Sunday, January 6, 2013

Small Changes

Real food. Natural food. Gluten free. Grain free. GAPS. Dairy free. Vegan. Vegetarian. Wow, what a list! That's just quick off the top of my head on different diets or approaches that people take towards a more healthy approach to food and their health. I don't claim to be an expert in any particular way or want to spout off which way might be the right way. I can't even pin point what approach I'm steering our family at the moment! I think it's important to not get overwhelmed and not take on too much when adjusting to a new lifestyle of healthy choices. Most likely your family won't appreciate a sudden change and the new raw diet you chose! Currently I do make yogurt for our family, but I don't make my own bread. (I may start that again soon, but currently it would be too much for me to handle.) I make granola bars for our lunches, but the kids eat processed powdered covered pretzels after school. (Beyond gross IMO, and we take breaks from that favorite snack.) We buy raw milk, organic meats and cheeses, but still buy hotdogs and lunch meat. (Although I have seen recipes on how to make your own lunch meat, I'm intrigued but hate to experiment on good organic meat!) But do compromises make a difference? Does it need to be all or nothing? Certainly choosing healthy foods are always positive, made from scratch with real ingredients is better than the store processed with extra unpronounceable junk hidden in it. But will these small changes add up to a difference with your health? I think so. You don't have to be perfect, but one small healthy choice can lead to another. I totally believe what I choose for breakfast will set the tone for my food for the rest of the day. The more homemade items and home cooked meals you have, the sooner your tastes buds will sour to store bought confections. Candy bars are way to sweet and frankly a disappointment to me now. It tastes like wax to me, very sweet wax! The other day I bought my kids some "healthy" yogurt at the store, an attempt to let my 6 year old choose his own healthy snacks. I believe it was vanilla Activia yogurt. I tried some when one of the kids didn't finish the cup(hate to waste!) and I couldn't put my finger on the flavor- oh wait, frosting! It tasted like frosting! That's how my taste buds have changed. How do you start to make these changes? Most likely you already have made some changes so maybe I can share with you some truths I found in starting change. 1. Revert back to healthy choices you used to make. For example, swap your fake GMO processed flake of a cereal to oatmeal or eggs.... something that's normal for you and that you used to do at one point in time. It doesn't have to be something for every meal, just the easy adjustments you've made and liked before. 2. Make something from scratch - and go big. Let me explain, I don't mean run out and buy a bread maker with dreams to never buy a convenient loaf again. No, I mean make one simple homemade meal and make enough for leftovers. Make homemade soup and have that for lunch for the week. Make enough roasted vegetables for dinner and then add into your eggs or lunches the next few days. Make a crustless quiche for your breakfast all week. It doesn't have to be fancy, simple steps to make change easier. 3. Include the family in these changes. This can mean so many things, but I would think others would agree they could eat healthier, although resistance is normal. Small changes, some so subtle family members won't even notice, can get the ball rolling. Over the holidays I made my cheesy potato casserole but made it with 1/3 each of potatoes, cauliflower, and broccoli. Nobody baulked. Cauliflower lends nicely to the potato flavor, and cheese makes everything better. Just don't ignore your families habits and try to strong arm them into super healthy super fast, it won't be accepted. I'm sure there are other great ideas on starting change, please share what's worked for you. I'm always looking for ideas too.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Yogurt Update

