Thursday, January 22, 2015

Draining my batteries....

 I am having kind of a long day here. Too much to do and too little time to do it in. I am also pretty sleep deprived because the toddler has decided that she hates her bed and her room and screams as soon as I leave her there. There are like five kids, including the seven year old who can put her to bed and it is cool, but not me. If I put her to bed, you would think I am lowering her into acid. So I get her to sleep and sneak her in and try to put her in bed without waking her. If I wake here, then the five sisters who share her room will definitely wake up. She makes sure of it.

There is a Finland fundraising dinner tomorrow and I have food to make and costumes to wash and press for the kids. I have high school essays to grade and religion projects to prep. I have some knitting for other people to catch up on. I have some knitting for me I want to get done (a shawl I am knitting along with my best friend). I am writing a book, maintaining a blog, and trying to spend more time with hubs. Like most women I know, I am burning the candle at both ends and I have no idea why I am surprised that I sometimes feel burned out.

I think I am declaring Saturday burn out day. No stupid work. No school. No writing. I am making pancakes for breakfast and staying in PJs until noon. I need this break. Who is with me?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Red kidney beans are toxic, here is how to cook them right...

You do not need to stop eating kidney beans, they are really good for you, but it is absolutely critical to know that if you buy dried (not canned ones) you need to prepare them safely. Here is everything you need to know.

Like other beans, red kidneys are the seeds of plants and are packed with (incomplete) proteins, vitamins, and minerals and buying them dry and uncooked makes them easier to store and easy on the wallet but they do need to be prepared properly. With Great Lent sneaking up on us, after Liturgy on Sunday I was speaking to one of the priests and a couple of monks about our plans. Our monks are foodies and I am a foodie and it flows naturally that when we stand and around with coffee, our conversation often veers to food. During Lent we will forgo meat for weeks on end and this often means swapping beans for the animal proteins and the budget savvy will often choose dried beans. This is a great idea and I am all for it, given that they are properly prepared. It came up in the course of this conversation with someone who is not familiar with safely preparing dried beans that she was completely unaware that kidney beans are very toxic if not properly prepared.

Phytohaemagglutinin toxicity is caused by a glycoprotein lectin found in high concentrations particularly in red kidney beans. The toxin is measured in a unit that is called hau which stands for hemaggultinating unit. Hemagglutination is the clumping together of red blood cells and this toxin causes this condition. Raw red kidney beans can have anywhere from 20,000hau and 70,000hau and the toxin is very, very sensitive to heat but in a confusing way. Being exposed to 176F (but not higher temperatures) actually makes the toxin far more potent making the beans as much as five times more toxic. This means that undercooked kidney beans are actually far more toxic than raw ones while properly cooked beans are completely safe. This toxin is so powerful, as few as four or five beans can cause poisoning one to three hours after consumption and the intensity of the poisoning is dose dependent meaning the more eaten, the sicker one will be.

Symptoms of red kidney bean poisoning are very extreme nausea and profuse vomiting followed by diarrhea and painful abdominal cramps.  The disease needs to run its course but IV fluids can help alleviate the symptoms of dehydration particularly in vulnerable people like children, pregnant woman, and the elderly. The cause can be diagnosed by a blood test which shows hemagglutination and may be ordered by a doctor if red kidney beans were recently eaten in order to rule out other causes. Many cases of red kidney bean poisoning have been caused by eating undercooked or raw beans in salads or by using a slow cooker to prepare the beans. Most slow cookers set on low won't achieve an internal temperature of more than 170F which actually puts the beans in the prime temperature zone to potenize the toxic. Once the beans are out of the system, most people feel a sudden relief from the debilitating symptoms.

How can you properly prepare red kidney beans?

The most important thing to remember is that canned beans are processed at a high enough temperature that they are not a concern. This risk of poisoning comes from cooking dried beans. For safety sake, do not use a slow cooker to prepare any recipe containing red kidney beans unless they were either canned or previously boiled for at least ten minutes. There are a couple of ways to safely cook the beans depending on whether they were first soaked.

Unsoaked Beans

Place the beans in a large pot with three times their volume in water (three cups of water for every cup of beans) and a couple of tablespoons of oil to prevent a boil over. Boil the beans for a full five minutes at a full, rocking boil. Cover and rest for one hour. Drain and replace water with the same amount used for soaking and a similar amount of oil. Return to a full, rocking boil again but for ten minutes before either turning down to a simmer and cooking for ninety minutes to two hours or transferring to a slow cooker to finish cooking on low for four hours until tender.


