Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Good thing I practiced?

So.... About a month ago, my older son, Kadin, who is 8, decided to be a vegetarian. Now, this doesn't come to us as a total surprise. Kadin has always been fond of animals, and he has voiced concerns about meat consumption for years. But when it boiled right down to it, he didn't want to give up eating meat.

Then in mid-October, the husband watched Food, Inc. Kadin watched part of it with him. Apparently, though I don't think the intent of that movie was to turn people off meat consumption altogether, that was the conclusion that Kadin drew. He decided he wanted to become a vegetarian. It took a couple of days to put into practice on his part, but he's now been a vegetarian for a month. He had one 'slip' that I know of, and that wasn't even his fault. Someone(not me or the husband) gave him something to eat that had chicken in it. He didn't know and he ate it. He told me about it later. I told him I was sorry, and we both moved on.

This has been.... somewhat challenging. We eat quite a bit of meat in this family. We've cut back a lot over the last six months or so, but it's still in our diets almost daily. Kadin used to really, really like meat. Steak, chicken, fish, you name it. And he would eat a lot of it if given the option. This has been adjustment for all of us. I've been making separate meals for him, getting creative with his packed lunches, and so on. He can no longer buy lunch at school as an occasional treat because there are rarely vegetarian options. That's ok, though. We're also all learning to like cheese pizza.

I am really proud of Kadin. He saw something he didn't agree with, and he decided to do something about it. He doesn't feel eating meat is right, so he's decided he will not do it. He mentions sometimes that he'd like us not to eat meat, too, and I have to say.... his dedication is inspiring. The idea of eating animals doesn't sit well with me, but I admit I just like it. Maybe I'll develop some conviction.

Friday, October 29, 2010


The blog has been on hiatus while my camera was not working. But.... thanks to Dr. Google, it has been fixed. Yay!!!!!!

The blog shall return shortly!

Friday, October 1, 2010

I made a muffin recipe!

I admit to having used a couple of generic muffin recipes as an idea for what I would need on a basic level. But from there, it was all me. Woot!

The picture is pathetic, because I am having camera issues. *le sigh*

Lemonberry Muffins by Nicole, yay!

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 1/2-2 cups sugar(your choice)
2 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 cups buttermilk
1 cup canola oil(or other vegetable oil)
4 Tbsp lemon juice
1 package(I think it's 12-16oz. or so) frozen mixed berries, thawed

Combine dry ingredients in one bowl. Combine wet ingredients in another(except berries). Then add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, mix. Gently add berries to batter and mix.
Fill 24 muffin cups. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until slightly browned.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Homemade detergent! (kinda)

Well, technically I'm making it. But really all that amounts to is mixing it. Cause.... Yea.

So, as nice as it would be to wash my clothing in nothing but vinegar and Ivory soap, I just don't trust that it would cut it. I simply don't. And after my lousy experience with Charlie's, well, I'm not taking chances just yet.

So, I came across a recipe that claims to be like Tide. Well, we'll see about that, but it does seem reasonable.
The recipe calls for an equal ratio of:
-Sun detergent with bleach alternative
-Sun oxygen cleaner
-Super washing soda
Each load uses one tablespoon of the mixed detergent.

I procured the items.
Ansel was very excited, and wanted to be in the picture.

Now, here's where I got VERY scientific. Or, not. The products ranged from 55oz. to 77oz. Ehhhh... close enough. I dumped all the containers into my big bucket container.

We mixed. And mixed. And then sealed the container and rolled it and tipped it upside down, and back, and so on. All the products are white powders, so it's not easy to know when it's mixed. This is why it would have been better to make a smaller batch. Oh well. Once it was mixed, I filled a smaller container to keep on the shelf above my washing machine.

I'll start using this tomorrow. I finished off my standard detergent today. I'm going to keep using real Tide on diapers because I just don't play around when it comes to that.

Ah! And there's the awesome news..... I did all the fancy advanced math. And when this is all said and done, this detergent costs........ 2.5 cents per load!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Success! (of more than one kind)

I finished Fast Food Nation! I didn't finish it last night, but I did finish it during lunch today. So, I was close to my goal at least. The husband wanted to turn in early last night, so I didn't get much reading time after the boys went to bed(none, I don't think). Ah, well. It's all good. And the book is DONE! It was really very informational. I can't say I learned a ton I didn't already know. It more or less elaborated on concepts I'm already aware of. It's sort of like watching Super Size Me. You already know fast food is bad for you, but the details and the explosion of information renew your zeal about it. If I'm being honest, I would have to admit that reading the book, at times, made me crave fast food. Yes, yes, terrible I know. And no, I did not indulge. And I do not plan to. Oy vey. I think I need to watch Super Size Me again.

