Monday, January 24, 2011

Kombucha Project: 24 January 2011

The cold weather is continuing here. When my husband left for work this morning it was 9 degrees Fahrenheit  outside. I went to check my SCOBY and there is a tiny sheen of slime on the top of the sweet tea. There is not enough present to be able to get a picture of. The brew has been moved to a warmer location. Hopefully I will have more progress next week.

Spending Fast: Update 24 January 2011

The spending fast has been going mostly well. My family has not been sticking stringently to no extra spending. We have gone to coffee shops a few times, my husband bought lunch a few days at work and we went to burgers once.

While we have not stuck strictly to the fast it has served the intended purpose.  We have slowed our burn rate on spending on unbudgeted items.

I was able to point out to my husband that some items that we used to not think twice about spending on add up and prohibit us from purchasing things we desire. The example that came up was: Lunch for 2 adults and 1 child cost us ~$25 at Five Guys. I would like to get a pair of classic Vibram 5 Fingers which cost $75 at REI. My husband balked at the cost of the shoes but gave hardly any thought to burgers at Five Guys. I pointed out to him that three trips to Five Guys would have been the equivalent of buying me one pair of Five Fingers. Earlier in the week I had made a fillet mignon dinner for the three of us, plus enough leftovers for one lunch, for under $15. The spending fast has helped me gain clarity and the ability to frame our spending in a reasoned way.

More importantly it has made me more aware of when we do spend on something that is not in budget. This heightened awareness has been beneficial in assessing where the leaks are in our budget. This time when money was tight I was better prepared to answer my self imposed question of where did the surplus go.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Parenting: Going Cloth

With my son I kept to disposable diapers. We were in an apartment and did not have an in unit washer and dryer. Times have changed. I now live in a house and have a washer and dryer in my basement. I am already washing my son's training pants every night. From the research it looks like it is cheaper to go with cloth even when going with the "designer" diapers. I am easing into cloth. I am already doing diaper type laundry every night so I might as well take advantage of the inertia of the existing routine

Abby's Lane ( ) opened a brick and mortar store this weekend. It's a great place to shop and Stephanie is very knowledgeable. When I walked in the door I had one strategy in mind. After chatting with her and trying a few options on my 7 month old daughter I chose some different options than I originally intended. I got out the door for $69.66, this included a customized starter kit, a bag of Flips disposable inserts and 4 reusable Knickernappies cloth breast pads.* This was within my budget as I usually spend about $50 a case on disposables at Costco every 2 weeks.

My starter kit has:
1 pink snappi diaper fastener
1 blossom colored BumGenius** 4.0 one size pocket diaper with aplix fastening system
1 noodle colored Flip diaper cover (by BumGenius) with aplix fastening system
6 regular sized Osocozy indian unbleached prefolds
1 large BabyKicks Hemparoo Joey Bunz insert

For daytime I plan to use the prefolds, fastened by the snappi, with the Flip cover over them. For night diapering I will be using the pocket diaper with the hemp soaker stuffed inside the pocket. I still have a portion of a case of disposables if every cloth option gets dirty before laundry time. I look at the disposables as training wheels. Hopefully I will be freewheeling in the next 30 days.

The prefolds and hemp soaker are on their second hot wash as I type. Stephanie recommended washing them 2 or 3 times before use to maximize absorbency.

*I had been using disposable breast pads. They get terribly expensive. They also make a horrible mess if you forget and throw them in the wash.

** BumGenius offers a 14 day money back guarantee. This was a major deciding factor between choosing their products over the GroVia starter kit.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Kombucha - Grow your OWN Mother without a Baby! SCOBY - Symbiotic Cultur...

Kombucha Project: 17 January 2011

On January 10th I set up a brew to create a kombucha SCOBY mother from scratch.*  Today I checked it. There is an ever so slight film on the top of the sweet tea. I think that the very cold temperatures are causing the SCOBY to form slowly. I will update next week on how this is going. Hopefully the next update will have enough progress to warrant posting a picture.

