Wednesday, March 31, 2010

ISO kid friendly veggies

We're having issues with our middle daughter not eating her veggies. We really like the california blend veggies steamed with cheese on them. Its 3 colors of veggies in one dish, its easy and its yummy. Unfortunately, she won't touch them. So we're ISO more Evie-friendly veggies to add to our diet.

In our diet, we are aiming for GMO free, preservative free, artificial flavoring and artificial colorant free foods. It doesn't sound like a lot to avoid, but it is. Its difficult to find products that don't have any artificial ingredients and are GMO free. But that's what we are aiming for.

Fortunately, she will eat salad, even salad mixes with red cabbage and carrot slivers in them. She will also eat tomatoes all day long and she loves zucchini bread. She will also eat the mixed veggies that I use in chicken pot pie and she will eat pickles. She also likes spaghetti sauce, so I gravitate towards sauces that include veggie chunks of several different colors in them. She will not eat broccoli, cauliflower, carrots (except in carrot cake), cucumbers (except pickled). . . the list of veggies she won't eat is larger than the list of veggies that she will eat. Its very frustrating. I'm trying to broaden her food palate, but she is a stubborn lass and hard to convince to try new foods. She won't merely trust mommy that its good for her or that mommy will make them taste good, so practically every meal is a struggle with her.

Fortunately, in contrast, my oldest and youngest daughters will eat practically everything placed in front of them without complaint, so that leaves me free to concentrate on Evie, who I am fully confident would happily eat nothing but meat and cheese if I let her. Unfortunately, this wreaks havoc with her digestive tract and she often has issues with constipation as a result. This is definately a work in progress and I would happily welcome any tips or recipe ideas.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

One of my favorite uses for cream-of soups: Lemon Pepper Chicken Caserole

3 chicken breasts
2 cans cream of soups
long grain brown rice
1 pkg frozen broccoli florets
lemon pepper seasoning
salt or garlic salt
cracker crumbs or crunchy onions (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees farenheit
Place chicken breasts (frozen or thawed) in an aluminum foil packet with a pat of butter and lemon pepper seasoning sprinkled on them.
Cook chicken breasts for 30 minutes, check internal temperature if not at 160 degrees farenheit, turn over, put butter and lemon pepper on other side and cook for another 15 minutes or until internal temp reaches 160 degrees (I am very particular about making sure my meats are fully cooked)
Cook rice on stovetop or in crock pot or rice cooker while chicken is cooking.
Steam broccoli in crock pot or cook in microwave or on stove top while chicken and rice are cooking (I like to buy the kind you can steam in the bag it comes in as it takes less than 10 minutes and is convenient and fairly cheap)
Remove chicken from oven and shred or chop into small pieces.
Combine chicken, rice, cream of soup, broccoli, some cheese, salt and lemon pepper seasoning in caserole dish. Top with more cheese and crackers or crunchy onions (optional) and bake for 15-20 minutes to cook soup, combine ingredients and melt cheese.

I love this dish because its fairly easy to make and its a meal in one dish, so less to clean up afterwards. If only dd2 would eat broccoli. . . I may experiment with adding different veggies to this recipe or simply pureeing the broccoli so she has no choice but to eat it.

I have never soaked my rice before making it and Joey made this dish for me this week otherwise I would have soaked the rice the night before. Next time I make this dish, I will soak the rice before making it to improve its digestability. So the night before I want to make lemon pepper chicken, I will combine the amount of rice I want to cook with the amount of warm water the package of rice calls for with 1 tbsp bragg's organic apple cider vinegar for every cup of water called for. I will combine it in the pot I am going to cook it in, cover it and let soak overnight (20-24 hours is even better) then simmer in the same water used to soak until tender.

Monday, March 29, 2010

TGIM -- pizza night and yogurt

Tonight was our inaugural weekly make your own pizza night and it was a roaring success. We (well my husband) put the crust, sauce and cheese on the pan to reduce mess and prevent our little ones from having constipation issues from too much cheese consumption, chopped up the veggies and placed them on small plates along with the ham and pepperoni and let our 2 year old and 5 year old dress their pizzas as they saw fit. We all had lots of fun. We all ate our dinner. And we are all looking foreward to next week. Make your own pizza night only has 2 rules -- you must have at least one topping besides cheese on your pizza (to aid in cheese digestion) and you must eat at least one piece of your finished pizza (no turning your nose up at it when you custom made it for yourself).

This week, our toppings were sliced mushrooms, sliced black olives, diced tomatoes (left over from taco night last night), pepperoni, grilled ham, and diced onions.

Next week, I need to make sure and have jalapenos on hand. I didn't realise we were low on jalapenos Saturday when we went grocery shopping and we ran out as soon as we got home. The girls don't eat them, but I have discovered that the bean is quite fond of spicy/salty foods especially of the cheesy variety and especially when alternated with sweet foods. So pizza without jalapenos was particularly disappointing for me.

On the topic of yogurt, I haven't been eating as much for the past 2 weeks. I overdid it a bit when I was first pregnant (but before I found out that I was pregnant) so I got a little burnt out. This week, I bought my starter (Stoneyfield farms organic lowfat greek yogurt) but decided to just eat it because I didn't think I would eat an entire batch of yogurt. I got 4 heaping tbsp of yogurt added a tbsp of honey and did not like it. It was too thin and just didn't taste like my yogurt. I wanted some last night and again tonight, so I am back on for yogurt, so next time I go grocery shopping I will be picking up an extra gallon of milk and a container of starter yogurt and making a batch of yogurt.

So beware of starting to make your own yogurt as you may end up spoiling yourself from being able to eat storebought yogurt again. Not only is it healthier, but it tastes so much better. You just can't go back to how it used to be ;P

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A MSG and GMO free alternative to cream of chicken soup

After seeing a thread on Diaperswappers regarding making your own cream-of- soups to replace the MSG and GMO loaded canned varieties you can find at the stores (or the much more expensive organic alternatives).

2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour (I use King Arthur brand because they do not use GMOs and are publically committed to a goal of not using GMO ingredients in the future as well.)
1 cup milk (or chicken broth if making cream of chicken)
1 tsp salt

optional: add 2-4 tbsp minced/pureed chicken for cream of chicken, 2-4 tbsp minced/pureed onion for cream of onion, 2-4 tbsp minced/pureed celery for cream of celery or 2-4 tbsp mushroom for cream of mushroom. You can also add 2-4 tbsp of other veggies/flavorings to make a different cream-of soup.

melt butter over med heat
sautee veggies or chicken
wisk in flour until smoothe (no dry flour or lumps)
wisk in broth/milk
stir until comes to a simmer and thickens
turn heat down and simmer 1 minute to ensure that the flour is cooked and flavors are able to blend together nicely.

Since cream of celery soup has been one of my hold-outs from the GMO, preservative free, and artificial flavorings/colorants free lifestyle I desire, this recipe will definately be used a lot here. Thank you to The Pioneer Woman for posting her recipe online. My kids and husband appreciate it as well (even if they won't actually know the difference LOL).

Friday, March 26, 2010

Ultimate Knitting

I have spotty memory. For example, I can't remember the lady's name, but I remember that my mom had a friend who was a singer and I remember the introduction to a song she sang --or part of it, at least -- "you knit me together in my mother's body. I am fearfully and wonderfully made because you made me so" but I can't remember any of the song. I wish I could remember the song. I have a feeling it would be one of those songs that I could find on youtube and watch a million times in a row. If I could just remember a few of the words, I could search the lyrics and find the song. But I can't remember any of the words.

