Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Here we go again! And then some dirty laundry...

I can't get it out of my head....the idea that I should be blogging about my life. But this crazy little niggling doubt jumps through my head, taunting me. I have a seriously crazy obsession with NOT being like everyone else. I suppose it has more to do with the fact that I don't want to jump on the bandwagon just because it's there. I'd rather jump on because it's something I like or want to do. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference.

Tonight, a different perspective hit me, out of the blue I might add, while I was doing laundry. This could be good for my kids. How? you ask...Well, I'm notorious for NOT taking enough pictures of my kiddos during stages. I can't tell you the exact date my kids ate their first foods, walked, or took most milestones. Those things seem to fly by and in the whirlwind of my life, I never take the time to document them. So far, the milestones have been pretty minimal in regards to lifetime impact, but I'd love to be able to document more important milestones along the way. Part of that includes documenting my life and leaving a piece of myself behind for them....So....here we go!

 Tonight, I want to share with you what I'ev discovered saves me from stinky laundry. In my house, laundry is the enemy. I'm constantly forgetting a load in the washer, only to come back a few days later to find it smells worse than my husband's stinky feet! My instant solution that has been working on a regular basis is this:

Step 1:
Open washer (plug nose) and sprinkle a liberal amount of baking soda around the tub. (My washer is a plain ole top loading washer, if yours is front-loading, just toss some on top of the clothes.)

Step 2:
Fill the fabric softener cup with white vinegar.

Step 3: Set the washer to the appropriate cycle for the clothes you've forgotten, and toss in some laundry detergent.

VOILA! Your laundry will smell totally deliciously like your detergent when it comes out of the dryer.

(However, if you are like me and sometimes forget it a second time, let me tell you my best trick! Use a DIFFERENT detergent than you used the first two times. I always keep more than one type on hand...in my world, Army uniforms & baby clothes both need separate detergent. Homemade detergent is in the works.....more on that later...)

Best Wishes for Fabulous Smelling Laundry..........~Melissa

Monday, September 6, 2010

Do you have a meal that brings back memories? Of your roots, or special occasions? I do. The meal I made tonight makes me feel like a farm-wife. I scrubbed all the veggies, chopped and seasoned, layered and baked it for 2 hours. When I was younger, I always believed I'd grow up to live on a farm, take care of animals and live off the land. God had a different direction planned for me, but I still take heart in some meals that bring the feeling of being a farm girl. That's one thing I love about cooking. It triggers memories that I love, brings back feelings of happiness and makes me feel close to family, even though the miles separate us.

There are two recipes that I made today, and I'm not claiming they are the world's greatest. However, they both are absolutely delicious :) and that's good enough for me today.

I found some delicious looking zucchini at the Community Market this week and couldn't resist bringing some home. My Grandma has a recipe for a Zucchini Cake that is flavored with cinnamon. It's a sweet alternative to breads, and a great way to get family members to eat a green vegetable! Brice wasn't willing to try it at first, but it didn't take long for him to join us. :)

Zucchini Cake
2 c sugar
1 1/2 cups canola oil
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
3 c flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
3 cups shredded zucchini
(1/2 c nuts) optional

Mix the wet ingredients, then add the dry and mix well. (If using a stand mixer, be sure to lock it in place. The batter gets thick.) Then add the zucchini and nuts. Bake in 2 square pans for 35 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

The second recipe of the evening was my Awesome Cornbread recipe. My grandma also adapted this recipe from one she already had. It is a sweeter recipe than most, and I'm thinking of testing it with whole wheat flour soon. It's super fast and a great add on to a filling dinner such as the Layered Beef Casserole we had tonight.

1 c cornmeal
1 c flour
1/2 c sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 c canola oil
1 egg
1 c milk

Mix all ingredients. Pour into an 8 or 9 inch square pan. Bake 20-25 minutes. (I prefer to make muffins. The recipe makes 12 muffins, using a 1/4 cup measure for each one. Bake until your preferred shade of brown.)

