Monday, June 24, 2013

In the Kitchen

This weekend Alex and I spent a good portion of our time in the kitchen. 

We made kale chips- crispy kale leaves seasoned with red pepper, sea salt and garlic. They are AMAZING!. If you love fried leaves, that is. Which I do. 

Tear leaves away from stem into bite sized chunks. Toss fresh dried leaves in olive oil and seasonings of choice. Spread out on baking sheet. I use parchment but you don't have to. Bake at 350 or 375 for about 15-20 minutes. 

They may not look like it, but they are really crispy when they come out. I always buy the dinosaur kale because I like it better for smoothies, but I think you get more crunch if you use the curly kind for this. Either way it's really delicious and much healthier than chips or crackers. 

Make sure the leaves are nice and dry (some moisture is OK), otherwise you'll steam them instead of fry them. If you have a salad spinner that will be perfect, or you can just pat the leaves dry after washing.

Eat them right out of the pan or cool and serve. They'll stay crispy for a while. We don't make a lot at once, maybe one or two pans worth, which is about 1/2 of a bunch of kale, and they are usually gone by the end of the day, but the last batch I made (this one), I was too liberal with the salt so we didn't finish them off. As I was tossing them out on day three I tasted one just to see and it was still crunchy! 

Most weekends I make a fresh batch of almond milk. Almond milk will stay fresh for about 4-5 days after it's made. I've talked about how to make almond milk on here before and there are certainly oodles of tutorials all over the internet on how to do it.

2 cups almonds
2 vanilla beans
5-10 dates
Distilled water

Soak almonds in distilled water overnight or up to a couple days. Discard water.
Add fresh distilled water to blender, about halfway.
Add soaked almonds.
Blend. Blend. Then blend some more. 
Lots of blending.
Add vanilla beans & dates (I imagine you could add these at the end to the strained milk itself and then blend it, leaving them in and not straining these parts out if that's your preference).
More blending.
Use a fine mesh sieve or jelly or milk bag to strain. This part usually needs to be done in batches. It's a bit labor intensive if you use a strainer. Using a milk bag makes it much easier and much less messy. 
Voila! Milk! 

We save the pulp for other recipes like gluten free vegan crackers and energy bars. 

We had some fresh coconut to work with this weekend as well. While a lot of work (IMO) there are so many great uses for them it's worth buying whole coconuts when you can. Since I just made almond milk, I didn't make coconut milk this time. Also, since I had just picked up a new container of coconut oil, I decided not to cold press my own this time, either. I put aside a few chunks to add to our morning smoothies for the next few days, a few for shredding to add to the energy bars I will make this week using some of the almond pulp, and the rest to use in a raw vegan sprouted snack recipe we will make later this week, too. 

I have recently discovered two wonderful healthy alternatives to my favorite potato dishes. 

One, is a baked potato. I luuuv me a baked potato. I like it full of butter and salt and that's it. But, since butter is like a gagillion calories, I started saying good-bye to eating them. Until, on a whim, I threw in some coconut oil, avocados and tomatoes instead. Holy wow!

I don't know why I never thought to do this before. It's sooo good. And
it's all so healthy and good for me. And it's vegan. Bonus, bonus and bonus.

The second thing I discovered was coconut oil fried potatoes. OMG. have you tried this?

No butter or olive oil, just a tablespoon of coconut oil and small cubes of potato, fried for about 20 minutes. Add some sea salt and they are divine. I never thought to fry things with my coconut oil. I mean, not really fry. I used it in cooking for eons as a substitute for other oils lin like stir-fries or coating meat for the grill kind of thing, and in place of butter in baking, but never really for actual frying. I assume most people already know of this, because I am usually late to the game in most instances. But I am so glad I know about it now! 

Monday, June 17, 2013

What Not to Say to Our Kids Part 2

"I promise..."

When my middle daughter was a teenager, I discovered she was struggling with trusting me and her dad. I couldn't understand where it was coming from. I believed I'd always been honest with her, had modeled honesty with friends, neighbors, family, etc. Finally after many talks, she said "When I was eight you promised to take me to get ice cream. Then you didn't." 

Whew. My first knee-jerk reaction was indignation. I could hardly believe this one incident could be the reason my daughter felt the way she did. I had always prided myself with being super honest with my kids. To the point of them saying they wanted things more sugar coated! lol 

What I failed to see at first was there was probably several times in her childhood I had made a promise like that one, and broken it. I probably never considered it a very big deal and likely never thought twice about it. I was wrong, and I learned the hard way how trust between a parent and child really work. I learned expecting your children to trust you is not just about being a truthful person. It requires that you ALWAYS mean what you say, and say what you mean. It means you ALWAYS do what you say you will, and don't do what you say you won't. It sounds simple. It's not always so easy, or so black and white. 

