Thursday, April 28, 2011

Strawberry Pie, Part Deux

You may remember my post about Aunt Vickie's Strawberry Pie from June of last year.

If you do, you'll remember that the only thing memorable about it was that I messed it up. It ended up looking like a dish full of jam. Great if you're peanut butter looking for a partner, not so much if you want to serve your pie on a plate.

If you're looking for found it. I am perfectly imperfect.

Thankfully, my family doesn't really notice the mistakes. They just want to know if it's edible. That pie was edible, but I did have to serve it in bowls. I also used a store-bought graham cracker crust. Since the making of that pie, I've learned to make my own crust using only 3 ingredients.

My youngest says, "It's magic."

I should correct him, but I want to keep the dream alive. Really, who am I to crush him?

Yes, my son. Your mother is magical.


In honor of my Mister who is turning 45 tomorrow, I'm going to share his favorite dessert.

The right way.

It's the least I could do. ☺

Strawberry Pie

~The Players~

Crust: 1-1/2 cups crushed graham crackers (I used an organic cracker)
1/4 cup organic sugar
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

Pie Filling: 3 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 Tb. sour cream
1-1/2 quarts organic strawberries (Traditionally grown strawberries are part of the dirty dozen.)
1 cup organic sugar
3 Tb. organic cornstarch

Place graham crackers in a freezer bag, remove the air and seal it. Use a rolling pin to crush the crackers. (One of the inner sealed packages is the equivalent of 1-1/2 cups.) Dump the crackers in a small bowl; add sugar and melted butter and mix with a fork. Press cracker mixture into bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie plate. Bake at 375F. for 8 minutes. Allow to cool before filling.

Using a food processor or blender, puree 1 cup of washed strawberries. Mix pureed strawberries, sugar and cornstarch. Heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened. Allow to cool to lukewarm.

Beat cream cheese and sour cream together until smooth. Spread mixture into bottom of cooled pie crust.

Slice the remaining strawberries in half and lay nicely over the cream cheese.

Pour cooled pureed strawberry mixture over the strawberries. Place in fridge and chill for at least 1 hour.

Serve with freshly whipped cream.

Unless of course you forgot the whipping cream...

Never one to back down from defeat, I'm going to own this perfectly imperfect persona.

It just works for me. ☺


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Dastardly Dishwasher Detergent and Why You Shouldn't Make Your Own!

Growing or buying organic foods is a great start to a healthier toxin-free life. But how often do we think about those chemicals that absorb through the skin, or vapors that we inhale, from products we use on a daily basis?

I love flowery or tropical fragrances and could spend days at Macy's sniffing the bottles of not-going-to-happen-on-my-budget perfumes. My favorite fabric softener is a lavender/vanilla scent that smells like summer in a bottle. And I remember buying laundry soap, not for it's ability to remove stains, but for it's ability to make me feel like I wasn't doing laundry at all! (I've since switched to a natural perfume, white vinegar for the rinse cycle, and homemade laundry soap with a little added essential oil.)

"Petroleum, toluene, ethanol, acetone, formaldehyde, benzene, and methylene chloride are all in fragrances and are known to cause cancer, birth defects, infertility, and nervous system damage. Even fabric softener contains chloroform..." (The Ultimate Guide to Homesteading) Remember high school biology? I can still remember how the classroom smelled on frog dissection day. It smelled bad because we were inhaling toxic fumes!

I personally believe that many illness and disorders are preventable. Before the "discovery" of most of our modern day conveniences, people did not die from the diseases that are so prevalent today. They died in war. They died in childbirth. They died in accidents. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that small pox was caused by microwaves. I'm not talking about viruses or bacterial infections.

I'm talking about illnesses caused from chemical exposure .

There are modern conveniences that I am not willing to give up. The coffee pot, hot water heater, washing machine, and hair dryer to name a few that I would find it hard to live without.

Then there is the dishwasher. As a mom of many, the dishwasher is the appliance that I love the most. I can handle my children smelling like the Beagle and dirt. I can tolerate reading by candlelight. What I cannot, no, what I refuse to give up is the dishwasher. Even if it meant that I had to use pedal power to make it run! (Great, my Mister will be all over this one.)

If you know me, you know that's love.

For every pro though, there is usually some con lurking about. I thought pro's and con's naturally had to go together.

But do they really?