*The method that I used is described by NiveousErmine in her youtube video. I have posted the video in another entry on this blog.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Kitchen Tip: Fish Night

Boiling vinegar and water in your vegi, or starch, side dish pot after dinner will help get rid of any resulting fish odor on fish nights. Making sure you clean your dishes and throw out the trash as soon as possible helps too.

Spending Fast of Winter 2011: Day 1

This is day one of  a three month spending fast.  If it isn't free, already included in the family budget or an emergency I won't be spending money on it.

Resources that will help me through the next three months:
-A chest freezer that is stocked up with various proteins. 
-Belonging to a locovore buying club. Membership for the club is paid for until June. Membership is a lot like Costco in that it allows me to get fresh, local, mostly organic produce and food products for close to wholesale prices.
-Local library systems that have ebooks and audio books available for download. *
-A realistic family budget.
-Netflix membership.
-A Kaboodle account. This lets me still window shop and wishlist. I have found that I make more considered decisions if I let an item sit in a wishlist for a few months
-Access to the Smithsonian museums. Admission to all of their museums is free. Parking at the hangar in Chantilly, VA or buying food at the museums is what gets expensive.
-Belonging to a few groups that offer social events that are free.
-Project Gutenberg ( ) *
-Internet access.
-A partner that is more into being frugal than I am.

*Note- I have a Blackberry PDA. 

Recipe: Prune Baby Food

1/2 c water
6 pitted prunes
Baby oatmeal

Bring water to a boil. Remove water from heat. Place prunes in water. Make sure water covers prunes. Let sit for at least 1 hour. Drain off excess water. Puree soaked prunes. Add applesauce to taste. Add enough oatmeal to prunes to make a watery paste. Serve.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Recipe: Acorn Squash Baby Food

3 Tbsp unseasoned, cooked acorn squash
1/4 ripe banana
Baby oatmeal

Puree banana and acorn squash. Mix in enough oatmeal to reach desired consistency. Serve.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Parody: Ood Light

Note: Should be sung to the tune of Neil Diamond's "Heart Light"

Come back again
I want you to stay next time
Cause sometimes the universe aint kind
When people get lost like you and me

I just made a friend
A friend is someone you need
But now that he has to go away
I still see the worlds that he might save

Turn on your Ood light
Let it shine wherever you go
Let it make a happy glow
For all the world to see

Turn on your ood light
In the middle of a time lord’s dream
Dont wake up too soon
Gonna take a ride across the moon
You and me

He's lookin for a home
Cause everyone needs a place
A homes the most excellent place of all
And Ill be right here if you should call me

Turn of your Ood light
Let it shine wherever you go
Let it make a happy glow
For all the world to see

Turn on your Ood light
In the middle of a time lord’s dream
Dont wake up too soon
Gonna take a ride across the moon
You and me

Turn on your Ood lightnow
Turn on your Ood light now

Recipe: Creamy Basil Mushrooms

Button mushrooms
Feta cheese
Pesto sauce
Grated mozzarella

-Rinse and de-stem mushrooms.
-Brush inside of the mushrooms with a thin coat of pesto. You can use a pastry brush, paper towel or a fork/spoon to do this.
-Stuff mushrooms with crumbled feta.
-Turn on broiler.
-Place mushrooms in broiler proof baking dish.
-Sprinkle mozzarella over mushrooms.
-Broil mushrooms until the mozzarella has melted.
-Serve warm.


-Use firm tofu in place of feta and soy cheese in place of mozzarella.

-Mince fresh basil leaves and mix with feta. Omit pesto.

-Mix dried basil in with feta. Let sit for at least half hour before stuffing mushrooms. Omit pesto.

-Use portebella mushrooms instead of button

Recipe: Roasted Garlic

1 Head of garlic per person
1 Tbsp butter per head of garlic

-Heat oven to 350.
-Rinse head of garlic with skin on.
-Cut off top of the head far enough down to slice into most of the cloves.
-Place the head in a piece of foil big enough to encase the head.
-Place butter on top of garlic.
-Finish wrapping foil around garlic so the package resembles a Hershey’s kiss.
-Place garlic on ovenproof dish.
-Roast for 30 minutes.

