Monday, March 31, 2014

How to Create a Whole Foods Kitchen: Part One

When I was growing up, I knew I wasn't like everyone else. When I wanted to make biscuits and gravy, I didn't want to grab a packet and a can. I wanted to go get the flour, buttermilk, the rolling pin, etc.  and create a meal. Not just throw some food on the table. 
I wasn't satisfied with the fact that I could toss a package in the microwave and call it food. It didn't set well with me. It seemed lacking. I didn't really think of how lacking it was in nutrition until much later on in life, but I did know it was lacking in taste, flavor, time, and effort. 
As a newly married, young mother, I would tend to fall in the rut of the same few dishes that I felt comfortable with. I wanted better for the family, but honestly, I didn't know what to do about it. Hamburger helper was convenient and cheapish, so those two would win out when I didn't know what else to make.  My young daughter was fairly healthy, my husband and I were too. But... I have learned that there is more to health than just seeming healthy. I fed my family, but I wanted to nourish them.

Time marched on, we became a family of six and my pursuit of health and nourishment continued. I began adding in aspects of this and that. Pulling away from artificial, or preservative laden foods. I quit buying most of the boxed foods that normally graced my supermarket basket. I started reading. I started reading a LOT actually.
One book that started me to thinking and questioning every thing I had known before about health was Nourishing Traditions
This book started making me realize that all this fake food, artificial, fat-free garbage was just, in fact... garbage! It was not helping us, it was hurting us deeply!
If you can get a copy of this book, read it! It is extremely helpful! 
Check the library, if you don't know anyone who owns it!

I began making little changes. I traded in that tub of Country Crock for butter. I began buying whole milk instead of skim. Things that I could do. I built my pantry with more real foods. I began canning more. Then I started learning about the benefits of a good home cooked meal.
 I saw the benefits. 

 Did I do it right all at the start? 
No way. 
Do I do it all right now?
I just made a pan of boxed brownies for my husband, because he asked.
I did it.
I admit it.
Am I proud?
No, but I made my hubby happy, and life is about give and take. 
At the same time I had those boxed brownies in the oven, I had a large crockpot full of organic beef broth bubbling away, and another pound of raw almonds soaking for the dehydrator. 
Give and take, you see.

So, what to do? 
How does one begin a Whole Foods Kitchen?
It can be VERY overwhelming, and very time consuming.

For part one, here are FIVE easy steps!

1.  Take it slow. Begin with baby steps. Decide what you can do with the time you have, the time you want to spend in your kitchen, and decide what is the most important to you. Maybe it will be just one REAL food meal a day to start with. Focus on Supper or healthy snacks... what will be the BEST way for you to begin?

2. Cut out 2 things that you know are wrecking your health. 
Is it soda?
 Cut it out, email me and I will send you some water kefir grains or a kombucha scoby. 
You will never miss soda again!

3.  Begin planning your meals. Survey your pantry, your fridge and freezer. See what you have and what you can use. Start searching the web for whole foods recipes. There are TONS!! Really!

4. Check around, make some friends with like-minded people. You may tap into a WEALTH of information this way! I have surrounded myself with friends who are INVALUABLE to me. Not only do I love them as friends, but, they are my whole foods cheerleaders. We are constantly teaching one another useful skills and healthy tips.

5. If you can find it, join a whole foods co-op! We have a local co-op for organic fresh fruit and veggies, but we also buy from Azure Standard once a month (sometimes) to supplement our foods and keep us out of the grocery store as much as possible!

Here they are.
 FIVE easy steps to begin you on your journey to health!


Friday, March 28, 2014

Spring Cleaning and Organizing 2014

Around here, spring cleaning is in the works. We have been tackling jobs one at a time as the day allows. Spring cleaning is one of my favorite times of the year, simply because I like to have things fresh and clean. Newly organized and in order. It makes work more pleasant in my mind. I am not a minimalist, I am far from it. I have lots of stuff. But, not hoarder type stuff, useful stuff. 
For example. I have very little cabinet space. So my cast iron skillets hang on the sides of my cabinets. I can grab one easily when I need to use it. It has a place when I am finished. I have an industrial type shelf in my kitchen also. It is there for items that I use, but not daily. My grain mill sets on it, my large tea pitcher that holds 3+ gallons, for when company comes by... my canners, etc. I don't have closet space or cabinets, so this shelf is my place for such. Making your home functional is important. Especially if you are a homemaker. This is your job! You have a lot to do and having things in order or at least conveniently located will help you get things started and finished.
What about cleaning products and habits? Like I have said in previous posts, I am cutting way back on the amount of 'cleaning products' I keep in my house. That includes shampoo, conditioner, mopping solution, dusting polish... There are some things still left in my supplies, but I am not one to toss it unless I have no other option. I have to get my monies worth. If I spent the money, I will use it and then I will move on to something I am happy with.  

You might be surprised at what all you can clean with baking soda, vinegar, essential oils, and hot water!
Here are a few examples!

For an All-Purpose Cleaner:
Mix 1/2 cup vinegar, 1/4 cup baking soda into 1/2 gallon of water. Store in spray bottle. Shake and spray on bathtubs, toilets, sinks, windows, mirrors, etc. 

