Friday, January 29, 2010

Day 28 - Math

We are working on math with the boys, kind of in a loosey goosey way until my Singapore Math workbooks and textbook get here (and I need to order the home instructors guide). I was really surprised that my boys did not immediately take to math manipulatives (i.e. counting with beans, rods, etc.), in fact they seemed annoyed by them. I was at a lose about what to do, so I have just been writing out the 1+ tables, and the 2+ tables, and so on and having them work on problems (really boring). Then, I came upon this really cool website called the Khan Academy. It is a series of videos on YouTube that teach math from basic addition on up. The boys watched it and were fascinated by the "yard stick" method in which you have a series of numbers written along a horizontal line. You mark the first number in the equation and then make little jumps equivalent to the second number in the equation to get the answer. Example: 2 + 5 = you would mark the #2 and then with your pencil jump 5 spots to land on the 7. I thought I would switch it up and make a game-type board. I want to get some little pieces (like from Monopoly but bigger so L won't eat them and choke)...maybe have one piece as the primary spot marker and then have a car or something that "drives" the number of spaces needed.

My Singapore books came last night, but I am still going to use this when we do problems.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Day 27 - Corn Chowder

Wednesday is soup day. Today was simple corn chowder:

Saute one onion in oil or butter. Add about 1/4 small can of chopped japalenos or equivalent fresh. Also, add 1/2 package of frozen peppers or equivalent fresh peppers. Cook for a few minutes until just tender. Add one bag of frozen sweet corn. Add 1.5 cans of veggie or chicken broth (about 3 cups homemade broth). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 30mins.

Blend with an immersion blender or in a blender.

Day 26 - homemade fun

Okay, so you may have noticed that I am sucking really badly at this challenge - I refuse to cheat and so am posting only on the days that I make stuff. I will go back and fill in, but I have lost some followers and think I need to keep things fresh. I do make alot of stuff but it tends to be the same stuff or variations thereof. So, today I am cheating. C, L and R-dog made their own fairy playland, using the comforter as a cloud, and played ponies.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Day 24 - Pork Roast Marinade

Sunday is meat day. We generally rotate between chicken and pork/ham with the very occasional beef meal. Tonight we had pork roast. I like to slather the roast with a yummy rub and then slow roast it.

Pork Roast Wet Rub:

grind together -

1 small package of pecans
1/4 C deli mustard
2 T brown sugar
2 T balsamic vinegar
as much garlic as you like
salt and pepper to taste
enough olive oil to make a paste

Then cover the whole roast with the rub

Roast it and then eat up!!!

I served this with cremini mushrooms, broccoli, roast potatoes, stuffing and gravy

BONUS - scrape the rub off the roast and add it with the pan juices to package or plain homemade gravy. Extra tasty!!!!

Day 18 - Tutus

I love making tutus. Luckily, the girls love wearing them, so I get to indulge my creative desires frequently. C had an unfinished tutu waiting, so today I finished it much to her delight. I am actually in the planning stages of creating my own little craft company to sell tutus and related items at craft fairs and online. Here are some pics of the ladies in their tutus (the one of L is actually of her in a tutu a friend made, she's just the model, and it was taken about 6 months ago so she is only about 5 months old).

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Day 17 - Black Bean Soup

I love soup...cold soup, warm soup, hot soup, love them all. One of the family favourites (by that I mean it is requested often) is Miami Black Bean Soup. I did get this out of a cookbook originally, but I make it by heart now, and completely forget which book I got it from (sorry). Here is the recipe with my tweaks:

Chop one large onion, and several cloves of garlic. Saute this is a couple tablespoons of butter and/or olive oil for about 5 minutes. Add half a bag of frozen mixed peppers or about 2 cups chopped fresh peppers and also about 1/2 little can of chopped jalapenos or equivalent of fresh chopped japalenos. Cook for a few more minutes. Add two cans of black beans or about 2.5 cups of cooked black beans. Toss in a bay leaf, Tobasco and some ground cumin if you want to jazz it up. Then add about 3 cups of veggie or chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and then simmer for about 30 mins. Blend in the blender or with an immersion blender. Serve with a dollop of sour cream, some crusty bread or crackers.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Day 16 - Stirfry Sauce

Tonight I wanted a quick and hearty dish, so I made stirfry. Actually, it is not as spontaneous as it sounds because I always plan my complete menu a week (sometimes two) before I go to the store, so I knew we were having stirfry.