Recipe: Strawberries & Cheese Salad

A few fresh strawberries
Handful of seedless grapes
1/2 C, or more, cottage cheese
Handful of chopped nuts

-Rinse and slice strawberries into bite sized pieces
-Rinse and add grapes
-Add cottage cheese
-Add nuts

Recipe: Cherry Chocolate Pudding

Wet layer:
1 1/4 C water
1/4 C butter
1 C brown sugar
1 1/2 C fresh cherries (frozen if fresh not available)
1/2 C unsweetened cocoa powder

Dough layer:
1 oz unsweetened baking chocolate
1/2 C water
2 1/2 C flour
1 1/2 C sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 C sour cream
1/2 C butter, softened or melted
1 tsp vanilla
3 eggs

Preheat oven to 350

Wet layer:
- In sauce pan, combine water and butter. Heat till butter is melted.
- Reduce heat to low.
-Add brown sugar and cocoa to water mixture. Beat until smooth.
-Spread cherries on bottom of 9 W x 9 L x 2 H pan. Pour sugar mixture over cherries.
-Set pan aside.

Dough layer:
-Melt baking chocolate in double boiler.
-In large bowl add flour, sugar, soda and salt.
-Add sour cream, butter,water, vanilla and eggs.
-Add melted chocolate to mixture.
-Beat until smooth
-Spoon batter over cherry mixture.

-Bake 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a dough mass comes out clean.
-Let cool to room temperature.

-Place foil or a cookie sheet under the baking pan to avoid overflow spilling in oven.
-Pudding can be stored in it's baking dish unrefridgerated for a few days in a cake keeper or by placing foil over the top.

Recipe: Moms SOS

6 oz ground beef
1 C milk
1 Tbsp flour
Dash salt
A few dashes black pepper
2 pieces toast

- Crumble ground beef into a pan over medium heat. Sauté until browned.
-Add flour
-Stir until flour coats beef
-Add milk, salt and pepper
-Stir over medium heat till thick and bubbly
-Turn off heat
-Cut each piece of toast into quarters
- Pour beef over toast

Recipe: Leek & Potato Soup

1 medium carrot – scrubbed and thinly sliced
3 large russet potatoes
1 1/2 Tbsp butter
6 c water
1 bunch leeks – scrubbed and thinly sliced
Crushed black pepper to taste
1 ½ c milk

-Slice potatoes in half lengthwise.
-Slice potato halves into crescent slices. Slice as thinly as possible.
-Slice crescents in half.
-Saute leeks and carrots in butter over medium heat. *
-Add pepper.
-Add potatoes to pot.
-Add water.
-Cover pot.
-Let cook for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally.
-Add milk.
-Serve. **

* - Use a stockpot or chef's pan. A wok can be used if the other two are not available.

** - Soup can be served warm, at room temperature, or cold.

Recipe: Watermelon Salad

1 small seedless watermelon
2 sprigs of fresh mint
1 lime

-Peel and chop watermelon into bite size pieces.
-Strip leaves off of mint sprigs. Rinse in cold water until relatively dirt free. Finely chop leaves.
-Zest skin off of lime. Cut lime into 4 pieces and squeeze juice into bowl with zest.
-Add chopped mint to juice and zest. Mix.
-Pour lime-mint mixture over watermelon pieces and toss.

Recipe: Double Carob Cookies

2 1/2 c all purpose white flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 C brown sugar
1/4 c carob powder
2 Sticks butter at room temperature
2 eggs at room temperature
1 cup carob chips

-Mix flour, baking soda and salt. 
-In a separate bowl combine brown sugar and carob powder. Stir until thoroughly mixed.
-In another bowl cream eggs and butter together. Save the butter wrappers in the fridge to grease the pans later.
-In small amounts add sugar-carob mixture to egg-butter. 
-Gradually add flour mixture to the sugar-egg combination. 
-Cover dough and chill for 12-48 hours.
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Be sure to place a rack in the center of the oven.
-Using the butter wrappers, or your preferred non stick substance, grease a cookie sheet.
-Pinch off a small amount of the dough. About the size of a shooter marble or half of a ping pong ball.
-Roll the dough into a ball.
-Place onto greased cookie sheet.
-Bake 1 sheet full of cookies on center rack for 7 minutes.
-Allow cookies to cool on the cookie sheet for 3-5 minutes.
-Remove cookies to cooling racks. Cookies can be left to cool overnight.

