We are here visiting fabulous Albuquerque, New Mexico. The land is so different from SATX and so is the food! My girls are up on Sandia Peak today snowing in the blizzard. It’s pretty awesome! They are taking four hour lessons today as they almost killed themselves on the slopes yesterday. My husband could tell they were bombing out big time because he was above them and could see the other skiers reacting to the bloopers of my girls as they mangled the hill. I am on my way to the Great Harvest Bread Company here because they offer GF breads daily. Looking forward to see how that goes.
Archive for December, 2010
So I spent weeks making orders for other people, mailing out gift packages for our family etc. Made lots and lots of cookies, cakes, and more. Suddenly Christmas came. After all the gifts were opened and all the wrapping paper was cleaned up…I only wanted one thing. Vanilla Spritz butter cookies. That’s all. That’s all I wanted/needed. But alas, I had none. Perhaps next year I’ll get smart and make a stash for myself!
Some people call them snowballs. Some call them Russian Tea Cakes. Add some nuts and you get Mexican Wedding Cookies. What ever you want to call them, I just call them delicious! They are a fragile cookie that consists of just a few ingredients. When I worked for a German Bakery, we scooped and sugar-dusted thousands of these year round. They would be great to dip in coffee…if you could get them that far. I have learned just to pick them up gently and get them to my mouth, the end.
Gluten-free Russian Tea Cakes/Mexican Wedding Cookies
1 1/3 c. Ground up Pecans (fairly fine in your food precessor, almost meal)
2 c. butter
1/2 c. confectioner’s sugar
2 t. vanilla extract
4 c. My GF Flour Mix
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
Method of Prep:
In your mixer cream the butter (room temp), vanilla, and sugar. Mix until fluffy. Measure all you dry together including the nuts. Gradually add the dry to the butter while your mixer is on low speed. Using a small scoop, scoop onto a sheet pan. You don’t need to space them too far apart as they do not spread that much. Bake them in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until lightly browned on bottom and slightly browned on top. Let cool.
When just about cool, get a shallow bowl full of confectioner’s sugar. Place the cookies, just a few at a time, in the bowl and with your hand gently coat them with the sugar. Place them back of the sheet pan. When all of them have been dusted by hand, I like to take a fine hand strainer and sprinkle on final dusting of sugar just on the tops. Let them sit on the sheet pan for 12-24 hours. The longer they sit, the easier they are to move or eat. These do not ship well by the way.
I came across this post about feeding a family of 8, organically, on $400 a month. Worth reading, worth trying. Thanks Blogher!
I can’t even count the number of times that I have had someone ask me how we can afford to feed a family of eight on one income. One military income. And what they don’t usually know is that we eat fresh, organic, healthy foods and I rarely use coupons. How do we do that on such a limited budget? Because we are basically locavores.
A majority of what we what our family eats each week arrives on my doorstep on Thursday mornings in a brown cardboard box. It’s always like unwrapping a special gift when we look inside our box and see what foods we’ll enjoy in the next few days. Where does this mystery box come from? From a CSA. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and it’s a beautiful thing. All across the country, farms of all sizes offer their bounty to local customers who pay for a share of the crops.
CSAs support local farms and are better for everyone involved, from producer to consumer. Instead of buying produce that’s been trucked or flown across the country, we get fresh, local produce that was grown right in our area. This also means that we eat foods that are in season. Right now we are eating a lot of root vegetables, apples, and pears. It’s a throwback to our past, when families grew and gathered their own food and had to eat what they could store through the winter.
Eating local foods is better for the environment because the foods require less energy to pack and transport. Local foods are also better for the families eating them because they are fresher and don’t have to be artificially ripened (which is a scary process) and most have been minimally treated with pesticides and other chemicals because these foods are being grown during their natural growing seasons and not mass-produced for year-round consumption.
