Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thought for the day...

If a sudden jar can cause me to speak an impatient, unloving word, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
For a cup brimful of sweet water cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, however suddenly jolted.
~ Amy Carmichael

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Homemade Rice Milk

As I have shared before, we have been trying to eliminate dairy in our house because of one of my daughter's allergy to it and because it is just overall a more healthy choice.  There are times, however, that you just want some milk for your oatmeal or cereal. We have bought soy milk, rice milk and almond milk, but they can get pretty pricey.  Well, I discovered that you can make these milks at home for a fraction of the cost and it is easy.  I shared some friends that I was making my own rice milk and they looked shocked.  "You make your own rice milk?"  They seemed impressed.  Well, once you hear how easy this is, you will find me very unimpressive. [wink]  AND you will think twice about spend $4 for a half gallon of it in the store.

Homemade Rice Milk

Step 1:  Cook up some brown rice.  I like to use my rice cooker, but any old way is fine.  Just follow the directions of the package.

Step 2:  Add 3 cups of your favorite water to your blender.

Step 3:  Add one cup of cooked brown rice to blender.

Step 4:  Blend.  Your water will turn white and milky fairly quickly.  I keep the blender running on high for several minutes to pulverize the rice thoroughly.

Step 5: Add flavorings if desired.  I usually add a squirt honey or agave nectar while the blender is still running.  If you like the vanilla flavor like they sell at the store, add a splash of vanilla extract, too.  You could even add chocolate if that's your thing.

Step 6:  Enjoy!  You can strain it if you want, but I don't find it is very gritty unstrained.  You can also just let it sit for a minute and let the things settle a bit.

See, I told you it was easy!  You can use this same technique for any grain based milk.  I plan on trying quinoa as another healthy alternative.  You can also use this method to make soy milk.  Just cook the soybeans and use them instead of rice.  You will probably find that you want to strain that, though.

Later I will share with you how to make almond milk as well as other nut milks.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I Have Gone Green

There is much talk about being "green" in our lifestyles. We can "save the planet" by recycling or using florescent bulbs.  I am all for being a good steward of the earth God has given us, but that is not what I am going to talk about today.  Let's discuss being good stewards of our bodies instead.

In a quest to eat healthier, hubby and I started on a new diet, a new way of eating.  We are using the Hallelujah Diet as our guide.  It is a plant-based diet with a goal that at least 85% of food intake is raw.  I have to tell you, this is a challenge and quite different  from our previous diet.  We had been eating a lot of fruits and vegetables and I was cooking nearly everything from scratch, but this is step further.  There is much less cooking and much more preparing of fresh produce.

Something we have begun to incorporate into our daily diet are green smoothies.  Although familiar with smoothies, I had never heard of a green smoothie before.  It is a smoothie packed full of fruit, but also leafy green vegetables such as spinach or kale.  Greens are packed full of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and even protein.  But who wants to consume platefuls of greens every day?  By mixing them in a smoothie with lots of fruit, you get a sweet treat AND your greens. 

Since, we have started this diet, the green smoothies are what we seem to get asked the most about, so I thought I would share how we make them.  I don't use a recipe, but more of a formula:

  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups liquid:  I usually use water, but you can use juice for a sweeter smoothie, or milk for a creamier one.  Almond milk is very tasty.
  • 1 to 2 bananas:  They make it creamy and sweet.  You can use fresh or frozen.  We take over-ripe bananas, peel them, and keep them in a ziplock in the freezer.  Watch for reduced, brown bananas in your grocer's produce department next time you are there.
  • 1 to 2 handfuls of greens:  Spinach is my favorite, but kale is tasty.  Sometimes I mix in some beet greens.  Put in what you like, the darker the green the better.  I avoid strong tasting ones like turnip greens because I prefer to taste the fruit not the greens in my smoothie.
  • 1 to 2 cups fruit:  Whatever you like is good.  Red grapes are sweet and delicious.  Since it is winter, I have been using frozen fruit a lot.  You can find big bags of blueberries and strawberries.  There is also a nice blend of mango, peach, pineapple and strawberry.  Yummy!  This is a good opportunity to use fruit that is getting a bit soft to just eat.  I am not a fan of squishy kiwi, but they are delightful in a smoothie.
  • Extras:  Some things I like to add to our smoothies are fresh ginger (a little bit goes a long way), milled flax seed, or a spoonful of nut butter ( good if this is going to replace a meal).  If the fruit I used was not very sweet, I may add some honey, or dates. 
Now blend away!  If you are using a lot of frozen stuff, you may find you need extra liquid to get this blended. If you have used a lot of berries, your smoothie won't be as green, but instead a bit more brown.  Don't worry, it will taste good.

