A Few New Garden Friends

We have added to our garden. One thing nice about the south is you can garden pretty much all year without the fear of freezing your plants out….usually.

I got this new little guy from a co-worker. It’s an aloe plant. Haven’t checked out exactly what to do with it, but we are keeping it around for an occasional burn. It’s pretty to look at too. (and yes, I know it’s weird that the pot is sitting on 2 bricks. I’m still figuring out this gardening thing.)

We have a tomato! Yes, one tomato. I’m sure there will be more, but for now, I had to turn on the “micro/macro function” on the camera to get a good picture. But check it out

Here is another new plant friend we picked up at a “Big Boxed (orange) Store” on Saturday. It is a Satsuma Tree, which produces….satsumas. (duh!) They are baby-type-orange-things. We picked this tree out because it is cold and heat tolerate, but also it came with two oranges already on the tree. I figured if I keep watering it, I can at least get two pieces of fruit from it. Right?

And I feel like such a proud little momma, our cucumber plant has several flowers on it….which I think means, a baby cucumber will grow in it’s place. (This is as much of a learning process for the kids as for me!) Anyways, keep watering and maybe we’ll get a small crop!

Kelly

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Salt Overload?

I am super guilty of wanting a salt overload. I don’t necessarily salt things I eat at home, but when I eat out, ohhhh the salt is just so good! I’m not sure why, but usually after I eat them, I feel BIG TIME bloated!

“hello, water weight, you are just what I need….come and sit around my midsection.”

A few weeks ago, I met a older gentleman who is here visiting from Japan. He comes in frequently to shop at the store I work at. After looking at the label he ask why our bread has so much salt in it.

“320 milligrams?!” He says to me, “That is too much for my health!”

I really didn’t know how to respond other than “yeah, it is quite a bit, I guess. That is per slice also.”

“WHAT!?! I thought that was for the whole loaf!”

I shrug my shoulders. I don’t eat bread and I really can’t say much more.

But here is a salty surprise: according to the CDC, Americans get most of their sodium from bread, not from salty snacks like popcorn and pretzels. (Those 2 were #10 on the “top sodium list.”)

The CDC’s findings concluding that it’s not that bread itself has a ton of salt in it, it’s the sheer fact that, as American’s, we eat far too much bread…thus, raising our sodium intake.

So how much salt should we eat in a day?

I was surprised to find out that we should only be consuming 1 teaspoon per day (2,200 mg). One out of ten adults consume this amount.

It’s easy to rack up more than our daily share:

  • Cold cuts: 600 mg
  • Slice of pizza: 590 mg
  • Bread: 320 mg
  • Canned soup: 1,100 mg
  • Cheese: 535 mg

If your looking for low-sodium foods, stick with things that are below 140 mg of sodium.

Kelly

 

 

Is Eating Vegan Really More Expensive?

https://i2.wp.com/www.mysquarefootgarden.net/wp-content/uploads/lettuce.jpgΒ  My Daily Bread Crumbs posted this the other day, and I thought it was interesting. Our family is not a strict vegan. Although we are inching close and closer to it everyday. We eat mostly plant-based foods, but we still eat eggs occasionally (all my baked goods are 99% vegan) for breakfast or a snack, and maybe twice a month I’ll eat some turkey. It’s very minimal though animal products and Shawn and I notice a difference on how we feel when we do eat animal based products versus days we eat all vegan. Mostly I find the evidence in how my….er, um….digestive tract is working, but I won’t go into too much detail on that! πŸ˜‰

Like My Daily Bread Crumbs, I get this question quite a bit too, “How can I eat healthy and still have it be within my budget?” or “Eating healthy is expensive, right?” My Daily Bread Crumbs found that on her old diet she was spending about $165 per month on “junk.” To her, “junk” included things like milk, cheese, and oreos….things that don’t go with a plant-based diet. Anyways, she concluded that because her family cut those things out she would have $165 to find plant-based items that her family did like. Anyways, you can read more on her conclusions.

I have been thinking about doing a similar comparison. I am a total financial geek and keep all our records and receipts….usually. πŸ˜‰ I have wanted to go digging through old “2009” boxes to find our grocery receipts and compare them to now. I do know that our grocery bill is cheaper, because we used-to pay around $220+ per week on groceries. (Of course my twins were born in 2009, so I’m not sure why it was so much!) And now our bill is around $100-$120 per visit.

