Friday, December 31, 2010

I Must be Doing Something Right...

This is how I found the kids watching morning cartoons:

Now, who could be mad about them raiding the food???

Friday, December 24, 2010

Stuffed Mushrooms

I love mushrooms. I just love them. Brian doesn't, but he supports my indulging. :-) These are the best stuffed mushrooms I have ever had. Absolutely wonderful!

Stuffed Mushrooms
1 1/2 lbs mushrooms
1/3 c. butter, softened
2 TB flour
1/4 c. finely chopped onions
2 TB freshly chopped parsley
1 TB yellow mustard
3/4 tsp. salt
5 "shakes" cayenne pepper
1 c. heavy whipping cream (approximately)

Stem the mushrooms, saving the stems. Set the caps aside and dice the stems, putting them into a bowl. To the stems add all the ingredients except whipping cream. Mix well. Fill the mushroom caps and place them into a 9" x 13", stuffed side up.
Drizzle the whipping cream over the mushrooms.
Bake at 375˚ for 30 minutes. Serve warm.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Gingerbread Houses

I love family traditions!! Each year we have been getting together with some friends and decorating gingerbread houses. They are a bit of work to make, cut out, glue together, etc. But oh so worth it!!
I use my gingerbread men recipe- because it's awesome.

Gingerbread Men
1/4 c. boiling water
1/2 c. butter
1 tsp. Baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1/2 c. molasses
3 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 egg
1/2 c. sugar
*Red Hots* (for buttons)
Frosting (for gingerbread men- not the houses)
Melt butter in boiling water. Add all the other ingredients. Then chill the dough for 2 hours. Roll out and cut into shapes. Push red hots (buttons) into the men before baking. Bake at 350 degree for 8-10 minutes. Cool and decorate with frosting. Makes 24 cookies.

I had to make 2 double batches for 2 gingerbread houses- My houses were pretty big though.

Make a pattern out of paper- so cut out 4 walls, 2 roof parts, 4 chimney parts, tape it all together to make sure it fits well. Cut or remove the tape and use the paper pieces to cut out all the pieces.
I used Jolly Ranchers for the windows- breaking them to pieces in the food processor. Put the walls on a parchment or wax paper lined baking sheet and pile some broken clear candy pieces in the windows. Bake as directed.

The gingerbread house pieces need to sit out and "cure" for at least a day- I find that several days work best. They need to be hard and stiff.

"Gluing" takes another day or so.

Glue Frosting
3 Egg whites
1 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
3 1/2- 4 c. powdered sugar

Beat egg whites till they are stiff, continue beating and sprinkle in the cream of tartar, then mix in the powdered sugar slowly until it reaches the consistency that you need.

Put the frosting in a piping bag. "Glue" the walls to a foil covered cardboard and to each other. You can see how I did it step-by-step here.

You will need to do the floors/walls first, use jars or glasses to hold them while they dry and then do to roof/chimney after a few hours. After the glue is dry and the house feels sturdy it is ready to decorate! It's all edible... but we've never wanted to eat it, we let it sit out on display for the month of December.

Other Gingerbread we've done:
Gingerbread Hobbit Hole
Pictures of gingerbread men

Friday, December 17, 2010

Clove Orange Ornaments

Have you made these before? I remember seeing them when I was a kid, but we never made them. I decided to try it with Titus and Naomi- it was alot of fun!

Clove Orange Ornaments
Whole Cloves
Straight pins

I cut 2 lengths of ribbon, made an "X", placed the orange over it and wrapped the ribbon up around it and stuck a straight pin in to hold the ribbon in place on the bottom of the orange. Then I used a meat thermometer, (because that's the only pointed thing I had!) to poke holes in the orange. The kids pushed the cloves into the holes. I tied a ribbon bow and then cut a large piece of ribbon and looped it for a hanger. criss-crossing all the ribbon/bows on the top I stuck in a couple more straight pins at an angle so it wouldn't pull out just by being hung.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Cinnamon Roll Bread

One of my favorite things that I remember my mom making. I love it toasted with butter on it... and there is always one gooey spot, I would save that for last, because it was so yummy!

