Thanks for visiting our blog! My mom taught me that a good meal, made from scratch, can solve just about everything.The recipes on this blog are gentle on tummies, tasty, weight-loss promoting, and can be made without a fuss. Most of them are free of gluten, dairy, corn, and sweeteners. Best of all, they help those that eat them become more patient, more loving, and more kind. Please, keep in touch! Thanks again for visiting.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Fabulous Dairy-Free Pesto

This recipe is simple, easy and delicious. It makes enough to cover a LOT of pasta (I started with 1.5lbs dry quinoa/rice pasta); this truly feeds a crowd well. Sunflower seeds make this recipe very economical. I added some sautéed chicken breast to my pasta and pesto to round out the meal. This recipe freezes well. 

Note: Make sure to follow directions precisely to avoid blender problems. :) I do not have a Vitamix or other fancy blender, however this recipe is successful every time.

1c sunflower seeds
1c nutritional yeast flakes
1c olive oil
1c lemon juice
1t salt (I use pink salt)
Leaves of 2 basil plants

Wash basil leaves and spin dry. Set aside.

Put sunflower seeds in the blender and grind until the consistency is that of a coarse meal. It will look a bit like wet sand. 

Add nutritional yeast and pulse a few times.

Add the olive oil, lemon juice and salt. Begin blending, turning off blender to stir periodically. Once a uniform consistency begins to appear, add basil leaves. Continue blending and  turning off blender to stir until all basil leaves are completely incorporated. Bon appetit! :)

Friday, August 7, 2015

Eating Well Economically

At our house, we have really been thriving. It is SUCH a gift! I credit our careful eating with how happy and healthy we are, and how kind we are to each other. We have lived both the grouchy, tired "before" and the cheerful, energetic "after," as both of us have experienced how we feel with gluten and sugar in our systems. We are also ethically committed to buying local, fair trade and organic whenever possible. So, how to reconcile this with being on a budget? 

First, let me mention that my family is privileged to live in a region with a rich local food economy. Our small town contains three grocery stores that carry extensive organic foods. Since we have spent time in places where decent fresh vegetables cannot be found, organic or not, we count our blessings. Your path may be different. 

In the spirit of full disclosure, we DO spend real money on food. We believe it is worth it. If you want to compete with me for the lesser monthly food bill, I forfeit, you win! What our family does have in a greater degree than many is happiness. We spend no money on prescriptions or therapy to make this happen.

So, in no particular order, here is how I strategize on my food purchases:

-Purchase good-quality Cod Liver Oil. This is presently the only supplement I take. We prefer Garden of Life Olde World Icelandic CLO. We are nearly always able to get it on sale for $12.99, and a bottle lasts a couple months at least. This ensures we meet our basic needs for vitamins A&D, which are so very important for immunity and prevention of countless maladies. Cod Liver Oil is also very good for mental health. The flavor, Lemon-Mint, is pretty good. 

-Buy good-quality meat on sale and freeze immediately. I prefer to buy organic chicken drumsticks, grassfed full-fat ground beef, grassfed stew beef, ground dark meat chicken and pork sirloin chops as these are economical and convenient for me to prepare in the crock pot. While only the chicken is organic, the other meats are GMO free and exposed to pasture. I choose to freeze ground meat in meatball shapes so that I may easily remove only what I need from the freezer. I accomplish the same thing by individually freezing other cuts of meat on cookie sheets before placing them in tupperware for long term freezer storage. Not only is this convenient, it virtually eliminates food spoilage and wasted meat.

-Also to prevent food waste, only buy fish if you are going to use it all that day. 

-Except in the case of delicate foods like berries, wash produce and store it cheerfully in the fridge as soon as you get home with it. This helps prevent it from languishing in the fridge on the many nights when you will have time to prep or cook veggies, but not both. 

-Buy extra large and medium organic eggs, never large. These sizes are substantially less expensive.

