job), we're sorry to be so incredibly spastic and hard to get a hold of!  Joey should be reachable on his cell phone, and yes, he actually is answering it these days.  I can be reached at my parents' house number, and you can get that number from Melissa N or you can email me or message me on Facebook.  Yes, I'm back on facebook, but only so i can get a hold of everyone now that I'm sort of off my normal planet!

That's all for now.  Perhaps I'll write more during the next nap time!



Saturday, August 11, 2012

Dachshund or Dachs-Chicken?

We're in the process of moving our chickens into the oversized shed that was built on our property before we bought the house.  We thought about doing this before, but just never got around to it.  But when there started being a line out the coop door to "use" the only nesting box (there were 2, but they only liked one of them), and the girls were getting very vocal about it, we had to make the change.  We're hoping that, after insulating and such, the girls will be less audible in the morning in their new living quarters as well. 

Anyway, Joey built 2 new nesting boxes and put them high up on the shelf in the shed.  He built a little ladder for the girls to use to get up there.  But guess who else learned how to use it?

 Not sure what you're seeing?  Does that chicken have long ears?

Yup, that's Rocky, our Dachshund, cuddled up in the nesting box.  It took a LOT to get him out too!  In fact, I discovered him when I went to take clothes off the line, and went back inside, got my phone (for a camera) AND told Joey to come see, and came back and he was still there. 

Yeah, we're going to have to Dachshund proof the chicken coop- but not to keep him from eating them, but from being one of them!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Survival for the Fittest: Inexpensive Nutrient Dense Survival Stores

The other day I gave my criticism of a prepper's guide to "Survival Food for the Poor." As I mentioned in my critique the biggest problem with the suggestions given in the guide boiled down to lack of nutrient density and an over abundance of carbs.

Rather than leaving you with a mere criticism I promised that I would provide an alternative list of foods to stock up on while still retaining the budgetary spirit of the original list.

My suggestions follow:

1- Water: It truly cannot be overemphasized. Water is necessary for life, plain and simple.  The minimum needed is about half of a gallon per person, per day. However, you truly cannot have too much water as, even if you have more than you can drink (unlikely) water can also be used to cook, clean, grow foods etc. I recommend storing at least 2 gallons of water, per person, per day for a minimum of 2 weeks. This sounds like a lot of water but water is very cheap. It is cheap to buy, even cheaper to bottle/can tap water. Don't forget to have an alternative water collection source beyond your stores be it access to a body of water coupled with water purification methods (tabs or filters) or even a rain barrel or two.

2- Brown Rice: This is one of the few carb rich foods you will see me recommend in this list but I do so never the less for a few reasons. First of all, rice coupled with beans will provide the range of amino acids. Not as good as meat, fish or fowl, but very good and additionally, very cheap. As I mentioned in my last post, don't let the reduced shelf life brown rice has compared to white rice trick you into opting for the latter as it literally pales in comparison. Furthermore, the shelf life of brown rice if properly stored is still about 2 years, which is more than enough. An added benefit to storing brown rice beyond the fact that it contains more nutrients than its white counterpart is the fact that you can actually plant it and expect something to grow later (given you live in a moist enough climate.) As it turns out, most places which you can buy both brown and white rice, they tend to be the same price. Well... kind of, they are the same price per pound, by per nutrient, brown rice is actually cheaper.

3- Dried Beans/Lentils: A necessary counterpart to brown rice. Together you will be getting a complex amino acid profile with a food that stores indefinitely and is tremendously inexpensive. I recommend a variety of dried beans and lentils as each provides a slightly different nutrient values, but more importantly you can enjoy a variety of flavors, textures and colors which will assist in keeping up morale. If you want to get the absolute most bang for your buck, check the nutrient labels and stick with the beans and lentils that afford the highest amount of protein and fat per unit. Typically this will be things like split peas and garbanzo beans.

4- Nut Butters: These will be a valuable source of both fats and proteins while giving a unique flavor addition to your stores. There are dried options of things like peanut butter which can store for many years, but if properly canned and stored, just the nut butters themselves can last upwards of 15 years too. My same reasoning as with brown rice (if you are still eating your stores out of necessity years from now, you need an additional food allocation plan in motion) applies with non-dehydrated nut butters. In addition, the dehydrated forms actually contain less fat and require water and preparation time and effort. When picking nut butters select options that contain as few additional ingredients as possible, particularly sugars. Instead, opt for "natural" versions which should contain nothing more than the nut in question, and salt. These will store longer, be more nutrient dense, and contain more nutrient value per dollar, even if they are slightly more expensive at face value.

5- Dehydrated Eggs: This may be slightly less palatable than the fresh versions, however they are pretty inexpensive and will provide you with the top tier protein available, even if you have to reconstitute them. Honestly, most people can't tell the difference as many of the eggs consumed in restaurants are reconstituted from dry.

6- Dehydrated and Canned Dairy Products: Most people are familiar with dehydrated milk, but you can also get dehydrated cheese, sour cream and even butter. Canned versions of each of these if you can fit it into your budget as they taste better and have more fat retained. This is where I would have ended my commentary on this category, but thanks to the wonderful world of other preppers on the internet I found viable ways to can milk,  butter and cheese so perhaps you can get the best at an inexpensive price after all just for exchanging a little bit of labor.

7- Fish Canned in Oil: Canned fish in general will be the best, and likely cheapest, source of "meat" that you'll be able to find. There are certain options which are better than others (eg. whole albacore vs. chunk tuna) but this will boil down to price and preference. Even if you get the bottom of the line versions of canned fish, the nutrients will still be very high. Canned fish will also be a source of nutrients like iodine, which will likely be lacking from the rest of your food stores. I recommend choosing oil canned fish rather than water, simply because the price is typically the same, but you will be adding additional fat content. If possible and within reason of price, try to get olive oil rather than canola oil or soybean oil, but this is about emergency rations, not ideal diet, so the fat afforded by even substandard oils such as soybean oil is still a good idea to get for your stores.