And now I'm launching into reading something else altogether. I'm still plodding my way through The Omnivore's Dilemma. But I am also working on improving my overall way of thinking by reading something motivational, in this first case, This I Believe. I will readily and openly admit to being a huge NPR geek. I listen to it often. And now that I've finally figured out how to stream it on my computer such that I can play it on our multi-room stereo system in the house, I am golden! I used to primarily listen to it in the car, and to podcasts now and again(a special favorite is This American Life). This I Believe is something that NPR airs from time to time, and I have always very much enjoyed it. So a book seems perfect!

As for my other success, it was the meal plan for last week. I made my meal plan on Tuesday evening. I printed all my recipes, my grocery list, and the meal plan itself(which is posted on the refrigerator for the week). I went shopping on Wednesday and remembered everything I needed. And every single day I managed to prepare the meal that I had set out to make. So at no point in this last week did we resort to take-out or any other unnecessary anything. Yay! And even one night of the week that I ended up going out with a friend, I prepared dinner for the guys before leaving. As I sit here, the chili is in the crock pot. It's done, but is cooling off a bit before we eat.

Just for fun, here's last week's meal plan:

Wednesday - Garden Gumbo, Rolls

Thursday - Casbah Curried Chicken, Couscous

Friday - Mom's Meatball Stroganoff, Egg noodles, Corn

Saturday - Indian Spiced Chicken, Rice, Israeli Salad

Sunday - Mexican Chicken Stew, Corn muffins

Monday - Fettucini with Bolognese Sauce, Salad

Tuesday - Chili, Tortilla chips

I am also happy to say that we had no food waste! Well, I can't claim that everyone ate absolutely everything that was on their plate. BUT. On work days, the husband took leftovers from the night before for his lunch. In some cases, Ansel and I ate leftovers at home for lunch as well. And if there was still excess, I froze the leftovers as individual portions to use at a later date. So now we have six or seven individual meals frozen. Awesome. That'll help in a pinch. And it means I didn't throw money in the trash.

OK, now I need to get down to business planning this next week. I'm also taking on homemade laundry detergent. It's not exactly "crunchy," but it will be inexpensive. So that's something!

And because posts are better with pictures, here's a picture of the boys from three years ago! Wow! Time flies.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Attempting to educate myself

I have done a paltry job of putting anything on this blog except for stuff about food. I assure you, there has been more happening, but it's honestly not been as much the focus as food has. Food, for me, is a big deal. And being successful with such a big change is a big deal for me. And I have been overwhelmingly successful in my opinion. I have never been able to 'conquer' this one. And I haven't entirely. I still have my moments. But I am improving!

One thing that I have been working on is reading. I want to read more in general. But I also want to read more about healthy living and learn how best to feed myself and my family, and to do the best for us and our home.

I am currently reading Fast Food Nation. I admit, I have been 'currently' reading this book for two weeks tomorrow. It's a good book. It's great information. I don't dislike the book. But I'm having a hard time powering through it. I'm almost there! I have about sixty pages to go.

I am simultaneously juggling reading The Omnivore's Dilemma. This is my second time reading the book, but the first time I did not completely finish it. Again, for some reason, I have a hard time getting through it. It's a great book. I love the information. But I just don't feel drawn to, 'oh! I hope I can find time to read this book today.' And as such, I have conveniently not been finding that time.

I'm working on it. My goal is to finish Fast Food Nation today. I can do it!

Mmmm..... Waffles!

A few years ago, I wanted to buy some cookbooks. I really didn't have any, and still hardly do. So I picked up a few inexpensive ones at Home Goods. Of those, really only one has worked out. And it's this, Brunch: The Perfect Weekend Treat.

I've only tried a few things from it, mostly because brunches for us end up being something that can be made really quickly. As I place a higher priority on cooking from scratch and cooking really healthy, I think I'll spend more time with these recipes.

Yesterday I decided to try out Waffles with Caramelized Bananas. Oh boy. These are the BEST waffles ever! So, I will share the recipe with you. I want you to enjoy as well!