The art of knitting, to me, is taking something purposeless, one-dimensional, flat but with potential that you can see in it before you pick it up and turning it into something, shaping it, forming something that is useful and beautiful.

The ultimate knitter in my opinion is God. I mean, all I can knit is yarn. And I have to have the yarn to be able to knit it. God created this world from nothing. He spoke it into existance. He knits people out of nothing. If that isn't ultimate knitting, I don't know what is. I am in awe of God's creativity, art, talent and sheer power.

Some days I wish I could knit people. Mostly my husband and kids, but it would really be useful in all relationships. If you could see people the way you see knitting, you would be able to tell where the dropped stitch is and be able to pick it up and repair it like it had never been dropped, you would know where the loose stitch is to be able to tighten up the stitches around it so that they were all uniform. You would know where the problem is, what the problem is and would be able to figure out how to fix it.

Its just not that easy with people. Most of the time, I don't know what's bothering my family and even when I do, I don't know how to fix it. And when I do know how to fix it, it is nothing as simple as just picking up a dropped stitch with a crochet hook and making loops until it can again become a live stitch and be worked as if it was never dropped. I can knit beautifully, but I can't get through to my kids and for that reason, I feel like an utter failure most of the time. And I don't know where that dropped stitch is.

Today, I pray that God will teach me how to mold the beautiful children he knit together in my body so that they will grow into the people he created them to be, capable of doing the good work he created them to do. For we are all made with a purpose. Then again, perhaps I should just leave the knitting to the One who can see the stitches and just admire His work.

The busiest time of the year for me

My primary job is motherhood; however, I do have a hobby. An obsession, really. I love yarn. I love working with it, either crocheting or knitting. I have played with hyenacart without success and may try it out again in the future, but for now I sell my items solely on Diaperswappers. I crochet and knit wearables, toys, diaper covers, sponges, kitchen items, you name it, I crochet it. I like to say I can crochet anything, but have recently encountered a challenge that stumped me for a couple weeks, which actually made me happy because it was wonderfully challenging, but the degree to which this challenged me forced me to face the possibility that someday there might be something I won't be able to crochet. Just because I haven't found it yet doesn't mean I won't, but I think even if I do find something I can't do, I will enjoy the challenge and the process of trying to figure it out. I'm quickly learning to knit almost as well as I crochet; however, I am not as good at figuring out stuff via knitting like I am via crochet. Yet.

I enjoy stepping outside of the box and making something new out of it. I enjoy creating something fun, beautiful, warm -- something multi-dimensional and useful -- out of something flat and blank like yarn. Its art to me, self-expression. It's relaxing, therapudic. I enjoy it. I don't make a lot of money off it, but I make more than I spend on the yarn, it does fund cloth diapers for my kiddos and give me a little blow money and I enjoy every minute of it.

Realistically, the busiest time of the year for me is always "right now" (the present) as its the only time of the year that is "real" at any one time, but all philosophy aside, the busiest time of the year for me is right now. Easter. It was at this time of the year that I first began selling homemade crocheted items and it seems like the time when I sell the most items not based on the amount I net, but the quantity of items I make at any one period of time and how hard I push myself to make things for others. This is the 3rd or 4th night in a row that I have stayed up late (after 1 am) to try to wrap everything up in time to mail it by tomorrow so it would arrive in time for Easter (at least based on the USPS's estimated delivery time of 2-5 days for First Class postage, which most of my packages are sent as since they usually weigh less than 13 ounces).

I do work hard for the 4 to 6 weeks before Christmas (and sometimes 1-2 weeks after if I don't finish everything in time) as I try to make Christmas presents for all my family, but its different when you are working for your own family than for others. First of all, the cut off time is different. You don't have until the shipping deadline, you have until the day of. And its somehow easier to put off making stuff for family in lieu of spending time with family than it is to put off making stuff for others. There's a lot more pressure with making stuff for others for some reason.

I'm a perfectionist. I'm always worried that people won't like what I make. I know I do my best and I know my best is wonderful work, but there's always that fear that it won't be well received. But so far, so good.

Well, I'm exhausted, so I'm off to bed. I anticipate writing posts in the future regarding WAHM work and tips on how to run a wahm business thriftily and successfully, but for now I'm satisfied that I was able to adequately express why I am up at this crazy hour knowing full well that I will be awakened by the kiddos in 5-6 hours and the satisfaction I find in my hobby, even when I push myself until it kicks my butt. Goodnight all :)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Talking it through

If you're like me, you like to talk through issues to help yourself process them. And if your husband is the typical guy, he likes to fix things without really listening when you tell him about them. I have no idea how they think they can fix something without even knowing what the issue is. I guess they just think they are amazing like that. This is one of my favorite outlets to talk things through.

Life has been pretty chaotic for me recently, so I appologize for neglecting my blog. I really love blogging. I've noticed that when things get hectic, it helps me to think more clearly because I find myself thinking about how I'm going to blog about what is going on. Having my thoughts more organized is nice, especially in times that are full of change and especially if you are bad with change like I am. I imagine I will be blogging about my thoughts regarding the changes that are taking place more often these days as I am trying to work through my thoughts and figure out the future as much as I can before its the present. I don't know why I think figuring it out will make it easier to deal with, but that's what I'm thinking, so that's what I'm going with for now.

I've been doing a lot of sleeping these days. I think its an escape from the nausea and my own way of taking advantage of the time while my husband is here. I just don't see myself being comfortable taking a nap when Joey's away, regardless of how hormonal and exhausted I get. Addy is 5 and doesn't take a nap anymore and I just don't feel comfortable letting her fend for herself just so I can take a nap. Evie and Izzy take naps, so I imagine it will be easier for me to nap once Addy starts Kindergarden in August, but I'm really just hoping I find a way to get some extra energy to help me deal with the 3 months I'll be alone with the girls before Addy starts school. I imagine I will be going to bed much earlier once its just the girls and I.

Fortunately, I haven't vomited yet this pregnancy, but the nausea is pretty bad. I'm hoping that the nausea is a good sign that this baby will stick around. I'm also getting carsick. I got carsick a lot as a child and when I was pregnant with Izzy. I had a lot of motion sickness in cars and boats while pregnant with Izzy, so I've BTDT with the motion sickness, but it isn't much fun. Joey is usually driving when I have motion sickness, so I'm hoping it won't be an issue when I'm alone with the girls. Sometimes motion sickness is funny like that and only bothers you when others are in control of the vehicle. I'm hoping that is the case for me.

I still don't know what's going to happen with the dog when Joey's gone. He bugs me to no end and I really don't know how much of that is the fact that Joey and his recent choices are bugging me. I don't know how much Joey bugging me is coloring how I feel about the dog and I know I won't know that until Joey is gone. I'm not planning on getting rid of Rico until at least a week after Joey is gone if then. I may find I prefer having a dog around for safety reasons or I may find myself hesitant to take the girls' dog away so soon after their father leaves for basic. All I know for sure, though, is I have a limited supply of energy and if I don't have the energy to deal with the kids, the pregnancy and the dog, the dog may have to go so I will better be able to handle the kids and the pregnancy. I hate the idea of giving up and I am ashamed at how deeply I dislike the dog and I wish I understood my reaction to him, but I don't. All I can do right now is make decisions based on what I know and how I feel not what I wish I knew or how I wish I felt.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Homemade Scour Powder

I got a sample of BNC's scour powder about a year ago and finally took the time to use it. My stove was getting pretty raunchy (*blush*) and that crossed the line for me. I had to clean my kitchen. So I decided to start out with the stove. I sprinkled the scour powder over the whole stovetop and then I paused for a minute and realised I wasn't quite sure what to do next.

