Monday, January 31, 2011

Rolling Oats

Freshly rolled oats are one of the natural ingredients used in many of my recipes including: granola, oatmeal and bread.

How does this work?

Oats grow very similarly to wheat and can be purchased as whole oat groats through various co-ops and natural food suppliers.  I buy my organic oat groats from Country Life Natural Foods.

Then the whole oat groats are poured into the flaker mill or oat roller. I have a Flaker Mill for my Bosch Universal Plus Mixer.

The result is freshly flaked oats.

Maple Nut Granola

Whisk together: 
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup or raw honey
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 T. cinnamon
  • 2 t. nutmeg
Mix together in a large bowl: 

  • 9 cups rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup ground flaxseed
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup walnuts or almonds
Bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes (Stir once after 15 minutes). Let cool till completely cool. 

How to make: Homemade Baby Food

Making your own baby food truly is not as daunting or even time consuming as it may seem. Last week while Ezra was happily chatting at the kitchen table (in his Metoo chair), I boiled some peas and sweet potatoes and chatted about life with Ezra. Once the vegetable were soft, I pureed them, filled my freezer trays and was quickly able to replenish my frozen baby food supply.

Step-by-Step Homemade Baby Food
Step 1 - Choose your ingredients. If you want organic baby food then simply buy organic produce. Suggestions of vegetables for Puree: Butternut Squash, Carrots, Sweet Potatoes, Green Beans, Sweet Peas

Step 2 - Roast or boil the vegetable of choice till it is very soft and save the water.

Step 3 - Pour the cooked vegetables into a blender or food processor and puree. Add enough of the water the veggies were cooked in to get the right texture for your baby. (Younger babies may need a smoother texture.)

Step 4 - Pour or scoop the puree into containers to freeze. I use Fresh Baby So Easy Freezer Trays. They work great.

Step 5 - Put the freezer containers into the freezer and allow the puree to freeze solid.

Step 6 - Once the puree is frozen into solid cubes, remove the puree from the freezer trays and store the cubes in freezer bags, labeled with the type of food and date you made them.

Step 7 - Cubes are ready in the freezer whenever you need them!


Monday, January 24, 2011

Natural Solutions - Veggie Broth

Instead of buying vegetable broth for recipes make your own! It is easier than you think... 

Next time you steam or boil vegetables (such as: carrots, broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, potatoes) save the vegetable water...ta da...that is vegetable broth.
Instead of throwing out the tips of celery or ends of veggies when you clean them, boil them in water...ta da...that is vegetable broth. 

Store the broth in your frig. If you do not have plans to use the broth within a few days, freeze it.

Homemade vegetable broth is a natural solution that will save you a trip to the grocery store.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Happy Birthday Little One...Mission Accomplished

We recently went to the first birthday party of a little girl, the daughter of a fellow blogging friend. Unfortunately, the sweet little girl already owned the present that we brought her. But, never fear there is always a gift "second try." So, yesterday  I scoured my brain...what could I make for this precious one-year-old girl? With her "second try" gift, I want to make sure that it is something she does not already have. I'm fairly confident that I will be safe with a homemade gift. 

After pondering, I decided that a cloth purse could be any little girl's perfect gift. I calculated my plan of attack while I rocked my sick babe, then as soon as he went down for a nap, I quickly executed the plan. Perfect I was finishing the last seam, my babe was rubbing the sleep out of his eyes in the next room.

I think my plan worked out nicely. Happy Birthday little one! You will get your "second try" gift soon. 

"Second Try" Birthday Present...Mission Accomplished! (actual purse size - about 9"x9")

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Golden Flaxjacks

Whole grains add texture and flavor to any recipe, and flaxseed contains heart-healthy omega-3s. Cook your flaxjacks over moderate heat so they don’t burn; the flaxseed makes them brown more quickly. Serve hot with naturally sweetened jam, agave, or real maple syrup.