If you read my previous post for over a year ago(whoops!) not much has changed on the yogurt front. I still make yogurt regularly. I still sweeten it with honey. I love it with fresh or frozen berries and sometimes a bit of granola. I don't use it much in baking, but I have and did use it just the other day in my pancakes, I was short the proper amount of buttermilk and didn't want to just add thin milk. That's another story, I suppose. A few useful ideas with your yogurt to help trouble shoot and to incorporate it I to your kid's diet. First of all. Don't rush the process. If you try to cool it quickly in a sink of cold water you may easily get it too cool. It's certainly okay to warm it up on the stove, but too much fussing with the temperature will prevent the yogurt from thickening and setting up properly. I will still turn out, just won't be as thick as store brand. This is easily a problem for those with texture issues or who aren't that crazy about yogurt or especially *homemade* yogurt in the first place. Mental blocks can be hard to jump, let's make it easier! An easy way to incorporate it into your kid's diet is to add it to yogurt they already enjoy. Some kids cups of store bought yogurt has a bit of extra room, so add a table spoon or two and mix well. They won't notice and it will help them adjust to less sweetener I their yogurt. Soon you'll want to take it a step farther and divide the store bought yogurt in half then mix with your home made yogurt. You may need to save the store bought cups so they don't wise up too soon. You may also need to help your child adjust to your sweetener of choice. A lot of kids(mine) don't like honey by itself. My daughter has grown to like it in her yogurt, but refused it initially. And if all else fails, just tell your kids they don't like it. With my 7 year old it worked like a charm! We were talking about things that were healthy and not healthy at the dinner table(my kindergardener is obsessed about figuring this out lately) and I told her she didn't like an of the healthy things I made. - "Not true!" she claimed. So I listed off all the examples of homemade snacks she wouldn't eat. Well, to prove me wrong she said she did like those things, or at east needed to try them again. So now she'll eat my home made yogurt and granola bars, not all the time but definitely as an option.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Yogurt 101

Well, I've really jumped into this wholesome living way of life! I thought making my own bread was a huge step - but making my own yogurt is just crazy talk!!!

But yah know what - it was pretty easy and it was good! Well, once I added some honey - more on that later.

I'm not going to pretend to be an expert or certainly pretend to say I have my own recipe- if you want the exact great details - check out this blog:

She gives great directions and trouble shooting tips and puts your mind at ease through the whole process. If you think you messed up, probably not.

The first things you might want to know is how it turned out. It was tart, not something I would personally enjoy "as is". It was thick but got runny as soon as I started to stir it, so stir gently to protect the bacteria you worked so hard to cultivate. But it will still be thin. You could probably strain it a bit through cheese cloth for a thicker yogurt. I compared the taste to my starter, Stonyfield Plain Yogurt, and Stonyfield was much more tart. It was easy to flavor with a little experimentation, more below.

The process: Well, check out the website but honestly, it was very easy. You need to be home during the initial warming and cooling phase. Once you set it to incubate - all the pressure is off and you can potentially forget about it without harming it. Well, within reason. You probably have all the tools needed so there's not much prep. I've also found a slow cooker recipe here: which I might try at a future date.

My biggest concern was whether my family would like it, because honestly, they're the ones who eat the yogurt, not me. My husband eats a 6 oz yogurt every day with lunch. My two oldest kids eat a lot of frozen yogurt pops and my youngest eats a 6 oz yogurt for breakfast a few days a week.

We buy organic yogurt so this was costing us $10-$11 per week. It still had alot of sugar in it. So where does homemade yogurt stand in all this? Well, I think a half gallon of whole organic milk($3.69) will get us through each week. (although time will tell. They might not always get a full 6 oz serving, but I think they'll survive. That will save us about $30 each month! Cha-ching!!

But what about all that sugar? We like it sweet, not plain. I was definitely worried about this. Most people who make their own yogurt use very non-processed forms of sweeteners(honey & maple syrup). I enjoy those two things, but possibly not in my yogurt as a prominent flavor. Okay - I would, but would my picky husband and kids? I didn't really find any recipes that used table sugar. The other main method was whole fresh or frozen berries. A fine idea - but would everyone like chunks in their yogurt? That can be an issue depending on the phase.

So we tested.

I tested table sugar + vanilla extract, honey, and sweetened fresh strawberries(w/ dissolved table sugar). I tested them all first. Then I woke up my husband and let him taste them all. Then I had my oldest taste them. The results?

Honey is an awesome sweetener!!!! I was worried because my family does not LOVE honey. I LOOOVE me some honey and thought it was great. But my daughter detests it and my husband just thinks I'm crazy. But they both thought it was great. The table sugar was not so good because it was still grainy. The vanilla didn't do much for it either, but it was a cheap vanilla. (I'm considering making my own vanilla. ~Fun Fun!!)The strawberry was okay but needed the honey to give it the sweet punch we were used to. Later tried with with some chopped frozen berries and that was good too. So I don't think I'll continue making a sweeten berry mixture once its gone. Initially I measured the sweeteners, but then I just played around until I got the right amount of sweetness. I left the original batch a little less sweet so we could add berries. If need be, we'll add more honey.