Here are the ingredients in a popular dishwashing detergent.

Aqua~good old water
Sodium Laureth Sulfate~can cause skin and permanent eye damage, is toxic to the liver and since it cannot be metabolized by the liver, it stays in the body tissues for a longer period of time.
Sodium Choloride~salt
Cocamide DEA~used as a thickener; known to cause cancer in laboratory animals
Triclosan~may cause cancer in humans, endocrine disruptor; when mixed with tap water, creates chloroform or other chlorine byproducts. 
Aloe Barbadensis~aloe; can cause contact dermatitis on sensitive skin
Cocamidopropyl Betaine~a synthetic surfactant; associated with irritation and allergic contact dermatitis.
Glycerin~low toxicity, a simple compound used in many applications
Parfum~most fragrances contain petroleum; can also contain acetone, formaldehyde and benzene among others. (Found in the Ultimate Guide to Homesteading)
Citric Acid~a weak organic acid found in citrus fruits; helps to cut grease; can also cause skin irritation.
Benzoic Acid~may cause irritation to the respiratory tract (nose & throat)
Benzyl Alcohol~Warning labels states: Harmful if swallowed, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin. Causes irritation to the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract. Affects central nervous system. Combustible liquid and vapor.
Benzyl Salicylate~has been associated with allergies and contact dermatitis
Butylphenyl Methylpropional~Synthetic fragrance. A skin irritant, its use is restricted in both leave-on and wash-off products because of its powerful sensitisation potential. In animals, skin applications at high concentrations caused sperm damage and CNS effects such as drowsiness and breathing difficulties.
Methyparaben~Parabens mimic estrogen and can act as potential hormone (endocrine) system disruptors; has been linked to cancer, neurotoxicity, and allergies.
Methylchloroisothiazolinone~used preservative; has been associated with allergic reactions; linked to cancer.
Methylisothiazolinone~has been associated with allergic reactions. Lab studies on the brain cells of mammals also suggest that methylisothiazolinone may be neurotoxic.
Magnesium Chloride~a natural mineral
Magnesium Nitrate~may cause irritation and burns to the respiratory tract; can cause permanent eye damage; causes irritation and burns to the skin.
Propylene Glycol~may cause irritation to the skin and eyes.
Triethylene Glycol~causes eye irritation; may cause skin irritation
CI 42090~colorant; animal studies show brain, nervous system, or behavioral effects at very low doses; organ toxicity, linked to cancer.
CI 19140~colorant; linked to cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity; classified as a medium human health priority.

So why am I showing you this?

Because it's not enough to just keep these chemicals from touching our skin. These chemicals are used to clean the plates, glasses, and utensils that hold our organic foods & beverages.

How many times have you taken a plate or fork out of the dishwasher and found debris still clinging to it, despite the dishwasher detergent's claims to "cut grease and make dishes sparkle!"?

And for all of the times you've noticed the debris hanging from your coffee mug,how many times have you not noticed?

Your checking your glass now, huh?

I don't know about you, but it's gross enough finding the previous users lip prints on the rim of my glass without having to worry about the chemical residue hanging on it too!

While I can do nothing about the efficiency of my dishwasher, I can do something about what is used to clean my dishes. But here's where it gets tricky.

Houston, we have a problem.

While researching natural alternatives and homemade dishwasher detergents, I stumbled across one that piqued my interest. But then my Mister suggested that I do the fair thing and research the ingredients in the homemade soap.

Ummm...apparently, Borax is NOT a good thing to use on your dishes. While Borax includes a natural trace mineral called boron, Borax itself has been linked to reproductive issues in both men and women. There is also a warning that says, "Harmful if swallowed." (This link is just one of many~Google safety of Borax and check it for yourself.) It doesn't appear that using Borax as an ingredient in homemade laundry soap is a problem though. At least, I couldn't find anything saying so.

I guess it could be problematic if you're prone to eating your t-shirts.

So, this is where I was going to post a recipe for homemade dishwasher detergent. I actually made up a batch, didn't like the results of that recipe, and made up a new, more-improved version.

The results were mixed. The first batch, made with Borax and Washing Soda (equal parts) left a filmy residue on everything. So I ended up rewashing everything by hand.

Second batch was better, but there was still a residue. This one had citric acid and Kosher salt added into the mixture. Both used white vinegar as a rinse aid. And still, I ended up rewashing all of the dishes by hand.

