Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Years!


Here's wishing a Happy New Year to all my readers and their families! Hope 2010 is filled with even more blessings than 2009! I will begin with a (very) slow return to blogging, and you will notice that my blog will have a bit of a new feel to it, as I focus my blog more towards nutriton and a whole-foods lifestyle, as that is my biggest passion. Hope you will enjoy the changes!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Family Update--December


Hi, everyone! I promise I will get back to regular blog posting soon--enjoying my babymoon for a few more weeks, especially with the holidays approaching!

All is going so well for the Vega family right now--we are truly blessed! Ryan could not possibly be a better baby. He is sleeping for 3-4 hour stretches at a time, rarely fusses and has the most patient personality I've ever seen in a baby! He's growing like a weed, already 1/2 lb. over his birth weight! Unfortunately, I once again was unsuccessful with breastfeeding, but the important thing is that he eats well and is growing. We just love this new little addition to our family!

Little Henry is a very confused big brother, not quite sure of his new role! He is quite angry that he is not recieving as much attention as he did before, and becomes especially miffed when mommy has to feed the baby! All of a sudden, he has lost the ability to hold his bottle. We are just trying to love on him as much as possible, as well as pray over him for patience and understanding. I feel confident that he will adjust soon. On a more positive note, Henry is quite amused with all of the Christmas lights around the town, and really enjoys listening to seasonal music. He and I are celebrating my birthday together this evening (daddy is working ) with a dinner of roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, broccoli/cauliflower medley and sweet corn, as well as my favorite dessert, chocolate Cheesecake Factory cheesecake--yum!

Brett continues to excell in school, language arts and reading being his strongest subjects. We are really looking forward to his visit over the holiday break, as well as celebrating his birthday on the 23rd! He's very proud to be a big brother again.

That's pretty much it from the homefront for this month!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Welcome, Ryan Clayton Vega!


Hi everyone! Just wanted to share the good news with you all--Ryan Clayton Vega was born Sunday, November 22 at 4:50 am, weighing in at 6 lbs. and 10 oz. He's doing well, as is our family as we settle in with a new baby. More details soon, and thanks for all your prayers!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Nourishing Menu Plan for Baby


After recently posting on the importance of a whole-foods diet for babies and children, I thought I would share with you a typical week in my 10-month-old son Henry's diet. There is certainly a LOT of conflicting information available on how a mother should go about feeding her baby...I find a traditional, whole-foods approach the best and would love to share with you how I implement this in my home:


Breakfasts

Eggs, scrambled in butter with a bit of cream and salt

Soaked oatmeal with fruit, cinnamon, maple syrup, butter and cream

Scrapple, a cornmeal mush that is fried in coconut oil and topped with maple syrup-yum!

Waffles or pancakes, sometimes french toast, again with butter and maple syrup


These are typical breakfasts served in my home. I don't fix special breakfasts for the baby; he just eats what we eat in small pieces. I don't puree anything. Typical sides are potatoes fried in coconut oil w/onion and garlic, sausage, bacon, fresh fruits and toast.


Lunches

Chunks of cheese

Fresh fruits

Yogurt or smoothies

Peanut butter or grilled cheese sandwiches

Soup


I keep lunches pretty simple for Henry, as he usually eats a large breakfast and is not very hungy at lunch time. He drinks fresh fruit juice, water or milk with his lunch.


Dinner

Like breakfast, I do not prepare a seperate dinner for the baby, he just eats whatever we are having. Here are some of his favorites:


Avacado slices with a drizzle of olive oil and some salt

Chilli and cornbread with honey butter (yes, I give him honey, and no, it's never been a problem)

Spaghetti with meatballs

Garlic mashed potatoes

Garlic bread

Acorn Squash with maple syrup and butter

Soft beef, like roast or my braised short ribs

Chicken livers with pan gravy


The list could go on and on! My little guy is definitely not picky. I do not shy away from giving him spices...for example, he loves chilli and it does have cayenne pepper in it. We just adjust the amount of spice for his tastes. He really loves the taste of fresh garlic and onion, as he has been eating it since he turned 6 months old. We also add plenty of fresh steamed/sauteed veggies and fresh fruit to his diet, as well as the occasional sweet treat (he loves cheesecake and tirimasu!) I also ensure that Henry gets plenty of good fats in his daily diet (olive oil, coconut oil, avacado,butter), and he takes a daily dose of Cod Liver Oil as well.


This post is part of Fight Back Fridays at http://www.foodrenegade.com/




Thursday, November 19, 2009

Super-Simple Handmade Hand Soaps


This is my third contribution to "A Handmade Christmas" over at Abbi's blog, Proverbs 31 Living http://www.proverbs31living.blogspot.com/. Today I am sharing a very simple scented handsoap recipe. Besides the fact that it is so easy to make, I like this soap because it uses gentle, natural ingredients and is easily customized to suit the personality of the recipient--color or shape of the bottle, scent, etc...

Here is a list of things you will need to make this soap:


8 oz. soap dispensing bottle ( I have found some really nice ones at Bed Bath and Beyond)

7 oz. liquid castile soap (I use Dr. Bronner's Baby Mild Formula, since it's not scented)

4-5 drops essential oil of your choice, depending on how strong you want the scent

decoratives of your choice--find them in craft stores. Examples are small plastic flowers, sports balls, snowflakes, etc... This is a great way to really personalize the soaps!


Fill soap dispensers with decoratives first; add soap and then the essential oils. Replace cap and shake well to mix. It's that easy!!


Here are some ideas I have used in the past:


For my oldest son and nephew, both 5 years old: Tinted the soap blue with 1 drop of blue food coloring (any more would probably make for blue hands!), added assorted sports balls mini-decoratives, and didn't add any scent.


For the guest bathroom: Made a Christmas soap to put out during the holidays using plastic snowflake mini-decoratives, a pinch of white glitter and cinnamon and vanilla essential oils.


For my niece, 3 years old: Tinted water pink with a bit of red food coloring, added a pinch of gold glitter and heart-shaped mini-decoratives. Used a clear plastic soap dispenser and afixed a Barbie princess cling to the outside of the bottle.


I hope you will join me in having a handmade Christmas this year! Aren't these personalized gifts so much more fun to create?


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Real Food for Mom and Baby


I have just finished up reading a great new book, Real Food for Mother and Baby by Nina Planck. This book explains the benefits of feeding our children a traditonal, whole-foods diet from the time of conception and on through adulthood. Unfortunately, many children today exist on poor diets full of processed, sugar-laden and nutrient-void foods. By the age of 1, many children have already eaten a Happy Meal and are even able to identify the "golden arches" as the symbol of McDonald's!

So, what does the author suggest that children eat? Instead of that Happy Meal, how about a meal of scrambled egg with sea salt and avacado drizzled with olive oil? Your children like to snack on crackers? Replace them with good-quality cheese and fruit! The point is to replace all the over-processed, refined foods with fresh, high-quality ingredients that are as close to their natural state as possible, for example a piece of fresh fruit instead of sugar-laden fruit juices, or butter instead of man-made margarine.

The author refutes several mainstream practices for feeding babies and children, including introducing meats/proteins as on of the first foods for baby, not pureeing foods for baby (let them try small bites of what you are eating), seasoning baby's food with salt and allowing so-called "no no" foods such as fish, shellfish, citrus and honey before baby's first birthday.

She encourages moms to feed their babies lots of high-quality fats, meats, fruits and vegetables, cheeses and cultured dairy, organ meats (especially iron-rich liver!), even fish roe! She also reccomends raw milk rather than pasturized.

The book also has sections on eating a whole-foods diet to increase fertillity, eating well during pregnancy and the importance of mom's diet while breastfeeding.