I use my recipe for Basic White Bread:

Basic White Bread
2 c. warm milk (I often do 1 c. cold milk and 1 c. not quite boiling water)
1 T. yeast
1 T. honey
Mix and let set for 10 min.
Then add:
2 tsp. salt
2 T. olive oil, coconut oil or butter
5-6 1/2 c. flour (this is also good with 1-2 cups wheat flour)

As the mixer is going add the flour one cup at a time until the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the mixer. Let it knead (mix) for 10 minutes.
Let rest and rise in the bowl and then mix it before it falls out over the edge, typically about 30 minutes, but if your house is cold may be longer.
Dump the dough onto a floured countertop, split dough into 2 equal parts, roll out one at a time into a rectangle about 10"x18", (it does not need to be exact!)

Now you have your choice of filling- mine lately (just because we have cut back on sugar is):
drizzle with:
and sprinkle on:

Or you can do it just like a cinnamon roll:
Spread with:
Sprinkle on:
Brown Sugar

Raisins can also be added.

Roll up, jelly roll style, tuck the ends slightly before putting in greased loaf pans, so the loaf is smooth on top and all edges are tucked under the loaf.
Let rise in warm place approximately 30 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and pans and let cool on wire rack.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Peppermint Lip Balm

A few months ago a friend of mine suggested we get together and make homemade deodorant, while she was looking for different recipes she also found one for lip balm. It was so easy and worked so well! We've used it now for a couple months and have loved it.
We bought little tins from the health food store, but I had one chapstick tube that was almost empty, so I filled it up. It worked so well! So I decided I would get some lip balm tubes before I made them again. I found some fairly inexpensive ones on so I got 50. I made this batch of lip balm and it filled 42 of them!! So, I am selling some on my Etsy store... we would have enough for years otherwise!!

The recipe is really simple and flexible:

Peppermint Lip Balm
1/2 c. coconut oil
1 oz. beeswax
Melt over med heat (or in microwave) and then add:
Vitamin E oil (several drops or squeeze out 1-2 capsules)
Peppermint essential oil (I used about 15, depends on the strength of your oil, you may want to add only 5 drops)

Mix and pour into containers. Allow to cool for about 20 minutes and it's ready to use!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Basic White Bread

I make 4 loaves, but have adjusted the recipe for just 2 loaves, since most people don't need 4 loaves at a time. I am not one to want to feed the kids all white bread, so don't make it often. But I am out of wheat and need to order it, school has started and homemade bread is cheaper and healthier- even if it's white, I make it with honey, avoiding processed sweeteners, preservatives and hydrogenated oils.

Basic White Bread
2 c. warm milk (I often do 1 c. cold milk and 1 c. not quite boiling water)
1 T. yeast
1 T. honey
Mix and let set for 10 min.
Then add:
2 tsp. salt
2 T. olive oil, coconut oil or butter
5-6 1/2 c. flour (this is also good with 1-2 cups wheat flour)

As the mixer is going add the flour one cup at a time until the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the mixer. Let it knead (mix) for 10 minutes.
Let rest and rise in the bowl and then mix it before it falls out over the edge, typically about 30 minutes, but if your house is cold may be longer.
Dump onto floured counter, and split into 2 equal parts. Flatten each piece, (one at a time) so it's about 12"x 6". Roll up. Tuck ends under and place in greased loaf pan so that no edges of the dough are visible- they are all tucked under, so it looks nice and smooth.
Let rise in warm place approximately 30 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and pans and let cool on wire rack.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Grocery Budget

My kids are eating more. I knew it would come, but they ate alot before, so it still surprised me just how much food we would go through. Brian is working a really physically demanding job now and he's eating more too... and on top of it all, I've been working at getting healthier foods into us. That seems to equal more $$. We didn't get any venison last year, so thankfully people have blest us with extra meat, we've had quite a bit- beef, venison, elk, it's all been a great blessing. But I have had to buy some too, which I normally don't have to. I'm thankful that hunting season is only 2 months away and there will be 5 of us out hunting this year. Each of us can get 3 deer, so I asked Brian to set aside money for processing... because frankly, I don't want to butcher 15 deer. If we get an elk or 2 we would be set. I should start praying now, eh? :-)

Looking back on my blog I found that I spent $250 for groceries in April 2008 (menu here). I impress myself. LOL! But I know I was doing a "pantry challenge" at the time.
Since then I really have changed what we eat so much. I look in the pantry and there are:
Dried bean and rice
2 boxes of pasta (penne and macaroni noodles)
A couple cans of crushed tomatoes and tomato paste
Various spices to replace the ones that are almost used up
Hot Chocolate mix that I bought at Costco before we went off sugar and now I don't want to use
Candy from making our "traditional" ginger bread house (and I'll continue to save the candy... we'll use it up this Christmas- why toss it just to buy more?)

