Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Cashew rice pilaf...

This rocked. I was really struggling with what to make for lunch today, Wednesday, a fast day, that would not make Sophia whine about it. So I threw this together and it was an instant hit. First, you need to get your hands on some za-atar seasoning or make some (like HERE). Trust me, it is awesome. You will use it all the time. Anyway, this is easy, really easy. I made a ton, this is half of it, so it is a hearty main dish or a side for a crowd. Dig in, folks. You know my kids did!

Za'atar Pilaf

2 C white sushi rice (yes, white, it is what we eat to avoid too much fiber when we fast)
2 C raw cashews
1 C sunflower seeds
2 Tb za'atar seasoning
1 (12 ounce) black ale or stout beer
2 C water

Brown the rice, seeds, and nuts in a Dutch oven with a fast friendly oil. I use expeller pressed sunflower oil because it tastes good.  Add the beer (so only fast friendly for the Slavs) and water as well salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, cover, turn down to low and simmer and let it ride for twenty minutes. Then it is all good!

So, make the seasoning blend and let me know what you think! You can use it in pretty much anything, anything! So dang good. Oh, if you are gluten free, some have toasted wheat in it, so watch out! Best to make your own.

Chocolate fountain...

But not the good kind. We have pretty hilarious chocolate stories around here and none are pretty but all are awesome.

Okay, first up. One of the older children (who shall remain nameless herein lest he be terrible upset with me on the morrow) was a thief and a liar, but a stinking cute one. He used to tell me that all the missing cookies and even the mints from my purse was caused by a herd (flock?) of tiny, invisible piglet kids with one ringleader. He was known merely as Piglet. One day this mischievous thing, this Piglet, got into the cupboards and helped himself to a whole gosh darn bag of chocolate chips. Well, wouldn't you know that eating a whole bag of chocolate chips is pretty hard on the belly. I should mention that I had an eight day old baby at the time and my husband had just gone back work and I was fit to be tied. 

Anyway, so I went into the kitchen to make some tea and lo and behold, there was an empty bag stuffed next to the toaster oven. I went to look for my progeny and on the way I passed the bathroom where, next to the toilet, was a giant chunky chunk of something. It was not poop. It was a nearly solid, half chewed lump of chocolate chips that had been vomited next to the toilet. Yay. This is how I like to party. When I found my nearly lifeless child laying in bed in his room nearby, I learned that Piglet had a terrible idea and that it was all his fault. Those darn piglet kids! They get my every time!

Fast forward like a dozen years and this same child proved that I have not failed as a parent. His shining moment of glory came last Christmas. One of the other boys, whose name I shall not here reveal (but it rhymes with "smack") got a chocolate melting set and some quality chocolate as his Christmas gift from Ben and me. He loved this gift. He was super, super thrilled. He happily made Lego Minifig men, scores of them, the largest requiring a hefty 1/4 cup of chocolate each. No biggee. He was loving it. Well, until he didn't. Late into the night, actually probably early in the morning, this poor soul lay in bed weeping. He managed to utter a few cries for help and woke his brothers.

"Help...heellp meee," he moaned in his agony.

His four brothers woke up, sat in bed and looked at him as he struggled to sit upright and then heaved a gigantic quantity of chocolate in his own lap. All those Lego Minfigs. All that Ghiradelli chocolate. All over his Spiderman comforter. How did his brothers respond? For the most part, they just sat there, all but one. The victim of Piglet's cruel pranks took charge.

"Go back to sleep, all of you. I will clean it up."

And he did. And, what is more, he didn't even wake me up. When we got up for church the next day, his next younger brother asked me to switch shower times around so that this brother could sleep as long as possible. I was not too thrilled until I learned what had happened.

"Mom," this young son told me, "it was like the most awesomest and disgustingest chocolate fondue fountain of all time. Epic. Really."

I know, you are all jelly. But don't be. Because chocolate really stains. Super bad.

But there have been less spectacular displays of chocolaty goodness in our family. Like the time we stayed in a small, run down, flea bag hotel in some no-name tiny town somewhere in Wisconsin. We had been driving in the van on the way to moving here and our closing had been scheduled for the Thursday before Memorial Weekend. Joy. We all wanted to try to move over this frightening weekend. We were stuck in traffic on the interstate with a nine week old baby who had flat out had it. We had gotten off the freeway and wandered pretty far away while following the signs to a hotel. It was not a good hotel. It was like a hide out for a creepy serial killer and it smelled like mushrooms. After a quick check for bed bugs, we settled in for the night.

 In the morning I called over to the boys' room where the five boys were staying with Ben (I had the six girls with me). There was so much laughter that my husband could not even stop laughing to tell me what happened. Suffice it to say, it took a while to get it out of him and suffice it to say, I will not drag it out. Apparently, Raymond took a shower and crawled into the queen sized bed he had to share with a brother. When he woke up in the morning he sat up and then his brother looked at him long and hard.