In fact, all of our produce comes from our CSA box or our local farmer’s market. And it’s all organic. Our CSA box has enough fruits and vegetables to last us an entire week and I can pick up anything else I want at the farmer’s market or even have it added to our CSA box. Most of what we eat is produce! It might sound crazy, but my kids love vegetables. Brussels sprouts, spinach, broccoli, sunchokes, parsnips, kale, beets, beans, and cabbage are the foods of choice right now. Yes, my kids eat kale and they love it!
I grew up eating boxed macaroni and cheese and frozen fish sticks. I didn’t have my first taste of salsa until I was nineteen. I had never tasted chili until I was in my twenties. My idea of vegetables was frozen corn or carrots. I didn’t know any better and this was what I thought was good for me. When I had kids of my own, everything changed.
I remember another new mom telling me that she fed her kids a raw diet and they didn’t drink milk. I started reading and learning about diet, nutrition, and “green” living. I stopped using harmful chemical cleaners and started eating healthier foods. I have read a lot of books about natural living, but one of my favorites is a new book called The Conscious Kitchen. It goes over (in great detail) the reasons for choosing local, organic foods and has tips for finding sources for them. It also discusses the healthy ways to cook the foods and keep a green kitchen. (Teflon-coated pans? Ick! How about a nice cast-iron skillet instead?)
Another key to keeping our food budget low is eating meatless meals several nights a week. We’re not vegetarians, although I was one for eight years. (I started eating meat again when I was pregnant with my first baby. It was my husband’s fault, of course.) We eat meat a few nights a week. Meat is more expensive than produce and so we limit it.
The meat that we do eat comes from CSAs and the farmer’s market. Next year we will have a 1/4 share of a cow (already butchered and wrapped) to stock our garage freezer. Right now, I buy smaller amounts of meat and store it in the freezer. The meat that we do eat is local, grass-fed beef and organic, free-range chicken or pork.
We don’t buy meat in the grocery store. (In fact, I buy less than 25% of what we eat at the grocery store.) Grocery store meat terrifies me. Why? Feed lots terrify me. Have you ever seen a feed lot? I have seen them in real life. Cows stand in their own feces with their bodies crammed together in wide, brown expanses of dirt without a trace of grass to be seen. That is not how cows are supposed to live. Cows are meant to eat grass, not soy or animal by-products like they are often feed in feed lots. Feed lot cows have to be treated with antibiotics because they get sick living under those awful conditions. Antibiotics scare me too. (C. Diff, anyone?) But that’s a whole other post… someday I’ll write about how antibiotics nearly killed me.
Besides the obvious benefits of eating meat that is free of hormones, antibiotics, and pesticide residue, the meat just tastes better and is better for the environment. Grass fed beef has a delicious flavor. I love acorn-finished pork. Free range chicken even looks more appealing than the bleach-dipped, chlorine-smelling chicken sold in the grocery store. (Blech!) We love buffalo and yak too, although we don’t have those locally here in Washington.
Most of our family’s diet consists of produce, but we do eat our fair share of eggs and yogurt as well. I have been known to have an omelet every morning some weeks. Sometimes we’ll have omelets for dinner and I’ll make them with spinach and onions and sprinkle them with (organic) cheese. Our eggs come from either the CSA, the farmer’s market, or the grocery store, depending on how quickly I run out of eggs between shopping trips. The eggs are always free range and organic. I wish I could be like my friend Michele and have my own fresh eggs in my backyard, but I deal with enough poop already, so that isn’t happening right now. My kids eat (organic) yogurt almost every day and we buy it in bulk-plain so that we can flavor it with cinnamon and granola or fruit.
Our family does not each much cheese (although I love cheese) and we don’t drink milk. What cheese I do use for cooking is organic and often local. I do use milk for cooking and the kids have it several times a week with their cereal or in hot chocolate. I buy organic (usually local) milk, although we have used raw milk in the past. Despite what the advertisements might make you think, humans do not need cow’s milk to survive. How absurd is that? To think that humans would have to rely on the milk of another species for survival? It just doesn’t make sense. Human babies need human milk, and yes, I’m one of those moms that nurses my babies until they self-wean. Most of my kids had never even tasted cow’s milk until they were 2 years old. (And they didn’t eat any food until they were a year old, but again, that’s a whole other post.) We do not eat soy of any kind. We limit milk and consume cheese in moderation.
