Friday, April 30, 2010
Have a great weekend!
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Have you found that yogurt can be pricey? Especially if you want to buy organic! Especially for a big family...
I have been making our yogurt since grad school days. Since good quality milk is much cheaper than yogurt, I have found that making yogurt at home keeps our grocery budget from skyrocketing. In times past, I made a quart of yogurt at a time. Then, I upped it to two quarts. Now, with six yogurt eaters in the family, we can easily eat a quart a day! I was getting weary of making yogurt over and over again...
So I decided I would try to make a gallon at a time. I thought using my crockpot would be the best solution for this large volume. I found that using a crock pot to make yogurt can't be more simple!
In my experimentation, I started with the how-to on Nourishing Days. (Read the detailed steps here.) However the instructions there are for making only two quarts... which may be exactly the volume you need to make for your family. If so, visit Nourishing Days for the exact timing for each step. But, if you are like me and need to make a gallon... here's how I tweaked the timing to make the process work for me.
Like I said, it's really simple. But times do matter because temperatures matter with yogurt. You may want to follow the timing laid out below, but use a thermometer to double check temperatures... just to be sure. Crock pots may vary in their performance, so using a thermometer the first time may prevent failure.
- EcoSmart Safe Home Value Bundle (Non-toxic Insect Repellent and more...)
- Glasslock Storage Container Set
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Monday, April 26, 2010
I used the Super Moist Oatmeal Chocolate Cake using soaked grains. (Recipe here.) That was the good part. I doubled the recipe and baked two 8x8 squares and seven cupcakes. The cake assembly was simple. Layer the two squares. Stack three cupcakes at the front for the front tower. Stack two cupcakes at each back corner for the back towers.
Then came the icing woes. I wanted the icing to be healthy -- whole foods, natural sweeteners. I had tweaked a cream cheese icing recipe from Nourishing Traditions for my son's coonskin cap birthday cake. But this time around, I needed a lighter color. So, I searched online and found a recipe using just honey and cream cheese. I mixed it up and gave Witzy a taste. She politely told me she didn't like it.
So, I had to make a few changes. I added some vanilla and some stevia, because it was the only natural sweetener I had on hand that wouldn't add color or bulk. That improved the taste 100%, but it still wasn't excellent... consider where we started. I began to spread it on the cake. ARG! I wasn't going to have enough for the whole cake! And, then I looked at the clock and realized I was quickly running out of time!
I had planned on adding Blueberry Juice to part of the icing to make a pretty lavender. Witzy told me she wanted purple decorations on her Castle Cake. But that wasn't going to happen since I barely had enough icing for the front of the castle. (The back of the cake is bare!) I wasn't going to have any purple for trimming up the edges. It was looking sloppy, and time was running out! (Did I mention that the day of her birthday celebration was one of the worst of the year... fiasco after fiasco.)
I had to delegate the job of cutting out the cones, flags and grass to Rainbow. I also asked her to make doors and windows since I wasn't going to have purple icing for that either. She was cheerful about helping. I was tempted to ruin her gladness when things didn't come out perfect. But I restrained myself. I reminded myself that her memory of helping with the birthday cake would be a treasure... unless I made her feel bad because it wasn't as good as if I had done it. Children before cakes, right.
When the cake was complete, I was quite flustered. It didn't look at all as I had planned and the icing was just mediocre. I was nearly an hour late starting supper. Witzy and Spiderman had been playing outside. When Witzy came in for some water and saw her cake on the table, she said, "Oh Mamsie, that is the prettiest birthday castle cake I have ever seen. Thank you so much for making it for me!" Which made everything better.
Like I said, I am sure you could make this cake look better. But in the end, it made for a perfect birthday celebration. Witzy was so pleased. And Rainbow was so excited that she got to make the paper additions.
- EcoSmart Safe Home Value Bundle (Non-toxic Insect Repellent and more...)
- Glasslock Storage Container Set
And one more thing... Are you having trouble loading Health Begins With Mom? Is it slow to come up on your browser? For some reason, something is slowing it down... any thoughts? I can't figure out the trouble. I need some technical help!
