Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Cleaner Eats

About four months ago my husband and I decided to change our eating habits. While I've been pretty judicious with my diet for the entirety of my adult life (sans college) we wanted to be even more conscious of what we were putting in our mouths, and even more so, of what we were filling our children's bellies with. Food should be enjoyable, but as humans we must let the idea of food being "fuel" outweigh our desire for processed, empty calories.

We are not complete vegetarians--more like ovo-lacto-pescetarians...ha! I've constructed our weekly meal plan around a more plant-based diet. At first, it was quite a challenge to make sure every meal was without traditional meats (ie. pork, beef, chicken), but now I think it's fun to try less familiar dishes and amp up the flavors without animal fats.

In addition, I've noticed a BIG difference in our gastrointestinal health. I used to be plagued with occasional bouts of Irritable Bowel Syndrome--very painful cramping with which I would end up doubled over for at least 45 minutes. It was much more frequent during my pre-teen and teenage years. Since we've altered our eating habits, however, I've had only one episode! That is a great victory for me.

People frequently ask, "But you give your kids separate meals, though, right?" I answer emphatically, "No!" While this lifestyle change is an effort to increase our family's health in the present, Brad and I also want to train our children to be conscious, healthy eaters--to respect animals and respect their own bodies.

I will be honest about the money aspect of it; our weekly grocery budget has stayed about the same (about $130-$160), but that's because of the necessary increase of nut and produce purchases. Processed foods are easier for stores to shelve and, therefore, can be less expensive. I have no qualms about spending the same dough for healthier options, though.

We also plan to add some more fruit trees on our land to supplement our pantry soon. And while I never really bought things like Little Debbie's and Cocoa Puffs for my kids, the increase in fresh veggies has been wonderful.

Here's a recipe for my Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie:

1 Large container Cremini Mushrooms (aka Baby Bellas)
1 Small Onion
3 Cloves Garlic
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Flour
1/8 cup Worcestershire Sauce
1 1/2 cups Vegetable Broth
1 Carrot
1 Small bag frozen peas
5-6 Russet potatoes
1/2 cup Almond Milk
1 Tablespoon Butter
Salt and Pepper to taste
Dash of Red Wine or Beer of choice
Optional: 1/4 cup Couscous

Peel and cube all 5 potatoes. Cover with water in pot and boil till fork tender. While my potatoes are boiling, I usually start the "meat" part of the "pie." Mince the onion and garlic cloves. Peel and mince the carrot. Chop the cremini mushrooms. In a large skillet (I LOVE my humongous, cast iron skillet my sister gave me last year as a housewarming gift--thanks, Tiss!) combine the olive oil, garlic and onion and sautée until translucent.

 Add carrots and mushrooms and cook until all vegetables are soft.(Sometimes I like to include a bit of kale or spinach with the vegetables--just for some extra nutrients) Add a splash of your favorite beer or red wine to bulk up the flavor a bit. Allow the alcohol to cook down. Add 1/8 cup of Worcestershire sauce and 1 cup of the vegetable broth and bring to simmer. Allow to simmer for 5-8 minutes.

While your "meat" is simmering, drain the boiled potatoes and place back in stainless steel pot. Add the butter, Almond milk and salt/pepper to preference and mash/whip with mixer.

*Here's where the optional couscous comes in: my husband really misses the heavier texture of meats, so I like to sometimes "bulk" up the bottom layer of the pie a bit. Add the 1/4 cup of couscous now to "beef" it up some.* Mix the remaining 1/2 cup of Vegetable Broth with the 2 Tablespoons flour in a separate bowl until all of the flour is thoroughly dissipated. Add this to the simmering "meat" in the skillet. Turn down the heat as the mixture will immediately begin to thicken. Constantly stir until a nice, gravy-like texture is achieved.

You're almost done--PROMISE! Grease a 9"x13" oven safe dish with olive oil. (I like to just pour a dab of oil on a napkin and spread it around, nice and redneck like :). Begin layering by pouring the gravy/"meat" mixture on the bottom.

 Spread the frozen bag of peas on top of the gravy.

 Finally, spread the mashed potatoes on the top. I like to sprinkle a tiny dusting of paprika on top, just for looks. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Ta-DAH! Your delicious, faux shepherd's pie is ready to be demolished!

Notice the little hand on the right shoveling the warm yumminess into his mouth!

 Peace be with you!


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Time for a Change

I'll start this post out with a few, fun photos from our fishing trip this last Sunday.

Our oldest has been dying for us to take him for the last couple of weeks and we finally got around to it. Not a bite was had, but it was worth it. We used my grandmother's old rods and reels. The sound of crickets and plip-plopping water sent me back to days long gone when I'd sit with incredible anticipation, scratching periodically at the bug bites on my legs.

