Sunday, February 19, 2017

Homemade Knitting Needles

When I found out I could make my own knitting needles easily and safely, I was floored. I was about fourteen when my mother said, 'Ok, we are going to make knitting needles,' I thought she was out of her mind. We went to our local drugstore and bought some dowels, sandpaper, wood glue and large wooden beads. When I started to understand how easy this was gonna be I became elated, ecstatic actually because I only had one set of knitting needles my mom gave me when I had started to learn to knit. I wanted every size needles so I could make anything and everything I took a fancy to, but buying that many knitting needles would be so expensive!
If you go to a home improvement store or craft store, depending on the size you get, you can buy dowel sticks for around 30¢ each. The craft store will be more expensive so I recommend the former, where you can also get a reasonable price for wood glue and sanding paper. Wooden beads, or any other kind of bead for that matter, that can fit at the end of a dowel is somewhat difficult to find-probably depending on your area. If you make larger needles, you will have to fine tune your whittling skills, but a size 8 knitting needle can be formed from a dowel using an electric pencil sharpener. I have five sets I've made in this size because I use them the most. I make Granny Dishcloths on them and one set is double pointed for knitting a hat on. I have a scarf I am knitting on another set of 8s. They are my favorite size.
So once you get your purchase home, you can measure the length and cut/break the dowel into knitting needle size lengths with about a half inch longer so you have room to glue a bead on the end. Sharpen one end of each dowel carefully so you don't shorten the needle length.
Then sand the sharpened end so that it is smooth with a rounded tip. (This is the best time to remove any product labels.) Make sure the shaft is also smooth so it will not snag any yarn.
Next, put some coconut oil or olive oil on a paper towel and oil the entire length of the needle.
Squeeze a sunflower seed size amount of wood glue on to the blunt end and carefully slide your bead onto the end (it may be a tight fit and sometimes takes​ a bit of gentle finesse. This is the most difficult part.) Wipe excess glue from the knitting needle and set aside to dry.
When dry you may begin use immediately, the needles will become smoother and more slick the more they are used. I really enjoy the feel of them in my hands and they knit so much quieter than other needles I have used. I really love them.
I hope you will try it and let me know how it goes, or if you have any questions.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Eating More Vegetables: Homemade Italian

Last year Kristin over at LiveSimply.Me posted a hearty roasted vegetables spaghetti sauce recipe. At first  I was sceptical, but I was also somewhat desperate to get more vegetables into my picky toddler's belly, not to mention my dear husband. Pasta is one of my little boy's favorite foods and he doesn't mind if it is whole wheat so I made the sauce and boiled a pot of whole Einkorn Spaghetti Noodles  and he gobbled it up. I altered the recipe a little to suit my family and the sauce turned out delicious. Although my husband didn't care for the whole grain pasta, he also enjoyed the sauce. 

Since that night I have been serving up this vegetable packed sauce with spaghetti with grass-fed ground beef in it and in lasagna. I am very excited that Jovial is now making traditional pastas and I have great hopes my husband will enjoy them. 

Einkorn seems to make a huge difference in my health as well as my family's and I count it as an important part of our diet. I make a big order from Jovial from time to time and stock my pantry with einkorn wheat berries, pastas, sea salt sourdough crackers, beans, tomatoes, olive oil, and all-purpose einkorn flour. I feel the taste and nutrition is well worth the higher price tag.

The first time I made cheese pizza for lunch with this sauce and einkorn flour crust, my toddler said, " Mom, this is the best pizza I ever ate!" Aaaw, it is so satisfying to make a nutritious meal that everyone loves and I don't have to worry about making up for the nutrition later.

*Hearty Vegetable Spaghetti Sauce

Bethany Thompson Style Inspired by Kristin Marr

3 med size Carrots (about 1 ½ cups chopped)
2 med size Zucchini (about 2 cups chopped)
1 orange Bell Pepper
1 med size yellow Onion
4 whole Garlic cloves, peeled
2 TB extra virgin Olive Oil
1-2 cups halved white Mushrooms
1 tsp Salt, divided
½ tsp Black Pepper
1 - 28 oz can Whole Plum Tomatoes (with juice)
2 TB Tomato Paste
2 cups Chicken Stock
1-2 Tbsp Maple Syrup
1 tsp dried Organo
finely grated Parmesan Cheese

Preheat the oven to 400F.
Chop the carrots, bell pepper, onion, and zucchini into equal size pieces as best as you can. Spread vegetables onto a rimmed sheet pan lined with parchment paper if desired. Sprinkle the whole garlic cloves onto the pan of vegetables.
Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle ½ tsp of the salt and all the black pepper over the veggies. Using your clean hands, mix the vegetables to evenly coat them with the oil and seasoning.
Roast the vegetables for 25 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven, and add the halved mushrooms. 