This is pretty much how I am feeding Henry, and how I will feed the new baby as well. (Unfortunately, I wasn't so informed about the benefits of whole-foods nutrition when Brett was a baby!) I allow Henry to feed himself small pieces of meat, cheese, fruit, bread, etc... If he is eating something very messy or that requires utensils to eat, then I help him: for example, soup or mashed potatoes. I like that when he is self-feeding, he simply stops when he is full. A baby will often eat way more than they want or need when being spoon-fed, just opening their mouth automatically to accept the spoon! I have no reservations about feeding him a high-fat diet, because his developing brain and body need the fat, and I also know the fat he is consuming is high-quality (extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, butter, etc..) We don't use refined sugars, but instead sweeten with maple syrup, honey or rapadura. We try to avoid artificial flavorings and colorings.

I will definitely be following the author's suggestions for the breastfeeding mom with my new baby! As a first-time nursing mom, I want to make sure that my little one recieves optimum nutrition from the start.

I highly reccomend this book for any mom, be it her first baby or her fifth!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mommy Mix


I just wanted to share with you the recipe I use for trail mix. I especially like to snack on this trail mix while pregnant and in the postpartum period, when the body desperately needs to replinish it's vitamins/mineral stores. I hope to be nursing this time, so I will be incorporating more healthy snacks into my diet due to increased calorie needs. I like this mix because it is high in healthy fats, has a bit of salt and sugar to increase electrolyte balance, is high in vitamins and minerals, and just plain tastes great! I hope you will enjoy it too:


Mommy Mix

2 c. whole almonds

1 c. dried cranberries

1 c. raisins (high in iron, crucial for pregnant mamas and recovering mamas!)

1/2 c. raw sunflower seeds(stay away from the roasted ones--use bad fats!)

1 c. dark chocolate or carob chips

dash of sea salt


Mix all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Store in container of your choice. I usually store it in Mason jars, and have one ready to go in my bag for the hospital--makes for great post-labor snacking, especially if the cafeteria is closed!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Preparing for Labor/Delivery--Naturally! Part 3


In this third installment of my preparing for a natural labor/delivery series, I will be sharing with you a recipe I have created for "Labor-Aid", an all-natural Gatorade, if you will.

Staying well-hydrated and energized during labor is critical! Sports drinks, such as Gatorade or Powerade, will do the job, but I prefer not to use them as they are full of artificial flavors, dyes and too much sugar. So, I have created my own concoction to sip on during these final days of pregnancy and while in labor. I find the taste of this labor-aid more refreshing than any of the conventional sports drinks. It provides lots of electrolytes, potassium and a bit of glucose from the honey.


Labor-Aid

3 c. fresh-squeezed orange juice, or substitute with 1 can juice from concentrate

4-5 c. water

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1 tbsp. honey

powder from 3 calcium/magnesium capsules or 3 tablets, finely crushed


Place all ingredients in blender; blend on high one minute. Store in a pitcher in the refridgerator. Best served very cold.


I think you could probably make popsicles with this recipe as well, which would be great for a summertime birth!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Braised Beef Short Ribs and Garlic Mashed Potatoes


We had such a great, comfort-food dinner last night that I just couldn't wait to share it with you today! I had some beautiful grass-fed beef short ribs in the freezer, and was completely at a loss as to how to prepare them. I decided to just throw together some pantry staples, and ended up creating a new family favorite! I cooked the ribs in the crockpot all day, making them tender and juicy, and added some raw garlic mashed potatoes that we covered in the delicious beef drippings from the ribs! Even Henry, 10 months, ate his fair share, and will be eating more of the garlic mashed potatoes for lunch today! I am trying to incorporate both garlic and bone broths into our meals right now, as they are known to boost immunity. (lots of flu going around here in Southern Indiana!)


Braised Beef Short Ribs

2 lbs. beef short ribs, preferably grass-fed

1/4 c. organic apple cider vinegar

1 tsp. rapadura

1 tsp. ground mustard

1/4 c. worcstershire sauce

1 small tomato, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 c. chopped onion

1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning

salt and pepper to taste


Place all ingredients in crockpot; cook on low for 6-7 hours, or until meat is tender. If you prefer a thicker sauce, remove about 1 c. of the drippings from crockpot and mix with enough cornstarch to make a slurry; add slurry to crockpot, stir, and cook about 20 min. more on high.


Garlic Mashed Potatoes

8 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and quartered

8 cloves garlic, well-minced

1 c. butter

1/2 c. milk or cream

salt to taste


In a large stock pot, bring potatoes to a rapid boil; cook until tender. Drain the potatoes well, then add to a mixing bowl along with butter, salt, milk and raw garlic; use mixer to whip potatoes until smooth. Serve with short ribs and drippings.


I don't cook the garlic, but add it raw right before mixing--this ensures that we recieve the maximum health benefits of the garlic. Mincing it very fine keeps the potaoes smooth, not lumpy. I like that this meal contains lots of good quality fats, as well as garlic, very beneficial in the prevention of colds/flu.


This post is part of Food Renegade's Fight Back Fridays http://www.foodrenegade.com/

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Handmade Christmas Thursdays!--Week 2


Today I am sharing another recipe from our family's Christmas feast--empanadas, small, meat-filled pastries from Peru.


The combination of ingreedients in empanadas may sound a bit strange to our American pallete, but I assure you, these are delicious! I think I ate about one dozen of them myself last year at Christmas. To my defense, I was nine months pregnant with Henry!


Peruvian Christmas Empanadas

Dough:

5-6 c. flour (white works best--I tried with whole-wheat--BAD!)

2 sticks of butter, softened

About 1 1/2 c. hot water, enough to make a firm, pie-crust-like dough

1 tsp.salt


Pour flour onto a clean, dry working surface--I always use my table. Make a well in center of flour pile; add butter and one half of water into the well. Add salt, and began to hand-knead the dough, slowly incorporating in more water until the dough has the consistency of pie crust. Cover dough with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about an hour. Roll dough to about 1/4 in. thickness; use a drinking glass or a small biscuit cutter to cut out round discs of dough.


Filling:

1 lb. ground meat of your choice--we like beef, but have used chicken as well

1 anaheim chilli pepper, chopped

1 1/2 c. thinly-sliced green onion

pinch of cumin

1/2 tsp. each of salt and pepper

3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped

1/2 c. raisins


Brown the ground meat in a large frying pan; add chilli and cumin, salt and pepper. Remove from heat and add onion, egg and raisins.


Assemble:

Place about 1 tsp. filling in each dough disc; fold in half, turnover style, and seal edges with the tines of a fork. Place empanadas on a greased baking sheet; brush with beaten egg yolk. Bake at 375 for about 25 minutes, or until well-browned.


This post is part of "Having A Handmade Christmas" at Proverbs 31 Living, http://www.proverbs31living.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Looking For Healthy Fudge/Christmas Treats Recipes!


With the holiday season quickly approaching, I have gotten the urge to start preparing my family's favorite Christmas goodies. However, this year I am in the process of revamping all of our favorites into treats with more wholesome ingredients...whole-grain flours, natural sweeteners, etc...

A few of these switches have been easy--for example, swapping out regular white flour for whole-wheat pastry flour for quick breads and cookies. It's also fairly easy to swap rapadura or honey for sugar. The one recipe I am having a particularly hard time swapping is fudge! My family loves fudge, and in preparation for the holidays, I began tinkering with my tried and true fudge recipes about three months ago. With the exception of a peanut butter-maple fudge, not one single fudge I've made has been acceptable to the family!

I am asking for my dear readers to please help me with this issue. If you have a healthier way of making fudge, please send me your recipes! I am also looking for recipes for other types of holiday goodies as well...send 'em my way!


Our family especially likes these types of fudge:

Orange cream

Old-fashioned fudge w/pecans or walnuts

Peppermint white chocolate

Peanut butter


Any help you can give me will be greatly appreciated!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Take the 30-Day Gratitude Challenge!


Revive Our Hearts Ministry http://www.reviveourhearts.com/ is hosting a brand-new challenge, the 30-Day Gratitude Challenge. The purpose of the challenge, according to their website, is "to cultivate a heart of gratitude and begin your journey to joy!" What better time than the holidays to focus on being gracious! It is our tendency to become so wrapped up in ourselves and what we want than express gratitude for what we already have.