The last time I used any type of scouring powder was in high school when my mom asked me to clean the bathroom with AJAX/Comet. I sprinkled it in the toilet bowl, in the sink and in the tub then scrubbed and rinsed. I never could stand the smell of AJAX or Comet, so I would do it as rapidly as I possibly could so I wouldn't have to smell it anymore. Once I moved out, I never touched it again, opting instead to use liquid cleaners.

Well, the liquid cleaners just weren't cutting it for the top of the stove, so I broke out the scour powder. I sprinkled it on the stove and then looked up online how to use it. Not only did I find how to use it, I also found simple recipes for making it. The recipes call for salt, borax and baking soda. You can do either 1 part of each or 1 part of borax, 1 part baking soda and 1/2 part salt. I probably won't use it very often since I still prefer liquid cleaners, and I prefer to clean messes as they are made to having to resort to using scour powder. As a result, I will choose to make the scour powder as needed rather than keeping it on hand. If you want to keep some ready made, though, just make sure you store it in an air-tight container as the baking soda will clump when exposed to air.

Another tip -- to make sure you have rinsed all of the solution off the surface, spray with a white vinegar solution. If there is any scour powder left on the surface you just cleaned, it will foam up and you'll know where you need to rinse a little more.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Fake it 'til you make it?

I don't know how old I was when I first heard this old addage. I do know that for some reason, it made sense to me. It sounded like a great idea. All you have to do is smile and act like your happy and somehow that will transport you to happiness? Cool.

Or not. That stupid addage drug me through all my teen years, "faking it" without ever helping me to "make it" and still haunts me today.

See the problem with that addage and other similar pieces of advice is that faking it does not help you make anything real, just a nice facade, and eventually, you will have to deal with whatever is bothering you. You can bottle it up as long as you are capable of keeping the top on your bottle, but regardless of the strength of your top or the size of your bottle, eventually the pressure will get to you.

I've been dealing with a lot this year and its only March. January 3rd, I found out I was pregnant. January 21st, I began to have my first miscarriage. February 8th, my husband lost his job. Late in the night February 20th or early in the morning February 21st, my beloved Papa died. Monday morning I POAS and saw that old familiar 2 pink lines. And Monday afternoon, I dropped my husband off at the recruiter's office so he could spend the night at a hotel tonight and swear his oath of enlistment Tuesday morning. I'm not sure I've properly dealt with any of this. I'm 100% sure I haven't properly dealt with ALL of this.

But fake it til you make it is not going to get me through this. My baby is still dead. My grandfather is still dead. My husband is still going to ship out May 9th, leaving me alone with our 3 kiddos and pregnant. And no amount of faking is going to change the fact that in 2 months, I will be pregnant and raising my 3 kids alone for 17 weeks or longer while my husband does basic training and AIT. I'm going to have to deal with this -- all of it -- before he goes.

The problem is, I don't know how. I didn't learn those skills as a teen. . . just fake it 'til you make it.

I don't have any delusions that this will be easy. I am finding it difficult to feel so many conflicting emotions at once without dealing with the underlying issues. In fact, I'm not even sure what the underlying issues are much less how to deal with them. I guess I could start by just processing how I feel.

I'm scared. Scared that I will fail miserably on my own with the kiddos. Scared I don't have the patience or strength to handle the house, kids, and pregnancy on my own. Equally scared that I will handle it fantastically on my own and discover that having my husband around only serves to make me less productive. Scared that this is just one step in the path to my husband deciding he does not want to be with us anymore, that joining the army is really his way of trying to escape us. Scared to be excited or hopeful about the baby for fear that I will lose this one as well and that it will hurt more if I get excited and lose it.

I'm angry. Angry that he gets to follow his dreams and I get to stay here and be responsible. Angry that he doesn't seem to take advantage of the time he has with us. Angry that I seem to be drawn to men who just want to run off to the army.

I'm feeling abandoned, unimportant, unloved, expendible. Its not a fun way to feel. But its just feelings. They come and go and ebb and flow like tides, although not with as regular a pattern. I *know* you can't live your life based on feelings. I *know* things will likely be better than I fear they will be. I *know* how I feel will change. I *know* God won't give me more than I can handle. What I don't know is how to deal with these feelings and get past them. All I know is not to fake it til I make it because if I follow that path, I'll never make it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Homemade Hot Chocolate Recipe

Courtesy of Under 1000 Per Month,

Heat on the stove or in the microwave

1 cup milk


1 TSP vanilla
2 TSPs cocoa powder
2 TBSPs sugar

I also found a couple other recipes for homemade hot chocolate on Natural Moms Talk radio blog that uses essentially the same ingredients just in different proportions than this recipe (1/4 cup cocoa, 1/2 cup sugar, a dash of sea salt and 1 tsp vanilla to 4 cups of milk). It also calls for about 1/2 a cup of water. You heat the water in a saucepan then add the other ingredients.

So when I finish the box of Swiss Miss mix I just got at the store, I'm going to try both of these recipes and see which one my family and I prefer. I'll just have to pick up some mini marshmallows first. Or figure out a recipe for that. . . ;)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Homemade Soaked Grain Tortillas

2 cups whole white wheat flour
3/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup shortening or softened butter
1/2 cup water

Combine all ingredients and divide into the number of tortillas you'd like to make, roll into balls and flatten the balls to make tortilla shapes. Fry on medium high without greasing the pan for about 30 seconds on each side.

Now I have been researching soaking grains, such as whole wheat flour. According to my research, it is important to soak grains to neutralize the phytic acid present in the bran of the grain so that you are better able to digest and utilize the nutrients in your food. Phytic acid combines with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc in your intestines and prevents them from being absorbed by the intestinal tract. Soaking grains also helps to break down complex starches, tannins and some proteins that are difficult to digest, like gluten. Furthermore, soaking grains softens and expands the grain, resulting in baked goods with a lighter texture and making a larger quantity in the end. It makes the baked goods more satisfying and filling, which makes soaking grains thriftier than not soaking them.

To soak grains, you combine them (in this case flour) with the liquid ingredients (in this case water) and 1 TBSP of an acid medium per cup of water called for in the recipe (in this case 1/2 TBSP Bragg's raw organic apple cider vinegar). You can also add the liquid oil and sweetener called for in the recipe to the mixture (in this case butter/shortening). This will help maintain a moist consistency so that its easier to combine with other ingredients after soaking (in this case salt). Make sure to use warm liquids as this is necessary for the soaking process to be effective. You combine the presoak ingredients in a bowl, cover the bowl with a wet towel and let soak 12-24 hours, then add the remaining ingredients and follow the remaining directions of the original recipe. Yes, it takes a little longer to make baked goods, which requires more planning on your part since you'll have to start it at least 12 hours before you are wanting to cook it. In essence, soaking splits the cooking into 2 parts -- presoak and post soak -- with a 12-24 hour break in between.

I did buy tortillas at the store this week, but when I get down to the last few tortillas, I will try this recipe (including the soaking) and see how it turns out.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Homemade Taco Seasoning Recipe

Unfortunately, the Under 1000 Per Month blog is no longer an active blog. Fortunately, Emily has been kind enough to make her blog read only so that we can still access her recipes and other posts. On the off chance that its removed again, I am going to post some of her recipes (the ones I personally want to try) in my blog.

This recipe is for the amount of spices necessary to sesason 1 pound of ground beef. Since we eat venison and our venison is packaged in 1.5 pound packages, we will simply multiply it by 1.5. The amounts our family will use will be in parenthesis with the original amounts out of parenthesis.