Hubby takes a quart of this to work with him every day.  I usually drink some green smoothie at breakfast and often put it in my travel mug when I have to eat on the run.  Our day schedules have been pretty busy this year and often I am struggling to get my lunch in at home.  It is usually acceptable to bring a cup into a meeting, but not a meal.  Everyone assumes that I am just drinking my coffee, when often I am "eating" my lunch right in front of them.

Green for LifeEven if you don't want to radically change your diet, adding green smoothies will benefit you.  They are full of healthy goodness and will help to curb your appetite.  Victoria Boutenko in her book, Green for Life, talks about an experiment they did called the Roseburg Study where they got 27 people to commit to drinking a quart of green smoothie daily for a month.  They didn't change their lifestyle otherwise.  Then they documented the changes in their health.  It was pretty remarkable.

So there you have it.  As my husband says, we are becoming hippies with all this healthy living.  It is our running joke.  If being a hippy means feeling better and losing weight, I am OK with that!

Other green smoothie resources:

Friday, January 14, 2011


A new family favorite in the house is homemade hummus.  We used to buy the ready-made stuff at the store, but it is a bit pricey.  When you figure that it is made up of mostly garbanzo beans (chickpeas) it is a fairly inexpensive thing to make.  We like it with tortilla or pita chips, fresh veggies, and I have caught my oldest just eating it with a spoon.  Hey, it is gluten-dairy-egg free and yummy.  Who can blame her?  This is the recipe out of the Vita-Mix Whole Food cookbook with a couple of tweaks. (Yes, we were blessed with a Vita-Mix for Christmas.  I am sure I will be sharing more about that later.)  Although this calls for canned beans, you can save even more money by buying a big bag of dried beans and cooking them.  It is super easy and then we bag them in individual portions and put them in the freezer for later use.

  • 2 (15 oz) cans chick peas, one drained, one with liquid
  • 1/4 cup raw sesame seeds (or tahini)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (about the juice of one lemon)
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • salt to taste
  • handful of fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped (optional)
Process all ingredients except the fresh herbs (if using) in a blender or food processor.  Once smooth add herbs a process just enough to mix them through (If you blend too much, your hummus will turn green.  Trust me; I know this from experience.)

You can get creative and flavor your hummus with roasted red peppers, spinach, or other herbs.  Use your imagination.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Greatest Wealth is Health

I have no idea who originally said, "The greatest wealth is health," but they are so right.  You don't realize it until you are not feeling up to par.  We had the influenza go through our house the week after Christmas.  I was down for 3 days with a fever of 102-103 degrees.  Not fun, but I was blessed that my hubby was home that week and could manage the household.  I thought I was completely back on my feet, but I have never gotten rid of all my sinus congestion.  Sunday I woke up with the beginnings of a fever blister which is a sure sign that my body is fighting something and each day since I have felt more worn down.  This morning I am finding that my brain just will not kick into gear and I am so tired.  Sadly, though, it is not possible to rest.  There is a home to manage, schoolwork to do, we have our gym class co-op this afternoon and really need to go to the grocery store.  We even have outside commitments this evening.

I am not really sure why I am sharing all of this.  I guess I am using this blog space as a sort of brain dump.  I am thinking about how do we function as Christ followers when we are struggling to just do the basics?  Having made the choice for Christ, I know that I have crossed over from death to life, I am clothed in His righteousness, I am on the eternal path.  BUT I am still living here in this earthly realm full of sin and trials and sometimes I feel like I am just sitting here wallowing in the mud not accomplishing anything of significance. 

Some days it is really hard to see the eternal in the midst of the laundry, messes, errands, and children's squabbles. I wonder what it even looks like in the midst of the chaos of life.  Then my little girl comes up and snuggles onto my lap and looks at me with those adoring eyes.  There it is!  I just saw a glimpse of it.  Or I look at just the right time to see someones kind action toward a stranger at the grocery store.  Again, I realize I have gotten another small taste of something heavenly.  If you look, these touches of heaven are all around us, but they are so easily hidden in the midst of the ordinary, the chaos and the busyness.  These small acts of love and kindness towards others, THESE are the eternal things.  These are the things that matter.  So, even though I am tired, and would much rather crawl back in bed than be the mom today, I choose to go forward.  I will go about my day with intention.  I will remember that my actions today do have eternal significance because when I show love and kindness in the middle of the mess, someone else may see it and recognize Christ in me.  THEY will get that taste of the eternal.  And isn't that really what it is all about?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Gluten-Free Baking

Well, I am officially trying something new.  I think I have shared a bit about my oldest daughter and her stomach issues.  We had allergy testing done on her and discovered that she is definitely allergic to dairy, confirmed that she is allergic to pork as well as possibly being allergic or sensitive to many other foods.  She has decided to "go with her gut" and cut out a lot of different foods from her diet.  She is feeling SO MUCH BETTER, so she is very determined to be disciplined in this area.  She cut out dairy and mourned the loss of cheese. She also eliminated all meat, and eggs.  This helped a lot, but she realized that there was still something bothering her.  It seemed that her beloved bread was giving her stomach aches.  So, she decided to try cutting out gluten.

