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Friday, August 31, 2012

What people without cable do for fun

I always laugh when people ask me what we do for fun without having 549 channels on the TV.

This is what we do.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Freezing berries for later, using a DIY vacuum seal

I'm in the middle of canning a few times a week - stock, pickles, etc.  Peaches will be coming up this weekend, and then there are the plums and apples from the neighbor's yard that I need to get working on...

When all is said and done, I don't have time to use all the gleaned blackberries to make blackberry syrup or jam just yet.  So, I freeze those berries to do something with later.  You know, when I have more "free" time.  If you've ever frozen berries, you know if done incorrectly, you'll get a giant berry clump that is hard to thaw.  You end up having to use the entire clump, even if you only need a handful for something.  My method works great, takes little time, and keeps your bag o'berries from turning in to a berry brick.

1) Rinse your berries, and pick out any leaves that you may find.

2) Put a piece of parchment paper on a large baking sheet, and spread the berries out, trying to make sure they're not all clumped up.
3) Put the baking sheet in the freezer until the berries are frozen solid.

4) Once frozen, transfer the berries to a freezer-proof Ziploc bag.
5) Close the Ziploc all except for the last 1/2 inch in a corner.  Stick a straw in that opening.
6) Suck the air out of the bag, and close that last little gap, trying to let the least amount of air escape.
Voila, you have a "vacuumed sealed" bag of berries that you can use later.  Every time I open my deep freeze, I give the bag a squeeze to make sure the berries aren't clumping up.
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Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Link is fixed now.  Sorry I'm such a numbscull

I can imagine the first person who realized that chocolate and peanut butter went together.  Two awesome things, and putting them together.  Genius.  Why did it take so long?

That is how I felt when I discovered Tophatter- it's like ebay and Etsy got married and had a kick ass baby.

Tophatter holds "auctions" on homemade items made by sellers (and other non-homemade items), and participating people (like me or you) can bid on the items.  Each bid increases the selling price of the item until the final bid is accepted and the item is sold.  It's pretty exciting, and there were a few times I wanted to choke out some of the little animated people who outbid me on items.

If you use ebay to sell items that are laying around your house, you might want to consider the live auction function of Tophatter, because your items are sold very quickly.  They have tons of different auctions - gourmet food, supplies, weekend bazaar, vintage estate sale, etc.  A little something for everyone.

And if you want to get a little something for you, sign up now and you'll get a $5 credit to spend on any item that you're the winning bidder!  Be careful though, you might find the site a little addictive!

Note: this is a sponsored post by Tophatter.  I was approached to be a Tophatter affiliate, and liked the site so much that I agreed to join!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Mostly Homemade Mondays Week 10

It's Monday - that time of the week for Mostly Homemade Mondays - the link party for people who like cooking healthy food, but sometimes have to rely on the occasional store-bought item. And for crafty people. And gardeners.

Got something cool you posted recently on your blog? Link up so that the rest of us can see the awesomesauce!

The "rules":

1) Please link back to this post so that people reading your blog know they can find more fantastic posts here!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Meal plan for August 27th - September 2nd

Our house is in lock-down.  No one in, and no one out, lest we infect the whole world.  What started as colds, has morphed in to ear infections and pink eye.  Goodness gracious, I even took a nap today!  I'm so pissed off at being sick because I know I've missed out on a whole week of gleaning free blackberries for syrups, the freezer, and jam.  And I can't even handle thinking about the fruit ripening/rotting on my neighbor's tree.

Yesterday both Troy and I were so tired that I ordered pizza for dinner and we "parented" using the Hollywood curriculum - movies.  Jack had played in the kiddie pool earlier that day, and we were confident that was bath-like enough to qualify for actual bathing.

Today, Jack and I have played many games of "what's on my butt" - a game my sister read about from a crafty mom that allows you to lay down while your kids fetch items from your house, put them on your butt, and you try to guess what it is.  Jack has also watched his month's allowance of TV just today.  I can't worry about it too much because if I think too hard, my infected ear will likely explode.  As I write, Jack and I are on the deck and he is playing in his kiddie pool yelling "this is PBS kids".  Oy.  And you know what?  In a few minutes, I'll probably bribe him with a movie to move back inside.  Go me.