For 1 lb of ground beef (1.5 lbs of ground venison)
1 (1.5) TBSP chopped onion
2 (3) TSP chili powder
1 (1.5) TSP garlic
1/2 (3/4) TSP cayenne pepper or hot paprika
1 (1.5) TSP cumin

You can use fresh garlic and onions or leftover spices in your spice rack, whichever you have on hand. Add to meat and cook until browned (or until onions are soft if using fresh onions, whichever happens last). We're going to try this recipe the next time we make mexican (which will be sometime this week) since I forgot to buy some taco seasoning at the store. . . Neccessity being the mother of invention and all that.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Adventures in Thriftiness -- Great deals at Kroger this week!

I just got back from grocery shopping and I am beyond psyched. They had chicken breasts and chicken tenderloins in 3 lb bags on sale for $5 a bag in the freezer section. Normally, the best price I find chicken tenderloins for is $1.99 per pound when Tyson tenders go on sale and I usually get a few of those. I got 2 bags of breasts and 2 of tenderloins. I would have gotten more, but I didn't think I had the freezer room for any more (and I was right). They are also doing a "buy 8, get $4 off" sale. Glaceau Vitamin waters are on sale for 0.75 each (after you get the $4 off) as are birdseye microwavable california style veggies and sargento cheese is at the same price per ounce as kroger brand cheese before you take the 0.50 per pack off (for the buy 8 get $4 off sale) so I was able to get brand name cheese for less than store brand. Can we say awesome shopping trip?!! So head off to Kroger and get some great buys. Or if you found a better deal on any of these items, PLMK. I love a good deal!!!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Whey to make your own Sprite alternative!!!

I tried out and linked to this recipe in a previous post. When it had fermented for 3 days, I placed it in the refridgerator and tried it. I found it fizzy and very Sprite-esque, but felt it was very muted in flavor.

This time, I'm going to alter it to make it more like sprite.

I am using a 2 quart glass jar again, but this time I will be putting twice as much lemons, sugar and whey and will be adding 1 cup of sugar when its done fermenting.

juice of 8 lemons (juice at room temp to get the most juice)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup whey
fill with water to 1" below threads of jar

shake all ingredients in 2 quart jar, cover tightly with top , cover with towel and allow it to ferment for 3 days. After 3 days, add 1 cup sugar and refridgerate.

I don't expect this to be exactly like Sprite as Sprite is a lemon-lime soda, so the next time I go to the grocery store, I'll pick up some more lemons and some limes to make another batch even closer to Sprite.

We only use sprite when the girls are sick, but I'd much rather make it myself and have it be all natural than buy it from the store, so this is the next step in my make your own Sprite journey.

Friday, March 12, 2010

What's for Dinner?

What's for dinner -- or WFD -- is a classic question in our household. It helps to have ideas ahead of time, either by making a menu plan or just a list of menu options for the week. By having a list in your mind of the possible options, all of which you have the ingredients for, you are better able to make a healthy dinner decision that does not involve ordering take out. Not only is this healthier, but it also saves you money.

I did make a weekly menu plan for this week. We didn't follow it, but that's ok. That's all part of being flexible. Sure we could stick to the menu plan no matter what, but if it comes down to a choice between eating all the food that is cooked and following the menu plan, I'm always going to choose the former. Plus, let's face it, we don't always want what is "planned", so I've found its a better practice for us to have many options to choose from while being flexible about when to have each option. That way, we can pick "what we want" from the available options and by using the menu plan to shop off of, we have all the stuff available to make what we want to eat.

As far as meat goes, we only eat sausage, bacon, venison, chicken, turkey, and fish, so that limits our choices somewhat. We also eat nuts, beans, and eggs as sources of protein. We make sure to eat at least one veggie with dinner and strive for more than one whenever possible. I think its important to have as many "food colors" as possible present in our meals, so I prefer veggie mixes that contain several "food colors" such as california blend steamed veggies, mixed veggies, stews packed with veggies, etc.

We also like to make extras so that there is enough left over to either eat leftovers for lunch the next day or make something else with the next day. For example, leftover chicken from chicken stew can be used to make chicken salad for lunch the next day and the leftover veggies can be served as a side alongside it. Extra taco meat, spanish rice and beans can be wrapped into a tortilla the next day as a burrito. Leftover chili can be used to make thundermakers (open faced hamburgers with chili and cheese on top of the patty). The possibilities are endless and having a plan for how to use leftovers can help you to stretch your food budget while cutting down on the preparation time for meals. If you only have to prepare dinners and use the leftovers for lunch, then you can use the time you would have spent preparing lunch to do something else -- spend time with your kids or spouse or prepare dinner so that you can use dinner's prep time to do something else.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

12 Ideas for Healthy Breakfast

A healthy breakfast should have at least 5 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. I like this article, which includes charts. Protein ideas we would actually use from these charts are milk, yogurt, sausage, bacon, peanut butter, cheese and eggs. Fibers we would actually use are oatmeal (the girls and I will eat but not Joey), muffins made with at least 1/2 whole wheat flour, whole wheat breat (toast), whole wheat cereal or granola, bananas and blueberries and strawberries (the girls and I will eat these, but Joey is allergic to bananas, blueberries and strawberries), zucchini, nuts.

So for breakfast ideas I have for now (before Joey ships off to basic):

1. breakfast burritos with scrambled eggs, cheese, lacto-fermented salsa, and sometimes sour cream or avacado slices all in a whole wheat tortilla.
2. sausage, eggs, or bacon with whole wheat toast, whole wheat (made from at least 1/2 whole wheat flour) pancakes with bananas, chocolate chips or blueberries in them or whole wheat (made from at least 1/2 whole wheat flour) bagels with blueberries or cacao chips (a healthier alternative to chocolate chips).
3. Yogurt parfaits -- homemade yogurt sweetened with honey with granola and blueberries or bananas (or both) stirred in.
4. sausage, eggs or bacon with zucchini bread made with 1/2 whole wheat flour.
5. smoothies made from homemade yogurt with honey, frozen fruit, whey to thin it and flaxseed meal to add some extra fiber with cereal or oatmeal to add some more fiber or sausage, eggs or bacon to add some extra protein
6. whole wheat toast with peanut butter, a glass of milk, fruit for the girls and eggs/bacon/sausage with whole wheat toast for Joey.
7. breakfast trail mix with nuts, cereal, dried fruit, unsweetened coconut shavings, cacao chips, etc.
8. English muffins sandwitches with egg, cheese, and bacon with fruit on the side
9. apples with peanut butter with a banana/glass of milk
10. cheese slices with fruit with yogurt to dip fruit in
11. Omlets with cheese, eggs, sausage/bacon, lacto-fermented salsa, whole wheat toast/zucchini bread/ muffins
12. French toast (made with whole wheat bread) can also add bacon/sausage for more protein and fruit for more fiber.

So now I am asking myself why I find it so hard to make breakfast -- after all, I have 12 fairly simple ideas right there and breakfast is the most important meal of the day. . .