I know a lot of people like to buy store-bought Teriyaki sauce or other sauces to add to their stirfry, but I like a simple basic sauce:

1 cup soy sauce or tamari
1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
grated fresh ginger and chopped garlic to taste, and a squeeze of lemon

I like to follow the theory that a good sauce (and a good marinade) should have a salty element, a spicy element, a sweet element, an acid element, and a sour element.

The stiry fry itself was just brown rice, onions, broccoli, carrots, water chestnuts and scrambled egg. It was yummy.

Day 15 - Homemade Cookies

The kids have been complaining that I no longer make cookies, so I decided to treat them and make some carob chip cookies with crunchy toffee bits. They were very happy.

My little assistant

The few cookies I could get a picture of before they were devoured.

**Just so you know, all the kids and I are allergic to cocoa so you will never see a recipe with chocolate in this blog. I replace all chocolate chips with carob chips, and all cocoa powder with carob powder.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Day 14 - Homemade Playdough

I admit it, I don't like the smell of PlayDoh...I do like the feel, however. So, I was browsing through recipes for homemade playdough and came across one that is made with Kool-Aid instead of dye so I thought, "hmmm, that would probably smell great". So, when a friend and her daughters were over at the end of December, I gave it a try. It felt and smelled heavenly, so I decided to give it a go again recently.

Homemade Playdough:

2 cups flour
1 cup salt
2 tablespoons oil
2 cups water
Kool-Aid packets (I used our store brand)

Mix Kool-Aid, flour, salt in bowl. Add oil, then boiling water. Stir well. Knead on counter until mixed and smooth. I then put it in a frying pan for about 30 seconds on each side. That seemed to really make it pliable.

Just a note

Wow, I am finding it hard to take the time to post. I realize I am almost 6 days behind. I will try to catch up, but L is teething and that requires alot of my energy.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Day 13 - Homemade bird food

So, the kids and I were racking our brains trying to come up with a non food related post - I promised P that this wouldn't just turn into a recipe blog. However, I had on hand:

the leftover oatmeal from the day before,

some pork fat from Sunday's dinner (the only night we eat meat)

and copious amounts of crunch peanut butter which the kids have decided they no longer like (the crunchy part, that is, not peanut butter which is still a beloved food). I remembered seeing a recipe for bird food using some of these ingredients, so I decided to wing it (no pun intended) and ground up the fat, oatmeal, peanut butter, some walnuts and raisins.

I then cut down an old milk jug and made it into a feeder. I also filled a muffin tin with the leftover food so I can just add more as needed.

Do not know if the birds like it yet, because it has been raining for days, and I haven't put it out yet.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Day 11 - Hollandaise

Hello, my name is Jennifer and I am an addict. There, I said it. I am addicted to Hollandaise sauce. I am so addicted that my poor children have become little mini addicts. I have yet to find anything that does not taste wonderful with Hollandaise drizzled on it, or dunked into it, and don't even get me started on Eggs Benedict because that conversation will go on for hours. Yes, I am aware that it is not very good for me, but oh so delicious. I limit myself to about twice a month, and usually it is, like today, for snack time with toast dipped into it, or for breakfast with a poached egg. The kids just adore it and will happily sit at the table dunking little pieces of toast into it. I use a very simply recipe originally form the Joy of Cooking that only requires a blender. I have tweaked it a little:

4 eggs yolks - the fresher the better
1 stick of butter (1/2 cup) - I cannot wait to try this with homemade butter
splash of lemon juice
splash of Tabasco Sauce
salt to taste

- melt the butter until it is bubbling and frothy, but not browned (this usually takes about 3 minutes in the microwave if I start with a frozen stick of butter)
- meanwhile, put egg yolks in blender, and turn on low speed. Gradually add the lemon juice, Tabasco and salt.
- once the butter is ready, slowly (very slowly) add the butter in a light stream to the eggs while the blender is running on low. After about 30 seconds, you can pour the rest in quickly.