Participating in the challenge is easy--simply sign up at Revive Our Hearts website, and an e-mail will be sent to you daily for the next 30 days. Each e-mail is a scripturally-based lesson on gratitude.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss has also written a book on the topic of gratitude entitled "Choosing Gratitude; Your Journey to Joy". Revive Our Hearts Ministry is offering this book all November long to anyone who makes a donation to the ministry.


Please join me in taking the 30-Day Gratitude Challenge!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Making Your Home A Haven--Muffin Tin Lunches


Over at one of my favorite blogs, A High and Noble Calling, Stephanie is hosting a weekly series named Making Your Home a Haven. There you will find posts from different women bloggers about what they do to make their families feel special and how they create a warm and loving environment in their homes. I am really excited to be part of this event!


My contribution to Making Your Home A Haven today is Muffin Tin Lunches, something I like to do for my children. The concept is simple--I pull out a couple of my muffin tins and fill each well with a finger food. Sometimes we use a theme, for example, "Ocean Day", in which I made a mini-octopus out of a hot dog (I'm sure you have seen that before!), fish-shaped crackers, cookies in the shape of shells, and mac and cheese with shell pasta. (Conincidentally, we do not eat a very healthy lunch on muffin tin day...just fun!) Sometimes, we don't even use a theme, I just fill up the tins with assorted finger foods. Here's what we have used in the past:


Grapes

Rolled up slices of turkey or roast beef

Cheese cubes

Tiny triangles of grilled cheese or peanut butter sandwiches

Carrot sticks w/ dipping sauce, usually ranch

Raisins

Cheerios

Apple slices

Bannana slices

Almond or cashews (for the older one)


We are currently planning some holiday themes and even "Mexican Day" per my oldest's request--I am trying to figure out how to make tiny tacos!


It's pretty easy to adapt muffin tin lunches to fit any age of child since it's pretty much ala carte. My 10 month old enjoys muffin tin lunch day as well!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Pregnancy Update--3 Weeks Left!

No, that is not my belly...wish it were! Would you believe that both our webcam and our digital cam are both broken! At least we have the camcorder.


I can't believe it's almost time for sweet blessing #3 to be born! I am definitely ready, especially with Henry's birth still fresh in my mind (it was, afterall, only 10 months ago!). I have alternately been bitten by the nesting bug and the lazy bug this last few weeks...one day very productive, the next logging a lot of time on the couch. This is a combination of what I experienced with my previous two pregnancies, having been really ran down and tired with Brett and super-spry and productive with Henry. Right now I am just finishing before baby tasks such as getting the layette washed and ready, preparing and freezing meals for the first few weeks after Ryan's arrival and moving Henry in with big brother Brett, as they will now be sharing a bedroom. We are also turning our spare bedroom into a playroom/schoolroom.


I definitely suggest preparing freezer meals to any new mom! This is going to be a lifesaver for us. Here's what I have done so far, and what I have yet to accomplish:





Pizza Dough x2--finished


Italian Sausage, browned, ready for pizza--finished


Batch of Dinner Rolls--finished


Chicken Broth--finished


Blueberry Coffee Cake--finished


Corn Tortillas--finished


Chicken Enchiladas x2--one down, one to go!





What's Left


Refried Beans


More Dinner Rolls


Cookie Dough--Snickerdoodle, Cinnamon Chip and Mint Chip (seasonal, ready for holiday)


Farmhouse Chicken (chicken and stuffing casserole)


Spaghetti/Pizza Sauce x4


Ground Beef, portioned into 1lb. dinner portions, cooked and ready to go


Pot Roast w/carrots, potatoes and onions


Italian Beef x1 for sandwiches





That's just what I have planned...I am sure I'll come up with more:)





As for my post-baby blogging plans, of course I will need ample time to rest. I'm also planning on nursing for the first time, so it will be a time of adjustment for me, as I really don't know what to expect. I plan on posting at least twice a week, and would love to have some guest posters, if any of you are interested! I will announce Ryan's birth, pictures and all, as soon as he is born!





If anyone would be interested in guest posting on my blog while I'm on break, leave a comment and let me know. You can also e-mail me at aw4735@avenuebroadband.com. Hope to hear from you!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Preparing for Labor/Delivery--Naturally! Part 2


For this go-round of my Preparing for Labor/Delivery--Naturally! mini-series, I would like to introduce you to a wonder product by the name of Dr. Christopher's Pre-Natal 6 Week Formula.


During the first two trimesters of pregnancy, I use Rainbow Light prenatal vitamins. I like that they use natural ingreedients, contain red raspberry leaf and have added ginger to help with nausea. I find them much more gentle than any other prenatal I've used. However, I do not think that using a prenatal should take the place of good nutrition. I try to get the bulk of my vitamins/minerals through high-quality, whole foods. During the last six weeks of pregnancy, I switch from Rainbow Light to Dr. Christopher's Pre-Natal. These are not a prenatal vitamin, but rather a proprietary blend of herbs designed to promote optimum uterine function and prepare the uterus and cervix for delivery. It is important to note that since this is not a regular prenatal that it is important to eat well to ensure you are getting the proper vitamins/minerals that your still-growing baby needs!


Here is a list of the herbs that Dr. Christopher's contains:

Squawvine

Blessed Thistle

Black Cohosh

Pennyroyal

False Unicorn Root

Red Raspberry Leaf

Marshmallow Root

Lobelia


Used in conjunction, these herbs are said to have a powerfull effect on the uterus' and the cervix's ability to work together as a team to aid in a more productive (possibly faster!) and less painful delivery. Who wouldn't want that?:)


The recommended schedule for this product is to begin taking one capsule daily for the first week of the last six weeks of pregnancy, then two capsules daily for the second week, finishing with two capsules three times daily for each week hereafter. I personally take one capsule daily the first week, two daily the second week and four capsules daily for the rest. (Six just seems like an awful lot to me!)


I have never seen this product in a conventional pharmacy, nor at my health food store. I have seen it in various natural pharmacies on-line, and even on Amazon.com. The best deals I've found have been at http://www.vitacost.com/ and http://www.mynaturalpharmacy.com/.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Teething Problems Solved!


Last week, I wrote a post imploring my readers to send me their suggestions on helping a fussy teether. I came to the conclusion that the only thing that could relieve my little guy's pain was infant Tylenol, which I am not opposed to using when necessary, but it was CONSTANT!

Yesterday, while slicing apples for an apple pie, Henry began to fuss for a snack. Well, I plopped him down in his highchair and put a slice of apple into his Munchkin mesh feeder, hoping he would munch on that while I finished the pie. Well, munch he did! I noticed that the cold apple slice was doing more than quelling his hunger, but was soothing his gums! He was much less fussy and we actually had a pretty pleasent evening. When he started to fuss again in the early evening, I put a cold slice of pear in the feeder, and it worked again! I had previously tried using frozen grapes in the mesh feeder to help with teething pain, but he didn't like it too well...maybe he just doesn't like grapes!

Our particular mesh feeder is made by Munchkin. We bought it at Babies 'R Us for about $4.00, and I think it was definitely a good little investment! I have also seen this product at Wal-Mart and Target. It's also good for letting babies new to solids get a taste of fruits and veggies that would otherwise pose a choking hazzard to them. I like to give Henry slices of tangerine or orange, as he would not be able to handle that white membrane or the seeds.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Handmade Christmas Thursdays!







In honor of the first official "Having a Handmade Christmas" over at Abbi's blog, Proverbs 31 Living, I am submitting our family's favorite recipe for panettone, a Peruvian-style Christmas fruitcake. This is absolutely delicious, with a texture more like a bread than the fruitcake we eat here in America. It has a light citrus flavor and is really good when smeared with fresh butter. Peruvians traditionally celebrate their Christmas feast at the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve. The menu features this cake, spiced hot chocolate, roasted pork, empanadas(meat pies) and champagne. My husband absolutely can't celebrate the holidays without panettone! He was planning on traveling to a city 2 hours away to purchase an authentic panettone this year, but fortunately, I found and tried this recipe, and it's dead-on to the original if not better. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!