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Crockpot Yogurt Directions

To make crockpot yogurt you need:
1 gallon milk
1 - 6 quart or larger crock pot
1 container plain organic yogurt with live active cultures to use as yogurt starter
meat thermometer optional (get the one with the latest expiration date because it is the freshest)

Put gallon of milk in crock pot on low. Cook on low for 3 hours. (if you have a meat thermometer it should get to 180 degrees farenheit so that any non beneficial bacteria will be killed)
Take crock out of base and cool for 3 hours. (If you have a meat thermometer, milk should cool to 110 degrees farenheit)
Take yogurt starter out of fridge so it can come to room temperature while milk cools.
Dip out 2 cups of warm milk.
Using wisk, mix warm milk with yogurt starter. Most recipes call for only 1 cup of starter yogurt, but I usually add the whole container of starter yogurt. If its 2 cups, I add 2 cups, if its 4 cups, I add 4) After all, unless you're making yogurt again within the next 3-5 days, the starter won't be able to be reused.
Add starter and warm milk mix back to crock pot and stir to combine.
Place crock back in base. Turn base on low for about 10 minutes so it reheats but does not change the temp of the yogurt (It needs to stay between 100 and 110 degrees farenheit for the yogurt to incubate properly. Reheating helps the base to insulate the yogurt as it ferments.)
Wrap a warm thick bath towel around crock pot and let sit for 8-12 hours.
Move to fridge.
Since I like greek style yogurt, I strain it in a collander with a thin dish towel lining it for 2-3 hours. I keep it in the fridge while I am straining it.

REMEMBER you will be making PLAIN yogurt, so you will have to add fruit, sweeteners or whatever you would like in it. Its better to add sweeteners, fruit, etc immediately before eating it as it will thin out your yogurt. I don't know all the science behind it, but it tastes better if you add the sweetener immediately before eating it.

Ideas for flavoring for yogurt are honey, agave necar, sugar, maple syrup, molasses, stevia, vanilla, granola and fruit (to make your own parfait), crushed oreos or graham crackers and fruit (different flavored parfaits), cacao nibs, dried fruit. . . the possibilities are endless.

Although some recipes call for instant dry milk, I don't suggest it. They make the consistency lumpy and the taste significantly worse in my opinion.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Developing Healthy Eating Habits as a Family

As you know, I have been changing our diet to have less sugar, less additives, less artificial/chemical ingredients (HFCS, additives for coloring, etc), less genetically modified foods. I have been having a few issues with it though, some individual and some group issues.

First of all, I seem to have on sweet tooth and one salty tooth LOL. So I have to make sure that I have something sweet and something salty (that follow our new diet) around at all times so I don't fall back on prepackaged junk that's left over from our old diet. I'm sure this will be easier once we've either eaten or gotten rid of the old junk, but for now the old junk is a big temptation for me.

Secondly, I've been so focused on finding new recipes that follow the new diet that I haven't quite figured out a balanced meal plan yet. I've never really been good at that, but developing a weekly balanced meal plan is one of my goals. My issues with developing a weekly balanced meal plan are mostly with breakfast and dinner as I often make (or have Joey make) extra dinner portions so that we are able to have the leftovers for lunch the next day or the day after or use the leftovers to make something different for dinner the next life. I have never really eaten a big breakfast, so even though I know its healthier to eat a large sized breakfast, a medium sized lunch and a small sized dinner, its easier to eat the other way around because I've always eaten a small breakfast, medium lunch and huge dinner. I'm trying to break this but its going to take time and effort on my part and cooperation on the part of my husband and my kids as my husband only really ate breakfast on the weekends and my kids have this cute trick of eating 1/2 their breakfast then saying they are hungry as soon as I've cleared the plates from the breakfast table.

Thirdly and in conjunction with having a balanced diet, I am concerned with eating in moderation. For example, I know it is better for me to reach for homemade yogurt sweetened with honey than it is to reach for honey buns or other prepackaged snacks sweetened with HFCS, but I'm sure there is a limit to how much you *should* eat a day. I did some reasearch on that today and what I found indicated that how much and what kind of sweetener you are consuming with your yogurt is more critical in determining how much yogurt is too much than the yogurt itself. I also found a Bible reference that supports this, “Have you found honey? Eat only as much as you need, lest you be filled with it and vomit.” Proverbs 25: 16. Wikipedia shows a daily value of honey to be 5 tbsps, so according to Wikipedia I would be fine eating 5 servings of yogurt a day. Still, I am a firm believer that variety is the spice of life and I *know* I need to find other sweet snacks that satisfy me so that I am consuming something sweet other than just yogurt because I'm sure 4 servings of yogurt a day is probably too much, despite how much I enjoy it.

My salty pit fall is tomato soup with cheese toast dipped in it. I love it. Its my favorite lunch and sometimes I just find myself wanting it regardless of the time of day. Of course, the kind I like (Campbell's or store brands) has HFCS in it. Today, I tried Progresso's version and was not impressed. It doesn't taste the same and it has basil in it so its weird to drink and I like to drink my tomato soup, so having it be chunky or with floaters doesn't appeal to me. So now I'm trying to either find another soup to try or find a recipe to make my own so it doesn't include HFCS or any artificial colors or artificial or GM ingredients. So please LMK if you know of a promising recipe that I can try as I'd rather make my own and I'll post if I find a good recipe. I also wouldn't mind finding a recipe for honey buns ;).

These are all my pit falls. Now lets talk about the issues associated with developing healthy eating habits as a family. First of all, you have to deal with individual issues -- everyone has their own pit falls which you need to address when trying to convert your whole family. The life style change will work much more efficiently if the transformation process addresses the pitfalls of everyone.

Secondly, I am trying to develop "eating" and "non-eating" times. I'm trying to get them on a schedule so that they do not eat too much at one time, so they get a variety of foods and so they are less likely to develop diabetes as diabetes runs in my family on both my mother's side and my father's. Our girls would graze all day long between meals if we let them and would still eat more than Joey at meals if we let them. I know they are growing, but I just don't think that this is healthy for them. So I'm in the process of ensuring that they eat a good breakfast, a snack, lunch, another snack and dinner. I'm also trying to ensure that at meals and in between them they drink plenty of water. I do allow them splashes of juice in some of their water and I do allow 1 glass of organic chocolate Silk Soymilk per day (if they ask for it, if not -- if they are happy with just water, I would prefer them to have just water) and/or 1 glass of milk per day. When they are ill, we allow sprite or ginger ale (although this is about to cease to become an option as the whey lemonade tastes remarkably like sprite and once I perfect it so it tastes just like sprite, we will be done buying sprite).

So that's where we are on developing healthy eating habits as a family. I welcome any tips, especially if said tips involve recipes or ideas for breakfasts, honey buns or tomato soup ;)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Loving Every Minute of it

Recently, I was given an opportunity to visit my extended family in Mobile. We live about 8 hours from there and don't find the time to visit nearly often enough. While we were there, my uncle commented on how happy I was to be a stay at home mom. Now I can totally understand his surprise. I mean, I was the girl who wasn't going to have any kids because of my childhood, so the fact that I have 3 daughters in itself is probably a surprise to many people. And the idea of me being happy as a stay at home mom would probably be just shy of inconceivable.

Not that I feel the need to explain myself to people I haven't seen in years, but I did feel like explaining myself and my parenting "just because".

First of all, I am not a perfect mom. I get frustrated, impatient, angry, sad, lonely, depressed, bored, any and all feelings that adults who are not parents feel toward other people's kids, I have felt toward mine at least once. In fact, the other day I joined a contest in someone else's blog. The question was "In what activity would you like a lesson from an expert?" and my answer was that I would like a lesson from an expert in gently but effectively disciplining my children. I've tried spanking, the supernanny approach of time out for everything, naptime, I'm embarrassed to say I sometimes even find myself yelling (the spanking of today). . . I know not all children can be disciplined the same and not all situations call for the same type of discipline, so maybe what I *really* need is a lesson from an expert in patience or better understanding my kids. . . but that's what I'd like a lesson in.