Place the beans in a pressure cooker with three times their volume in water (three cups of water for every cup of beans) and a couple of tablespoons of oil and bring to full pressure. Turn off heat and rest for one hour before draining. Replace the water with the same amount used for soaking and a similar amount of oil. Bring to pressure again and cook for 45 minutes before depressurizing and using the beans. Pressure cookers cook at 240F which is well over the heat required to neutralize the toxin.

Soaked Beans 
(Soaked for 8 hours in three times their volume in water)

Drain beans and place in a large pot with three times their volume in water (three cups of water for every cup of beans) and a couple of tablespoons of oil to prevent a boil over. Boil the beans for a full ten minutes at a full, rocking boil before either turning down to a simmer and cooking for ninety minutes to two hours or transferring to a slow cooker to finish cooking on low for four hours until tender.

Now you know how to keep the budget under control and safely enjoy all the nutrition that red kidney beans have to offer which is a lot, really. Check it out HERE. I love me some red beans and rice. What is your favorite recipe?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Getting back to business....

Why am I even using that photo? Oh, read paragraph three!
My oldest son left on Saturday to go back to college and the Sunday was, you know, Sunday, and then Monday was the crazy two dance classes with a library trip in the middle and I did not write at all for a week! All last week I kept thinking I needed to write, that I wanted to write, but the Joseph was leaving and I wanted to spend time with him. Putting your kid on a plane and not seeing them for months feels like carving out a kidney. You'll live, but it is gonna hurt. It does get a bit easier each time which is good but is also bad because I sure as heck do not really want it to be too easy. He is my firstborn, after all. So, while I am working on a nutrition based post for tomorrow, I have decided not to put it up for today so that I may instead, vent a bit. Not too much, promise.

Mondays are super hard and I need to give myself the space I need for it and be nice to myself about it. It is a fifty mile round trip to take the children to dance and I pack like I am leaving for the New World. I have to bring water, snacks, dinner for the hubs and three teens, changes of clothes for the little people because pee, diapers, wipes, a metric ton of library books, knitting and tea for me, coloring books and activities for the little people, and six pairs of dance shoes. I have to dress eleven people for the tundra and make sure that I have emergency gear (tow rope, flashlights, leather gloves, etc.) and then actually drive there. I do not reach a town (although there are some nice people up at the highway) for 14 miles. I am not even kidding. Plus I have to cross a bridge that is being substantially rehabed because the canal is frozen and the shipping traffic is closed and this is the only time to do it. Adding blogging into that day is just too much stress. Maybe I can make it up to you all by my super amazing Instagram pictures of stuff? How's that sound? They are really great pictures! Or not. But they are there nonetheless and I can pretend. Pretend with me, it is so much fun.

Also, I hate my computer. Like super hate. Like "trip it in the cafeteria with a full tray in its hands" kind of hate. That is real, y'all. It stopped connecting the to internet and doing all kinds of things that separated us from our modern brethren and we were getting hardcore panicky. Besides, we are re-watching all those Sherlock episodes on Netflix and it was cramping our style to hover around the only working laptop. Mine is aged and dying and was super cheap back in the day so it is probably time to put it on an ice flow and wish it good luck. But the super bad desktop which is the main school computer and the family movie watching and Pandora streaming machine starting freaking out and declared a lost cause by the college boy. We finally reinitialized the factory settings and lost all the apps (though not the files. Now all my suh-weet photo editing software is gone. Yay. It took hours and hours and hours to get it on my rural connectivity ISP that is so slow we cannot even Skype. Now I have to download it again. Until then, you can either get crappy photos or you can have other photos which may or may not confuse you. The closest thing I have to tech support, being a mom who writes at home, is the eleven year old who is surprisingly savvy for someone who has only been able to tie his own shoes for like four years. I am thinking of calling in a professional. Until, the photos will be what they will be and I will drink wine every time I have to do things like re-download the Netflix app. Deep breathing and wine is how I roll. I will survive!