I really need to investigate more…..

Kelly

Salty and Sweet Roasted Nuts

I picked up a new magazine a few days ago called “Natural Home and Garden.” Most of the magazine was pretty good, and I did find a recipe I wanted to try in it for honey-roasted peanuts.

Hannah LOVES peanuts, peanut butter, honey-roasted peanuts, Reeses, peanut butter straight for the jar….you get the picture. The girl loves peanuts. Before our big diet change a year or so ago, she lived on a daily diet of peanut butter (yup, the regular old Jif kind too!) and Smuckers Jelly sandwiches.

We were at Sprouts this past weekend and they were having a bulk sale. I usually only make it to Sprouts about once a month or so for bulk items. Hannah usually begs for honey-roasted peanuts, (nicely!) to which I usually give in. But for some reason, on this particular trip, I decided to take a look at the ingredient list posted above the bulk bin. To my surprise, I was shocked on how much sugar was on the peanuts….no wonder she loved them so much!….and they were coated in “vegetable oil.” I really wish she loved eating raw almonds as much as sugar-coated peanuts, but she’s just not there yet.

Thankfully, the recipe from my magazine popped into my mind and I told Hannah I was going to make her “homemade honey-roasted peanuts.” She was excited and jumped up with a “goody!” I went over to the raw peanut bin and started scooping.

Today I decided to try the honey-roasted peanuts. The recipe called for things like butter and sugar, so I modified the recipe, and here’s what I came up with:

Honey-Roasted Peanuts

(adapted from Natural Home and Garden recipe)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt (I use Real Salt)
  • 1 pound shelled raw peanuts (which is appx. 2 cups)
  • 1-2 tablespoons coconut/palm sugar

1. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and then grease. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. (note: do not forget the parchment paper! I am still soaking my pans from the mess it left me because I didn’t use the paper!)

2. In a medium saucepan, heat honey, coconut oil, vanilla, and 1 teaspoon salt over medium-low heat.

3. Stir in peanuts, then pour them out into a single layer in the baking dish.

4. Roast peanuts for 15-20 minutes, or until golden, shaking the pan a few times to stir nuts. Remove from oven, stir to break up clumps, and let cool slightly.

5. Sprinkle on remaining salt and coconut sugar and toss to coat, then serve warm.

 

The peanuts turned out so great and yummy, I decided to try raw cashews. I think the cashews are my favorite! But Hannah still likes the peanuts the best. πŸ˜‰

Enjoy,

Kelly

Meet Mr. Acorn Squash and a Recipe!

(graphic from: http://www.graphicshunt.com)

Someone PLEASE tell me that I am not the only one confused by the millions of kinds of squash that line the grocery store wall!! Especially in the fall, when it’s squash time!

Maybe I would care more if squash was “my thing,” but sadly it’s not. I love 99% of all fruits and vegetables. I am a natural plant lover. But squash, not so much my thing. Particularly the ones that are orange. Eww, total baby food.

I really want to like squash. Actually, I really want to love squash!!

There are so many kinds spread out in the produce section during this time of year, I just want to take them home and bake them all. But then it comes down to the actual act of putting it in my mouth and swallowing it. *sigh* I’m trying here, people.

Last week, I met a new squash friend. His name was Mr. Acorn Squash. “Hello…”

(graphic from: nutritionmythbusters.com)

He’s cute and festive looking for fall, right?

My four kids AND my husband had no idea who this Mr. Acorn Squash was, and what I going to do with him. But all their mouths drool over any kind of squash, so they watched me with eager eyes.

Simple Acorn Squash

  • 1 Acorn Squash
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon

Cut squash in half and scrap out seed cavity. Place cut side down on a baking dish and fill dish with 1/4-inch of water. Bake for 35 minutes. Turn squash over. Mix maple syrup, applesauce, and cinnamon in a bowl and fill the squash halves. Bake another 15 minutes.

The conclusion by the five other people that live in my house: a loud, resounding “YUM!”

My family loved it so much they made a whole meal of it.

I watched my family scarf down Mr. Acorn Squash, with a warm little heart that I made something they all enjoyed so much. Over in my corner of the table, though, I was quietly eating my apples and peanut butter.