Furniture Polish:
A few drops of lemon essential oil and 1/2 cup hot water. Mix and lightly spray and wipe. 

Floor Cleaners:
1/2-1 cup of white vinegar per 1 gallon of HOT water. Mop lightly over tile, laminate, linoleum, wood, etc!

Mold or Mildew problems?
Use vinegar or lemon juice at FULL strength! Use a textured cloth for scrubbing!

Toilet bowl Cleaner:
You all have made the volcano in junior high... Do it again! 
Sprinkle in some baking soda into the bowl. Spray in your vinegar and let the foaming scientific experiment do its job! Scrub with toilet brush and flush.

I hope you see just how easily you and I can clean our houses safely for pennies! 

I gotta run, it's time for some more spring cleaning! 
Have a great weekend!


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Homemade Flavored Cream Cheese

Sometimes I laugh at myself... well, actually I do that a lot. I am FOREVER trying not to have to buy things that we may like, but instead, figure out ways to make them myself. I know I have told you that before.
One thing I quit buying a long time ago was flavored cream cheese. My kids really like it. I used to buy it for our Sunday morning bagels. Bagels are perfect for Sunday morning around here, because we are all getting ready for church.
 One day I looked at the ingredients in the flavored cream cheese and was once again appalled to find that there was a lot of junk in there. Not surprised, but bothered, and I put it back on the shelf and said, I'm not buying this anymore... much to my kids dismay.
So at home I pulled out some of my ingredients and my food processor and started mixing.
It turned out SO good... I can't believe I waited so long!
This is what I used:
(you can substitute any berries you like)

1/2-1 cup of strawberries (I used 1/2 but my berries were VERY juicy)
1 stick of cream cheese or 8 oz of homemade
1 tsp vanilla
4 Tbsp powdered sugar, honey or sweetener of your choice

Mix well!

This is SO easy, and SO good!

Another one we make that is very popular in our house is Chocolate Cream Cheese!

1 stick of cream cheese or 8 oz of homemade
1 tsp vanilla 
2 Tbsp cocoa
4 Tbsp powdered sugar, honey or sweetener of your choice
Splash of cream or milk
1/4 cup of chocolate chips if desired

Mix well!

I hope you enjoy!


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

No-poo... again

For a long time I went the no-poo, curly-girl route. I liked the way my hair felt. I liked the curl that bounced back. And probably most of all, I liked the fact that I wasn't using so many chemicals on my hair. Little steps to make our lives a little less chemically laden. 
It's a good thing.
For some crazy reason, I stopped and went back to store bought, probably out of laziness. 
But, I'm beginning again...

SO... what is no-poo?
It is going without a standard shampoo and conditioner for your hair. You still wash and rinse your hair, just not as often.

Why would one do this?
One: I'm a homesteader at heart... I don't like running out of something I can't whip up at home.  No 'poo method means I don't have to spend a bunch of $$ on shampoo and conditioner. 
That's my budget talking too!
It stimulates hair growth. 
It replenishes your natural oils to your hair.
 Regular shampoo and even some shampoo bars strip your hair of its natural sebum... (that's the natural oils your scalp produces). Which makes your scalp produce more oil, which leads to the greasy hair.  

It's not going to be greasy or gross. 

I took two spray bottles.
One I filled with 2 cups of water and 2 Tbsp baking soda.
This is for the wash. 
Don't scrub, just massage this into your hair. Get out of the habit of using your fingernails to clean that scalp. I was taught that my whole life. You scratch the 'far (fire) out of your head to get it REALLY clean. Not so, that promotes dandruff. Shocking, huh?

The second bottle is 2 cups of water and 2 Tbsp of white vinegar. 
If you have dry hair, you could use 2 Tbsp of Apple Cider vinegar or ACV
Spray the length of your hair. Not the roots too much. Again, you are trying to restore your scalp. 
Rinse well. 
Ignore my unpainted face and pj's... but this is after sleeping with a coconut mask on my hair.
My daughters slathered coconut oil all over my hair, roots to tips.
I did my baking soda wash and vinegar rinse.
I did it twice to get all the coconut oil off.
My hair is somewhat curly. I used about a dime size amount of non-alcohol gel and I did use a hair-dryer on low to help dry my hair.

I don't like it completely curly so I pulled a little on the top with a round brush, trying to give me less curl on top.

The back was all hitherty-thitherty. 

After a little styling. 

I'll give an update a couple of weeks down the road. I used to blog at another domain, many moons ago, and I had posted a pic when I was doing it back then... I can't find it. Grrr.
My hair feels fantastic. It feels clean and soft!
Give it a try. Let me know what you think!

*** Let me say this ***
Your body has to get used to things... 
Just like when you are changing from store-bought deodorant to homemade, you might have to experiment a little. Same here... Give your body and hair time to adjust. You might find it not being exactly luxurious for a while. Give it a couple of weeks to wear in. I think you will find after that initial blah stage, you will see great results!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Sourdough pancakes... anytime!

