Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Coconut Milk Ice Cream

When my daughter was about 2 months old we realized that she had some food allergies. Since I was breastfeeding the solution was not as simple as just changing the formula we were giving her. I considered changing to formula, but we had just gotten the breastfeeding working well and I didn't want to have to deal with the hassle of washing bottles and mixing formula, nor did I want the expense of hypoallergenic formula if I could avoid it. I knew "breast is best" (though it can be really hard if you don't have good enough support) so I was determined to give it my best shot. I started by eliminating dairy and substituting soy. Some of the allergy symptoms got better, some worse. Then I stopped eating all dairy and soy. At this point I was really glad for our local Co-op. They had all kinds of things that I could eat that didn't contain dairy or soy. Cutting the diary and soy helped a lot, but there was something else that was causing problems too. After eliminating various foods for 2 weeks at a time we finally narrowed down the problem to corn. At this point I was ecstatic that I had already known about the local food network, the co-op, Trader Joe's, etc before hand, it made cutting all of these foods doable. By this point there were very few processed foods I could have so I was stuck making almost everything from scratch. By this time I was having to watch everything I ate and answer a lot of people who kept asking "why not just switch to formula?" However, if you have ever looked at the ingredients on a can or bottle of formula you might know the reason. Almost every formula on the market in the US contains dairy, soy or corn. Even the hypoallergenic ones will frequently contain corn. We only had one option for formula and it was a ready-to-feed formula that cost $10/quart. Since most babies go through this much or more a day I was more than happy to cut my diet quite a bit to keep on breastfeeding.

I won't lie and say it was easy to do this, but there were some definite silver linings. The best thing was that since I could no longer eat most processed foods and had to watch what I was eating closely to make sure I got a good nutritional balance I was eating WAY healthier than I had been. This made loosing the baby weight while still feeling great a lot easier (I gained more than I want to admit here, lets just say there was a lot to loose and leave it at that). I also learned about a lot of great new foods and found some wonderful recipes. I would never have considered some of these things if my diet hadn't been so restricted, but now that my daughter has grown out of her allergies I still eat them because they are so good. One of these amazing foods is coconut milk ice cream. I found it at the co-op, but I've been told that they carry it at places like Whole Foods, Sprouts and Sunflower Market. This became my luxury. Anytime I was having a hard day or starting to feel like a martyr because I couldn't eat anything "good" I would sit down and have a little ice cream. While this didn't do much for my weight loss goals (and is probably why I still have a few pounds left), it did wonders for my spirit. My husband liked the coconut milk ice cream too, but before long we were going through a ton and it isn't cheap so for Mother's Day he got me an ice cream maker. Our basic recipe is super simple and quite tasty. It can be still-frozen in a pinch, but it is much better when churn frozen.

Coconut Milk Ice Cream
2 cans coconut milk (full fat, not light)
3/4 c. sugar
1-2 tsp. vanilla extract (I use 1.5 tsp, DH likes 2)
Pour the mixture in your ice cream maker and let it do it's magic until this looks like ice cream. To make an extra special treat top with strawberries, peaches or anything else that you would normally put on ice cream.

There are a ton of other recipes for coconut milk ice cream on the web, but this is a super simple one to get you started. If you store the drum for the ice cream maker in the freezer and the coconut milk in the refrigerator you can make this in 30 minutes while holding a baby in one arm. (I swear, I've done it and it really is that easy.) If anyone else reading this is interested in these sorts of foods or is dealing with an elimination diet please let me know. I've got a ton of recipes that I'll happily share.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Sewing For Baby, Part 1: Making Time

I talked last time about how great sewing baby stuff is. Even as a kid I remember some of the wonderful things that people made for me. I still have the sweaters my mom knit me when I was a kid and am waiting for my daughter to be old enough to wear them too. I still curl up under my baby quilt when I'm feeling really crummy. My sister loved one sweater so much that she has knit an adult version for herself. I only hope that my daughter will love the things that I make her as much as I loved the things that my mom made for me.