-Grow herbs outside if you can. We have fresh lavendar, rosemary, oregano, thyme, lemon balm and fennel year-round. In the summer, we grow basil. We use the lemon balm and fennel for tea.  Wowser, herbs are pricey in the store, and the small amount you get is usually embalmed in plastic, actually too much for any recipe, and soon lost in the back of the fridge. 

-Add value to your foods at home whenever you are able. Sprouting your own seed & flours, souring and baking your own bread products and pickling your own vegetables takes nothing but time...and not very much of that is active time. In exchange for efforts, you will have incredibly delicious, health-promoting, gourmet foods to eat. The quality will exceed that of of what you can buy, and the price will be much lower. For example, in my coop, coconut yogurt is about $4-12 a pint, depending on how many additives are included. The yogurt I make costs about $3 a pint, and is more delicious than the options commercially available. Likewise, at my coop, fermented veggies are $8 a pint. At home, probably a quarter of that. Same story for kefir and kombucha. The truth is, if I had to buy these foods premade, I would go without, as they are too expensive for us. 

-Roast a chicken every week. Make a rich meal of the legs, freeze sliced chicken breast for lunches, save the drippings as a healthy cooking fat, and make chicken broth. A meal that includes broth is immensely affordable and satisfying, and it is respectful of the chickens we eat to use the carcas in this way. Broth is great for your skin, mood and joints. 

-Make your own body care products. Just as in food, it seems you need to pay more the less manufacturers put in! All natural deodorants, toothpaste, shampoos, and lotions add up really fast. I have found most of the recipes we use in the book Natural Beauty At Home, by Janice Cox. Many are also available online. They don't take much time and are fun to make as a family. The one thing we do not make ourselves is soap; instead we buy very economical Kiss My Face Olive Oil Bars (they aren't fancy, however they last forever if you allow them to dry between uses). 

-Buy spices, tea, olive oil, cider vinegar and anything else you can in bulk. Try to aim for a store with fast turnover for the best quality. Refrigerated nuts and seed sections are a plus. 

-Make dehydrated, flavored sprouted sunflower seeds! These are a great snack for in lunch boxes and are delicious on top of salads. Sunflower seeds are $2.61 per pound at our coop. Sunflower seeds may also be ground into a meal to use in pesto and baked goods instead of pine nuts and almond meal, respectively.

-Skip the premade foods. Dairy-free cheese and butter spreads, chips, crackers, cereals and cookies tend to have inferior ingredients to what you would make at home. Damaged fats, unpronounceables, preservatives and genetically modified ingredients are hard to avoid even in expensive processed foods. Plus, they are not as fresh as what you make yourself. Yay for not having to eat stale crackers. :)

-Eat so well at home, you don't want to go out. Make a sweet ritual of mealtime. Set the table nicely, write a menu (and have a family member read it at the start of the meal), and elevate meals by choosing just the right serving dish for each item. Establish a workable routine and list of favorite meals, however try to extend yourself to include some variety. At our house, I recently implemented a weekly International Foods night. No matter how amazing your usual recipes are, mixing it up is important.

-Be willing to spend money where it really makes a difference. We spend $10 on cheese and $15 on 2lbs of washed, organic, local lettuce mix every week. This has freed up our lunch-making time a little to create the amazing barcode free lifestyle we have come to adore, while providing important nourishment.

-If you are in a major pinch and need a meal replacement or something to bring to a potluck on a dime, smoked fish is often the same price as fresh. We love the Fish Brothers brand of smoked, no-sugar added salmon and albacore. Other great, off-the-shelf protein-rich munchies are GMO-free rotiserie chicken if available, and carrageenan-free deli-style sliced turkey meat. We only buy these under duress, such as during a move, or in the case of the smoked salmon as a very special treat for anniversaries or birthdays.

-Speaking of potlucks, if you have a little more time to spare, a pot of sprouted rice, sprouted beans and diced tomatoes will feed a crowd well at a small investment of time and money.