I'm sure I have mentioned to you how much I LOVE my sourdough starter. 
I take pictures of it. 
I take it out of my fridge to smell it. 
*I really do*
I make bread with it, obviously. 
I make cornbread, banana bread, and I make pancakes with it!
Even as much as I love sourdough everything, sourdough pancakes may be my most favorite way to use my starter. It does take a little foresight, but that's ok... It just helps us to be more organized, eh? 
Pancakes are such a great go-to meal. 
When money is a little tight, pancakes.
When you have forgotten to take out that roast for supper... pancakes
When it is a special day... pancakes.
Pancakes are the answer to a lot of questions.
Sourdough pancakes are an even better answer. 

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
1/2 cup sourdough starter, at room temp 
(so get it out, feed it and let it sit during the day that way you will have it at room temp when you pull some off for your pancakes for the next morning)
2 cups buttermilk, room temp
2 eggs
1/8 cup milk + 1/8 cup oil mixed together= 1/4 cup total
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Combine first 4 ingredients. Cover and let stand about an hour. You could do this the night before and let it stand til the next morning. 
Beat in eggs, milk and oil. 
Add flour and mix til blended.
Combine soda, sugar and salt and stir into batter. 
Let this stand at least 5 minutes.
Ladle cakes onto hot griddle and brown on each side.
Top with real butter and real maple syrup. 
This recipe will make approximately 2 dozen pancakes. 

Perfect for breakfast, supper or anytime!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

How to: Continuous Brew Kombucha

Continuous Brew Kombucha is one of the best decisions I have made in my Homestead Kitchen. It is so much easier and it makes up faster, which means, my hubby... who LOVES kombucha has more booch when he is ready for a nice cold bottle. 

First thing, if you have never heard of Kombucha, I have a 3 part series you can refer back to. Here is Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 . That will explain really what kombucha is and how to make it in a non-continuous way. So for today, I am going to assume you are aware of what it is and we will move on to how to make it continuous. It is so simple you will probably be just like me and say, 
"WHY have I not tried this sooner?"

First, obtain you a scoby and some kombucha liquid.
Next you will need a decanter, such as the one I have pictured below. If you don't have one, here's a nice one on Amazon. 

Brew 1 gallon of black tea. Each gallon will need 1 cup of sugar. 
My decanter holds 2 gallons (brew according to how much your decanter holds)
Bring the tea to room temp. 

Pour tea into dispenser. Add scoby and your liquid. 
Let set for about 1 week.
This is a big deal. I let my tea go for 10 days -2 weeks as normal and it was FAR too vinegary for us. Kombucha has a bit of a vinegary taste, but this was almost just like drinking vinegar. Brewing like this is a learning process. You will find out what length of time works for you. Just so you know, this way of brewing brews much faster than a regular batch of kombucha.
Get yourself in a habit. Mark it on the calendar if you need to. Each day on that day, is kombucha day. Plan on brewing your tea, pulling off your kombucha and then replenishing your supply.

To pull off your kombucha for the week, simply put an empty pitcher under your spout and empty your decanter until you have only about 20-30% of your kombucha left.

You should see a nice, golden brown, bubbly liquid being dispensed into your pitcher.

It's already fizzy! 

This is how we flavor our kombucha.
We take the same ratio. About 20-30% juice to kombucha.
If you look in the below pic, I tried to show you about how much juice I have in the bottle.

Fill the rest with kombucha. Leave a bit of room in the neck for that pressure to build.

The bubbles show that there is some carbonation happening. That is good if you want a fizzy drink. Which is one of the perks of bottling the kombucha like this. 
With your bottles, you may want to leave them out on the counter a day or two to let the pressure build, so that you will have a more carbonated finished product. It also gives time for the kombucha to 'marry' with the juice. That gives a tastier product too! 

Now that you have pulled off this weeks kombucha, you should have a mostly empty jar. Take that room temperature tea you have made and fill it back up. Let it go until next week and do it all over again! 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Homemade Toothpaste

I declared on Instagram over a week ago that I had finished up my last tube of natural toothpaste. That $3.29 tube was the last tube I had plans on buying. I told myself when it runs out... we go to homemade. I do that to myself a lot. When I know there is a superior homemade version and I can do it for far less money and it is convenient... WHY NOT?
So I did.
I was up really early that morning and I went and gathered my supplies.
This is what I used.
1/2 cup baking soda
1/4 cup peroxide
1 Tablespoon Coconut oil
30 + drops of peppermint oil (I like it very minty)
Mix well!
It will be a bit soupy at first, but if it gets cold in your house like it does mine, it will firm up.
Dab a little on your toothbrush, and brush!
I couldn't believe how terrific my teeth felt! And my breath was fresh even after a couple of cups of coffee! I talked about it all day! 
You don't have to super scrub it because the baking soda is abrasive. You don't want to go TOO hard. 
It works fantastically! The whole family likes it.

No floride! No sodium laurel sulfate! No glycerine! 
Nothing you can't pronounce! 

What I am doing for our family is taking a tiny jam jar and making each person a jar of toothpaste. My eldest daughter doesn't like the idea of a community jar. Haha... 
So each one has a jar, with their name labeled and we are now even weirder than we were before... according to my kids. 
But that's ok. We will have clean teeth. 
Have a great day!