8- Bone Broth: This is likely to be the most unique suggestion on this list simply because it really isn't something that you can go out and buy. Bone broth is a tremendously healthful food as it contains readily assimilated nutrients. While you can't go to the store and buy a pallet of bone broth, you can gradually accumulate it for your stores (a strategy you should employ to satisfy all of your food stores by the way). Each time you eat something with bones: chicken, ribs, thanksgiving turkey etc. throw the extra bones in a freezer bag, once it is full, boil the bones with enough water to submerge them and a tablespoon or two of vinegar for 2 or 3 days. This is most easily achieved by means of a crock pot as it will keep a low but constant heat with minimal power. After straining the bones and lil bits of leftover meat, cartilage and fat, can the remaining bone broth. Don't fret if the contents gel, that just means its good for you. 

9- Dehydrated Dark Leafy Greens: This is pretty much the only "veggie" that you'll see on my list. Part of the reason for this is that the more nutrient dense dairy, egg, and fish you eat, the less necessary many vegetables actually are.  Another reason is that most of the vegetables you consume should be sourced from your garden. However, for sake of variety and just to be certain about getting vitamins and minerals it is a good idea to include leafy greens, basically the most nutrient dense vegetable option. This is another suggestion that will require some work on your part however, but yet again, the work is minimal and affords huge pay off. You can buy greens and dehydrate them, but if you aren't yet gardening (shame on you) creating food stores may be a good excuse for you to start since leafy greens are pretty easy to grow and usually have a very high yield. I recommend in particular kale, chard and turnip greens. Each of these have an enormous amount of vitamins and minerals per unit, turnip greens in particular even offer a high calcium profile. To prepare these for storage either use a food dehydrator, or lay leaves out on a few baking sheets and leave in the oven at 200F until they are completely dry. They will be very dry and crumbly at this point, which is good because you can then crumble them into swing top jars and fill them quite densely. Try to limit the amount of stems put in as these contain less nutrients and are more bulky. To use these dried leafy greens you can just sprinkle them into soups etc. to increase the vitamin and mineral content of a meal.

10- Unrefined Sea Salt: "That sounds pretty fancy" you may be saying to yourself, and yes, compared to industrial refined iodized salt, it kind of is, if by fancy you mean "nutrient dense" that is. Unrefined sea salt contains trace minerals which will benefit you while still serving the versatile purposes of salt such as flavor modification, preservation, sanitation, and providing much needed sodium. Is unrefined sea salt more expensive than industrial refined iodized salt? Yes it is, but we're talking salt here so its still really cheap. This is a store that I really can't imagine you storing too much of either. 100 lbs of salt sounds like a lot, but remember that its cheap, versatile, and stores easily. The worse case scenario with storing "too much" salt, would be that you could use it as a much sought after trade commodity in a post-collapse scenario.

11- Honey: This could be classified as a "luxury" option. But honey is an important addition to any food store. For one its sweet, and thats actually a good thing, sometimes its good to have sweet things around to help keep up morale. However, honey is more than just empty sugar calories. It has a strong anti-microbial quality that will actually assist with immunity from disease. Additionally if you are consuming honey which was created locally, you will receive a reduction in allergy affliction.

12- Dried Spices/Teas: Again a "luxury" option at face value, but don't underestimate the importance of WANTING to eat the food that you've stored. I don't' care how much variety you've dried to build into your food stores, you will start to get a little tired of the daily fare. One way to fight against this malaise is to literally spice things up. More importantly, many spices contain additional benefits than simply flavor. Dried chile flakes and powder will provide capsaicin, a chemical which helps a variety of ailments for example. Teas are another good idea as they will give some flavor variety to your drinking options while providing additional benefits. I suggest in particular: chamomile, red raspberry leaf (particularly for women), ginger and peppermint. However, go check out your local tea selection, many of them list the ailments for which they will benefit the imbiber on the packaging.

13- Vinegar: If possible, get apple cider vinegar with a mother. I suggest this because it is contains more benefits which can be easily assimilated by the body than refined white vinegar affords. The reason I suggest that you get vinegar "with mother" is that if emergency situations are greatly prolonged, you can actually make more vinegar since you have the mother culture in the bottle too. Whatever kind of vinegar you end up getting, don't skimp on amounts. While the average person may not use a lot of vinegar day to day, you mustn't forget the nutritional benefits of adding vinegar to food and drink, nor the preservative and sanitation qualities vinegar possesses. Vinegar is yet another store that should be stored in large amounts due to its versatility, inexpensive nature, and potential future as a trade commodity.

14- Cheap Vodka: Don't be confused, this suggestion is not intended to be drunk as you might think but rather to release nutrients from foods, aid in food preservation and assist in sterilization. I won't get into the non-nutritive qualities of vodka here, but there are many. I would suggest that you add a splash or two of vodka to various meals to release more nutrients from the foods. Many nutrients are water soluble (easily achieved, any meal you will prepare will contain water in some fashion) some nutrients are fat soluble (this can be achieved by use of the oil from the canned fish as well as the dehydrated dairy products) and some are alcohol soluble (these are the ones that you won't be able to take advantage of without the assistance of the vodka). While vodka is useful, even in its cheapest forms, it is still more expensive per unit than basically anything else on this list, and you could do without it if you must. Leave this as one of the final additions to your stores, after you've satisfied the rest of your needs.

15- Whole/non-gmo/non-hybrid dried seed foods: This could contain some of the above suggestions such as beans and rice. However, this category could also include: wheat berries, whole oats, quinoa, peas, sunflower seeds, whole peanuts, heirloom corn etc. I would suggest storing much smaller amounts of these than the rest of the list because they will be part of a long term food procurement strategy ie. growing your food. However, most of these dried seed foods can be bought in bulk at average grocery stores so instead of a handful of them, you could have several pounds of each on hand. If you have to eat some, there will be enough to supplement the rest of your food stores you can, but try to not eat these outright.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Survival of the Weakest: Poor Survival for the Poor

In my recent re-invigoration with prepardness I came across a post at UrbanSurvivalSite showcasing a video someone else posted entitled: Survival Food for the Poor.

The reality is that most "preppers" are actually just geardos with an excuse. There is a glut of survival advice that boils down to little more than "buy this cool expensive thing." In light of this phenomena I was excited to see preparedness approached from a more economically aware angle.