You are left with creamy, rich, thick manna from egg heaven.

Confession time - there are no pictures of the glorious Hollandaise. We ate it before I could take pictures. Oh, well, guess I will have to make another batch soon. (can you hear the maniacal laughing in the background?)

UPDATE: So, I sacrificed and made another batch just so I could get some pictures ;)

It is hard to get a good picture of the egg yolks whizzing around in the blender, but here it is.

Breakfast of champions...or at least champions of Hollandaise Love! BTW those are Oroweat's new sandwich thins. They are great because they are lower carb as is, but I can divide one in half between me and X and neither one of us feels deprived like we would with half a piece of bread. We get the multi grain variety at Costco.

Day 12 - Soaked Porridge

I love porridge, always have, always will. However, when I was little my mum used to like to make it swimming in hot milk which always made me want to vomit...I love dairy products but cannot stand milk as, well, milk. Since then, I have always made it with water. Since putting X and myself on a low carb / good carb diet, I have very stingy with the oatmeal.
However, I decided to soak the oatmeal in milk kefir overnight (sort of fermenting it). The next morning, I dump the whole goopy mass in a pot, put in water, some cinnamon and voila, creamy porridge deliciousness. Bonus: the kids each ate two bowls.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Day 10 - Vermiculture

Last summer my husband began a square foot garden as a hobby. Many of my local friends have the most wonderful gardens (and chickens - I am very jealous of this). Several of them also do worm composting. So, in my effort to support P's new hobby, I took up one of my won - vermiculture. A dear friend gave me some worms, and I constructed our homemade worm paradise. Sadly, it is hotter than hell in south Texas in the summer, and my little worms all either died or ran away. So, got another batch from my friend, and tried round two but this time in the garage. Still too hot, and I thought all the little wormies died again. Too sad to try again, I put the worm box outside when the weather cooled and decided to use it as a regular composter. Surprisingly, the worms were not dead, and in fact, have proliforated in the cool weather. So, although I cannot take all the credit for this, todays subject is 1) homemade worm composters and 2) homemade compost.

Our worm box is made out of two plastic bins. They both have air holes so that air can circulate. The main one is in the bottom and when that fills up, the worms will travel to the top bucket, and I will will use the compost from below. I cover the top box with a plastic cover with lots of air holes in it.

We compost all veggie and fruit matter, all egg shells, and all coffe grounds. We do not put anything with meat or dairy in it in the compost, and I do not put citrus peels or lots of onions in there. Actually, the compost is so rich I have lots of seeds sprouting in it - may have alot of spaghetti and acron sqaush this summer because that is what is sprouting.

Hopefully you can see one of my little wormies - they are not earth worms, but red worms. I think they adorable and love them to bits!!!!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Day 9 - Orange Kefir Soda

I have recently begun making Kefir Soda. The kids adore the lemon version, but were not impressed with the cherry or blueberry. Opinions were mixed on the orange - C loved it, I thought it was good, P hated it and X made a face. S wouldn't even try. They are all mad because I refuse to make lemon again until I at least try lime.

I follow the direction on Cheeseslaves blog. I was gifted the grains (both water and milk) by my friend OwlMomma.

I am in a bit of a rush today, but will post pictures soon....not that watching things ferment is exciting to most people, but I think it is nifty.

Okay, I am back with a picture and some comments:

These are the water kefir grains
I let the sugar water ferment for two days and then added the juice from half an orange. Then I let it ferment for two to three more days. I didn't find the orange flvour pronounced enough and thought it was still too sweet. I think I need to let it initially ferment for longer. My friend OwlMomma brought some raspberry kefir soda to the park yesterday and hers was delicious - so much so that L stole my cup, chugged it down and then tried to mooch the rest off of everyone else. I am making some lime kefir soda now, so we will see if that is more to our taste. I think I will also save up and buy some proper soda bottles like OwlMomma has because they do make the soda much fizzier than my mason jar version.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Day 8 - Calendar

I have tried several different calendar systems, but found them either too restrictive or didn't have enough options, so I buckled down and created my own.

I have a monthly page with lines for me and P, home things like bills or monthly chores, and lines for each of the kids. I don't put much detail on these, just enough to know I am supposed to do something.