Makes 12 waffles to serve 4-6

scant 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp superfine sugar
2 eggs, separated
generous 1 cup milk
3oz butter, melted
Caramelized Bananas
3 1/2oz butter, cut into pieces
3 tbsp corn syrup(I used honey)
3 large ripe bananas, peeled and thickly sliced

Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar together in a bowl. Whisk the egg yolks, milk, and melted butter together with a fork, then stir this mixture into the dry ingredients to make a smooth batter.

Using an electric mixer or hand whisk, whisk the egg whites in a clean glass bowl until stiff peaks form. Fold into the batter mixture. Spoon 2 large tablespoons of the batter into a preheated waffle maker and cook according to the manufacturer's instructions.

To make the caramelized bananas, melt the butter with the corn syrup in a pan over low heat and stir until combined. Let simmer for a few minutes until the caramel thickens and darkens slightly. Add the bananas and mix gently to coat. Pour over the warm waffles and serve at once.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Because I could totally be a vegetarian

There's a lot of different opinions on what healthy eating actually is. I happen to subscribe, at least at this point, to a pretty "whole foods" way of thinking. Basically, lots of fruits and vegetables, the fresher the better, some dairy, some meat, whole grains, that sort of thing. I'm not counting calories or carbs to plan meals. I'm just looking to find a balance of things, and to feed my family well.

One thing that we have agreed on is that we would like to consume less meat. We don't desire to cut out all meat, but we do want to eat a higher quality of meat, and less of it overall. As such, I've been working to plan one or two(or three) vegetarian dinners a week. These have resulted in varying degrees of success. Our general pattern thus far is..... if it's Indian, it'll be good. Anything else? Hard sell.

This meal was red lentils, palak paneer, and basmati rice. Pretty simple food!

We did have luck the other day with a chickpeas and tomato pasta salad. The kids liked this one, too, so it will have to stay in rotation. And it calls for a lot of vegetables, which is awesome. I also love single dish meals for some really ridiculous reason, I'm sure.
And the finished product is quite attractive!

Tonight was another veggie success! Garden Gumbo. Well, the kids and I liked it. The husband went to bed really early after a very long day, so hasn't actually eaten it yet. I did, however, notice he stole a piece off the garlic knot rolls I baked. Those are not pictured because they were a first attempt. They tasted good, but, the aesthetics are lacking.
This recipe also had lots of nice, fresh vegetable ingredients! It also used one can of tomatoes.
And this is the closest thing you get to a finished product picture because I got busy with, y'know, life, and forgot to take a picture before we ate and I packed leftovers away. Whoops!

So in conclusion..... I could totally be a vegetarian because I made these three vegetarian meals and, like, ten others so now I'm an expert and could totally do it forever.
Or..... Maybe it's just nice to give the budget and the belly a little break from meat, and we'll go with that.

Edit: I am adding links to the recipes for these meals.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Meal plans for saving! (money AND my sanity)

Dinner is a drain. There, I said it. I get really tired of making dinner. It happens every gosh darn day! Sometimes I wish we could take a day off from dinner. But alas, the kids and the husband won't hear of it!

I used to be a non-planner when it came to meals. I would buy staple ingredients every week and freeze whatever meats were on sale that week, buy shelf stable items as I could afford to stock up, and buy way too many vegetables that would end up going bad before I used them.

It was wasteful, but at that point we were eating all conventionally grown items, so we could 'afford' the waste. Now that I've placed a priority on natural and organic items, the price tag is higher. In order to make up the difference, we had to eliminate waste.

And that's where meal planning comes in. Each week, I plan out the next week's dinners. Lunches are easy.... Leftovers go with the husband to work, Ansel and I eat leftovers if we have them or we eat something easy like sandwiches, and Kadin takes a sandwich to school each day. Breakfast is basic staple items.... oatmeal, cereal, eggs, bacon, etc. So those are just a regular part of my shopping.

This has definitely simplified my life. Because I know what I will be making for dinner, I find it easy to start dinner preparations earlier in the day, or overnight if necessary. There is no last minute panic about what to eat. I also don't wait too long to start, then realizing what I had decided on will take more time than I have available. I can also plan the more time consuming meals for the days of the week when I have more time to devote to them. It is really a load off my mind, AND, I find myself almost never wishing we could just order pizza or go out to eat.

