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 ( 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


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.


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 --nicely written article on incorporating the Waldorf method of real play, using simple, natural toys. --website offering a wide variety of beautifully-crafted wooden toys for all ages. --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

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 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


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.


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 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 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:


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:


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: (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


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:


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!

Monday, October 5, 2009

My Favorite Warm and Frugal Fall/Winter Breakfast--Oatmeal!

Although I love oatmeal and could eat it any time of the year, there is something so comforting about serving up a steaming hot bowl in the cooler seasons of fall and winter. Not only is oatmeal delicious, it's lest costly and much more nutritous than cold breakfast cereals (full of sugar, improper grain preparation, etc...), making it the ideal breakfast for families.

It is important to prepare in advance when making an oatmeal breakfast. To ensure optimum nutrition, oats must be soaked overnight to release phytates, a chemical in all whole grains that prevents nutrient absorption. To soak my oats, I place about 1 1/2 cup rolled oats in a mason jar, add enough water just to cover the top, my acid medium of choice for oats, 1 tsp. yogurt and about 3 tbsp. whole-wheat flour (not necessary, but helps break down phytates more quickly). You could also choose to use an acid medium of apple cider vinegar, lemon juice or kefir (like yogurt, only more liquidy) if you like, but I prefer to use the yogurt for oatmeal and save the vinegar and lemon juice for beans or other grains as they are more sour! Shake up all the ingreedients in the jar and set on your counter to soak all night. If I am adding any kind of nuts to my oatmeal, I add them with the rest of the ingreedients to let them soak all night as well. In the morning, just dump the entire contents of the jar into a pot; add additional cooking liquid if you like, or keep it as is for a more porridge consistency. Cover and allow to simmer about 5 minutes. Serve with your favorite toppings. My family likes dried cranberries, raisins, honey and milk, cinnamon, butter and sometimes even fried apples.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Hospitality Ideas for Fall

I love any excuse to entertain people in my home! Maybe it's because my husband is away at work nine hours daily that I crave a little adult interraction, but all the same, I love having company. Before, my focus has always been on making sure the home is spotless and sweet-smelling, that I had an impressive dish to serve, etc... Not that those things are not important; when we invite guests into our home we do indeed want to offer them our best! But recently, I've become convicted that the focus of inviting people into our homes should be more on sharing the Gospel with them. Many places in Scripture state that the home, not the church, were centers for evangelism. As a culture, we've begun to move away from this practice, feeling as if our homes are our "personal space" not to be invaded. However, Scripture tells us otherwise (Mary and Martha ring a bell?).

I really get inspired to host visitors in my home during the fall; crisp, cool air, warm smells of apple pie and freshly baked bread from the oven...I could go on and on. I want to share with you some of my plans for extending hospitality during the next couple of months, including how I plan to keep entertaining Christ-focused.

Ladies' Tea

I am planning on hosting a Ladies' Tea this month for several of my female family members and friends. I will prepare some delicious treats (seperate post on this) as well as have a question and answer session with the ladies that I obtained from Girl Talk blog that has some wonderful questions designed to steer the conversation around to faith and the Gospel message. I will also pray for all the ladies before they leave my home, as I am trying to implement this practice with every person who enters my door!

Sharing the Gospel on Halloween

This year, my family and I have chosen to not celebrate a conventional Halloween, but instead use this time to share the Gospel message with any trick-or-treaters that may come to our door. I plan on passing out my fall trailmix (dried cranberries, candy corn, peanuts and mini-pretzels--not super-healthy, I know, but it's a once a year treat!!!) as well as a role of mini lifesavers candy with a tract sharing the Gospel message that I downloaded here: It comes in English and Spanish!

Baking for New Moms

I plan is to bake some fresh bread, cinnamon rolls or cookies for new mommys that I know. I will be including a Biblicaly-based card with each of these care packages.

Blessing My Neighbors

I am ashamed to say that I have never met the elderly couple that lives next door to us, and we have been living here one year now! My plan is to prepare a wonderful home-cooked meal of baked chicken, dressing, sweet potatoes, rolls and broccoli and deliver it to the couple and, if they desire, share company with them. They are both pretty much confined to their home, so I am sure they could use an encouraging word!

Those are my plans for now. Of course, I would like to do more, as I have hundreds of ideas, but I am trying to take it easy in these last seven weeks of pregnancy! I would love to hear from you about how you do hospitatlity!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Dangerous Truths Behind Vaccinations

I just wanted to share this nine-part mini-series about some of the dangers behind common childhood vaccinations. I found this series on Youtube today, and it's very interesting. It's about one hour in length. I feel that no matter what your stand is on the whole vaccination issue, it's good to be informed! I myself am not in favor of vaccinations, as my oldest son was vaccine damaged as an infant. Henry hasn't recieved any vaccines and I plan to do the same with the new baby. Here is the link to the mini-series:

It's broken up into nine parts, so you have to click on each part to start a new one. They are numbered, making it easy to follow.

More Resources:

The Doctor Sears website--a wealth of information about the risks involved with childhood immunizations. You can also find his book, The Vaccine Book, here.

Vaccinations: Deceptions and Tragedy by Michael Dye--informative, well-written book discussing dangers of vaccination. I found this book at

Thursday, October 1, 2009

How To Stretch a Whole Chicken

Has anyone else noticed the price of chicken slowly but steadily increasing? Chicken has always been one of the more frugal sources of protein I use to feed my family, but the increase in price has inspired me to take a look at ways I can stretch one good-sized whole roaster into several meals. Through experimentation, I discovered that I can use one roaster (4 lb. roaster that I bought for six dollars!) into FIVE meals!!! Here is what I did:

Meal 1: Made a Roasted Chicken with potatoes and carrots; served with tossed green salad.

Meal 2: Picked carcass clean; shredded the breast meat and set aside; boiled the carcass for a rich, nutrient-packed bone broth. Used thigh meat and one leg for a stir-fry with veggies and some brown rice.

Meal 3: Made chicken salad with cranberries and pecans with the breast meat.

Meal 4: Served leftover chicken salad sandwiches.

Meal 5: Used the bone broth to make a hearty soup of veggies, noodles and whatever meat was left over from the carcass pickings. We actually ate this for lunch the next day, too!

I have even heard about people using all of the skin from the chicken and frying it for dinner, but I won't be trying this one soon! (I don't like chicken skin!)

I would love to hear how you frugally stretch any kind of meat!