For a bit of good news/bad news, Ben just had the rear brakes on his car done in October and we got to do the front ones today. Yay. But it did turn out to be half of the rear brakes' cost which means I still get put snow tires on the van beast tomorrow. This is a good thing. If there is one place in all of America where people should really have them, it is here. And we did not have them. That said, we are driving machines now, people, ma-chiiiines.  There is nothing I cannot drive this van through to be found anywhere back home in Colorado and I could do it without even putting down my coffee. That said, there is stuff here that there is no way I am getting this van through it. But the conditions that I can drive through will increase in frequency once I have me some snow tires. I cannot wait. Really. Ima taking those bad boys out on 1/4 miles driveway through the woods and show them who's the whoa-man. This is gonna be good.

Lastly. for a bit of yarn therapy, I am starting a knit-along with my bestie back in Colorado. I am missing knitting and drinking tea with her. I have some mittens I have promised some peeps and they will still get done but I really need this time with this yarn and this pattern. She is using the yarn I sent her for Christmas and I am using the yarn she sent me. This is gonna be great. I am feeling better already.

What have you all been up to lately?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Easy play clay for children...

This is a very easy, very natural, no-cook, no cream of tartar play clay you can color with spices from the pantry. It is so easy that I made some yesterday while my well was out and the boys were working on it. There is nothing like the stress that having no water causes. I have emergency drinking water (you do, too, right?) but we dug the path to the outhouse, just in case, and started melting snow for washing dishes and flushing toilets. My oldest daughter was teaching today at the preschool and she needed this for her class and I thought it would keep the younger children busy. It was a good thing to make when I had all kinds of frustration because kneading the dough to make it smooth and pliable moved the tension out of my body and out of the play clay as well.

I have a couple of suggestions, couple as in two, for what you can to give natural color and fragrance to the dough and one not so natural. While the natural ones work well, you should know that the they are bit less smooth and elastic than the fake versions and I have no idea why. All I can tell you that they are and that it makes me even more leery of powdered drink mix because, really, what the heck is that stuff made out of? If you are worried about using the powdered drink mix option, let me promise you right now that the amount of salt in this dough makes it so disgusting that your kids won't eat it, but even if they do, they won't be able to eat much of this totally edible yet not "eatable" dough. And just so you know, this won't dye the kids hands once it is kneaded, not even the tumeric which normally does stain. This does not mean that you should have the kids kneading dough on Grandma's white Irish linen tablecloth or anything, so don't go all crazy.

Play Clay
4 cups all purpose flour (you can use the cheapest one because you are not eating it)
1 1/2 cups salt (again, get the creepy cheapie)
2 Tb oil (not coconut)
1 - 1 1/2 C very hot, but not boiling water
(To color the dough, see below)

Combine the salt, flour, oil. Slowly add the hot water while stirring until the dough is shaggy looking. Start kneading the dough until it is smooth but still slightly moist.

Natural Coloring: divide the dough into two halves and in each one knead in 3 Tb of either turmeric (for the brightest yellow of all time with an earthy smell) or 1/4 cup of cinnamon (which will be a warm brown with the best smell ever). If it feels a little gritty, add another teaspoon of oil rather than water. These are completely natural and not harmful and will smell amazing but they are slightly less smooth than the artificial drink mix variety.

Artificial Coloring: divide the dough into two halves and in each one add 1/3 cup of powdered drink mix, you know the kind. For the record, grape will make gray and lemonade will make no discernible difference at all, orange does a decent job, and any of the red varieties make a pretty great pink. I have no idea what it is drink mix that makes them so smooth but it really, really works. The only downside is having the drink mix on hand so if you kids are apt to drink it, just stick to the natural.

Friday, January 9, 2015

{SQT} random winter living tips...

This is how we clear snow. The thing on the
back is a snow blower. Yeah. Flipping giant.
I know, I did a list post yesterday. Kinda list like, it was about keeping your head above water when there is winter weather keeping the kids indoors (read it HERE). I live on Ice Planet Hoth, y'all, and nobody gets winter like I do and I am hearing your frustration. Ima break out my best, yet completely random, winter living tips.

1. A lot of times people have a hard time getting their bread to rise in cold temperatures; I have a solution. You can rise the bread in the oven with a bowl of boiling water underneath it. The moisture is an added benefit in dry winter air. Here is the deal, if someone turns the oven on, then your bread might be toast and not in a good way. I leave the light on because it is a reminder to me and if I am worried about someone might flip it on, then I place a sticky note on the clock on the stove. It is not usually a problem in my house because they are used to me putting things in the oven like that but in some households it might be a problem. This is especially critical if I have things in my wood oven which is not used daily and I wrap the sticky note on the lifter so that people cannot even put wood in without seeing my note.The monks went through this just this week. Pies for Theophany were pretty much reduced to charcoal. It stinks when that happens. I did not even have the heart to tell the kids.