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Do you remember my post from a year ago about why plastic is a hazard to our health? To be extremely concise, but hopefully not over-simplify the issue, dangerous chemicals leach from plastic storage containers into our food, which can cause endocrine disruption and cancer. The leaching into our food increases when we heat food in plastic containers. (Read my previous post for more info.)
"Keep you and your family safe from plastic leaching chemicals; replace your old worn out food storage containers with Glasslock!"
This is a set of 8 tempered glass storage containers with silicone-sealed lids that create air and liquid tight seals... a $65 value!
In order to be entered in this giveaway, please leave a comment on this post. That's all you have to do for your first entry.
For an additional entry, blog about this giveaway and link to this giveaway post. Then come back to leave a second comment telling me you've done so.
For a third entry, tweet the link to this giveaway. Then come back to leave a third comment telling me you've done so.
This giveaway is open to US Residents. The giveaway will close at midnight on April 30th. At that time I will randomly select a winner and notify by email.
Happy Earth Day,
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
With the earliest signs of warm days, my children were ready for picnic lunches. My parents gave us patio furniture for a recent Christmas gift, so we were all very eager for outdoor lunch breaks.
However, the earliest signs of warms days also got the wasps buzzing around our patio. Last year they made homes in our siding and around our back door. (You remember the wasp stings?!?) We tried a few non-toxic methods of killing the wasps, but none eliminated them for good. My husband even tried regular old wasp killer, but they came back.
So, when EcoSmart emailed me to ask if I was interested in a review and giveaway of their Natural Bug Spray, I jumped at the opportunity. Like you all, I really wanted to find a good solution to our insect problems.
The kind folks at EcoSmart sent me their Safe Home Value Bundle, which includes Flying Insect Killer, Ant and Roach Killer, Home Pest Control and Insect Repellent. When the box arrived, the first thing I noticed was the delicious smell! Yep, that's right... these products smell good! Instead of toxic ingredients, these products contain organic plant oils such as cinnamon, peppermint, sesame and rosemary.
The next question was, would these yummy smelling products actually work. I took the can of Flying Insect Killer out to my back patio. Armed and ready. And waited for the wasps. I saw one fly out of the siding, so I aimed and shot. He floundered and died. Great! But, what about the rest of them in the nest?
I waited. No more came out. Then I saw one around the roofing. But the spray wouldn't reach all the way up there (one drawback). After waiting for a while longer, I decided I couldn't just keep waiting. So I sprayed all around where we see them come in and out and just hoped for the best. That was three weeks ago. And we haven't seen a wasp there since. Is that just a coincidence? Or are we holding serious natural powers in our hands?
I know many of you are looking for safe pest control for the home. So would you like to win this same Safe Home Value Bundle? If so, leave a comment here and tell me why you want this bundle of non-toxic, kid- and pet-friendly products. Simply by leaving your comment, you'll be entered in the giveaway.
I usually like to keep an even playing-field so that everyone has an equal chance of winning (i.e. not giving extra entries to new followers... when faithful long-time readers don't have that chance). However, I really want EcoSmart to get a lot of good exposure with this giveaway...
So, I will be giving an extra entry to those who tweet the giveaway link or blog about this giveaway. If you do either of those, please come back to leave a separate comment saying so for each. If you leave a comment, tweet the giveaway link and post about the giveaway on your blog, you will have three entries. Make sense? There are three possible chances this time.
This giveaway is open to all US residents (except Alaska and Hawaii) and will remain open until midnight on Friday, April 30th. Once closed, I will randomly select a winner and notify by email.
For your health,
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
What harms the planet is destructive to our bodies as well. You will find that when you take steps to limit harmful environmental exposure for your family, you are, at the same time, being green. A good steward of our bodies is a good steward of this beautiful world.
Have you ever heard of Body Burden? If not, I encourage you to read the series I wrote on 10 Simple Steps to Reduce Body Burden. Those 10 steps are a great start in being a good steward, of your health and, secondarily, your environment. In fact, taking even a few of those steps would be a definite move in the right direction. (Click here to see the series... you'll want to scroll to the bottom of the page and start with the video, working your way up through the ten steps. I've kept things simple, so don't worry... it's not that much reading!)