1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup stone-ground cornmeal
2 tablespoons wheat bran or oat bran
2 tablespoons flaxseed meal (see note)
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites
1 ¾ cups fat-free or 1% milk (or milk substitute)
2 tablespoons olive oil or canola oil
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, bran, flaxseed meal, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a small mixing bowl or blender, whisk together the egg whites, milk, oil, and vanilla until smooth. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour the liquid mixture into the well and stir just until combined. Allow the batter to stand for about 30 minutes or overnight in the refrigerator. Add more milk, if needed, to obtain batter the consistency of thick cream.

Heat a nonstick griddle or nonstick skillet (coated with cooking spray if necessary) to medium heat. For each flaxjack, pour a scant 1/4 cup of batter onto the griddle. Cook until the flaxjacks are puffed and dry around the edges. Turn and cook the other side until golden brown.

Note: If you can’t find flaxseed meal, you can grind whole flaxseeds yourself in a spice grinder or clean coffee grinder. Grind to the consistency of cornmeal. Four teaspoons of whole flaxseeds yield approximately 2 tablespoons of flaxseed meal.

Makes 8 servings of 2 (4¨) flaxjacks
Per serving: 160 calories, 6 g protein, 23 g carbohydrates, 5 g fat (1 g saturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 4 g fiber, 320 mg sodium

Close to My Heart...

I ran across this poem on a fellow blogger's blog today and of course started crying as I sit rocking my sick babe and looking at the piles of unfolded laundry, stacked dirty dishes and cobwebs hanging on my wall.

Babies Don't Keep
by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

Mother, o Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing, make up the bed,
Sew on a button and butter the bread.

Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She's up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I've grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue,
Lullabye, rockabye, lullabye loo.
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due.
Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo.

The shopping's not done and there's nothing for stew,
And out in the yard there's a hullabaloo.
But I'm playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren't his eyes the most wonderful hue?
Lullabye, rockabye, lullabye loo.

The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
But children grow up, as I've learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs and dust go to sleep!
I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cupcake Brownies

Does it get any easier? Bake your favorite brownie recipe in a muffin tin lined with baking cups instead of the traditional baking pan. This makes serving and cleaning up a breeze.

Here is my favorite Brownie Recipe:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line a muffin tin with baking cups (paper or foil)
Microwave in a large bowl till chocolate is melting: 4 oz unsweetened baking chocolate and 3/4 cup butter or (canola oil for lower fat)
Stir till chocolate is completely melted
Stir in: 1 3/4 cup sugar (use cane juice crystals instead of processed white sugar)
Blend in: 3 eggs and 1 tsp. vanilla
Add: 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 cup flour
Mix well.
Spoon batter into baking cups.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. (Till brownie are done to your liking!)

Optional: For a twist add peanut butter chips, walnuts, butterscotch chips, or your own creative addition

Top 100 Indoor Winter Activities with Babies and Preschoolers

On a cold, blustery winter day I find myself brainstorming indoor winter activities. Bundling up and playing in the snow is a blast of course, but the little ones can only tolerate subzero temperatures and snow in their faces for so long. Help me compile a list as an idea reference for myself and other moms who are starting to get the "Indoor Winter Blues."

Please feel free to comment and add ideas till we reach 100....Get those creative juices flowing!

Criteria for Top 100 Winter Activity List 
1.  Activities must not be specific to any one city or location.
2.  Activities must be age appropriate, lets say ages 0-5 years
3.  Activities must be very inexpensive or free. 
4.  Activities may be for one child or for a group.

Let the list begin...