After the first minute or so of the video, however, I was less enthusiastic about the incoming advice because of comments such as, "rice, pasta and bread: very very very important to existence", and "on top the unimportant stuff: fats, oils and sweets." Both of these comments, and the rationale which guides them is in direct contradiction to the research and reading which we have been embarking on lately regarding health and proper diet.

(image credit)

Regardless of my personal opinions about the deficiencies of FDA suggestions, in any given survival situation fats and proteins are greatly prized. Sure, if all you have to eat some tree bark to survive, eat it, but its a bad idea to eat that bark preferentially over a fish that you just caught. Similarly, if you are preparing then that means you should prepare the best you can, not the marginal and mediocre.

Sure enough, after viewing the entire clip I found myself disagreeing with the majority of the suggestions in the video, for one fundamental reason: nutrient density.

Nearly everything that was showcased was not as much inexpensive as it was simply cheap, cheap because it was nutrient deficient.

Here is my critique of the suggestions given in the video, but stay tuned for my own list of Nutrient Dense Survival Food for the Poor.

1- Water- Good, this is something that can honestly never be overemphasized. In addition to the needs of water outright, many foods which will be kept in long term storage will need to be cooked and rehydrated, a job which water is yet again essential to perform.

2- Dry Milk: Not a bad suggestion actually. I would never suggest that this be something which is regularly consumed because the process by which milk is dried can lead to some carcinogenic dangers long term. However, in a survival situation this is likely to be one of your few sources of any sort of dairy vitamins and minerals. Dried milk will also come in handy as a flavor modifier for drinking as well as a component in meals.

(image credit)

3- White Flour: At first I want to suggest whole grain flour over bleached white, but the more I think about it, the more I'm compelled to say: forget the flour all together. It would be better to stock up on protein and fat rich foods rather than a VERY simple carb like white flour. Not to mention the fact that it requires some amount of preparation before consumption. The suggestion about the Australian damper bread is interesting, but while someone is fooling around with a blob on a stick I'd rather be eating rice and beans.

4- Dried Food/Canned Food: Canned potatoes? I don't get that at all. White potatoes can be fine, but first of all they store well just in a cool dark basement, they needn't be canned. Secondly, the industrial canning process tends to wreck the nutritional content of most veggies, way too high heat etc. If you are going to get canned foods I would recommend you can them yourself, but if you can't/won't then go for the nutrient dense canned foods such as spinach and leave the simple starches to the dried food category.

(image credit)
However, his suggestion of beans and lentils is great. I often hear all kinds of preppers say "don't forget to store a variety of food" I'm not really sold on that advise. A variety of nutrients, maybe, but there are a handful of things that I will preferentially stock, even if it is at the cost of other items. That being said dried beans and lentils is a category in which you can add some variety of flavor/texture/color without adding any cost or complexity of storage or preparation.

5- Pasta: Pasta is cheap, sure, but its just glorified white flour. His tri-color pasta suggestion is...better but still I consider pasta a waste of space/time/money that could be used to supply important nutrient dense foods with protein and fat.



(image credit)
6- Spam: At this point, he has been suggesting starch, starch, starch. Flour, potatoes, pasta. Starches provide reasonably simple carbohydrates and as such don't have very many calories per unit. Not to mention the depleted mineral and vitamin content given the nature of the processing of these foods. I was glad he suggested a canned food that wasn't a veggie or a starch, but spam is both expensive and not as nutritionally dense as other foods such as canned tuna and salmon. Spam contains starches and sugar as binding agents and to modify the taste, these again are more simple carbs and won't benefit you as much as the proteins  and fats found in canned fish.

7- Tabasco Sauce: I don't disagree with the notion of flavor modification in the case of the Tabasco. However I think it would be better to utilize dried seasonings since they are cheaper, lighter and store longer. In addition you could get a variety of spices rather than relying solely on the flavor of hot sauce which will afford some of that variety so often suggested when it comes to stocking up on food.

(image credit)
8- Salt: Yes, very good suggestion. Some food hippies in the circles I run in probably wince a little bit at his comments regarding the necessity to get iodized salt as you can get sufficient iodine (as well as other trace minerals etc.) from unrefined sea salt. But in a pinch (pun, yes) refined, iodize salt is pretty darn cheap. Whether you splurge on the unrefined salt and get the added minerals or go with the cheap industrial version, salt is a versatile addition to your food stores. It helps with flavor, it helps preserve, it is an essential nutrient, it assists in cleaning and disinfection and it lasts basically forever.

9- Vitamins: Another very good suggestion though I must confess that in light of the nutrient deficient foods he suggested up until this point his reasoning made me laugh. He cites the necessity of vitamins to supplement for the times when you will need to hunt and forage, when the irony is that the foods you get from those endeavors will likely be far more nutrient dense than any of the foods he has suggested you stockpile.

10-Hard candies: I understand his suggestion and it is coming from a good place, but the practical manifestation of it is wrong. DO NOT waste your money on candy. Its good to have something sweet to help spirits and its also good to have SOME sugary things to help boost energy quickly in certain situations. However, instead of candy I would suggest honey as it lasts indefinitely, has a more complex sugar index  than high fructose corn syrup and also boasts certain added benefits such as an inherent anti-microbial nature and allergen resistance if local honey is consumed. It is also more versatile than hard hfc candy as it can be added to foods to modify flavors, and can be added to drinks to give that quick energy boost mentioned earlier. I won't say that honey is inexpensive, however, pound for pound I'm sure its cheaper than candy.

11- White rice- Rice is good, especially when coupled with beans. However, white rice is yet again, a nutrient deficient option. Ideally brown rice is a better option. Now, many survivalists will say at this point "yes, but brown rice spoils faster." Technically, yes, the added oil content (which is partially why it is more nutritionally dense) also reduces its shelf life. At the same time, I don't see this being a huge issue  as the shelf life of brown rice is still something like 2 years if stored in cool, dry conditions. White rice can store for upwards of 10 years, but honestly if I'm in a situation where I'm still eating food stores 2 years later, I really should be moved on to my alternative food allocation plan. Plus, if you've stored enough rice for your family to still be eating it 2 years from now, you've got more space than I do.
(image credit)

8- Vodka- This is a case where it is a good suggestion, but for bad reasons. You don't keep vodka around to help reduce stress or whatever he suggests. You keep vodka for its disinfectant qualities. Additionally there are some nutrients which are alcohol soluble and not just water or fat soluble. So on occasion it may be a good idea to put a dash into a meal to get more nutrients from the food.