My Body Burden discussion stemmed from reading Sloan Barnett's book: Green Goes With Everything: Simple Steps to a Healthier Life and a Greener Planet. Last year I personally gave away a copy of the book. This year...
I have two fantastic giveaways sponsored by EcoSmart and CSN Stores. Both of the wonderful product packs I'll be giving away will enable you to reduce your Body Burden. I'll be posting one giveaway tomorrow and one on Thursday... I'm really looking forward to it! Hosting giveaways is a thrill for me because I love to send that email telling a reader they've won...
See you tomorrow,
Monday, April 19, 2010
I've been thinking about what our family does health-wise (for particulars, read this past post)... and why we do it the way we do. I'll step out on a limb here today and share my thoughts with you.
Health Matters. Life is such a gift. Each day is a wide-open opportunity to do something big. Being a good steward of our health, our life-ness, is very important. I mean, why not be fueled-up and strong for accomplishing great things... us as moms AND our husbands and children. Let's live big, bold lives!
But, realistically speaking, can we eat everything healthy all of the time? Maybe if you are superwoman. Or maybe if your family is still very young. Let me explain...
We used to eat 100% healthy all the time. It was hard work. Very hard work. I only had two children and was not yet homeschooling. I prepared everything from scratch, soaked all our grains and legumes, even our nuts, made lacto-fermented foods, and the list goes on. But I saw two things happening.
First, we were causing some minor divisions between ourselves and family and friends. You see,
some people just didn't feel like they could prepare food "good enough" to have us over. And some people felt belittled by our health-fanaticism, even though I don't think we ever pushed our thoughts on others. (We're actually very introverted people and avoid conflict like the Black Plague... or H1N1.)
Second, I was starting to really burn out. All that time in the kitchen. Always thinking days and weeks ahead in order to have everything prepared. And, I was about to deliver my third baby. Homeschooling was really picking up with Rainbow... and soon Spiderman would follow. There was less time in my day for food. Have you ever experienced burnout? Both with the thoughts of all that has to be done and with future thoughts of everything just getting busier?
Those two issues were big on my mind. But so was health. Wellness was still a major priority for our growing family. I wanted to give my children every bit of the gift of health as possible. I had to bring some reconciliation to the mental discord... how could I balance it all?
Fast forward... we now eat a very bold 95% perfect. And I still consider us very healthy. Everything we eat at home is on target with our health principles. (Eat what God made. Eat it as close to how God made it as possible. Everything in moderation.) But we do leave the house. And there are times I cannot take all the food we need with us.
There are times that we have to let our ideals go a bit. Like, for example, at a basketball banquet where the menu is pizza and cake. If we were fanatics we wouldn't go. But a basketball banquet is a monumental event for a young boy! Or, if we were extremely fanatical, we would go and take our own food! I can't imagine how that would make my children feel...
So, we attend and allow our children to eat two pieces of pizza and a piece of cake. (And serve a big Greek salad before we leave as an appetizer to fill a good portion of their tummies!) We teach moderation. That it is okay to have an occasional small-to-medium portion of otherwise unfavored foods. However, we do not use a basketball banquet as an excuse to load up a plate of desserts or drink massive quantities of soda pop.
Same thing with our weekly church pot luck. We simply do not make a big deal of the food. Our children know that they are only allowed one small dessert. And we have seen them make very wise choices about their food selections. (I get food for my younger girls.) In doing so, we are teaching some very valuable life lessons. As soon as you have liberty, you don't just let all your self-control and wisdom fly out the window. I seen my children exercise good personal decision making skills. That gives me hope for the future.
We have decided to not let our food choices create social divisions. Honestly, I don't think the small percentage of less-than-nutritious food is going to ruin our vitality. For the vast majority of the time, we eat nutrient dense foods. We also take high quality supplements. The occasional unhealthy compromise won't be our demise. However, inability to be temperate might. Children (and parents) need to have enough strength to exercise moderation.