The only real problem with making things is that they take a long time. Even a fast project takes an hour or two and slower projects may take weeks or even months. So where does a busy mom (or anyone else) find the time? The real answer is that you have to make it. Do you watch TV or ride in the car when someone else is driving? This is a great time for anything that doesn't take lots of equipment or electricity. I have sewn by hand, stuffed toys and knit entire afghans (as well as socks, sweaters, booties and soakers) in the car or watching my husband play video games in the evening. By using these times for the handwork you free up the normal downtime in your day for the part of sewing that requires cutting, ironing or using a machine.

Another big time-saver is having a dedicated space. This is something that I learned watching my mom. She had an actual sewing table so her sewing machine was always out. She didn't need to take 10 minutes to clear off the kitchen table, 5 more to set-up the sewing machine and a few more to dig out her project, by which time she would be needed elsewhere. Everything was set-up and ready to go. Sometimes stuff would get stacked up on the sewing table, especially if my sister and I had been rough on our clothes lately, but the sewing machine was there and ready. Over the years I have gone back and forth on having a dedicated space. When I was a teenager I set aside part of my bedroom as a sewing space, but as a college student my sewing machine frequently lived in the closet only to be used when I pulled it out for a specific project. This of course meant that my poor roommates had to work, and eat around my sewing until I got to a stopping place and could pack it up again. I still have unfinished projects from this era because out of sight is out of mind. With memories of this I asked my husband that wherever we lived once we had kids that I have a space for my sewing. I felt this was fair because as a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) sewing and such was part of the job I assigned myself. If he gets an office at work, I should get something like it at my work. This space has allowed me to take full advantage of the time that I do get for sewing. I can run to my sewing room as soon as the baby is down for her nap and work until she wakes up. I have been known to leave a project in the machine mid-seam with the needle down and the machine off because she has woken suddenly and needed me. Because I have a dedicated space I don't have to worry if I don't get another minute to clean up before dinner, I can just close the door and know that my project will be waiting the next time I get a chance to work on it. I am lucky enough to have a room, but anywhere that you can set-up a sewing machine and an ironing board can be used. Both my mom and my aunt used a corner of the formal dining room (this is nice because you have a big table to cut stuff out on that is rarely used). I have seen laundry rooms and basements set-up for sewing. Guest bedrooms and a corner of a large master bedroom are also options. At one point I even ran an extension cord into a walk-in closet and set my machine up on a small table. Look at your space and think creatively, if you really want to sew a dedicated space is really worth it.

Think too about the times that you aren't specifically needed. If you have everything organized and ready you can do a lot during a 45 minute nap. After everyone else is in bed or before the baby wakes up in the morning can be useful times as well. With older children you don't need to watch them every second so if your sewing space is located where you can still keep tabs on them you can work while they play. Also, take advantage of "Daddy time". My daughter loves playing with my husband and I take advantage of this time to sew, cook, clean or read. If I want to watch them play I generally try to have my knitting to work on at the same time. At this point I've been doing it long enough I don't have to look at what I'm doing for simple projects so I can watch them play and talk. If you really want to, look critically at your home and your day and try to find all the little bits of space and time that you can devote to creating things. I love the feeling of accomplishment that I get every time I see my daughter playing with a toy or wearing an outfit I made. I love how clever I feel when I pull on a sweater against the cold that I created with my own two hands, a couple sticks and a few balls of yarn. Making things isn't something that happens as much as it used to which makes the things we do still make very special. Make something special for the ones you love, and don't forget that that includes yourself. Make the time to create something tangible, something new that wouldn't exist if you weren't here. Think about the ego boost that that can be on a bad day. :)

Friday, June 25, 2010

{this moment}

{this moment} - Inspired by Soulemama. In her words: A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you want to participate head over to her blog and enjoy

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Sorry for the blog silence. This has been a crazy week for us. At the end of last week my daughter got her first ear infection which threw off her sleep pattern making for a cranky baby and a frazzled mom. Thanks goodness for antibiotics, we caught the ear infection early so she wasn't sick for very long and was back to playing and sleeping within a day or two. The only downside is that she has now discovered her ears and has been playing with them constantly ever since. At one point she was tugging at them so much that I took her back to the doctor only to find that everything had cleared up and she's just having fun with her ears.