These days I have a budget of $650. month. I have a really hard time staying in that budget. We eat alot more fruits and veggies than we used to, for my "quick" meals I get things like high quality sausage that just need to be heated on the grill.
I try not to buy much canned stuff, because from what I've read the plastic lining of alot of cans has BPA in it. (Please do your own research on this if you have questions, I'm not an expert). I try to only buy things that I know what the ingredient list says and nothing with nitrites/nitrates or the dreaded MSG.

Last night we had a delicious dinner- steak, corn on the cob, grilled zucchini and asparagus and some fresh peas. I don't usually make bread/rolls in the summer because of the heat. But as I looked at my plate with all the meat and fruits and veggies, I realized how much I have changed. And maybe $650/month is really good for a family of 7.

Nap time is over, so I'll have to stop my ramblings for now.

Have you been changing how you cook? If so, how and why and how is it affecting your budget?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Pumpkin Cake

Like many of my favorite recipes they don't happen on purpose... I ran out of eggs and had to make a cake, so I had some extra pumpkin and decided to use it instead of eggs. It was really tasty! I figured it would be, as I love the pumpkin cookies. I (ashamedly) used a store bought can of chocolate frosting. I think it would be great with a cream cheese frosting too!

Pumpkin Cake
2 1/3 c. flour
1 TB. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. oil
1/2 c. pumpkin
1 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix everything thoroughly, pour into a 9" x 13" baking dish greased. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Homemade Ice Cream

This is a first for me. It was alot of fun! Everyone in the family cranked on the ice cream maker for a while... and we have a hand crank one, which I think adds to the deliciousness of the ice cream! I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was, as far as ingredients, etc.
I used a basic recipe that I found online and I would credit them with it, but I can't find it now.
I doubled the recipe to fit into our 5 qt. ice cream maker that we inherited from Brian's grandmother a few years ago. We made ice cream for our July 4th celebration and everyone loved it, so I think it's going to have to be our new Independence Day tradition.

Homemade Ice Cream
for 5 qt. ice cream maker
4 eggs
1 c. organic sugar
2 c. milk
4 c. 1/2 & 1/2
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Beat eggs until they are light and fluffy, slowly mix in sugar and then the rest of ingredients. Pour into inside cylinder of the ice cream mixer, follow mixer directions. Ours took about 45 minutes of cranking and about 1 1/2 large bags of ice. Oh and rock salt-- which grocery clerks no longer know what it is used for... so you have to ask for "Ice Cream Salt"... because they only carry "rock salt" in the winter time.
If you don't have directions with your mixer, layer ice and salt until it is full and continue to add more as it melts, keeping the middle cylinder covered with ice while you are mixing. The ice cream is done when it is very difficult to crank.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Egg Free & Dairy Free Vanilla Cake with Cream Cheese and Maple Frosting

We had this cake for Naomi's birthday this year, her little friend is allergic to eggs and milk, just so you know, I didn't frost her little friend's cupcake (since obviously the frosting isn't dairy free!). I also lowered the sugar in this cake, and was really happy with how it tasted.

Egg Free & Dairy Free Vanilla Cake
2 1/3 c. flour
1 TB baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. oil
1/2 c. applesauce
1 c. applejuice
1 tsp vanilla

Mix everything thoroughly, pour into a 9" x 13" baking dish (or two 8" round pans or a 24 muffin pan), greased. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. (About 30 minutes for cupcakes.)

Cream Cheese and Maple Frosting
1 8oz pk cream cheese, softened
1/3 c. pure maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
Mix together until smooth, spread onto cake.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Cookin' Across America

The Local Cook is hosting "Cookin' Across America" contest to show different foods from different states. If you have a blog you can enter it this week and next week the voting starts.

I entered my Mom's Whole Wheat Bread recipe, since it is made using grain from our State.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Changing Blog

Just FYI, I am trying to change my blog around to a 3 column blog and I did something wrong, so I will probably be messing with it over then next few days, thanks for your patience!

