Monthly Archives: October 2011

Lentil Love

Today
is the last day of the month and technically the final day of October
Unprocessed.  I’ll be continuing with the same basic rules, however. 
The holidays are coming and I’m aware that there is refined sugar in our
future, I’m not a fool, but I don’t want to let everything fall by the
wayside again.  I’m still shooting for at least 1 vegetarian dish a week
on our table and I’m continuing with the whole grains.  Liam and Matt
are adapting well and I’m finding that I have really missed my old ways.
This recipe is very loosely based on the recipe for Mojadra in Feeding the Whole Family
I used the basic format, but added in my own seasonings.  I loved it! 
And Liam, well, he ate some of the lentils by mistake because he was
digging out the rice, but he still ate!
Mojadra
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 cup lentils
  • water
  • 2 Tbsp. ghee
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 tsp. coriander
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. tumeric
  • 1 tsp. curry powder
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp. dried cilantro
  • 1 cup. coconut milk
  • salt
Place
the lentils in a bowl and cover with water.  Soak over night.  Drain
and rinse the lentils, checking for rocks.  Put the lentils in a medium
pan and cover with water up to about 1 inch over the lentils.  Add in
1/2 tsp. salt.  Bring the lentils to a boil and boil for 1 minute. 
Lower the heat and cook for roughly half an hour, or until the lentils
are tender.  Cook the rice by adding 2 cups and 2 Tbsp water, 1 Tbsp
ghee and a dash of salt to a pan.  Bring the water up to a boil and when
it’s reached a boil, turn it down to low heat.  Cock the lid on the pan
to allow the steam to escape (so the rice doesn’t boil over) and then
cook until the water is all gone and the rice is tender, about half an
hour.
In a large skillet, saute the onions and garlic in the ghee until
tender and fragrant.  Add in the spices and saute.  Stream in the milk
and stir until well blended.  Add the lentils and heat through.  Serve
over the rice. 

Pocket sized triumphs

There are days when I realize that the reason why I haven’t done something is simply because I was too unmotivated to get started.  Case in point: pitas.  For years, I’ve read blog posts about how simple it is to make your own and I just haven’t gotten around to it.  However, since doing the October Unprocessed and behaving myself so well, it just seemed silly to buy pitas for our falafels.  The most challenging thing about this recipe is that I was a nervous wreck about how hot the oven was with Liam running around.  I did have to employ the hubs to keep an eye on the kids while I was making the pitas, but it worked out.  And I made the pitas while the falafels were frying so everything was done about the same time!  Most amazing part of making pitas at home?  Getting to watch the pitas puff up as they cooked!  I did a dance during most of the cooking, I was so excited!
Unprocessed Pitas
  • 3 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. yeast
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 1/4 c. warm water
* I used my kitchenaid mixer to make this recipe, but you can do all the kneading by hand if you choose.*
Put the yeast and warm water in the bowl of your mixer and allow to bloom by leaving it alone for 2-5 minutes.  Then, add in the rest of the ingredients and mix with the paddle attachment.  Once the dough is mixed, stop the mixer and switch to the dough hook.  Put the mixer on the 3rd speed and lock the mixer so it doesn’t move.  Then, set your timer for 10 minutes and let the mixer knead the dough.  At the end of the 10 minutes, the dough should be soft and smooth.  Remove the dough hook and place the dough in a warm spot covered with a damp towel.  
Allow the dough to rise for at least an hour and after that if you are not using it right away, put it in the fridge for up to 3 days.  Keep it covered and check every hour for the first 4 to make sure it doesn’t continue to rise.  When you are ready to make your pitas, preheat your oven to 475 degrees and place a baking stone or a cast iron skillet in it so that as the oven heats up, so does the stone.  (I used my pizza stone for the pitas.  It’s been used for a number of meals, so it’s well seasoned.)  Divide the dough into 12 balls and cover them with a damp towel while you are working on the pitas.  Take each ball and roll it out until it’s at most 1/4 inch thick.  Keeping the dough moist is what helps them puff up in the oven while they cook.  


I can fit 3 rounds on my stone at a time.  Quickly open the oven and put the pitas on the stone (or skillet) and close the door.  It is helpful to turn on your oven light if you have one so you don’t have to keep opening the door to check the pitas.  Cook for about 3 minutes, or until they have puffed up delightfully.  When the pitas are done, remove them from the oven the keep them covered with a towel as you work on the others.  Cut the pitas in half to use as sandwiches or into wedges to serve as dippers!