Makes approx. 55 cookies

Recipe: Turkey Salad

1/2 lb turkey minced
1 stalk celery, minced
Salt, to taste

Black pepper, to taste
Mayo, to taste

-Combine turkey, celery, salt and pepper in bowl.
-Add at least enough mayo to moisten mixture. Add more to taste.

Recipe: Tomato Soup

8 cups of soup

6 medium tomatoes, diced
1/2 c celery, chopped
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 c parsley, minced
1 six ounce can tomato paste
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp paprika
4 c broth

-Combine all ingredients in a pot.
-Stir to mix thoroughly.
-Bring soup to a boil.
-Reduce heat and simmer soup for 30 minutes.
-Serve either warm or chilled.

Goes well with bread or crackers and a glass of iced tea. To up the calorie load some cheddar type cheese makes a wonderful side.

Less expensive version: Omit the paprika and tomato paste. Use water instead of broth. This soup will be a thinner consistency. 

Rustic soup: Leave as is.

Smoother soup that looks more like the canned stuff: Puree in blender or food processor. 

Cream of tomato soup: Mix 2 parts soup to 1 part milk. Milk with higher fat will result in a richer soup. This will work with the less expensive version too.

Canning?: Use water or vegetable broth.

Recipe: Bread

Makes about 2 loaves

1 c milk
1 c water
2 tsp sugar
1 package, or equivalent, active dry yeast
5 c flour
Extra milk

- Warm milk and 1 c water for 2 minutes in a microwave.
-Pour milk into bowl. Add enough cold water to turn milk mixture tepid. Stir in sugar.
-Add yeast.
-Cover with a tea towel or flour sack cloth for at least 10 minutes. The key is to feed the yeast but not let it cool completely.
-Stir in flour. Adding gradually. Stop when a decent dough has formed.
-Cover bowl with tea towel and let dough rise until at least 2x it's original size.
-Grease 2 bread pans.
-Divide dough into two segments. Place in the loaf pans. Stretch the dough to fit the bottom of the pan if needed.
-Cover with tea towel and let rise until at least 150% original size.
-Bake for 15 minutes in an oven that has been preheated to 350 d F.
-Brush tops of loaves with milk.
-Bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the tops are lightly golden.
-Laet cool for 10 minutes before slicing.

Recipe: Blueberry Peach Smoothie

1/2 C yogurt

1/2 C milk
1/2 C blueberries
1 banana
1 peach

- Put yogurt & milk in blender. Blend.
- Put broken up banana in blender.Blend.
- Cut up peach. Leave skin on. Place in blender. Blend.
- Pour blueberries into blender. Blend.
- Serve

Recipe: Breakfast Parfait

1/4 c (or more) fresh or frozen fruit
1/4 c plain yogurt
1/4 c granola

Put ingredients into dish. Serve.

Simple Baby Food: Blueberry Banana

1/4 ripe banana
2 Tbsp fresh or frozen whole blueberries
1 tsp baby oatmeal

Grind or mash into a puree. Serve.

Note: My daughter is starting solids. Adjust quantities to suit your needs.

Simple Baby Foods

Baby foods are ridiculously simple to make. I have only purchased a few jars of baby food since my son was born in 2006. Usually those were in the case of travelling. Each time I tried to get my kids to eat them they were not happy with what I was trying to put in their mouth. I have never been happy about the jacked up price.

Anyway. Back to the matter at hand. The process of making baby food is simple.

-Select raw or cooked food you desire to feed baby
-Mash or grind
-Feed to baby

I store unused portions in either a baggy or a small container with a lid. I can't speak to freezing the extra because I have never done it.

A note on baby cereals in my baby food posts. I use baby oatmeal. Feel free to use what works best for you and the children you are feeding.