So, if you shouldn't go store up on empty carbs and store them in bulk in your house, what is an economically viable food storage plan? Come back and I'll make a post about that just for you.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Life Changes

Fun ceramic things in part of the Kinder-Garden
Summer has been wonderful to the Kerlin family, this year.  I have really enjoyed our new "kinder-garden" (as I have dubbed it) in our front yard.  Instead of trying to resussitate the dry, hot, sunny,  dusty, goatshead filled back yard into a play area for our 2 toddlers, who love to run around barefoot and at least one burns just by saying the word sun, I moved our play yard to the front yard!  Ok, we have to be careful because of stupid ordinances in our city that hate to see kids, but really, our neighbors love us, so we're ok for now.  I just make sure the toys are all reigned in as best possible at the end of the day.  We have a sand box, a pool, a swing, and a few ride on toys, and other than that they help me in the flower garden box I saved for them, some fun ceramic things that Joey gave them to play with, and generally just muck around in the (mostly) green grass in the (mostly) shady yard.

"I found a grass seat!"  Beatrice
With that, the wheels in my brain have been turning.  Ok, we have had some INCREDIBLE heat this summer, which locked us indoors for about 2 weeks, but really, other than that, why do I need to have them play indoors at all?  For my sake?  So I can get work done?  P-shaw!  And honestly, even when it gets nasty outside, why do I need babysitters for my babies?  You know, the kind that keep them from gnawing at the furniture and ruining your cell phone while your back is turned trying to type?  Really, what I need is to be ever more present in their lives.  Really.

from our very impromptu rainy day walk on the only known rainy morning we've ever had in Colorado
So, I gave up Facebook.  I KNOW!  I have been on Facebook since it began, and actually before. When my school wasn't part of the original FB network, some computer science nerd put one together for us, and then FB bought it from them.  Cool, huh?  It was when I was 19 and 20, but really?  Two kids and I still need to feel "connected" to all those friends and people I knew back then?  Sure, I still have a lot of friends from college, but honestly, I'm sick of the gossipy and stalkery nature of facebook.  Really?  I haven't talked to you in 10 years and you know how many kids I have, you've seen all my wedding photos, and you could recite all the jobs I've had since High school?  Nope.  I need to be done.

Oh, and it's not easy.  I've  been trying to quite FB for about a year now.  It's an addiction!  So I've gone cold turkey, and perhaps on the hardest day of the year for me.  Yes, call me crazy.

Along with that, I canceled our Netflix subscription. We only had instant on the Wii netflix, but really, if I was busy, or trying to clean, what did I do?  I turned on the babysitter to entertain Charlotte (and maybe Beatrice) instead of showing them how to clean, and letting them help.  Or better yet, waiting until nap to do whatever i needed to do (like type this blog post).

Dirt painting requires nothing, and provides hours of entertainment by all!
We're also cutting out cell phones (except for 1 that will go with the car) and I'm reverting to a "dumb phone" from my current G2, and getting an old fashioned house phone instead.  But that will take a few months to phase out since our contracts are all over the place during the year. 

All of this, plus we're seriously downsizing.  I'm getting rid of half of everything we own.  I want to fit our house in a house half the size because, eventually, and soon, I want to move to a house half the size.  Clothes that don't fit me any more?  GONE!  No more hopeful jeans for me.  I'm forward driven, not back.

And on that vein, Joey and I have taken a turn in our eating habits after reading (ok, we're ALMOST done) "Why We Get Fat, and What to do about it" by Gary Taubes.  While the girls aren't going without their daily bread, we certainly are.  Or at least, Joey is mainly because, well, seeing as I'm pregnant, I will be making the move a little less suddenly than he is.

Yup, I said it, I'm pregnant with number 3.  (See, blogging world, you get to know thing before Facebook sometimes.)  Hence the lack of serious posts over the last several weeks.  So maybe all this is just early nesting, or maybe it's born from a serious desire to REDUCE our home to the basics before we add anybody else to the mix.  In a permanent, visible, way that is.  (Baby's due early next year, but I won't give specifics because my children have proven so far to never obey due dates anyway).



Sunday, July 8, 2012

How on Earth Did I do THAT? a cheesy, cheesy story.

Friday night I wanted to make spinach calzones.  I pulled out the leftover kefir cheese that Joey had made, only to find it less than desireable.  Bummer.  I was going to use it like Ricotta.

Oh wait!  I know how to MAKE ricotta.  AND I had almost 2 gallons of older, raw milk that I needed to use up pronto.  So I pulled out my nice, big enameled cast iron pot, and double checked the directions online one last time, and set to work doing what I knew to be super easy.  I lost my dairy thermometer to the chickens (yeah.... probably shouldn't ask about that one) but no biggie!  I have my handy-dandy finger, which can generally tell when the temperature is right.  It's never lied to me before!

Step one, put milk in the pot.

Step two, heat milk until my finger says it's between 165-185 degrees.  Usually that means I can just barely keep it in while I whisk it quickly around the circumference of the pot once.  My mom could probably take a bath in that temperature, but I'm a lot more susceptible to heat, and she's the crazy woman who takes pans out of the oven with her bare hands and stuff.  Oh, and she also fights off bears on regular occasions.  Yes, multiple.  Yes, I'm related to super woman.

(love you Mom!)
My wonderful, beautiful Mama playing "train" with 3 of her grand kids on her latest visit to Colorado.

Anyway, back to Step 3.  Add an acid.  Lemon juice, white vinegar, butter milk, etc.  I used white vinegar, even though I usually use lemon juice, because the website I checked (here) said it gave it better flavor.  For the record, I DID NOT use the microwave method he suggests.  It was just the first website to load, and I only needed the basics reminded to me, right?

Step 4- a quick stir  just to make sure it's all mixed together and wait for the curds..... Wait a minute.  No, really, wait a minute, that's not curds....that's mozzerella!

I have no idea how I did it, or why it happened, but yup.  I totally made mozzarella.  Tasted, looked, acted, sounded, etc, etc, JUST LIKE mozzarella.

