Sunday, October 28, 2012

Loaded Cottage Cheese - Tasty Snack!

It was 3 o'clock in the afternoon and I felt  like loaded potato skins.  Too bad I didn't feel like making them.  Instead, I concocted this tasty snack (and it took me less than 5 minutes).

Loaded Cottage Cheese
1 bowl cottage cheese
shredded, sharp cheddar cheese
chopped green onions
crumbled bacon (or real bacon bits)
Directions:  Layer in a bowl and devour!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Tales From a Stay-At-Home Mom: "You Can't Always Get What You Want..."

"But if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need..."  There's actually some wisdom in that old Rolling Stones song.  Obviously, we are better off sometimes with what we need rather than with what we want, but that doesn't mean we're not very disillusioned in the process (which is a repeated theme in the song).  Ending up with what you need instead of what you want doesn't exactly make a person happy.  In fact, it's frustrating - and in some instances - infuriating.  That's why this is one of my favorite lines in the song: "And I went down to the demonstration/to get my fair share of abuse/Singing 'We're gonna vent our frustration/if we don't we're gonna blow a 50-amp fuse'".  I can relate.  When I don't get what I want, I want to vent my frustration or blow some body's ears out trying.  The problem I encounter at that point is that it's God's ears that I'm usually trying to blow out, and that never ends well for me.

God has never answered any of my "why" questions.  Ever.  Probably for good reason (not that the Creator of the Universe ever needs a reason).  That doesn't make it any easier for me to swallow, however, because when I don't get what I want, my first round of ear-splitting whining usually begins with "WHY NOT?  Why me?  Why does SHE get such and such and I don't?"  The voice in my head that God hears must sound worse than my four-year-old sounds to me on her most whiny of days.  So not only am I acting ungrateful at that point, but I quickly reveal my covetousness and the horrid sense of entitlement that I harbor in my heart.  Who in the world do I think I am to act that way?  To say those things to a loving God who sent His Son to suffer and die for MY sins?  Nine times out of ten, I don't stop there, though, even when I know I'm in deep and see humbling repentance on the horizon.  Just like a rebellious child, I plant my feet, cross my arms and turn my face away from the only one who can make my frustration dissipate.  "I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do....I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out...What a wretched [wo]man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God - through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:15, 18, 24-25).

It's hard to repeatedly ask God for something and repeatedly see the opposite of that prayer occur.  If we could see the future, we'd all probably whine a lot less when we receive what we need as opposed to what our hearts desire.  The most difficult thing for me to get over is the sense of hurt that I feel when I "think" I'm asking for bread but getting stones instead.  The conclusion that I have to arrive at is that God knows my motives for asking what I ask, and my motives are most likely not as innocent as I would like to believe they are.  I am a sinful being with sinful desires that I often justify as needs.  So my motives might be one reason that I can't always get what I want.  Another reason is that God sees the tapestry of my life in finished form, while I only see the ragged ends of the yarn poking out the back in crazy patterns that don't make sense to me.  God always, always knows what is best, no matter what it looks like from my lowly, human perspective.  Remembering these things always brings the shepherd King, David, to mind, who certainly did not always get what he wanted. His words echo in my heart: "O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely, O LORD...All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be...Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."  (Psalm 139:1-4, 16, 23-24).

Monday, October 22, 2012

Homemade Chewy Granola Bars Recipe (Easy & Versatile!)

Sugar-free, nutritious, no preservatives or hidden ingredients, and easier to make than cookies!  Nope, I'm not kidding.  I have honed this recipe over a period of several months to make sure that even my almost two-year-old (who calls them "cookies") begs for them when she sees them.  This is one sweet snack I don't feel guilty about giving to the kids at any time of day!  What's even better about this recipe is that it's so versatile - you can include both the dates and raisins, one or none; you can substitute chocolate chips instead for a chocolate-coconut granola bar; or you can add just about any dried fruit or nut (like cranberries and walnuts).  These also freeze wonderfully and can easily be made gluten-free by using gluten-free, quick cooking rolled oats.  Enjoy!
Homemade Chewy Granola Bars Recipe
(Yield: One 9x13 pan)
2 cups quick cooking rolled oats
1/4 cup flax meal
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup almonds, chopped (optional)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dates (or figs)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/3 cup agave nectar
3 medium eggs
2 Tbs coconut oil
3 Tbs water
1/2 cup shredded coconut (optional)
Directions:  Preheat oven to 350-degrees Fahrenheit.  Spray 9x13 pan with cooking spray.  Mix the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Whisk agave and eggs in a separate bowl.  Combine the wet and dry ingredients and mix well.  Add water and mix until well-moistened.  (If you prefer a more uniform texture and want to go through the trouble, at this point you can put the mixture in the food processor and pulse a few times.)  Press mixture into the prepared pan with wet fingers or a spatula.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the edges begin to brown slightly.  Let cool completely before slicing.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge (or freeze for a quick, fresh snack).