I came to practice a new way of communicating with my kids that did not give guarantees or promises lightly. If there was a possibility of things changing, or if I felt I couldn't fully commit to something, I would be truthful and say so. It was better to have them disappointed that I couldn't say 'yes' for sure in some cases but still have them trust my word, rather than saying yes in the moment to spare their feelings (aka wrath) and have my word lose value. From then on I was much more guarded with my word than I was before and it took some growing pains for us all to become comfortable with this new way of honesty in our family. I am so grateful for my daughter's help in letting me understand this concept so well.  

What you can do...

Instead of choosing to say 'I promise...', be super honest with your child. “I know you really want to have a play date with Sarah this weekend and we’ll do our best to make that happen. Please remember that sometimes unexpected things come up, so I can’t guarantee that it will happen this weekend.” Be sure you really are doing your best if you say you will too. Keeping your word builds trust and breaking it deteriorates your connection, so be careful what you say, and then live up to your word as much as humanly possible.

One more note on this, if you do break your word, acknowledge it and apologize to your child. Remember, you’re teaching your kids how to behave when they fail to live up to their word. Breaking our word is something we all do at one time or another. And even if it’s over something that seems trivial to you, it could matter a lot to your child. So do your best to be an example of honesty, and when you’re not, step up and take responsibility for your failure.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A Welcomed Garden Share

The deliriously sweet and lovely Laura, Brooklyn's mom, brought us some fresh garden spinach yesterday to share with the kids. Thank you, Laura!! 

With one of the two fresh pineapples I picked up the day before, I decided to make nu-licious (nutritious and delicious) spinach smoothies for the kids today.

It was a perfect treat this morning and the kids luuuuved them! They even asked for more.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Adding Magic People and Accessories

This week the kids asked me for play wands. They have been using the wooden spoons from the play kitchen to flourish about while saying 'Abracadabra!". 

The wands were already in the works, along with other magic elements so I was pleased to hear the kids ask for them. I purchased the materials for the wands a couple of weeks ago and I hope to get those done by the weekend. 

Also started this week is our gnome family. Later I'll add a gnome house, and then wizard hats possibly to go with the wands. 

After the gnomes and wands, I have plans to make superhero capes in rainbow colors, enough so each child has one cape if they want, plus matching masks. This will all be added in the next few weeks to enrich our dramatic play materials. 

Here is the first gnome we made today. This was my test gnome, actually, to figure out what pattern I wanted to settle on, so I used a color I didn't care about to start with knowing I'd need to do some trial and error. I planned to make rainbow gnomes, and this guy is more a forest green, so maybe he'll end up being part of a woodland gnome set, instead of the rainbow gnomes in brighter colors. :-)  

I had not planned to do anything decorative for this one since he was my test subject, but I decided to add a rough blanket stitch and some embroidery accents to liven it up a bit and see what it looked like. Not bad I think!

The gnome is so cute and I can't wait to add the rest, though for the first rainbow set I want them very simple and later as we add more I'll dress them up a bit more.  

Monday, June 3, 2013

Peasant Bread

We made peasant bread this weekend and Alex could not stop eating it. I had lofty plans to get photos of this bread sliced and in a better backdrop, but every time Alex walked by the cooling bread (this was taken right after it came out of the oven) he picked off a piece rendering my bread photo-unworthy. :-). He loved this stuff so much he stopped playing outside and came in to get more, over and over.  

It's a very easy bread to make, and yummy.

This bread is baked in bowls instead of loaf pans, though I'm sure you could do it that way. When it's sliced, you can use it as sandwich bread and it has a lovely artisan shape. 

This bread doesn't need to be kneaded or rolled out. It can rise and bake in the same bowl, making clean-up much easier. 

Peasant Bread

Set out butter and let soften at room temperature over 20-30 minutes.


2 teaspoons yeast
1 tablespoon honey
2 cups warm water

Dissolve honey in warm water.
Sprinkle yeast over top. No stirring needed.
Let yeast activate over 10-15 minutes until nice and foamy on top.

While that happens...

4 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons sea or kosher salt

Combine in bowl and set aside.

Using softened butter, butter two medium sized oven safe bowls. Pyrex is great. Maybe a couple teaspoons. Maybe more. More butter = more yummy.