2. Make sure that you have clothes for the absolute worst weather than your region gets. Why does no one get this? Winter is the cold time of year and all I am saying is have clothes for it. I have clothes for -65F windchill even though they usually only average about -25F to -35F this time of year. Even though the potentially deadly windchills are rare, we still need to be ready. Everyone should be ready for whatever they get wherever it is that the live. For example, one of my most awesomesaucest friends from Colorado recently moved to North Carolina and they were canceling schools because of cold. So I asked about the temps (19F). Okay. So what? A local told me that the kids could get frostbite (uh...) and that they lacked the resources that northern families have. Well, I am pretty sure that pants are sold nationwide. If you do not cope well with cold, maybe some long underwear as well. I did not hassle her on Facebook, but I am kind of doing it here. My advice is for southerns to get some thermals. Being cold is stressful so be proactive and get some clothes. You will not be so frightened of the cold if you have something warm to put on.

3. Always have a slow cooker of bone broth going. Nothing feels better than broth when it is cold outside, so just have it going all the time. Have you never heard of perpetual broth? If you need smaller amounts of bone broth, you can just pull some off and replace it and only empty and replace the bones every five days or so. But if you are leaving a slow cooker going all the time, get a wooden cutting board to put underneath it because the heat can damage the glue in laminate counters. If you have already done it and it has heaved, put a wooden cutting board on it STAT and a pile of your husband's free weights or a towering stack of encylopedias. Leave it for the next 24 hours. As long as you attack it right away, there is a really good chance that it will go back. This is also the reason to never put a slow cooker over seam in laminate. If I have taught you nothing, ever, at all, I hope to pass on this little nugget. That is unless, of course, what you really want is new laminate or other countertop; just don't drag me into it.

4. When the weather is a bit much and everyone is punchy, do something out of the ordinary. We do things like Backwards Dinner (with dessert first), or Appetizer Night (I make nachos or other munchy not really dinner foods), and Picnic Dinner (we eat on a sheet in the living room with a movie). If the dining room is never used, use it. If you never have breakfast for dinner, do it. Whatever it is that you do not do very often, then you need to bust that business out for the night. The kids will be grateful for something to break up the monotony and quite frankly, so will you. Winter is hard so you need to be soft on yourself and your family. Truth.

5. Turn on the lights. A lot of places are dark in the winter and this screws with our bodies and the sense that we are meant to be sleeping. In the mornings, turn on every light until you are up and around. It helps with the mood. When I get the kids up in the morning, I walk through the upstairs and turn on every single light and say nothing. The light alone will do the waking. Kinda of like the way the absurdly early morning sun on a Saturday in mid-June wakes the preschooler. If you live in a northern clime, then get therapy light, too. Just having the lights on in the mornings won't be enough.

6. Get a crutch. I am totally not giving you a hall pass to alcoholism or anything but having a distraction can be a good thing. Be honest about what lifts your spirits and find a way to do more of that. I knit. This gives me a coping mechanism for when the winter gets to be too much. Read mystery novels, write poetry, take up painting, do puzzles, or whatever makes you feel better. If you do not have a hobby, now is the time to get one. Do not tell me you don't have time because what you really don't have time for is the winter blues. That is pretty dang time consuming.

7. Think about spring. I have noticed that people who tend to do the best are the ones who are not absorbed by the bad weather now. Get a seed catalog and make some plans. Sew some spring and summer clothes. Borrow some travel videos from the library. Knit a summer shawl. Just start thinking about things other than now. I tend to start wearing spring colors because I feel better thinking about color when the snow is (literally, very literally) five feet deep on the ground around me. Hey, winter has not won unless I say so and you know what? I do not say so!

7.5 Guess what tomorrow's high is supposed to be? Ten. As in a one and a zero. Oh my heck. Not only double digits but positive double digits. Awesome. Next Thursday might be as high as 25F. Fingers crossed y'all. I need to put the oldest on a plane next weekend and I am hoping for better weather than now.

I am linking up to the rest of the{SQT}, you best head over HERE and check that stuff out!
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