Panettone



2 tsp. active dry yeast



1 c. hot water



2 eggs



1/4 c. melted butter



3 1/4 c. flour (does not work with whole-wheat flour)



1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract



zest of 1 complete orange and one complete lemon



2 tbsp. sugar(I use rapadura)



1/2 tsp. salt



2 tbsp. milk



chopped, dried mixed fruits, about 1 1/2 c., but depends on you!






Proof the yeast in 1 c. hot water with a little honey or sugar for 5 minutes. Add all other ingreedients to the pan of your bread machine, if using one, or else combine in a large mixing bowl and mix until well-blended; slowly incorporate the yeast. If using the bread machine, let it run through on the normal bread cycle. If doing by hand, prepare just as you would a normal, yeasted loaf of bread. Allow to rise 2x and bake in a angelfood cake pan at 375 for 30 min.



Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Preparing for Labor/Delivery--Naturally!


This is the first in a mini-series of posts on what I will be doing to prepare for a natural childbirth/post-partum period. I desire to give birth and heal as naturally as possible, with minimum medical intervention. I will be giving birth in the hospital, as there are not any midwives available here where I live for homebirth:(


My first preparatory herb I would like to share with you is Red Raspberry Leaf. I am currently using this herb in tea form, drinking about 3 cups daily of Traditional Medicinals Organic Pregnancy Tea. Red Raspberry Leaf has been used by pregnant women for years as an aid in toning the uterus, thus producing stronger, more effective contractions. I used this same tea during my second pregnancy and noticed a HUGE difference than with my first. Brett was much smaller at birth than Henry, but the labor was significantly more difficult with Brett. Of course, this could be because he was my first, but I was a lot younger and in better shape, so I feel like the tea had something to do with it! I definitely felt that my contractions were more productive, and a lot less painful.


Red Raspberry Leaf is also available in a supplement form. I've never tried it this way, only in tea form. I would suggest the Traditional Medicinals Organic Pregnancy Tea, as it has a lovely, herbal-sweet flavor, kind of like spearamint. I do know that you can also buy the leaves in bulk at http://www.mountainroseherbs.com/ to make your own tea. I suppose that this would be a more frugal option, though I've never tried it. I find the TM tea a bit on the pricey side (about $5 per box of 16 tea bags) but I like the taste and the results.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Aji De Gallina, aka, Chicken with Chili


As promised in my meal plan post, I am featuring the recipe for Aji De Gallina, a really delicious Peruvian chicken stew. As you may know, my husband, Henry, is from Peru. The food of his country is a little different than things that we eat here in America, but I find that it's pretty good, very simple and hearty.

This particular recipe is my favorite Peruvian dish! It features a rich chicken stew served over a bed of rice (traditionaly jasmine rice) and served with steamed potatoes and hard-boiled eggs. Sounds a bit strange, but I promise you it works! I feel I should add that this dish is traditionally prepared with a chili by the name of "aji amarillo", but it is impossible to find here! It is a small, orangish-yellow chili pepper that resembles the scotch bonnett chili, only much less heat! Do not try to use the scotch bonnett as a replacement. If you are fortunate to live near an ethnic market, you might try to see if they carry this chili in a paste form. The best replacement I have been able to find when I don't have the chili paste is anaheim peppers.


Aji De Gallina

2 chicken breasts, bone in and w/skin

4-5 anaheim chillis, seeded and chunked

10 slices of white bread, crusts removed

pinch of cumin

pinch of turmeric

olive oil, enough for frying

1 small onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 c. evaporated or fresh whole milk


In a large stockpot, cover chicken breasts with enough water to cover; add whatever aromatics (onion, celery, carrot, etc...) you like to make broth. Bring to a boil and cook until chicken is cooked through. Reserve 2 c. broth. Remove chicken from pot and allow to cool; shred chicken and discard bones and skin; set aside. Place chunks of chili in a food processor with enough water to blend, about 1 tbsp. Blend until completely smooth. In a frying pan, fry onion and garlic in olive oil; add chili and continue to fry, about 6 minutes. Add bread and milk to the pan; cook on med-low for about 10 min. Add chicken to chili mixture and simmer on low about 10 minutes, until thickened. Add cumin and turmeric, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve over a bed of rice with halved steamed potatoes on the side. Halves of boiled eggs are traditionally served atop the chicken mixture.


There you have it! Maybe this will be the first time you have ever tried Peruvian food--I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

What Our Family is Doing to Celebrate the GIVING in Thanksgiving


I LOVE Thanksgiving. I love the food, the fellowship with family, the anticipation of the approaching Christmas season and I love the opportunity to express thanks and gratitude for all the blessings my family and I have recieved over the year.

Thanksgiving is definitely a time for expressing thanks, but this year it has become clear to me that there are two words that make up this holiday's name: Thanks and Giving! So, as a family, we have decided to put a bit more focus on the giving part of the holiday this year.

Currently, we are putting together a very large box of food for the local food panty. This box just keeps growing and growing! It really saddens me that many people don't have a Thanksgiving meal each year because they just can not afford it. I hope that in some way we can contribute to a needy family's being able to enjoy a warm holiday dinner! I am also searching for a local organization or church that may be serving a free Thanksgiving meal to those in need. My hope is that we could, as a family, spend part of our day serving to those who are less fortunate than us. Of course, I am making plans loosely, as I am due to give birth on the 28th!

We are also keeping a journal of both our thanks and our giving an using it in our devotional time.

What are your Thanksgiving plans this year? How are you keeping this holiday intentional?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Winter Menu Plan


The cold weather has officially arrived, and although it's not quite winter yet, we are craving classic winter comfort foods! I've decided that it's time to start with my winter meal plan. Here's a look:


Breakfasts


Eggs and Bacon or Sausage, Bread x2

Oatmeal x2--soaked, then prepared the next day w/ fruit, cream, butter and honey--yum!

Pancakes or Waffles--seasonal flavors, like pumpkin or gingerbread!

Scrapple or French Toast w/ Butter and Maple Syrup, Bacon

Coffee Cake and Hard-Boiled Eggs


Lunhes


Lunch is flexible, provided we have leftovers from the previous night's dinner. If not, we usually eat one of these:

Chicken Caeser Wraps

Baked Potato w/ Toppings

Soup

Peanut Butter and Jam Sandwiches


Dinners

Of course, we leave room for special evenings or requests, but during the colder months, our dinners alway seem to revolve around these favorites!

Chicken Enchiladas

Aji de Gallina (Chilli w/ Chicken), a spicy Peruvian Chicken Stew (recipe in a later post)

Soups--looking for new recipes, especially ones using lentils.

Beef Roast/French Dip Sandwiches--two meals, one roast!

Pizza--this is on each season's menu plan!

Hearty Pasta Dishes--Spaghetti w/ meatballs, Lasagna, Rigatoni w/ Italian Sausage

Pork Roast

Roasted Chicken


Of course, with each dinner I like to round it out with fresh bread and some sort of veggie side: our favorites are baked sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, broccoli with garlic and butter, tossed salad, braised cabbage with bacon or butter and winter squashes. We have been blessed with an abundance of bitter greens, especially kale, but we are VERY tired of it--no more kale, please :)

Friday, October 30, 2009

New Family Pictures

Check out my new family pics on my homepage! I promise I'll post one of myself as soon as I can get out of these sweatpants and brush my hair :)

Superfoods Your Baby Should Be Eating


Contrary to popular belief, those little jars of fruits and veggie baby food are not "the best start" for your baby! Most pre-packaged baby food has been cooked at very high temperatures for a long amount of time, leaving it void of important nutrients. The meat varieties are often made with low-quality meat sources and are also nutritional duds.