The rest of our food comes from whole grains and the herbs, spices, and oils that we use for flavoring. I love freshly baked bread but don’t have a bread machine anymore, so I am guilty of buying bread (organic) right now. I use organic, whole wheat flour for all of my baking and I make almost everything from scratch. I do use store-bought pasta because honestly, who has time to make their own pasta? Anyone? I love cooking with quinoa and a household staple- rice. We have oatmeal several times a week, which I buy in bulk (I love Costco for that!) and the organic, steel cut oats are perfect with apples, cinnamon, and coconut milk drizzled on top. I also like to hide ground flax seeds or wheat germ in just about everything I bake and in oatmeal. Even my husband can’t tell the difference! (I hide veggies sometimes too.) I buy herbs and spices from the farmer’s market and if they are fresh, I freeze them. I also use a lot of organic olive oil for cooking. I even use an olive oil sprayer to spritz oil on my iron skillet when making omelets or when baking, so I never need to use cooking sprays or toxic, non-stick pans.
Many (most?) of you probably think I’m crazy. Or if you’ve been reading my blog long enough, you already knew that. But I promise that there are good reasons for eating local, organic foods and it’s not as difficult or expensive as you think. In fact, I feed our entire family of 8 for around $400 a month. I just prepare the meals myself, using as few pre-packaged ingredients as possible. The local farmers are my best friends. I get excited when I score some delicious raw honey or when something new shows up in my CSA box (like sunchokes) and I have to try out new recipes. I say that I hate to cook (and sometimes I do) but I love to eat. And I’m committed to eating the healthiest foods I can find.
My own mother does not agree with the way we eat. She won’t even eat the food in my house. She will actually pack her own food (plastic fruit cups, bags of fake mashed potatoes), etc. when she comes to visit. I’m not one to judge someone else’s choices, so I keep my mouth shut. It kills me sometimes though. She definitely thinks that I’m insane. She won’t change her ways, but I would give anything to get her to read The Conscious Kitchen. Maybe someday…
Check out LocalHarvest for information on CSAs in your area. Many farmer’s markets are not active in the winter (unless you live somewhere like Arizona-how I loved the farmer’s market there!) but find out about your local farmer’s market. Find other families in your area and split a share of beef with them so that you can fill your freezer with good, fresh meat from a local farm. Take your kids to see a nearby farm where the food is grown. My kids have more respect for food after visiting so many farms and seeing where our food comes from. Forget clipping coupons and challenge yourself to go a week (or month, or two) without using any canned or pre-packaged foods. Try a vegetable that you have never had (or even heard of) before. You will probably be surprised at how cheap (and easy) it can be to eat healthier foods.
In the words of the Brady Bunch-
When it's time to change, you've got to rearrange who you are into what you're gonna be.
First-my business Poundcake Lady will be getting a new name for the upcoming year. We do so much more than pound cakes that it is time to graduate to a more all-encompassing name.
Secondly-as I went back through my blog over the last year, I noticed that I went from talking about lots of things to talking about just one thing, gluten-free. Don’t get me wrong, gluten-free is important but it’s not the only thing I do. I have seen too many of my GF friends get into the rut of talking about nothing else but GF, GF, GF. I would like to avoid getting too far into that trap and so for the new year, plenty of GF, but not all about the GF:)
I love @scoutiegirl from my Twittering. Tara Gentile has a website all about a million different valuable things. I’m note sure how she does it. I’m not sure how she gets so many things done. She wrote an article for a website a called Feelgooder about reclaiming your creativity. It’s a powerful post that is both honest and encouraging. Here’s what she said:
Reclaim Your Creativity: 3 Steps to Bust Through Inaction
This guest post is by Tara Gentile of Scoutie Girl
Ignoring your creativity can have serious consequences. You feel stuck—even depressed. You start heading down a spiral of inaction. It gets harder & harder to make things happen in your life.