In other news, she is trying to learn how to crawl properly (she's been "army crawling" for a while, but can't get her knees under her), get herself to sitting and walk. Yes, we have a very special little girl who doesn't seem to know the order that these things "should" be done in. I love her to bits, but all these attempted milestones make me feel like she's growing up too fast. She can't figure out how to balance well enough to do proper walking, but she constantly wants to pull up on me and hold my hands as she "walks" around the room. She is also holding onto the furniture and cruising, though luckily she is still very slow. She is also very curious which means that I have to always watch her to make sure that she isn't eating bugs, eating dog fur, chewing on the dog toys, pulling on the lamp cord to see what happens, pulling books off the shelf, etc. It seems no matter how often I vacuum she still finds something to try and put in her mouth that she shouldn't. Does anyone have any thoughts beyond putting her in a giant hamster ball? I've babyproofed where I can, but short of significant rearranging (like putting bookcases in the guest bedroom) I don't know how much more we can do so any thoughts would be great.

Finally, in the updates on my life catagory, 4 years ago today DH and I officially became Mr and Mrs. On the one hand I can't believe it's been 4 whole years, on the other I can't believe it's only been 4 years. I am still trying to figure out how we want to celebrate. We don't have a babysitter (nor do we really want one, long explanation so we'll leave it at that unless someone wants a long explanation) so I'd love any babyfriendly and budget friendly ideas. I am currently debating between a picnic and a candlelit dinner at home after LO goes to bed. Any other great ideas? Can you tell that we've been busy with other things?

That is all for now, I'll be back to my regularly scheduled ramblings starting tomorrow.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sewing for Baby: Introduction

When it comes right down to it all any baby really needs is love, a safe place to sleep, food to eat, diapers, a few clothes and a safe carseat. If you breastfeed and use cloth diapers babies really aren't that expensive (provided you have good insurance to cover the medical bills, of course). However, there are so many cute baby things out there it is hard not to go crazy. So what's a crafty mom on a budget to do?

The answer of course is to make some of those toys, decorations and clothes that are so cute and add up so quickly. In this series I will discuss some of the options and projects that you can sew for your baby or as an amazing shower gift for a mom-to-be.

Never underestimate the power of homemade shower gifts. One of my favorite gifts before my daughter was born was a sling that a friend made for me. When my daughter was tiny that sling and others like it were the only way that I ever got anything done because she needed constant holding. As she has gotten older and more independent I have used it for quick trips out because it is so much easier than bothering with a stroller. My daughter also has some beautiful handmade toys, including a knit elephant from my sister that comes with on "adventures" and a couple of balls that I have sewn for her that are well received by the babies in our playgroup.

Remember, everything that you make for a child is not just a physical object, but a solid manifestation of the time, energy and love that you put into creating it; so try not to swear too much when you mess it up ;-)

In this series I am going to talk about some of the things I have sewn for my daughter, but I am always on the lookout for new projects so please share anything you have made or patterns that you want to make. I will be posting these once a week on Mondays with normal blog content in between. Enjoy!

Friday, June 18, 2010

{this moment}

{this moment} - Inspired by Soulemama. In her words: A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you want to participate head over to her blog and enjoy.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Let's Jam

Strawberries are in season in many parts of the US. This means that they are cheap, plentiful and wonderful. If you want good produce that is affordable it is best to buy in season. In many cases when fruit is very plentiful you can find it at farm stands, produce markets and farmer's markets at amazing prices. Though if you are looking for a good deal at the farmer's market go towards the end and ask. That will be your best chance for bargain hunting. Last weekend we found some beautiful strawberries 4lbs/$1 and I knew it was time to make more jam. (This was my third batch this year, but it tastes good enough to be worth the work.) If you have never had homemade jam you really should find some to try. If you have had homemade jam you know how good it is, but do you know how easy it is to make your own? Here is a tutorial on the basics of how to make jam and can it using a boiling water bath. You don't even need a giant canning pot for jam, we use our 8qt. stock pot and a small rack that was part of a canning kit. It will fit 4 pint jars or 5 half-pint jelly jars which generally works quite well. This recipe makes 8 cups of strawberry jam and can be found in the pectin package. Hope the pictures help, sorry they aren't better, it was rather late.

You will need:
3-4 lbs. Strawberries
4 c. sugar
1 box no sugar needed pectin (Check the grocery store or near the jars at Walmart. Frequently they have canning stuff in the "food storage" section next to the gladware and such.)