1.  Story Time - Get together with other moms and kiddos to read books and be sure to use really dramatic and fun voices. 
2.  Make Puppets and Preform a Show - Use socks or paper bags, markers or crayons and make puppets. Preform a show. Take turns letting the the kids direct the puppets, then let some of the parents direct the puppets. Be silly and creative. The babies will even like watching this one. 
3.  Preform a Favorite Story - Pick a favorite children's story and help the children act it out. Get into it...make costumes, practice voices, rehearse parts. 
4.  Movie Time - Make popcorn, turn out all the lights and watch a short movie
5.  Architect In Training Day  - Collect boxes and containers of all sizes and make a city. Draw on the boxes or cover with colored paper to make houses, stores, school, church, cars, buses...ect. Then bring in other props like blocks, toy cars and people and play with the city.
6.  Construction Demolition Day  - Build block towers and tear them down. Have contests for older kids ie. the tallest building, the most colorful building, the biggest building, the building with the most red, the narrowest building, the building that crashes with the loudest sound. 
7.  Color Days - For example, everyone wears blue, read blue books, eat things that are blue (food coloring), play with blue play-doh, play with blue toys, finger paint with blue paint...ect
8.  Letter Days - Similar to "Color Days," For example, the letter "R", wear red cloths, having running races in the hall, read books, pretend to be ravens and rhinos, make up a rap, sit on a rug...ect
9.  Gymnastic Day - Lay blankets on the living floor like a gymnastic mat and do summer salts and "simple" gymnastic routines. Children may love to put on a leotard or leggings and leg warmers...make it fun!
10.  Dance  Party  - Play fun music, dress up and dance, do the hokey pokey, chicken dance...ect
11.  Culture Days - Pick a Culture for example Hmong: Eat egg rolls, Read Hmong Stories, Make a Story cloth (on paper), dress up in costume if possible....There are a ton of resources online for multicultural books and/or activities.
12.  Hospital Day - Pretend to be doctors and nurses, set up a hospital for stuffed animals, make bandages out of toilet paper, check their temperatures, feed them pretend chicken soup....ect
13.  Build Forts - Make your living room into a giant fort, use blankets, couches, chairs...ect. Play in the fort, eat lunch, read books, take a nap "if possible"??
14.  Beach Day - Wear your swimsuits, play in the bath tub, lay towels out on the living room floor, get a small tub of sand and play in the sand at the kitchen table, eat tropical foods...ect
15.  Tour a Grocery Store 
16.  Mall Walk  - take the stroller, a packed lunch and hang out at the mall for the afternoon...(drive to a mall if need be.)
17.  Museums - Go to a museum, many have free days or reduced cost days
18.  Birthday Parties - Get together for birthdays of friends, celebrate and play games, it doesn't have to be a big production, just fun
19.  Dr. PHEOC Days - Dr. PHEOC represents the scientific method....Problem, Hypothesis, Experiment, Observation, Conclusion. You may need to make it very simple, but explore and be scientists. Let you kids wear one of dad's old white shirts with the sleeves rolled up for a lab coat, wear play glasses, use magnifying glasses...ect
20.  Collection Day - Make collections ie. find things in your house that start with "C" and make a pile: (coupons, cookie jar, chair, candle), find all your cars or trucks, find all the pillows, find things that are green...ect. Then of course make the process of putting everything away a game of some sort. 
21.  Laundry Day - As you do laundry dump the clean clothes on the floor and have folding contests, or play peek-a-boo with T-shirts as you fold them (if kiddos are too young too fold. But, help them learn to fold laundry young...even if their folding skills are not great. Don't let them see you re-fold everything they fold if they are helping. Kids are smart, why should they fold if you are going to just re-do it all.)
22. Picnic Day - Eat your meals picnic style on the living room floor. Lay down a big blanket...make fake bugs out of paper if you want too.
23. Make Letters - Make bread dough, edible play-doh, cookie dough or jiggler jello, use letter shaped cookie cutters and cut out letters, make words, spell names....ect. Then bake/let hardern, decorate and eat. Remember this can be healthy....use things like peanut butter, jelly, raisins, fruit pieces and even peas to decorate their creations. Then eat them up!
24.  Drum Circles - Make drums out of ice cream pails, yogurt containers...ect and drum drumming games
25.  Parade Day - Make your own parade for stuffed animals or an audience of your choice to watch. Be creative, use a wagon and make a "float,' dress up, make a band with toy instruments or homemade instruments 
26. Pajama Day-keep your kids in their PJ's all day! This can lead to lots of different activities that you might normally not do. by fellow blogger Christina 
27. Bring Out New Toys-bring out toys the kids haven't seen in awhile and let them go at it! by fellow blogger Christina
28. Bring the Snow Inside - Fill a wash tub with snow. Bring it inside and play with it at the kitchen table, wear gloves and mittens if mini snowmen and other sculptures on a cookie sheet with a large beach towel underneath.  