Reclaiming your creativity (yes, I know you’ve got some!) can jump start your life in startling ways. Finding your own creative spark will help you set your dreams in motion and push ahead when the going gets tough.
My senior year of college was a real creative peak for me. I was writing daily, blogging on Xanga, and reading like a fiend. I earned a full scholarship to my graduate program of choice with the intent to study postmodern Christian theology.
I was poised to be another small success story of academia.
But while I was working my summer job, I got bit by the conventional life bug. My forward momentum ceased.
I took a full time job at one of the bookstore chains, slinging coffee and steaming milk. I was passionate about coffee and books. Turns out I was also passionate about business. But Fortune 500 retail management doesn’t leave a lot of room for creativity in the workplace.
My independent successes were often overruled by overlords—I mean, middle managers—who preached conformity.
My mood ebbed and flowed with the decisions that those above me made. I rose in the ranks and found that the higher I went, the less creativity I was allowed.
In a lifetime of run-ins with depression, I battled the worst bout while working there. With no time or energy for self-expression, I couldn’t act on my usual creative self remedies. I quickly spiraled out of control, losing about 30lbs as my body shut down. I drove to work wanting to die. I drove home from work wanting to die.
Luckily, I met my husband and recovered. If only it was as quickly and easily as writing that sentence. With his accountability, I made time for me and my mood improved.
Now I realize that period in my life was a direct consequence of inaction. With no creative outlet, I lost touch with my own life.
It turned out that the conventional life I desired wasn’t what I thought it would be. Working my butt off for mediocre-at-best pay didn’t mean I could live on my own, purchase the things I needed, or keep up with any sort of social life outside of the occasional glass of wine with my coworkers, who I already saw too often thankyouverymuch.
On top of this, I realized that when you settle for inaction and the conventional, it’s that much harder to create and act on unconventional circumstances.
It’s that much harder to create the action you need to fulfill your goals.
Settling for inaction doesn’t just delay your satisfaction—it makes it harder to achieve!
Reclaiming my creativity and my own lust for action took a complete break from my circumstances: the birth of my daughter.
While the shift from dreaming to doing wasn’t immediate, I reconnected with my capacity for learning new things and achieving my goals. It was a process—one that was punctuated with reading, writing, and experimentation. Within a few months, I was able to act.
It was like drawing my pistol from its holster on my hip, still plump with post-pregnancy weight.
While my first shot may not have hit true, shot after shot, action after action, my aim and my circumstances improved.
People now ask me how I turn ideas into reality so quickly, how I can generate so much forward progress from a schedule that all to easily gets bogged down in the day to day. Very simply, it’s the cycle of action. The consequence of inaction is more—paralyzing—inaction.
The consequence of action is more—energizing—action.
If you’re feeling bogged down by the day-to-day, unsure of where the energy to achieve your dreams will come from, or simply stuck, here are some ideas for helping you break free.
1. Find your breaking point.
Not where you break, but where you can break the cycle of inaction. What fundamental change can you make in your life to produce an environment where your creativity can thrive? Your solution might be a change of routine or schedule, a change in location, or a break from a toxic friendship. In general, I don’t recommend having a baby for this purpose.
Your breaking point is a change that will allow you to fundamentally shift your perspective on your day to day tasks. Inevitably, these kinds of changes don’t happen overnight, they’re part of a process of change. But working words a single action that has the capacity to renew your energy and restart your forward progress can be motivation in and of itself.
2. Accept that not every idea is a good one.
While you’re recovering from inaction, it’s easy to get discouraged when you discover your new idea isn’t feasible or when your project just doesn’t turn out well. Part of creating your forward progress is failing, learning, and acting again. By accepting that a great many of your ideas won’t turn out, you’ll leave yourself open for even better ideas.
Failure is an integral part of creating more action in your life. It’s not a stumbling block; it’s an opportunity. People who produce a lot of good stuff produce a lot more bad stuff. But they use their failures to propel them forward not hold them back.