Use a wooden spoon to stir the mushrooms in with the roasted vegetables. 

Roast the vegetables again for 20-25 minutes or until the mushrooms are cooked & soft.
Carefully slide the vegetables into a large Dutch oven or pot and add the canned tomatoes (with juice).

Blend the veggies and tomatoes together with an immersion blender.
To the pot, add tomato paste, chicken stock, oregano, and the rest of the salt.

Simmer the sauce for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Stir in the Maple Syrup and adjust seasonings to taste.

When ready to serve, stir in the parmesan cheese.

This makes a lot of sauce, so I usually fill a few freezer safe jars at this point, chill them in the fridge and then store them in the freezer. A pint is usually all I need to make a pizza or spaghetti, but lasagna takes about 1-2 quarts. I just defrost, add fresh grated parmesan cheese and assemble.

I add cheese to what is left in the pot, and usually some browned beef and serve over noodles, in a pizza, or in lasagna. 

Store the sauce in the refrigerator​ up to 

4 days, or in the freezer up to 4 months. 

*Easy Pizza Crust

1.25 cups of lukewarm Water

1 tsp Active Yeast

1 tsp Sugar or Maple Syrup

1 tsp Salt

3 cups of whole Einkorn Flour or All-purpose Einkorn Flour

2 Tbsp Butter

1 clove Garlic minced

 In a large mixing bowl, sprinkle the yeast and sugar over the warm water. After about 7 minutes, the yeast will begin to foam. Stir in the salt and flour using a Dutch whisk or wooden spoon.
Cover the bowl with a towel. Let the dough rest on the counter for 30 minutes, until doubled in size.
* Dough may be stored in refrigerator at this point for 24 hours until ready to make Pizza.
Preheat the oven to 425F.
While the oven is heating prepare the sauce and garlic butter and shred the cheese.

 For the Garlic Butter: Melt butter and add minced garlic to it. Mix with basting brush.

Brush large stoneware bar pan with some garlic butter.
After 30 minutes, gather and cover dough with flour, place on pan and pat into pan. Or if using a preheated stone form with floured hands and place on parchment paper.
Baste crust with garlic butter and par-bake 10 minutes.
Top with some sauce, cheese from grass-fed cows' milk, and other toppings.
Bake for 10 minutes, until the crust is golden and cheese bubbles. Makes 2 small pizzas or 1 large.

Monday, January 23, 2017

My First Detox

This month, to start the new year, I did the five day Thrive Market Detox. It was a rough week, no grains, no red meat, some days no meat at all, no dairy, little olive oil and coconut oil, not a lot of fruit, but loads of vegetables. I probably spent about three hours a day washing chopping and otherwise preparing vegetables, but it seemed like it was all I did all day. I loved the salads, so delicious especially the fresh tahini dressings. The smoothies were OK. I devoured the chicken breast and like I'd been starving all week. I discovered sweet potatoes mess up my belly, so now it's OK I don't like them.
When my detox was done, to my surprise, I didn't have any bad reactions to dairy. I didn't have any problems with eggs, but gluten was another story. Einkorn sourdough crackers didn't seem to bother me, neither did sourdough waffles or pancakes, but everything else messes my stomach up. Which is strange because I never seemed to notice any issues with bread, pasta, or other baked goods before. My theory is, my body cleaned house during my detox and so it more readily recognized what was making a mess of things. Grass-fed red meat doesn't bother me, but it's no surprise sugar is a big problem.
Benefits of my detox are, less to no achy joints and muscles when I wake up. I can climb the stairs without my muscles screaming at me. My teeth are whiter, and my hair has brighter color and looks shinier. I realized just how many vegetables one can eat in a day and new ways to prepare them. I realized just how little we eat vegetables and how to remedy that. I learned some new recipes I liked. I learned some new habits, like oil pulling and drinking lemon water in the morning, and having a cup of herbal tea before bed. The detox worked in only one week!
Cons to the detox are, not every recipe agreed with my palate and it was sometimes difficult to choke down. It was time consuming, I found myself putting other areas of my life on hold. But the biggest one, It was a burden on my family who did not wish to participate.
I would definitely do it again and probably will in about six months. Things I learned this time around is how to make the recipes more appealing to my family. (Which includes adding meat, and adjusting ingredients to better suit our tastes.) Also, not all the obscure ingredients are necessary, many of them can be replaced with more readily available ingredients. So instead of golden berries in your trail mix, you could substitute organic dried cherries, and instead of filbert nuts you could use walnuts (which is what I used fyi.) If you can't find pea shoots, try radish sprouts, I used sunflower sprouts myself. And if you can't find watercress, use Dandelion greens or something else equally nutritious. See, it doesn't have to be an overwhelming list of obscure ingredients you will only use once, but if you can get them, it's nice to try them because you may find a new favorite!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Soups On!

