Wednesday, February 29, 2012

[Real] Fast Food

God's Fast Food - Fruit. Pre-washed to invite flyby snackers
The hard part about cooking whole foods in a traditional way is that when you walk over to the pantry and open the door, you're staring at ingredients, not food. Well, technically the ingredients are food, but it's a real bummer to go looking for a snack and come out with flour and dry beans. If I go looking for a last-minute supper, it can be really tough if I haven't planned ahead!

Chicken taco soup and chicken and rice soup in the fridge.

I really like to have soup in the fridge and freezer. Not only is it a great way to get some bone broth into my day, add a warmed tortilla, slice of bread, or English muffin and I have a satisfying and swift lunch. It also came in really handy the other day. I had to take my dad to the airport since my mom was sick, and I brought her two jars of different soups, one jar of plain stock, and some fresh fruit. I know she thinks I'm nutty with my broth obsession, but she was thankful for the soup! And it was nice to be able to take her 3 meals on really short notice.

This is just one small part of my freezer stash.

I make a menu plan every two weeks, and generally I try to stick to that when I'm cooking. But sometimes (often times) I switch it up based on how I'm feeling or what happened that day or how many leftovers we have. A menu plan for 2 weeks ends up taking me 2.5 or 3 weeks to get through, which is nice. If I don't want to think about supper, like tonight, I just do the menu. If, like last night, I need to switch it up - I can do that too. About once a week when I'm dead tired or having a bad or busy day I pull from the freezer stash.

80 pounds of chicken, sprouted and cooked beans, homemade meatballs, meatloaf, crocodile nuggets, etc
I love my chest freezer. It was a gift from my grandparents, aunt and parents. I am not kidding about love. I have true affection for this thing. It makes my life so much easier. I know that looks like a ton of food but we actually go through that pretty quickly. I keep it organized and try to rotate old items to the top. Tomorrow I'm going to make baked beans with those bags on top.

This is part of my snack tonight. Mmm. Fresh sourdough cinnamon swirl bread. Who wants to come by tomorrow for a cup of tea and a slice of this beauty before it's gone?

Thanks for stopping by! Sorry about the mess!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Thrift Shop Goodies and The Busiest Place in My Kitchen

The makings of our supper, chicken and rice
I didn't write a post Monday because my sister came to visit me. I begged her to come visit my favorite thrifting places with me and I was so happy when she obliged. She found some great items, which I did not get photos of! It's too bad because she found the large canister in this'70s orange mushroom ceramic that she is collecting. She has a clock that was our grandmother's and that started her collecting. This was a great find, and it was only $4.99! And since it was customer appreciation day, she got an extra 30% off. I can't wait to see this in her kitchen. She passed up another crock because it was missing the lid. I am so tempted to go back and buy it for her anyway. She'd find some use for it. I know I would!

I scored a couple of nice things, made doubly nice by the extra 30% off. For $7.70 I brought home: a plate, a small rolling pin (for Jack), some small bowls (trying to phase out the plastics that I have), a huge cutting board, a glass dome lid (trying to phase out plastic wrap too!) and a[nother] Pyrex casserole dish (not pictured). I officially proclaim by casserole collection complete. I have 3 bigs, 3 mediums and 2 smalls. Basically, I have a serious Pyrex addiction, which is especially unhealthy in a small apartment.

And see the red dishes? Those are, you guessed it, Pyrex. They are refrigerator dishes from the 1940s/50s. I plan to put them to use for their original purpose. Husband and I are both committed to limiting and eliminating our use of plastics, especially in the kitchen. Two of the dishes were pretty badly abused, if I had to guess, I would say that they were washed in a dishwasher. I was able to remove the grungy white layer on the outside with a Magic Eraser. Those things are great.

I have been wanting a large cutting board that would span my kitchen sink. I finally found one. I love it. It DOUBLES my kitchen work space. I am so pleased.