I think I'll start posting my weekly meal plans, and then updating the blog most days about how things have turned out. Here's this week's plan:

Wednesday: Rotisserie chicken(the store-made kind, our natural foods grocery has them on sale), baked potatoes, and steamed broccoli.
Thursday: Pasta with bolognese sauce and salad.
Friday: Chicken mole, rice, and corn.
Saturday: Chicken rollers(a sale item at the store), ravioli(another store sale item), and salad.
Sunday: Burritos(this is a big batch make ahead item) and salad.
Monday: Red lentils, palak paneer, and rice.
Tuesday: Thai pasta salad.

I made bread last night, and will be keeping up with that this week. I also plan to make snickerdoodles for the boys and granola snacks for Ansel, as well as protein bars for the husband.

Off to the store we go! Let's hope I stay under budget again!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Crunchy Laundry Fail

I've been trying to "green" over a lot of the products we use in our home. I've started switching our bath products over, tried out some "green" cleaning products(as well as using household alternatives, like vinegar), and so on.

And one thing I thought I'd figured out, I discovered I hadn't. Back in the winter sometime, I don't recall when, I started buying Charlie's Soap. At first, it was great! It was a bargain, you only need to use a little bit, our clothes were coming nicely clean and didn't smell strongly of detergent. It was great! I did find that it wasn't cutting it for diaper laundry, so I did keep using regular detergent for that. But otherwise, Charlie's was awesome!
But then a few bags into it, I started to notice that stains weren't coming out like they used to. And the laundry just sort of looked.... dull. And sometimes I was finding I needed to re-wash things to get them really sufficiently clean, and if I have to wash something twice, what's the point?

So I decided to test the theory that it was the Charlie's to blame, and I headed to Target. I didn't want to buy a pricey detergent, but I wanted to get something that looked effective. Enter Arm and Hammer plus Oxi Clean.
Is it eco-friendly? Not likely. Is it super healthy for my family? Probably not. But darn if it didn't clean the clothes.

I would like to, at some point, switch to a greener alternative. But 'green' products are expensive. And I know it'll be a trial and error process to find what works with my washing machine, my family's laundry, our type of water(a little hard, I think), and so on. So there will likely be a few products I buy and reject before finding one that works.

For now, I'd like clean clothes, thank you!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Gushing about groceries

OK, so I will admit.... One of the few things I like about the place I live is the natural foods store. I know, I know. But we are only here because of a job, and it's just really not a good fit for our family. But. The natural foods store is awesome. And what's further amazing is that it's actually a chain! And thus being a part of a chain, they offer awesome sales and coupons and such.

Which leads to today. I had three coupons that could all be used simultaneously, so off we went! (fwiw, we were running errands and in the vicinity anyway. I would not have made the whole trip just for this. That's not very eco-friendly!)

So for a whopping $6 and change I got...... this:
That's a pound of ground chuck(all natural, etc. etc.), a pound of salsa, three pounds of local apples, a HUGE bag of organic chips, and raisins. (the raisins were filler. I had to spend $5 to get two of the deals).

Additionally, I DID bake the other day.... Thursday, I think. But I was in such a rush to bake, clean, and so on that I didn't take the time for pictures. We do have fresh bread, banana bread, and chocolate chip cookies to enjoy. And I made peach muffins this morning for the kids and I to eat. Yay baking!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Its grocery Wednesday!

So my new grocery day is Wednesday, for a variety of reasons. So this morning, I spent about an hour planning the next week's meals, making a list, and crossing my fingers and hoping like heck that I would come in close to budget.

So off I go to the natural foods store, happy companion Ansel in tow. There were samples, he was happy.

And wouldn't you know it, I actually came in slightly UNDER budget! I mean, yes, that money did then get allotted elsewhere(what I don't spend on that week's "needs" I put towards staple items). And the great part is that the vast majority of our food this week, including meats, will be mostly organic, definitely "natural," and some local. No HFCS! Woot!

Here's the haul! $112. I promise you, it's quite a good deal for $112. What's hard to see is the four brown packages of meat, and the large bag of organic flour, and things along those lines. And that milk isn't cheap, but totally TOTALLY worth it!

I also have bread dough about to go into the oven, tomorrow I'll make cookies(promised Ansel) and banana bread(have overripe bananas). If I get on a good roll, I might go ahead and make protein bars, but we'll see. Can't put the cart before the horse!

It feels good to be back on the wagon!

Friday, May 21, 2010


Life got kind of crazy for a while. We were preparing for employment changes and a big move, but things didn't fall into place like they were supposed to, so we're staying put a while. I kind of put homemade stuff on the back burner and have been primarily doing things that require very little prep. But, I'm gonna get back into the swing of things and start blogging again big time.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day!