The first meatless Monday in our home!

And the toddler ate well!
When I first met Matt, I was still largely a vegetarian.  I enjoyed my vegetables and had a faint hope that I’d find someone with the same tastes to share my life.  This was not the case.  While Matt politely ate my parent’s meals whenever we were together, he informed me that he never wanted to see sprouts or tofu in our home.  So then, I actually had to learn how to cook food beyond steaming broccoli and brown rice.  Anyway, this Thanksgiving marks 7 years of love and many, many extra pounds.  There are days when I wish I could have my vegetarian body back… but then, I’d also be 22 years old so… 
 Anyway, I’ve been craving good, homemade falafel for a long time, but it’s a lot of work (I thought) and I didn’t have a recipe that was reliable.  A few weeks ago though, I saw a post on a friend’s Facebook page about how she had made falafel and I decided that despite Matt’s aversion to meatless foods, I’d make it.  I used the base recipe from Feeding the Whole Family and then did what I remembered from when I had made it at home.  The only complaint that I had about this recipe is that it didn’t make enough for me to have leftovers.  Matt ate and enjoyed it and Liam even ate it pretty well.  The chickpeas were sweet and there was just the right amount of seasoning.  I made pitas to go with this and I’ll be sharing the recipe tomorrow!
Falafel:
  • 3/4 cup dry chickpeas
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 small onion
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 Tbsp. dried cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 cup. whole wheat flour
In a medium sized pan, place the dry beans and cover with water.  Soak them 10-12 hours.  Drain the chickpeas and cover with water up to 1 inch over the top of the bean.  Sprinkle in about 1 tsp salt.  Bring the water to a boil and boil for 1 minute.  Then reduce the heat to a simmer and allow the beans to cook until they are fork tender, 30-45 minutes.  When the beans are done, drain and rinse them.  Set them aside to cool.

Place the onion and garlic in a food processor and chop.  You can leave them in a rough chop or almost puree them.  I chose to almost puree mine so that the texture would be smooth.  Then, add in the beans and puree.  You may need to stream in some water so that the puree doesn’t become too thick and you can blend it easily.  (Once the texture is what you want, add in the spices and flour.  The original recipe does not call for flour, but I recall my parents using cooked millet in their recipe to give it some body and help it stick together.  I was very pleased with the texture of the falafels.)

In a large skillet, heat a few Tablespoons of oil so that when you sprinkle a bit of flour in, it sizzles.  Drop your falafel mixture into the oil in the shapes you’d like.  My father used to form his into rounds or patties.  I just scooped a full spoon’s worth and flattened it out once it was in the pan.  Cook until golden brown on each side.  Serve in pita with shredded lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, hummus and plain yogurt.  I like to put a thin schmere of mayo on one side of the pita and then load it up with hummus and veggies.  Yum. 

I’m posting this recipe as part of Sweet Peas and Pumpkin’s Meatless Monday Challenge!

Roasted

See that beautiful baby in the photo?  She’s sweet and precious and someone I fight to protect every moment of my day.  I started doing the October Unprocessed because I was already on a weight loss challenge and I figured it would be good for me.  As the weeks have passed, I’m realizing it was the jump start we needed to get ourselves back on track to healthy eating.  And the motivation I needed to start trying a little harder to make sure those whole foods come back and stay back.
I love that when I open my refrigerator, it’s full of glass jars with things I made myself.  Ghee, salad dressing, jams and now roasted red peppers!  I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, but just never got around to it.  However when I was stocking up on pie pumpkins, I found a good deal on local red peppers.  I bought a few with the intention of roasting them and then making my own hummus again.  It took me a few weeks (I know, you’d think I was busy or something…), but once I did it, I was thrilled with the results!  

I don’t have a gas stove so my options are either to roast them on the grill or in the oven.  The weather has been less than pleasant so I opted to do them in my oven.  It took a while since I was timid with the heat, but the result was wonderful!  I set the temperature at 425 and then cut up the peppers.  The peppers that blistered the most were the ones that were the flattest, so I know for next time that you have to cut them with purpose so that they will set on the baking sheet skin up without wobbling.  I lined the baking sheet with tin foil and filled it with peppers.  Into the oven they went and I turned on the light so I could watch them while I worked in the kitchen.  In about 25 minutes, I could see the skins blistering up and forming a bubble.  I took them out of the oven at half an hour and then quickly wrapped them up in the foil so they could steam.  Once the peppers were cool enough to handle, but still warm, I peeled the skin off with my fingers.  I used a few to make hummus and the rest, I put in a jar with some minced garlic and equal parts olive oil and water.  I’m very excited to use my peppers in future recipes and I’m so excited that I made them myself for a fraction of the usual cost!

