Sunday, February 28, 2010

Meal Plan for 3/1-3/7/2010

I cannot believe that it's already March! Yikes, time sure flies as I age...I think this is the "slippery slope" my grandmother used to speak of.

And here I thought it was a real slope. Who needs ski's? (I remember learning to ski and my sister hollering at me to "SNOWPLOW! SNOWPLOW!" as I careened down the hill. I didn't catch on then, so I'm probably going to keep skiing out of control now!)

In order to live a life with no regrets, we bought our first beehive/bees today.

I may live to regret this, but our bees will arrive in May, already established and ready to provide our family in endless supplies of honey. At least, that's the hope. Barring chemicals, natural disasters, swarming and attacks from jealous yellow jackets, we should be able to harvest our first batch in the fall! We visited some real bee farmers (I'm not sure if that's the technical name!) and got to see their hives in semi-action. Semi, because it's still early, but the bees were definitely buzzing!

It was a beautiful sight.

Here's what's cookin' this week...

~PB&J sandwiches, oranges
~*Hazelnut Quinoa with Strawberry dressing, Parmesan Baked Tilapia (Amazing fish!)

~Soaked oatmeal w/ blueberries
~Popovers with nitrite/nitrate free deli turkey, tortilla chips w/ hummus
~*Cranberry Wild Rice, elk steak, asparagus w/ Hollandaise sauce

~Fried eggs, sourdough toast
~Corndog muffins, plum smoothies
~Pot roast w/ roasted carrots & onions, mashed potatoes

~Soaked oatmeal w/ blueberries
~Annie's boxed macaroni and cheese, canned pears w/ homemade yogurt
~Three Cheese Baked Ziti (gluten-free), green salad

~Fried eggs, sourdough toast
~Toasted tuna & cheese sandwiches, carrots w/ homemade ranch
~*French Lentil soup,*Buttermilk biscuits

~Cheese quesadillas, frozen blueberries w/ homemade yogurt
~Crockpot Salsa Chicken, green salad

~*13 Bean Chili, cornbread

Thanks to our visit to *Bob's Redmill, our menu plan was a breeze! The asterisked meals are either mixes or recipes found in Bob's Redmill Cookbook. I'm going to have a lot of fun with Bob!

***Update*** Going gluten-free is getting easier as each day goes by. I've found brown rice tortillas, baking flour made with GF grains, and all kinds of pasta and grains. We like our elk steak sliced thin and fried and were able to dredge them in GF flour for the entire family. It was great! When I'm completely gluten-free, my hands are pain-free. It pays to research and experiment.

For more great menu ideas, visit Laura at The Organizing Junkie!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Random Ramblings

A few days ago, a cyber-friend from down south ( way down south), made a comment about how green Washington state is.

The reason? Rain. Lots and lots of rain.

But with the rain, comes rainbows.

Lots and lots of rainbows.

With the rainbows, come sunshine.

Not lots and lots, but some.

Enough for my boys to take the dirt bikes out and get, well, dirty.

And with the dirty, comes laundry.

Lots and lots and lots and lots of laundry.

And with the laundry, comes our new and improved laundry room.

Here are the after if only there were someone, besides me, who would do the boys' laundry. That would be perfect.

Now you see it.... you don't...

My Saturday project...

A place for my apron collection.

It's hard to tell, but the top color is a happy daffodil yellow.

And like a daffodil, this room makes me happy.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Peanut Butter Dog Treats

Maisie and Molly love their peanut butter. I don't mean that they'll nuzzle our hands for a quick lick, but rather, they'll knock down anyone who gets in their way, as soon as they hear the refrigerator door open!

That's some serious love.

It's how I feel about my espresso machine. Undying devotion.

In order to coax the girls into entering their snuggly kennels at bedtime, we have to bribe them with a treat. Face it, would you want to go from your warm cushion next to the fireplace, where all of your peoples are at, to a square box with a blanket? Not likely. Needless to say, coaxing them at 10 pm is not a fun chore.

Neither is forking over $8 for a box of dog biscuits. Not when they can be made at home for mere pennies.

The best part? It doesn't give the girls gas. And I don't mean the kind that goes in vehicles either.

I'm talking about the kind that clears the room.

Sometimes, even the house.

Peanut Butter Dog Treats

1-1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1-1/2 cup white flour

1/2 cup all natural peanut butter (I used crunchy)

1 cup cold water

2 Tb. olive, coconut or grapeseed oil

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine oil, peanut butter and water in a mixer. Add flour, one cup at a time forming the dough. Knead dough into a firm ball and roll to 1/4" thickness.

Cut into 3-4 inch pieces. Place on ungreased cookie sheet, (I lined it with parchment), and bake for 20 minutes. Makes approximately 2-1/2 dozen.