When yeast is finished, pour over flour/salt mixture.
Stir with wooden spoon or spatula. Clean sides well.
Dough will be very wet and sloppy. That's good for this dough.

Once the dough is well mixed and the sides are clean, you'll have a gloppy blob at the bottom of your bowl. Divide into two and put into buttered bowls. Remember it's gloppy so you'll just have to go with it. You'll see.

Cover the bowls of dough with a tea towel for an hour and a half. Two hours is OK, too. This is the first rise. Keep the bowls in a warm place. 

After the first rise is done, preheat your oven to 425.

Now, take salad forks and poke down the dough, or use a spatula to fold the wet dough onto itself several times to 'punch' it down. This isn't a doug where you use your hands to work, it's just too wet. Once the dough is small again, cover again for 20-30 minutes. This is the second rise.

After the second rise, the dough should be filling most of your bowl. If it isn't even close to the top (3/4 full is a good measure) the the bowl is probably too big. Use a spatula to transfer to a smaller bowl. Don't forget to butter the new bowl first.

Now bake at 425 for 10 minutes.
Turn down the heat to 375 and bake 20-25 more minutes. 

Remove bowls and turn over onto cooling rack. If you buttered well, the bread will fall right out. If it feels a little stuck, try using a butter knife to gently slide around the inside edge. 

Slather with buckets of butter and enjoy!


*When cool, you can use this as sandwich bread.

*Store inside a bag for a few days or freeze. But it's not likely to last longer than the end of the day in most households!

*After 3-5 days, when it's a bit stale, cut into squares and dry in oven on 170 degrees until toasted all the way through. Add garlic, parmesan or other seasonings to make into croutons, or grind down to make breadcrumbs. 

*A trick to helping your dough rise- preheat oven to 170 degrees, or lowest setting. Turn off as soon as it reaches it's temperature. Place covered dough bowls into warmed oven (that is turned OFF) to rise. 

*You can modify the recipe with 1 cup rolled graham crackers + 3 cups flour. 

*Using whole wheat flour changes the consistency. Experiment with what you like. I used half bread flour (unbleached) plus half whole wheat flour. 

*I use honey to activate yeast for breads and it works great. You can also use regular sugar, using the same measurement.

*I use real butter in all my recipes. I imagine you could use margarine or other butter substitute if desired. 

A Gift for Oskar

Last month Oskar turned one! I finally finished his gift last week (only a month late). Since he just started walking, I thought little non-slip shoe booties would be perfect. So I made these...

Unfortunately, I am a terrible seamstress, so the shoes were a tad tight when I tried them on him. I intended to start over on a new pair, then I realized he would just outgrow THOSE shoes soon, too, and my gift would be short lived. So I changed gears and went for a new idea that he could enjoy for much longer.

I decided to make a soft book. 

Now, again, let me reiterate, I have next to zero skills when it comes to sewing. My mother sewed all the time when I was growing up. She made lots of our clothes, pillows and gifts for people. I would use her scraps to make doll clothes and accessories. And aside from my one stint in Home Ec. (I much preferred woodshop) I have no other real sewing experience outside of basic curtains, and button and seam repairs for my husband and kids.

That is why I thought making a soft book would be well within my sewing skill range and a breeze to pull off. 

I happened to have some new thick canvas that I had intended to use for the tent I made for the childcare and then decided against using it. I thought the canvas would be a great book base so I got to work making little Oskar's book.

I settled on soft, natural tones for the book, and kept it very simple. I wanted to do something with his name in it, and though I never have done applique before, it looked like the best option for doing a book.

Aside from the off-kilter pages and wonky seams here and there, I was pleased to see the end result of the book finally come together last night. While a simple concept, the applique takes a really long time to do, but I love how it turned out. 

If I was better or more practiced at sewing it would be neater and more professional looking. But there is an element of charm and even whimsy in imperfect, hand-made gifts. I am glad it was time consuming and a little difficult because that means more love went into it and maybe  Oskar will feel all that love and effort when he plays with his little book. :-)

Front cover.

O is for Octopus.

S is for Snail. 

Actually, the 'S' was meant to be a seahorse to keep with my sea animal theme, but I cut the snail out before I realized my blunder, so I decided to keep it in. Originally I planned to do a regular animal set- O=Owl, S=Snake, K=Kangaroo, A=Alligator & R=Rabbit. The ocean animals seemed more fun to me.

K is for Killer Whale.

Alex says it looks more like a dolphin, though.

A is for Anchovy.

R is for Ray.

The back cover with little tag.

Happy 1st Birthday, Oskar!