Sunday, October 31, 2010

MPM 11/1/10

This week I decided to switch things up a little.

It's my version of living on the edge.

I don't get out much.

Normally, I make out my meal plan and grocery list on Sunday afternoon, and head into the grocery store on Monday morning. This works for me since we only homeschool Tuesday through Friday. But I got too predictable.

Usually, I like predictable. But today I was feeling a little feisty. I decided to brave the grocery store on the way home from church.

You know, with all the other feisty church-goers.

I noticed that not all of them were very nice. Maybe the pastor stepped on their toes. Maybe their children were acting up. Maybe they were hungry.  

I decided to "let my light so shine". It got me dirty looks, a cart slam and what appeared to be "the finger".

In retrospect, some of them may not have been church-goers. 

I'm determined to bring more joy into the grocery store on Sundays.   

I may need a bodyguard.
That's about as edgy as I'll ever get.

Here's what's cookin' this week...

Simple Soaked Oatmeal w/ blueberries
Pesto sauce on brown rice fettucini noodles, garden salad

Buckwheat Crepes  w/ sauteed apple slices, cinnamon & honey
Salmon patties, Brown rice w/ butter, broccoli salad

Scrambled eggs & elk sausage
Chicken & Black bean enchiladas with homemade red sauce (new)

Sweet & Sour Meatballs, Crunchy Cabbage Salad, Buttermilk biscuits

Chiles Rellenos, coleslaw, homemade applesauce

Multi-grain pancakes
Out to dinner

Yogurt, Granola & Fruit Parfaits

This week we'll be butchering chickens, finishing the kitchen backsplash, and spending a couple of days with our granddaughter. Because of our busy schedule, I'm planning on plenty of leftovers to serve as lunches. 

For more menu planning ideas, visit The Organizing Junkie for Menu Mondays

Thursday, October 28, 2010

How to Roast a Pumpkin

Tis the season for pumpkins! In front of every grocery store, there are piles of pumpkins of every shape and size. It cracks me up to see people pulling the largest pumpkin from the pile, hoping that their jack-o-lantern will be the best carved pumpkin on the block.

Personally, I like the little guys. Specifically, sugar pie pumpkins. They are sweet and have less stringy pulp than their regular-sized counterparts. We planted 2 of the plants this spring, but because of our crazy weather, were only able to harvest 2 pumpkins. So, we headed to the island. (Otherwise known as Sauvie Island.) We visited a farm aptly titled "The Pumpkin Patch".

They are NOT known for their watermelons.

I read recently that there is a shortage of pumpkins for the second year in a row. I guess the island didn't get the memo. Their fields are loaded with the bright orange orbs.

If you like orange, it is a lovely sight.

I like orange.

So, other than carving the pumpkins, what do you do? I'm glad you asked! You roast them!

Why? Because after roasting, the fruit can be pureed and put in freezer bags until needed.

Here's how...

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Cut a pumpkin in half. It doesn't matter if you cut it from tip to tail, or around the middle. Just be careful.

Using a spoon, scoop out the pulp and seeds. The seeds can be cleaned, soaked in sea salt water overnight, then roasted. They make a nice snack. Our pulp goes to the chickens.

In a broiler pan, large baking dish or a cookie sheet with sides, place the 2 halves, cut side down.

Carefully, poke the skin of the pumpkin several times with a sharp knife. This will allow the steam to escape and help to keep the oven clean. Exploding pumpkin is not a fun clean-up job.

Or, so I've heard.

Pour 1-2 cups of water in the pan before placing it in the oven.

Let bake for 30-60 minutes, depending upon the size. Check it at 30 minutes by poking a knife into the fattest part of the pumpkin. If it is soft, then it's done.

Let it cool for 1/2 hour. With a spoon, gently scoop out the meat of the pumpkin until all that is left is the empty shell of skin.

Place the pumpkin meat into a food processor or blender and puree for about 30 seconds.

Place puree in freezer bags. If you know how much you need for a pie, pre-measuring takes the guess work out later.

Make sure to mark the bag with date and quantity. (I did, after the picture!)

Before you use the pumpkin, line a colander with cheesecloth and place over a larger bowl. The night before you need it, let the pumpkin thaw and drain overnight. Use the "juice" in a soup for added nutrients or discard. Use the puree as you would the canned pumpkin.

My favorite way to enjoy pumpkin is in a homemade Pumpkin Spiced Latte!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


All I wanted was a picture of the finished turkey yard. 

What I got was attitude.  

I decided to show him who's boss.