When it's time to make dinner and no one wants to eat what you were planning to make, it's easy to want to dash to the drive-thru. But, if you can get through the initial dismay and frustration, there is a fairly quick alternative. It has worked every time I have thought of it. On these emergency occasions I am glad to have chicken stock and prepared beans in my pantry because this is the best time to make up a new soup or throw together an old reliable like chicken noodle. Soup is such a versatile and nourishing dinner, whip up some biscuits or cornbread and it becomes comfort food. If you have a hard time getting vegetables into your family's bellies, soup is the perfect vehicle to get the job done.
It's easy to make soup without a recipe if you know the basics. Start with fat and cook your meat, onion and other vegetables. If you want to thicken the broth, now is the time to add some flour and let the rue cook a minute or two before adding the liquid. Next add seasonings and let it simmer at least five minutes. Enrich with butter or cream, garnish and serve. It takes some practice, but not too much, you can start to understand at what point to add each item so you don't overcook any one thing. Always taste and adjust seasoning just before adding enrichment.
Tonight was a successful inspiration, I browned some frozen hamburger patties diced onion, a diced tomato, and green bell pepper, threw in some Navy beans, stock and a dash of Chipotle. Enriched with butter and accompanied with a slice of sourdough bread and a sliced avocado on top. This creative brainstorm was a hit with my picky boys.
Sometimes its chicken noodle soup if I have leftover chicken, next time it could be creamy potato soup with kale and elbow macaroni. I just depends on what you are in the mood for and what you have on hand. I'm calling soup my go to fail-safe for last minute real food dinner and keeping my pantry stocked with the basics. Good luck, and have fun creating your masterpiece.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Simple Fresh Peanut Butter

Making Peanut Butter or any nut or seed butter really is just as simple as grinding them up in a food processor to the desired smoothness and seasoning it as you like. It is really so much more tasty to make fresh nut or seed butter, but it's only as good as your ingredients. Even if you don't use organic peanuts, they taste fresher, and it's much more economical.
It really just goes to show how big business has sold us on consumerism. After making my own peanut butter, I don't plan on ever buying it or almond butter or cashew butter etc. ever again! What a racket, seriously! No more standing for half an hour in a grocery isle staring at fifty different options for my PB and J sandwich. Chunky, smooth, medium, less salt, low fat... Rediculousness, make your own to your own liking and enjoy!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Simple Fresh Applesauce

