Saturday, October 22, 2011

Recipe: Yummy Hot Chocolate

It's beginning to get cold out! I love it! Almost time to curl up by the fire with a good book and  a yummy cup of hot chocolate!  Here's a really, really yummy cup of hot chocolate that is possibly the best you've ever had.  The best part is that it is a lot healthier than the powdered junk you buy at the grocery store.  This recipe gets Shane's enthusiastic seal of approval!

Dark Chocolate Cocoa Powder
Granulated Stevia Powder
Coconut Oil
Whole Milk

1) Heat 1 tbsp cocoa, 1 tbsp Stevia powder, and 1 tbsp coconut oil and mix until well-blended.
2) Add 1 1/2 cups of milk
3) Heat and mix until desired temperature

Optional variation:
Use honey instead of stevia and coconut oil.  I've never tried this, but I suspect it would work even better than the stevia and coconut oil.  Next time I buy honey, I'll try this and let you know how it works!  As always, go for local, unpasteurized honey for optimal nutritional value!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Milk Allergy :(

A few months ago, I slowly began realizing that Owen is allergic or sensitive to dairy.  This was a major bummer to me, because I am a big believer in consuming lots of raw diary!  We love raw milk, cheese, butter, and yogurt in our house.  He ate dairy at every meal.  The kid LOVES milk. 

How did I realize he was having problems with milk?  It's been kind of a long process.  Owen has had eczema for years, and it started getting worse at the beginning of the summer.  He started getting in his hair and all down his back.  It was keeping him up at night because it itched so badly.  I started giving him apple cider vinegar and coconut oil for the rash, which worked really well, but it wasn't really addressing the problem.  I also started noticing that he had weird emotional reactions after drinking milk.  He'd get super hyper and then crash into tantrums and violence that would not stop for like an hour.  I had no idea that you can have emotional reactions to foods you are allergic too, but it was like I was giving Owen a drug every time he drank a glass of milk.

I was very reluctant to cut out milk, because I was worried about him missing out on all that milk has to offer (calcium, fat, and saturated and omega-3 fats, among other things).  But, once I finally did it, his eczema went away almost over night.  He still has a little on his bottom, but 95% of it is completely gone.  If I really eliminated all dairy (cheese, butter, and baked goods with dairy in them), I bet that last little bit of eczema would be gone too.  To fill the big whole in his diet where I cut milk out, he's started eating a lot more eggs and I've been making soup with homemade stock several times a week, which is an excellent source of calcium.

Once I had identified the problem, I started researching allergies online.  I found some amazing things.  I learned how allergies are formed and how you can reverse and heal your allergies.  It's some pretty incredible stuff!  In my next post, I'll share some of the information I uncovered!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

What We're Learning This Week - 10/2 and 10/9

What We're Learning This Week

The Week of 10/2/11
  • Lowercase Letters and the letter P
  • Pumpkin
  • The Color Orange
  • Noah's Ark 
  • 11, 12, 13
  • Moses - "I am with you always" Matthew 28:20

We had a great time with pumpkins and the color orange this week.  Owen is really picking up on his colors very well.  For the first half of the week, he called anything that was orange "pumpkin", like it was a color.  It was pretty funny.  But, he finally figured out that the color is "orange" and a pumpkin is orange.  
We also made this craft:

(This isn't a pic of the one Owen made, but the picture from the website.  Click the picture to be directed to the link.)

Owen loved it!  He wanted to peel the seeds off after we glued them off and do it again, which got me thinking that you could easily make a similar craft with different colored beads and various pictures for him to play with.  

The Week of 10/9/11
  • Lowercase Letters and the letter G
  • Pumpkins (cont.)
  • The Color Green
  • Abraham called
  • 11, 12, 13, 14, 15
  • Moses - "I am with you always" Matthew 28:20

Owen had such a good time with pumpkins this week, I decided to continue it a couple more weeks. I found a couple more crafts on Pinterest (gah, I love, love, LOVE pinterest!).  Here's a couple (click on the picture to take you to the link):

I don't have other great plans for the week.  Guess I'll just kind of wing it.  I may take Owen to the pumpkin patch this week, or we may wait until we get back from vacation next week.  

Saturday, October 1, 2011

I'm a Hypocrite

Okay, I'll admit it. I'm a real food hypocrite. I've been on this real food journey for 2 1/2 years now, and while we've made lots of improvements to our diet, there are still areas where we are not perfect or even are in direct contradiction to what I believe it best.  It's hard to kick all the bad habits!  So, here are some of the ways where I am hypocritical.

1) Conventional, store-bought butter and cheese- 
Now, while we did make the switch from margarine, I rarely buy grass-fed butter.  Why? It's like $10 for 2 lbs.  That's just really, really steep for our budget.  And, we use a lot of butter.  My eventual plan is to start making it myself.  The good cheese is also extremely expensive.  I know many would disagree, but a good quality grocery-store cheese is still better than no cheese, or fake cheese (like American sliced cheese :P).