This is my favorite place in my kitchen. On this small bit of counter there is so much going on. The crock pot is making broth, the brown bowl was my great-grandmother's bread bowl. I love that I am using this bowl the same way that she did, to make sourdough. This evening it is full of English muffin dough. The yellow bowl (Pyrex, lol) is the sourdough sponge for my bread. The array of jars in the background are ferments. Right now I have my dear loyal friend Harvey, fries, pineapple vinegar (the mother is forming!), Beverly the water kefir, and a couple bottles of kefir doing a secondary ferment with juice (grape and mango).

English muffin dough in my great-grandmother's bread bowl

What is your favorite place in your kitchen? Do you have anything interesting in the works this week?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Superman Meatloaf (GF, CF)

This is another family favorite recipe that gives me that Clark Kent feeling. The hidden veggies (and liver!) make me smile knowingly. Promise me that none of you will reveal the secret! Jack loves the flavor, as does the rest of the family.

This recipe uses leftover veggies, which is always nice to get those odds and ends out of the fridge. When I'm really feeling skimpy with the beef I can stretch it with lentils.Even though the ingredients list is long, the prep goes very quickly with a food processor.

I didn't have tomato paste so I subbed sauce. Not as tasty, but acceptable.
Superman Meatloaf (GF, CF)  -  Makes 2
Optional: replace 1 pound ground beef with 1/2 c lentils (brown or green) soaked or sprouted and cooked til tender. This will change the texture and flavor slightly, but try cooking your lentils in beef stock to maximize flavor and nutrition.

1 can (approx 6 oz) tomato paste (I know, BPA cans. I'm doing the best I can on a budget!)
2 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Tbsp rapadura (to taste)
A splash of Worcestershire  sauce (opt)
A healthy dollop of mustard (approx 1 Tbsp)

2 pounds ground beef (or 1 pound and 1/2 c sprouted/soaked and cooked lentils)
2-8 oz grated liver (depending upon what your family can handle)
1/2 c bread crumbs or 4 Tbsp coconut flour
2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp black pepper OR 1/2 tsp cayenne (yum!)
2 eggs
1 onion
2 stalks celery
~1 c veg, (can be anything from leftover cooked broccoli, cabbage, peas, zucchini, greens, green beans, carrots (can be raw) etc. Too much orange squash can alter the taste, be warned. Check your fridge. In a pinch, right before grocery day, I've used sauerkraut, just squeeze most of the juice out.)
4 cloves garlic, pressed (we like garlic!)

Preheat oven to 350. Grease two loaf pans. Mix the first 5 ingredients together and set aside. Grind all the veggies in the food processor. I try to make mine very fine, in order to avoid  detection. Mix vegetables with remaining ingredients. Shape into loaves, top with reserved sauce, and bake for 45min-1hour.

I ran out of time for potatoes, but I still felt good about this meal. This is Jack's portion, hence the ketchup.

This is comfort food for me, and my favorite way to serve it is with mashed potatoes and applesauce. If you can hide the second meatloaf from your hungry family, it freezes really well.

This post is shared with the Monday Mania Blog Carnival hosted by The Healthy Home Economist
And Traditional Tuesdays hosted by Cooking Traditional Foods
And Simple Lives Thursday #85 hosted by GNOWFGLINS

Friday, February 24, 2012

Nighttime Parenting

To make this post pretty, I'll share a few photos from supper, since having a camera during bedtime would really disrupt the mood. I toasted some corn tortillas from the Latin grocery and we had some [fairly] authentic, cheap, and delicious "tacos" for supper. Of course the filling was my Hidden Veggie Taco Meat. These photos are otherwise unrelated to the rest of the post. :)


I am in the process of writing several more interesting posts, but I am so bleary-eyed this evening that I almost sang myself to sleep while I was putting the boys to bed. I do so enjoy my little evening routine with them, after supper baths, clean pajamas, stories, prayers, and then a few lullabyes and other songs. A peaceful nighttime routine, with no strife and no tears is what I aim for. And because they know what to expect and what is expected, most evenings it takes me 20-30 minutes (after the bath) to sneak from their room with both of them slumbering peacefully. 