So, it's Earth Day. Yay! And, because my life is all kinds of crazy right now and I've been putting off some projects and thus had little to blog about, I figure I can post a bit on what I do to be earth friendly.

So, let's see.

The biggies..... We use cloth diapers. We didn't with Kadin. Heck, I had no idea they even really existed anymore. But we have with Ansel since he was born. And seeing how he's almost 3 1/2 now, that's a LOT of diapers we haven't thrown away. I won't lie and say I love it at this point. It's tedious. But I remember Kadin's last months in diapers being tedious, too, and all I had to do with those was throw them away.

(I will also add that Ansel wore this same diaper today, as a matter of fact. The color's lost some of it's brightness, but the diaper is every bit as functional as it was in this picture, when Ansel was a little over a year old.)

We breastfeed. Feeding artificial human milk(also known as "formula") creates a TON of waste. If you can possibly breastfeed, I highly recommend it!

This is about 3 days post-partum, our first outing.

I use reusable menstrual pads. I'll spare you a picture on this one. Really, you don't want to see. But I promise you it's NOT gross. And an unexpected plus of it has been that they're WAY more comfortable than anything disposable ever was.

One of our cars is a hybrid, and we LOVE it! It's fun and cute and spacious enough and gets great gas mileage! The blue one on the right. The grey SUV is my parents'.

We buy organic products and local products when we can. This is less strain on the environment, especially the local products. Organic products also reduce the amount of impact each crop has on the land itself.

There are a lot of other smaller things we do here and there, and a lot of other things we'd like to do, but at this point don't because of financial constraints or the time involved or other things. We're working on it, though, and doing what we can.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Holy weight loss, batman!

One morning last week, as I was getting dressed, I realized that my pants were fitting differently. Which then made me want to see just how differently. And so I checked. And lo and behold, I'd lost two inches! But we don't have a scale at the moment, so I had no way to track my weight. No major concern there, weight is just a number and if my clothes are getting looser, then hooray!

So today my husband sort of ambushed me into a personal training session at his gym. I did NOT want to go. Really. Fought it every step of the way. I don't like exercising, but I know I have to make myself do it. Which is why we own a treadmill. Now, I don't actually USE the treadmill, but we own it. I must have burned calories putting it together. But back to the point.... I hate exercising, but more than hating exercise itself, I hate exercising around other people who can see me and judge me. Yes, I know people look at me and judge me all the time, and I can live with that. But I am embarrassed by just how out of shape I am.

So, this morning I find myself at the gym, in the personal training office. And so of course they start by getting your measurements. Weight was first. Now, the last time I was weighed was a month ago at a doctor's appointment. And from that time to today I lost, *drumroll* NINE POUNDS!!!! NINE people, NINE!

And you know what's more? I haven't done anything at all except change how I eat, and pay more attention to how much I eat. I also don't eat after dinner at all. I even went to Disneyworld and ate less than wonderfully, and I've had a few slip ups here and there(like yesterday, when I was SO not in the mood to cook).

I feel so.... vindicated! The husband knew I was making good changes, but there were some things he didn't think I was doing right. And now, well, this kind of proves it, doesn't it? Woo-hoo!

And since every post needs a picture, here ya go, the cute picture for today. Ansel at around 18 months.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A few thoughts on eating at Disneyworld

It's not as bad as one might think.

Yes, there's all the standard stuff.... burgers, fries, hot dogs, and so on. But almost every restaurant, even the quick service ones, have healthy options. I did have a cheeseburger and fries one night(as did the kids). But the rest of the time we had healthier things.... like a grilled chicken wrap and apples in place of fries. I only had soda once, the kids didn't at all.

I was also pleasantly surprised to find a lot of fruit stands throughout the parks. They also had whole wheat pretzels.

One way we made our own lives easier was to bring food with us. Two of the days(out of four) we packed our lunch and snacks ahead of time. We rented a locker at the park and stashed our cooler there and some of the 'extras.' We kept bottled water and healthy snacks(apples, healthy crackers, etc.) in the bottom of the stroller, so we could have them whenever we felt like. This also saved us a LOT of money! And without all that bottled water, I know we would have had a lot more soda!