It seems like our modern culture has a tendency to overcomplicate things, and maybe that's our competitive nature. We don't want other people to think that they can do what we can do just as easily right? Because, if they can do what we can do, they won't admire us anymore... We all need admiration, and that's OK, but maybe we shouldn't be so greedy for it. After all, we should always be willing to help each other. My livelyhood doesn't depend on anyone buying the food I prepare so I don't mind sharing my experience.
I have been reading an old home economics book written at the end of the 1930's for young womens' schools. It says the most nutrition is obtained from raw fruit as apposed to dried or cooked fruit. However, if you are unable to eat an abundance of fruit before it overrippens, it is best to cook it, to preserve it in some way so as not to waste the food.
This was a revelation to me; not that I didn't already know cooking fruit was an alternative to throwing it away, but I realized I could be more concious and more intentional with the fresh food I buy. I should be watchful of my fresh produce, check on it everyday if I'm not eating it, and do something with it if it's not gonna make it much longer. But then do I have to look up a recipe and measure out ingredients, which takes time and for thought? The answer is, not necessarily. Sometimes all it takes is some imagination. How about poaching halved pears in butter, brown sugar and a bit of water and serving them with cinnamon spiced whipped cream on top. Cutting up some pineapple and orange sections and dusting them with powdered sugar and lots of coconut makes a delicious new spin on ambrosia salad! If I buy too many apples because they are on sale and I love apples, I can make applesauce after they've reached there and freeze it in pint jars for later. (Which my toddler loves to eat regularly by the way.) Applesauce is one of those things we have been lead to believe is complicated or requires some special skills or equipment to make. -None of which is true.
Today I'm sharing a recipe for the applesauce I threw together off the top of my head to use up some soft and meally apples.

Fresh Applesauce
6 Apples
1/2 cup Water
A pinch Salt
2 Tbsp Raw Clover Honey

Core, peel and chop apples into large chunks. (You don't have to peel the apples, but we prefer to have a smooth applesauce as apposed to sauce with sharp flecks of peel in it. I use a potato peeler for ease and convenience to peel the apples before cutting them up.) Place apples and water into a medium baking dish.
Bake 400 degrees for 30 minutes.
Puree with an immersion blender, and stir in salt and honey once it's cooled.
Makes about one quart.
Store in fridge or freezer.

If you prefer, you could cook them on the stove top instead. The key is not to over complicate things. If you like cinnamon or another spice in applesauce, then add it! If  you want to use sugar or dates to sweeten it instead of honey, by all means, do it. This is what it means to be the family cook, add a little this and taste it, add a little more of that and taste it until you feel it tastes the way you want. Just don't add too much all at once. 😉
Bon appetit!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

What Actually Makes Life More Simple in My Home

There are so many blogs and books out there with recipes and formulas for homemade products to replace our former chemical laden products we use to buy at the store. Personally, I don't find making eight different cleaners ever so often and then reaching for each one when I need to clean something, all that simple. I would like to share what I have been doing that actually feels simple to me.

Bathroom Cleaning
When it's time to clean my bathrooms; which apart from the kitchen I feel needs cleaning the most, I whip up a cleaning solution that works great on the sinks, toilets and bathtubs.
For two bathrooms I combine a quarter cup of baking soda, a tablespoon of SalSuds or Liquid Castile Soap, and 5-10 drops of Grapefruit or otherwise a delightful essential oil and mix it with a wooden spoon. It will look crumbly, then I just add water from the tap and stir it until it forms a softscrub-like paste. After mixing up this cleaner, I go to each fixture and scoop out a bit and fling it in. I scrub the inside of the toilet and then spray the outside with disinfectant and let it sit while I scrub the sink and tub with a stiff brush and homemade scrubbing paste. Next I use a damp microfiber ecloth to wash the mirrors and a dry ecloth to buff. These astonishingly sparklingly clean mirrors with very little effort. To wash the floors I use a spray bottle of vinegar water and a microfiber mop. I do this while my husband is at work so the vinegar smell doesn't bother him by the time he gets home. I find the vinegar is great for also getting rid of any "male smell" that may have dripped on the floors.

Cleaning The Kitchen
This is even more simple because I wash my dishes by hand I can't spend extra time getting out special cleaners for every little thing. I don't have stainless appliances currently, but this method should work fine in any case.
First I wash dishes using a mild dish soap, and vinegar rinse water ( I use about a quarter to a half cup of white vinegar in my rinse water.) Once the dishes are washed, I use my soapy water and vinegar water and a dish cloth to wash my counters, appliances, cupboards and walls that may have been splashed, and the dining table. It works marvellously and I have a clear glass dining table that becomes streak-free when I use my vinegar rinse water to wash it.
Then I use my hard floor attachment and vacuum my kitchen floor, followed by a spray of vinegar water and microfiber mop. Vinegar water cleans my stainless sink too, so I never have had any trouble with stains. Just like that, I have a shining clean kitchen. Note:  If I have had a mess of egg or poultry to clean up, I use my disinfecting spray too.

