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My 100th post: Reflections and Goals

(Cue balloons and confetti… oh, and presents are OK, too!)

Hooray for my 100th post!! Woooo!

Well, we’ll just pretend this is my 100th post. It’s actually 102, but this has been a thoroughly crappy week so I blew right past it. Today, however, is a better day. :D

I started my blog in March, when my son was a few months old and I was getting back into the groove of things after my maternity leave. I was adjusting to new mommyhood, had just returned to work part-time, and was looking for a way to hold on to my interests, do a little writing and maybe meet some new like-minded friends. And, to be perfectly honest, I really just wanted to learn a little bit about how to use my computer.

I had no idea what I was in for! I can do things with my trusty Mac that I never thought I could (I’ve even had people ask ME for help!), and I’ve learned countless other things from the many blogs I’ve discovered. I’d go so far to say that blogging has affected the way I live down to the very core! Not only do I get to write about topics that interest me, but there are actual people out there –really inspirational, supportive, and amazingly talented people –who share my opinions, ideas and passions! Luckily, you all share your knowledge, too! What a gift to have found you all, especially since my life is not overflowing with people who share my views on most things.

(Plus, every so often, I even get a sample or two of something fun in the mail! Bonus!)

These days, my son is going on ten months old, reaching new milestones every day, and starting to enjoy the foodie action that goes on in my household. I’m considering going back to work full-time, for various reasons, which will alter my lifestyle to some extent. So, I thought it was about time to restate my mission here and clarify for everyone what you’ll be seeing in the coming months!

1. More Food!

Yes, food will still be here.

Old favorites…

and new!

Healthy, natural foods, gardening, and fun kitchen adventures are such big parts of my life that my blog wouldn’t be my blog without them. I’m lucky enough to have a husband that will try anything, and I’m hoping that love of exploration passes on to our son (I have a good feeling it already has…) I will be keeping my personal circumstances in mind when choosing foods, so here are some of the criteria that will guide my way…

  • We are still nursing, and hoping to add another little one to our family, so high nutrient value is very important. Low-fat and low-cal are not so important right now, but folate, calcium, protein and healthy fats sure are!
  • I am still hypertensive, so sodium is a concern. I do find that cutting out processed foods has made the biggest difference, however, so I do use a little salt in my cooking. No biggie.
  • I am still on hypothyroid medication, too. Not sure if diet or lifestyle can affect that, but I’d like to find out…
  • I’m not cutting out sugar, but I am cutting back on sugar. Being so tired and busy has caused me to turn to sugar a little more than I’d like, and given that diabetes does run in my family (and I had gestational diabetes) it’s something I’d like to conquer now. (Don’t think you won’t be seeing holiday cookies, though!)
  • Hydration, hydration, hydration! (More about this in tomorrow’s post! Don’t miss it!)
  • As always, I will continue to strive for a diet that is fresh and natural, with lots of whole foods and very little dairy. I’m thinking that gradually including my son into our family meals will provide even more incentive to stick to it…
  • Even within the restrictions of a busy schedule and tight budget, I will always choose local and organic foods when possible. That said, food also has to be interesting, fun and just plain good

2. Less Food!

That’s right. I know I just described my food mission, but I do have a life outside the kitchen and most of that part of my life revolves around this cute little one.

Just as with food, I strive for all things natural when it comes to raising my son. Most plastics are on their way out of our lives (I say that as I show you a picture of a plastic laundry basket :roll: I’m trying…), as are any other toxins we can get rid of. There are just SO many positive changes that can be made with just a little effort! The more I research and learn, there seems to be a better alternative for almost everything, from toys and diapers to household items and beauty products, and even the way we go about doing things, and I would like to share them as I find them.  

You’ll also see some posts about the struggles and triumphs of parenting. I believe in the concept of attachment parenting, which I look at as a very natural and intuitive way of raising children – a return to our instincts as mothers and parents. I breastfeed,  co-sleep (part-time) and engage in many other AP practices that keep my child close and connected. Attachment Parenting International lists the 8 principles of AP:

  • Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting
  • Feed with Love and Respect
  • Respond with Sensitivity
  • Use Nurturing Touch
  • Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally
  • Provide Consistent and Loving Care
  • Practice Positive Discipline
  • Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life

Nice, eh? But I also have a career that is important to me, and I’m not ready to abandon that at this point. So, while the two might seem in direct conflict with each other, I believe I can find a balance...the right balance, and I plan to share that journey here, too. After all, API describes the long-range vision of Attachment Parenting as raising children that will “become adults with a highly developed capacity for empathy and connection. It eliminates violence as a means for raising children, and ultimately helps to prevent violence in society as a whole.” So, it’s worth it, don’t you think?