"Raymond! What is all over your arm!?!"

Raymond looked down and he was covered in brown smeary, softish solids. This looked bad, really bad. He and the brother who noticed leaned over and smelled it as my horrified husband watched.

"It doesn't smell like poop."

So he stood up and stuck to his back was the opened wrapper of a cheap milk chocolate bar. This is nothing we buy, it is ones of those crappy cheapie bars. He had to go clean up. Again. When I told our family about it, they asked if it was the chocolate from the pillow. Uh, I wish. First, this was a crappy motel and not the kind that leaves chocolate on the pillow. Second this was a full bar, or at least started out that way. Third, this was not like Andes mints or anything, it was some the "World's Finest Chocolate" type garbage, Ugh. We have no idea where it came from and quite frankly, that just creeps me out to think about him sleeping in an unclean bed full of chocolate.

That said, I also have to laugh every time I think about it because some poor house keeper had to come into that room that morning to change the chocolate cover sheets and I am sure she wondered just what in the heck those people had been up to in there! Man that was bad but at least it was better than the time my kiddo thew up on the table in a restaurant. The icing on the cake? We were sitting next to a family celebrating a birthday. Yep. Read all about that HERE.

Who likes to rock the party with a chocolate fountain? You know we do!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Real food hacks for busy moms...

(Not actually my boots but eight year old modeling for me.)
These boots are not made for walking and even if they were, there is no place to walk to! I live in the woods. I am really, really far from things. This means that I have learned to be pretty creative in the last year. I do not make mid-week runs to the store for things. There are no healthy restaurants to get take out from (there are a few chain burger shops). There are no health food stores to get deli items from in a pinch. This means that if I forget something, then I do without. If we are sick, if we are super busy, if I forgot to thaw the meat, then I have to roll with the punches. There just aren't other options. Here are some of the crazy things I have learned.

That you can substitute cottage cheese (full fat, natural, no additives) for sour cream or whipped cream in a pinch. I know, this is super crazy, but it really works. Run the cottage cheese through the food processor until smooth. It is light and fluffy and makes a great topping for soup or, you are not going to believe this, as the whipped cream addition in ganache to chocolate mousse. I know because I have done it. You can through in a bit a cinnamon and honey when you blend it and it is great on oats or other cereals. Sweetened with honey and garnished with chopped brined nuts it is pretty darn good. Easy, peasy, (shockingly easy) but still yumbo.

You can substitute cauliflower for rice. I know, super weird, but really it works. If you just cannot do the brown rice because you forgot to soak it and your iron is already low, no probs. Whip out your food processor and just process raw (ignore Ye Olde Interwebs who tell you to steam it) and process until it looks like rice. Heat in a pan with some olive oil, salt, and some pepper. Yep. Like pilaf and totally grain free. Made it for my kids, they loved it. I am not sure that I even told them what it was.

Beer makes rice taste like there is broth in it when there is not. I go though mad amounts of bone broth. When I am out, then we pick at the pulses I normally cook in it. My kids who adore paella and other rice dishes don't even touch it when it is just water. I can't say I blame them. Over medium-high heat, brown your rice in plenty of olive oil along with some sliced onion and stir constantly. When it is toasty brown, replace a third to half of the water with crap beer that you use for cooking. Not total crap, not Bud or something like that. But in expensive and not too hoppy. My kids are begging me to do it again. Cool. Because I will run out of broth.

Flax goo takes the cake. I use it as a binder for pancakes and other things and my husband prefers them to eggs, which is embarrassing to him. But it works really well in combination with eggs when you don't have any. It is also really good in grain dishes when you want to bulk them up when you are cutting back on grains. Toss them in (using one quarter less) as a portion of your rice or oats or other thing like that. I can tell you, I am always looking for ways to cut back on our carbs, I don't know about you.

What are your favorite real food hacks?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Personal pep rally...

The last few weeks around here have been really busy, busier than they have been for months, and very stressful given a recent death in the family and another relative with a life threatening illness. Needless to say, we were feeling the burn. My response to that is to try to grind out all the work that we need to get done and have a cheater dinner and a movie. This means I do not worry about hitting all the major food groups and it has to be low effort for me. Today is a Wednesday and this means a  fast day, so it was vegan nachos (spicy cashew cream) with beans and a healthy dose of Good Eats. We needed tonight so much. It was good.

I have been talking to moms about stress lately and I am going to be talking more about it tomorrow, namely toddlers and home schooling (yes, Katrina, I am getting to it!). This means that at a busy time, all I am thinking about is stress and what to do about it. This can be good but it can also be counter-productive. I decided that what I need to focus on are the things that are really working for me right now. Sort of like a personal pep rally. So while I am talking about what makes me happy, I thought you should be doing the same, especially if you are one of the people emailing to say how stressed they are. Also, I am sorry for not getting back to right away (mea culpa, Kelly). Anyway, let's get this party started.