1. Fill your canner (or in this case stockpot) about half full of water and start heating it. Also fill a tea kettle if you have one and heat that water in case you need to top up the water in the canner. You can do the rest of prep while the water heats, but you will want it to be hot before you start cooking the jam. (You can turn off the stove once it has boiled, just leave the lid on to keep the heat in.)

2. Wash, core and mash the strawberries. I do this 1 pound at a time. Keep going until you have 6 cups of mashed strawberries.

3. Measure out your sugar into a bowl. Then pour the pectin into a smaller bowl and take 1/4 c. of the sugar from your big bowl and mix it with the pectin.

4. Wash your jars and then leave them sitting in hot water. Since we will be processing them for more than 10 minutes you don't need to sterilize them. If you are making jelly you will need to sterilize them in boiling water. This is best done in the canning kettle since you will be heating the water anyway.

5. Set-up the stove so that you have everything you need because once you start jam goes really fast. I like to have my canning kettle on the large back burner so it is out of the way and use the large front one for making the jam. I set the sugar, pectin mixture, long handled wooden spoon and a timer on the side next to the jam. I set a wooden cutting board, soup spoon, custard cup, ladle, funnel, rubber scraper, jar bands and canning rack on the side next to the canning kettle.

6. Add the pectin mixture to the fruit, which should be in a 6-8 qt. pot. (I know this seams huge for the amount of fruit, but it makes it a lot easier to avoid burning yourself.) Heat while stirring constantly until it reaches a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. If the bubbles stop when you stir faster it isn't there yet.

7. Add the sugar and stir quickly until it returns to a full boil. Boil for 1 minute and then remove it from the heat.

8. Let it cool a minute or two while stirring and then use the soup spoon to skim the foam. I like to put the foam into a custard cup because once it is cool it is about the consistency of whipped yogurt and makes for a tasty treat. Plus it is easier for me.

9. Remove a jar from the sink, dry the inside (an assistant is really helpful for this part, but I've done it on my own too). Fill the jar 1/8"-1/4" from the top. Wipe the rim with a damp paper towel, set the lid on squarely and tighten the band. Set the jar in the canning rack and repeat until you are out of jam or your rack is full of jars, whichever comes first.

10. Put the canning rack into the canner (big pot) and make sure you have 1"-2" of water above the jars. If you don't have enough water, pour some hot water from the tea kettle in until you get to the right level. Put the lid on and return the water to a boil. Once the water is boiling you can start timing. You will need to boil the jars for 10 minutes if you are at sea level. If you are more than 1,000 ft. above sea level you will need to boil it longer. There is a chart with the pectin, but the general rule of thumb is to add 1-2 minutes per 1,000 ft above sea level. Once they have processed long enough turn off the stove, and pull out the jars. A set of jar tongs is helpful, but if you can pull the rack out without burning yourself you can get the jars from there. (Note, wet potholders WILL NOT do their job. They will conduct the heat straight to your hands and you may burn yourself. Please be careful and don't ask how I know.)

11. Let the jars cool overnight on a wooden cutting board, pot holders or anything else that won't conduct the heat away from them too fast. You don't want a jar breaking after all this work. As they cool you will start to hear popping sounds which is the jars vacuum sealing themselves. Consider every "pop" a pat on the back for a job well done. Leave the jars overnight to cool and by morning they should all be sealed. If any didn't seal (hasn't happened yet, but it is always possible) you will know because the middle part will flex up and down. In this case put it in the fridge and use ASAP. Also, if you wind up with a partial jar just refrigerate it, probably won't seal anyway if your process it and this way you have an excuse to eat it faster.

12. Label the jars (a sharpie works great or you can get fancy with printed stick-on labels) and store in a cool dark place. We normally keep our jars boxes under our bed. Maybe not the prettiest place, but it works well and lets me stock up for winter which is important when you are trying to eat local. Plus, what else are you going to use the space for?

ETA: This post has been linked to Pennywise Platter.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sleep "Schedules"

Disclaimer: Let me start by saying that all my ideas on parenting are based off of what works for us. Every baby and every family situation is different so please don't think I am/would judge you if you do things differently than I do. In return I ask that as long as my methods produce a happy, healthy, respectful and kind child please do not judge me. I love discussion and ideas and it would make my week if everyone who read this put in their own 2 cents, just keep it nice. :) Now back to your regularly scheduled ramblings.

