Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Taking Control

Let me start by saying anxiety sucks. And when I started experiencing some horrible anxiety symptoms I knew I had to change some things so that I could function. The first symptom I had was heart palpitations that caused me to be very tired all the time. Then it moved into full-on anxiety attacks over the most stupid things. For example one morning I was making breakfast and one of my girls asked me a question. I think it was something like "Do you like my picture?" And I felt so overwhelmed that I couldn't function. It was like she had asked me to solve the hardest math equation in the universe. This went on for a few months before I got enough gumption to do something about it. These are some things that I did to bring order to my life.


The first thing that I did was to start exercising again. It not only gets me out of the house but it also gives me a way to work out my anxiety. I saw a huge difference in my moods with in the first couple of days. I try to go at least three times a week, but life happens and I'm trying to go with the flow.


The second thing was to realize that this is only a season in my life. That seasons change and that I should enjoy where I'm at. I also needed to stop listening to other women who either can't understand how I can stay at home and homeschool my kids or make me feel guilty because I can and they can't for one reason or another. I had to realize that I feel called by God to raise and school my children, this is my job and I need to take that truth and use it against the lies that satan likes to use to bring me down. My worth comes from him not others and I need to rember that. I plan on expanding on some ways I used to organize and take better control over the job God has called me to do in a later post.


This next thing was one of those times that I learned something about myself that brought my whole world into focus. As moms, wives, homeschoolers, and house managers we are in a sense jugglers. Something I realized about jugglers is that they do not start juggling a bunch of balls at once, they start with two and keep adding more and more as they get more comfortable. I realized that I was trying to juggle to many things that I thought needed done all at once, instead of adding things in as time aloud. So instead of having the perfect order of balls going in a circle they were basically just falling on my head. It is a very simple concept but I am one of those people that allows guilt to rule my decisions instead of God and it was a very powerful thing for my heart and head to land on the same thing at once.


Time management is not one of my strong suits I'm more of a fly by the seat of my pants type girl. Which is fine if you are single but when you have to orchestra a family, homeschooling, cleaning, cooking and shopping flying by the steat of your pants can leave you frazzled. I have always had a calendar with all of our different activities but now I have steped it up to a crazy level of organization. I want to go into more detail about this later but just to let you know what I've been doing I'm going to give you a brief description. I first started buying in bulk, then moved on to shopping once a month, except for the farmers market once a week. Now I have price lists of all my foods caterigized by yearly, monthly and weekly shopping. I have all our favorite meals, as well as we're to find them. I have also moved on to monthly menue planning. This all seems overwhelming but I just took one ball at a time until I felt comfortable adding more. I feel so much more in control in this area and even though it's still a work in progress I have been staying in budget and eating whole food which is a huge weight off my shoulders. Because every time I went over in my budget I would feel like I had failed, which would lead to anxiety. It is interesting how much sin can effect our health. If I keep my focus on him and find my worth in him my anxiety would be gone. I pray that this post lifts you up and helps you fight anxiety and depression in your life. Don't forget God has given you the power to take control and he has given himself to lean on.



Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pork Brats and Risotto

This has to be one of the best tasting meals I've made in a while and it was a spur of the moment idea. I had picked up some nitrate free brats that were on sale in the deli at the store. But when I brought them home I realized I had never cooked raw brats only the pre cooked kind. So I looked up some recipes and since I'm not very good at following a recipe I took some things that I liked from each one and set off to cook my brats.

The first thing I did was brown the brats then after they were good and brown on all sides I took them out and set them aside temporarily. Then I cut half an onion like you would for a stir fry and threw them into the pan along with some pre-cut red bell peppers I had frozen earlier in the season. I let them saute in some butter for a while then added the brats back in and put enough chicken stock in to reach half way up the brats put a lid on and let them simmer for about 40 min. At this point you are thinking what is the big deal this is a basic recipe for brats nothing special. Yep although the brats were good they were not the wow in this meal. The wow came after when I saw all the yummy juice left after the brats were cooked. At this point I thought well I could boil it down to make a sauce OR I could put some arborio rice I bought to make risotto and make a mock risotto. So of course I picked the second choice and it was awesome. The flavors mixed perfectly and at the end I mixed a little half and half. It was perfect with the brats. I don't think I would have thought the brats and risotto would work so well together but it was really a great meal. I hope you try it.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Healthy Snack Ideas

I have been on a kick to find some healthy snack for my girls. They have been eating like teenagers of the boy variety and it has been hard to keep up with them. So I thought I might share some of the recipes that I have tried and since I haven't made any changes I am just going to link to the original post and write a few notes. I have some other recipes book marked that I want to try but haven't had a chance yet.  I didn't want to wait on that because knowing myself as I do this post would never get done. So we are going to call this post a work in progress and as I find more snacks I will post them.

