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!

Sunday, February 27, 2011


I haven't written much here lately. I also write on my other blog, and that's where my focus has been. The two are really kind of meshed together though.

I wanted to update on a few things though. First off, the laundry soap is going well. I found out that two table spoons is the same as 1/8 of a cup - and I had that measuring cup so it made dishing out the soap much easier! I still have plenty of it, despite doing alot of laundry.

Oh - I've been networking with a few friends from my church and I've found a local CSA or Community Supported Agriculture! For 22 weeks this growing season I will get a half bushel(or so) of organic produce fresh from the farm!!! I am SOOOOO Excited!!! I haven't heard or seen about any in the area... I don't know many people (locally) who are as picky and health conscious of their food's quality. So when a friend and I started talking, she had heard of one. That particular one, located in Ohio - but delivering to PA - wasn't right for us. It wasn't organic and it looked like we might be getting a fair amount of produce we wouldn't normally utilize. And possibly too much. So this new one is a bit smaller - not as great a variety - but organic and local. There's also a mandatory workday - which I'm really excited about! The kids get to come and help and see where their food is grown. I do plan on planting some of my own produce as well though. I can't wait for spring and summer. Winter has gone on a long time and I'm very much looking forward to getting in the dirt!(and heat!)

I'm still cooking organically. I have some repeat and new recipes I'm cooking up this week. I'll try to take pictures and post them - especially the repeat recipes, since their obviously good ones!!

I'm also getting together soon with my friend I *networked* with - so we can talk more about food and what we do and don't do. I'm hoping to get some good ideas for gardening this year and maybe some shopping tips. Our area, although I live in a city - is still behind on things. So organic and clean/green living is really just starting to emerge in this area. Or so it seems to me!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Laundry Soap

So I finally took the plunge!!! I made my own laundry soap!!!

It's not terribly hard, you just have to gather the right ingredients - and that can sometimes be a chore until you know where to go. I made a powdered soap using 1 Cup Borax and 1 Cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda and 1 bar shredded Fels-Naptha. I shredded it by hand, but you could also use a food processor - which I think would be much easier!!!! The soap is kinda hard!!!

The Ingredients!

The Work!

The Final Product!!!

It smells like soap. Nothing fancy or flowery. Just like a bar of soap. Some people use Ivory soap - I may try that in the future. I looked at the ingredients of the Fels-Naptha and all it says: Cleaners, soil & stain removers, chelating agents, colorants, perfume. Hmmm... I guess there aren't strict regulations for ingredient labels on cleaning agents! Thanks for all that information!(sarcasm... )

I haven't used the soap yet - but I'm sure I'll get to it tomorrow. You use 2 Tbs at a time. I'll be interested to see how long it lasts me. I suppose I should make a double batch, but my arm was getting tired from the shredding.

Another thing that occurred to me - and I never see it mentioned on other blogs talking about laundry soap - but I'm assuming I need to use this on a warm cycle to help melt the shredded soap. I normally use cold water- because I hear it doesn't make that much of a difference. I will try both and let you know if the cold water won't work. I'm excited to try out my new soap!!!!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I should be doing laundry...

One of the wholesome living *rules*is that you try to limit the toxins in and around your home. I don't know where the rule book is, but if you surf the internet long enough you come across this *rule.* Another thing you come across quite a bit is homemade laundry detergent.

The first time I heard of this was from a friend a few years ago. It just knocked my socks off that she made her own detergent. And if you've been wise to this - you know it's not very hard. She makes a liquid soap and swears it cleans just as well - if not better than any other detergent. At the time I couldn't conceive of making detergent.. well I could make it once, but I would likely run out and have to wait a whole week before buying more at the store. I wouldn't keep up with it. I'm lazy by nature.

Anyways, I'm not sure why she does it. I assume it's because it's way cheaper and she likes how her clothes smell - not because it's greener or has less contact with toxins in her family. And since then, I've heard of a few other people who make their own detergent. And now it's all over the internet - especially the blog world.

So I'm going to give it a try. I was especially curious when I found a few recipes for powdered detergent. That sounds much more my style. I don't know that I'm going to replicate a liquid recipe more than once. If it's too much work - I just won't do it again.

So, now I just need to get all the ingredients. I've been contemplating this for a while and I'm almost out of my detergent, so now's the time. I'll let you know how it goes!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


There's so much that could be said. I've been putting off writing anything for this blog - because it just doesn't seem monumental enough to write about. For the first post on this blog - I feel that it needs to be vital information and have a fair amount of substance. But I don't really feel qualified nor do I have anything interesting or particular to write about with our wholesome living. So I thought I'd write about some of our firsts - since this is the first real posting on this blog.

The first time I went shopping for real food. . .
I spent alot of money. I didn't have a list, I didn't have a plan. It was more exploratory really. I went to our local Whole Foods Co-op. I bought some produce, but not much. I roamed the aisles and gawked at the price of dairy and meats. I just stared at the petrified frozen bread... then I went to Wegmans.

I knew they had a large "natural" section. So I checked it out. They do have a large section - but it's for many special dietary needs. So I found myself trying to decipher between organic, gluten free and vegan. It was all so specialty- I still had to search for the real foods!!! Needless to say - it took alot of experimentation to find out what would work for our family. Some foods were easy switches - others we had to find new alternatives. Frankly, some things we probably won't ever change. There are just certain snacks or condements that my family prefers and despite searching for an alternative - there is nothing better than the processed original. I know this is taboo to those in the stricter frame fo mind, but this is how we're flexible and I like being flexible. I don't know that we're quite where I'd like us to be - but we've made alot of good changes and I hopefully we'll continue to do more.

I must say - it took a bit of effort to rethink our perception of food. Especially since I was coming off of Weight Watchers too.. all of a sudden, diet food was a HUGE scam and I'd never realized it. I didn't realize it at first. I was reading Jillian Michael's Master Your Metabolism book - and she was pointing out the same thing - but with a protein bar. I was shocked. I thought protein bars were the ultimate picture of "healthy fuel" for your body especially with a workout at hand. I think this was the first time I realized our boxed world of convenience was about to be tossed away. It's realizations like this that helped change our diet over time. Where we're at today has been a process. You don't just go to the store and totally change you're whole pantry and menu.

Well - that's how we first started to change - there's more I could say - but this is getting long and drawn out.

Monday, January 31, 2011


Hello! Thanks for checking out my blog!

I've started this blog because our wholesome living has become very important to me and our family. Not everyone shares our views - and with those who do some are stricter than others. This blog will hopefully connect to those looking to improve their well being by taking control of their household: taking control of their diet, their environment(aka home), their activities and much more!

Our Views:
We're not overly strict about many things. We're really just trying to make improvements as we seen shortfalls in what we consider priorities in our life. We started changing our diet almost a year ago when we became aware of shortfalls in the industry of food. I'm sure many of you have heard of Michael Pollan and his documentary Food Inc. (If you haven't seen it - you should! It's available on Netflix.) That's what initiated our change. I've learned alot since then and have tried to apply it as we could with the resources we have.

We're not super strict on organics - although we strive for those. We don't eat nearly as much meat - but we'll never been vegetarians. We're not overly *green* in anything, but I love nature and want to respect it. We're an average family that demands quality. But we also like convenience!

I hope you'll connect with this blog and I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas. I still feel like a beginner with many of these things.