I don't know how many moms are out there reading this, but is there a way to make a baby sleep if they aren't tired and don't want to? When Audrey was tiny I didn't care much, I let her set the schedule and the one she picked worked great. She would only nap if I was holding or wearing her, but I loved the closeness and she slept for 12+ hours at night with just a couple of well spaced feedings so I had plenty of time for sleep, work and even leisure.

This worked really well for the first several months, but as she got older she started sleeping less at night. This meant that I no longer had time to get stuff done at night after she was in bed and in many cases I didn't have time to even get enough sleep. It was time for her to learn to nap on her own. I tried a bunch of different things and after a lot of trial and error she got to where she would take several 45 minute naps in her crib during the day. I tried everything from a schedule where I let her CIO (bad idea for us) to rocking her to sleep and holding her until she was deeply asleep before setting her down. In the end what worked best was to nurse her when she was tired, and then swaddle her, lay her down and pat or rest a hand on her until she fell asleep. At that point we could leave. I am not going to lie and say this is a "no tears" method because we have a very stubborn little girl. However, there were far fewer tears than most other methods while at the same time allowing us to set some firm boundaries. As she has gotten older she has gotten to the point where she will go to sleep without the swaddle, without nursing, without a pacifier and without a hand on her at least some of the time. She will rarely go to sleep without any of them, but we can normally dispense with at least a couple of those as long as she is actually ready for a nap. She is also moving towards longer, less frequent naps which makes it a lot easier to get things done.

The biggest question that remained once she had learned to go to sleep in her crib at naptime was how to decide when naptime should be. After watching her closely I tried putting together a schedule based on when she seemed to need a nap and that worked really well, until it didn't. It was great to be able to look at my watch and know that at 9am it was naptime. I could plan around her naptimes really well so that we would be home and not in the middle of an activity. The schedule made napping convenient, it was great. Then one day she didn't go want to go to sleep, she wasn't tired yet. She fought sleep and I fought with her for 45 minutes before she finally went to sleep and she only slept for 30 minutes. I was tired and frustrated and didn't know what to do, but I stuck to the schedule. She was tired before her next nap, but I kept her up, but by naptime she was wired and didn't want to go to sleep despite being exhausted. She finally did fall asleep, but slept so long that it was less than an hour before her next scheduled nap when she finally woke up. I gave up for the day, but kept trying to use the schedule for the next couple of days until I realized that the reason it wasn't working was because her schedule had changed and mine had not. After that I tried just following her cues. This is working pretty well for us as long as I am paying attention to what she needs. The best part is that because she is only going down when she's tired (whether she wants to or not) we don't fight her quite so much and going down easily is becoming more of a habit. Also, because I have to be watching her instead of the clock I am getting better at seeing the really early warning signs of her being tired so I can readjust my day accordingly. Also, it has taught me to really watch how she's doing and gotten me thinking about what contributes to her waking up or going to sleep at a given time. This has made figuring out the best bedtime easier too, and the right bedtime helps her sleep in longer.

For us the sleep thing is a work in progress, but by following her cues we have (mostly) been able to find things that work for everyone. Also, as time progresses she gets better and better at sleeping when it works for us. Yesterday, for example, she took two naps and then slept from 8pm through 7:30 this morning only waking up twice. Here's to hoping that today goes as well.

For all the moms (and any dads) out there, how has the sleeping thing worked for you? What problems have you encountered? What solutions did you find?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Cream-Style Corn

Sweet corn is in season which means that one of my favorite dishes is in season too. If you have never had homemade cream-style corn I strongly suggest you try it, even if you don't like the stuff in a can. The homemade version is incredibly tasty and the kernels should still have a little crunch, unlike the canned version which is just mushy. Try this as an alternative to roasting and enjoy the sweet corn season while it lasts. This is more of a formula than a recipe, but I'd be happy to answer any questions if that is stopping anyone. This recipe was taught to my sister by our aunt and my sister taught it to me. It is really easy and almost as fast as reheating a can of veggies.