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Cabinet Detox Project #3 - Easy Homemade Cough Syrup

When I say easy, I mean easy!  This recipe is basically herbalist Rosemary Gladstar's Honey Onion Cough Syrup recipe (I don't have a link to the recipe, otherwise I would have included it - here is a link to the video of her making it) - all I did was add some ginger and garlic as she recommends.  Just cover the three ingredients in honey, cook on low for about 30 minutes, strain and voila!  You have an awesome cough syrup.  (After I strained out the onions and garlic, I put them on the burgers I made that night - yum!)

According to, "Honey...has been found to be especially useful in treating upper respiratory infections.  A study at Penn State College of Medicine in 2007 found that a small dose of buckwheat honey was more effective than an over-the-counter cough treatment for children."  Not to mention the fact that the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that children under the age of four should not ever be given over-the-counter cough syrup (and I don't even use it myself due to the questionable ingredients, so why would I give it to my kids?).   Yet another reason to just go ahead and make your own!

Easy Homemade Cough Syrup
 Rosemary Gladstar says that this recipe is a remedy for colds, the flu, sore throats and coughs, and should be taken by the teaspoon (as needed) by children or adults as soon as they feel a cold or flu coming on, as it boosts the immune system.  (Due to the raw honey content, do not feed the syrup to children under the age of two.)  I didn't think I would like the flavor, but alas, I have been proven wrong.  I could do that bottle some damage!  My four-year-old even loves it.

Since the raw honey I use is amazing (and pretty costly), I am stingy with it, so I cut Rosemary's recipe in half and made a smaller batch so I'd have some left over for my Elderberry Immunity Syrup (recipe coming soon).  I'll bet you have all of these ingredients within reach - give it a try! 

Easy Homemade Cough Syrup

1/2 of a medium onion
1 cup raw honey (see instructions below)
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2-inch slice of fresh ginger

Slice onion into very thin half-moons.  Place in an iron skillet or small saucepan and cover with honey until onions are just covered (depending on how big your onion is, it might take more than one cup).  Add garlic and ginger.  Cook on low heat for 30 minutes, or until onions become soft (make sure the heat doesn't go above low on your stove, otherwise the honey will become too hot and the enzymes will begin to be destroyed).  Strain and pour into a glass jar.  Label, refrigerate and use as needed.  The mixture should keep for several weeks.


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Cabinet Detox Project #2 - Tooth Powder

I know what you're thinking, because I thought the same thing myself - "What the heck is tooth powder?"   My Western consciousness has only ever known toothpaste, so when I stumbled upon tooth powder, my reaction was a mixture of interest, fear and disgust.  The thought of brushing with dry powder, as opposed to my lovely, mint-scented paste, was rather horrifying.  However, the thought of getting rid of all of the nasty ingredients that I know exist in my commercial toothpaste (some of which I can't even pronounce) gave me the gumption to go ahead and try it.

According to, "Many people in developed nations prefer to use toothpaste, which is simply hydrated powder in a tube".  That puts things in perspective. This website also mentions the following:  "While dental hygiene has improved immensely over the ages, tooth powder has actually been around for quite a long time. The Egyptians used it, for example, as the did ancient Asian cultures. Europeans tended to use plain toothbrushes with no water until around the 1800s, when cleaning powders became popular. Many people made their own, and some commercial preparations were actually quite dangerous, due to the use of toxic filler ingredients. Toothpaste began to be marketed in the late 1800s, although it did not catch on immediately."  Obviously, things haven't changed much in terms of the fillers used in commercial pastes!