Homemade Deodorant

I remember growing up my mom was not a fan of the ingredients in deodorants/antiperspirants. I didn't put much thought into it, I didn't really need deodorant. About 10 years ago I moved to a different climate and found that I didn't smell pretty. So I started using more deodorant. I never did use an antiperspirant, I really believe that God created sweat glands for a reason! Most antiperspirants have aluminum in them, that seems to be the one ingrediant that makes people nervous.
A couple years ago I got some Tom's of Maine deodorant, it seemed ok at first and then became less effective. So I gave up and excepted my smell. I wasn't really happy with that solution either though... I decided to try powdering with baking soda, it worked well, but didn't last all day. I had heard that homemade deodorant was baking soda and coconut oil, so I started using some coconut oil and then powdering with baking soda. Too many steps! But it did work.
One of my friends mentioned making deodorant and had been researching it a bit, so she found a recipe and we went and got ingredients (most of which we found we had).
I took the boys deodorant away too so we are all using this now and I have to say that I am so pleased! It works so well and there is no smell- no perfume smells and no B.O.! And this works for Brian too, who's job is very physically demanding.

Homemade Deodorant
1/2 c. baking soda
1/2 c. arrowroot powder
2/3 c. coconut oil (we used expeller pressed so there was no coconut smell)

Mix the 2 powders, melt the coconut oil and mix into powders. Pour into 2 containers. We should have had smaller containers! But we found these at Hobby Lobby and decided they would be the easiest to stick our fingers in.
Take a bit out (I use the back of my finger nail), about 1/2 tsp. and rub it into your armpit.

If you have an empty deodorant container, you could pour it into that, but you would need to keep it in the fridge during the warmer months of the year, as coconut oil melts at around 76˚.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Refined Sweetener Free Meal Ideas

Since there is so many foods out there that have added sweeteners, I figured I would give you an example of some of the things we ate while trying so hard to avoid the processed sweeteners.
I know we had more variety for dinner than I have listed here, but for the life of me, I can't think what! We did eat alot of chili and rice dishes. They were easier.


Scrambled eggs (typically we have these each morning, so we get some good protein)
Green Shakes (typically we have these every morning)
Oatmeal with applesauce and maple syrup
Pancakes (didn't add any sweetener, we have gotten used to these without)
French toast
on the pancakes & french toast:
Fruit sauce (fruit, water, corn starch, pure maple syrup, cooked just until thicker)
Peanut butter
Jelly (all fruit Jelly)


(All sandwiches were on homemade bread)
Peanut butter & honey
PB & apple or banana sandwich
Tuna salad (homemade mayo)
Egg salad (homemade mayo)
Hard boiled eggs
Meat sandwiches (home cooked roasts/turkey/chicken)
Grilled Cheese


(dinners typically served with veggies and potatoes or bread)
Meat balls
Lentil chili and corn chips (corn chips don't contain any sweeteners)
Fried rice
Stirfry (homemade sauce)
Short ribs
Homemade mac & cheese

Friday, May 28, 2010

Refined Sweeteners... the Wrap Up

Last month our family did a "Refined Sweeteners Free Month" and it was just plan alot of work. I think it was great though. I learned alot more than I thought I would. I don't know that I want to do it again, I had to make pretty much everything from scratch and you know, that's alot of work! I make alot of things from scratch anyway, but everything had to be made from scratch. There was no last minute pizza runs or drive through food joint just because we're in a hurry. I had to plan everything out, days in advance sometimes.

By the middle of the month I was really annoyed with food companies. It seems to me like they treat sweeteners just like nicotine, they put it in everything, just to keep us addicted. It's no wonder that alot of people don't like homemade/from scratch, it's not as sweet. It might not even be as bad if companies didn't use high fructose corn syrup, but that makes everything so much sweeter than just plain sugar.

I'm not sure what the hardest thing for me was, could have been the baking bread 3 times a week, or never having a break from cooking, not being able to grab a bowl of cold cereal in the evening when I'm wanting a snack, maybe even not having condiments (mayo, steak sauce and definitely no ketchup!), and spices... like taco seasoning. Pretty much anything that makes our time in the kitchen easier or faster has some sort of sweetener in it. Dextose seems to be pretty popular as well as high fructose corn syrup.

Health benefits. There were quite a few!
Mood swings. My monthly cycles are not pleasant, but my mood swings weren't as bad. I was hoping they would be gone completely, but instead they just didn't last as long- like a few hours a day instead of every day for a week.
Migraines. I didn't get get them, that was a huge plus. I typically get migraines with my cycle as well, usually from a couple days before through the week after, so yes, about 2 weeks of migraines. Most of the time it's about 2-4 migraines during that time. Now, having said that, I did get headaches. I wonder though if I went "sugar" free for a year if they were just go away completely? My headaches weren't horrible and I took some Tylenol and they went away. I didn't have to sleep it off at all. During March I had cut back on sugars and I didn't have any migraines either. Now during the month of May, since we have been back on sugar, I had 2 or 3 migraines through my cycle.
Zits. My complexion was very clear! I can't complain too much about it normally, but I definitely noticed how clear it was without sweeteners. Now, I have no idea what made most of the difference. If it was actually not having sweetened things or if it was because everything was made from scratch and so I didn't get anything processed and avoided all the who knows what that they put in our foods.
Colds. We did get sick during the month. It wasn't too bad, I guess. I don't think it was any less or shorter. I know that sugar lowers your immune system though, so I would love to see how often we were sick if we actually stuck with it a year.