So, how can you ensure that baby is recieving proper nutrition? The most logical step would be to make your own baby food! Yes, it is VERY time consuming to peel, chop and puree--I know, I've done that! However, you do have other options. Did you know that not everything your baby eats has to be pureed? If you would have told me this when my oldest was starting solids, I would have thought you crazy! However, through the years, I have been fortunate enough to have met some very wise, seasoned mothers (one a pediatrician!) who showed me that it's ok to just give baby whatever you are eating. Small, mashed-up bites of course! This is the approach I have taken with Henry, and I feel very confident knowing that he has be recieving adequate nutrition from a very young age. He is 10 months old, and so far, he's not been sick even once--no cold, nothing! I chalk this up to a strong immune system, but also to our family's whole-foods diet, rich in fruits, veggies and lots of protein. And since he's accustomed to eating what we eat, he is not picky and will eat things like onion and garlic (great immunity boosters this time of year!) and ethnic foods (good since his paternal side of the family is Peruvian.)

So, what are some of the highly-nutritious foods that I feed my baby? Here is a list:


Beans and Lentils--full of fiber. Yeah, they do make him gassy, but not too much since I soak them first.

Brown Rice--I often use this as a base to a breakfast porridge, an alternative to oatmeal.

Eggs--protein powerhouses, and easier for baby to digest than meat.

Avacado--I cut it into little chunks and season with sea salt and lime--he loves it!

Broths--full of important nutrients, like magnesium and zinc. Excellent protein source.

High-quality Fats--I cook with butter, olive oil and coconut oil, and I make sure that Henry consumes these fats daily.

In addition to these foods listed above, my baby's diet consists of lots of fresh veggies and fruits and high-quality dairy. He doesn't like meat very well, but occasionaly will eat fish, especially salmon. That's why I try to increase his protein through other sources, like eggs and bone broth. One thing I do not allow him to have is sugar in excess! All the sweeteners we use in our home are natural, like rapadura, honey (not recomended for babies under 1 year of age!) and stevia. I cannot, however, control what he eats at mamaw and papaw's house! That is where he gets the occasional sweet treat.

These are some of the nutritious, whole-food items I feed my children--I'd love to hear what you do with your little ones!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

We're Having A Handmade Christmas!


Abbi at Proverbs 31 Living (http://www.proverbs31living.blogspot.com/) is hosting "Having A Handmade Christmas", a series encouraging others to join her in celebrating a simpler Christmas season. I am joining up with her, so you will see posts here about some of the things our family does to keep the Christmas season simple and Christ-centered. I encourage the rest of you to join Abbi in celebrating a simpler Christmas. If you have a blog, you can link your posts up with Abbi's blog each Thursday. She has a list of possible post topics on her blog that you can check out for inspiration.
Join me next Thursday, as I will be posting about one of our favorite Christmas treats, pannetone, a Peruvian-style fruit cake!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Book Review--The Christian Childbirth Handbook


The book The Christian Childbirth Handbook by Jennifer Vanderlaan has been a valuable resource to me since giving birth to my second child--I wish I would have read it when I was pregnant to my oldest! Full of scripturally-based encouragement, this book thouroughly explains all the stages of pregnancy, labor, delivery and post-partum in a biblical manner. This book does not explain pregnancy with just medical terms, but encourages the reader to think about pregnancy and childbirth in spiritual terms. I especially enjoyed all of the scripture references that pepper the book--I never realized the wealth of information that the Bible contains on the subject of giving birth! I have written several of these scriptures down on index cards and plan on using them for focus while giving birth next month. There are also mini study guides at the end of each chapter, allowing for more personal introspection and a chance to delve deeper into what God's word has to say about certain aspects of childbirth.

Here is one of my favorite passages from the book:


"Your child is on loan to you from God. You are the steward of that which is entrusted to your care. This means you have some control over what happens, but it is not without responsibility. Authority always comes with responsibility. God will hold you accountable for how you have cared for his child, because he does have a stake in the outcome of your pregnancy."

(Taken from The Christian Childbirth Handbook by Jennifer Vanderlaan)


I highly suggest this well-written book to any pregnant woman, no matter if it's her first pregnancy or her tenth!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Help Needed--Teething!!


I haven't posted for a few days, and hope things return to normal soon, but I have been quite busy with a very fussy, teething little boy! Henry is cutting 8 teeth all at once, including two painfull eyeteeth! I have tried several things to aleviate his pain, but to no avail. I've tried cold washcloths for chewing, a frozen teething ring and frozen grapes in a mesh feeder--none worked!

I am asking for input from my readers....what remedies have you used to help with teething? I would prefer natural, non-medicine remedies only, please, as we prefer not to use medications unless very necessary. (A bit of Tylenol, however, was very necessary after a night of tossing and turning and no sleep for mommy, daddy or baby!) Thanks for your help!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Frugal Meal of the Week-Bacon and Green Onion Quiche


Just wanted to share a recipe for Bacon and Green Onion Quiche, one of our family favorite meals. I like this recipe because it's not only delicious, but frugal, since it uses eggs for the bulk of the dish. Paired with a green salad, it makes a hearty, satisfying dinner. This recipe makes enough for 2 quiches, so we often eat the second one for breakfast. I like to prepare this dish on Saturday nights, that way there is a quiche ready for our Sunday morning breakfast (hard to prepare a breakfast when you are in a rush to get to church!).


Bacon and Green Onion Quiche

Crust:

2 c. whole-wheat pastry flour (or 1 c. whole-wheat, 1 c. white)

1 c. lard or butter, cold

2-3 tbsp. ice cold water (you may have to adjust the amount)

Cut lard or butter into the flour until crumbly; add water and knead well to form dough. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let sit in the refridgerator at least one hour. Remove dough from wrap; seperate into 2 halves. Roll each halve to about 1/4 in. thick; place in pie pan, preferably deep dish. Use fork to tine the edges. Trim away any excess dough.

Filling:

12 eggs

about 8 strips bacon, chopped up and fried

1 c. sliced green onion

1/2 c. milk

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 c. grated cheese of your choice--we like parmasean, but my mother loves it with Swiss!

Beat together the eggs, milk, cheese and salt/pepper. Place half of the bacon crumbles in the bottom of each pie pan; do the same with half of the onions. Pour egg mixture into the crust. Place in a 350 degree oven and bake about 15 min. Check frequently. This never cooks for the same ammount of time, so you may have to increase the baking time. Quich is done when top browns over slightly and the center is springy.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Simple, Natural Earache Remedy--Garlic Oil!


It's that wonderful time of the year again--ear infection season! Both my niece and nephew have recently been treated for ear infections, and I noticed Henry tugging on one ear today, but he doesn't seem to be distressed and shows no signs of fever, so we'll just wait and see. However, I figured it's probably a good time to whip up some garlic oil to have on hand, just in case.

As I have mentioned before, garlic truly is a wonderful natural cure-all! Not only is there evidence that it supports cardiovascular function, but it is loaded with anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties as well, making it a must-have during cold and flu season. We use it a lot during this season, eating it in various soups and pastas, taking it as part of my cold and flu tonic, or using it to treat ear infection. Here is the recipe for garlic oil:


Garlic Earache Oil

2 cloves garlic, crushed well

1/2 c. olive oil

Heat the olive oil until very warm; add garlic and remove from heat. Let sit, about 1 hour; strain garlic. Pour cooled oil into a glass bottle or jar until needed.

To use: Drop about 3-4 drops of oil into affected ear; lay down and relax on opposite side, about 10 minutes. Plug the ear with cotton ball to prevent drainage.

Note: It can be extremely dificult to get a baby or toddler to lie down for 10 minutes! I usually just apply the oil directly behind the ear, as it will seep in through the skin. This is just a little extra insurance, as the oil I actually get in the ear usually comes right back out before I even get the cotton ball in!

Easy Chicken Caeser Wraps


This is a quick and easy lunch favorite. Great with chips, fresh fruit or a bowl of soup!


Chicken Caeser Wraps (recipe for 2 wraps)

1 c. cooked, cold chicken breast meat

shredded Romaine lettuce

1 small sliced tomato

1/2 c. sliced thin red onion

honey mustard dressing*

italian dressing*

parmasean cheese

2 large wrap-size tortillas (you could try making your own, but we found a great natural brand)


Warm tortillas over med-high heat griddle; allow to cool. Assemble wraps by placing all ingreedients in the tortillas; roll up burrito-style. Cut in half before serving.