…of course that was after my “no, thank you” bite. πŸ˜‰

Kelly

 

Freezer Peaches…With Step-by-Step Directions!

Peaches are kind of a “June-thing” here in Texas. The super hot summers kill the fruit pretty quickly. Around the first week in June, our family packed up the car and headed out to Fredricksberg and grabbed up several boxes of white flesh peaches. We filled our fridge with peaches…and surprisingly, we ate all those peaches too! I think I only had to throw out one or two.

Peaches are “on sale” right now at the grocery store. The are grown local, but you can tell, just by feeling them, that the summer was hot. They are rock hard. But, I’m missing the taste of fresh peaches, and we have 9 months until the fresh new crop is ready. I know too, that as September drives on and winter gets closer, fruit prices are going to go up!

Last time we went to the store, I decided to buy about 30 peaches, even though they weren’t the best. I paid $1.19/pound.Β  (Can you see that I’m desperately holding onto the summer fruit!?!?) When I bought them, they were all rock hard. I let them sit out on the counter for a few days and thankfully they softened up some.

I really wanted to try canning them, but for some reason, canning fruit and vegetables is completely terrifying to me. I know it’s not that scary, but when I get to the part about “put the jar in the water bath for 20 minutes….” I just throw in the towel.

So, canning these peaches was out, and I decided to try freezing the peaches! This was so easy and I was able to make 8 quart-sized bags of peaches in about an hour. (and I should mention that during that hour, I was interrupted about 20 times and had to clean up 3 accidents…)

Directions:

Step One: Select a child to peel the stickers off of all the fruit. Preferably a younger one who thinks the fruit stickers are still cool. If you don’t have a young child, have an older one do the job and “pay them” with extra Wii-time πŸ˜‰ If you don’t have a child in the house to do the job….well then, you know what you have to do.

Step Two: Wash fruit off and slice an “X” in the bottom of the fruit. This will help peel the peel off of the fruit. Which leads us to…..Step three.

Step Three: Blanch the peaches. Or if your like me, and have absolutely no idea how to blanch something, here’s what you do: Have a pot of boiling water and a pot of ice cold water right next to it. Put 4-5 peaches in the boiling water for 45-60 seconds. Remove peaches with a slotted spoon and immediately put them in the ice water.

Step Four: After the peaches have been sitting in the ice water for 1-3 minutes (or longer, if your me and have to go rescue a child from the roof of his playhouse…) gently pull away the peel of the peach. I found out the more ripe peaches, the better the peels separate.

Step Five: Stand back and admire your hard work of peeling the peaches without totally destroying the fruit. πŸ™‚ “Ah, my Mom would be so proud….”

Step Six: Cut up your beautiful peaches and shove them into Ziplock freezer bags. I have been reading about how fruit can get freezer burn easily, so to avoid this, I used white grape juice as the liquid in the bag. You can make a syrup out of sugar and water, but that kind of defeats the purpose of fruit, right?…anyways, Pour white grape juice in the bag until it seemed full enough to cover the peaches, and then I closed it and labeled the bag.

Simple, right! Totally…..Maybe some day I’ll buck up and try canning, but until then, I’m totally diggin’ the freezer stuff!

Kelly

Growth Spurts

After a weekend of rain, my container garden has sprouted some small growth! I guess that means the seeds were good. πŸ˜‰

We now have lettuce, swiss chard, kale, and some more cilantro growing. YAY! On Saturday, I planted dill seeds, so I am anxiously awaiting those to pop up soon.

Here’s some pictures of my new little “baby buds.” Guess it’s about time to do some thinning out?

 

Kelly

Freezer Beans

Back, not that long ago, my freezer was stocked full of pork chops, chickens, steaks, and ground beef. It’s hard to believe it’s only been a year and half since we started our big food and health change. I decided last September, actually on September 17th, that I was done with beef and pork. This came after watching the documentary Food, Inc. After watching the movie, I could never go back to eating cow and pig. Anyways….

My freezer is now very different. It is full of flours of various kinds, frozen vegetables and fruits, and now frozen beans. This was so easy, I don’t know why I hadn’t done it before!

This recipe is to replace canned beans in a recipe by using dried beans. I have trouble finding the “no-salt added” beans, so this is a great thing to have on hand.