I'm sure that sounds like a long time to many of my readers, especially if you don't have any kids. But I think it is really important to, in the words of Dr. Sears, "parent" my kids to sleep instead of "put" them to sleep. If you are interested in learning about nighttime parenting, you can read about 8 Infant Sleep Facts Every Parent Should Know, from

A small sacrifice of time on my part creates a completely different atmosphere in the home; a peaceful, loving feeling that is really important to me. This post is shared with the Living Well Blog Hop.

Would you really want this sweet baby cry himself to sleep?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Cooking Traditionally in a Small Kitchen

This is a post for a friend. She and I share the misery of small kitchens. I wanted to show her she isn't alone! Dear friend, this evening I stood in the middle of my galley and put my hand in the sink while reaching with the other to grab something off the stove. I didn't even have to stretch to accomplish this.

This is pretty much what my kitchen looks like, every single evening. I took this photo while standing inside the "pantry" (a coat closet that Husband put some shelves in).

 From left to right: my recipe/menu planner is sitting on top of the crockpot (now empty, it was making stock earlier), I have sourdough English muffin dough in the yellow bowl, apple slices for snacking in the orange bowl on the butcher block, behind the butcher block I have Harvey (my sourdough starter), Beverly (water kefir), fermenting carrots (wrapped in two towels to protect them from light), and pineapple vinegar. Beyond the sink (half full of dirty dishes I can't wash because the boy's room is right across the hall) there is a tiny corner of counter that I set my drying rack on.

In the morning I will have to move the crockpot and butcher block to the stove so I can knead and form my English muffins.

From left to right: our new Berkey water filter (completely worth the space! the water tastes great!), a crock of coconut oil, behind that is my tool turnabout, then the stove (complete with dirty dishes), and a tiny bit of counter where I keep the coffee cannisters and the electric kettle. Normally I have a small cutting board size area clear but right now my fridge is full of stock so there are a few things sitting out (maple syrup, hot sauce, etc)

Well L.A.S I hope that make you feel better about your kitchen. Misery loves company, right? :)

This post is shared with the following blog hops: Monday Mania at Kitchen Stewardship; Traditional Tuesdays at Cooking Traditional Foods ; Simple Lives Thursday #86 at GNOWFGLINS

Repairing a Wool Sweater

During the winter, an optional part of Husband's uniform is a sweater. This lovely dark blue wool sweater looks really great on him. Not that the military cares about that, but I do. A few days ago Husband was in a meeting and afterward an officer pointed out a hole in the back of Husband's sweater. Oops. He brings it home to me to mend. I have never mended a sweater before, but a quick survey of the interwebs showed me that this would indeed be a simple process.

We could afford to simply buy a new sweater. It is the same one that Husband was issued after basic training, and thanks to his bachelor clotheskeeping ignorance, the sweater has felted down and is starting to look shabby. But it isn't out of regulation and part of living thoughtfully and frugally is using things til they are worn out, then re-purposing. (I'm thinking someday this will make a great diaper cover!)

I saw online that the repair could be easily accomplished without any special tools. However, since I didn't have the right color embroidery floss, I had time to spare and I ended up coming across an old darning egg in my favorite junk shop. I'm loving having my "discretionary" money in cash. I don't have to wonder if I have enough money to buy something. 

Materials Needed:
-Holey sweater
-Yarn the same weight and fiber as the sweater (you know those little loops of yarn that come attached to new sweaters? Yeah. Save those.) OR - if you're a thrift store addict like me, embroidery floss will do a nice job. It's much cheaper than yarn (I paid 0.36/skein) and comes in a rainbow of colors.
-Darning needle (the really really big pointy needle)
-Darning Egg (optional)

Turn the garment inside out and place the darning egg inside and grasp the egg inside the fabric. Don't stretch the fabric tight, especially if the sweater is lightweight. Stretching could make the damage worse, and/or warp the fibers. Weave the needle through from side to side, pulling the loose loops back together firmly. Because this sweater is felted down and gets stretched a bit, I doubled over my stitches. On a more delicate garment I would probably not do that. Knot and cut the thread, and turn the garment the right way. 

Look how great that darn looks! From the outside of the sweater you can't even see the stitches. Just a few minutes of work saved us $35 + shipping. This is simple, frugal, green living.