You may wonder what is left, what in the world DOES she eat.  Plenty of rice, fruit (fresh and dried) and veggies.  Back in November hubby and I decided to eat better and started to follow the Hallelujah Diet which is a plant based diet consisting of 85% raw food.  This fits very well with the way that Elizabeth has been eating already.  However, she has been complaining that she is craving crackers and bread.  Santa tried to buy her some for her stocking, but couldn't find a single store-bought gluten-free cracker that didn't have any dairy or eggs.  Store-bought gluten-free bread is ridiculously expensive and I have been told is not very tasty.  So, I decided that I had to find all the strange ingredients required and make my daughter some gluten-free goodies.

Cooking for Isaiah: Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Recipes for Easy Delicious MealsA friend who is going through the gluten-free thing with her son, told me about a book she found called Cooking for Isaiah.  In it, the author has a recipe for for a gluten-free all-purpose baking mix that she uses for all of her recipes (which are also dairy-free).  I decided to mix some up and create some crepes.  I suppose this was pretty adventurous since I have never done the gluten-free thing OR ever made crepes.  They were delicious!  We stuffed them with fresh apples, raisins, honey and cinnamon.  My only complaint was that they took forever to make.  That was only because I had one pan to make them in and had to do them one at a time.  That was a s-l-o-w process when cooking for a family of eight.  Next time we will stick with pancakes and put the fruit on top because I can get a couple of griddles going at once so we aren't cooking all morning.

Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day: 100 New Recipes Featuring Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, and Gluten-Free IngredientsNext I decided to tackle gluten-free bread.  I have shared before that I have been making bread for the past couple of years using the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day technique.  Their newest book includes several gluten-free recipes.  I picked one that the main ingredient was corn starch of all things.  Although the dough does not behave like traditional bread dough, the bread came out very good with a heavy yet springy texture.  My daughter was thrilled to have bread once again!  Next time I may try this recipe and compare it.

 Both of these recipes I used called for eggs.  My daughter has given these up too, so I had to get creative.  I remembered reading years ago in the Tightwad Gazette that you could substitute 1 tablespoon of soy flour plus 2 tablespoons of water for 1 egg in a recipe.  There it was done for frugality, I decided to try it for health restrictions.  It seemed to work just fine.  I have never tried the egg versions of these recipes to compare, but we were very satisfied with how things came out.  I think you can by a soy-based egg substitute, but I am sure it costs way more than this method.

So, I would have to say that my initial attempts at gluten-free baking have not scared me off.  I think I will continue to experiment with it.  The gluten-free ingredients are definitely more costly than wheat flour, so I will probably not bake like this for everyone in the house all the time.  I will have to come up with some sort of balance.  Perhaps I will try baking several things, cutting them into single serving sizes and freezing them. Then when we are eating something that my daughter can't have, we can pull something out of the freezer for her and thaw it in the microwave.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

I highly resolve...

Yes, it is a new year.  I have never been a big fan of new year's resolutions.  It seems silly to me that I should try to change my self or my circumstances just because I am bringing out a new calendar.  I do go through times when I am craving renewal and do resolve to make changes, but they are related more to what is currently going on in my life.  When things are getting chaotic and out of control, I knuckle down and make some changes.  However, this year, things are feeling pretty disorganized after this holiday season and I am feeling like I need to make some changes. 

So here it is, for what it is worth.  These are the areas that I am working on.

I highly resolve to:
  • continue following the Hallelujah Diet to feed myself and my family which we started back on November 1st.  I think it is the right path to get us healthier.
  • become more minimalistic.  This comes from a tried and true packrat.  However, I am trying to change my thinking and simplify my stuff.  No easy task for me in household of 8, but it is a goal that I am working towards.
  • strive to be more organized with my time and my stuff.  Always something that I need to do.
Hopefully, I can find the time to elaborate more on these goals in the coming week and share some of the tricks I plan to use to accomplish them.   But I am putting them out here for all to see and hold me accountable.