The boys did do better in school. That was interesting to me. I would love it if our schools went for no refined sweeteners. I would love to get my hands on their menu! I think it would be a hard adjustment though for the lunch ladies... I don't think there is even a stove or oven, just a microwave. But then, maybe avoiding the microwaved food was what helped the boys so much!

It was interesting eating "normal" food again after this. Doughnuts were disgusting. I don't know if they still are, I haven't tried again. We had lunch at Arby's. The bread and meat were both too sweet and didn't taste very good to us. I haven't even wanted soda pop. I'm afraid I would feel like I was drinking syrup. I feel gross now if I eat much sugar. I had 1 (yes, 1) semi-sweet chocolate chip and had to get a drink to wash that overly sweet taste from my mouth.

Sadly, I don't think we could do this for an extended amount of time, at least not being as strict as we were. If people ever invite us over or bring food to a potluck, there is sugar. Camping- that would be alot more work without some pre-made foods. That would mean I would never have a break from cooking, because anything frozen or made at a restaurant has sugars. Grandma would give us a bunch of fake sugar. Which in my opinion is even worse.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Guest Post by Brian (Rachel's Husband)

I wasn't quite sure what to think of a sugar free month, but when Rachel said natural sugars were still allowed, I felt better. :) I did cheat a little though, I have lunch with a friend weekly at Subway and while I eliminated pop in favor of tea and gave up on having cookies, I was unable to avoid the sugars in the bread. The biggest thing that I think it pointed out to me as the month progressed was how many products have processed sugar in them and how may names they disguise it as.

Trying to find a ham or turkey for Easter dinner was impossible, everything was either made with sugar or soaked in a sugar bath. Ended up having a pork roast instead. When trying to figure out a meal for a boy scout outing, I could only find one type of hot dog that had no sugar, corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup. Hebrew National was the only option, fortunately it is a good tasting option. Some of the other brands had all three types of sweeteners listed above in them.

Not having sugar also cut down on my coffee intake. At home I had already gotten accustom to using natural maple syrup as sweetener but I still used sugar when away from home. Now I had to just drink black coffee when away from home and quickly found out who has good tasting coffee. It is amazing how enough sugar can hide bad coffee. :)

In the end I think it was a good month. We decided to keep a few things but had to go back to sugar for others if nothing else than for ease. With as much bread as our family goes through alone, it was keeping Rachel busy baking. It is too bad that America in general has become so dependent on sweeteners. I think most people have lost the ability to taste the true flavor of the food they are eating. Just like in the coffee, all the sugar that is added covers food that usually tastes better without it.

Friday, May 14, 2010

What Jesse Thought of Our "No Refined Sweeteners" Challenge

Rules: Absolutely no refined sweeteners.

Why did you decide to do this challenge?
Because it sounded fun.
What did you enjoy most about the month?
The packed lunches.
What was the most surprising thing about this month?
How many meats have sugar in them- like jerky!
How did people react if you told them?
They said they wouldn't be able to do it.
What was the thing you disliked the most?
That I couldn't eat all the stuff I wanted to.
Did you notice any changes in yourself? (Emotions, thoughts, school work, physical?)
I ran alot faster and my spelling average went up.
Are there any changes that we made that you want to continue?
Was this challenge hard?
Yes, because people offered me alot of food, that I couldn't eat.
Would you be willing to do this again? For how long? (another month, a year?)
Yes, I would be willing to do it again. For a week.

Friday, May 7, 2010

What Luke Thought of Our "No Refined Sweeteners" Challenge

Rules: Absolutely no refined sweeteners.

Why did you decide to do this challenge?
I decided to do this challenge because I wanted to raise my math scores.
What did you enjoy most about the month?
I enjoyed having more fruit sauce on my pancakes.
What was the most surprising thing about this month?
My math grade went up two letter grades.
How did people react if you told them?
"Aren't you malnourished?" or "thats stupid".
What was the thing you disliked the most?
Having to skip out on a pizza party.
Did you notice any changes in yourself? (Emotions, thoughts, school work, physical?)
My math grades went up two letter grades.
Are there any changes that we made that you want to continue?
Not really.
Was this challenge hard?
Yes because just about everything has sugar.
Would you be willing to do this again? For how long? (another month, a year?)
Possibly for a month but never for a year (life was just to bland without sugar, and so were muffins).