Just a thought

I often hear the "I don't know how" excuse from people who admire what I do, and want to [knit, sew, crochet, bake, cook]. Ignorance is easily remedied, especially in today's world. I think what holds so many people back is fear of failure, or fear of making a mess. I tackle plenty of things I've never done before, and yes. I have failures and messes all the time. Just ask my husband. So many times when a project is completed I sit down and critique the process and the product, hoping to learn from my mistakes and improve.

So please, don't hold back from tackling something. Just give it a shot. What is the worst that can happen? Ask Husband about the time I cut too much off while hemming his expensive wool uniform pants. The poor guy had to wear high waters for a few weeks til I washed them (with his repeated assurances that it did NOT need to be dry cleaned) and they shrank to clownish proportions. Those pants represented two big mistakes lessons: 1) measure twice, cut once and 2) when in doubt, dry clean.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, this is what my living room looked like last night. I didn't take a photo this evening because I'm sitting here with a heating pad on my sore back. But the view is pretty much the same, except the kids are in bed.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Pizza Night and Kitchen Company

Grown-up pizza: onions, peppers, mushroom, pepperoni
I made some nice sourdough pizza tonight, just me and the kids again. Husband works the swing shift (2pm-10pm) a lot, which is hard on the family. I tried to sneak some kale into the sauce tonight and it was a dismal failure. Jack sniffed it out in a trice and whined and cried over supper. Sigh. Eventually I persuaded him that it would serve him well to eat his supper and stop whining. Meanwhile Andy of course scarfed up whatever I put in front of him with giggles and happy noises. Naturally 1/2-3/4s ended up in the highchair or decorating the floor, but he enjoys the experience.

Kids pizza: extra cheese and pepperoni with cheese stuffed crust
 I thoughtlessly added cheese to both pizzas, which was so careless of me and very indicative of the kind of day I had. I have been avoiding dairy for many months, ever since I linked it with digestive upset for Andy when he was newborn, and eczema in myself. So tonight I did go ahead and have the pizza, though I know it will make my eczema flair, but at least Andy doesn't seem to be bothered by it any more.

My second batch of broth from Thursday's bones. They were mostly mush so no 3rd batch.
I was talking to my sister this evening, and she was making 800 appetizers for a friend's wedding, while I was playing with my new toy chopping carrots and making brine. A friend arranged a special price for a bulk order of the Pickle-Pro fermenting lids, and I received them yesterday. Tonight I made my favorite lacto-fermented veggie, carrots. Tomorrow I'm hoping to give these fermented french fries from Cooking Traditional Foods blog.

Lacto-fermented carrot slices with airlock
 Anyhow, my sister kept making these funny noises while she was working. It was somewhat alarming at first. Apparently she has developed the funny habit of making sound effects when she works in the house. I find this amusing, because I have the somewhat disconcerting habit of talking to myself. I do it in the kitchen most often, although I have been the recipient of more than a few bemused glances in the grocery store so I'm pretty sure I'm muttering to the zucchini before they ever cross my threshold. 

From left to right: sourdough sponge  for bread (bowl), Harvey , p ineapple vinegar, Beverly (water kefir), and carrots

It was this habit of talking to myself that inspired the name Harvey for my sourdough. The original Harvey was an invisible 6 foot tall rabbit and best friend of Elwood P. Dowd (played by Jimmy Stewart). If you're a fan of screwball comedy (in the same vein as Bringin' Up Baby and Arsenic and Old Lace), this is a great movie for you. If you are on the Science fiction side of the nerd scale, Harvey is also an "imaginary" (complicated) character in the stellar series Farscape. It is my favorite series of all time. Hence, Harvey, my invisible audience.

The usual mess. I really do mean to clean this up tomorrow.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A day in my kitchen

You know that big pile of bones that I started cooking last night? It made a nice rich bone stock in 12 hands-free hours. Late this morning I strained and filtered the stock and put 2 quarts in the fridge. The third quart I used to make chicken and rice for lunch.

Jack is feeling much better now. No fever now, nor any other ill effects. I'm hopeful that he'll be well enough to go to church on Sunday without worry about making anyone else ill.