"Watch it", said I, "I'm thinking about making you my special dinner guest in a few weeks!"

Ricky didn't appreciate it.

So he showed me who the boss really is.

Or, at least, that's what I thought he was doing.

My Mister said Ricky was "wooing" me.

I may or may not be engaged to a turkey.

Because of overhead predators, our turkey yard needed a top.

 My Mister used PVC pipes and slightly bowed them. Down the center, he attached 2 long pieces as stabilizers, then he put berry netting over all of it.

Of course I don't have a picture with the stabilizers in, I was busy...

...trying to explain to the guinea fowl that Thanksgiving has absolutely NOTHING to do with him.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

When the Family "Bucks" the New System

Recently, a reader asked me how to go about changing their meals when a family member is less than enthusiastic about switching over to a whole food way of eating.

I've been thinking about this question for awhile, and have come up with a couple of answers. One involves a baseball bat, but that could end badly. The other is a little more complicated.

I like complicated. It's less messy.

If you've followed my blog for very long, (or read my profile) you would know that I have 9 kids. They are mine. We also did foster care for a few years and had several "spares" around all the time. Once, we even had 15 kids under 1 roof.

Now would be a good time to remind me that I said I like complicated.

We had children that didn't/wouldn't/couldn't eat certain foods. Some needed to eat at certain times. Others took their time eating, and yet others waited for the dog to make her rounds under the table. There were children who had never seen a potato or knew what broccoli was. Some didn't know that you could actually drink the water from the tap. Needless to say, meals were messy.

When we started making the transition to a more whole food diet, there was some kicking and screaming. Neighbors could hear the wailing as they drove by, and even had to swerve to not run over the kids trying to escape.

Okay, that was me, but my point is, anything new can be difficult.

And sometimes it can be more difficult because we think too much.

I thought that I had to go "cold turkey" with our food. That meant throwing out or giving away anything I deemed not natural. I probably gave away 30 boxes of pudding mix. The homeless shelter must have feasted on red and green jello for months. Because homeless people need the good nutrition that artificially flavored gelatin can provide, right?

I said it was difficult, I didn't say I was smart.

After I had exercised the demons of the pantry, I decided to prepare my first "whole food" meal.

My children remember this meal. In fact, we really should've followed this meal up with counseling for the family. It was a Pumpkin/Apple Spice Soup. And it was bad.

The dog didn't bother making the rounds under the table that night.

I served it with what was supposed to be bread. I think it is currently up in Canada somewhere being used as a hockey puck.

I was devastated.

And the kids were hungry.

Too bad all of our peanut butter was at the homeless shelter. As it was, my Mister made a trip to town and picked up pizzas.

But, trooper that I am, I sucked it up and tried again the next night. (And no, I did NOT serve that soup as "leftovers"!) I made Apple/Kraut/Sausage Casserole.

We ate at McDonald's.

Then I gave up. For a couple of years I just stopped trying. Our cabinets plumped back up with Jif, Jello and pudding mixes. I fell in love with the Betty Crocker section of the grocery store. I very quickly ran around the outside aisles in the grocery store (you know, where the real food is) and lingered in the middle.

Then a couple of years ago I had an epiphany.

I was fat. Round was not the shape I wanted to be. I was tired and achy all the time. My gall-bladder, uterus and an ovary were MIA. Then there were the kids. They were cranky. Acne medicine took over the bathrooms. Kids were having behavioral issues, and that was only when I could get them off the couches. My Mister had joint pain and could barely stand the pain in his knees. We were popping ibuprofen like tic-tacs and the problems were only getting worse.

So I decided to give whole foods another try. This time, however, I left the Jello alone. Our first dinner consisted of polenta with a marinara sauce, meatloaf, biscuits (from a box), and pudding for dessert. (Also from a box.) I didn't know if anyone would eat the polenta, so I made 4 pounds of meatloaf and only a small pan of polenta.

 My family just stared at me when I put the food on the table.

The point of this story is to let you know that we didn't start all gung-ho. In fact, it was difficult to stir up any kind of emotion other than sadness at having to say good-bye to old friends. (That Bill Cosby sure did a bang-up job of promoting pudding!) We just started slowly.

With intent.

By the way, my family LOVES polenta. With a side of meatloaf. Not an entire cow. And the biscuits and pudding are not from the box anymore.