I also created daily pages. These have pre-defined spaces for things I do every day, things I do specific to that day, space for things I need to prepare for homeschool, and things I need to do to prepare for this blog. My hour by hour spaces have room for school things and non-school things. I type in recurring events, but the rest I just write in.

I put these on thickish paper, three whole punch them and put them in a pretty binder- well, okay I still need to find a pretty binder...maybe I should just make one...oooooh, maybe a future post.

I have tried to use Motivated Moms, and also purchased products from MomAgenda, as well Day Timer, but find my system works better for me. I do like Motivated Moms system, but didn't like that the chores were already prescheduled, but could see it as being handy for someone who needed help getting organized. I like MomAgendas stuff but wanted the flexibility of a three ring binder rather than the unmoveable page protectors in the system I purchased. I still use their kitchen folio, though, because I don't need to move things around so much.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Day 7 - Anti-rash bath soak

Little L developed some weird rah all over her core today. We have several friends whose children have developed Roseola and I think this may be what she has - she had a fever on Monday, and developed the rash today (Day 4). So, I am making one of my patented (not really) bath soaks. I usually like to put lavender and tea tree oil in the soaks but have run out of my essential oils and refuse to pay grocery store prices for them; the hunt is on for a decently priced, bulk provider of essential oils.

For a rash, I like to grind up oatmeal, baking soda and milk (or powdered milk if you are keeping it or not using it all at once). If you want to add essential oils, go ahead and do that as well. Grind this all up fine in a blender or food processor - leave the liquid milk out if you are using it and add after sieving the rest. I then like to sieve it to get only the fine powder, take it from me, it is a clumpy, gooey mess otherwise.

EDIT: add this fine powder to a warm bath. (sorry I forgot to add this originally)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Day 6 - Laundry Powder

We have been using the all natural liquid laundry soap from Costco and have been happy with it. However, I decided to try making my own laundry powder (it is really cost effective). I found a recipe that lists out:

1 bar of Fels-Naptha or Ivory soap
1/2 Cup washing soda (not baking soda)
1/2 Borax.

I couldn't find Fels-Naptha at my grocery store, but will be ordering it online, or searching for it locally because I hear it is an excellent stain fighter. However, I also hear it can be caustic, so I've seen the recommendation to use 1/2 Fels-Naptha and 1/2 some other natural soap. I think I will try this with my natural soap being Dr. Bonners.

I also thought the soap to other stuff ratio seemed high, so my recipe is (or will be when I get the Fels-Naptha):

1/2 bar Castille soap
1/2 bar Fels-Naptha
2 Cups washing soda
2 Cups Borax

You shred the soap and mix it with the powder ingredients.

Then, place it is a jar and use about 1 to 2 Tablespoons per load.

I decided to test it out on the hardest washing load I have - dirty cloth diapers. Wow, the diapers came out smelling clean and looking bright. I am a convert. I then did a load of light coloured clothes, and same thing - smelled good and clean.

Can't wait to try it out with my homemade fabric softener (but that is a post for another day).

I love fresh, clean natural diapers!!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The cast of characters

Just realized that I have never introduced the crazy cast of characters who make up the central core of my life.

There is me (Jennifer). I am married to P (Daddy). We have 2 boys and 2 girls (in that order). S is our eldest and he was born in 2003. X came next in 2004, with C following in 2006. L is our youngest and she was born in 2009. Joining this human crew are R-dog our male Great Dane who was born in 2005. B-dog is a female Great Pyrenees who was born in 2007. R-cat is our eldest male cat (2005), while we picked up O-cat (another male) from the same farm we got B-dog from in 2007. Finally is P-kitten. We found her huddling freezing and scared outside when she was about 6 weeks old in October of 2009. Obviously, we took her in.

Day 5 - Lentil Stew

Today (Tuesday) is the day we are out of the house from morning until evening...usually a crock pot kind of day. X has capoeira in the morning, then we join friends for Homeschool Park Day (a.k.a Mummy gets to speak to other adults day).

There will be no pictures. I was rushing to make homemade popcorn to hold the ravening hordes off while the stew cooked, so forgot to document the process.