Cream-Style Corn

1 medium ear corn per person
1/2 - 1 Tbs. butter per ear of corn
dash of salt
dash of pepper
milk, amount varies

Start by husking the corn and removing as much of the silk as you can. Rinse the corn and then cut the kernels off directly into a skillet, holding the ear of corn mostly vertical. (I normally use a 10" skillet for up to 4 ears of corn.) You don't want to cut too close to the corn cob, only cut about halfway through the kernels. Once you have cut the corn off the cob put the knife perpendicular to the cob and starting at the top run the knife down along the cob to "milk" all the juices out. When the corn is really ripe and ready this juice is what produces almost all of the "cream". Once you have removed all the kernels and "milked" all of the corn cobs you are ready to add the butter and cook it. If your corn is really juicy and/or you will be using whole milk add the smaller amount of butter. If your corn isn't very juicy or you are using skim milk add the larger amount. Heat the corn and the butter over medium heat stirring frequently. Once the butter is melted add salt and pepper and milk until it looks right. If in doubt err on the side of less milk as you can always add more later. Keep stirring (though nothing bad will happen if you stop to grab something, this just goes quickly) and after a minute the milk, butter and juices will mix together into a lovely, creamy sauce. At this point you can taste a little to see if you want more salt, pepper or milk. If your corn isn't quite ripe enough you might add a little sugar to balance the flavors, but this isn't normally needed. Continue heating until everything is hot and just starting to get bubbly. Serve and enjoy.

This is one of our favorite things to do with the corn from our CSA share. DH doesn't like corn on the cob so this is a great alternative. I know this doesn't sound like a healthy recipe, but when the corn is really ripe and juicy there is very little in the way of butter or milk as the juices you "milk" from the cob provide almost all off the liquid.

Cherry Cobbler

Over the weekend we were visiting Mesa and we went to Superstition Ranch Market which is a rundown looking greengrocer with big poster board signs out front advertising the current specials. My sister had called before we left to let us know that they were selling strawberries 4lbs/$1 (yes, you read that right, $0.25/lb for strawberries) so we made sure to bring a cooler. When we went we found that not only were strawberries crazy cheap, but the blackberries, cherries and sweet corn were also amazing and well priced. We managed to fill the cooler for about $10, though we did spend a bit more on the candy they had next to the checkout as we were waiting in line. This meant that when we got home we had a ton of produce that needed to be taken care of in one way or another. The sweet corn was used to make cream-style corn and the berries are destined to become jam in the next couple hours, but that left the cherries. Originally I was planning on making pie, but with that much other fruit to deal with I started running out of steam after pitting 6 cups of cherries. The solution is cobbler. I used the recipe 1969 edition of the Betty Crocker's Cookbook. Since this only uses 4 cups of cherries I will be making the remaining cherries into baby food that can be mixed with oatmeal and probably other stuff to make a happy baby. Here is the recipe:

Cherry Cobbler
4 c. fresh cherries, pitted
3 tbs. corn starch (or tapioca flour)
1 1/4 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 tbs. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tbs. shortening
1/2 c. milk

Preheat oven to 400. Put cherries, corn starch, sugar and almond extract in a pan and stir it over medium heat until it is hot and bubbly. At first it will be a pretty dry, but as the sugar melts and the heat makes the cherries release their juices it will start working better and you will get a nice syrup. Once the cherries are hot and bubbly pour them into an 8x8 oven-safe dish. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a small mixing bowl with a fork. Cut in the shortening. You can either use a pastry blender, or just use the fork to smash everything until it is well blended. It won't be quite as nice, but it will work well enough and mean one less thing to wash. Make a well in the center and pour in the milk. Use the fork to mix it all together to form a stiff dough. Drop bits of the dough onto the hot cherry mixture at regular intervals. Bake for 23-30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Pull it out and let it cool 15-20 minutes (or eat it sooner, but you may burn your mouth rather badly). Serve with ice cream for an added treat.

Note: If you are avoiding corn you can substitute tapioca flour 1:1 for the corn starch and use 2t cream of tartar and 1t baking soda in place of the baking powder and this will turn out just as tasty.

ETA: I have posted this recipe to Tasty Tuesday at the blog Balancing Beauty and Bedlam. Check her out, there are some great recipes over there.