Our meals weren't all wholesome goodness. They still aren't. I love those little French fried onions on a green bean casserole. I love the caramel macchiato at Starbucks. We have an entire shelf devoted to s'more making ingredients. And don't even get me started on Mr. Frito-Lay! But now it is in moderation. Our meals have evolved from 1 whole food at dinner to 80-90% whole foods. If I introduce a new recipe, I always have a tried and true as back-up. Not every recipe is a hit. I still miss the mark quite often. But for every recipe that didn't fare well, there will be 5 others that are declared "favorites". 

Here are some ways to "sneak" whole foods into a meal:

1. Ditch the margarine. Use real butter. I Can't Believe It's Not Butter is not butter. No wonder Fabio looks so surprised.
2. Replace regular salt with sea salt. Most people don't even realize it's not Morton's.
3. Serve iced water with slices of lemons, limes, oranges or grapefruits in it. It takes some getting used to, but it's much easier on the pancreas than soda or Kool-aid.
4. Try replacing vegetable oil with unsweetened applesauce in baked goods. Or start by replacing half. It's only for the moisture anyway.
5. If a recipe calls for 2 cups of flour, substitute some of it with pastry or whole wheat flour. 
6. Sweeten drinks with natural sweeteners such as honey and real maple syrup.
7. Potatoes come from the ground, not from a box. Period.
8. Grated zucchini can easily be added to a meatloaf or even cake. Especially chocolate cake! 
9. The cocoa bean is NOT a vegetable, but should be enjoyed on occasion. Don't make it taboo.
10. Start cooking from scratch. This is easier said than done for some, but start small. 
Bake cookies. Yes, I said cookies. Look at the ingredients on a package of store-bought cookies, then compare it to a home recipe. You may be using white flour, but at least you know what that is!
11. Don't use pre-cooked/packaged meats. You know, leftovers are only good for about 3 days. After that, they should be tossed. Pre-cooked meats have so much garbage added to them to preserve them. It's just not worth the risk to your health. 
12. Have you ever seen a fish-stick in its natural habitat? Try salmon, halibut, snapper, sole or cod. Fry it if you need to get it past the Mister or the kids, but at least it is real fish.
13. If you buy bread, upgrade. It doesn't have to be riddled with nuts and seeds. Just make sure it doesn't have high fructose corn syrup in it.
14. Avoid foods with MSG, aspartame, or HFCS in them. These can cause headaches, joint pain, acne, tiredness and depression. I would rather have real sugar than a science experiment. 
15. Stick with fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables. It doesn't have to be organic, just make sure to wash them thoroughly before consuming. Even if your child will only eat apples with caramel dip, at least he's eating an apple. You decide how much of the caramel he gets though, then hide the container. 
16. If you're like me, you have an multiple boxes of jello and pudding in the cupboard. Use it. But add fresh fruit to the jello. Slice up some bananas to put on the pudding. 

Just don't take it to the homeless shelter. Seriously. They have enough. (Don't send your cast-offs, send food that you would eat.)
17. Use real peanut butter. So what if you have to stir it. Dump it in the mixer, then put it back in the jar. Peanut Butter should be made with peanuts and salt. They make their own oil. If you need it sweetened, add honey.

Start slowly. Don't clean out your cabinets. Don't worry about soaking grains, or which foods to buy organically, or choose recipes that have ingredients you normally wouldn't have. Keep it simple. Respect your spouse and children's taste buds and prepare meals that are sure to please. Think about foods that they like. Most pre-packaged food can be duplicated at home. Check the internet. When introducing a new recipe, follow it up with a nice dessert as a thank-you-for-trying-this treat. A simple meal of mashed taters, gravy and meatloaf can be a whole food meal. I make a lot of Sloppy Joe's around here. They're not from the can. My kids think they're getting away with something.

Personally, I think I'm getting away with something.

But we'll keep that between us, shall we?

This post is linked to Fight Back Fridays over at the Food Renegade. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Back to Basics: Bread

I would like to announce the passing of a very dear friend.

While on vacation, my sourdough starter died.

It wasn't really a surprise. She had been feeling sluggish for days. I had been so busy packing and planning for the big trip that I may have neglected her, thus leading to her early demise.

And for that I'm sorry.

I would like to ask for a moment of silence as we remember my starter.

Here is my new starter.

She may be young, but by Friday will have maturity beyond her

In the meantime, I need bread.

Sometime ago, I purchased a book called "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day". Some of the recipes in this book were featured in a Mother Earth News issue and it piqued my interest. I mean seriously, just 5 minutes a day?

My glass was half empty that week.

But then I tried it. And now I'm hooked. It is still no substitute for sourdough bread, but in a pinch, this stuff is pretty good.