I used cookies cutters to cut shapes. Since I didn't have a bone cookie cutter, I went with farm animals. Then I had second thoughts.

Cats? Not a good idea. We have 2 that are tortured every time we walk the dogs.

Chickens? Another very bad idea. Especially since one of the girls is a hound, the other a bird dog.

Yep. Baaaad idea.

I ended up going with the humble pig. I'll call him Wilbur. We do not own a Wilbur. Probably a pretty safe bet that the girls aren't going to nibble or chase an animal we don't know.

We were trying to get a picture of the girls being all proper and patient. Maisie wouldn't sit still. She couldn't. She laid down. She danced on 2 legs. She chased her tail. But she could not stop moving.

Molly knew that she wasn't getting her cookie until Maisie behaved.

So she helped her.

And yes, both girls finally earned their Wilburs.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sourdough Bread, Take 2

Visiting Bob's Redmill inspired me to do a little baking today. Even though I've gone gluten-free, my family has not, so baking bread for them will not go unnoticed.

Especially by me. While I'm choking on my special bread. Good thing butter is gluten-free!

Back to sourdough. I've lost several starters over the last 3 or 4 months. The good part of this is that because of this, I'm able to try different starters. This time I used this one. Specifically, The House Around the Corner-Bobbi Jo-Starter. It uses wheat and since I haven't had the best of luck with wheat starters, I was anxious to give this one a try.

A funny thing happened. I received a frantic call from my Mister, who informed me that my starter had turned into an alien life form and was currently creeping across the counter and down onto the floor. He was afraid for the children's lives. He asked me what to do.

I reminded him that we do have larger glass bowls.

Oh. That was it. Just, oh.

At least I knew that it was working!

Now what to do with this alien?

Here's the recipe that I used. Next time I will replace the sugar (even though I used organic) with honey. It also has added yeast to it. The bread turned out a beautiful color and has a nice texture, so maybe I will just leave it alone.

I'm not sure where I got this recipe as it was hand-written by yours truly, on the back of an envelope. So if this is yours, I am sorry for not giving you the credit. Truly.

But thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Sourdough Bread

1-1/3 cup starter
2-2/3 cup warm water (lukewarm)
1 Tb. yeast
1 t. sea salt
1/4 cup organic sugar
1/2 t. baking soda
7-8 cups organic, white flour

Combine starter, water, yeast, salt and sugar in bowl. Mix well with a wooden spoon. Let proof for about 5 minutes. Add baking soda to 1 cup of the flour and stir. Add to sponge. Add another 6 cups of flour. Using a dough hook, mix on low setting. Gradually add the last cup of flour until dough begins to pull away from side of the bowl.

Put the dough in a greased, glass bowl and cover with a damp towel. Let rise until doubled.

When dough is doubled, dump onto floured board or counter and cut into 3 equal pieces. I do a quick-knead to get out the air bubbles and then form the loaf. Cover and let loaves rise in greased loaf pans until the dough is slightly above the top of the pan. Don't worry, it will continue to rise in the oven.

Bake at 350F. for 25 minutes, or until loaves sound hollow when thumped. Take out of oven and let sit for a couple of minutes before removing from pans to cool on wire rack. To keep the tops soft, I like to brush melted, unsalted butter on top. Because butter makes everything better.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Baja Chicken Fajitas & Frijoles Rancheros

I found this recipe in a supermarket magazine and decided to give it a try.

Not because it calls for some exotic ingredient, or it promises to cook itself while you're vacationing on Bora Bora, but because, and only because the pictures were pretty.

I'm a simple gal.

Please don't judge this dish as I did however. My pictures are amature at best.

At their worst, it looks like my beagle, Maisie, took them.

I'm glad that the pictures were enough to lure me in, because this dish was a hit.

First, I have to show you what I found. I'm sure that these have been around for awhile but because of my simpleness, I had never seen them before.

I wish I would've invented these. Not only are they very effective for keeping the tears from streaming down my face, they are very fashionable too.

Just ask my 4 year old niece, Anna, who kept telling me that I was "so cute". (Remember, she's 4. And she may need glasses. )

Baja Chicken Fajitas

After donning the nifty glasses, thinly slice up one large onion.

In the bottom of the crock pot, lay 12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, adding the onions on top.

Add 1 cup of low-sodium chicken broth.

Zest 3 limes, then add the zest to the top. (Save the limes.)

Place lid on crock pot and cook on low for 4-5 hours.

Roast 3 peppers in a cast iron pan by slicing the peppers in half and broiling until the skin blisters.

Some people put olive oil on them first, but it's not necessary. (You can also use the roasted, canned kind, but ewwww...)

When cool to the touch, rinse under cold water and peel the skin off.

Slice thin and set aside.

When chicken is done, remove from crock pot and cool until easy to handle. Shred the meat with a fork. Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the onions too.