My conclusion is to spend the extra money and purchase a truly green, organic, chemical free dishwasher soap. (I did find Biokleen on sale at our local Fred Meyer store for $6.39. For 32 loads that's less than $.20/load!) It may cost a little more up front, but with the alternative being sickness, dermatitis, or loss of vision, it is a cost well worth spending.

My other choice is to hand wash all of the dishes and use the dishwasher as a drying rack.

Maybe once the nest empties out a bit more. ☺ 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Banananana Bread

I have a special bowl in the kitchen that holds some of my fresh produce. Bananas, Granny Smith apples, lemons, and the occasional orange are the usual residents. I'm very pleased with this bowl. See, it's not a typical bowl as it's square instead of round. This bowl also has a sunflower painted on the bottom of it in colors that match my new kitchen.

I also got this bowl on clearance for $4.99...regular price was $29.99.

I told you it was special.

But my bowl has a dark side. It seems that any fruit that enters the beautiful bowl, doesn't come out the same as it went in.

My Mister refers to it as "The Bowl of Death".

Personally, I think fruit is like a fine wine...the more it ages, the better it is.

Of course, I can't afford fine wine, so this is just an assumption on my part.

For me, bananas get better with age. They haven't reached their full flavor potential until there are brown spots all over them. When this happens, I peel some for the freezer and make banana bread with the rest.

One of the first recipes for banana bread that I ever received was from a lovely southern lady named Katherine. While her bread was melt-in-your-mouth delicious, it did not seem to melt off my thighs very easily. I'm not a calorie counter, a low-carber, or a non-fat foodie. I believe in eating until your satisfied, staying away from refined sugars and flours as much as possible, and slathering everything with butter. (Well, not everything. Pizza with butter is probably not a winning combination!) 

Katherine's recipe called for white flour, white sugar, butter, and vegetable oil. Other recipes that I've found have had 100% whole wheat, applesauce instead of oil, egg replacer (ew!) instead of eggs, and natural sugars of honey or maple syrup. I've even seen recipes calling for Equal!

Some things are just not right.

Until now. Well, not completely right, but you'll see at the end.

Please don't judge.

Banananana Bread

~The Players~

3 large, overripe bananas, peeled
1 cup honey
1/4 cup whole milk yogurt
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 Tb. vanilla extract
2-1/2 cups soft white wheat pastry flour (fresh ground if possible)
3/4 t. baking soda
3/4 t. sea salt
2 t. ground cinnamon
Optional: 1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts are good, but so are pecans or almonds)

In a large mixing bowl, mash the bananas.

Add honey, yogurt, eggs, vanilla, and melted butter to bananas; mix well and set aside.

In a separate bowl, sift together the pastry flour, baking soda, sea salt, and cinnamon.

Pour flour mixture into banana mixture and stir until flour is mixed in well. Don't overmix. Fold nuts into batter.

Grease 2 loaf pans.

Bake in a 350F. oven for 60 minutes, or until knife comes out clean. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove and let cool on wire racks.

Here's where I need to confess. I was in a hurry and didn't double-check my buttering of the loaf pans. Actually, I didn't get in a hurry until pan #2.

I'll just slap a little extra butter on this one.

Katherine would approve. ☺


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Welcoming Spring...For Real!

Spring has finally arrived and with it, all the busy-ness that the season brings. I've figured out that it's a good thing to have only a couple days of nice weather, followed by a couple days of rain.

It gives the tired, achy muscles a chance to recuperate!

While we didn't have the opportunity to till the garden, we were able to drag the field.

I say we, but really it was all him.

After all, somebody had to take the pictures.

After 2 hours, this is what the field looked like.

It only took another 4 to drag the rest!

Spring isn't just about dragging the fields though.

If you're a cow, it's also about grazing the fresh, green blades of grass.

It's having the freedom to play outside and soak up some much needed vitamin D.

Does Blynken seem a little pale to you?

Spring is a time for new romance.

Bourbon Red Fred ditched Ethel and ran off with Lucy...scandalous!

And a time for new beginnings.

Matthew...Turkey Egg Treasure Hunter...He really needs his own reality show.

Turkey, Frizzle and Guinea Fowl eggs

We should have new "babies" shortly after Mother's Day!

 Spring is also a time to start all of the projects that we could only dream about over the last 5 months.