Homemade Artisan bread on the left, store-bought bread on the right

It would be easy for me to just pick up a loaf of artisan bread at the grocery store and call it good, but silly me, I enjoy reading the labels on the food I purchase.

Here are the ingredients on a loaf I bought recently. Enriched wheat flour (wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid, malted barley flour), water, asiago cheese (pasteurized milk, cheese cultures, salt enzymes), asiago-flavored nuggets (modified palm oil, corn syrup solids, salt, monosodium glutamate, autolyzed yeast extract, soybean lecithin, natural and artificial flavors, disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate, lactic acid), wheat gluten, rice flour, salt, dough conditioners (diacetyl tartaric acid, esters of mono and diglycerides, ascorbic acid, enzymes, azodicarbonamide), yeast

Just so you know, my spell-check didn't recognize 14 of these words.

Scooby Doo would call this a clue.

Shaggy would agree.

If you are wanting to feed your family a science project, then this would qualify. But if you are looking to make a positive change toward good nutrition, take a pass on the lab experiment and try this recipe from the book. I promise, you will not be disappointed.

For this bread to have a rustic texture, you will need a baking stone, also known as a pizza stone. They are inexpensive, but really help to make a nice crust on the bread.

European Peasant Bread

3 cups lukewarm water
1-1/2 Tb. yeast (or 2 packets)
1-1/2 Tb. sea salt
1/2 cup rye flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
5-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Cornmeal for the pizza peel

1. Mixing and storing the dough: Mix the yeast and salt with the water in a 5 quart, or a lidded (not airtight) food container.

2. Mix in the remaining dry ingredients without kneading, using a spoon, a 14 cup food processor (with dough attachment), or a heavy duty stand mixer (with dough hook).

3. Cover (not airtight), and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours. I leave it in the mixer bowl and cover with a towel.

4. The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate in a lidded (but not airtight) container and use it over the next 14 days.

5. On baking day, dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1-pound piece. (grapefruit size) Dust with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. Allow to rest and rise on a cornmeal-covered pizza peel for 40 minutes. If you don't have a pizza peel, use a cookie sheet with no sides.

6. Twenty minutes before baking time, preheat oven to 450 F. , with a baking stone placed on the middle rack. Place an empty broiler tray on a lower shelf that won't interfere with the rising bread.

7. Sprinkle the loaf liberally with flour and slash a cross, or tic-tac-toe pattern into the top, using a serrated bread knife. Leave the flour in place for baking; tap some of it off before slicing.

Slide the loaf directly onto the hot stone. Pour 1 cup water into the broiler tray, and quickly close the oven door. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until the top crust is deeply browned and very firm.

Artisan bread sprinkled with poppy and sesame seeds

Allow to cool before slicing.

If you desire cheese in the bread, add about 1 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese with the dry ingredients. Roasted garlic would be a nice addition also. 

By the way, the spell-check recognized all of the ingredients in the peasant loaf.

Enough said.


Sunday, October 24, 2010


Home at last.

As I pull myself out from under the mounds of dirty laundry, my frame of mind becomes less and less relaxed. In fact, I'm in complete panic mode right now as I try to play catch-up on all of the things that have been neglected.

For instance, my garden has almost returned back to the state it was in BEFORE we tilled a garden plot. If one were going for a jungle theme for their yard, mine would qualify as authentically jungle. Our chickens seem to have multiplied while we were away and the eggs are spilling out of every crack and crevice of our spare fridge. The deer that my Mister got has been cut and wrapped and the sausage has been made, but the freezers need to be defrosted if the meat is to be saved. There are maple leaves covering the driveway, walkways and porches, the ladybugs are infiltrating the boundaries of our windows and doors and the........

"Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10
...Oh yeah. Breathe.

 I don't have to do everything today. In fact, there is good amongst the chaos. The weeds and dying plants in the garden will be tilled under eventually, adding nutrients back into the soil. Eggs are good and it does take 12 to make an angel food cake...I like cake; we do have an empty freezer to use while we defrost; the maple leaves are prettier than the mud and ladybugs in the house give my boys something to vacuum, thus allowing me some free time to quilt! 

It's good to be home.

