Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Today's Lunch

Goat milk, quinoa pasta, mangos, baby carrots, and cucumber. A tasty, healthy lunch for the kids and I!

On the quinoa pasta I drizzles Extra Virgin Olive Oil and sprinkled a bit of Sea Salt.

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Strawberry Banana Smoothie

For breakfast today we made delicious healthy smoothies.

In my Vitamix I added the following ingredients:
1 can coconut milk (Natural Value brand is my favorite and can be found on Amazon by the case for reasonable)
1/2 bag frozen strawberries
3 or 4 bananas
A little water to make it not a thick

I blended until smooth and the kids drank it up! You can also add extra nutrients and vitamins too! Usually if add any "secret ingredients" that may affect the flavor I add a bit of raw honey.

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Piña Colada Smoothies

This weekend I experimented and made the best Piña Colada Smoothie ever. Everyone loved them and we ended up making them the next day and the next!

In my Vitamix I add the following items:
I can coconut milk (Natural Value brand is my favorite)
2 bananas
1 whole pineapple (cut off the skin and the core first) - get a ripe juicy one
10 ice cubes

I blended it up and it tasted so yummy! The first night we had them I made whipped cream using just heavy whipping cream and a splash of almond extract to add to the top. And, of course, adding the final touch of a strawberry made look perfect.

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Monday, June 13, 2011

Homemade Deodorant

After searching for years for a good, affordable, natural deodorant I gave up and decided to try making my own. I have used this recipe for about a year now and my husband has even recently started to use it too! I love it and not only is it natural, but it's affordable, easy, and works great too! So, I bet you're all wondering what my recipe is and already pondering where you'll get the ingredients. Well, there are only two main ingredients and most of you will have them right in your kitchen!

I use old herbal salve containers that I saved from previous purchases and have cleaned well. They are about 1" deep and about 4" round. I find that this size of container works great because it's nice and wide and not too deep. However, I'm sure many of you can find a container around your house that will work too.

I use refined coconut oil because it's cheaper, however, any grade coconut oil is fine. I bring the coconut oil to room temperature and then use it to fill my container about 3/4 full. I then add a couple heaping spoonfuls of baking soda (yes, the same stuff you use to bake with). There isn't an exact amount and this recipe can be tweaked any way you want. Now, optionally, you can add some essential oils. I'm personally a fan of Tea Tree and Lavender for deodorant, but feel free to experiment. Lastly, I stir it up real well and put it in the fridge to solidify. I keep it right next to the sink in my bathroom and use my fingers for application.

I love that I can create something that works and is practical!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I cleaned out my pantry!!!

I spent the day cleaning out my pantry! I got it all organized and made a list of things we will need to replenish before next winter. My pantry consists of three cupboards and then I also have a broom closet where I keep my 3 and 5 gallon buckets of bulk items. I keep smaller containers of the bulk items in my pantry for convenience and refill as needed. In addition to the pantry I also have an old non-working chest freezer for all my cold storage. Right now it's filled with eBay packaging supplies, but by the end of the summer it will be full of winter squash, onions, and potatoes. We also have a large chest and upright freezers as well, so by the time winter comes there will be very little we'll be in need of.

So, here is the top cupboard of my pantry:
This cupboard is mainly filled with my baking needs. Since my family is gluten free and I'm also big into eating whole foods I have a lot of different ingredients.

Here is the middle cupboard:
This is where we keep our supplements, canned goods, Kombucha, and other miscellaneous items (notice in the back my stack of pure cacao bars for baking - yum!).

And finally the bottom cupboard:
This is where I store more of my bulk items like oil, oats, popcorn, rice, spices (to refill the jars in my spice cabinet), and other various items.

I love organizing, so today was a lot of fun for me! I just thought I'd show off my hard work.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Making Healthier Eating Choices

I get asked a lot about how to switch to eating more whole foods. Well, five years ago I was eating the Standard American Diet and have slowly switched to a whole foods diet and there is no looking back!

First of all be prepared for the transition to be slow, especially if you have a husband and children making the change with you. As you run out of things in your pantry replace them with healthier alternatives. For example, replacing white pasta for whole grain pasta, white flour with whole grain flour, etc. Switching your meats, dairy, and processed foods should be top priority. I highly recommend buying your meat in bulk from a local farmer. I know of several great farmers that offer great prices if you're interested. If you have a Bridge Card you can buy your meat at Heffron Farm market and even though they are not grassfed (which is healthier) they are hormone and mostly antibiotic free.