ABBA said it!

Welcome to the October Carnival of Natural Parenting: Money Matters
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how finances affect their parenting choices. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
***

As the song goes: I work all night, I work all day to pay the bills I have to pay. We live in a culture that encourages debt and overspending and when Matt and I bought our first home in 2005, we got sucked right into the sparkle of “buy now, pay later”.  But you know, one tiny bill easily spreads and soon you’re thousands of dollars in debt.  At the time, both of us were working full time and I made very good money.  So we continued to buy and spend and get nowhere.  In 2007, I quit my high-paying career track job in an attempt to slow down and be more healthy.  I was driving an hour and a half every day and would take on overtime to the point that I was stressed out, angry and run down.  So, we bought health insurance through Matt’s company and decided to simplify. In the years since then, my income has dropped to a mere 10% of what I had been making when we first got married.  We have eliminated as much debt as possible and don’t spend needlessly.  We have a strict budget and have to maintain it since we don’t have tons of wiggle room.  I work as a tutor in the evenings after the kids go to bed, but other than that, I don’t bring in anything extra.  

So since we aren’t in a position to pay full price for everything, I’ve learned how to economize as much as possible.  If it can be made from scratch, I do it.  And if it isn’t really worth it for me, I buy in bulk.  We do eat local and organic as much as we can, so when figuring out our food budget, I prioritize based on nutritional content.  I’m learning how to coupon so that I don’t have to pay much, if at all for things like toilet paper and dish soap. Saving money has become a lifestyle that began as a necessity and then became a habit and now is something I do without a thought.  I’ve blogged before about my precious laundry line and how I can like a mad woman to save in the winter.  We use an all cash system to keep the budget totals  as an easy reference to remember.  We’ve planned ahead for things like birthday gifts and as morbid as it sounds, funerals.  Our money system isn’t perfect and there are months that we barely squeak by, somehow (mainly by the grace of God) we make it.  Last year, we became owners of my grandmother’s home which needed serious work.  It’s been a long, slow, challenging process, but we’ve done everything in cash.  It’s nice to know that as we look around the house, we only have a mortgage and not credit card bills.  (We still own our starter home, but it is being used a rental property that isn’t exactly a money-maker, but at least keeps us from paying 2 full mortgages.)
I want my children to grow up knowing how to manage their money.  This morning, I was thinking about college… it’s time to start those funds!  Both Matt and I left our educations with loans and I’d like to help my children not to have those debts hanging over their heads as they start their own families.  I’m hopeful that our children will learn how to weather financial storms wisely and gracefully as they watch us.  And maybe someday, we’ll be able to help them as they step out on their own.

***
Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama Visit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be live and updated by afternoon October 11 with all the carnival links.)