By the way, Mozzarella was a much better choice than Ricotta for our calzones anyway. :) 

Oh, and in case you're curious, here's how your SUPPOSED to make Mozzarella cheese.  Don't try my method and expect it to work.  The Mozzarella fairy just liked me a lot that day, I suppose.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Doctor of Love

Recently Pope Benedict XVI declared that we are soon to be honored to have two new saints declared doctors of the Church. The two saints are St. John of Avila and St. Hildegard. I must confess, as much as I am excited about having new doctors, I am ignorant as to who they are and what they've written. Though I suppose that part of the point of naming these saints as doctors is to encourage the faithful to explore their writings and teachings after all.

As I got to thinking about how I knew so little about them I also began to realize how little I know about the 33 doctors we currently are blessed with. I know that the doctors have each given some new light to mysteries of God and of the Faith, as such they have been bestowed with titles such as The Doctor Grace, in the case of Saint Augustine. Some are much more particular like Saint Bede the Venerable who is the Doctor of English History (though his contributions to philosophical and theological study are certainly well beyond the bounds of either time or geography).

In my search to find more charisms and therefore, titles, of the doctors I found that St. Therese of Lisieux is not only the Doctor of Confidence, but also the Doctor of Love. Having heard this I couldn't help but to come up with the following design for a T-shirt and sticker:

 


Keep in mind that imagining the text being narrated by Barry White helps really active that double entendre hinted at by the rockin' 70's font.



Being that I am still in the (albeit final) stages of printing up the Communion with ROME gives me Extraordinary Form shirts and stickers I am not yet in the active production of the above design. However, don't let that stop you from voicing your opinion.

Is this a shirt or sticker that you'd like to exist? If they were to exist would you buy them? Did you know that St. Therese is the Doctor of Love or did you just think that was a title reserved to KISS fans trying to impress their old ladies? If St. Therese is the Doctor of Love is it too much of a stretch to call her the O.G of Love (I know space cowboy would be too much)? Feel free to add any other mildly outdated musical allusions as well as you comment below...

Friday, June 22, 2012

Happy First day of Summer!

And Happy Birthday, Kum Dwain!

 "Kum" and "kuma" are Slovak for "godfather" and "godmother", according to my father-in-law, whose parents were from Slovakia. 
 Kum Dwain is Charlotte's godfather, and also, of course, a good friend.
 Our newest art project, lately, is painting.  This is another nap time activity, when I don't have to worry about Beatrice getting into it. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Best homemade play-dough recipe EVER! - Perfect Playdough by Grammie Shelley

BEST play dough EVER!  So smooth and elastic!
Ok, I almost never had store bought, brand name, Play-doh growing up.  But I was never sad.  Why?  Because my mother mastered the art of making homemade play dough, and I can honestly say that she is absolutely the best play-dough maker I've ever known.  Maybe the 4 kids plus all the pre-school teaching she did over the ages had something to do with it, but she'll be the first to admit that it was partially selfish.  She used to have bad arthritis in her hands when we were younger, and kneading the warm play dough was like heaven to her joints.  But beyond that, we were all thrilled with the best play dough on the block!  Even better than store bought because it didn't have that weird chemical smell.  Sure, it only lasts a couple of days, a little longer in the fridge in a plastic baggie, and is always best the first day, but since Mom made it, we could have it almost whenever we wanted!
Stir over medium heat.  It looks like goop, but it'll get there.

Keep stirring until it starts to clump into a ball, and clean off the sides of the pot

My trick- knead the oil into the dough right out of the pot- it's hot, so if you can't handle it, you can mix it in in the beginning.

Really- just buy the cheap stuff, but I only had the good stuff on hand

I actually added about a teaspoon more to get the color.  Add with a drop of oil to help it incorporate better

Grammie Yellow Play Dough!
 Charlotte has been asking for Play Dough a lot lately.  I don't always make it for her, partially because it calls for white flour, and I usually only have whole wheat sitting around, and whole wheat play dough is both ugly and course.  But when I do, I LOVE the result!  Today, because it's too hot to play outside, and so hot that we've actually broken down and turned the AC on (something I only do if it breaks 95 or I absolutely can't stand it), I'm making it for her.  And it will be her favorite color- Yellow- without any crazy ingredients or chemical food coloring. 

I hesitated before posting this not because of anything in the recipe itself, but because my mother's recipe is her own, and it's so perfect it really should be secret.  But then I realized that there's no reason to have a "secret recipe" for play dough!  Everybody should be able to give their kids the gift of the Perfect Play dough!

So in honor of my mother, Shelley, I am letting you in on the little secret, and I hope you all enjoy it!

Grammie Shelley's Perfect Playdough
2 cups flour
1/2 c salt
1 1/2 c water
4 tblspoons cream of tartar
1 tablespoon oil.
 
You can add more water or flour at anytime.  Cook over med. heat until it forms a ball. Cool, and knead when cooled. 

Charlotte's Star!
 My suggestions:  Add the oil in at the end, when you're kneading it, instead of when you're cooking, unless you're worried about oil stains on furniture, which I never am.  Use a vegetable oil, but other than that, it doesn't much matter which.  Also, to color the play dough yellow, add about 2 teaspoons of Tumeric when you're kneading.  Add more if you want, but if you're kid likes to eat it, keep it low or it will be extra spicy.  It makes the most beautiful, south of France yellow. 
She tried it, and I didn't worry because everything is healthy, let alone non-toxic!  Also, yes, she's sitting in a tupperware shoebox.
As a fun aside, Grammie Shelley, myself and Charlotte all have something in common- Yellow is all our favorite color!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Vitamin A is for Awesome Sun Protection

Alright, I'm a redhead.  You may not see it, you may not believe it, but it's true.  Since moving to Colorado, my hair has gotten less red (probably due to less humidity making is smoother which means that less light catches the red in my hair) but, trust me, it's still there, and even if my head isn't a fire engine, my skin still knows that i'm a red head.  AND even if my children aren't full blown redheads, that doesn't mean that at least my eldest has inherited my fair skin.  Oh, and did I mention that Colorado is one heck of a sunny state?  And like a mile closer to the sun then most of you?  Yeah 300 plus days of direct sun can be tough. Oh, and I've already had one mole removed when I was 16, and one aunt so far has been diagnosed with Melanoma. So when I got this email from our Naturopathic Doctor, Dr. Jacob Schor, that we sometimes frequent, I took note. (warning: it's very clinical, put your thinking cap on!)
we love playing outside!