*You can certainly substitute Caeser dressing for the honey mustard/Italian combo. I use these two because we don't care for Caeser dressing, and I make my own Italian and honey mustard.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Getting Control Over Womanly Emotions


Blame it on pregnancy hormones, but my emotions have been out of control lately! Everything seems to be piling up on me these last few weeks--hubby is working long hours, leaving us very little time with each other as a family, baby Henry is cutting teeth like mad, making him irritable and needy, and last trimester pregnancy discomfort is allowing me about 4 hours of sleep per night, leaving me cranky and physically uncomfortable! I have lashed out in anger towards my husband and my son several times this week. I have spent plenty of time on my knees in prayer over these events, and it has convicted me of several truths:


Don't Use Hormonal Imbalance as an Excuse for Sin!

When I snap at my husband or children, my first reaction is to blame it on my hormones, be it pregnancy, post-partum, or just that lovely time of the month! Ladies, we can not blame our sinful tendencies (anger, selfishness, depression, etc...) on our hormones! Yes, hormonal imbalance is real, but we can not use it as an excuse for sin. Try to know your body, how you will feel in certain seasons of life. If you struggle monthly with your emotions, mark it on a calendar! Be ready! Make it your goal to eliminate as much stress as possible by serving simple meals, doing only basic housekeeping, etc.... That way, when you start to feel tired and irritable, your work load will be light, freeing you up to relax and just enjoy the company of your loved ones.

Rely on God!

Oh goodness, what a revelation for me! Instead of letting my emotions have complete power over me, I should turn it all over to God! Why is it so hard for us (women) to do this? Why do we have this super-woman mentality that tells us we have to do everything perfectly, every single time? I believe God specifically puts us in certain situations and seasons at certain times to reveal truths to us about ourselves. What He has revealed to me right now in this end of pregnancy melt-down that I am having is that I need to cry out to and rely on Him much, much more! I am to dependent on my own strength to get me through dificult times, and my faith is weak in this area. Thank you, Lord, for revealing to me the truth!

Rejoice in the Trials!

Sometimes we just have to step back and see the bigger picture. Sometimes what feels like the weight of the world on your shoulders isn't really that big of a deal in the long run. Is one day of a fussy, teething baby really worth all the frustration when compared to the joy of raising that child? More often than not, a trial is for our own good, teaching us and humbling us along the way. Remember, this too, shall pass!


As women, it can be extremely dificult to control our emotions--I struggle with this issue quite a bit myself! We must remember that any struggles we have with this particular issue can be layed down (again and again, if necessary!) at the feet of Jesus. He doesn't want you to deal with this on your own.


Sisters, I would love to hear how you deal with womanly emotions, as I am always looking for tips in this area!

Saturday, October 17, 2009


One of Henry's toy baskets
My children have a very simple toy collection. I feel this in necessary for a variety of reasons--to build contentment in children, to discourage materialism, to encourage reading and imagination and keeping clutter at bay, to name a few! We try to avoid battery-operated (noisy!) toys at all costs, but my children have been gifted with a few, and that's ok. The problem with these kinds of toys is that it is costly to replace the batteries (have you priced batteries lately?) and they do not encourage a child to use his/her imagination. If my baby does have a battery-operated toy, I generally just turn it off. He really doesn't know the difference, and hapily plays with them anyways, sound or no sound! This is a bit more dificult with my older child, but I try to encourage him to do more reading or outdoor play.
So, what kind of toys do my children play with? I prefer wooden toys--they're more durable, thus able to be passed down the line to younger children, and they encourage immagination! My baby has a few plush animals, board books, wooden blocks for stacking, stacking rings, a piggy-bank with big, plastic coins (battery-operated, but we ususally turn the sound off) and a really cute wooden truck, a gift from his grandfather. He plays with them, but because his toy collection is small, he does a lot of crawling and exploring instead, developing his natural curiousity.
Brett's toy collection is a bit of a work in progress! I am currently in the process of narrowing down his toy box, getting rid of all the cheap, plastic toys from kids' meals and all of the toys he has outgrown. He really doesn't play with toys very much, and is more content to play with balls, play outdoors, read, paint and draw or play games. Brett never really even showed interest in toys when he was a baby! He does, however, have a mini John Deere motorized tractor that he loves to ride around on outside. That's the only extravagent toy he has.
Keeping the toy collection simple has an added bonus--less mess to pick up! Who really likes to see a child's room overflowing with toys? I keep each child's toys in old laundry baskets and plastic storage bins, and they are never overflowing. It's also been easier to train my children to pick up their toys because they are not overwhelmed by the task!
Further Resources
www.keeperofthehome.org/2009/08/waldorfinspired-real-play.html --nicely written article on incorporating the Waldorf method of real play, using simple, natural toys.
www.melissaanddoug.com --website offering a wide variety of beautifully-crafted wooden toys for all ages.
www.parentmap.com/content/view/124/433/ --article about creating an educational playroom environment.

What To Do With All Those Bitter Greens!


Since I prefer to buy my produce local and in season, my kitchen is being held hostage by bitter greens right now! You name it, I have it--kale, collards, mustard greens, etc...

Although I am extremely thankful for the abundance that God provides for our family, I must say that I am a bit overwhelmed every time I open my refridgerator and see all these greens! By nature, they are a bit boring, and I really have no idea what to do with them.

While visiting All Recipes website today, I came across a decent-sounding kale recipe, and we tried it for lunch. I wasn't expecting much, but I must say this dish was quite tasty! I want to share with you the recipe:


Italian-Style Kale

1 bunch kale, stems removed and coarsley chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

Cook the kale in oil over medium-high heat until wilted; reduce volume by half then stir in additional ingreedients. Cover and let simmer 5 minutes and serve hot.


There you go--an easy way to enjoy bitter greens!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Homemade Chicken Stock


What could be better on a cold and rainy day than some hot chicken soup? Considering all the abundant health benefits of consuming chicken broth, this yummy soup should grace our tables every day, especially during cold and flu season!

Chicken stock is chock full of essential nutrients and mineral, including calcium, magnesium and potassium. Adding veggies, such as onion, celery, carrot and fresh garlic increases the vitamin content substantially, as well as adding flavor. Using chicken stock is an excellent alternative to using lots of costly meat in one's diet--add it to bread stuffings, mashed potatoes and steamed veggies for extra flavor and nutrients!

So, how to make the perfect pot of chicken stock? Here is my method:


Chicken Stock

1 whole chicken, about 4 lbs. and preferably free-range (better flavor!)

enough distilled water to cover the chicken, about 8-10 cups

2 stalks celery

1 large yellow onion, halved, with skin on(makes for a lovely yellow color of stock)

2 carrots, peeled and halved, if large

5-6 cloves chopped fresh garlic

salt and pepper to taste


Add all ingreedients to a large stock pot; if your chicken comes with the liver, heart, neck and gizzard, throw those in the pot too! They will lend extra flavor and nutrients. Bring stock to a rapid boil; lower heat to about medium-low and allow to simmer for 2-3 hours, covered. When cool,strain veggies and remove the chicken. Save for a later use, or shred some up and add it back to the stockpot with some noodles for soup. I always add a little more garlic at the end of the cooking process, for it's extra antibacterial properties and because we just love garlic.


We use chicken stock all winter long, and I must say that we hardley ever get sick in the winter!


For more information on the benefits of broth, check out http://www.westonaprice.org/

Brett's First-Ever School Picture!!!


Just wanted to share my proud mama moment with you all! This is my oldest son's kindergarten picture. I was crying like a baby when I saw this for the first time. Our children grow so quickly!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Family Update--October


As you can see by the photo, our family is staying on our toes right now! Baby Henry just started crawling, and he is everywhere! He's also teething with a vengance right now, cutting 8 teeth at once, so life is not always so peaceful here in the Vega family! Christmas should be fun this year, trying to keep a little one away from the tree!