Cleaning the Livingroom and Other Living Areas
I bought a microfiber duster I use to dust blinds and every other surface, and I have a vacuum with HEPA filtration. I use the same ecloths and technique to clean windows as I use to clean mirrors. I diffuse essential oils instead of using a room spray, I have a Salt Lamp running and an Aloe Vera plant to clean the air. Let's not forget to change the Central Air filter too, right?
If there is a spill I spray hydrogen peroxide on it and it has lifted everything I've tried it on. Vinegar and water also work fine on the fabric couch and just a damp cloth on our leather chair and laminate tables. I do need to figure out a leather conditioner though.

Cleaning Bedrooms
I use a diffuser here as well, dust, vacuum, air beds and then make them up, fluff pillows, and HP on spills.
You know, I don't really get a lot of stains though, because we generally don't eat much food coloring anymore. My son drinks mostly water and milk, so far as spills go, right now I just vacuum up a lot of crumbs.

Other Maintenance
Damp Microfiber cleans the outside of my washer and dryer, I use baking soda and then vinegar to clean the inside of my washer. Sweep the patio and eve's. I do make an all-purpose spray I use if my soft scrub doesn't extend enough to clean particularly grimy shower walls, or there is  some particularly stubborn wall coloring, but I rarely need it anymore.

My cleaning tools
Microfiber Duster (I bought the oxo, but this one looks like a better deal, plus I like orange better than oxo red and black 😉)
Microfiber Mop
Stiff Scrub Brush (I'm getting this one next)
Salt Lamp
Aloe Vera Plant
Vinegar Water Spray Bottle
(50/50 ratio)
Soft Scrub-like Mixture
- bowl and wooden spoon.
Dish Soap
Disinfectant Spray
Hydrogen Peroxide with sprayer nozzle

I use soap nuts in a small bag and essential oils to wash clothes, and I use wool dryer balls instead of dryer sheets.

I make my own face wash, toner, and moisturizer. Lip balm is easy to make and I use very little so it lasts all year. For lotion, it works to just use jojoba oil and Shea butter straight, but it's easy enough to combine them and make a lotion with essential oils. I like African Black Soap for body wash, but I am excited to make some body wash using Liquid Castile Soap, I already use liquid Castile soap for foaming Hand Soap (a quarter cup of soap per cup of water). I use Trader Joe's Tea Tree Shampoo and Conditioner. My toddler uses just African Black Soap and Spry Toothpaste. I use a toothpowder or Redmond's toothpaste. I am using magnesium oil and essential oils for deodorant now, but I'm looking forward to making this one soon. (Update 2017: I've been using it several months now and it works great, so happy!)

I buy natural makeup, because I have tried making it and found it more time consuming to formulate my own personal colors and the right textures. Fortunately, there are many truly natural makeup companies these days. I do however make my own perfume - which consists of a roller bottle of essential oils.

Fast Food
Instead of trying to recreate a processed food, I try to find quick to prepare homemade food options, or learn tricks to make favorite recipes come together quick that help me not miss the alternative. (This is a work in progress.) It's really easy with some things and much harder with others.
I make big batches and freeze waffles and pancakes. I preform and freeze hamburger patties. I shred and freeze cheese, I can add this still frozen to recipes and sauces if needed. I make extra pizza and spaghetti sauces and freeze them in pint jars for quick dinners. I make plenty of beans and freeze them too for quick dinners and recipes. Rice only takes about 20 minutes to cook on the stove, biscuits take 20 minutes to bake, veggies take 20 minutes to roast in a 400 degree oven. Fish only takes about six minutes to cook in a pan, frozen burgers take about 10 minutes, gravy takes about 5-10 minutes to make. On the other hand chicken breasts take about 30 minutes to roast in a 400 degree oven, and need to rest ten minutes afterwards. So I like to roast and slice chicken breasts ahead of time and chill them and a homemade dressing for a quick salad or soup or both later. When I'm chopping vegetables, I always chop extra and store them in the fridge to make the next meal quicker.

So there you have it. Simple: uncomplicated and takes little time and resources- Doable. If you have some truely simple tips you find doable on a day-to-day-didn't-have-time-to-shower-mommy or workaholic basis I'd love to hear them. Here's to uncomplicating natural living! "Clink"- that was my cup of tisane and whatever you are having..