When it comes to dairy I highly recommend raw dairy. It is much healthier and tastier. We use raw goat milk and cheese and LOVE it. If raw milk isn't something you're interested in then buying hormone and antibiotic free milk and dairy products should be high priority. If you can find pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized) non-homogenized milk that would be a great option. Mooville is a dairy here in Michigan and can be bought at Heffron Markets in grand Rapids.

Getting rid of prepackaged foods will be the hardest part about changing your diet, especially if they are a huge part of your diet. Prepackaged foods (including many organic options) are loaded with preservatives. Try finding something you buy premade and make a point to find a recipe for that item that you like. Take it one thing at a time. You can even make extras to freeze to have on hand for a quick meal later on.

Start incorporating fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables into your diet at every meal. They have important vitamins and minerals your body needs. Smoothies are a delicious way to get fruits and vegetables into your kids!!

Get rid of the pop and juice in your diet! Unless it's fresh pressed juice it's loaded with sugars and usually preservatives a well. Cut it out, you don't need it. Water is your best option, but teas sweetened with raw honey is fine as well. You can wean your kids off juice by slowly watering down their juice over time and in a month or so you can have them drinking plain water without thinking about it!!

Say no to sugar!!! That includes artificial sweeteners like Splenda. Sweeten your food with maple syrup and raw honey. You can even bake with it. Seriously, sugar has a negative effect on your immune system and overall health. We don't use sugar here at home, but do occasionally indulge while we are out and about.

We have a really tight grocery budget and we manage to by whole foods, primarily organic, so I know you can too!!!

Tips and tricks to saving:
1. Check out Amazon and be prepared to be amazed. I buy a lot from their subscribe and save. I love Larabars, which they sell several flavors reasonably (like Cherry Pie). Just last week I ordered a case of bandaids!! Anyway, check it out.
2. Join a bulk buying co-op. I know of several in the area and save a lot of money buying this way.
3. Stalk the sale adds for sales and stock up. Subscribe to coupons from your favorite brands.
4. Buy meat in bulk from a local farmer. It's healthier and saves money.
5. Get to know a local farmer that grows organically and buy from him/her.
6. Grow a garden.
7. Buy in season and learn how to preserve food!!
8. Subscribe to Frugal Girls for amazing deals.
9. Spend time with others who eat whole foods.
10. Learn to cook. :)

Good luck on your journey!

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Cherrybrook Kitchen Gluten Free Cake & Frosting Review

My mom surprised us yesterday with a few gluten free treats, which was definitely a nice surprise! Today we made the Cherrybrook Kitchen Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Mix with the Cherrybrook Kitchen Vanilla Frosting.

The Chocolate Cake mix turned out GREAT. The texture and flavor were wonderful. I used coconut oil as my oil of choice and it tasted SO yummy. I wish the cake mix didn't use white rice flour, evaporated cane juice, and brown sugar (I much prefer whole grains and honey or maple syrup for sweeteners), but for the occassional splurge it was good. I give this product four out of five stars.

The Vanilla Frosting was different. I hated that it had corn syrup in it, which is what has kept me from purchasing it to try in the past, but since my mother bought it I decided to give it a whirl. The texture was not easily spreadable and it was more of a sticky gooey frosting than a nice creamy spreadable one. It was way too sweet as well. I will not be purchasing this product in the future. I give it one out of five stars.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Better Than Stir-Fry Recipe

This is a recipe that I created last night and it got rave reviews from my family. In fact, I made it again tonight because we all loved it so much! This recipe doesn't call for a specific quantity of each item, so feel free to be creative.

Peppers, sliced
Summer Squash, sliced
Mushrooms, sliced
Garlic, crushed & fresh
Bragg's Liquid Aminos
Coconut Oil
Spiral Pasta, cooked (I used brown rice pasta)

The first three ingredients I had in my freezer (I did not thaw them prior to adding them to my wok) from this summer and you could use pretty much any vegetable that you want. I just combined all ingredients (except the pasta) in my wok, turned on the heat, and used my bamboo spatula to help mix it up while it was cooking. Just as it looks to be done add the pasta and stir until heated and mixed thoroughly.

Since many of you know we are soy free I want to make note of why we choose to use Bragg's liquid aminos since the primary ingredient is soy. The soy used in Bragg's is GMO-free and it is a fermented soy product. We still limit how much we use it, but for the occassional stir-fry it works great!