Check out API for lots more great info on attachment parenting, and feel free to comment if you have any advice or tips for me! I’d love to hear from you! 

So, I’m excited to write my next 100 posts, and to read yours! If you have any friends that might share my interests, please tell them to drop by and introduce themselves. I’ll return the favor! 

I’ll do my best to stay current, but if I happen to drop off for a day or two, it just means I’m focusing my efforts on achieving that balance thing I mentioned earlier, and I’ll be back! Once in a while, a nap, tickle fight or impromptu picnic really can be the most important thing in the world. 

Happy blogging, everyone, and thanks for reading!

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Fried Green Tomatoes

I’m not sure what it is about fried green tomatoes that makes me want to learn how to cook them perfectly. Sure, I loved the movie, and that is where I first learned of their existence, but it goes beyond that. 

If you do a recipe search for fried green tomatoes, you’ll find a lot of variation. Some require a dip in milk, egg, and bread crumbs, some add herbs and spices. The old school crowd might use lard or bacon grease, while the purists say the only way to make them is with a simple dusting of flour.

I think the reason I want to conquer this southern favorite is because of the passion and nostalgia that cling to each recipe. People love these summer treats for so many reasons–because they remind them of the place they call home, of a beloved Grandma’s recipe, or of lazy lunches in the summertime, when the tomatoes were not yet sweet and red, and still had a tang that could make you pucker. 

I also can’t resist a challenge, and what’s more challenging than a food that has legions of die-hard fans, all claiming to know the ‘right’ way to make them, with such a simple list of ingredients? Sure, you could fancy them up with countless bells and whistles, but in this case, I think true talent is told through simplicity and technique.

So, here are my tomatoes. One from our garden, and two from the farmer’s market. Please bear with my photos–I took the camera from the box only about  minutes before I snapped these, so I’m a little green (punny, I know…)

The pinkish tomato on top was too close to ripe and would have mushed upon frying, so I just ate that one.

The bigger green tomato from our garden had zero flavor, so we ate a couple of bites, then chalked that one up to kitchen experimentation. 

But this little beauty from the farmer’s market? Crisp, tangy perfection!

I decided to take the minimalist approach, and dredged the slices in a mixture of flour, salt, and pepper, then fried them in a thin puddle of red pepper-infused olive oil until golden. Super simple.

Here’s the finished product.

They were deliciously tangy, and sturdy enough to handle the frying without turning to mush. I served them with some simple panko-crusted tilapia and some sweet potato fries, which I did not take pictures of because, well, because I was hungry. :)  Remoulade sauce was on hand, as well.

I can’t wait to make them again, and again. I can only imagine how much better they’ll get with time and practice!

The only thing missing? A tall glass of sweet tea!

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I find that when it comes to fried green tomatoes, most people either love them or hate them. If you’re a “love ‘em” kind of person, I’d love to hear your tips on how to perfect them!

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Juice Newbie

Wow! I attended my first Twitter party last night–2 of them actually (in a row!)–and I’m exhausted!

Kind of exhilarated, but exhausted! And I can’t really see straight… :roll:

The topics were the campaign for safe cosmetics and the film, “The Story of Cosmetics: The Ugly Truth of Toxins In, Toxins Out” followed by more talk of toxicants in our personal care products, sponsored by Earth Mama Angel Baby in conjunction with Mothering Magazine. There was a lot of great info to be had, and my tweeter got a super workout!

Tweet, tweet!

But the world of social media is not the only area of my life where I’m branching out! Thanks to my Mom and Dad,  I have a new addition to my kitchen arsenal!

See it here.

Happy Birthday to me! It’s a juicer! Well, it doesn’t call itself a juicer. It calls itself a fruit and vegetable extractor, whatever that means, but it’s a juicer.

The recipe book that comes along with it touts it as a weight loss plan in which you use the pulp as a filler in things like burgers, but I’m just planning on juicing stuff. When something starts saying “easy weight loss” to me, I kind of stop listening…

But, I have a confession to make. I’ve never really been a fan of juice. 8O

Yes, it’s true. Juicing just isn’t my thing. I had a juicer years ago, but I didn’t really like using it and it just sat in my garage and died.

I guess I like the taste of a glass of juice just fine, but I’ve never been one to actually make juice. Here’s why:

  • I don’t like to drink my calories and juice can have a ton of them.
  • I’m not a fan of stripping the fiber out of a perfectly good fruit or vegetable and then consuming it in a few gulps, when I could leave the fiber in and enjoy an entire meal of nutritious food. 
  • Juicing is expensive! Reducing a pile of good organic fruits and veggies into a mere glass of juice doesn’t seem like the best use of my grocery dollar. 