After checking with my dentist, who said, and I quote, "baking soda is the best thing you can brush with, because it balances the pH in your mouth," I created the following recipe based on a few recipes that I found floating around the internet.  I already used Arm and Hammer toothpaste with baking soda in it, so I was already used to the salty flavor of the ingredient.  This recipe is actually very palatable; the mint and cinnamon flavor is very reminiscent of the flavor of regular toothpastes (and the cinnamon fights microbes in the mouth).  Also, you can just increase the amount of baking soda in the recipe if you don't have any calcium powder handy (I took calcium supplement tablets and ground them in a spice grinder).  The calcium is meant to be "remineralizing", but I really don't know how accurate that claim is.  One thing to keep in mind, though - I have heard that baking soda can exacerbate high blood pressure when used daily or multiple times daily as a tooth powder, so if you have high blood pressure, this might not be for you.

I initially started using the tooth powder a few times a week at nighttime and my regular toothpaste at all other times, and slowly increased how much I used the powder as I got used to it.  I absolutely love it - it leaves my teeth feeling extremely clean!  At my most recent dental cleaning, the hygienist told me that I didn't have much plaque build-up at all (which isn't usually the case for me), and no cavities!  So I'd say it does a great job cleaning.  Give it a try!

Mint-Cinnamon-Clove-Flavored Tooth Powder 

Homemade Tooth Powder

1 tablespoon baking soda
3 tablespoons calcium powder
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon powder
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon pure mint extract

Mix the ingredients together in order in a small bowl.  If there are any large granules present, sieve through a tea ball (or any sieve with a very small mesh).  Leave the mixture out until the extract has dried.  Place in a small container (I used a travel-sized lotion holder with a snap-top lid that I got at the drug store for .50 cents for easy application).  Wet toothbrush and pour a small amount of the powder on to brush.

*The powder will stain your brush, but not your teeth :) 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Yummy Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

This cookie is perfectly paired with a hot cup of coffee or tea on a cold, rainy October day!  Unfortunately, there is not much that is healthy about the recipe, but it can easily be made gluten-free by substituting gluten-free oats and gluten-free all-purpose flour, or 100% whole wheat pastry flour (which is what I used in the cookies pictured).  Also, I don't find the cookie to be overly sweet like other pumpkin cookies I've had in the past, and the texture is great - not too soft or wet as pumpkin-based cookies can sometimes be.  These are always a big hit in my house - everyone comes back for seconds (and sometimes thirds if I'm not carefully guarding the cookie jar)!  Happy indulging :)

Yummy Pumpkin Chocolate-Chip Oatmeal Cookies

1-1/2 cups brown sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour (unbleached or whole wheat)
1-1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice, or more to taste**
dash of ginger and nutmeg
1 cup canned pumpkin
1-1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

**Make sure to use new pumpkin pie spice - I have noticed that it loses its flavor rather quickly.  You might have to add more spice than listed above if yours is on the older side.**

Directions:  Heat oven to 350-degrees Fahrenheit.  Cream butter and sugar, beat in eggs and vanilla.  Combine the remaining ingredients.  Drop by teaspoonful onto a greased cookie sheet.  Bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool and enjoy!  (Makes about 2 dozen cookies.)
Sweet and Savoury Sunday

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Broken Branch

Walking through an apple orchard in the fall is a singular experience - not at all the same as traipsing through a grape vineyard or English garden (although those have their own individual beauty).  The air is crisp and quiet; the leaves crunch under foot; the apples stud the trees like juicy rubies - you want to pick them, yet at the same time, you also want to stand beneath and stare at their majesty for a while.  A sense of abundance and life pervades an orchard.

Several years ago, after a particularly difficult time in my life, all of these thoughts were crossing my mind as I made my way through a family apple orchard.  The orchard hadn't been well taken care of that year, so I was trudging through knee-high grass, picking rather haphazardly.   I happened to look up to see that a very large branch of one of the apple trees had been broken - either by lightening or wind.  Surprisingly, the end of the broken branch was still flowering and actually had good-sized apples on it.  In that moment, God said to my heart, "See, I can bear fruit even in brokenness."