And about the burnout... I realized somewhere around the time Witzy was a baby that I simply couldn't do everything. (I still try.) I needed to cut myself some slack. And it was much better to have a happy mommy than to have a mommy who stressed over every meal. So, we eat as best as we can with the time and money resources we have. And that is that. No fretting over what we can't do.
I would like to encourage you... whether you are new to the health game, whether you are a long time health nut (respectfully said), whether you are still searching through diet options... but especially you mom's with growing families... Do your best. But don't stress over the rest. (Have I told you how much damage stress can do?)
For your health, for the long-haul,
Friday, April 16, 2010
- Researching Adrenal Fatigue -- Hmmm... there is a lot to think about here before I share my thoughts...
- Soaking up some Vitamin D -- gotta love a warm spring afternoon!
- Thinking about my 11th Wedding Anniversary tomorrow -- and what special meal I will prepare to celebrate it -- any healthy suggestions?
- Also thinking about meal plans for next week -- I'll have to grocery shop before breakfast tomorrow morning since the day will be too full.
- Looking up how to make a gallon of yogurt in a crock pot on a warm setting -- if this works, I'll post a how-to.
- Planning for my Witzy's fifth birthday next week -- she wants a Castle with a Princess Cake -- I'll take pictures and post a healthy icing idea after the party.
- Realizing that being out in the sunshine left me quite thirsty -- I love water these days... love the refreshing coolness. I should go get a drink.
- Realizing that being out in the sun might have left my lips burned... haven't had that happen in a while!
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
- What is in the Snack Jar
- Cheese Sticks
Her post got me thinking. Isn't it so much easier to have an answer already? I mean, the kids are going to ask!
A while ago, I bought 18 pounds (if I remember the weight correctly) of California Raw Almonds at about $4 per pound. I am totally wishing I bought more! At the time, 18 pounds seemed like a lot to me. But, we use them in power bars, in granola, in several other baking recipes and...
almonds are the answer to the ever-present snack question.
It is so easy to let the children get their own snack. And, cleaning up after almonds is a cinch... well, unless they get to giggling while chewing them and you have the almond drool of a two year old to deal with...
For the past six weeks (or so) my children have been very pleased with a small bowl of almonds every afternoon. Talk about a simple snack time! I've been letting the little girls count out 17, 19, 21 (any such number) into little bowls for the counting practise. When they ask, I let them add in some organic raisins, sesame sticks or some other little something. But usually, they are content with a handful of almonds.
So far, this has been the perfect snack to hold them over until suppertime. Perfect in protein, fat and carbohydrates. Perfect for sustaining energy and nourishing growing bodies.
Almonds are so nutritiously packed -- they are a one of a kind snack for kids and adults alike. Just a handful of almonds contains a healthy dose of protein, fiber, Vitamin E, Calcium, Riboflavin, Niacin, Potassium, Zinc, Folate, Manganese and Magnesium, Copper and Phosphorus. They also contain a wide spectrum of phytochemicals which protect against heart disease and cancer.
If kids are going to snack, it makes sense to make their snack nourishing. As long as I can get almonds at a good price, they are the answer to the snack question in our house.
Off to help Witzy get the almonds ready... today we eat them in the car on the way to Ballet. Did I mention how great of a car snack almonds are?
Photocredit: Maria Li
Monday, April 12, 2010
We thoroughly enjoyed it both times. I would even serve this cake to company -- even to guests who aren't necessarily used to whole foods. Honestly, I feel if I don't put another post up on this blog, I'll still have made my contribution to society with this recipe. (Well, maybe I do have higher ambitions than just inventing a chocolate cake recipe.) I'm just saying it was good cake and I think you'll enjoy it too!
Before I post the recipe, let me make a few comments about this cake, which I will call Super Moist Oatmeal Chocolate Cake.
- This cake is super moist, like it's got pudding in the mix.
- When we ate this cake for my husband's birthday, my kids and I all decided we wanted the same cake for our birthdays. Which means, I will make some variations on it as the year progresses. And, I will have to address the next issue... making a healthy icing for using on children's decorated cakes.