Worried about all that fat? He's a little infographic thatI came across today: Carbs are killing you The bottom line? From the Massive Health website:
  • Eating fat doesn’t actually make us fat.  It’s the insulin cycle, triggered by eating carbohydrates. 
  • The easily-digestible carbs like refined flour, soda, and potatoes are the worst offenders.
  • For weight-loss, a low-carb diet is a lot more effective than a low-fat, high-carb one.
As a disclaimer, I haven't looked over that whole website. They could be completely whackadoodle for all I know. But that infographic is a nice simple and thorough explanation of what is what. Oh, and we don't eat low-carb. We try to eat a balance diet that includes healthful, whole grains.

I chilled the two quarts and checked the gel, isn't that nice? Meat jell-o. Nom nom.

Sometimes I get so sick of trying to get all of this done in a tiny crowded kitchen. There are so many times when I am forced to take precious quiet time to clean and clear space because there simply isn't enough room for me to do all that I need to.

Today I made crispy chickpeas and broke down and bagged 40lbs of chicken leg quarters in addition to everything else. So many, many dishes.

 That is about all there is to my kitchen.

And that is my living room. I'm practically ready to give up. Sigh.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


My "stockpile"
 My little Jack is sick. He has a fever, aches and chills. Poor kid. I know if he's ill now, the rest of us are likely to follow him. I know that quality bone broth is like a miracle food, so as soon as we got home and got the kids to bed, I cleaned the crockpot (it was making tallow while we were away) and pulled out my stash of chicken bones. 

All It takes is as many chicken bones as you can cram into you crockpot, some vinegar (the cheap kind is fine since it's going to be cooked anyway), water (filtered if you're on city water) and some chicken feet if you're feeling adventurous. Veggies like carrots, onions and celery are nice but I never add them. I like a very bland stock that I can sneak into anything and everything, from sloppy joes to tacos to gravy, and of course, soup.

Just hangin' out, waiting for the water filter

For this quantity of bones (I could only fit about half of what you see pictured) I used 1/4 cup vinegar and 6 chicken feet, since they are cheap and I want as much healing gelatin as I can. I put the heat on high since they are frozen, and I'll let this cook all night. After 12 hours I'll strain out this first batch, add more vinegar and cook the bones two or three more times, until they are mush.

If I'm lucky this is what my stock will look like when it is cooled
If you would like to read about why homemade bone stock with a high gelatin content is so good for you, check out this great post from Kitchen Stewardship.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

How Romantic

I really love Valentine's Day. Something about the gaudy hearts, pink and red and sparkles and chocolate, chocolate, chocolate make my very unsentimental heart go pitterpat. My husband is not much for romantic gestures, though he has a knack for choosing the best cards. It was a big thing for him to actually plan a nice dinner out last night. We had a good time despite the discovery that our second favorite sushi restaurant is out of business, and we had to bring the baby along since I'm still his primary life support. 

Last night we had a mediocre meal at a local Indian restaurant, accompanied by great conversation, baby giggles (he enjoyed my lamb biryani more than I did). Afterward we had coffee and Krispy Kreme donuts. The hot sign was on and I was powerless in the glow of "The eye of Sauron" as Husband called it. 

Today I had wanted to add some Valentine's flair to our day, with heart shaped pancakes and sandwiches, but I was too tired (sugar crash perhaps?). Oh well. This year Jack is not really old enough to care. And I'll make it up to him by fixing some of the snacks and treats from my Valentine's gift, The Healthy Snacks To Go ebook from Kitchen Stewardship

I'm looking forward to trying some of the homemade larabar recipes and the roasted chickpeas. In fact I just sprouted and cooked one and a half pounds of garbanzo beans, and I only need one and a half cups for the Chocolate Chickpea Cake of which we are so fond. The powerbar and granola bar recipes will take a huge burden off my grocery budget. Isn't that romantic?

My house is trashed. How romantic, eh?