I'm not proud of my intermittent lack of effectiveness, but I am honest enough to admit it. There are days when I would be happy and willing to go back to work despite the astronomical amount I'd have to pay for childare. The important thing is that I muscle through those times and make it through to the other side.

What keeps me going and keeps me sane and even happy being a stay at home mom is the little things -- the way Evie always comes to me to get a kiss whenever she stubs her toe (and sometimes she makes up stubbing a toe just so she can have a kiss LOL), playing games with the girls, reading to them -- the times when we have peaceful moments, when we are all cooperating and getting along. The smell of Izzy's hair. The varying expressions of each of their faces. The intelligent insights Addy spouts at times. The hugs, the kisses, the snuggles, the love. The times we are all traveling in the car and the kids drive us so crazy Joey and I just bust out laughing. The minutes that I would miss if they were in childcare are what keep me going when I'm at my wits and nerves end.

And I am getting better. Its a constant process. An ever changing process. The most important thing to my sanity is constantly reminding myself that they are children, that time is fleeting and life is unpredictable. I have to be more flexible. Its easy to expect today to be like yesterday, to expect something that worked before to work again, but in reality, that's not always the case. I have to remember that we are all evolving. They are learning and developing and changing as people just as I am learning, developing and changing as a mother. It is a constant process and even if today is bad, tomorrow could be better or it could be worse.

Regardless of what tomorrow brings, I have been blessed by God with 3 beautiful, intelligent, healthy, happy, creative, sweet, saucy, loving daughters. I am making every effort to enjoy every minute I have with them because we are not guaranteed another moment. We all have our time lines set, we are each alloted a specific amount of time here and none of us know how long that will be. I am making every effort to be a better mom tomorrow than I am today because not only is this my God given responsibility, but it is also the "job" I have chosen for myself and I want to do the best "job" I possibly can. Not just because I am an over-achiever, but also because I know the quality of job I do will affect them for the rest of their lives. I love them more than I ever imagined it possible to love another person and I want to have a positive impact on their lives.

Yes, I'm an over-achieving, slightly neurotic mom of 3, just doing my best to do my best. Its not the funnest job imaginable, but its the most rewarding and most challenging and the best job for me.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Mexican Night Tonight!!!

We love mexican food. We would eat it every day if we could. We've had sonora style (stacked)enchiladas, baked enchiladas, tacos, burritos, quesadillas. . . We love it all. Usually, Joey is the one who cooks, but tonight I'm cooking so I'm trying something new.

Last night, I soaked 6 1/2 cups of dry beans in 6 cups of water with 7 TBSP of whey. It started soaking at about 11 pm last night. This morning, around 9 am, I rinsed them and stuck them in the crock pot with some salt and 6 cups of fresh water. Its important not to put whey in the cooking water and to rinse the beans before cooking as whey will prevent the beans from cooking all the way. I cooked them on low for 5-6 hours and they've been on warm ever since. I've already sampled the beans and they are delicious. I have never had better beans. And they have the nice thick dark reddish brown broth that I love my beans to have. I thought the only way I could get it was by cooking the beans in the same water I soaked it with, so I was really happy to find out I was wrong about that. I let the girls try them, too. Addy and Evie sucked them down and Izzy threw them all over the floor, so they were a big hit.

I'm also making spanish rice to go with them for dinner. I found the recipe on Kelly the Kitchen Kop's blog and I'm very excited to try it.

Here's what I did (I mostly followed the directions this time LOL):
Chopped 6 stalks of celery (recipe called for 1 cup, which was 5 stalks, but I had already cut off the 6th stalk so I chopped it, too)
Chopped 1 medium onion (it called for a large one and I used the largest I had, but I think it was only a medium one)
Chopped 2/3 of a bell pepper (recipe called for a whole bell pepper, but I wanted to reserve a little bit for the chili and I forgot I was using it for 2 recipes, so I only bought 1)
Melt 2 tbsp butter w/ 2 tbsp olive oil
Saute celery, onion, and bell pepper in olive oil and melted butter

I was supposed to add the rice here and stir for one minute, but I didn't read the whole recipe until now (oops) so I added 2 cups chicken broth, 1 can tomato paste, 1 - 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes (undrained). At this point, my saute pan was full, so I poured everything into my 2 quart dish that I had sprayed with olive oil spray then I added 1 cup of long grain brown rice and I put it in the oven on 350. I set the timer for 1 hour to check it and see if its done. Then I set it for 30 minutes. Then 10. When I tested it again, with rice still crunchy, I was fed up. I put it in a skillet that has a glass top, added some water and simmered it just like you would cook boxed spanish rices. Next time, I'm just going to saute the veggies in my glass topped skillet then cook the dish in it. I think it'll cut down on a lot of clean up and a lot of cook time.

A couple tips for making this dish. First, use a dish or skillet that has a capacity greater than 2 quarts. Second, add salt while it cooks. Third, 1 cup of rice IS enough. After an hour of cooking, it didn't look ricey enough to me, so I went ahead and cooked another cup of rice on the stovetop. By the time I gave up cooking the rice in the oven, I no longer thought it needed more rice. But that's ok. I'll just let Addy have rice and milk for breakfast and she'll be thrilled about that!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A New Whey to Make Lemonade

For some reason, the last time I went grocery shopping, a bag of organic lemons caught my eye. I don't have a clue why. I don't like lemons. I only use them for making salsa, fruit salad and hot lemonade when I'm sick. But I bought them anyways. I think I was just on a fruit kick. I made salsa with the 2 lemons I had at home then opened the bag. The first thing I saw was a moldy lemon. YUCK. So I figured I better use the rest fast. I made fruit salad and used half of the lemon to make sure the apples didn't turn brown. That left 6.5 lemons. So I found a recipe that not only used lemons, but also used whey and I was ready to try it and kill 2 birds with one stone. I chose this recipe off Kelly the Kitchen Kop's blog because it used a 2 quart jar, which I had just emptied of whey, and called for 4 lemons. All the other recipes called for 12 or more and I only had 6.5. I actually used 4.5 so as not to waste the other 1/2 of a lemon. I made it on baking day (Thursday) and its supposed to ferment for 2-3 days, so we'll try it tomorrow (on the 3rd day) and if its good (and if the other 2 lemons are still good LOL), I'll cut the recipe in half and start some more fermenting tomorrow.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Whey Too Much Messing With A Good Thing Produces More of a Less Good Thing

I'm in the process of learning a lesson -- Don't mess with a good thing. I don't know how long it will take me to learn it, but I'm definately in the process.

I love my yogurt. I'm addicted to it. But it makes too much whey. So, in an effort to make less whey and since I had to buy some instant dry milk to make my dad's birthday cake, I decided to do what several recipes call for and add some instand dry milk. Since I was making yogurt with 3/4 gallon of milk, I added 3/4 cup instant dry milk based on a recipe that called for 1/4 cup of dry milk per quart of regular milk. I thought that the instant dry milk would make it thicker so I wouldn't have to strain it to make it Greek consistency like I like it.

I DON'T like the results. It is thicker than the yogurt usually is when its finished, but its not as thick as Greek yogurt. Its about the consistency of regular store-bought yogurt. And when you add the honey, the yogurt gets thinner. So I don't like the consistency. Not only that, but adding the instant dry milk somehow makes it so its harder to strain the whey out. So I CAN'T get it the right thickness. Which doesn't make me happy. Needless to say, I will not be adding instant dry milk to make yogurt again. Just wanted to pass this tip on.