Recipe:

Night before: soak dried beans of choice. DoΒ  not use lentils or peas (they will get too soft and are easy to cook up in a recipe).

Next morning: rinse beans and remove any stones or bad beans. Pour beans in the CrockpotΒ  and fill with water until the water line is about 2 inches above beans. Cook beans on low for 6-8 hours.

When beans are soft, let cool. Fill freezer bags with 1.5 cups of beans and some liquid. Be sure to use good freezer bags. If it broke open…um, that could be a mess. Freeze until you need them in a recipe. Let beans defrost before using them in a recipe.

 

Get creative with you beans πŸ™‚

  • Go Italian! Add garlic, basil, and oregano or Italian seasoning to your bean bags.
  • Mexican-food flare! Add cumin, cilantro, and crushed red pepper to your bean bags.
  • Shawn’s favorite stand-by: ROSEMARY!

I’m sure there are more ideas to add to your bean bags for quick seasoning. Just be sure to label if you add anything πŸ˜‰
Enjoy!
Kelly

Double Chocolate Nut Butter Oaties

If this title isn’t enough to draw you in, I am lost at marketing.

Anytime I hear the words “chocolate” and “nut butter” in the same title, my mouth starts drooling. I love chocolate and peanut butter. This heavenly combination is one of the many reasons why, a mere 18 months ago, I was at my heaviest of almost 200 pounds. (AH!)

I have a sweet tooth….really bad. I think that’s why I’ve been drawn to alternative baking. My sweet tooth has changed over the past year and a half. I now crave the sweetness of fresh fruit and enjoy lightly sweetened treats. Refined sugar is now too sweet for my taste buds. But, I think, that is the way nature intended it to be.

Yesterday, Shirley (from glutenfreeeasily.com) posted an excellent recipe that I had to print off right away and try. Super simple, quick cookies that got 5 stars from everyone in my family.

The recipe calls for “nut butter,” (which can mean your favorite butter) and I would probably put in peanut butter as my first choice, if Julia didn’t have an allergy. I substituted “nut butter” for Sunbutter, which is sunflower seed ground up to make a butter. To me, it tastes very similar to peanut butter, but without oil and obviously, peanuts.

I also substituted Stevia/Cane sugar for the sugar in the recipe. The recipe calls for 3/4 to 1 cup of sugar, but trying to be as sugar-free as possible, I opted for 1/4 cup of Stevia/Cane sugar. I found this to be the perfect amount of sweetness. It took the bitterness of the cocoa powder away, and added a touch of sweet. Perfect!

Another item on the recipe list was “oat flour.” I didn’t have any pre-made oat flour. You can purchase some at the grocery store for some crazy price. I chose to not purchase it and just make my own.

Making your own flours is very cost effective. Unfortunately, I do not have a food processor, so making almond flour, for example, is out of the question for me…..until I get a food processor, *wink*! Today was my first attempt at making my own oat flour. I have a so-so quality blender. It’s nothing fancy but today it did a great job on making some homemade oat flour. (yay!)

To make oat flour: pour old fashioned oats in the blender, put the lid on, and press the “on” button. Blend for a few minutes, and then *TA-DA*: oat flour.

Popped the cookies in the oven, and the finished product was: TOTALLY AWESOME! πŸ™‚

You can get the recipe here at Gluten Free Easily: Double Chocolate Nut Butter Oaties.

Enjoy!!

Kelly

 

A Tiny Harvest

Today I pulled out my Nesco dehydrator. I was inspired by GazingIn and envious of all her peaches that she dehydrated yesterday. Our peaches are completely done for the season, here in Texas, so I had to use what we do have.

I decided to try making an applesauce roll-up using the plastic insert pan and pre-made applesauce. I know it’s not fancy and not completely homemade, but I didn’t have time to make applesauce from scratch.

We also had a bunch of bananas, so I diced them up, dipped them in honey, and put them in the dehydrator.

As a last minute through-in, I decided to pull off 4 basil leaves, and put them in there too.

Yes, just 4 little leaves….It’s a very small little tiny harvest, if you would call it that. But I am proud to announce that my very first attempt to grow, harvest, and dry herbs, has worked!

What can I say…..I am impatient.

Kelly