I'm in the process of figuring out which herbs I want to grow inside this winter, and where on earth I'm going to put them to keep them warm :) Part of me wants to get rid of my microwave so I can have that shelf for plants! haha....we'll see! Brice isn't up for it yet, but I'm leaning more and more towards getting rid of it. What herbs do you like best, and how do you use them?

Keep it safe: eat organic, clean naturally, and most important of all HAVE FUN this week!!!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Recipe Results!

Here is my review for the meatloaf recipe I tested last night!

The Best Meatloaf in the World

3/4 cup fresh wheat bread crumbs
3/4 cup skim milk
1 1/2 pounds 93% lean ground beef
2 large eggs--beaten
1/4 cup grated onion
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp dried sage

Combine with fork. Don't overmix.
Turn mixture into meatloaf pan. Smooth with tines of fork.

Prepare topping:
1/4 cup ketchup
3 T brown sugar
1 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Spread over meatloaf. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Wait 10 minutes before slicing.

This recipe was simple to make. I had never grated onion before and honestly didn't find the process enjoyable, but it definitely produced better results than dicing the onion does. The onion pieces were undetectable within the meat mixture, a refreshing change from my world of diced onion. The topping was fabulous, and I will double it next time and spread it over the entire loaf, sides and all! It was tempting to add more ketchup on top--I'm a lines on meatloaf kinda girl. But in the interest of this review I resisted the urge.

My notes for next time include: Use a 9x13 and put the loaf in the middle instead of using a loaf pan. I had to drain a bunch of liquid off the top. (I also neglected to put a pan under it and ended up opening windows after the liquid started burning on the oven floor.)

This recipe is DEFINITELY worth trying. I chose it because many of the others I found titled World's Greatest had soups or mixes in them or some sort, and I prefer to make my food completely from scratch when possible. Another scoring point for it was the health factor.

You've got to give credit where credit is due:
Recipe by Harriet Hodgson (Copyright 2005), I acessed it through the following link: http://ezinearticles.com/?The-Best-Meat-Loaf-in-the-world&id=110370 or you can check her website www.harriethodgson.com

As for the Ba-Ba-Banana Bread:

I wasn't really impressed. It seemed dry and I'm thinking of adding some vanilla yogurt next time to add moisture. However, the kids are enjoying it...and it is healthy. Did I mention it was Whole Wheat? :)

Happy Cooking!!!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Back in the saddle again...

When I began this blog in January, I had no idea what was in store for me in the following months. I never expected to pick up and move to Indiana, and go through the home "building" process again...but I did get to do those things, and here I am in my new home! I love it. I couldn't have asked for more from God. He provided a comfortable, single level living space for us. We have three bedrooms, a furnished kitchen and affordable rent.

Needless to say, the time in between was filled with moving, organizing and caring for kids. But I'm back in the saddle again, ready to move forward with my plans for our family to continue "living fruitfully!" The first and foremost important decision I made recently was to make my home a "toxin-less" home. To truly become toxin-free is nearly impossible in this day and age, but I'm doing what I can to keep harmful substances away from my family.

Let me explain what started this trend in my life. My dear friend Elizabeth has lived this life and I've witnessed the differences, but it was not until I followed a link about toxins in teenage girls blood that I began to dig deeper. As I plunged myself into the world of information out there about the dangers involved in chemicals that surround us, I became more and more freaked out!!! Formaldehyde in baby shampoo?!?! Heavy metals in my loose powder!?! No Way! I started grabbing items from my bathroom and checking them on the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) Skin Deep Database. (www.cosmeticsdatabase.com) The details about individual ingredients in my products were scary. Reproductive harm. Neurotoxins. Kidney damage. The list goes on, and I didn't sleep a wink that night. I'd be happy to talk to you more about this stuff if you are interested. The short ending to this story is, my kids now use California Baby shampoo, ivory soap (which the girls of the family already used) and I have a bag full of stuff I'm giving away. We are eating organically, not EVERYTHING, but those items that show necessity in studies because the chemicals are absorbed more than other foods. I feel better about our way of life. I am confidant I'm doing my best to keep my family safe and healthy. :)

That said, let me tell you about the newest recipe I have going today! Two actually. I'm back to testing The World's Greatest recipes. Tonight it's Meatloaf. I'll let ya know how it goes. I also have Ba-Ba-Banana Bread cooling from my wonderful cookbook Real Food for Healthy Kids.