So lesson learned -- if you want yogurt with storebought consistency, add instant dry milk. If you want yogurt with greek consistency, don't add instant dry milk, just strain the yogurt.

Lesson still working on -- Don't mess with a good thing. LOL.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Betty Needed A Green Tan

Today, I was going to continue to clean house, but Joey had to leave at 1:30 to go get his physical evaluation done, which would involve him spending the night away from us. Since my father's birthday party is tomorrow and Joey won't get back in time for me to bake his cake tomorrow, today became baking day instead.

First, I made biscuits using one of the recipes I posted last night. The one that called for butter instead of shortening. That was a disaster. They were like bricks. I temporarily considered making a house out of them. They were like rocks on the outside, but were barely cooked - almost gooey - on the inside. I did find a tip later that for 2 cups of flour, 1/2 cup of butter should be used and the recipe called for 2 3/4 cups flour and 1/2 cup of butter. The ratio wasn't right to make biscuits light and fluffy. So next time I get brave enough to try and make biscuits, I will try it with 2 cups of flour instead of 2 3/4 cups.

After that disaster, I decided to assuage my pride by making muffins. I'm good at muffins.

I've been making muffins with whey using a recipe that specifically called for whey, but it was dairy whey, which is dried sweet whey that can be used instead of sugar. Silly me, the first time I made it, I used yogurt whey because "yogurt is dairy." Now I know why that batch of muffins turned out bitterer than muffins usually are. The second time I used that recipe, I used whey in place of the milk, used 1 cup of sugar instead of 1/2 a cup of sugar, and added 1 tbsp of flaxseed meal. Joey still didn't like them and neither did I. He said they were too grainy, probably due to the flaxseed meal and I thought they had too much sugar but didn't taste any sweeter than the other batch. So instead of looking foreward to new and exciting recipes, I looked back at old favorites and remembered Betty Crocker. Joey liked the muffins I used to make using that recipe. And they only called for 1/2 cup of sugar for the same amount of muffins that called for a whole cup of sugar in the other whole wheat recipe. That was a nice start. But the good stuff stopped there. See, Betty Crocker's recipe called for all purpose white flour and milk and that's all just too white for my tastes. So I doctored it a bit. I made it greener by using whey instead of milk. Then I made it tanner and healthier by using 1 cup wheat flour and 1 cup white flour instead of 2 cups white flour and I aded 1 tbsp flaxseed meal. He liked this batch.

Then I took him to meet up with his ride to MEPS and came home to bake my dad's cake. I used this recipe for chocolate cake as my dad loved German Chocolate Cake before he became a diabetic and this is sweetened with stevia which is not shown to adversely affect diabetics and is shown to positively affect them. I also found a recipe for coconut pecan icing that calls for no sugar. Unfortunately, either between the store and the car or the car and the houes, I misplaced the evaporated milk I bought on the way to take Joey to meet up with his ride. So I'm going to have to make the icing tomorrow. I really hope he likes it and that it isn't gross. I've never cooked with stevia before, so I have no idea what to expect. . . So that's my day in baking.

Now I'm off to make more yogurt ;)

Adventures in Cleaning -- Bathrooms

I'm happy to report that despite the stomach bug that is bugging my girls and myself, I did manage to clean both bathrooms today. Unfortunately, Joey decided to wash the dog right after I cleaned the bathroom. Instead of thinking "yay, clean dog" all I could think was "not in my clean bathroom" LOL. Fortunately, the bathroom is still clean. All that's left in my deep cleaning adventure is the laundry, living room, kitchen, playroom and garage. Oh, well. There's always tomorrow. Wish me luck :)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Adventures in Cooking -- Whey into Yogurt

I know I just started making yogurt recently, but I am whey into it!!! I think I'm addicted. See, I have a sweet tooth. So I keep reaching for it. I love it with honey in it and blueberries if I have any. I also love it as a parfait. . . Throw some strawberry slices and some granola in there and yum! Sadly enough, I find myself reaching for the honey buns to keep myself out of the yogurt. I'm making 2 batches of yogurt a week, which for me makes 4 cups of eatable yogurt and 2 cups of the starter. I'm going to experiment with using 1 cup of yogurt as the starter though and see if it comes out as thick as I like it. . . That would rock because that would give me 2 more cups of yogurt a week to eat. The only problem I'm having with the yogurt is the whey. I like my yogurt thick (think greek yogurt/ sour cream consistency) so I strain it with a strainer lined with a thin dish cloth and the liquid that comes out is whey. I have used it to make lacto-fermented salsa and pickles, in place of milk in muffins (which were great IMO) and to soak beans with, but that didn't use much whey and I have probably got 4 quarts of whey in my fridge now. I'm tempted to just throw it away as its taking up a lot of space, but I know its super nutritios -- full of water soluble proteins, lactose, vitamins and minerals from the milk and yogurt its strained out of. So I haven't been able to bring myself to throw it away yet. I'm constantly ISO ways to use it up. I've read that it can be used in the place of any liquid dairy called for in a recipe, but I'm leery. I tried it in a smoothie in place of yogurt and milk and that was kinda bleh. Even the kids left it alone. I threw in extra banana and they still wouldn't touch it. So tonight I'm researching stuff I can make to use the whey. Here's what I've come up with:

Making biscuits -- there's a great recipe on the Green Prophet blog for biscuits using whey that I plan on trying out very soon.

I saw a tip somewhere to use it in soup with half water, half whey and some veggies, but make sure the beans are cooked before adding whey as it prevents them from cooking fully for some reason.

Make lemonade with whey instead of water. (I have a bunch of lemons in the fridge begging me to try this.)

There are a lot of ideas here that I'd like to try including sour cream cupcakes and biscuits.

Pizza dough and bread recipes here.

Use in place of water to cook rice and pasta.

I can see I'll be doing a lot more cooking to use up this whey. I can also see that I'll be buying Nurturing Traditions as soon as I have enough Amazon cards racked up from Swagbucks and Winster. I think next on my list to buy will be either a yogurt starter that can be made on the counter top or a yogurt maker. Either way, its official -- I'm whey into yogurt ;)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Adventures in Cleaning

I finally ran out of my BNC Miraclean. Again. Its my favorite cleaner (especially the rose EO scented one) so I use it all the time. But I ran out. Again. The coop is supposed to open any day now, so I guess I'll have to fend for myself in the meantime. I really wish I could remember how much I ordered last time. . . but this time, when I order, I'll post my order here so I can remember in 6 months what I ordered and figure out from there how much more I need to order.

Remembering my last experience making my own cleaning solution, I decided to experiment first this time, to make sure all the ingredients would play nicely together before I combined them in a spray bottle. Just so everyone knows, washing soda foams up when combined with vinegar and foams again each time its jostled just like baking soda does, so IMO its a bad idea to mix the 2 in a bottle of cleaning solution. Borax did fine, though -- no foaming at all -- so for this bottle of cleaning solution, I mixed some TTO, a bit of original Dawn dish soap (so that the TTO would play nicely with the water instead of just hanging out on top), 2 tbsp of borax, filled to 12 ounces with hot water, shook to combine then added 20 ounces of white vinegar. It seems to work fine. . . Everything I clean with it seems to get cleaner while my rag or sponge gets dirtier, which is the general idea of cleaning. . . Only problem I can see is it doesn't quite smell like roses. LOL. Not even close.

Today, I started my massive house cleaning project. I started upstairs and soon realised 2 things:

First, I will have to wait to wipe down the walls as I am out of magic erasers. I know, I know, not the greenest cleaning product and really I hate it as it shreds while I'm cleaning and I just think that's gross. I have to wipe the wall down with a wet rag when I'm done wiping it down with the magic eraser. But I have 3 kids -- 5.5, 2.5 and 1 -- and I just haven't found anything "green" that removes coloring from the wall like the magic eraser, so until I do. . .