Worried about melanoma risk?
New research shows women who take vitamin A lower their risk.

In the June 2012 issue of the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, Maryam Asgari reported that women taking vitamin A have a 73% lower risk of getting melanoma than women who not taking it.  The effect was less in men, a 17% reduction in risk, which was not statistically significant.

Asgari works for Kaiser Permanante in Oakland, California while her coauthors, Ted Brasky and Emily White, are from the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center.  Together, they analyzed data collected from the the VITamins And Lifestyle (VITAL) cohort study.  This VITAL cohort study is a large project that has tracked the vitamin and supplement intake of 69,635 adults living in 13 counties in Washington State for years. Health data on the participants has also been compiled over time. Scientists now evaluate the combined data looking for associations between vitamin intake and health.

Asgari, Brasky and White looked for an effect because vitamin A controls cell differentiation and proliferation preventing cells from becoming cancerous: in a test tube, vitamin A prevents melanoma cells from growing.

The benefit seen in the data is worth repetition: Asgari reported that women taking vitamin A had about a quarter of the risk of getting melanoma as women not taking it.

Neither vitamin A taken in from food nor beta-carotene from food or supplements appeared to lower cancer risk in this study.  The low doses found in common multivitamins had no measurable impact either.  Benefit was only observed in those taking vitamin A in pill form at doses greater than 4,000 IU/day.

If members of your family have been diagnosed with melanoma or if you have fair skin or red hair, or have a history of multiple severe sunburns, you could be at higher than average risk of melanoma.   If you are, you should talk to your healthcare provider about taking a vitamin A supplement.

High doses of vitamin A taken over extended periods are potentially unhealthy. High doses are typically defined as 250,000 IU in a single dose or 50,000 IU daily over time.  Reactions vary and some people respond negatively to smaller amounts as low as a single dose of 20,000 IU.  Birth defects have been reported in infants whose mothers took doses of 40,000 IU/day during pregnancy.

It is common to use beta-carotene as a substitute for vitamin A as it is considered safe in high doses and will be converted to vitamin A in the body.  Unfortunately Asgari’s team found no protection against melanoma in people taking beta-carotene supplements.    If you want protection against melanoma you need to take real vitamin A.

Vitamin A doses up to 10,000 IU/day are generally considered safe to use so if you want to lower risk of melanoma you should take a daily dose of vitamin A, more than 4,000 and less than 10,000 IU.


Link to full text of the study

So, Vitamin A, huh? Well, I don't take supplemental Vitamin pills, for many reasons, but mostly because I try to get all my nutrients from good, whole, nutrient dense foods instead since it's easier to absorb those nutrients.  Especially since I have little ones around, and want to keep overdose possibilities to a minimum.   So, where can you find Vitamin A other than in a supplemental vitamin pill?  (Oh, and I mean actual Vitamin A, also known as Retinol, not Beta-Carotene, which is the vegetable source of Vitamin A, in that it helps your body make it's own but doesn't provide the same benefits as the actual Vitamin.  Retinol is the form of vitamin A absorbed when eating animal food sources, is a yellow, fat-soluble substance. )


Good Vitamin A Sources:
Pastured Eggs
Pastured Meats, especially red meat
Grass Feed whole milk. (NOT fat free- Vitamin A is fat soluble, so the less fat, the less VitA)
Grass Feed butter. You know it's grass fed because it's YELLOW, not white!  
Cod Liver Oil
Liver (which has the most, by a long mile)


So this summer, along with an all natural mineral based sunscreen, we will be adding more liver and will be re-adding Cod Liver Oil to our diets to try and keep our kiddos skin  (and mine) good and white.  (Edit, ok, Vitamin A isn't going to prevent sunburn, but it will prevent excess damage from the sun.  Don't forget your sunscreen too!)  And to keep us away from the dermatologist!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Communion with ROME gives me Extaordinary Form





As you may know, Pope Benedict XVI just recently offered the Society of Saint Pius X a personal prelature if they come back into full obedience with Rome. In hopeful expectation of the continuation of Christian Unity I am offering this bumper sticker and t-shirt design.

 The design features a vintage strongman, wearing a Roman collar, lifting a dumbbell and the text reads, "Communion with ROME gives me Extraordinary Form!"

These stickers and shirts are also a great expression of solidarity amongst Catholics who love the extraordinary form of the Mass.

Please tell your friends and family about these designs, 10% of sales will go to the Church.

You can view and purchase stickers and shirts at my Saint Roch's Studios Etsy shop.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Vegetable Beef soup with homemade noodles

I was a little strapped for time and meat tonight, and it so happens that I haven't been so good about planning our meals lately.  But what evolved was wonderful!

Vegetable Beef Soup with Homemade Egg Noodles
1 quart jar chicken or beef stock.  I had chicken, so I used chicken
2 lbs organic hamburger
1 medium onion, cut up roughly
2 cloves garlic, plus some garlic greens from the garden
2 carrots, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
large handful of purple garden kale
2 cans (or jars if you were good enough to can your own last year) diced tomatoes.  Or fresh, but it's not that hot yet!
Lots of thyme.  I don't know how much I used.  My sister in law gave me a packet of organic thyme that she used for 1 meal and barely touched.  I used maybe half that package tonight.  It was a lot.  I like thyme- a lot.
salt and pepper
butter

Saute the onions in butter until they're just starting to be see-thru in a separate skillet.  Add a pinch of salt, stir a bit, then add the hamburger
Saute until brown with the garlic, crushed
Chop up the kale and throw on the hamburger at the very end, and lid it, so it just wilts a little.
In the pot simmer your stock, and some extra water if necessary.
Add carrots and celery and let simmer for a little while.  Then add the tomatoes.  Bring it back up to temperature, then de-glaze the hamburger skillet with the stock.  Once all the goo is deliciously in your stock, transfer the hamburger goo to the pot and wash your skillet.
Add the thyme and salt and pepper.  Then bring it to a bubble, but not boiling, to add your noodles.