But I fancy myself an open-minded kind of chick, so I have been rethinking my stance on juice. Here’s why:

  • I need to find a way to stay hydrated while nursing. I never drink enough, so if I make it a little more interesting, I just might up my fluid intake. I have a bit of a store-bought-drink phobia because there are so few natural options out there, and juicing at home might be a good remedy.
  • I don’t have to drink the juice at full strength. I plan to use my juices like concentrates and water them down considerably. 
  • At this point in my life, when I’m thinking about trying for baby #2, the nutrients found in a glass of homemade fruit and veggie juice could prove very beneficial, because with the amount of time I spend chasing my newly mobile son, I just don’t always have the time to sit down to a full bounty of garden veg.
  • As much as I don’t like the thought, I’m going to have to introduce some kind of juice to my boy before long. He drinks water and breastmilk now, but when the time comes to give him something else, I’d much rather it be something I made at home with vegetables I know and trust than a bottle of mystery skittle-flavored liquid from the store. Right now, I can’t do things like carrots, beets or spinach, because they contain too many nitrates for young nurslings like mine, but he’ll be able to have them before long. 
  • It’s not expensive if you use your fruit and veggie overflow–then it’s a thrifty practice.  We have an abundance of leftover garden beets, cucumbers, leafy greens, and lots of other produce that will juice quite nicely. Juicing will also help me use up anything I buy at the grocery store and find myself not using. If it looks like we might not eat it, I’ll just juice it up!

  • And finally, while I don’t think I’ll ever view it as a feasible weight loss plan, I can actually use the pulp for baking, or making delicious compost. 

So, I’m determined to make juicing a habit, or at the very least, give it a real try. But here’s the problem. I don’t know what makes a good juice! I can come up with some on my own (carrot, apple, mango? Ginger peach?) But when it comes to combining fruits with veggies, I’m not sure what goes with what, and what doesn’t go with anything.

That’s where you come in! I know all you fine foodies out there have enough collective knowledge to set me off on a happy path to juice nirvana, so please, send me your tips and suggestions! I’ll be sure to share my creations just as soon as I get myself hooked up with a new camera…

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Mommy and Me Hummus Recipe

I have been accused of being a little too cautious when it comes to introducing solids to my son.

My response? Well, I’ll let you guess. :x

I care...really care…about the relationship my son has with food, so yes, I’m pretty careful. The way I see it, that’s my job as his mother, so he doesn’t get a bite of french fry or a lick of an ice cream cone just to elicit a cute reaction. He’s 8 months old now, and so far his diet has consisted of:

  • Breastmilk
  • Water, as long as it doesn’t interfere with nursing
  • Oatmeal (at 5 1/2 months), organic
  • Veggies (at 6 months), organic
  • Fruits (at 6 months), organic
  • A total of 4 organic maple oat teether cookies
  • I’ve not yet introduced wheat, dairy, eggs, meats, soy, citrus, juice, sugar, salt …well, you get the idea.

But, I’m not a big meanie, either, and lately I’ve noticed my son noticing my plate. He always has, but it’s getting more obvious and he’s definitely getting more vocal about it. This tells me two things: I have to be super aware of the example I’m setting, and I need to start letting him try some new things.

So, a few days ago, while eating hummus on pita chips, I caved in and gave him a little taste.

How did he like it? Well, I think we may have a little hummus monster on our hands.

It was fun to share my food with my boy. Exploring healthy new foods together is one of the things I’ve been looking most forward to. But, as soon as I gave him a few smidges of my hummus, I immediately regretted it when I remembered that sesame, which is in most hummus, is a common allergen and should be avoided until about 12 months. ACK!

When I snapped back into reality and realized that one taste wasn’t going to hurt him, I set my mind to making some baby-friendly hummus that we could enjoy together, and that I could feel good about.

The recipe:

  • 1 1/2 cups cooked organic chickpeas
  • scant 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 1 drizzle olive oil
  • 1 squeeze fresh lemon

Add all ingredients into food processor and process until well blended and smooth. Add water to thin if needed.

There seem to be different schools of thought about citrus fruits and babies under one year in age. The acid in oranges, lemons, etc. can cause reactions and rashes, but I am not freaking out over a small squeeze in a bowl of hummus. I think WholesomeBabyFood.com put it best:

There is a big difference in using a drop or 2 of lemon juice as a preservative in a fruit purée, as the drop or 2 is spread throughout the purée and your infant will not be consuming the drops with each bite of fruit purée that is taken.  It is entirely different than offering your baby a few slices of oranges or chopped tomatoes for example.