3. Don’t hold on to the things that hold you back.
While it sounds simple, many people I know hold on to habits that stop them from making progress: TV, naps, household expectations, shopping… Most of these things don’t have the ROT—return on your time—that exercising your creativity and action on your ideas can.
Whether you goal is to start a business, take up an exercise routine, or write the great American novel, you’ll find your time is better spent working towards your goals. Once you’re in the cycle of action, there will be plenty of time for obligations and mindless activities.
Inaction has serious consequences.
While you may not see its effects today or tomorrow, it’s wearing away at your productivity, tearing apart your creativity. Finding your way back to a cycle of action, progress, and momentum will help you deal with these consequences, reverse them, and find real energy in your life, no matter your goals.
Breaking the cycle of inaction requires a choice: to make your own needs a priority. Allow yourself to examine what kind of action you need to move forward with your goals. Allow yourself to consider what you’ve been missing as a result of your inaction.
Then, little by little or full steam ahead, embrace new choices that require your action.
Tara Gentile empowers people to live more creatively and change the world with their money on Scoutie Girl. Learn more about moving from inaction to accomplishment with her free Creating Action ecourse.
In some ways I really should have known better. Growing up there had always been the battle of the Christmas trees in my house. My mom had her beloved fake tree and my dad always wanted real. So the compromise was real every other year. And it worked…pretty much.
Fast forward a million years to the present day. It was time to buy this year’s tree. My husband and I are unanimous on always getting a real one. Except for the year we remodeled and we got a fake tree from a friend just because Christmas was a big puff of dust and drywall that year. Now I’m not a tree hugger and I don’t do a good job recycling, but spending $30-50 on an already dead tree this year seemed like a ridiculous idea. So I found a tree that was piney enough that could live in it’s pot through Christmas and get planted in our yard after that. In fact, even better than that, we could plant this tree in a big planter and get at least 5 years of dragging it in and decorating it at Christmas. It seemed like such a good idea.
So when all 5 of us got to the tree place, I went into the greenhouse area where the live trees are and my daughters headed to the dead tree lot. They said, “Mom the trees are out here aren’t you coming?”. I said, “No guys, the tree I want is in here. Come and see it”. They followed me and I showed them the tree and explained my idea to them. There was dead silence and wide-eyed staring. You would have thought that I told them something horrible like there was no Santa. Then they burst into a chorus of 7,000 reasons why my tree was going to murder Christmas. Nothing was right about my tree. The lights would be wrong, the tree wasn’t a pine, the ornaments would be wrong, and bottom line was they hated the idea. I was shocked. I thought they would embrace it with open arms. But no.
So they went to the dead tree lot to pick the tree that they thought was right and I slightly pouted inside the store. They came and got me and showed me the tree they picked out. It was perfect. It was just the one I would have wanted. We were at a stalemate. So my husband stepped in and ruled for the alive tree for this year with the possibility of a dead tree next year.
We brought our Leyland’s Cypress home, threw on some lights and a paper chain. The girls will be making some more ornaments for it today and by last evening, they were excited about the possibility of using the same tree for the next several years. Bottom line I had to note is this: they have a sense of tradition. That’s actually a good thing and good to know that it exists for them. So in the effort of upholding tradition, don’t forget the flannel PJ’s, the full stockings, the cookies for Santa and the New Year’s plates. Just because you bring in some new traditions, don’t forget to hold up some of the old ones!
Found this article this morning off of CNN. A little scary, but it’s good to know! Click here to read the whole article.
Forever foodsNow that the holiday season has begun, many people are making extensive grocery lists in preparation for parties, dinners and cookie swaps. But before you shop, Janice Revell, co-founder of StillTasty.com, says “Look in your pantry and your cabinets and check whether the items really do need to go. You’ll be shocked by what you really don’t need to throw away.”So before you throw out that years-old sugar or replace that bottle of vanilla that’s been gathering dust, consult our list of “forever foods.” You may be surprised how many of your kitchen staples have a shelf life of decades — even after they’ve been opened. (Text: Laura Moss)