Brett, my 5-year-old son, is doing very well in school. I don't think I've ever explained the situation with Brett and our unique living arrangement. Brett lives with his father in a city about 1 1/2 hours away during the school year. His father and I work well as a parenting team, and although I wanted to homeschool Brett, his father felt strongly against it. We were able to come to an agreement that pleased both of us: he will stay with his father during the school year in order to attend an outstanding Christian school, something that is not available here in the small town I live in. He comes to stay with us on all his school holiday breaks and during the summer. Occasionaly he stays on weekends, too. Although the seperation is dificult, he is excelling in his school! It is also important for boys to spend much time with their fathers, and I am thankful that his father is such an active parent! We are looking forward to Brett's visit for the winter break.

As I mentioned before, we have chosen not to celebrate a traditional Halloween, but instead will take the opportunity to share the Gospel message with any trick-or-treaters that come to our door. I am passing out Lifesaver candies with a message of salvation tract. I am going to dress Henry in costume(something cute, like a cuddly animal) and let him help me pass out the candy.

I am busy preparing for the birth of our new baby, a boy, due in 6 weeks! I am trying to fill our freezer with plenty of hearty casseroles that will be easy to just pop in the oven, add a salad and fresh bread, and voila, instant dinner! This is something I wished I would have done when my other two were babies. So far, I have put away some pizza crusts, pancakes, a blueberry crumb cake, chicken enchilladas and chicken and broccoli casserole. I am also going to put away a few portions of refried beans, taco-seasoned meat (for tacos, chili and taco pizza) and some other casseroles. Since Henry is only 9 months old, all of his baby clothes are ready for baby! That has definitely been a blessing.

Henry, my hubby, has been super-busy working, putting in some long hours of overtime. Although we miss him, I love and admire him for all the hard work he does to provide for our growing family! We do manage to get in one night a week for date nights, which allows us to relax and connect after a hectic week. Henry enjoys time with his Grandma and Grandpa while we go out to dinner.

We have high hopes for a Christ-centered Christmas season this year--can't believe how fast it's approaching! I'm trying to plan for everything now, as I know things will get hectic when the baby arrives, but this is nothing new to me, as Brett was born on December 23! I can't really explain why, but I just feel like this Christmas is going to be extraordinary for our family this year! I hope we will have the opportunity to bless many people.

I was planning a fall ladies tea for sometime this month, but alas, I've not been dilligent in planning for that--I think it will be a Christmas tea instead!


That's what's going on in our family this month--what about yours?


Monday, October 12, 2009

Suggestions Needed--Breech Birth!


After meeting with my doctor on Friday, I recieved the discouraging news that my baby is presenting in a breech positon. This came as a total surprise to me, as both of my previous pregnancies were normal.

So today I'm asking my dear readers if they may have any suggestions for me as to how I can get this baby turned around! Also, in the event that the baby will not turn, is it possible to deliver a baby naturally in the breech postion? Have any of you done this? My doctor is really big on scheduling an automatic c-section for breech babies, and I really don't want to go that route!

Any info you can give me will be greatly appreciated!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Newspaper Interview with a Godly Woman

Hi everyone! Just wanted to direct you to this beautiful post at Passionate Homemaking blog. Lindsay was recently interviewed by her local newspaper, and you can read the interview here at www.passionatehomemaking.com. Lindsay has an inspiring blog and a true heart for God! Please go and check out the interview and her website, as it will bless your heart. This really encouraged me in my role as wife and mother!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Comforting Fall Recipes!


I love fall, and I especially love all the comfort foods that come with this cooler season! My family especially adore all the yummy treats that arrive with fall--caramel corn, hot cocoa, etc... So what's a girl to do when all of these treats are considerably unhealthy (lots of sugar, processed flour, etc..)? I've been revamping some of my family's favorite fall treats into healthier versions that we can induldge in without the guilt! Here are a few I would like to share with you:


Pumpkin Cake

2 c. pumpkin puree or solid-pack canned pumpkin

2 c. rapadura (natural sugar alternative)

1 c. olive oil or melted coconut oil

4 eggs, lightly beaten

2 tsp. baking soda

2 c. whole-wheat pastry flour

2 tsp.cinnamon

1 tsp. ground clove

1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

dash sea salt

Frosting

4 oz cream cheese, softened

5 tbsp. melted butter

1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

2 c. heavy whipped cream, whipped to stiff peaks

Chopped nuts to top (I use a candied pecan recipe that I found at Passionate Homemaking)


For the cake: In a large mixing bowl, combine all dry ingreedients; set aside. In a seperate bowl, combine all wet ingreedients; add with dry ingreedients and mix well to combine. Pour batter into a well-greased brownie pan or 2 round cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Allow to cool.

For the frosting: Beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla until smooth; gently fold in whipped cream.

Assemble the cake: Just leave the cake in the pan (if using 2 round cake pans, take them out!) and frost the top with cream cheese frosting. Garnish with nuts.

**What I did to make it healthier: The original recipe called for white flour, which I replaced with whole-wheat pastry flour. I suppose you could also prepare it with 1 c. whole-wheat and 1 c. white flours, if you like. I also substituted rapadura for regular sugar, and coconut oil for vegetable oil (olive oil works as well). For the frosting, I pretty much stuck to the original recipe, only I substituted whipped cream for the powdered sugar the original called for, thus making a frosting with a lighter texture. I prefer the original frosting, but until I can find a better substitute for powdered sugar, this is it! Also, I tried soaking my flour for this cake mix the night before I baked it, and it just didn't turn out so well. I will continue to improve that process!


Mulled Cider

1/2 gallon fresh, unpasturized apple cider

3 cinnamon sticks

2 tbsp. whole clove

2 oranges, cut in halves

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

rapadura to taste

Combine all ingreedients in a large stock pot; simmer on low for about one hour. Strain all the solids before serving in mugs.


Caramel Corn

1/2 c. popcorn kernels

olive oil for popping

dash sea salt

4 tbsp butter

1 c. sorghum

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Pop the popcorn in olive oil in a large pot; remove from heat, add salt and set aside. In a saucepot, melt the butter; add sorghum and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, stirring continuously. Add vanilla. Pour hot syrup over the popcorn and allow to cool a bit before serving.

**What I did to make it healthier--I adapted this recipe off of my mom's caramel corn recipe. To improve it, I substituted real butter for margarine and sorghum for brown sugar, with similar- tasting results!


Cinnamon Rolls

Proof the yeast: 2 tbsp. dry active yeast, added to 1 c. hot water with 1 tbsp. honey for 5 min.

2 1/2 c. milk

1/2 c. butter

1/2 c. honey

4 tsp. sea salt

8 c. whole-wheat pastry flour

While the yeast is proofing, melt butter in a large saucepan; add milk, honey and salt. In a large mixing bowl, add flour with the milk mixture; add yeast mixture, stirring until all ingredients are well-combined. Knead the dough 5-10 min.; place in a large bowl, cover and let rise about 1 hour.

Filling

1/2 c. butter, melted

1 c. rapadura

1 tbsp. cinnamon

Mix all ingreedients in a bowl and set it aside.

Assembling the Rolls: Punch dough down and knead out all the bubbles. Cut the dough in half. Roll each half of dough out into a large rectangle; use a pastry brush to brush on the cinnamon mixture. Roll dough up, jelly-roll style, and cut into 1/2 inch slices. Place on a greased cookie pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Caramel Frosting

2 c. heavy cream

1 c. sorghum

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 tbsp. butter

Combine all ingreedient in a saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to boil and immeadiately remove from heat. Continue to stir, 1-3 minutes, or until thickened. (You may need to add a bit of cornstarch/water slurry to thicken it). Frost over cooled cinnamon rolls.

**What I did to make it healthier: I substituted whole-wheat pastry flour for white flour, butter for margarine and rapadura for sugar. Although I love traditional cream cheese frosting on cinnamon rolls, once again I ran into the powdered sugar problem. So instead, I created this ooey-gooey caramel frosting, which is a delicious alternative, using sorghum, a natural sweetener.