While it's getting to that nice and hot, make your noodles.  This is super easy!  I'll tell you what I did, but honestly, it's all about taste and trial and error, and it's pretty much IMPOSSIBLE to get wrong.  I prefer homemade noodles BY FAR to store bought for things like soups and stews.  Spaghetti can be store bought for tomato sauce- which is rare- and quick lunches for famished toddlers.

Noodles:
1 cup of whole wheat flour, plus some.
1 egg (Val's egg made the noodles such a pretty yellow!  store eggs make them pretty white/brown)
about 2 tbsp olive oil- just add it slowly, you may need less or more
about 3 tbsp milk- again, add it slowly and judge it yourself
Some gluten just for kicks and to make it more doughy- just a sprinkle
White flour, or in my case I used rice flour, for rolling.  I had rice flour.  I did not have white flour.  It didn't seem to make a difference.

On a clean counter or large cutting board, build a hill of flour and your gluten sprinkle, with a nice little volcano in the middle.  You COULD do this in a bowl, too, but then, hey, what's the fun in that?  Extra dishes?
Crack your egg in the volcano.  Or if you're picky, in a bowl and mix it with a little milk first.  But it doesn't matter
Mash it a lot with your hands, adding oil first, then milk as needed, until you start to get it all to stick together.  Keep going.  Then Keep Going. It doesn't take long, maybe 10 minutes total- it took me 8 minutes tonight to go from start to perfect dough, and then about 2 minutes to roll it by hand.  WAY faster than boiling water at high altitudes.  Or is it that it boils faster here?  hmmm.. I can't remember, but it always seems to take too long!
When your dough is nice and NOT crumbly, go ahead and pull out  your rolling pin object (which is often a mason jar if my artist...ahem....husband has stolen my rolling pin again.  He's stolen 2 in the past, but I'll give him credit- I've had the same one in the kitchen for almost a year now!)  Roll it, flipping and turning it, on your counter or cutting board, and don't worry about the shape.  Just get it to about 1/8 inch thickness.
Pull out your pizza cutter, or fancy pasta cutter if you're one of those people- but then you're not reading my amateur guide to pasta, are you?  (Melissa!)  Use that pizza cutter to cut whatever shape you please, just uniform-ish if you can so they cook at the same rate.  They WILL grow in the pot, just like store noodles.  You can twist them, bowtie them, make them long and skinny or short and fat, I don't mind and won't tell!  Just enjoy!  I like making mine simple rectangles about 1 inch by 1/4 inch or so.  Easy to manage with a spoon, but bit enough to be a real bite.  Another option is just to make a whole bunch of tiny, tiny noodle pieces for your soup.  There's an Italian name for this.  I don't know it.  Make it up if you must!

When your water is nice a bubbly, but not boiling over the sides, add your noodles.  They take anywhere from 3-7 minutes to cook. Lightning fast!  See, making your own noodles may be messy, but honestly, it's WAY more of a toddler pleaser in so many ways!  Oh, and if she's in the mood, she can help too!
Valentine, the chicken, who gives us delicious eggs that I don't mind my children eating raw because I know they're safe!

Tonight, Bea helped.  By eating tiny pieces of raw dough that were in the wrong size/shape.  Yes, there's raw egg in there, and raw milk for that matter.  Do I care?  NO!  Because I know the chicken and the cow!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Some Spring Photos

Chicken's in the playhouse
 Because I've been remiss about photos since I can't find my camera charger.  Here are a few goodies from the last week or so.  More to come when I upload them from my phone
Look Mom!  A radish!  (from our garden)

Helping to clean all the garden veggies

First time doing s'mores, at the Fairy Park

Friday, May 25, 2012

Thoughts

So, the homestead is going great, or as great as we can expect out of this beautiful, suburban, desert.  We got our first radishes from the garden last night and they were DELICIOUS.  Seriously, SO good.  We also have lettuce, and swiss chard.  Oh, we have Chard out the wazoo, but we have decided not to consider the chard a "first fruit" as it's actually last year's crop held over from the mild winter.  And by mild I mean that it was only covered under 2 feet of snow for a couple of weeks at a time. :)

But---  we're starting to reach our limitations on this little piece of property.  We are already keeping illegal chickens, and we dream of one day having a goat or 2, but I won't risk THAT- plus we just don't have enough yard for her.  We planted a bunch of fruit trees this year, and we've been planting in the front yard too, but nothing we plant seems to grow- it just stays 3 inches tall.  The soil is so nasty.  I will say this for our little yard, though- its alive!  I came home from the park with the girls the other day and there were bunnies, robins, black birds and squirrels all roaming my yard at noon day.  It made me feel like Snow White- now if only I had 7 dwarves who did my bidding....

So we've been putting serious thought into where our new homestead- possibly a permanent one- should be.  We had new friends over last night talking about the possibilities, and we're doing our research.  And praying.  Our requirements are simple, but not easy: within a day's drive of family, fertile soil, artistic AND Catholic communities, within an hour and a half of a major city- yeah, see simple, right?  Not.

So does anybody have any idea of how to look for such a place?  And do you want to come with us? 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Whole Wheat Kefir Breadmaker bread

Unsoaked in the back, Soaked up front.  The soaked one was a bit too wet, so it fell just a little, but it's still delicious.
I'll confess, I am not a very good baker.  I'll blame it on the altitude my whole life long.  At least as long as I'm living above sea level!  But honestly, the reason is that I'm spacey.  Super duper spacey.  I tried to keep sourdough, which I LOVE, and I had some successes, especially with Dyno-mom's super easy method, but mostly I just forgot about it, and I killed my started twice.  So, my husband brought home my mother-in-law's decades old breadmaker that was maybe used twice back in the 90's.  At first, I was skeptical, but then I started using it, and I fell in love.  I made fresh, whole wheat bread for my family at least once, usually twice a week for months and months.

Until it died.

I was so sad at the bread maker's death, I had a bread maker funeral.

Not really.

I just stuck it in the garage.

and Joey was so sad for me that he gave me free reign to order a new breadmaker of my choosing.

So one night, at 3am when Beatrice refused to sleep and Charlotte had taken over my side of the bed anyway, I got up and ordered a new one.  I like to order things at 3am.  I don't worry about research at that time of day and just go with my gut.  It's much more fun, if not necessarily the smartest method of using Amazon.  But it worked out great this time!