Friday, April 30, 2010

What Stephen Thought of Our "No Refined Sweeteners" Challenge

Rules: Absolutely no refined sweeteners.

Why did you decide to do this challenge?
Because I thought it would be interesting.
What did you enjoy most about the month?
We tried new food.
What was the most surprising thing about this month?
How much things had processed sweeteners in them.
How did people react if you told them?
they didn't, they already knew are family did stuff like this.
What was the thing you disliked the most?
That people said "Just eat it. How will your mom know?!"
Did you notice any changes in yourself? (Emotions, thoughts, school work, physical?)
Yes, in school, physically (ran faster) and mentally (increased grades).
Are there any changes that we made that you want to continue?
There are only a few things I would like to change from what we did: Being able to eat treats from school and have a candy night. I liked how we were eating healthy all the time.
Was this challenge hard?
Not really.
Would you be willing to do this again? For how long? (another month, a year?) Yes for a day or two.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Last Week Without Sugar

First of all. Let me just say that I am tired of cooking. Everything. 3 meals each day (or making bread for the following day's lunch) and I am tired of it.

Pepperoni: Dextrose

French Fries: Dextrose

Bacon: Some form of sugar (though not all brands, they're are a couple that don't. I heard Albertson's brand doesn't have any sugar)

Hot dogs: Um, yeah.

We will be quitting a day early- April 29th will be our last refined sweetener free day. April 30 is a "Breakfast with Buddies" at school and they typically serve Costco muffins and the boys really enjoy going. They have already missed out on Dairy Queen's buy 1 blizzard get the 2nd one for $.25 and then on Wednesday night I heard that Baskin Robins is having their $.31 per scoop deal. Yeah, the boys are seriously bummed about that. Now, in case you're wondering... we don't typically go out for treats like that or even watch for sales, but the boy have their own money and if they ask me in advance and choose to spend their money that way, sometimes we do. We had some friends that went out for Blizzards and thought of inviting us but then changed their mind when they remembered our "no sugar" deal. So... that's a bummer. We went out to eat 2 this month (Brian and I). We went to breakfast at Cracker Barrel. I figured as long as we stick with protein (eggs, sausage) we should be ok. I actually haven't looked up ingredients of sausage. It wouldn't surprise me if there was sugar... it does seem to be in everything.
Biscuits don't typically have sugar in them.
We went out to a Mexican place for a date. We had Nachos- I think that was safe.

Being tired of cooking, I was grocery shopping today and decided to get something easy: Hot dogs and Mac & Cheese. Yeah, real healthy. I didn't even bother looking at Kraft or generic Mac & Cheese and went straight for Annie's. No sweeteners. Hot dogs: Hebrew National is the only one that doesn't have sugar of some sort.
So... my "cheap" dinner:

2 boxes mac & cheese: $1.42 ea
1 pk. hot dogs: $3.98
Total: $6.82
That fed 6 of us, we were still hungry and it wasn't even that great. Maybe I'm being cleansed of junk food so it doesn't taste good anymore...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Our Etsy Shop

(Visit our Etsy Store here)
I've been on a creative kick lately... maybe since I'm staying away from refined sweeteners I'm so oragnized that I have time to be creative. LOL Or, it could be that my husband has been out of work so I have more time to play around while he chases after Titus (who gets into everything!) I don't know. But I've been having fun! (BTW, he has found a job and I may fill my time with this type of stuff instead of those darn facebook games... and continue my creative kick!)

So I wanted to make a photo collage for this post, but our MAC is so old it doesn't run Picasa. Sad, I know. So I searched online for a collage maker and found one, but it made it too big and chopped half of it off when I published it on Blogger. I can't win. So I just uploaded some photos and here's my "sampling:"

So, please stop in and see the cute little aprons and baby things I have for sale!

Illusarts Quality Handcrafts

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Oh these days of no refined sweeteners...

So, Saturday Luke worked for a guy at church, doing outside stuff. He sent Luke home with a Jennie-O turkey. I was just going to make it for Sunday dinner and Brian started reading on it... they put a solution in it to make it "juicier" and the solution has sugar in it!! So... we couldn't eat the turkey. How crazy is that?!
And it's not only flour tortillas that have sugar- corn tortillas have Dextose in them. I did find one sour dough loaf of bread that did not have sugar- I think it comes out of Seattle. It was $4. for the loaf.