Friday, June 11, 2010

{this moment}

{this moment} - Inspired by Soulemama. In her words: A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you want to participate head over to her blog and enjoy.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Let's Talk Turkey

Normally we think of turkey as a food that is reserved for Thanksgiving or maybe Christmas when we have a lot of people around to help us eat it. Our household only has two adults so you would think that roasting a turkey for just us would be rather crazy. However, last week I found a whole turkey breast on sale for $0.99/lb and bought it because I know how much my husband likes roast turkey. I rubbed it with butter and sprinkled on sea salt and freshly ground pepper and roasted it up in the oven until the thermometer reached 170F. I also threw in some sweet potatoes from our CSA for the last hour or so and a loaf of sour dough bread to warm up for the last 10 minutes or so. While the turkey was resting I made up some gravy and we had what many would consider a "fancy" dinner with very little time and effort on my part. I love these sorts of meals because they make me feel like I have done a wonderful thing for my family without having to spend all day at it.

The meal was tasty, but we had a bunch of meat left afterwards. The next day for lunch I'd planned on doing turkey sandwiches, but DH didn't want to wait long enough to cut the bread and just ate the turkey straight. After this we still had turkey left, though at this point it was getting hard to slice.

For dinner that night I picked as much as I could off the bones and threw it in a casserole dish with diced new potatoes and a couple of carrots, both from our CSA share. I added the remaining gravy (thinned with some wine because we didn't have much left) from the night before, put the lid on and baked it in the oven until it was hot and bubbly. I was originally planning on putting some drop biscuits on top and calling it "turkey pot pie", but there wasn't enough room left in the dish so I'm calling it "turkey pot stew". This was quite tasty and there was enough left over for lunch the next day. I then threw the bones into the crock pot with more carrot, some celery, onion and a few herbs. I poured water in almost to the top, turned it on low and wet to bed. By the next morning I had 14 cups of stock that was happy to bubble away until I had time to deal with it. At that point we threw out the bones and said goodbye to the turkey.

The turkey breast cost me $6.47. All the vegetables (except the celery in the stock) were from our CSA share which is large enough that we really have to work to use them. This turkey fed us from Sunday night through lunch on Tuesday and left us with enough stock in the freezer that we won't have to buy any for quite a while. Normally I wouldn't have bought a single cut of meat that large for two adults and a baby because I would worry about it going to waste. However, we finished it off before we got tired of it and had several cheap, healthy, enjoyable meals. From now on turkey will be on my list of meats to buy when it gets cheap enough. Maybe next time I'll even consider buying a whole turkey...

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Grocery Sales

Shopping sales can be serious business or a great game.

If you are anything like me you've heard about all those people who pay next to nothing for their groceries and wondered how they do it. How can you get a box of good cereal (eg. Cheerios or Chex) for $1 or free toothpaste? As I look for ways to spend less and live more I started looking into how this works. At first I was sure it wouldn't be useful for us because we don't buy a lot of stuff that comes in boxes and that seems to be what the sales are for. However, I've started looking closer at the grocery ads (with some help of course :-) and have found some money savings.

The idea of "super couponing" is that you combine sale prices with coupons to get a really good deal. One example is that while I was walking down the aisle at a grocery store a couple weeks ago I saw a manufacturers coupon for $1 off 2 boxes of Cheerios. Since we like Cheerios I grabbed the coupon. Since then I have started watching the ads. Sure enough last week I saw a one-day-only sale where Cheerios (and other cereal) was selling at 2 boxes for $3. When this is combined with the coupon the total price is $2 for 2 or $1 each. That's a really good deal, but we don't eat a lot of Cheerios and it isn't saving if you wouldn't have bought it otherwise.

Where I have found the real savings to come in for our family is in shopping the meat and produce sales. I do home canning so when I see strawberries for $0.99/lb I know that by buying 3 lbs. I can make enough jam to last us for several months (or would have been if I hadn't made two batches of strawberry jam in as many weeks when strawberries were 2 lbs for $3, doh). I was also able to find chicken leg quarters on sale in 10lb bags for $3.90 or $0.39/lb. I grilled about half of those when we had family in town and tossed the rest into Ziploc bags with marinade, pushed the excess air out and froze them. I am still very new to this sale thing, but I am already saving money. Having the pre-prepped food in the freezer is a life saver when I am tired and hungry and just want to hit up the local burger joint.