In a small bowl, whisk together 1/3 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup tequila, juice of 2 limes, 3 Tb. chopped fresh cilantro, 1 clove minced garlic, 1 t. honey and 1 t. sea salt. (If you don't want to use tequila, use some some of the broth or extra lime juice.)

Add to the chicken and stir.

Combine 1 cup of sour cream, juice from 1 lime and season with a little salt.

Optional condiments: diced avocados, scallions, fresh cilantro

Heat tortillas.

To serve, arrange chicken, sour cream, peppers, avocados, scallions, cilantro on tortilla.

Wrap the tortillas by folding the bottom over and rolling from one end.

Frijoles Rancheros

3 strips of bacon, fried crispy

1 cup chopped onion

1 poblano chili pepper, seeded and diced

1 Tb EVOO (I used the remaining bacon grease)

1 can each pinto beans and black beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tb. chili powder

Sea salt and fresh cilantro leaves

Cook bacon in a saute pan until crispy. Drain on paper towels. Saute onion and poblano in oil or grease until onion softens, about 5 minutes.

In a sauce pan, add beans, bacon, broth, onions, garlic, chili powder; cover pan. Reduce heat; simmer beans for 5 minutes.

Uncover; simmer beans until most of the liquid evaporates. Season with salt; top with cilantro.

Then sit back and be prepared to receive the adoration of your family.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bob's Redmill, Part 2

Today, we went on a homeschool field trip to Bob's Redmill. Most people have at least one item in their pantry that has come from this iconic mill.

For our family, we have many, many, many items, some of which I have no idea how to use.

I'm a spontaneous shopper.

The good news however, at Bob's, every single grain, bean, lentil or flour has a purpose. And crib notes for us emotional buyers.

I grabbed a whole pile.

And a cookbook.

Bob's Redmill is located in Milwaukie, Oregon. It should've taken us 1 hour to get there. That was including time spent in traffic. We left our home at 10 am. We arrived at the mill at 1:12 pm. We did print off directions/map from a very well known online map site. They were wrong. Thankfully, my Mister isn't too much of a man to not ask for directions. He got some very detailed directions.

From a non-English speaking Russian.

I'm not sure that even the Russian knew where he was. Nice man though. I think. He could've been cursing at us and we wouldn't have known. I'll choose to believe that he was being helpful.

We took off again and my Mister spied a taxi-cab sitting in a parking lot. Taxi drivers know everything, right?

He was a non-English speaking Hispanic man who did a lot of pointing.

My Mister acted like he understood, then proceeded to drive down the road and pull over before asking me for my cell phone.

Which he used to call Bob's Redmill.


Here's some highlights of our day....

Wish I had one of these in my yard. The wheel, not the kids. They're already there.

Proof that we were there, just in case we didn't make it home.

This is only a partial view of the store. I was standing upstairs in the cafe seating area and a lady was in my way. She was eating, so I forgave her.

The upstairs cafe area used to be for antique equipment on display. Then the mill got busy. People wanted to try their flours in bread form before they bought it. While we were there, it was packed.

Word of warning. Never go in on an empty stomach. Of course, our tummys wouldn't have been empty if we would've arrived at the mill in a reasonable amount of time. I'm just sayin'.

This is Bob. The Bob. He is a nice man. My family met him while I was visiting the ladies room, ridding myself of a 20 oz. latte that spent 2 hours too long in my body.


Bob recently gave his company away to his employees. That's how nice he is. I want him to adopt me.

This is our bounty that we managed to squeeze into the car with us. It looks like we're preparing for Y2K.


I'm a huge fan of molasses. Especially the tropical kind. From Barbados. At our local health food store, I pay around $6 for a pint. This gallon jug was only $13. Seriously.

Now I know what to do with all those grains, flours, lentils and beans.

I didn't have a gluten-free lunch today, and felt it in my fingers almost immediately. Which inspired me to keep going on this gluten-free journey.

Bob understands.

I usually make my own granola. Sometimes though, I forget and have to rely on whatever we have laying around.

Thank you Bob for making my weekends a little easier. This ended up costing us less than $2/lb.

The organic products cost a little extra, but all of it was pretty reasonable. For a family that consumes as much oatmeal as ours, this was a good find too.

While I grind my own wheat berries, which Bob's Redmill carries (!!!), I need white flour for sourdough. I can't seem to make whole wheat work and until that happens, I'll rely on Bob.

These are French lentils. From France. I got crib notes for these too. Aren't they pretty?

Thank you Bob for allowing us to visit your red mill. We enjoyed ourselves tremendously and are already planning a return trip next month.

And every month thereafter.

Gratituesday...Field Trips

Homeschool field trips are the best.