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Best Mama Advice Around

Everyone has advice to give, of all the "New Mama Advice" I have received here are the true Golden Nuggets of Wisdom!

Each One is Unique
Remember that all babies are different and every Mom's experience is different. So, prayerfully consider each word of advice you receive because it may or may not be what is right for your babe in your current circumstance. It is up to you and your spouse to determine how God leads you to raise your babes.

Be Careful What You Read
There is a book for everything and almost anyone and everyone could and has written a book on every imaginable issue of parenting. Books are helpful, but really only as generalities and guidelines that worked for the author of the given book. Trying to following the suggestions of a book may bring more stress, tears and worry than simply learning your own children and following how God leads you to raise them.

Cherish Each Moment
Babes are only babes for a moment. Remember to cherish each sleepless night and napless day because soon you will long for the days when your biggest problems were poop stains and a cranky babe.

Sun-Dried Tomato Quinoa

Last night's dinner of Tomato Basil Pork Loin, Sweet Potato Fries and Steamed Broccoli was made complete with a  simple side of Sun-Dried Tomato Quinoa

Recipe: Sun-Dried Tomato Quinoa
Saute together in a pan: 
olive oil 
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed or chopped
1 hand full of sun-dried tomatoes, chopped

Once onions are translucent, Add:
1 cup Quinoa
1 1/2 cups water

Bring to boil and then turn to low about 15-20 minutes till Quinoa is done to your liking.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Eating Well in the New Year...Organic or Not?

I often find myself facing a dilemma amongst the produce at the grocery store. I know that buying organic is healthier, but is it really worth the difference in price? Which foods should I buy organic and which ones should I not? Save money or reduce my family's intake of harmful pesticides? 

Organic? Or Not?

Solution Part 1:  I found a helpful list that I saved in my phone so that I have it handy for my produce department dilemmas.
I buy any of the Clean 15, then watch for sales in the organic section from the "Dirty Dozen." If I am near a Trader Joes, I can often find great deals on organic produce such as apples or salad greens. Now I do not alway adhere strictly to this list, but when financially possible I try to buy foods with the least amount of harmful chemicals.

Clean 15 (Lowest Amounts of Pesticides - Safest Non-Organic)
  • Onion
  • Avocado
  • Sweet Corn
  • Pineapple
  • Mango
  • Sweet Peas
  • Asparagus
  • Kiwi
  • Cabbage
  • Eggplant
  • Cantaloupe
  • Watermelon
  • Grapefruit
  • Sweet Potato
  • Honeydew 
  • Melon

Dirty Dozen - Buy These Organic (or limit consumption)

  • Celery
  • Peaches
  • Strawberries
  • Apples
  • Blueberries
  • Nectarines
  • Bell Peppers
  • Spinach
  • Cherries
  • Kale/ Collard Greens
  • Potatoes
  • Grapes (Imported)
Solution Part 2: During the summer and fall my family buys a share of fresh, local, chemical free produce from a CSA farm. Last summer we bought a share from Rare Earth Farms. I was quite pleased with the variety and amount of produce. We enjoyed fresh and clean food all summer and into the fall. We were also able to freeze a bit too for the winter. 

Monday, January 3, 2011

Peas Please

My babe has not yet uttered the words, "Peas please." But I am sure he was thinking it yesterday as he quickly gobbled down his first helping of peas. This past summer our family bought a share of crops from a local CSA farm (Community Supported Agriculture). We enjoyed fresh and chemical free produce all summer and even had extra veggies to freeze. Yesterday I pulled a bag of peas out of the freezer and made some baby food. I tasted it first of course and it was delicious!

Recipe for Pea Puree
1. If using Fresh Peas, open the pods and scrape out the peas from the pod. If using frozen type of either Peas or Green Beans, cook according to package directions. 
2. Place fresh peas into a steamer basket in a pan with a just enough water to slightly show through in the basket.
3. Steam until very tender; be sure to check on the water level.
4. Reserve any left over water to use for thinning out the peas. 

5. Place into your choice of appliance for pureeing and begin pureeing. Add water as needed to create desired texture.
6.  Freeze extra in ice cube trays. Once frozen solid remove from trays and store in labeled freezer bags.

Nutritional Information