I chose to use coconut oil, but palm oil would also be a good option. Just remember when choosing oils to use the general rule of thumb is to use "solid" oils for high temp cooking and "liquid" oils for room temp and moderate cooking. Also, learn about the different oils and fats. Here is a good article to get you started.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Gluten Free Living

One of the hardest parts about going gluten free was figuring out what to cook and how to cook it! I had finally mastered sprouting my grains, dehydrating them, and then grinding them into flour when my second daughter, Rosalyn, was born. I was so proud of my accomplishment and that I was able to feed my family nutritious foods. However, my new baby was very fussy and so I did an elimination diet to rule out potential food allergies since I was nursing her. I found that eliminating dairy, soy, corn, and wheat also eliminated her fussiness. So, I started on a new journey. As Rosalyn got older I started adding back in wheat I noticed that myself and my older daughter were having reactions to it. I was somewhat disappointed, but after some research and testing our home is completely gluten free! Has it been easy? No. Has it been worth it? Definitely.

There have been a lot of articles lately about the epidemic of gluten intolerance in America. I believe it is important to be informed and know what to look for. My friend Donielle at Naturally Knocked Up has put together an awesome podcast on the subject that I HIGHLY recommend everyone listen to.

Here are some good blogs and websites with recipes for those avoiding gluten:
Naturally Knocked Up
Gluten Free Girl
Elana's Pantry
Mennonite Girls Can Cook Gluten Free
Gluten Free Gobsmacked
Living Simply Without Wheat, Dairy & Sugar Through Real Food
The Spunky Coconut

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Healthier No Bake Cookies

Since going gluten free I have been looking for some good recipes for sweet treats! It's hard to go to birthday parties and other events without your kids feeling left out when they can't have cake! We don't use white sugar, so I wanted something I could adapt to use honey. I've taken an old favorite and changed it! I plan to make some batches, freeze them, and pull them out to bring to birthday parties with us. I also have a cake recipe I plan to do the same with.

1-1/2 cups honey
4T Cocoa powder
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup milk (I like coconut milk - YUMMY)
1/2 t. sea salt
1/2 t. real vanilla
1/2 cup peanut butter (can substitute other nut butters)
3-4 cups quick oats (I use gluten free)

Combine honey, cocoa, butter, milk, salt, & vanilla in a sauce pan. Bring to a full boil & stir constantly for 2 minutes. Remove from heat & stir in oats & peanut butter. Start with just adding 3 cups quick oats and add up to a cup more until it is nice and thick. Drop by the spoonful on wax paper and let cool until set. I like to put mine in the fridge or freezer, especially during the summer, to help them set up quicker.
Enjoy! :-)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Cloth Diapering Part 2

For those of you who choose to use prefolds, contours, or fitted diapers you’re going to need to invest in some covers. There are a few different styles of covers: Plastic/PUL, Wool, and Fleece.

Plastic & PUL Covers: Dappi makes an inexpensive, basic cover that will get the job done. From my experience these covers work well during the day, but I would recommend using something a bit more heavy duty for nighttime use. I have used Bumkins covers and they work well and tend to hold up over time. I like that they have a vent in the back, although you want to make sure the vent stays covered or else you’ll get moisture on the back of the baby’s clothing (I know this from experience). However, my favorite non-wool covers are the Bummis Super Brite and the Bummis Super Whisper Wrap. They are fantastic at keeping everything contained and their velcro closures help create a perfect fit.

Fleece Covers: I have only tried one fleece cover and I was surprised at how well it worked. The fleece naturally wicks away moisture and can be washed with your diapers (as opposed to wool covers). You could get them in different styles (longies, shorties, skirties, or soakers) and wear them alone or with clothing over them.

Wool Covers: I have to admit that I am partial to wool covers. I love them, absolutely LOVE them! With Cadence I tried wool and just could not get it to work right, so I gave up. I decided that with Rosalyn I wanted to use as much natural fiber as possible, so I bought mostly wool for her. I do use the Bummis or Bumkins covers as well, but much prefer the wool (nothing against the Bummis or Bumkins covers – they are excellent, it’s more of a personal preference for wool). You do need to lanolize your wool covers, which I typically do once a month when I wash them (I will touch on this on a later post). Wool covers come in the same styles as the fleece covers: longies, shorties, skirties, and soakers. My favorite wool covers are Disana because they work and fit wonderfully! I have hand knit some wool longies using this pattern and they have turned out well, however, I usually use them over another wool cover. I have been drooling over Llamajama longies for quite some time, but have yet to bite the bullet and buy a pair. They are super cute!

Diaper & Cover Sizing: Diapers can be purchased in a one size (OS) option or various sizes depending on the size of your baby. The OS options are great because it is one diaper that adjusts to fit from around 8 to 35 pounds (each brand is a bit different on their size range). I have tried the Blueberry and BumGenius OS Pocket Diapers and they both seemed to have a great fit. This would be a less expensive option and works well with most babies. However, many prefer the different sizing options because they can get a more precise fit. Kissaluvs fitted diapers and Fuzzi Bunz pocket diapers both offer the option of different sizes.