-Crock pots are our friends! They make speedy dinners possible, for those nights when I get home at six and have rehearsal at seven (these could be expensive nights, if we ate out). They are also energy-sparing for both the cook and the utilities. 

-Enjoy your food. Make merry. Eat like a peasant. Every night, we enjoy a four course meal: salad, simple soup, a small loaf of sourdough bread or a crockpot of whole grains, and a little meat. By a "little meat," I really mean a small portion! One chicken drumstick per person is enough if it follows such amazing previous courses.

Wow, that was a long post! Many ideas might seem obvious, and others need to be spelled out a bit more in future posts. I hope this will be a good collection of thoughts to get you started. What are your favorite ways to create frugal feasts? 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Mason Jar Sink Caddy

Do you long for a tidy kitchen sink? In this brief video I will show you how to create an easy, clean, fair trade organizer for your sponges, scrubbies and brushes.

Moving Story in Hunter's Own Words

This family lives in my region, where they run an organic farm. I am very moved by their story.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Sundress and Diaper Cover

I made this set for my delightful six month-old niece. 

The dress was fun and fuss-free to make. It is fully lined so I simply sewed right sides together and turned it inside out. It was fun to use a contrasting fabric for the lining. 

I needed to size it down a bit, but took the pattern from a darling dress my Aunt Nita made for my older sister when she was two:

The diaper cover Nita made is lost, so I used the free pattern Sweet and Simple Diaper Cover available on Craftsy. I modified the pattern a little because I thought a sleek bubble shape would better match the style of the dress than a ruffly one. The pattern was very well done; I would use it again! 

Ruthie the cat looks on, a bit forlorn as someone is packing. In this picture, she'd just finally moved to her nest after sitting for over an hour on a carry-on bag, in an effort to prevent the departure of one of her favorite people. 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Homemade Hand Sanitizer

This recipe has been a lifesaver! I created it after researching online hand sanitizer recipes. I had found a lot that I liked, but most of them called for several essential oils, which would have been steep to purchase. Instead, this hand sanitizer allows real plants and spices to steep indefinitely in a blend of vodka, aloe and witch hazel. It is very affordable to make, smells amazing, and is gentle on your hands. :)

2/3c vodka
2/3c witch hazel
2/3c aloe juice
1/4t tea tree oil

16 capsules or 40 drop vitamin E
16 lavender blossoms
16 small lavender sprigs
8 cinnamon sticks, broken in half (we use a hammer)
8 small sprigs rosemary
24 cloves

Combine the four liquid ingredients and mix well. Using a funnel, pour into individual containers. Make sure to leave some headroom. We like these little plastic squirt bottles, which hold 1/4c, but we only have a few, so we store the rest in glass jars. 

We put contents of 2 vitamin E capsules (easy to crush with a clean garlic press!),  lavender flowers, 2 lavender sprigs, 1/2 cinnamon stick, 1 sprig rosemary, and 4 cloves in each 1/4c squirt bottle. 

If you prefer, you could simply combine all ingredients in a quart jar and allow to to steep one week before pouring some off to use. Hand sanitizer will be stronger the longer it steeps. :)

Enjoy your picnics and on-the-go meals! 

Gelatin Pudding 3.0

It has been a long time since I have done a gelatin pudding post here. Lately, there has been so much amazing food passing over our dining room table, I haven't needed as many snacks! However, this is still a great dessert and a nice way to add a little protein to a meal. I have refined how I make it these days, so thought I should share the latest and greatest with my readers. This makes a bit less than my previous versions, but I like it much better, as it is more flavorful and has a better texture.

1/2c warm water
1/8-1/4t salt
1/8t vanilla
1t coconut butter
1T gelatin
1 handful frozen berries

Measure first four ingredients into blender. Add gelatin and blend immediately. When smooth, turn off blender and add berries. Blend until slightly thickened. Pour into a pretty bowl; pudding will set in just a minute or two.