  • Money Matter$ — Jenny at I’m a full-time mummy shares her experiences on several ways to save money as a parent.
  • A different kind of life… — Mrs Green from Little Green Blog shares her utopian life and how it differs from her current one!
  • Show Me The Money! — Arpita of Up, Down & Natural shares her experience of planning for parenting costs while also balancing the financial aspect of infertility treatments.
  • Material v Spiritual Wealth – Living a Very Frugal Life with Kids — Amy at Peace 4 Parents shares her family’s realizations about the differences between material and spiritual wealth.
  • If I Had a Money Tree — Sheila at A Gift Universe lists the things she would buy for her children if money were no object.
  • Financial Sacrifices, Budgets, and the Single Income Family — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks at the importance of living within your means, the basics of crafting a budget, and the “real cost” of working outside of the home.
  • Overcoming My Fear of All Things Financial — Christine at African Babies Don’t Cry shares how she is currently overcoming her fear of money and trying to rectify her ignorance of all things financial.
  • Confessions of a Cheapskate — Adrienne at Mommying My Way admits that her cheapskate tendencies that were present pre-motherhood only compounded post-baby.
  • Money MattersWitch Mom hates money; here’s why.
  • Money? What Money?! — Alicia C. at McCrenshaw’s Newest Thoughts describes how decisions she’s made have resulted in little income, yet a green lifestyle for her and her family.
  • What matters. — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life wishes parenting through play was her only responsibility during the day.
  • Making Ends Meet — Abbie at Farmer’s Daughter shares about being a working mom and natural parent.
  • Poor People, Wealthy Ways — Sylvia at MaMammalia discusses how existing on very little money allows her to set an example of how to live conscientiously and with love.
  • The Green Stuff — Amyables at Toddler In Tow shares how natural parenting has bettered her budget – and her perspective on creating and mothering.
  • Jemma’s Money — Take a sneak peek at That Mama Gretchen’s monthly budget and how Jemma fits into it.
  • 5 Tips for How to Save Time and Money by Eating Healthier — Family meal prep can be expensive and time-consuming without a plan! Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares five easy tips for how to make your cooking life (and budget) easier.
  • Belonging in the Countryside — Lack of money led Phoebe at Little Tinker Tales towards natural parenting, but it also heeds her from realizing her dream.
  • Total Disclosure and Total Reform — Claire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl gets down to the nitty gritty of her money problems with hopes that you all can help her get her budget under control.
  • Save Money by Using What You Have — Gaby at Tmuffin is only good with money because she’s lazy, has trouble throwing things away, and is indecisive. Here are some money-saving tips that helped her manage to quit her job and save enough money to become a WAHM.
  • Two Hippos & Ten Euros: A Lesson in BudgetingMudpieMama shares all about how her boys managed a tight budget at a recent zoo outing.
  • ABBA said it — Laura from A Pug in the Kitchen ponders where her family has come from, where they are now and her hopes for her children’s financial future.
  • Money vs. TimeMomma Jorje writes about cutting back on junk, bills, and then ultimately on income as well ~ to gain something of greater value: Time.
  • An Unexpected Cost of Parenting — Moorea at MamaLady shares how medical crises changed how she feels about planning for parenthood.
  • 5 Ways This Stay at Home Mom Saves Money — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares 5 self-imposed guidelines that help her spend as little money as possible.
  • Frugal Parenting — Lisa at My World Edenwild shares 8 ways she saves money and enriches her family’s lives at the same time.
  • Conscious Cash Conscious — Zoie at TouchstoneZ shares her 5 money-conscious considerations that balance her family’s joy with their eco-friendly ideals.
  • Money, Sex and Having it All — Patti at Jazzy Mama explains how she’s willing to give up one thing to get another. (And just for fun, she pretends to give advice on how to build capital in the bedroom.)
  • Money could buy me … a clone? — With no local family to help out, Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama wants childcare so she can take care of her health.
  • Spending IntentionallyCatholicMommy loves to budget! Join her to learn what to buy, what not to buy, and, most importantly, where to buy.
  • New lessons from an allowance — Lauren at Hobo Mama welcomes a follow-up guest post from Sam about the latest lessons their four-year-old’s learned from having an allowance.
  • How to Homeschool without Spending a Fortune — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares tips and links to many resources for saving money while homeschooling from preschool through high school.
  • It’s Not a Baby Crisis. It’s Not Even a Professional Crisis. — Why paid maternity leave, you may ask? Rachael at The Variegated Life has some answers.
  • “Making” Money — Do you like to do-it-yourself? Amy at Anktangle uses her crafty skills to save her family money and live a little greener.
  • Money On My Mind — Luschka at Diary of a First Child has been thinking about money and her relationship with it, specifically how it impacts on her parenting, her parenting choices, and ultimately her lifestyle.
  • Spending, Saving, and Finding a Balance — Melissa at The New Mommy Files discusses the various choices she and her family have made that affect their finances, and finds it all to be worth it in the end.
  • Accounting for Taste — Cassie at There’s a Pickle in My Life shares their budget and talks about how they decided food is the most important item to budget for.
  • Money Matters… But Not Too Much — Mamapoekie at Authentic Parenting shares how her family approaches money without putting too much of a focus onto it.
  • Parenting While Owning a Home Business — In a guest post at Natural Parents Network, Lauren at Hobo Mama lays out the pros and cons of balancing parenting with working from home.
  • Crunchy Living is SO Expensive…Or Is It? — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy talks about her biggest objection to natural living – and her surprise at what she learned.
  • Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems — Sarah at Parenting God’s Children shares how a financial accountability partner changed her family’s finances.
  • The Importance of Food Planning — Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro discusses how food budgeting and planning has helped her, even if she doesn’t always do it.
  • Kids & Money: Starting an Allowance for Preschoolers — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings discusses her family’s approach and experiences with starting an allowance for preschoolers.