Kale Chips: This is my youngest daughters and husbands favorite. My daughter likes these so much that when ever we are at the farmers market she asks, "can we get that green stuff to make those crunchy things I like." Its a good thing I speak 4yr old isn't it. The only thing I would change is to add the sea salt after you cook them.

Crispy Chickpeas: Now these everyone liked. They taste like corn nuts, remember those. The thing you have to remember about these is that they are done when they look like they are almost burnt. So I recommend that you keep an eye on them and take out the ones that are done and leave the rest then repeat until they are all a darker golden brown. I used soaked, home cooked chickpeas. It is important to soak beans in an acid medium to get rid of the anti nutrients and have the best digestion. Here is a post on how and why you should soak from the healthy home economist.

Protein bars: A type of a larabar. These are great to have on hand, this recipe is for a banana flavor but all you have to do is swap out the bananas for any other dried fruit. Our favorite is dried cranberries with a little cinnamon. The bars are a little much so I roll mine into TB size balls and then roll them into coconut to make them less sticky. I also take out some nuts and add wheat germ to add some extra omega 3's.

Macaroons are full of protein and very yummy. We all love these. I use honey instead of maple syrup but that is the only thing I have changed in this recipe. As I use egg yokes in recipes I put the whites into the freezer until I have enough to make a large match if you do this don't forget to keep a tally on the bag for how many whites you have.

Dried fruit, nuts and seeds: This is kind of self explanatory but these are great snacks especially mixed together to make a trail mix or mixed into granola. To get the most nutrients from your nuts and seeds they need to be soaked and then dried. If you have a dehydrator then I would soak during the day and then dry during the night. If you are using your stove to dry I would soak during the night and dry during the day. To soak you take a big glass bowl and put 4 cups of nuts or seeds to 2TB of sea salt and soak for at least 7 hr. To dry drain the nuts or seeds and put on a lined baking pan and dry on the lowest temp your oven will go 150 is best, or just put them in your dehydrator. I make big batches to I always have them on hand.

Muffins are also a good snack especially when you put all kinds of veggies into them. Some of our favorite muffins are morning glory, pumpkin, gingerbread, and banana zucchini. I try to make a double batch to keep in the freezer for a easy breakfast or snack.

I plan on working on some cracker recipes in the next few weeks for a cheese and crackers option. I hope these ideas help. I have learned that sometimes the simplest things make the best snacks. I would also recommend Katie's book Healthy Snacks On The Go it gave me lots of ideas. Please share if you have any family favorites.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Make Your Organic Produce Go Farther

  Buying organic anything can get pricey but for my family I feel that it is an important step in getting the most from our food for our bodies.  We have learned to be more diverse in our veggies, eating what is in season and freezing veggies we can't live without for other seasons, at least that is how we keep our cost down. But the best way I have found to really feel like my money is going as far as it can is by saving the peels, ends and stems in the freezer for when I make stock. Making stock will make you feel like your meat money it's going a little further too, especially if you are buying pasture raised chickens and grass fed beef like I hope you are.

Our freezer is always full of stock. I cook with it all the time and there are many reasons why you should make your own. 1. it is so much cheaper then the stuff from the store 2. you control the ingredients 3. the ingredients you put in can make your stock a power house of nutrition for your family 4. the gelatin from your homemade stock helps keep the flue away from your family and 5. it is supper easy.

 I use my crock pot to make stock I just throw in my ingredients fill the pot with filtered water and turn it on low and let it cook until the veggies are mush, strain and freeze in 2 cup baggies. That was the very simple explanation of what I do but I actually put some thought into what I put in. What ever you put into your stock not only enhances the taste but the vitamin and mineral content of the stock and in the winter that really counts especially when your house is hit with colds and flues. So when ever I'm cooking and there are ends left from my organic broccoli, celery, carrots etc. I put them in to freezer bags and put them into the freezer for the next time I make stock. My favorite veggie to save is asparagus ends. I buy tons of asparagus in the spring to have for the winter and as I'm preparing them for the freezer I also blanch the ends and put them in a separate bag just for my stock. It gives the stock great flavor plus asparagus is full of vitamins you can read about that here. Garlic, oregano, and rosemary are also essential as far as my stock is concerned all of them have healing properties especially in dealing with cold and flue.