2) Sweets - 
I love sweets, especially cookies and ice cream.  While I try to make the cookies from scratch and use better ingredients and I buy the best quality ice cream I can afford, it's still not great.  I really shouldn't eat anything with sugar in it at all.  I wish I had an ice cream maker.  I'd make some of the real stuff!  Not only do I eat sweets, but I eat too many of them as well. :(

3) Frozen Veggies -
We buy nearly all of our fruit fresh and local when possible, but I usually end up buying frozen veggies.  Next to local, fresh-frozen veggies seem to be the next best thing.  And, it's really convenient with two little kids.  I still buy some fresh and local, but at any given time I have several bags of frozen vegetables ready to be used in a pinch.

4) Diet Coke (or Diet Dr Pepper) - 
This is, by far, my worst habit.  And, I drink a lot of it! It's so, so bad, I know, but I just can't seem to give it  up. I know I'm going to get brain cancer.  I know it messes up my body.  I just have a love for it.  I need to stop.  I plan to replace the evil coke in my diet with water kefir.

5) Grocery Store Meat - 
We eat grass-fed beef and wild fish, but I have had a hard time finding good chicken or pork.  I buy the best I can find, but it's still not the best. I also buy some of the pre-marinated pork tenderloins.  Blasphemous, I know.

We've made lots of improvements, mostly homecooked, made-from-scratch meals, sourdough bread, good meats and fats, raw milk, water kefir, lots of veggies, cod liver oil, etc.  Transitioning to a real food diet can be overwhelming, and a lot of people get scared off.  Every change you make in your diet is an improvement and will better your health.  It isn't all or nothing.  We still have plenty room for improvement, but I know that each and every change we've made is better for us and our kids.

So, here's my challenge.  Make a small change today.  Switch to butter.  Cook a meal from scratch this week.  Buy whole milk instead of skim.  Buy nuts instead of chips at the store.  Every small change you make will make a small difference.  All those small changes add up to a lot!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

What We're Learning This Week - 9/25-10/1

What We're Learning This Week

  • Lowercase Letters and the letter L
  • Leaves
  • The Color Yellow
  • The Story of the Cain and Abel and Baby Moses (CBS review)
  • Verse:   Mark 12:31 – “Love your neighbor as yourself.” and "I am with you always." Matt 28:20 (CBS verse)

Owen had a bit of a rough week, so we didn't spend a lot of time "doing school".  On Monday, we went to the library and picked out books about leaves.  We came home and read some of the books.  Then we glued leaves onto a drawing of a tree.  He loved that!  

I got some silk leaves at Dollar Tree that were so cute.  They were red and yellow.  We used some of them for the craft, but the rest we played a game with.  I would throw them in the air and let them fall all over Owen, and I told him that it was fall and all the leaves would fall off the trees.  Then he had a bag he had to stuff all the leaves in.  And, we talked about the color of the leaves.  

I got a book about the letter L at the library and we read that several times.  He definitely knows what L says, but I'm not sure he'd recognize a lower case l.  I think it looks too much like a 1.  

We really didn't do the Cain and Abel story and verse this week.  I think we'll continue that next week.  He's totally nailed Moses though.  He loves doing his verse!  I'm not sure how much he understands the story, but he talks about Moses all the time.  Today, he went to CBS and they continued the story of Moses.  He made a burning bush.  They sing the verse to the melody of "London Bridge".

Felt Letter Mats

I made these this week.  They are felt letter mats.  Owen LOVES them! I cut out all the upper and lower case letters and hot glued them to 1/2 size sheets of felt.  So, we've been playing games with them.  It cost about $5 to make and probably about 3 hours.  

Felt Letter Mat Game Ideas - 
1) Jump on the Letter - I call out a letter and he jumps on it, or I call out a sound and he finds the letter
2) Follow the trail - I set up a trail with the mats and Owen has to jump (can you tell we love jumping right now?) from mat to mat and say the name/sound of the letter
3) Make words - you can easily make words or blends with the mats.  

I have a feeling we'll be using these for years!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Frugal Mommy Tips

Money is tight for almost everyone these days.  It's even tighter when you are trying to feed them whole, real food.  Here are a few tips I have for stretching your food dollar.

1) Instead of sticking left-overs in the refrigerator and eating them for lunch the next day, bag the left-overs into single serving portions and freeze. This turns your left-overs into convenient "frozen meals" you can send with your husband to work, eat them on the go, or just pull them out for lunch when your day has been just horrible. I find that burritos are the best thing to save this way! I make about twice as much as I plan for us to eat, then I create and freeze five or six for later.  So easy and tasty!