Inserts and Doublers: Inserts and doublers are typically made of cotton or hemp and are either inserted into pocket diapers or placed into other diapers (fitteds, all-in-ones, etc.) to add absorbency. Cotton Babies makes a fantastic one size insert that is adjusted to fit into different size pocket diapers. Kissaluvs also makes great doublers that work well in fitted diapers. I have made some of my own inserts and doublers by using DSQ prefolds.

To Be Continued.....

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Cloth Diapering Part 1

I have been asked countless times to pass along information about cloth diapering and I’ve decided I need to make some blog posts with everything I know so that when people ask I can just send them a link. Hopefully this way it’s easier for me and I don’t have to worry about leaving anything out. So here it goes…..

I’ve been cloth diapering for 4 years and have really enjoyed it. I have tried just about every style of diaper there is and various brands as well. I will warn you that it does get addicting, so watch out!

Types of cloth diapers:
I think this is where most people get confused. There are SO many types of cloth diapers out there how do you pick! Here is a brief synopsis as well as my personal opinion on each style:

Prefold Diapers: These are the traditional style of cloth diapers. It is basically one big rectangle that you fold in order to put on the baby. If you go this route you will want to purchase Diaper Service Quality (DSQ) prefolds as they are much more absorbent and not much more expensive. DSQ prefolds come in Chinese and Indian styles; there are pros and cons to each of these, but in my opinion they both work just fine. In general, prefolds are not really that hard to use and especially work great for the newborn stage when they grow so quickly. You could spend a lot of money on newborn diapers that your baby may only wear for a short period of time – these would be an inexpensive way to fill in the gap. Traditionally, these diapers were secured with a safety pin. I’m sure most of you have heard horror stories about how someone poked a baby with those darn pins. When I’ve used prefolds I’ve never used pins, instead I’ve used Snappis. A Snappi is a neat invention that allows you to secure the diaper without the risk of poking your baby! Genius, eh? I think so! One thing to consider with prefolds is that you need to use a cover (we’ll cover this a bit later). You can Google different options for folding them and find what works best for you. When you’re pinching pennies purchasing some DSQ prefolds, a couple Snappis, and a few covers will definitely get the job done! Also, I haven’t tried it, but Cotton Babies has come out with a new Econobum package worth checking into if you’re going to go with prefolds. It is definitely cost effective!

Contour Diapers: These are one step up from prefolds. They do require pins or Snappis to secure them, but they do not require folding. They are very simple and fairly affordable. I have tried a couple Kissaluvs style contour diapers and they worked great. Like the prefold diapers, these also require a cover.

Fitted Diapers: These are diapers that look like disposable diapers as far as fit goes, but they are made with fibers like cotton or bamboo. They have snap or velcro enclosures along with elastic around the legs. This style of diaper has come to be my favorite for day time use. They are typically more affordable than All-in-One diapers or pocket diapers and are easy to use. They do require a cover, but a lot of times when we’re at home I let my babies/toddlers go cover-free. I have been using Kissaluvs and like them, especially when using a doubler (we’ll talk about this later). I also really like the Wallypop fitted diapers as well. They hold up real well and have a great fit. I have had many friends rave about how much they love Motherease Sandy's fitted diapers, so wanted to make sure I mentioned those as well.

Pocket Diapers: These diapers are fitted, do not require a cover, and are typically just a “shell” that you stuff with inserts. You can put one or more inserts in them depending on how much absorbency you need. These diapers are definitely user friendly, especially if you have a caregiver who is not enthusiastic about using cloth diapers when caring for your child. The only downfall I have found with these is that you need to watch out for detergent and hard water build-up, which can cause them to leak. I will give directions for “stripping” your diapers in a later post. I have tried various brands of pocket diapers. Fuzzi Bunz work well, but my all time favorite pocket diaper are BumGenius brand. They are well made and the company seems to back their product. I also really like the Blueberry pocket diapers as well and they have some wonderful minky options.

All In One (AIO) Diapers: All in one diapers are just that, all in one! No need to stuff them or use a cover because it’s all included. These are the simplest diaper, but typically the most expensive. The only downfalls to this style are that it can take them longer to dry and the build-up issue I described above. I have never had the opportunity to try an AIO diaper, so my recommendations are limited.

Crossover Diapers: There are diapers that are covers with inserts that are either disposable or reusable. These are a good option for trips, busy moms, and those a bit leery about cloth diapering. There are a few of these systems available, most recently Cotton Babies came out with their Flip product. I have no experience with these, but definitely think it is a great option.