We've followed some of the Oregon Trail, visited cheese factories, a grist mill, aquariums and zoos, and explored the tide pools, jetty's, coves and inlets of the Pacific coast. A couple of years ago, we even visited San Miguel Mission in California, a place that my Mister's grandparents lived near, about 80 years ago!

I'm about halfway through the homeschool years, but know that there are a great many more places that we have yet to explore.

Today, we will enjoy another local place.

Bob's Redmill.

The perfect place for a gluten-free gal to go.

What will make this field trip so exciting is this, Bob's Redmill grains grace most of our pantry shelves in some form or another. Therefore, it makes "Bob" quite famous in our household.

I'm hoping my husband will be able to contain himself.

I'd hate to have another restraining order placed against our family.

(Pictures to follow!)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Menu plan for 2/22-2/28/2010

Oh my goodness. I feel like this little guy with his tongue hanging out!

I made the mistake of stopping by a grocery store on the way home from church. Nice store. Nice people. Evil bakery people. They had the audacity to put out fresh-from-the-oven sourdough and french breads WHILE I WAS STILL IN THE STORE!!!!

Do they not know that going gluten-free has been the most excruciating event of my life? Did they not notice me sniffing the empty bread baskets? Or the drool pool beneath them? I showed great restraint in not licking the bread bags once they were out. (It was a defining moment in this journey.)

Then, just as I am making my escape with whatever dignity I had left, the evil baker decided to place a display of fresh bread next to the check stands!!!

I'm not sure, but I think there may be a restraining order against me.

Seriously, this has been difficult, not because I have no will power, but because I love bread. Okay, I have no will power either, but mostly it's because I love bread. I found a couple of gluten-free muffin recipes on The Nourishing Gourmet, and really enjoyed them, so I'll be keeping these on hand for my bread cravings. Any other meals that have gluten grains in them, I'll just substitute brown rice or a nice big crouton-free salad.

We're going on a field trip to Bob's Redmill on Tuesday, so while I'm posting meals for Tuesday, we may not be having them. If not, I'll just carry them over until next week.

Here's what's cookin'...

~Soaked oatmeal, blueberries
~Pb & J sandwiches, tortilla chips/salsa, sliced apples
~Baja Fajitas w/ Frijoles Rancheros (Crockpot Wednesday recipe!)

~Black bean burritos, fruit
~Broiled Parmesan Tilapia, Mushroom Risotto, asparagus

~Soaked oatmeal, blueberries
~Corndog muffins, Strawberry/Peach slushies
~Chili, cornbread

~fried eggs, toast
~Chili nachos, apples
~meatloaf, quinoa, baby peas

~Baked oatmeal, peaches
~meatloaf sandwiches, carrot sticks/homemade ranch dressing
~Peanut and Sesame Noodles, spinach salad (with mandarins, toasted almonds, Asian vinaigrette) (***Whole wheat noodles will be substituted with Soba noodles***)

~Egg salad sandwiches, oranges
~Elk steak, mashed taters/gravy, garlicky green beans

~Thai Cashew Chicken, Key lime pie with raw nut/date crust (I'll share the Cashew Chicken recipe next is to die for!)

*I've been asked whether I'm still dieting or not...the answer is yes. The problem is tallying up the calories at the end of the day. Once I get the hang of "gluten-free", it'll be easier, but for now, the best I can guess, my calories are under 1500.

For more great menu ideas, visit Laura at The Organizing Junkie!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Mooooooving Cows

Our fields are looking pretty barren at the moment. Even though we've been getting unseasonably spring-like weather, the only grass that is growing, is our front lawn.

So my husband decided to move the cattle (all 3.5 of them) to a lush green area, where the grass is always green.

The drain field. Where the raspberries grow to be as big as robin's eggs, the lilac tree grows 6 feet every spring and the grass cannot be cut with a mower.

Every cow's fantasy.

But first, the gates must be closed, the fence line checked and the electric fence powered up.

Then there's the gentle whispering that must be done to coax the matriarch to follow the farmer.

The little one seems to trust his mother's leading. (Notice the elk in the background? They're hungry too.)

This big boy doesn't follow any one's lead. He's supposed to be the leader. (My lilac's are budding out!)

Bailey has found "the promised land" and is happy here. She doesn't even realize that her babe is no longer following her lead.

This is good eatin'. At least somebody realizes this.

But not everyone is convinced. We don't love him for his brains. They're in short supply.

Now his rebellion is leading the little one astray.

"Heck no, we won't go!" *Snort*

"But daddy, I'm hungry. I can have solid food now!"

"Hey farmer in the pajamas...can you help me? Pretty please?"

"With sugar on top?"

I am happy to report that the wee one did reconnect with his momma. It was after she left the promised land and returned to the land of barrenness and starvation.

The bull eventually found the promised land too. Now it's dark and he can't find his way back out.

Time to go and be a farmer. I wonder if he likes gluten-free cookies?