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

Simple Soaked Oatmeal w/ blueberries
Egg salad sandwiches, apple slices
Swiss Barley Risotto (new), meatloaf, rustic bread (new)

Scrambled eggs and sausage
Meatloaf sandwiches on rustic bread (leftovers), apples
Mashed potatoes & homemade gravy (recipe to follow), elk steak, spinach salad

Buttermilk biscuits w/ sausage gravy (recipe to follow)
Simple nachos, plum smoothies
Spicy split pea soup, (recipe to follow), cornbread

  Pennsylvania Dutch Baked Oatmeal
Leftover split pea soup, cornbread
Potato/Corn Chowder, rustic bread, garden salad

Cream of Wheat Porridge
Leftover chowder, crackers, apples
Chicken & homemade noodles, rustic bread

Speltcakes, homemade hot chocolate (new)
Leftover Chicken and noodles
Sloppy Joe's, salad

Simple Sunday Supper (leftovers or tbd on way home from church!)

Gingerbread w/ spiced pear sauce (new)
Angel Food Cake

I will be reorganizing my site over the next couple, or 10, weeks, making it easier to find recipes and allowing me a chance to see just exactly what recipes I've shared. Some of my earlier recipes are tucked into other posts, so don't be surprised (if you're a follower) to see multiple, daily posts as I give each recipe their own place.

They just want to be loved too.

Blessings for a wonderful week!

For more meal ideas, visit The Organizing Junkie for Menu Plan Mondays!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Few of My Favorite Scenes

Since we've been on vacation, my camera has been on active duty, capturing moments that we'll be able to relive throughout the long, cold winter months.

Oh wait. I live west of the mountains. Let me rephrase.

"...capturing moments that we'll be able to relive throughout the long, wet, horribly depressing, winter months."

Well, I'm already depressed.

At least I'll have the photos.

Taking a break at Grand Coulee Dam

Cattail pond at 4,000 ft. elevation

Camping near a race track has its perks!

Resting beneath the fall foliage of the quaking aspens

The signs that say "Watch out for livestock" should be taken seriously.


When the hunters move in, the big bucks move to town.

Next to the sheriff's office.

If I were rich, I would buy this ranch. And if that didn't work, I'd use blackmail.

No, I was NOT stalking these poor people.

Thank you Republic. You are a gem.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Opening Day Success!!!

Before I show you the Mister and his "kills", I thought I'd better clarify something.

I posted about the lack of electricity in my last post. Clearly, from the picture, there is light in the shower area.

This light however, does NOT turn on until evening.

Just thought I'd explain in case you were thinking I was a liar...or blind. Or had buck fever.

I did not have buck fever.

But he did.

My Mister also had grouse fever.

Tomorrow we'll take care of his trout fever.

Which it seems, I've caught too.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Annual Hunting Trip...From a Woman's Eyes

Each year, my husband, father-in-law, and family friends, head out of town to hunt for deer. This wouldn't be anything to bat an eye at, except that where we live, we have deer in our field.


But alas, men need to have their adventures. And up until now, I have happily allowed this to happen.

I know, very generous of me. As long as my Mister doesn't come home empty-handed, I am happy to allow this yearly ritual to occur.

Problem is, my Mister couldn't contain his excitement over the beauty of the hunting ground.

And that's where I come in.

Lake Roosevelt, Washington

The hills around Republic, Washington

My dream bull who was taking his "ladies" out on the town and daring us not to interfere.

Early morning at camp. Exquisite.

The only problem that I've found with hunting camp thus far, is that hunters become illiterate during hunting season.

They especially have problems with the letters W O M E N.

Now, I don't mind sharing, but it becomes an issue when the bathroom is missing something very important.

Like doors.

This can be seen from the open doorway, which needs to stay open so you can see what you're doing! Did I mention that there is no electricity at camp?

The shower. Notice the valance-sized shower curtain?
And all I've got to say about that is...


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Surfing, Seafood and a Birthday!

 Once upon a time, in a land, far, far away, lived a pretty little princess.

Even though her grandparents didn't live in the same kingdom as the princess, they loved her very much and traveled great distances to see her.

On their journey, they saw the beautiful, blue ocean of the Pacific.

They mingled with the wildlife.

They even took time to learn new skills.

You never know when a princess might need to be rescued by the Lochness Monster.

To ensure the princess' safety, the royal guards were dispatched to search below...

...and above.

When the coast was cleared, the guards returned.

Meanwhile, the pretty, little princess was waiting at the royal palace for her guests to arrive for the birthday ball.

In order for the guests to have a truly wonderful time, the cake needed to be just right.

"Yes", she declared, "this will do."

 Then the princess said, "Let them eat cake!"

And they did.

It wasn't all about cake, though.

It was also about seafood.

Specifically, mussels and oysters. In a butter and wine sauce.

Oh yeah.

Now that the kingdom is quiet and the princess is officially two, it is time for the grandparents to return to their kingdom.

But not without saying first...