I got me a Cadillac, Mama!

So, now that my bread maker is not as old as I am, and it can fit a whole 2 pound loaf, I've been doing a lot more with it.  And I've been loving it!  Joey found a bread maker cookbook at the thrift store, and this recipe is a derivation of their Buttermilk Bread recipe.  But it's evolved so much, it's nowhere near it.  It's so yummy, and SOUR, not quite like sourdough, but close.

No, my flour is not soaked in this recipe, because it's for the bread maker.  But you CAN soak it, and that would add an added delicious, as well as an added health benefit.  For the Soaked version recipe, see below.

On to the recipe.

If your bread maker tells you to add the yeast first, reverse it so the liquids go in first and don't touch the yeast.  I don't know a lot about bread makers, but I've never run into one that tells you to put the flour and yeast in first, but all the recipes I read add this disclaimer.

Whole Wheat Sour Kefir Bread

1lb loaf:
  • 1 Cup dairy kefir
  • 1/4 Cup water
  • 1 tablespoon sucanat other natural sugar
  • 1 tablespoon oil- I like Safflower oil, but sunflower would be good.  Olive ok.  Butter works, but makes it dense
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 
  • 2  Cup whole wheat bread flour
  • 1 1/4 Cup unbleached white flour 
                      OR
  • 3 1/4 Cups Whole Wheat Bread flour 
  • 1 tablespoon Gluten
  • 1 teaspoon rapid-rise active dry yeast

2lb loaf:
  • 1 1/2 cups kefir
  • 1/2 Cup water
  • 2 tablespoons sucanat
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 1/2 Cups whole wheat bread flour
  • 1 1/2 Cups unbleached white bread flour
               OR
  • Scant 6 Cups whole wheat bread flour 
  • 2 teaspoons rapid rise active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons Gluten

Add ingredients to your bread maker's pan in order listed here.  Make a little Volcano hole in the flour to set your yeast in on top to make sure it doesn't get in contact with your wet ingredients until the right time.  Otherwise, follow your bread maker's directions, and make sure you run it on the whole wheat cycle.  The longer the cycle, the better, because whole wheat flour needs a lot more time to soak up the wet ingredients.

For a soaked bread, which is surprisingly similar to Sourdough in taste and texture, and adds many health benefits, most notably less Phytates.  Want to know more about why to soak whole grains?  Read the Kitchen Stewardship's explanation.

Soaked Whole Wheat Sour Kefir Bread: 1lb loaf:

The night before:
Combine 2 cups of flour with 1 cup of Dairy Kefir and 1/4 cup warm water.  Mix it up good until it's nice and gooey.  It'll look gross and sloppy- but that's good. Cover close with a cloth and let sit overnight or longer if you'd like, at room temperature.

The next day:
Plop that Slop into the bread maker's pan and add just a bit of water if it's really dried up.  Not much.  A spray bottle is good at this point.  I prefer to wait until all the ingredients are mixed and spray a little at a time until all the flour is absorbed. 
Add:
  • 1 tablespoon sucanat
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 
  • 1 Cup Whole Wheat bread flour
  • 1 TB Gluten
  • 1 teaspoon rapid-rise active dry yeast

Set the maker to Whole Wheat and let it go.  Check on it while it's mixing and if it's too dry, use your spray bottle of warm water here to spritz less than 1/4 cup until it's all combined.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Easy Toddler Friendly good lunches

So, Charlotte is now 2 and a half.

If you ask her, she says "NO, I'm 2!"

and if you ask her how old Beatrice is, she'll smile and say "3, no...4, no....5, no.... almost 1"

Cute.  But whoa, does this kid have attitude!  She's been driving me up the walls with her little sneaky ways lately.  So, I've been sneaky too.  Specifically when it comes to meal time.  Sneaky, sneaky mom!

I learned that she has recently started to love crunching.  YAY!  That means fresh veggies are a go, finally!  AND since she LOVES dip to go with them, I now how fresh cut veggies and dip on hand at all time.  But not that crummy stuff from the store.  No, oh no.  I make my own version of a ranch dip with full fat yogurt and other yummies, and now you can too!  Easiest part?  I wait until my yogurt container is half empty, then make the dip and leave it in the container in the fridge so I always have it on hand.  You should too, it makes for easy snacks or a quick side for a meal, and it's Charlotte's new favorite.  And adding the full fat yogurt to the fresh veggies means my kid is getting her vitamins and a full tummy at the same time!

Yogurt Ranch Dip

2 Cups whole milk plain yogurt- homemade or store, I use Stonyfield farms right now because it's thick and creamy and without additives, and it's organic, even if they do have a sordid past.  My homemade yogurt has been bunk lately, but when I get that figured out, I'll have my own raw milk yogurt to use!
1/2 sour cream (optional)  Honestly, adding the Sour Cream makes it thick and more like the dip we're used to, so if you're having guests, it's a good addition.  Otherwise, add if you want, not if you don't.  Homemade, again, if you can, then it can be raw!  Or not if you can't.  Either way, FULL FAT!
1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice.  More or less to taste

The rest are spices, in the order I add them from most to least- add more or less if you want, use fresh if you have it, and most importantly, if you let it sit in the fridge over night, it will get more flavorful, but it is absolutely fine to go straight on the plate as well.

garlic- powder (or garlic salt, in which case, reduce or eliminate the additional salt) OR fresh, smashed and finely chopped garlic.  If you use fresh, the taste will come through MUCH stronger the second day, so use your good judgement on this one.
onion -powder (not flakes) OR better yet, fresh green onion chopped finely 
dill weed (dried is best, actually)
salt
fresh ground pepper
parsley (Fresh is WAY better, but if not, you won't taste it until the 2nd day in the fridge)


It's that easy.  Really.  And honestly, if you don't have everything on this list, that's a-ok.  And you can add different things too, if you'd like.  Like dried basil- that's always good.  And sometimes I add oregano.  It depends on how I'm feeling and what I have in the pantry.  But whatever you do, don't go easy on the garlic!   MMMMM..... I LOVE garlic!  and dill.  Dyno-mom will attest to my serious love of dill, won't you?

Now, Dip, and enjoy!