Snacks without sugar:
Fruits (Apples, bananas, oranges, etc)
Homemade bread (honey)
Tortilla chips (the ones I normally buy at Costco)
Hard boiled eggs

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Difficult Sundays

That's right- Sundays are difficult. Nursery: Graham crackers. Kids Sunday School: Oreos or "fruit" snacks. Birthday surprise for Naomi: Airheads. Leaving church: Pastor's candy bucket (UGG!) Sunday Lunch: Invited to dinner. BBQ... um, hamburger buns have sugar in them. Ok, Spaghetti then... um, most spaghetti sauces have sugar in them. Meatballs. *Ding ding ding ding* we have a winner! Ok... but then my dear friend (Love you Laura!!) seasoned the meatballs with seasoned breadcrumbs. And yes, if you've guessed sugar, you've guessed correctly. High Fructose Corn Syrup to be exact. We ate it and were thankful. (The meat balls were just seasoned and fried served with a fruit salad (Fruit, lemon juice and honey) and steamed broccoli.)

Another couple shockers for this week: Flour tortillas. Sugar. AND Mayonnaise (I actually have the one made with Olive Oil in my fridge). SUGAR.

My sugar cravings... I don't have any. Hm, that's nice!

I did want something sweet earlier this week, so I made a piece of toast (whole wheat bread) with butter and raw honey.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

No Refined Sugar Easter

This was a little harder. Not harder than I anticipated, I think it was a little easier than I anticipated, but still, hard to say no. We have a breakfast at church on Easter, so I signed up to bring a bread/pastry. Now, I can make some killer cinnamon rolls and I probably would have if we hadn't been doing this challenge.
I made a coffee cake with whole wheat and honey instead of sugar and put some mixed berries on top. Thankfully we made it through the line in time to get some of it, because it disappeared fast. I giggled to myself. They had no idea they were eating something so good for them! Quiche, sausage and fruit was also served, so we just had to pass by the pastries. You know, we avoided alot more than just sugar doing that. We avoided alot of trans fat and white flour as well.
We did not eat ham for Easter dinner- Do they make ham without corn syrup? We ended up eating a roast. I made a fruit dip with maple syrup, vanilla and cream cheese for dessert.
Grandma came over... it was as I feared. "Sugar-free" candy. Which contained maltose and aspartame. I don't blame her- she really did try. I should have given her ideas- fruit leathers from the health food store, etc. When you don't know the names of refined sugars it's hard to tell. My cousin was diagnosed with diabetes when he was little and I learned then that anything ending with "ose" was a sugar. Later when I learned more about the dangers of sugar substitutes I learned the different names of them as well.

I found this information in the article Refined Sugar - The Sweetest poison of All...: (Thanks Cara!)
"Many of our principal foods are converted into glucose in our bodies. Glucose is always present in our bloodstream, and it is often called "blood sugar". Dextrose, also called "corn sugar", is derived synthetically from starch. Fructose is fruit sugar. Maltose is malt sugar. Lactose is milk sugar. Sucrose is refined sugar made from sugar cane and sugar beet. Glucose has always been an essential element in the human bloodstream. Sucrose addiction is something new in the history of the human animal."

It hasn't even been a week yet and I have noticed how many things contain sugar. It's amazing. Why? Why is sugar in everything?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Red Eggs for Greek Easter

Each year we dye our Easter eggs red- and only red. I explain why in my Easter post in 2008. I mentioned on Facebook that I was going to dye my eggs red and my friend Christina mentioned onion peels. I was curious and I found this site.
One problem- (this was last year) I only had 1 day till Easter and it called for the dry skins of 15 onions. I had 2 little onions. So, I peeled as much dry "paper" off them as I could, put them in a 4 1/2 qt. stainless steel pan with 2 TB white vinegar. I boiled it for 30 minutes, with a lid on. Let that cool- decided not to really strain the water, because after all, I only had the skins of 2 onions!
After the water cooled, I place in my eggs and then turned the burner back on to hard boil them- as they cooked they turned a beautiful crimson color.
These photos aren't edited- this is the real color of the eggs! I will never go back to food coloring again- God's natural colors are so much more vibrant!!
Another bonus- the color didn't come off on our hands when we held them and cracked them.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Day 1

Are you with me?