There is also no question that food is expensive, but the quick service stuff(as opposed to the full service sit down dining, of which we did NOT partake) is not as earth shatteringly expensive as one might think. It's definitely still best to buy as little as possible while there, but if you do need to(or choose to) eat, it won't completely break the bank. I think the reason it all seems so expensive is if you're entirely reliant on the park food for three meals a day plus snacks for the duration of your stay. Yes! That WILL add up, but we stayed off the parks, and had a whole kitchen in the condo we rented. We ate breakfast there every day before leaving, and that helped a lot.

So now that I've rambled.... It's expensive(sort of), but can be healthy pretty easily!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

My weekly challenge

Every week, I get to solve a puzzle. The puzzle is how to fit this much stuff into two produce drawers. And lemme tell ya, it's challenging! Yes, we use this much fresh produce in a week, PLUS some! Not pictured are the week's pears, tangerines, bananas, and onions. (and frozen vegetables, which we eat probably twice a week)
The vast majority of this is organic, with only a few exceptions based on availablity and cost. Apples are always organic, because my kids eat so many of them. Potatoes always are, too, as I've heard they have some of the highest levels of pesticides among conventional produce. In this particular week, the strawberries were conventional, along with the cilantro and jalapenos. The tomatoes were local, but not organic.

And this is what we did, later in the day. It's Spring Break for Kadin, and this was about the most exciting thing that happened all week. Sad, I know, but we're(ok, I'm) still recovering from last week's time served at Disneyworld.
Ansel showing his true colors.

Just another day in baker's paradise

I decided to branch out on my bread making. Since getting the Healthy Breads in Five Minutes a Day book, I'd only tried out one master recipe. So, I decided to give another one a go. This time, I tried the Hearty Whole Wheat Sandwich Loaf. This recipe contained the same primary ingredients as the Soft Whole Wheat, but with a higher wheat ratio and no honey.
Here's the dough rising. It looked a little sad, in my opinion.
And the finished product. I have to say, not wildly impressed. It was too hard on the outside. And the inside was too dense and too crumbly to be good for sandwiches. It was ok as toast, but I'm not going to bake bread specifically to use as toast.
I thought perhaps there had been some error in baking on my part, so when I used the second half of the dough, I skipped the steam portion, and cut the baking time. But same problem. Too hard, too crumbly. Iwon't make this dough again, at least not as sandwich bread. Maybe as garlic knots or some of the other suggestions for the dough. But we'll see. With so many available options, no point in spending too much time on one that doesn't work for me.

The same day as the bread I decided to make chocolate chip cookies. I LOVE chocolate chip cookies. But, I know they're not all that good for you(although also not all that bad if you know what you're putting in them).
As I've mentioned before, we don't use any Nestle products, or any products owned by Nestle(like Gerber, betcha didn't know that one!). But there is something to be said for the Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe. And I have no problem using the recipe so long as I'm not using any of their products. Upon suggestion of another site, I decided to modify the recipe and use half the amount of butter it called for. And, as usual, I skipped the nuts.
Very nice looking cookies! And guess what?! They tasted really good, too!
Now that I've tried with half the butter, I don't intend to go back. The taste was not affected negatively. The cookies were able to bake without overly browning. The other blog(if I remember it, I'll post the link), also suggested using half wheat flour, so I'll try that the next time. Can't hurt!

Snacking..... It never ends.....

My boys snack constantly. As soon as they finish one thing, they're on to the next. Ansel, who is 3, is actually the worst of the two of them. And his appetite for fruit is insatiable. For example, this morning he ate a pear, an apple, and two and a half bananas. And that was all before 11 am! It's no wonder I buy as much produce as I do.....

This is an example of a snack that Ansel ate one afternoon, and he did eat all of this, along with a cup of water(he likes a lot of ice in it). It's quite pretty, which I think I appreciate more than he does. But I do take some pride in being able to prepare simple, attractive foods for my family.

I like big buns!

I'm baaaack!!!! I feel like I've done more 'I'm back' blogs than I have anything else. I got derailed by hectic life events, a trip to Disneyworld, and a wicked stomach virus that attacked the smallest member of the household. The next couple of items are actually from before chaos ensued, but I never got a chance to blog about things. So I'll try and get a couple of quick entries up and then resume with things as they're actually happening.

Hamburger buns! This is another item from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. The book raves about this recipe, and I was definitely skeptical. I'm not a huge fan of wheat buns. They seem to be distracting to me.... just too much going on. But, as a part of this all whole foods thing, I figured I'd give it a go.