There's just something about standing still, in eager silence, edging ever so close the bank's rim. Families are bonded in times like these. Children learn lessons of excited restraint and a joint endeavor.

In other news, I've decided to re-vamp my home studio/guest room. I have a lovely desk, but I find myself painting larger pieces on the floor. My paints are no where near organized and it would be great if I could accommodate my sewing machine as well.

My charming, but not adequate vintage cherry desk
My poor paintings shoved in the corner

My husband is well known for his sighs of frustration at the sight of my canvases, brushes, fabric and needles spread out on the kitchen table in haphazard fashion. It would be awesome to have something like this one day....

Art Studio Design, Pictures, Remodel, Decor and Ideas - page 3

Ahhhhh....plenty of space to walk around a big painting spread out on a massive table! In the meantime, I'll shoot for something a little more within my reach. I'll keep you updated!

Peace to you...


Friday, September 6, 2013

Sniffles All 'Round....and How to Hang Curtains without a Rod

It's  been a slow week around here. Last Friday my school-age guy came home with a nasty cold and it spread to his little brother and sister. Of course, as the primary nose wiper and get-up-in-the-middle-of-the-nighter in the house, this mama has succumbed to a case of massive congestion and headache. While we're all recovering from our sniffles, I thought I might share an old post of mine from a separate blog published awhile back.

 A few years ago, when we were living in a rental and paying on a house we couldn't sell, I was determined to have a pretty home created on a budget of almost $0. We'd left our curtain rods back in our previous location and I came up with a jerry-rigged, come-what-may way to hang some window dressings without rods. I know there are so many of us that want welcoming, lovely homes but don't have the cash flow to run down to Target and splurge on hundreds of dollars in panels and window hardware. So, without further ado.....

"Hanging Curtains Without a Rod"
So, have you ever moved into a new place, with very little cash and thought "I MUST have curtains on these stinkin' windows!" When we moved into our rental in February, the proverbial financial flow was at a trickle while paying for two homes and so I put my ingenuity to work. It took a few minutes of staring at the window with my finger ever so thoughtfully on my lower lip and then I got it. What I needed to do was create the FEEL of luxe curtains (since our rental came with nice wood blinds, the window dressings need not be functioning to ensure darkness....in other words, I just needed to make it LOOK pretty--not actually work).
 Here's the secret I devised: simply take two nails for each side of the window and hammer them at an angle (pointing toward the ceiling) into the wall about two inches from the ceiling and about 8 inches apart. Then string heavy gauge wire through the rod slot of your curtains, scrunch the fabric a bit along the wire as you go. Proceed to wrap the ends of the wire on each side to the two nails on each side of the window and voila! A nice little window dressing at no cost.
 I must note that when using this little trick, be sure you place the nails high on the wall--near the ceiling--so as to make it easier to hide the nails with a little finagling of the wire and fabric. This method sounds crazy, but I promise, if you do it right no one will be the wiser. Just this last week my mother visited and had no idea of my trick until I pulled the curtain to the side a bit and showed her the wire. The above pic is of our bedroom and this below pic is a detail of the wire technique. With a method this cheap to try, why not give it a go?

Monday, September 2, 2013

Surprises and Tractors

I usually go to collect the eggs from our Ladies in the afternoon following my oldest son's arrival home on the bus. So, I saunter down to the coop, so calmly, and haphazardly lift the nest access door to find this:
      dun, dun, DUN!!!

Holy crap!?! I let that hinge slam shut like a gunshot. I'm sure I sounded like the biggest baby around when I let out a scream you could probably hear for a mile. The chickens were just fine but our little, dark friend had eaten all the eggs.
Or, perhaps I shouldn't call that snake "little"
I waited till my husband arrived home and did the deed of disposing of our slithery problem together. It was over 6ft long!!
In less creepy news, we gathered the last of our late raspberries and I'll be tilling up the garden this week in preparation for our little seedlings.

 I also got to work on some pillowcase dresses that I periodically make to donate. As you can see, Lydia loves to be my little model. I usually like to produce a few in varying sizes to make the most of the postage cost. If you have any sewing abilities (even the slightest) I really suggest whipping up some simple, little frocks for www.littledressesforafrica.org. They're such a wonderful organization that helps to clothe little bodies in various countries throughout the world.

This weekend we also took a trip to the local farm days festival in our area. Our first time was last year and the kids loved it (Daddy and Mama didn't mind it, either). We had a great experience watching old farm implements and their uses. I firmly believe that modern, Western society as a whole is too far removed from its food sources and production. This festival is a great opportunity to see how raw materials are processed and get our kids thinking about what they eat.

Watching an old school, steam powered corn mill grind grits.
Peace be with you!!