Other Uses for Yogurt:
The Kitchen Steward site gave some recommendations - and I'll just share a few of my favorites so far. I left one jar plain(until necessary) so I could use the yogurt plain if needed. I used it as a buttermilk substitute in my banana bread. This is awesome and I'm very excited that you can use this in place of buttermilk in recipes. I might actually attempt to make my own ranch dressing. I've always wanted to, because that is the one processed food item my family will not live without(Hidden Valley Ranch!) but I wasn't willing to mess around and try to make a suitable substitution unless I had organic buttermilk, which I have yet to find. And it would surely be expensive. But now it's not!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


CAS: Community Supported Agriculture

Our First Basket

This is our first year to be apart of a CSA. I only learned about them months before we found this one - and it's purely by chance. A case of "who you know." There aren't many in our town - I've only heard of two others. And the one supported only 5 families!

It's been pretty cool! We started out with sugar snap peas, onions, and lettuce. Oh -and fresh cut flowers. But as the summer has gone on, we've had many of the typical summer produce - especially zucchini and cucumbers. I searched for some good recipes to use these plentiful ingredients - and I'll share those in another post. I'm in the process of deciding what to do with pattypan squash.

Mid Summer Basket

Due to the cool wet spring, we had a small crop of lettuce and the tomatoes were kinda stunted. So we're just starting to get tomatoes and I've had to supplement lettuce and a few other veggies. But for the most part I need to get my creative juices flowing and use what we get.

I know one concern is that you'll get veggies you don't like or know how to use. Um, yeah- very true! But I think it's a great opportunity to experiment or try veggies you wouldn't normally spend the money on from the store. Obviously we did pay for these veggies - so I did pay for the less desirable veggies, but it also encourages me to get the most out of what's given to me.

The only thing I totally didn't want or use was okra. I know some people love it, but I don't. I passed it on. I've also passed on alot of cucumbers. There were just too many. Last week I got 9 new cucumbers and I already had 5 or 6 and had just given away about a half dozen. It's hard because you can't cook with them - at least zucchini I can add it to recipes... but unless I start to pickle these babies - not sure what to do here!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Planting Day!!

Today was our work day at our farm!

It was so great to meet the owner, Wendy, and to see how it all starts. She was more organized than previous years(or so I got the drift) because she had all the areas labeled. All thanks for the overly rainy season we're not used to!

So it was very relaxed. We got there around noon, much later than we planned, and she and her family were bringing out trays of food. All fresh veggies, fruit, fruit spreads, hard boiled eggs - it was a feast! Of course, we were there to work - so she got us started on some onions. We stayed for about 3 hours, while people came and went. IT was like family - she introduced us to everybody. The kids mostly played, but would dig in once in a while.

I'm a little nervous. She has so many variety of every kind of plant - we eat about 2 squash a year - let alone the nine different varieties she has!!! Plus not all these will keep like a squash will. It's also making me rethink what I'm going to plant in my own gardens.

It was a great day!! Everyone came home and took a nap - but not me. I went outside an got my own little plot of land ready. It's not much, but we don't get alot of sun. There was a hole in the middle from the last bush being pulled out last year - plus all the red rocks someone used for ground cover - my nemesis. I also tilled it and evened it out so it's ready to go!! I'll post the pic as soon as I upload pictures!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Cleaning Supplies

Okay - I hate to keep revisiting the laundry soap, but I just made some and it obviously falls under approved topics for this blog!

So I'm desperately behind on laundry and just about out of soap. Fortunately I have everything I could need to make it. I was going to make a large batch, but I still don't have a 5 gallon bucket. Well, I forgot that it needs to sit overnight. Bummer. So I decided to make a batch of powder to have on hand in case the liquid runs up dry again.

I officially prefer the liquid laundry soap because it is cheaper - it's already melted and I feel confident that it will mix will with the cold water. The powder, although you use less, it uses more product and runs out faster. Plus I feel I need to use warm water so it melts and can clean properly. I did find a nifty way to store it though - in an old baby wipes container! With our new lifestyle I just don't have as much Tupperware available!

So onto other cleaning supplies. I have not taken the plunge on a vinegar based cleaning solution - although I am out of Lysol... and can't bring myself to buy more. I did find the Tea Tree Oil... but I didn't like the way it smelled! I'm not about to spend $6 on a little bottle to help the vinegar smell better - when it doesn't smell nice! Although I figure maybe the odor is strong enough to cut through the vinegar - and it's definitely better than vinegar! I looked at Jojoba oil too, and it smelled nice, but not quite as strong... would it cut through the vinegar? So I didn't buy anything. Ugh. Indecision has slowed me down many a times!