They looked soooo good coming out of the oven! And they smelled amazing!

We grilled hamburgers outside, of course, which meant the boys got time to play outside. We have a dirt/rock pile off to the side of the house(no idea what it's from, it's just always been there) and they spent a good deal of time just digging.

I'm trying to get used to my new lens. This was fun for me to be able to stand on the patio and take pictures of the kids on the far side of the yard. Still needs work, but it was exciting!

And the husband doing his part. I do grill as well, but if he's available to do it, I am HAPPY to share the responsibility.

The buns got rave reviews! They used the same dough as the Soft Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread I've been making as our basic bread. It was remarkably simple, and there was no specific skill or technique necessary to get a good result. The book also gives instructions to make hot dog buns, which is very similar to making the hamburger buns. I don't think I'll be buying buns again! The taste was flavorful, but not overpowering, much better than any storebought wheat buns I've had.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Here's my announcement/confession...... I ordered pizza for dinner tonight. Gasp! I know!

I had this whole day planned for baking and kitchen things, but then I woke up to a clogged kitchen sink and yucky standing water in both sides of my sink AND my dishwasher! It threw off my whole day, and my momentum never recovered.

Fortunately, today happens to be the day that Domino's is sponsoring a fundraiser for Kadin's school, so 20% of what we pay goes to his school. So if it's for charity, it's ok, right?!

Actually, to be completely honest, I think this is totally fine. Sometimes we will eat things that aren't awesome. I happen to think pizza is way better than, say, McDonald's. Not to mention that I reserve the right to not be proactive now and again. It's bad enough that I had to scrub that disgusting sink once it was fixed, and that I had to soak dishes in the bathtub, and subsequently had to clean food yuck out of the bathtub.

So come on, Domino's! I wanna get the door!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

It's carbolicious!

Bread day! I don't really intend to make copious amounts of bread in one day again, but that's how it all happened and to be honest, it really wasn't that bad..... I made three loaves of bread, all different, yesterday. Wow! And two were 'real' bread.

I started out by making another loaf of the white bread I posted about last time. This time I made it for my neighbor, who is scared of using yeast. I've told her it won't bite her, but she doesn't believe me.

As that dough was rising, I started my next dough.

I purchased this cookbook, Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day a couple of weeks ago and have been slowly gearing up to start following their plan. There's a pretty lengthy chapter in the beginning about ingredients and materials and supplies, and yes, I actually do read things like that.

The basic idea is that they have master dough recipes that you make and store in the fridge until you're ready to bake. The dough will stay in the fridge for up to five days. As you need to, you pull off a certain amount of dough, manipulate it slightly into what type of bread you want to make specifically, let it rise, then bake. No kneading! (in almost all cases) And it only takes five minutes when you actually use the dough. Making the master recipe does take a bit of time, but really not even all that much.

Now, if I can manage to just set up my routine to do this, we'll be golden. You can make anything. There's different variations to the master recipe in this book. Some use all whole wheat, some a combo of wheats, some use various other grains as well. The one I decided to start with was the Soft Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread. It makes four pounds of dough, which makes two loaves of sandwich bread. We mostly use bread as sandwiches and toast, so this is perfect for us. It also shows an easy way to make hamburger or hot dog buns using the same dough, so that's great.

I'm not going to post the recipe, because these aren't available online. There are some on their website which I linked above, and a lot of libraries also have their cookbooks.

This is what went into the master recipe.

Here's the dough, all mixed up, before it rose.

This is the part of the dough I used(half of the total) to make one sandwich loaf last night. You simply cut off the amount you need, flour the outside a little, shape it into whatever you're making, then put it in/on the pan to rise.

And the finished product! I am seriously amazed every time something comes out looking the way it should. I expect failure, and am totally impressed with every success.
I am happy to report that today the boys and I had sandwiches for lunch using this bread, and it's GREAT! Tastes like fancy bakery shop bread. So exciting! I used to spend $5+ for something like this up in Virginia without batting an eyelash.

After mixing up the master recipe dough yesterday, and after baking the neighbor's bread, I got started on banana bread. My whole family likes banana bread, and I like not wasting things(like overripe bananas). It also makes for quick snacks or breakfast, so that comes in handy.

The recipe I usually follow is pretty simple. I don't put nuts in mine because the kids tend not to like nuts in things. I was the same way, so it doesn't bother me to accomodate this one.