So far, so good... except we're spending a couple days up at my parent's. My mom does cook fairly healthy, but they have 5 kids still at home, and with our 5 and then my brother and his 4 will be there- so, with 20 people (14 being hungry kids), it's not always easy to make everything from scratch and sandwiches with store bought bread is much easier.

Next hard day: Easter Sunday breakfast at church... all those cinnamon rolls. Sorry kids. But hey, you get to write a blog post- remember how exciting that is?!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Meatloaf Skillet

Typically when I make meatloaf I do baked potatoes as well, so everything is baked in the oven and it's not much work to get dinner on the table. This is what I do if we have leftovers:

Meatloaf Skillet
Coconut oil
Baked potatoes
(it all varies on how much is left over)

Heat 3-6 TB coconut oil in a frying pan/skillet on Med-high heat, chop or dice the baked potato and add it to the oil. Let the potatoes get golden brown on one side before stirring them and adding cut up meatloaf. I throw in about 1 tsp. sea salt, but depending on how salty your meatloaf is, you might want to add more or less.
Stir every 3-5 minutes till the potatoes are crispy in parts and meatloaf is heated through.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sugar Free Challenge

For the month of April we have decided to do a sugar-free challenge.
Ok... now, this is probably a different type of challenge than you are thinking. This is not in favor of artifical sweeteners. This is an anti- refined sweetener challenge. After reading Real Food: What to Eat and Why I can't look at food the same again. She talks about how Americans have so much sugar in our diets and the effects it has on our bodies, in the form of heart disease and cancers, just to name a couple.
So, when Cara at Health, Home and Happiness asked if I wanted to join her in a "sugar free challenge" I heartily agreed. We had been talking about the effects of sugars on our emotional/mental state and I am curious as to how I will feel at the end of a month without sugar.
I brought it up to the family and all agreed to do with, except for Naomi and Titus, who don't really have a choice. :-) The boys were hemming and hawing a bit and I told them that I want them to write their own blog post on the experience so then they all jumped aboard!
The hard part, may be Easter. :-)

A few months ago this would have been too overwhelming for me, but I've been slowing cutting out the sugars we eat, it's in alot of things though, even Corn Flakes have sugar in the ingredient list!

Are you up for the challenge? Please join us!! Please make up your own rules, would you like to cut back on sugar, cook with more honey or maple syrup, try a sugar free week? Do whatever works for your family and please don't overwhelm yourself. This will require alot of effort and self-control.
So, for our rules:
No refined sugars, including: White Sugar, Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup and Agave Nectar.
I have let Grandma know and she was ok with it... we'll see how she feels as it gets closer to Easter. ;-)

This is going to take a bit more menu planning for me, I'm going to have to make the boys lunches for a whole month (and not be lazy and allow them to have school lunch *I know! cringe!*)- which means I have to be up on the bread making several times each week. And Naomi's birthday is in the middle of this, so I'm going to see what sort of desert I can come up with without using white sugar.

Please note: if you are planning on doing this, read the ingredient list on your grocery items- not the nutritional list. There are alot of foods that provide natural sugars and so that will be stated on the nutritional list, but is acceptable in this challenge because it is a natural sugar.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Basic Dinner Rolls

I have been learning so much about healthy eating lately and so I changed my roll recipe. Healthier than it was before, but still not as healthy as it could be... a little at a time though. :-)
These take about 1 to 1 1/2 hours total, from the start to taking the last batch out of the oven. It's really a fast roll recipe. You don't have to wait for them to rise. The smaller you make your rolls the faster they bake.

Basic Dinner Rolls
2 c. warm whole milk
2 TB yeast
2 TB honey
1 tsp. salt
1 egg
2 TB butter
2 c. whole wheat flour
2-3 c. white flour
Mix all together in a mixer with a dough hook, adding just enough flour so that the dough no longer sticks to the sides of bowl as it mixes. Let knead for 5 to 10 min. Roll out into desired shape.
Bake at 350˚ for about 20 minutes (for the large rolls like these, if you make them smaller, bake 10-15 minutes, depending on the size. The tops should be a light brown.

So this is what I do: separate into 2 blobs of dough. (I bet there's a more technical term for that...)

Roll out to about a 15" circle. (More or less.)

Cut into pie shape wedges with a pizza cutter.

Start rolling from the wide end of the wedge to make a crescent roll look.

Continue rolling.

Ah, all rolled up!

Place on baking pan.

Put the first batch in the oven, allow the next batch to rise.

Serve warm with butter.



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