We eat old-fashioned oatmeal a lot for breakfast, occasionally I'll cook steel cut oats overnight in the crock-pot. That's a fantastic breakfast plan for a crowd or a busy morning...it's ready when you are, and everyone can customize their own bowl. We like to use real maple syrup and brown sugar around here, but there are many more creative things you can throw in, like some half and half and finely diced strawberries would make a wonderful strawberries and cream oatmeal. Mmmm....makes me hungry thinking of it.

I love to try new things, if you have a recipe you've been looking at, but haven't tested...I'd be happy to try it out and let ya know how things go! :)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Baking, Boys and Bread

Tonight Gage and I made some really wonderful oatmeal cookies. We started off by creaming the softened butter into the sugars and then changed the three cups of quick oats into 2 cups of quick oats and 1 cup of rolled oats. I've found this makes the cookies chewier...which is the way I like them~!

Gage had a blast discovering new things. He found out what happens when you add flour to the mixing bowl and then flick the switch all the way on :) That was interesting...and had me more than a little concerned that our cookies were going to end up botched. He tried to crack an egg himself, and didn't succeed this time but I'm sure next time he'll get it to break open...haha. His tentative taps on the counter were very adorable as he tried not to make a big mess and waste the egg. All in all, he is a great help in the kitchen when I bake, and even enjoys cleaning up afterwards.

So about these cookies! They are supposedly going to stay soft, even when they are cooled. So far, so good, but I'd like to see them in the morning. :) The recipe called for a greased cookie sheet...I can't remember the last time I had to grease a cookie sheet, but I did it and wasn't disappointed with the end result. I like that this recipe required the dough to chill for an hour, because I plan to mix them up before dinner next time and bake them after cleanup. The timing should be just about perfect!

My five minutes a day bread did not work. I was so frustrated with the first loaf--on the second day I couldnt' even bring myself to attempt baking a second one. I think I figured out where I went wrong. I used the exact times the recipe stated for allowing the dough to rise, and I think I should have let it go longer. The recipe in the magazine stated "allow the dough to rise until it flattens on top" the part I missed is that once it's in the fridge it should collapse on itself! Mine never did that! So the only logical answer I can see at this point is that it never made it to the point of rising that it was supposed to. However--I have no intention of letting this recipe beat me down--I will be remaking soon, this time allowing it to rise overnight.

I'm not sure about any copyrights on the oatmeal cookie recipe--so I'm going to double check that before I post it. (If you want it I'd be more than happy to email it to you.)

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. --Theodore Roosevelt

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hash Brown Casserole & More...

Tonight I decided to try a recipe for hash brown casserole. The entire ordeal started behind, because I didn't remember to thaw the hashbrowns. :) So after an "express defrost" in the microwave, I managed to get them to fall apart. I had mixed together the sour cream, cheese and soup, and then stirred it into the potatoes...OOPS I forgot to add the butter. Haha...it was quite the project making this simple recipe. (All recipes will be at the bottom of the post)

I have to admit, for me, the simplest recipes are sometimes the most difficult. For example, the first recipe I ever really truly bombed was Rice-Krispy Treats in 7th grade! Moving forward, I was wrestling with my overfull bowl (my largest bowl is in the fridge holding dough) trying to stir and ended up pouring the entire mess into the 9x13 baking dish then drizzling the butter over it before stirring it right there in the pan! :) I had substituted dry onion flakes because my two onions in the fridge were looking a bit spoiled and when I pulled it out thought I had made a huge mistake and they were burnt!~thankfully it was simply a few pieces of mushroom from the soup that had stayed on top and gotten a tad bit crispy.