I am super pleased that my five year old Cristina can see better. It turns out that she had an astigmatism of 5 diopter, which is pretty stinking high. I mentioned that she had an appointment in this post HERE so now I am filling you in. She is getting used to the glasses although today she was walking like she was stepping over things constantly. Still, she was seeing well enough to point out every single thing that she saw in the store this afternoon. Yeah. Every. Single. Thing. This is good, even if super annoying today. She has an appointment with a local ophthalmologist to see if she needs a referral to the pediatric one in Wisconsin. Her brother had some wacky corneal problems and we need to rule these out for her. We need to keep an eye on how she adjusts to the glasses and hope that we do not need to do any of the unpleasant but highly effective patching. Meanwhile, she is rocking glittery purple glasses just like in one of her favorite Fancy Nancy books.

What? You have not had the pleasure? You poor thing! We do a lot of Fancy Nancy around here. This is a link to the Amazon site and it is an affiliate link, FYI. This means if you buy it after clicking, I get a kickback that I will use to have dinner with my husband and buy even more yarn and olive oil. So, thank you!

I am also really feeling so grateful, deeply and profoundly, for all the new organic and natural foods I've been able to get my hands on here. It was not this easy even six month ago and now it is AWESOME, thank to this super awesome mayo. It is fast friendly (meaning it is vegan) comes in plain (which is really good and organic) or this even better spicy version! Oh my gosh, it is so darn good! Non GMO, organic ingredients, delicious, and available at (get this) Walmart! I have never been a Walmart fan but that is what there is around here. I cannot afford to do all my shopping at  the co-op so Walmart it is. But now they have all these fabulous Wild Oats products so I loaded up on organic pasta, organic pasta sauce, organic canned beans. organic jarred peanut butter, and this mayo and its equally awesome brother, the plain version. The prices are unbeatable and while I still feel bad about Walmart's marketplace bullying and the crappy way they treat their employees, this is is a game-changer for me. You can read more about their new product line HERE. Living 17 miles from even a gas station means that I need to keep some quick and easy emergency cheater meal foods around like pasta and canned beans for those times when I am busy or the kids are sick. Now I can feel better about the pasta and beans. Oh, and the spices! Organic spices I do not have to buy online!

I am also just really grateful for my kids right now. I have a good friend back home in Colorado whose eight day old baby was admitted to the NICU with an infection of unknown source. She was on oxygen and IV antibiotics and struggling with a fever and shallow breathing. She is getting better day by day and she serves as a reminder to not take these children whom we have been given for granted. Say a prayer for Agnes, will you? There is also a local family whose son is struggling with brain cancer and all those families who are friends of friends I hear about over Facebook and gosh darn it, thank you, God, for all we have been given. Really. So, for this happiness point, here is a super blurry photo of my daughter eating a cupcake. It is really bad, she was moving and I shot it one handed with my phone and if you stare at it too long, your eyes just might bleed, and still. I love this photo so much. I smile every time I look at it. Wow. I wish I had a better shot of this moment!

I also know that I could not get through my week without my weekly booster shot of hope and beauty and faith that is the monastery. They are amazing. I just love them all so much. The kids adore the monks and look forward to church every Sunday. My children cheer, actually cheer, to get up, get dressed, get in the van, and drive fifty miles one way to go to a church service that is two hours long! How awesome is that? It is pretty stinking awesome. The monks are winding up their summer shop hours and will be shipping through Christmas after the 18th of this month. Most of the summer vacationers have stopped coming and the summer residents are packing up to get out before the snow flies so it is time to say goodbye to the Jam Pot for the season once again.

But since the monks make Sundays awesome, I think we should do another giveaway. I will talk to them about it Sunday and work out the kinks so I can get back to you on Tuesday. Cool? I would do it Monday but I am realizing that I should probably blog Tuesday through Saturday during school time. The kids have Finnish Folk Dance practice on Mondays and I have to get ten kids to town and to two different practices that have a two hour downtime between them that I fill with library time. It works out in the end but blogging is something that I am just not fitting into that tight space. So Saturday mornings it is, then! Anyway, back to the monks. They have a YouTube channel now with cute videos that they are putting together, you can find it HERE. Brother John, the youngest of the monks is enjoying putting them together. By the way, the truffles are to die for, oh my heck.

While you are here, I think I should just drop in a little video for you! I love the monks. You guys all need to come visit me and come up to the monastery. Really.

Okay. So. Now what are you grateful for?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Jamberrry nails winner...

Hey there! We gots us a winner! Woodring Scrapbooking Retreats can thank the random number generator for getting her a lovely mini nail kit and a sheet of her choice of nail wraps. Whoot! Can she drop me a line please so we can get them to her? Yay!

By the way, this was so fun, I am planning another giveaway. See me tomorrow!
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