2) To make your ground beef go further, add 1 can of black beans to each pound of ground beef. It'll add some more nutrition to the beef and make your meat go twice as far. Plus, it's super yummy! Also a great option for burritos!

3) When making casseroles, always double the recipe and freeze half, uncooked. Then you can just pull it out and cook it anytime. This works best in a foil pan (you can get them for a $1 at Dollar Tree). Pull out the night before and let thaw in the refrigerator all day. Then cook like normal.

4) Plan meals ahead of time.  Go through your week and plan out each and every meal, including breakfasts and lunches, before going to the store.  Plan to use or freeze everything you buy.

5) Buy for one week at a time.  Okay, this is actually in direction contradiction from my usual grocery shopping plan.  After Evan was born, I started doing one major grocery shop at the beginning of the month and buying all our meat (freezing it), cheese, butter, and snacks.  It sounded like a great idea.  It definitely was a time saver.  Unfortunately, I have not found it to be the most frugal.  What happens is that you eat the food really quickly, more quickly than you would have, and then instead of having one or two days out of each week where you are low on groceries, your pantry is bare for a week.  So, you have to go back and buy more stuff, and you end up going way over budget.  So, my advice?  Buy one week at a time.  If you run out of snacks or fruit a day early, wait until your scheduled grocery shopping day and "wing it".  You'll be amazed at the meals a little resourcefulness and creativity can conjure up.

Do you have any "frugal mommy tips"? I'd LOVE to hear them.  Leave them in the comments!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Family

So, thought I'd try something a little different and write about my husband and kids.  I think they are pretty cool and deserve a blog post dedicated to them.

About Shane:

Shane and I have been married for over 5 years now.  He's awesome.  I'm pretty sure that I've never enjoyed anyone's company as much as I enjoy Shane's.  He's hilarious, and we have the best conversations.  This may surprise some of you, since he has a reputation of being somewhat quiet.  But, he's not quiet at home.  Well, I mean, he's not loud either.  But, we talk for hours and hours.  We have the same taste in books and movies, which makes hanging out a lot of fun.
Shane's Likes: 
Post-apocalyptic fiction (movies, TV shows, books), learning (about something in excruciatingly precise detail),  reading instruction manuals (seriously, he has to read a manual before he will touch whatever the manual is to), cookies and ice cream, photography, 3D animation, graphic design, video games (his most annoying "like"), reading books (so carefully that they are almost memorized), driving really safely, music, bass playing, song writing
Shane's Dislikes:
Asparagus, reality TV, most TV shows, romantic comedies, super loud people (how he married me, I have no idea), being early somewhere, construction work, salty food
Something you may not know about Shane:
Well, for one, he's brilliant, but that might not surprise most people who know him.  He was on a commercial once.  It used to air during The 700 Club.  When we dated, I'd watch it every day to see his commercial.

About Owen:

Owen is my oldest son.  He's almost 2 1/2, and he's a big handful! He's strong-willed, independent, loud, super smart (especially with electronics), and loves to learn.  He already knows all his letters and sounds, and he's learning to read right now.  Getting him to sit still is near about impossible.
Owen's Likes:
Music, electronics, cell phones, computers, Blue's Clues, the song "Manefesto" by The City Harmonic, frogs, cats, playing outside, playing with daddy, playing on the piano, singing, cookies, eggs, cheese, reading in his room at night, brushing his teeth, taking showers, going to church, seeing my family, seeing Shane's family
Owen's Dislikes:
Obeying, listening, sitting still, being in his car seat, eating dinner, going to Walmart (he groans as we enter the parking lot), going to the Dr, not being allowed to touch the computer, Evan touching his stuff
Something you may not know about Owen:
Owen is strangely and ridiculously polite. Seriously, it's odd.  He says "thank you" and "please" constantly.  You say, "Here, Owen, please throw this in the trash for mommy." He says, "Thank you!" and takes the trash.  He loves to do household chores too.  I'm thrilled, but I don't think I can take any credit.

About Evan:

Evan is my youngest son.  He's 10 months old, and he's totally, totally different from Owen.  He loves to be held, and he loves to cuddle.  He wants to play with people more than he wants to play with toys.  He's a super fast crawler, and his favorite game is crawl really fast and let Owen chase him, or vice versa.
Evan's Likes:
Cuddling, music, cheerios, bananas, beef, yogurt, cars, a certain stuffed monkey, Elmo, his daddy, playing with Owen, waving "hello", saying "mama" and "dada"
Evan's Dislikes:
Owen pushing him over, Owen taking his toy, Owen blocking his way, being in a car seat, having his diaper changed, me leaving him, me not picking him up while I'm cooking dinner
Something you may not know about Evan:
He's extremely strong and always has been.  When I was pregnant with him, he killed me daily.  Seriously, he would kick and it looked like someone was poking a pencil through my shirt.  He is ridiculously strong.  Owen better watch his back.