Banana Banana Bread

One of the tips I picked up somewhere along the way, which is useful and I actually used this time, is if you're short on banana per the recipe, fill in the difference with applesauce. I was short about 1/3 cup of mashed banana, so I used one individual serving size of applesauce. You can't taste the applesauce, but it continues with the appropriate moisture and texture, so it works very well.

And the finished product! Making banana bread is super simple, so I didn't bother with step-by-step pictures. You just mix stuff together, pour in a pan, and bake it!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Rising to the occasion

And I'm back! I took a couple of days off from the blog(but not from cooking and baking) for my birthday, which was Monday. But yesterday, I was right back on to baking and taking pictures and posting! Glad to be back, but a break is nice, too!

In trying to stay with my once a week grocery shopping plan, I make a concerted effort to not run to the store for "just one thing." When does it ever end up being only one thing? And what a waste of gas and time anyway to go out just for that one thing. So we were out of bread, but I send a sandwich to school with Kadin every day for his lunch. Not having bread is a bit of a problem!

Now, realize, I've never MADE bread before. I've made banana bread or pumpkin bread, but not just bread. And I did try a cranberry swirl loaf real bread back in January, but I killed the yeast in the first step, so it was really dense and didn't rise right or anything. It tasted good, but the texture was alll wrong.

I just knew that if this whole foods thing was going to work, I was going to have to conquer bread. So I bought a bread book, and I'm working on figuring out how to implement it, but I was missing a significant ingredient for it's main recipe. So Google saved the day! It took a long time because a lot of things called for stuff I didn't have(like skim milk) or made two loaves(I only need one at a time and only have one loaf pan anyway). So I found one that used things I had, and sounded manageable.

Super Easy Bread for Beginners

I would have included pictures of the ingredients and the beginning of the process, but, I was on the phone with my mom at the time and to be honest, it just didn't even occur to me. But here's the dough, all mixed up. This is the point at which the dough was "chasing" the spoon around the bowl. I liked that description!

This is the dough in the buttered bowl, next to the heated oven(I was about to start granola bars) so it can rise. Sorry for the monotone here, didn't even occur to me to use a colored bowl. But ceramic Pfaltgraff does conduct heat well, so maybe it was actually a good idea.
Here's the dough an hour later, about to be punched down and kneaded. I was so ecstatic to see it had actually risen in a way that looked right to me! Yay!

And the finished product right out of the oven. When it came out, it was really hard, and I was a little bit scared. But after an hour or so, the top started to soften, so I was really thrilled. I wanted to make sure it turned out right, so as much as I wanted to test it, I didn't slice any off until this morning.

And..... this morning, I had to make Kadin's sandwich as usual. I sliced the heel off and, whaddya know, it was soft bread! And the crust was chewy, not hard like I'd feared. And it tastes.... good! I will definitely make this again sometime, but I will bake it a little less and see if that makes the crust even better.

My other project yesterday was granola bars. This is what I made while the dough was rising.
I wanted to try a new recipe. But I sort of had a heck of a time finding one to try. So many call for things like Rice Krispies, which is exactly the sort of stuff I'm trying to avoid feeding my kids(and myself). So finally I found this one, and I thought I had all the stuff for it, so why not. As it would turn out, I didn't have the peanut butter chips. I forgot I had used them in cookies that Fawad took to work. So instead I used all chocolate chips, which was really fine with me anyway.

Peanut Butter Granola Bars

Again, I know some of this stuff isn't ideal. I'm still using up that peanut butter(this is the last jar). And when I'm baking, I use regular honey, not local.
The dry ingredient and the wet ingredients. I love when things look good along the way.
All mixed together. I taste a little, really good!
All done, out of the oven! It said to bake just until the edges were browned, and that's exactly what I did.

The recipe says it makes three dozen. I can't imagine how small they would have to be to make that many out of one pan. I cut it into 18 bars which were a more normal granola bar size.
Now, I'm not sure if I'd make this one again. They taste good. But they're really crumbly. I think it's because they're so thin, and it just doesn't hold together. Maybe it would be better in a smaller pan, but I'm not sure if that would be enough to take care of the problem.

And this is what I made for the boys in the middle of all of this. The husband I were having leftovers from the night before's dinner out, so I didn't want to exert a lot of effort just cooking for the boys. So, half a box of whole wheat organic spaghetti, about a third of a jar of organic marinara sauce, some parmesan cheese, and a quick spinach salad. Voila! Dinner!