- This cake does have oats in it. Which is a little un-normal for cakes. It tastes absolutely delicious. Just expect some texture from the oats. But, like I said, it is super moist, which is the important part of the texture... like rich velvet... It doesn't even really need ice cream on the side.
- The cake tastes even better the next day. So, you might want to consider making it a day ahead of your event.
- This cake uses all whole, unfractionated, unadulaterated, natural food ingredients.
- Also, I wanted to use soaked grains because whole grains are difficult to digest and contain some enzyme inhibitors. Soaking grains for 12-24 hours using yogurt, kefir or lemon juice will neutralize the phytates, making the grain more digestible and the nutrients more available.
- I baked this cake first in a 9x13 pan and second in a bundt pan. I think it turned out better as a sheet cake. The top was very soft and yummy, and it didn't even need icing. But, with a bundt pan, once it is flipped onto a plate, the top becomes the outside edge.
So, here's the recipe:
Super Moist Oatmeal Chocolate Cake
- 1 c. rolled oats
- 1 3/4 c. boiled water
- 1 3/4 c. whole wheat flour
- 2 Tbsp. plain yogurt (or kefir)
- 1/2 c. butter or coconut oil (I used one each time and both worked.)
- 2 c. Sucanat or Rapadura
- 2 eggs
- 3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 c. chocolate chips (I used naturally sweetened, organic chocolate chips.)
- 1/2 c. chopped walnuts, optional (I used this for the birthday cake, but not the tea cake.)
First, boil the 1 3/4 cups of water. Pour it over 1 cup of oats, and stir to combine. Let stand for 30 minutes to cool.
(It needs to be below 115 degrees so that it won't kill the active cultures in the yogurt. It took 30 minutes to reach about 105 degrees. I don't think it is necessary to always use a thermometer since it just has to be within a range. 30 minutes should get you between 105 and 115 every time.)
Cover loosely and leave at room temperature overnight.
When you are ready to make the cake, melt 1/2 cup of butter or coconut oil in a saucepan. Add the 2 cups of natural sweetener. And 3 Tbsp. cocoa powder. Then stir in the 2 eggs and mix well.
In a mixer, beat the soaked grains on medium high speed for about 2 minutes, scraping the sides a few times as you go. While the batter is beating, add the baking soda and salt. It will look like a very wet bread dough when you start. And the beating will soften it up, breaking most of the gluten strands.
Pour in the oil, sweetener and egg mixture and beat again at medium-high speed for another 2 minutes. Stir in the chocolate chips. Pour the batter into a 9x13 pan (or a bundt pan). If you are using walnuts, sprinkle them on the top of the batter. I only put them on half since some of my family prefers their cakes without nuts.
Bake at 350 degrees. For the 9x13 pan, it took 40 minutes to bake. For the bundt cake I made, it took 55 minutes before it tested done with a toothpick. Like I said above, I think it worked better in the sheet pan, but the presentation was better as a bundt cake.
For more healthy recipes, check out Tuesday Twister here.
Friday, April 2, 2010
This coming Sunday, I am preparing our traditional Roasted Leg of Lamb. Along with it I am serving
- Herb Roasted New Potatoes,
- Green Beans, which I just steam and toss with Coconut Oil, Salt and Pepper,
- Warm Whole Wheat Rolls with Butter,
- and a Tomato, Cucumber, Feta Cheese Salad.
- For Dessert, I will serve the leftovers of my husband's birthday cake. (His birthday is the day before so there is no need to make a second dessert.)
Speaking of my husband and his birthday cake... He is not one to use his birthday as an excuse to eat a small portion of refined foods. (Unlike me, who is already anticipating my annual slice of chocolate cheesecake coming this June!) No, my dear husband much prefers a "healthy" cake. And, he is very willing for me to try something new... very willing to risk a flop of a birthday cake in the pursuit of better health.
So, I have something entirely new cooking up in my mind! I am really excited about this cake. I have fallen asleep at night making the recipe better in my thoughts. I don't have a name for it yet, but I am starting with soaked grains. If it is a winner, I will post the recipe with pictures. Let's hope it is as good at I imagine it will be! If not, my sweet man will still love me for my efforts. I am so blessed!!!Enjoy your holiday,