Overall I felt like the recipe was bland. At the table, I tossed some seasoning salt and pepper on top of mine, trying to perfect the flavor--and that greatly enhanced it. The next time I intend to use less soup, more cheese and season the hashbrowns with salt before stirring ANYTHING into them. It seems technique has once again won out against sheer ingredients. Mind you--I did not PLAN to make a bland casserole--I simply walked into the recipe with no knowledge of what makes it work. On a side note--I mixed a small bit of Manwich Sloppy Joe on top of the casserole...and that was quite appealing for a second day dish!

Chip really enjoyed the tiny sandwich I made for him from a buttermilk biscuit with a teaspoon of sloppy joe! I served the biscuits because I only had enough buns for the adults and the children don't like manwich YET...

For dessert we finished the dough from one of the "best chocolate chip cookie" recipes I found online. They were definitely better than the ones I typically make, and if you want to know why...it's all about how long you cream the butter and sugars. Turn them nearly white! If you don't believe me--just try it once and it'll make a big difference. I have the blessing of a KitchenAid Stand mixer with a 5qt bowl that I use for most recipes. It took nearly 5 minutes to cream the sugars and butter and then an additional 2 minutes with the eggs and vanilla. This recipe also used more brown sugar than white to provide a chewier cookie!

Hashbrown Casserole
2 lbs frozen hashbrowns (thawed)
1/2 c butter--melted
Salt & Pepper to taste
1/2 c chopped onion ( I used a handful of dried flakes)
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
2 cups cheddar cheese

Mix in a large bowl, turn into a greased 9x13 pan. Bake 350 degrees 45 minutes.

As I type this I'm wondering about adding some veggies--like celery or even just celery salt. Maybe some shredded zuchinni or somethiong....I'll let ya know what I revise this recipe with. Any suggestions would be welcome!

And don't forget to save those sour cream containers...reuse...reduce...recycle....or as I like to say wash and repurpose! I'm planning on planting seeds in the baby food containers I have laying around, and more on how I use containers coming later!

Positively Purposeful!

Great Ideas Need a Home!

I realized as I was baking bread yesterday, that baking and cooking and the quality of each depends more on technique than anything! You can take a perfectly good recipe and butcher it by not using the correct techiniques in baking. My intent is to blog about the recipes I find that are great, how I made them--what worked and what didn't as well as just other helpful things I come across as I strive to make life simple and organic and use less waste. I am jumping into the world of gardening for the first time, learning how to use a charcoal grill, and homeschooling my precious girlie! Follow along with me if you wish and see what God has in store for me in the next few months :)

I have plans for a 5x20 foot garden this summer to save money on produce over the summer and give us all a good reason to be outside daily. Mother Earth News has an entire article on how to do it, and how the woman (author of Edible Landscaping) saved around $700 on produce in one summer! I have a charcoal grill I'm going to learn how to use, with hopes of re-creating a fantastic recipe from my brother Dustin. It's a honey chicken marinade that you grill with lots of peppers, onions and mushrooms! YUMMY! More on that later!

This year is going to be an adventure as I move forward into learning new things and actively repurposing things around the house. I've already began saving up egg cartons for seedlings and have high hopes for what is to come. My only stumbling block is that I promised myself I would organize my house first--which has 2 spaces left for sorting. The storage area upstairs and the basement! So before spring arrives I'll be racing to accomplish those two tasks without letting the rest of the house go to shambles while I work.

An idea I ran across today that I want to mention before I forget was sewing your own produce bags for the grocery store! Now isn't that fantastic? No more "unrecyclable" produce bags beign thrown into the trash--and by creating your own you can customize the sizes!
Something to think about if you buy a lot of produce!

As for the bread I was baking yesterday, I'll let you know how it turns out. The first loaf I made last night was dense but edible. Today I warmed it in the microwave and dipped it in my tortilla soup, and that was delicious. I'm making the second loaf (this is a store it in the fridge recipe to make a loaf a day) tonight or tomorrow and we'll see if this one rises!

Positively Purposeful!