An artesian spring that will eventually feed into an underground cistern for watering our animals.

Soon, the chickens will have a new yard to match the turkey yard.

And finally, soapmaking became a reality.

With the return of rain showers, it seems like the gardening season will have to wait a little longer to begin.

I predict the Lemon Coconut Milk soap will be ready to use by the time the beans go in the ground!

At least, that's the plan.☺

This post is linked to The Homestead Barn Hop #10.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Good Old Fashioned Salmon Bake

For Matthew's birthday, he gave us a gift.

The gift of salmon.

With the other 2 fish tucked safely away in the freezer, it was time for us to celebrate spring with a good old fashioned salmon bake.

Springer salmon are known for their bright pink color and extremely fresh flavor. Even the usual fishy flavor of the brown fatty meat is missing.

It's all gravy.

Not really, we're talking fish.

I decided to cook the entire salmon and planned on using the leftovers for sandwiches the next day.

In retrospect, I probably should've informed the family about the plan.

Since there were two sides of fish, I decided to do one side with a sweet glaze and the other with a more traditional lemon flavor.

One salmon, twice the flavor!

~Salmon with Lemon & Butter~

Rinse one salmon fillet. (Skin on one side) Pat dry. Place salmon on a tinfoil-lined cookie sheet.

As thin as possible (I used a vegetable peeler), slice 1/4 cup cold, unsalted butter. Place butter pieces evenly over entire fish.

Sprinkle dried dill, sea salt, and fresh cracked pepper over the fillet.

Carefully peel 2 lemons with a knife. Make sure to remove the pith with the peel so that all that remains is the fruit. Slice the lemon and evenly distribute fruit on fish.

Slice sweet onion very thin and separate rings; lay on top of salmon.

Drizzle olive oil over entire fish; cover with tinfoil and bake in 375F. oven for approximately 20 minutes.

Baking time depends on how thick the fish fillet is. Check the salmon at 15 minutes and every 5 minutes after that. Don't overcook it! Salmon should flake apart when done.

~Sweet & Smoky Salmon~

Rinse one salmon fillet; pat dry. Place on tinfoil-lined cookie sheet.

In a small saucepan, melt 1/2 cup unsalted butter.

1/2 cup honey
1 Tb. Barbados molasses
1 Tb. apple cider vinegar
1 Tb. tamari sauce
1 clove minced garlic
1/4-1/2 t. liquid smoke (depending on taste)
1/8 t. cayenne pepper
1/2 t. paprika
sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat.

Drizzle sweet sauce over entire fish. Add thin sliced sweet onions to top. (You definitely want to use sweet onions for this!) Cover with foil and bake in 375F. oven for approximately 20 minutes. Check at 15, then every 5 until fish is flaky.

Take advantage of any wild-caught salmon deals if you don't have access to a river. Rich in omega 3's, salmon is about as close to perfection as a fish can be.

But that's just my humble opinion. ☺


This post is linked to GCC Recipe Swap and Fight Back Fridays.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Gratituesday~A Day at the Beach

I've had an illness for the last several months.

It causes the fingers to itch, the toes to dig into the carpet, and the nose to press against the coolness of a window pane...any pane really, as long as there's a view.

Very contagious, you'll know you've caught it when the fever spikes.

You're children are probably infected too. 

In fact, there is only one way to get rid of this mysterious illness that has been running rampant since October. 

Long Beach, Washington

It's called Spring Fever and the only known cure is a little Vitamin D!

Matthew and Momma

Because it is Matthew's birthday, we decided to get cured at the beach.

We visited the mounds of oyster shells in Oysterville.

"What is that smell?"

We played at the historic covered bridge in Grays River.

"Do you think this was built for the covered wagons?"

We laughed as the boys "ran towards the light"...

The wooden decking makes for a great race track.

...then watched as the birthday boy beat his older brother in a foot race.

Sounds pretty cool too, especially when combined with laughter.

We visited whale bones and made up stories of what really happened to Moby Dick.

And we chased around a 16 year old who was very concerned about the wind in her hair.

Poor Mandie!

But mostly, today was about just spending time...

Heather & Momma


Tanner & Matthew discussing "just stuff".

It's a good thing that the weatherman is predicting sunshine for the remainder of the week.

We're definitely going to need a second and third dose of the "D"!

This post is linked to Heavenly Homemakers Gratituesday.