Do you celebrate Valentine's Day? What is your idea of romance?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Planning failures and chocolate therapy

I had such a nice meal planned for us this evening. I was going to cook a beef roast with cauliflower and brussels sprouts. Yum! I'm more of a beans and ground beef cook, so I had no idea how to cook my roast. At 4:30 this afternoon I went searching for some quick time/temp information and I discovered my nice grassfed chuck roast needed to cook for 3-4 hours. With both kids short on sleep and long on whining, I needed a backup plan. 

I threw together a half-hearted attempt at Lo Mein and called it a day. It wasn't bad for a 30 minute supper, but hardly what I had been looking forward to all week. Husband and I enjoyed some light dinner conversation on the subject of our favorite Science fiction TV series' and tried to ignore the whining, wailing and complaining of the 3 year old.

My tertiary plan is to eat some chocolate, coerce my husband into giving me a foot rub, and watch some Stargate SG-1. Nerdymom wins tonight. :)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Just close the door and pretend it isn't there

That is what I've been trying to do with all the clean laundry that has been piling up for two weeks. Sadly, this photo doesn't include the diapers in the dryer, the towels and shower curtain in the washer, or the two [small] loads of delicates still to be done.

Husband is working the late shift and the kids are finally in bed. I'm dead tired but I can't even make it over to my side of the bed anymore.

I'm going to need some chocolate to get through this.

Homemade peanut butter cups - NO REFINED SUGAR!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Lacto-Fermented Guacamole

That is one of my "new" old Pyrex bowls
Last week I found avocados for $0.59/each at Aldi. We love avocado around here, and finding them for half what I normally pay was nice. (Okay, so I don't actually buy avocados when they are $1.20/each. I have a budget. Champagne, caviar and avocados do not normally fit into that budget.) Since they were still nice and firm I bought 6. We ate two of them sliced with Spanish rice, burgers, and straight up. I made the rest into guacamole, which we snarfed up most happily, and I even managed to get a second batch into the freezer before it was gobbled up. 

I also found out that you can make your guac lacto-fermented, so that it is probiotic! This is great news for all those who are feeding picky people who need probiotics. I did not notice a difference in favor at all, except to note that it was even tastier because it had time to allow the flavors of garlic, cilantro, tomato and onion mingle with the avocado.

Lacto-Fermented Guacamole
I adapted this recipe from the GNOWFGLINS blog 

2 avocados, quartered
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1/4 tsp salt
1/4-1/2 an onion, diced (I used 1/2)
1/4c diced tomato (I used canned tomatoes that I drained well, since tomatoes in February taste like soggy styrofoam)
1 handful cilantro, diced
1/2 a lime, juiced
2 tsp whey, saurkraut juice, or water kefir

You take all of that, throw it in a bowl, mash it to the desired consistency, cover and allow it to sit on my counter for 6-7 hours. I used saurkraut juice and didn't taste it at all, however, next time I will use water kefir, as husband likes the juice with his kraut. I covered my bowl with a plate (no plastic for the garbage dump!) and let it sit. 

As you can see, it did oxidize but the lemon juice prevented some of that. I simply stirred the browned portion in and on one would have guessed. Below you can see I spooned it onto my burger and it has a nice bright color.

Then Monday I saw the commissary had hoards of those delicious green gems, stacked in mountains and on "Manager's Special" for $0.60/each. So I went a little crazy and bought a huge bag of them. I checked them today and they're soft, so I'm going to slice, toss with lime juice, and freeze. I've read that they brown quickly after they are thawed, but since I know the brown color is merely unappetizing and not harmful, I'm not worried. They will taste perfect guac-ified and shoveled in a burrito.

You just know he loves guacamole

I'm sharing this post via the Simple Lives Thursday Blog Hop hosted by GNOWFGLINS - there are a ton of great ideas and recipes being shared there. Last week I learned a better way to season cast iron, this week I leaned the best natural mold killers. Go check it out!

Oh, on an unrelated note, look at Jack's camera smile . He has inherited my "cereal killer" face. How many times has husband laughed at me for my weird plastic smiles. My dentist keeps a photo on file (they are very modern...) and my hygienist took the first photo and said, "let's do that again, and try to look less, um, uhh, --- crazy." This made me laugh and she actually got a decent photo.