I do buy a few "green" cleaners from the store. The first is Method's fabric softener. It's a bit pricey, but I like it alot and I probably will use less(if any) during the summer. (I've not found a home remedy for this.) But for now, I still need a fabric softener. The other was Method's dishwasher soap. It comes in hard pellets, 1 per cycle. I know there are easy homemade dish washing cleaners out there - but even with traditional cleaners, we eventually get a buildup of residue on the dishes. That's when we breakout the (probably) horrible dishwasher cleaner and run that once or twice. So I'm afraid to use a homemade version that had reviews of residue. I suppose it doesn't hurt to try it though. It is expensive.

That's another topic of discussion soon to follow. Money is getting tight - what is going to get cut back with this new lifestyle?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Defining Our Priorities + ramble at the end!

Food Priorities.

I think I was fairly vague about our food priorities in the beginning. Not intentionally - but because I'm not sure where the line is on certain Food Issues. But I am discovering our priorities. I will try to identify a few areas in food and eating that I've recognized and define how they apply to our family at this time. This is an evolution in our lifestyle and it's not happening overnight. So bear with me anyone with stricter food morals!

Raw Food = Best Food and Nutrition for Your Body/Health.
Um... I don't know that I disagree with that, but going all raw is too drastic for our family at this time. I've read and heard from several sources that highly recommend this manner of eating (also including freshly made fruit and veggie juices) to improve your health. Fortunately no one has any obvious health issues at the moment - so I'm not planning on changing our diet just yet. Although we have considered adding fruit and veggie juices to our diet - meaning buying our own juicer. Someone in the family does this - so we're planning on having dinner and trying some of their juice - to see if it's something we could do regularly.

Eliminating All Unprocessed Foods
I'm sure even those who attempt to do this allow some wiggle room, even if it's just in eating away from the home. Initially I thought we were striving for this, and we still are. But I'm learning more and more that although I'm finding organic alternatives to some of our eating habits, does not mean I am eliminating processed foods (Ex: Annie's Bunny Crackers). As a family I am striving for this, but it will take some work and time. I am attempting to develop new habits (ex: baking my own bread) but there are some products my family just loves - and I can't recreate them. I'm still trying to improve - I'm looking to make my own ranch dressing and ditching Hidden Valley for good... just need to gather all the ingredient (meaning, find organic buttermilk). Also trying to decide how crucial it is to remove sugar from our diet for good. I'm just comfortable baking with sugar!!

Eating Whole Unprocessed Foods Helps the Environment
I want to help the environment - but let me tell you a little secret about myself... ((I don't believe in global warming!!! Shhhhhh!)) I know - it's crazy! I do care about the environment and want to take care of it but frankly I'm a little more narrow minded at the moment. I can only change what I do and what I do for my family. I will continue to make wise eating choices for my family - and vote with my dollars and my actions. I will attempt to buy locally and organically and not be ignorant of the politics in the food industry. But bottom line, I'm worried about the extended health of my family and keeping as much crud out of our system as possible. And if this benefits the environment too - awesome.

Our Bottom Line
Like I said - my main goal is to keep as much crud out of our system as possible. I believe if we just consume food - and not the additives and hormones and chemicals that might tag along - that my family will lead long healthy lives. To do this, we must consume real food, raw or not, but as close to it's original state as possible. Yet we're a young family of five and I must be practical. As much as I love messing up a clean kitchen, trying something new or just making something from scratch - it can be exhausting and time consuming. I haven't decided if local is better than organic and exactly what veggies need to be organic. I still bake with sugar and I still buy backup (non organic) bread. I don't ever eat Doritos - EVER. And I wouldn't eat canned soup if you served it for dinner(homemade is just too awesome to go back to canned...) Frozen dinners are just gross and so are packaged cookies(although I allow them from time to time!) I'd like to say we're a pop free household - working on it. But I'm proud to say I'm switching over all our cleansers to a less toxic and cheaper alternative. Yes, my paper products are still bleached... sigh... It's such an evolving process!