So the next time you are making dinner or preserving veggies remember to save your ends peals and tops for the next time you make stock. You could also use them to make a vegetable stock as well.

Another way I have been stretching my organic veggies is to save the seeds. We were not able to have a garden this year but next year I plan on having a large one. Seeds are cheaper then starts but even though seeds are not expensive I figured why not just save the seeds from the organic produce I have been getting from my farmers market. It's easy to save seeds but you do need to remember a couple of things 1. the produce can't be GMO which means the seed have been genetically altered and may not reproduce. 2. the seeds need to be dry before you store them and 3. they need to be stored in a cool dark place.

So what I did is each time I wanted to save the seeds I put the seeds on a dry cloth on a plate to dry. Then I put them in a labeled Ziploc bag and put the Ziploc into a container that won't let light in and put it into the frig. It has been that easy and come spring I should be all set to grow my garden.

I hope these tips help. If you have any other helpful tips please share.

This post is apart of Simple Lives Thursday.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Homemade Marshmallow

Homemade marshmallow's are so easy and quick. I wanted to post this before Easter but we had a family emergency and was not able to post it. But these melt great and would work for smores, rice crispy treats or you could cut them small for fruit salad. I've made these twice and have kind of tweaked it to work for us.

Adapted from:
2 TBS of unflavored gelatin
2 1/2 cups of sugar *
1 cup chilled filtered water
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp real vanilla or any flavoring you would like
1/4 cup powdered sugar**
1/4 cup tapioca starch or cornstarch

1. Chill bowl and whisk
2. Dissolve the gelatin into 1/2 cup of the chilled water. Let sit.
3. In a medium sauce pan add the rest of the chilled water, then the sugar and salt.
4. Cover and let boil for 3 min.
5. After 3 min put your thermometer into the mixture until is reaches 235-240 you want it at the soft ball stage. Don't let your thermometer touch the bottom of the pan. I don't have a candy thermometer so I used our digital one that goes up to 300 degrees.
6. Remove from heat when it has reached the right temp.
7. Get your mixing bowl out and put the gelatin mixture into the bowl
8. Slowly mix the sugar mixture into the gelatin ounce the sugar is added add the vanilla and raise the speed of your mixer slowly you don't want the sugar to splatter it's very HOT.
9. Keep mixing on a medium to high speed until it turns white and thick. It will look like meringue.***
10. While the marshmallow is mixing take a 9x13 pan and coat with butter.
11. Mix the tapioca starch and powdered sugar and coat the pan.
12. After the marshmallow is done pour it into the 9x13 pan and smooth it out.
13. Cover and let set at least 2 hours.
14. After it's set cut into squares or little shapes.
15. After you cut your marshmallows you are going to want to roll them in the same mixture you used for the pan. put into an air tight container for about a week.

* The first time I made these I used organic cane sugar. They turned out great and still mostly white. The second time I made these I used coconut sugar. These were good but different they had more of a maple taste and they were tan. Which didn't matter to me because I rolled them in toasted coconut.
** Instead of using powdered sugar I used ground up unsweetened coconut and mixed it with the tapioca starch it worked great and didn't add any flavor.
*** If you are making rice crispy treats just take the marshmallow from this stage and mix with your rice crispy's.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Our Homeschooling Curriculum

I don't know why it has taken me so long to write a post on homeschooling but it has. I thought I would tell you what we have been doing this year and some things that I have learned.

I love A Beka Books! That is the curriculum that we chose this year and I am so happy with it. It has been kind of scary going through the math, I can not believe what they expect 5 year olds to know these days. All I remember in kindergarten is learning my ABC and how to tie my shoes. But she is getting it so I don't think they are asking to much. I have always been of the mind set that children give what they are expected of if you don't expect much you won't get much. Here is me stepping off my soap box, sorry About that. Any way umm curriculum that's right.  here is the break down.

For her writing we are using Writing with Phonics K5. This book is great because it has lots of repetition and goes well with the book we are using to teach reading.
For math we are using Numbers Skills K Arithmetic. I again love this book it teaches through repetition but in a good way. It teaches the same concept through different ways. It also has tests so that you can keep track of what your child needs to work on. My daughter is learning how to write her numbers up to 20, number families (teens, twenties, thirties, and so on), she it also working on telling time, adding, subtracting, counting money and counting by 10. There is more but you get the idea. It is a very well rounded curriculum.
For reading we have been using The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading, a mouth full hu. I love that book too and it will serve you from age's 4 and on up until they get it. I have to say that the thought of teaching reading scared me to death I had so many questions like where do I start? How do I teach the stupid letters with multiple sounds? and then there are the letters that don't make any sounds at all the list could go on. I'm not really a fan of who ever came up with our official language. Anyway this book breaks it down in a way that you don't realize that your teaching your child to read until well they are reading sentences to you. Mind you they are sentenced of three letter words but you know what?  It is amazing to watch your child read. Not to mention your fears evaporating because you can thank God for giving others the gift of writing curriculum.
For history we kind of just went with the holidays and got books from the library. Let just say next year I will have a history curriculum.
For science we went with what interested them at the time and just got books from the library. It was not the best way and I will not do that next year. I will also be getting a science curriculum.