I hope you enjoy my healthier alternatives to some of falls finest treats. I would love to hear what fall favorites your family enjoys!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Christ-Focused Christmas


My family is trying to be intentional this year in the way we approach the Christmas season. Often times, we all have a tendency to get wrapped up in the many festivities that surround the holiday season, that we forget the true meaning of Christmas. This year, we plan on being very purposeful in sharing the hope of Jesus Christ with all guests that grace our home, as well as strangers we may meet at community Christmas events.

One great resource I've found for opening up Christ-centered conversation is the "10 Questions to Ask at a Christmas Gathering" by Donald Whitney. You can visit his website at

http://www.biblicalspirituality.org/ as it contains a wealth of information on reaching out to others in Jesus' name.


1.What was the best thing that happened to you since last Christmas?

2. What was your best Christmas ever? Why?

3. What was the most meaningful Christmas gift you've ever recieved?

4. What was the most apreciated Christmas gift you ever gave?

5. What was your favorite Christmas tradition as a child?

6. What's your favorite Christmas tradition now?

7. How do you try to keep Christ in Christmas?

8. Why do you think people started celebrating the birth of Jesus?

9. Do you think the birth of Jesus deserves such a nearly world-wide celebration?

10. Why do you think Jesus came to Earth?


Christmas is such a special time, ripe with opportunities for us to share our faith and the Gospel message! Make sure to pray before all of your Christmas gatherings/events, that you will have the opportunity to share the Gospel and be an example of Christ's love.


It's not too early to start purposefuly planning for the Christmas season! Sit down with your family now to discuss how you can all be intentional in reaching out in Christ's name this holiday season.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Carob--Natural Alternative to Chocolate


I have been experimenting for some time now with carob as a natural alternative to chocolate. Carob is a pod from a tree that is naturally sweet and has a similar flavor to chocolate, making it a great substitute, especially in baked goods and smoothies. The two ways I have used carob are in powder form ( replacing cocoa powder) and in chip form ( replacing chocolate chips for cookies and other baked goods). I have had very good results with carob, and since it contains no caffeine or added sugar, I have found it to be very beneficial with my oldest son, who has an extreme sensitivity to sugar! This has allowed him to continue enjoying baked goods with the rest of the family.


I would say you can substitute carob powder for any recipe calling for cocoa powder, and the chips for any recipe calling for chocolate chips. Please note that they don't melt like regular chocolate chips!


Here is a recipe for a great Protein Smoothie that I have adapted to use carob powder. I like to use this smoothie to get in my pregnancy protein requirements, without added sugar.


Protein Smoothie

1 cup vanilla-flavored yogurt

1 frozen banana, cut into chunks

2 tbsp. raw honey

2 tbsp. carob powder

1 tbsp. raw sunflower seeds

1 tbsp. chopped dates

1/2 cup natural peanut butter


Blend all ingredients in blender until smooth. You can add a few ice cubes if you desire a more frosty smoothie, just increase the blend time by a minute or so.


I have also used carob chips to make my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe--just sub them in for your regular chocolate chips!


I have purchased carob powder and chips both on-line and in my natural foods store. Try amazon.com or Azure Standard for on-line buying.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Middle-Eastern Hummus Plate


I absolutely love Middle-Eastern food, especially hummus! I first tried this plate while living several years ago in Florida at a Mid-Eastern cafe, and found it quite easy to replicate at home. Although I suppose you could use store-bought hummus for convenience, I prefer to make my own, as it is easy and more nutritous (no preservatives, soaked chickpeas, etc...)


Here's the basic set-up for the plate:


Hummus

Whole Kalmatta Olives

Chopped Tomatoes

Sliced Red Onion

Sliced Cucumber, previously marinated in olive oil and a bit of apple-cider vinegar

Fresh Pita Bread or Naan

Tabbouli Salad


Here are the recipes for homemade hummus and tabbouli salad:


Hummus

2 cups chickpeas, soaked overnight, simmered until tender

1 tbsp. garlic

1 tsp. garam masala (Indian-style spice you can find in most large supermarkets)

4 tbsp. lemon juice

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 tbsp. tahinni (sesame paste)

chopped cilantro, salt and pepper to taste


Soaking Step--in a large bowl, cover the beans with about 4 cups water and 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. Soak overnight, draining water and rinsing well in the morning. Simmer beans until tender, about 2 hours.


Puree all ingreedients until smooth in a food processor. Chill 2 hours prior to serving.



Taboulli Salad

2 c. cooked whole-wheat couscous, chilled

4 tbsp. olive oil

4 tbsp. lemon juice

diced red onion, as much as you like

1 tbsp. chopped fresh mint

1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

salt and pepper to taste


Toss all ingredients to combine; Serve chilled


To assemble the plate: Place a good-sized scoop of hummus on the plate; garnish with tomatoes, olives, onion, cucumber and taboulli salad. Serve with pita or naan


For a tutorial on making your own tahini paste, go to this link:

www.grouprecipes.com/41754/homemade-ta (It's easy, and a lot more frugal than store-bought!)


Simplify With Menu Planning


One of the easiest ways I've found to streamline mealtime (STRESSFUL with a 9-month-old!) and grocery trips is to meal plan. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with meal planning, it is an organizational system of planning out what your family will be eating for a specific time frame (weekly, monthly, etc...).

As of now, I prefer a weekly menu plan, as being pregnant causes me to constantly change my mind about what I want to eat! To make my menu planning easier, I try to stick to certain dinner themes for each night of the week. Here's how I am doing it right now:


Monday--date night--out to eat with hubby!!!

Tuesday--stir-fry or omlettes

Wednesday--crockpot (could be anything, but for us it's usually Italian)

Thursday--chicken, fish or casserole

Friday--pizza

Saturday--main dish salad (taco salad, grilled chicken salad, etc..) or soup, depending on season

Sunday--leftovers or something very simple, like sandwiches.


I sit down on Saturday nights to make out my weekly menu and it's companion grocery list. I always ask my husband for his special requests (always pizza!) and either fit them in to one of the catergories or make an exception for his request. I do try to remain flexible with menu planning, as I always like to try new recipes, but I find that most recipes generally fit in to my plan. I prepare side dishes according to what I have and what is in season (lots of salad in the summer, root veggies in the winter, etc..). Being organized with menu planning has saved me quite a bit of time, not only in preparing meals, but with trips to the store as well! I make one trip to the grocery store (and one to the farmers' market in spring/summer) on Sundays to buy everything needed for the week.

I don't use a theme for breakfasts or lunches, just try to keep them quick and easy for simplicity's sake! Here's a typical week of breakfasts and lunches in our home:


Breakfast:

Monday--eggs, toast

Tuesday--oatmeal, fruit

Wednesday--bagels, butter, smoothies

Thursday--eggs, toast

Friday--oatmeal, fruit

Saturday--french toast, pancakes or scrapple

Sunday--something super-fast, as we are out the door to church!


Lunches are usually leftovers from dinner the night before. If there are no leftovers on hand, then I may use one of the following options:


Lunch: chicken or tuna salad, bean burritos with salsa, grilled turkey sandwiches with tomato soup, peanut butter and jam, chicken caesar wraps or hummus plate with pita bread, tomatoes, cucumbers, sliced onion and black olives.


This is what works for me! I realize this system may not be usefull to everyone, but it has definitely saved me quite a bit of time and money. I like the feeling of knowing exactly what I will make for dinner each week, saving me last-minute dinner stress!


I would love to hear from you about your meal planning systems!


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

All-Natural Immunity Tonic for Cold and Flu Season


Ok, bear with me....this may sound a little yucky, but I have a wonderful recipe for an all-natural cold and flu tonic that really works. I dole this one out to my family any time they start to feel a bit under the weather, and symptoms just vanish! This has truly been a blessing to us.


OK, now for the yucky part: this recipe consists of a rather strange combination of ingreedients.


Immunity Tonic:

1 tbsp. fresh chopped garlic (anti-bacterial properties)

2 tbsp. honey (preferably raw, for extra healing properties)

1 c. warm water or echnaciea tea

2 tbsp. raw apple cider vinegar (anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties)

Combine all ingreedients in a coffee mug; drink fast! (as not to taste!)


It really does sound horrible, but you have my word--this stuff works!