Lately

I know, I know… again with the lack of blog posts.  There’s a lot going on here!  I’m busy with the October Unprocessed challenge and beginning some Tot school work with Liam.  And I’m writing other places!
Sunday, my first Opinion shapers column was in the Mansfield News Journal.  So far, I’ve gotten negative comments, so if you’d like to read and have the desire to leave sometime positive, go for it!  I got an email tonight from a reader and it really made my day to hear that she had appreciated my article.
Today, I guested for Abbie at Farmer’s Daughter.  She’s teaching Physics this year, so I got the chance to write about my sewing skills.

Speaking of which, I made Liam a little apron this afternoon to wear while we cook.  Matt made him a Helping Tower to keep him from falling off the chairs in his excitement to help me.  I’m pretty excited about it and so is he.  So much that at night in his attempts to not go to bed, he asks begs to bake with Mama.  Anything to not miss out on the excitement of staying up late!

Tomorrow is the October Carnival of Natural Parenting.  Our topic is Money Matters and I personally, am really excited to read the other submissions and maybe learn something new.  Or even get some couponing tips.  I don’t know about you, but I get nervous thinking about stacking coupons.  You know that show on TLC about extreme couponing and how those people are always freaking out at the check out over their totals?  Yeah.  Their totals are in the hundreds to thousands.  I stacked coupons for the first time for toilet paper last week and was sweating in anxiety that I wasn’t doing it right.  Clearly, I could use a few more tips!

October fresh

In the interest of full disclosure, I haven’t been such a healthy eater these last few months.  During the last weeks of my pregnancy and early weeks of Sylvia’s life, other people were doing my grocery shopping and buying whole grains kind of slipped through the cracks.  Little by little processed foods found their way into my cabinets and freezer and I started to feel pretty crummy.  I knew every time I opened my cabinets and saw boxes and plastic containers, something really needed to change, but I didn’t have the motivation to do anything about it.
I joined a Moms fitness group and as luck would have it, they are doing a weight loss challenge.  My BMI is hideous so I signed right up. Part of the challenge involved writing down everything that I eat.  Nothing like having to admit to a woman who runs marathons that you’ve had pizza twice in 72 hours to whip you into shape.  I lost a pound in 3 days because I was conscious of what I was doing.  Part of my issue is boredom munching.  Being aware of how much I snack because I’m not doing anything else has kind of scared me.
Thankfully, I had been out a bulk food store the weekend prior to this and restocked my pantry.  The flour was empty, so I replaced it with whole wheat.  I didn’t have a single box of pasta, so I bought semolina flour vegetable pastas.  It felt good to fill my shelves with food that had value.  I did my batch cooking that weekend with food that had been harvested or raised within 100 miles.  For 2 weeks, I’ve been pulling from my freezer meals that were prepared thoughtfully and sustainably.  I’ve not been rushed at supper and tempted to order out because I’m prepared.  It took a whole day and a half to get things organized, cooked and prepped, but it’s been totally worth it.  
Yesterday, I saw a post about October Unprocessed.  I went to the site and read through and decided this was what I needed to do to really get myself back where I belong.  I had had Subway for lunch, felt guilty and told Matt we’re going to start behaving again.  There was only mild grumbling.  For supper, I made grilled turkey and cheese and homemade tomato soup from the tomatoes I canned last month.  I can’t tell you how good it was.  I’ve adapted the rules to fit what my toddler eats and what is already in my freezer for the month, but I’m not messing around any more.  
After supper, I made ranch dressing and spicy remoulade.  Matt had brought home some Boar’s Head Spicy remoulade a few weeks ago and I totally fell in love with it.  Turns out, though, I couldn’t find a recipe that suited my needs, so I played around until I got what I wanted.  Poor Matt got stuck with baths tonight while I tinkered around in the kitchen.  However, I ran samples in to him so he could help with the process so I think that it was worth it in the end.
October Remoulade
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp. minced sundried tomato
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. dried parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. horseradish
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • splash Worcestershire
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 shallot, minced

Saute the shallot and garlic in a small bit of butter, until fragrant and translucent.  Stir in the sundried tomato and mustard and heat through.  Remove from the heat and mix in the remaining ingredients, the mayonnaise last.  Spread on sandwiches, use as a dip or eat it with a spoon.  Store in a sealed container in the fridge.