Some advice if you are just starting out:
1.Ask everyone you know and even people you don't know about there methods and the curriculum they use.
2. Get the teachers addition for all the curriculum's that you are not an expert in that includes simple K math because there is advice and methods that you need to know in order to teach it properly. I thought I could save some money and not buy the teachers addition because well I know how to add and subtract and count to 20 but it more then that and you need to be prepared.
3. Don't think that it is easy to teach by the seat of your pants. Homeschooling is hard and is a full time job and considering you have about 15 other full time jobs that you are juggling being a full time mom try and make this as painless as possible. Remember that being a supper mom does not mean doing it all yourself. Curriculum is a very handy tool and will make your life less of a chore.
That's my 2 cents and I hope that it will help you with making some decisions for next year.
4. Lastly be prepared to make mistakes and change things along the way as you learn how your child learns.
5. Ok one more thing celebrate the good days. And pray through the bad days.

Easy Changes That Make a Big Impact on Your Health: How About Something Sweet!

This is the absolute easiest thing to change in your diet because who doesn't love sugar.  The only thing that makes this switch hard is that besides your healthy fats which we will talk about soon natural sugar can be expensive. But like anything else in this healthy eating journey you take your time and implement what you can when you can. Some of my favorite sugars to use are raw honey, raw sugar, grade B maple syrup and my newest find is coconut sugar. The honey and the coconut sugar are both low glycemic so I try to use them as much as possibly. Their are other sugars that you can use that are natural such as stevia and agave. My personal verdict is still out on agave so I won't spend any time on it. As for stevia it is so touchy in the amount that you use that I don't use it often.

What does low glycemic levels mean? It is the measurement of sugars in food and how fast or how slow the body absorbs them. Every time you eat something that has a high GI level it spikes your blood sugar causing fat storage. Eating to many foods with a high Gi can cause heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and of course weight gain. Besides trying to lose weight I also have a very very low tolerance for sugar and so the low GI sugars help my body absorb them in a normal fashion. Here is how what you want to look for: A high GI level is 70 and up, a medium level is 56-69 and a low GI is 55 and below. Here is a link to a chart I found on GI levels in different foods.

Raw honey is amazing, it's one of Gods true gifts. Honey not only has a low glycemic index of 55 but has healing qualities, it's good for burns and cuts because of it natural antiseptic quality. I love honey but in baked goods it can make them dense so I use it manly in things like granola, these cookies, oatmeal or my personal favorite on some sprouted toast with coconut oil. Those two together are like they were made for each other. We have also been known to mix coconut oil and honey together to put on our popcorn. MMMMMM. The reason you want your honey raw is because when it is heated in the pasteurizing process it kills all the good things that makes honey worth eating.

Coconut sugar is my favorite sugar of all time. It comes from the sap of coconut tree. It has a low glycemic index of 35 it tastes great and you can get it granulated so that you can bake with it or make marshmallow's like I'm doing today. According to wikipedia Coconut sugar is high in potassium, magnesium, zinc, iron, and has vitamins such as B1,2,3 and 6. If you want to know why these are important to your body click on the link above.

Raw sugar: I don't really use this sugar as much now that I'm trying to lose weight but it is a good alternative to processed sugar and it is full of vitamins and mineral. The reason you want to stay away from processed sugars or fake sugar substitutes is that they are chemically striped of any nutrient. Or with the fake stuff they are  just fake man made sweeteners that have side effects that are harmful to your body.

Grade B maple syrup: While both grade and A and Grade B are natural and come from the sap of a maple tree. Grade A comes from the early spring sap and Grade B comes from the later sap which according to this site the grade B contains higher levels of vitamins. I use it mainly for pancakes and to sweeten oatmeal. My family and I are not real maple fans unless it comes with a side of flap jacks.

I hope this helps you take another look at your pantry. The best way to find out what is best for your family is to just look up anything you have questions on. That is how I came to find out what I wanted to change, it has become so natural to us we don't even think about it.