Little did I know when I started making this that my husband had already unearthed our garden garlic and had it drying in the sun. This bulb was so warm and fragrant,  it felt like it had been in the oven! Heaven!

Looks pretty bland, huh? Well, it is. But that’s OK…it’s supposed to be, at least for now. Just a hint of garlic, and the cumin is barely detectable. I believe in introducing herbs and spices early, but little tummies are sensitive so they have to be introduced slowly and carefully. Besides, what seems bland to me is a whole new taste exploration for my little guy.

Since Mommy likes a little kick, we discovered a fun way to share our little pot of hummus so that we’re both happy…he eats his plain and unadulterated, and I keep a bottle of hot sauce nearby and drip a drop each time I pop a chip! Perfect!

The new hummus won rave reviews (or big smiles, at least.) He’ll never go through this whole bowl, but it was a good practice run. Next time, I’ll remove his portion and add some peppadews or sun-dried tomatoes to the rest, to be enjoyed by Mommy and Daddy (with some wine, after he nods off at night. ;)

The best thing about this recipe (besides the fact that it’s cheap, easy and healthy, of course) is that it can grow right along with your baby! Veggies, spices and any other flavors you want to introduce can be added as his palate develops, and for toddlers, it’s right at home spread on whole wheat toast or nestled in a heated quesadilla, served with salsa. 

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What’s your favorite “Past Purees” baby or toddler recipe?

How do you respond when/if others challenge the way you feed your child? Would you ever challenge the way someone else fed their child? 

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Filed under Parenting & Family, Recipes & Food, The Everyday

They can’t all be winners…

If I were a camera, where would I be?

Why, I’d be right in Miss Wendy’s purse, where she looked 100 times. Where else?

Hmmmm….what to write about today? I could write about wheatberries, and how they are a great, versatile addition to any pantry, or I could write about Jicama and how I love the sweetish crunch it gives to salads and sandwiches…

But instead, I think I’ll write about how sometimes the best intentions in the kitchen go totally south, and you end up with a big bowl of bleh.

The big bag of wheatberries on my counter kept heckling me, “Wendy, what are you going to dooooooo with me????” until I’d finally had enough. I decided to pop them into the crockpot on my day off so I could enjoy a creamy wheatberry breakfast porridge the next morning. 

So in they went, 3 cups of them, with 7 cups of water an 1/2 tsp of salt. I’m not sure if that is exactly right or not, but they came out beautifully after about 4 hours on high and 2 on low.

I added 1 1/2 cups of wheatberries and 1 1/2 cups of rolled oats to 2 cups of coconut milk and about 1/4 cup of dried cranberries. A few tester bites told me it needed a little cinnamon. (next time, I’m thinking cardamom…)

In the morning, I ended up adding a little almond milk to thin it out after a minute in the microwave. A few almonds and a tiny spoonful of coconut butter and it was a true fuzzy blanket of a breakfast–warm and comforting. I love the chewy texture wheatberries give to a dish, especially when it jazzes up my morning oats. I love them, but they do need a little pizzazz once in a while.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Rewind to the night before…

After preparing the next day’s breakfast, I found myself with lots of leftover wheatberries, so I put some in the freezer and had a few cups left for playing…and that’s when the wheels started turning…

Many of my best recipes happen just that way. I start off with one ingredient I need to use  up, take an inventory of what I have, and start into Mad Scientist Mode. But every once in a while, things do not go exactly as planned.

Hanging on my fridge was a recipe from Rachael Ray….Heck of a Jicama Slaw. 

Hmmm…I have a big jicama to use up. I also have lime, and cumin, and honey, and cilantro….

You can see where this is going, right?

I also had the very first of the season’s yellow pear tomatoes. Too cute!

Yes, those are Silly Bandz…what’s it to ya?  :)

Since I didn’t have all the ingredients to follow RR’s recipe exactly, I omitted some and added in my tomatoes and wheatberries. 

And this was the finished product:

Pretty ugly, isn’t it? If you eat with your eyes first, as Chef wisdom says, my eyes said, “Bleh!”

Remarkably, this did have a pretty nice sweet and spicy flavor, but the texture was a little weird, and the color offputting. We ate it, but it didn’t float my boat, if you know what I mean. Not a keeper. 

Sorry, Rachael Ray.

Lessons for the day: 

1. When Rachael Ray recommends jicama matchsticks, listen to her. Shredding in the processor releases far too much water and makes for a not-so-pleasant mush.

2. Sometimes it is ok to just throw it all into the compost pile and start over. 

Have a happy 4th of July weekend, all! I look forward to hearing about it!

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I know I’m not alone…Tell me about your less-than-wonderful recipe mishaps!

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