Basically the meal is easy-peasy: put one can of Italian chopped tomatoes, one small can of tomato paste, one cup of water, one chopped onion, two peeled and diced potatoes and about 1/2 cup of lentils in a pot. Bring to a boil, and then simmer until the lentils are tender.

It was a hit with P-Daddy, L and me. S, X, and C were so stuffed with popcorn that they only took a few bites (note to self: make sure to not give the kids too much popcorn right before dinner.)

Day 4 - Asian Salad Dressing

Okay, shoot me. It is day 4 and I am alread coping out and making salad dressing. Honestly, it was our first day of full-time homeschool and I really need to get better at our schedule. Also, I am taking care of a friend's dog whilst they are away being festive ('tis the season and all) with her family. She graciously allowed me to take her unfinished organic spring mix salad so it didn't go to waste; hence the salad dressing. (However, please note the filling for the omelette was a super fantastic homemade cheddar ale fondue from New Year's Eve, so it was, in fact a triple homemade meal - fondue, omelette and dressing.

FYI - I generally cook "off the cuff" so measuring is a hit or miss thing for me, and I often describe things in "parts". It is frustrating, I know.

Take two parts soy sauce or tamari, put it in a mixing jar.

Add two parts sesame oil.

Add one part rice wine vinegar, and then add garlic if you like (or if you don't forget like I did). Cap the jar and shake vigorously.

Cheddar Ale cheese omelette with organic greens and Asian salad dressing.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Started a new blog

As the intro post says, I have been feeling directionless since losing my job, becoming a SAHM, and putting my Ph.D. on hiatus and I wanted to set a goal for myself that wasn't about the kids, but could include them. So, I have set a challenge for myself to make a homemade product for 365 days. I would love some support (followers) and maybe to have people play along when I set up some challenges (like asking people to make something homemade on Thursdays and post about it).

Day 1 - Yoghurt

I grew up eating homemade yoghurt. My mum still has the yoghurt maker she had when we were little (in the 70s), and still makes yoghurt in it. I remember watching her go through this complicated and bewildering process of slowly warming up milk, constantly taking the temperature and then quickly whipping it off the stove to let it cool down (constantly taking the temperature, again) and then finally putting it in her yoghurt maker and letting it work. Seemed all a little labour intensive to me, but I do so love yoghurt. I happened upon a blog that details out how to make homemade yoghurt in a crock pot, and I haven't looked back since. I make several batches per week. I usually use whole milk or a mix of whole milk and cream. The more fat in the yoghurt the creamier it is. I had a friend dispute this fact with me, so I experimented (same times for heating and cooling and fermenting) and it definitely makes a richer creamier yoghurt the more fat you have. At some time in the future I will be trying Cultures for Health's no heat yoghurt starter so you don't have to heat your raw milk, but for now this works for me.

I just make plain yoghurt with the milk and starter. I do not add anything else. I do let it ferment for a while (at least 12 hours) but we don't mind the sourness, and because of our hypoglycemia, we need to get rid of as much of the sugar as possible.

The whole process is not very visually appealing - white milk in a white pot with white starter, but it is tasty!!!!

Day 2 - Whipped Cream

I know pulling a canister out of the fridge and pressing a button is easier than whipping up cream, but the taste is so much better with the homemade version - I will not even address that other stuff that comes in a tub (which I have always refused to try, but accidentally got once and thought I was going to be sick). Basically, put cream in a bowl, whip it on the highest speed until it starts to thicken, put in sugar or sugar substitute, whip some more and then it is yummy time....especially in coffee.

Day 3 - Butterscotch Sauce

So, not that you could tell from this post, but we are low carb/good carb. Occasionally, however, I like to give the kids a treat and seeing as today was our first full day of homeschool, we decided to make butterscotch sauce to go on some ice cream.

You need 1 stick of butter (1/2 cup), 2 cups brown sugar, 1 cup evaporated milk, and about 1 Tablespoon vanilla.

Melt the butter

Add the brown sugar

Once it is melted, cool slightly and add the vanilla and milk.

It will foam up spectacularly. Then just stir it vigorously for a minute or so.

I then pour it out in a shallow layer, put nuts in for those who like it, and then put it in the fridge to cool down. Once it is cool, serve it on ice cream (or eat it off a spoon :)