That is about it for types of diapers. I’ll continue with types and styles of covers in my next post!


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Making Raw Milk Yogurt

I don't have a double boiler so I improvise! I put a half gallon canning jar of milk (not quite full) in a pan of water on my stovetop. I constantly stir the milk while it is heating up until it reaches 110 degrees. I add 2 Tablespoons of my last batch of yogurt and stir well. Pour into 4 pint sized jars and add a heaping Tablespoon of yogurt to each jar as well. Mix well. Put the lid on tightly and put in an Excalibur dehydrator at 95 degrees for 8 hours. Remove from dehydrator and then refridgerate!

In order to start making it you will need to buy a good quality organic plain yogurt (I used Stoneyfield Farms brand) to use as your culture. After your first batch you can use some from a previous batch to make more. :-) About every 4 weeks I buy another tub of yogurt as my starter as I have found that the yogurt somehow ferments after about 5 weeks of using the previous batch (I make yogurt weekly).

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Honey Hot Cocoa

For those of you who have given up white sugar a friend of mine came up with a good hot cocoa alternative! This recipe is from my dear friend E.M. (not sure if she wants her first name posted, so I'm posting her initials for now). I am planning on making some later this evening!

Honey Hot Cocoa
1/2+ cup honey (I add a bit more because I like mine sweeter)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup cocoa
*Heat in a pan for 5 minutes or until it turns into a syrup.

5+ cups milk (to your preference - I like mine more milky)
*Add this to the syrup mixture and heat through.

tsp vanilla extract
*Remove from heat and add this lovely addtion. Serve hot or refridgerate and serve cold. :)

Edited 1/12/09 for honey and milk quantity. :-)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


I got a Kombucha Scoby a few weeks ago and we've been enjoying homemade Kombucha! It's SO yummy and it's been fun experimenting with different teas. If you can get your hands on a Scoby it's worth trying. Here are the instructions:

You need a gallon jar (a sun tea jar will work fine).

Bring a gallon of water to a boil.
Turn off heat and add 1 cup of white sugar.
Stir until dissolved.
Add 8 tea bags (not herbal tea – green tea and black tea work great) and let steep for 15 minutes or more.
Let cool and toss out the tea bags.
Take your gallon jar and add the scoby along with 1 cup of your previous batch (if you don’t have a full cup add some Apple Cider Vinegar until you have a full cup).
Once the tea has cooled completely pour it into the gallon jar on top of the scoby and liquid (if you use loose leaf tea instead of bags be sure to strain it).
Cover jar with cloth and secure with a rubber band.
It’ll take 7-15 days before it’s ready. You can start tasting it at any time and when you like the flavor it’s ready!

When it’s ready I’ve found it’s easiest to strain all of the tea into a sun tea pitcher. Leave the scoby in the original jar and add back 1 cup of the kombucha.

Put the Kombucha in the fridge and enjoy! Then follow the instructions above to start a new batch. You can keep using the same jar over and over again. It’s rare for Kombucha to go moldy, but if it does it will have a soft fuzzy mold (it’ll definitely look like typical mold – you won’t question it) and then you’ll know that batch is contaminated – throw it out if this happens! You’ll have a new Scoby start to form with each batch. You don’t want to separate your baby Scobys for the first few batches, but then you can separate your Scobys and share with friends!

It really is super easy!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


I have fallen in love with Kefir! The best way I can explain it is that it is very similar to yogurt, except it has more probiotics! I make a Kefir smoothie almost everyday. I just throw Kefir, honey, a banana, and a bag of frozen strawberries in the blender! It tastes so yummy, plus it is super healthy! I have lots of kefir grains, so if anyone is interested in getting some let me know. You can make kefir with raw milk and pasturized milk, but not ultra-pasturized milk. I take a canning jar and fill it about 2/3 of the way with milk, add the grains, put the lid on loosely, and let it sit for a day or two. I occassionally tighten the lid and carefuly turn the jar to "mix" it and then loosen the lid again throughout the couple days. Then I strain it and put the kefir grains into another jar 2/3 full of milk and start all over! I typically rinse my grains between uses with room tempterature water, but that is not a necessary step.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

How To Make Cottage Cheese

So, many of my friends have asked me how I make cottage cheese. It is seriously the easiest thing ever! I take raw milk and leave it in a loosely covered pan on my counter for about two days. Then I heat it to 120 degrees farenheit, strain it (I use a very fine strainer, but most people recomend cheesecloth), and then you have cottage cheese! It is so easy!