And second, I will have to wait until I have cleaned out the garage and bought the new shelving units before I declutter and organize. Oh, I can place them back in their current places for now, but I was really planning on figuring out a more efficient way to organize our home and I can't do that until I have a staging area for the stuff that is being decluttered. It just takes up too much room to allow me to shuffle stuff and try out different organizational systems now.

I imagine being an Army wife will require me to stop being such a pack rat as we won't be able to take all of our stuff with us everywhere we go. And really, its not practical to keep everything that has sentimental value but isn't being used. Do I really need every picture Addy has ever drawn? How is that going to enrich our lives now? She doesn't even know I have them all, so its not like it makes her feel valued or special. I don't even know why I can't seem to throw them away. . . Just me being a silly sentimental mom, I guess. And that's just one example.

I am planning on having several garage sales while Joey is at basic to reduce the amount of stuff we have. It will make things much easier for us since he only has 2 days at home between basic and AIT. Not a lot of time to pack up a household. But I'm digressing.

Today, I cleaned the upstairs bedrooms. I wiped down the furniture with my new cleaning solution, I vaccuumed the floors and washed the linens. Joey did clothes and we put a bunch of them up. I even vaccuumed their stuffed animals. The girls are cleaning up their playroom now (that's their responsibility, although as part of this deep cleaning I will clean it, too) and their sheet protectors are in the wash, so we are going to have dinner and then enjoy some family time. Daddy is going to teach us farkle and then we are going to watch a movie while their sheet protectors are drying and sheets are washing and drying. See y'all later :)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Adventures in Organization

Organization. . . EWE!

Even the word makes me cringe. Well, not quite, but close enough. Seriously, though. . . Its not just about where you stick the clutter anymore. People organize their meals and their clean up schedule. They have weekly calendars on their fridge that they can write on with the dry erase markers. They have every minute planned because if they don't they can't get everything done. And me? I mostly clean when I'm upset. There are piles of stuff stuck here and there for when I have the time to sort through them. Dinner is whatever we have on hand to make that sounds good to myself or my husband. And we don't have enough stuff to do to require me to have a dry erase calendar. YET.

But that's all about to change. See, it irritates me that by permitting myself to be so disorganized, I am being inefficient in the process. I have recently seen people post a lot about home management binders and I think its a pretty neat idea. Primarily, I'm interested in the cleaning schedule aspect of it, as I think it will motivate me to maintain a clean house and I think if I can divide all the work that needs to be done weekly into daily tasks, I think that will make it easier. After all, it seems much easeier to clean 45 minutes a day than 5 hours and 15 minutes straight once a week.

Also, my husband has decided to join the Army. If everything goes as planned, he should be leaving for basic May 24th. So not only do I need to get the house super clean before he leaves, but I also need to develop a plan of action to maintain a super clean house. Which seems like a daunting task to me, considering that all 3 of my girls seem to pick different times of the day to be clingy and I'm sure that will only get worse without daddy around.

Last but not least, I want to set a good example for my girls. I'd much rather teach them to have a good work ethic and to do their work efficiently than teach them that cleaning is something we only do when we're upset or something to be put off as long as possible.

So I started off making a list of all the chores that I can think of that need to be done. Then I divided them into daily, weekly, and monthly tasks. With 3 girls 5 and under and a dog, there really aren't any tasks that can wait longer than a month. Then I divided the weekly tasks in to 7 days.

This is what I have so far.

Daily Chores: vaccuuming floors, wiping tables and counters, doing dishes and doing laundry

Weekly Chores: Cleaning room by room (a different room a day); washing bed linens, bathroom mats, kitchen mats, etc

Twice Weekly Chores: washing diapers, making yogurt (with other cooking to be done on the same days as yogurt making days to simplify life), take trash to the dump (I don't like it to sit around though so if we have more than 2 bags a week, I may end up doing this more than twice a week)

Monthly Chores: wiping down walls, running dishwasher cleaning cycle, running washing machine cleaning cycle, washing all windows, decluttering, cleaning refridgerator, cleaning microwave (not a frequently neccessary chore here since we cover all our food when warming it)

Of course, the hardest part will be the initial cleaning. I'm thinking if I get the initial cleaning done this week, then I can start the maintenance process while Joey is still here and it will be a habit by the time he leaves for basic training.

Here's my plan for the initial clean (which I'll probably use once a month or as needed for spring/fall cleaning as well).

I'm going to start at the top and work my way down that way I'm not carrying dirt and dust downstairs after cleaning the downstairs. Upstairs are the bedrooms and 1 bathroom. I'm going to do the bedrooms first so that after I do the upstairs bathroom, I can use the same stuff to clean the downstairs bathroom instead of putting the cleaners up in between cleanings. I'm going to dust, vaccuum, wash linens, wash the walls, organize and declutter as I go. The master bedroom will need the closet and book shelves decluttered and organized, which won't need to be done in the girls' bedroom.

The bathrooms are going to get the walls, tubs, toilets, sinks, counters and floors washed and they will also be organized and decluttered.

I will be vaccuuming the stairs and washing the walls on my way downstairs.

Downstairs, we have the living room, another bathroom, playroom and kitchen. I will do the bathroom first, then the living room, play room and kitchen. And then there is the garage. . .

The downstairs bathroom will get the same treatment as the upstairs: walls, tubs, toilets, sinks, counters and floors washed with organizing and decluttering along the way. The upstairs bathroom is where we do bathtime and where I take showers, so the towels will stay there and the downstairs bathroom will have first aid and wool washing items as well as any surplus towels.

The living room will have the couch and floors vaccuumed, the entryway swept, walls washed and be decluttered and organized.

The play room will need walls washed, floor and futon vaccuumed, toys organized and decluttered.

The kitchen will also receive the royal treatment -- walls washed; counters, sink, cupboards, appliances, tables and chairs wiped down; floor cleaned; decluttering and organizing.

The garage will be the biggest PITA as far as I'm concerned. It has the boxes we haven't touched in the almost 2 years we've lived here that we'll have to go through and organize and declutter as well as the food storage area that I need to organize myself as Joey initially did the organization and I'll be the one using it while he's gone, so I want to organize it in a way that makes it easiest for me to find stuff while he's gone. Factor in that the garage has recently been used as the "bad dog" area while simultaneously being the staging area for trash before its taken to the dump (not a very well though out plan, I know), its a disaster area. We are going to get a couple more shelving units from Home Depot to store stuff that needs to go (the end product of decluttering) and seasonal stuff that needs to stay (Christmas and halloween decorations, different seasons of clothes, appliances that don't get used very often and therefore won't be given the prime storage slots in the kitchen.

I'm sure there will be several other items we'll need to buy before Joey leaves for basic, such as a kennel which will be used as the new "bad dog" area, a first aid kit, and some other odds and ends.

When I make my notebook, its going to be a 3 ring binder with several sections, the first of which will be the cleaning schedule, but that's just the tip of the iceburb. I'm also going to make a contacts section with names, numbers, addresses, birthdays, anniversaries, etc and I'm thinking about putting a calendar in the book with pages for the rest of the year as well as a menu section for our fave take out places, etc. I'm not sure how long it will take to put this plan into effect, but first thing's first. . . and the first thing is the initial clean. Its going to be a long process and a big change, but a change for the better. I think I'll start on the initial cleaning tomorrow ;).