I'm still no expert and have a lot to learn, but it is kinda fun to sit down and figure out how to get the best deal on things that you would buy anyway. It is also really nice when they day has been busy to be able to pull a bag out of the freezer and have a meal mostly prepared. Normally by lunch time I can tell how crazy my day will be. This means that if it looks like I won't have time to cook the meal I had planned I can grab something out of the freezer and set it to thawing in the refrigerator so that dinner will be taken care of without having to resort to some of the less healthy options for a quick meal. Today is Wednesday, the first day of the new grocery sales. Look through the ads and any coupons you have and see what deals you can find.

Monday, June 7, 2010


Today there was a post on Nesting Place about using collections to decorate. I have to say that this really resonated with me because I have been looking for ways to update the style of our home and move away from what I call "post college eclectic" and more towards something more sophisticated and well, grown-up.

This would be easy if I were working on an unlimited budget and was ruthless about decluttering, but that just doesn't work for me. While we are no where near poor, like most people, we do have to watch what we buy. As for decluttering, I am trying, but so many of our things were passed down to us and have special memories attached and are still in good condition. The only problem is that they may not match. Add to that the vast horde of yarn and fabric along with knitting and sewing projects in progress and I have a constant battle against entropy. This is why the post about grouping collections of things together as a decorative touch got me thinking. The problem is I didn't think I had anything that I could collect. However, as I walked around my house I was able to find two collections. The first is a grouping of family pictures in the nook leading to the master bedroom. This space is small which makes it hard to decorate, but we finally decided to use the space for family photos, mostly from our wedding. None of the frames really match, but I think it only adds to the look. The other collection is in my sewing room. At one point it was driving my crazy and in an effort to create a peaceful creative space I actually organized. The initial result was useful, but not pretty so I rearranged a few things and placed a DIY felt board with some of my favorite quilt blocks on top of the bookcase. I then added some of those random spinning tools that had no other home to complete the look. I love the look and I am hoping that actually seeing these quilt blocks will help motivate me to continue working on the Dear Jane quilt that I started a couple years ago.

I love the idea of displaying "collections" so much I want to do it in other parts of my house. I have always stayed away from it because I figured it meant more dusting, but this way I am displaying things that I would have out anyway so there is no extra work, just extra beauty. Now I'm off to search the house for other things that I can group together, at least until naptime is over...

Life is Good

Look what I found when I went outside to water the other day.
A couple months ago I planted some seeds from a packet of mixed flowers. It was at the very end of planting season, I planted them too close together and some days I forgot to water them so. They sprouted thickly, but I haven't had many flowers yet and as it is getting hotter I figured I probably wouldn't get any. This, however, made my day brighter. What little things make your life better?

Friday, June 4, 2010

{this moment}

{this moment} - Inspired by Soulemama. In her words: A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Baby Preschool?!?

I have a tendency to think about and research issues long before they become a problem. I started looking at what was involved in planning a wedding over a year before my husband proposed. I started discussing baby names two years before we started trying. When I was pregnant I was researching after school programs. I always try to remain flexible when the time comes, but I want to have a chance to do all the research and come to my own conclusions before I have to think about implementing them. This lets me be reasonably prepared when the unexpected happens and helps me remain level headed and confident.) That is what caused me to click a link in an email to learn about homeschooling despite the fact that my only child is not quite 8 months old. I spent a couple days reading through information on curriculums that are available and what my state requirements are. (Shockingly enough I don't really need to think about this stuff for another 5 years or so.) Then I happened across some links for information on "homeschooling" preschool. This excited me because I hoped that I could use some of the information immediately. The lesson plans looked like a ton of fun and were mostly just games and such to play with your child, but they were still designed for older children. It will be another couple years before I can really use them. Finally I happened across a link for a nursery age curriculum. This had "lessons" for babies as young as 3 months. At first I was sceptical because while I would love to teach my daughter new things, I don't want to force it on her and she really is too young for anything like school. But, being me, I looked anyway. I am so glad I did. Basically it has lists of various books, poems, nursery rhymes, scriptures and games to enjoy with your baby. Each is age appropriate for the baby and enjoyable for the parents. As I was going through the various lessons I kept coming across things I had loved myself as a child and since forgotten. I found I could still recite some of the poems from A Child's Garden of Verses. I still knew some of the nursery rhymes, and others were fun to look up and relearn. They even have music suggestions that sent me to YouTube. Below is this week's music. Enjoy.