I've yet to do any grocery shopping, but here is my meal plan for the week.  I'm off tomorrow as well, and Jack and I will venture forth in to the land of the living to procure fresh vittles.

Monday:: taco bowls (spanish rice, black beans from the crockpot, salsa, shredded pot roast (pulled from the freezer as leftovers), and a sprinkle of cheese, salads, and fruit.

Tuesday:: Peanut satay (we can't get enough of these things and they're so easy!!!!), rice, salad, grilled zukes (finally from MY garden!!!!), and fruit.

Wednesday:: What I believe is the last of the canned tomato soup from last year's garden, quesadillas, salad, and fruit.

Thursday:: Smoked salmon Caesar salads, baked potatoes, and fruit.

Friday:: Popcorn, veggie sticks, fruit, and cheese sticks.  Library movie included.  Love popcorn dinners!

Saturday:: Can't think that far ahead.  It will be something edible.  And we'll eat it.  If we have enough zukes and tomatoes from the garden, I'll make a strata thingy.

Sunday:: Dinner at my parent's.

What about you guys?  What are you eating this week?

Friday, August 24, 2012

The sick momma

When a woman is newly pregnant, she reads all the books possible about child rearing, and imagines the perfect life that awaits her and her impending bundle of joy.  You take the vitamins, you try to eat right, you buy the right products, and microwave lunch meat and avoid delicious soft cheeses.

Once your babe arrives, you follow all the directions about feeding, sleep, back sleeping, safety, etc.  You're tired, but you're there for your child every second, and life is bliss.  The new mom is full of the "love hormone", and the bond between mother and child is impenetrable.

Fast forward three years, and your little manic, crazy, and bi-polar toddler has gotten you sick.   You seek to help them get better on no sleep for yourself, and you can barely stay awake to make sure that you read "Cowboy and Octopus" just one more damn time.  After all, the sick child needs to feel comforted.

Then later that day, you have a coughing fit while brushing your teeth, which starts a chain reaction of throwing up.  The throwing up makes you throw up some more because um, gross.

As you hang your head over the toilet feeling sorry for yourself, you realize that all the kegals you did while pregnant have failed you, and you've peed your pants just a little during the coughing and vomiting-poloza.

In the other room, Patient Zero sleeps.  Nary a worry in their little toe-head head.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The "shut the hell up and stop coughing" throat soothing smoothie

Jack and I came back from vacation with colds or something, and my throat has felt like I swallowed fire dipped in glass.  I coughed so hard the other day that I threw up.  Yeesh. 

Jack and I ended up going to Urgent Care yesterday morning, which in a weird way led us to helping a lost baby.  But more on that later.  I don't even have a doctor because I never get sick, so going to Urgent Care was a huge white towel that I was throwing.

After a whole night of of coughing my throat raw, I wanted to strangle myself because I was so annoying!  I decided to make a "feel better" smoothie for breakfast, and boy howdy, it sure made my fire tube feel better!  And the Urgent Care doc gave me props for the ingredients.

OMG, STFU and stop coughing already smoothie
1 cup of cold green tea
Frozen peaches (I used 3 peach halves)
2 tblsp honey
Handful of frozen raspberries, blueberries, or blackberries (I used blackberries)

1) Brew a cup of tea and let cool completely.  I'd brew it at night, and store it in the fridge overnight.

2) In a blender, food processor, or cup (I use my immersion blender), blend the cooled tea, frozen peaches, frozen berries, and honey until smooth.

3) Drink.  In your mouth.  In case you couldn't figure that one out.  You're welcome.

The combo of the green tea, frozen fruit, and honey was a total lifesaver for me.  And it was way more delicious than any medicine.  Except Tylenol PM.  Anything that makes this insomniac pass out is tops in my book.

Curious about the baby?  Well, I debated all night if I should go to Urgent Care or not.  I was feeling like a hot sack of shit in the morning, so I decided to finally just go.  I ended up being about 15 minutes for work because of it.  As Jack and I were driving to my aunt's (his daycare), I see something out of the corner of my eye.

Could that be what I think it is?


Not possible.

You guys, it was a fucking baby in the middle of the street!!!!!!  This was not in my town, but a few towns over.  You might think "geez, Sarah seems to be recycling posts since we already heard this story before".  Nope, new story.  A fucking baby in the middle of the road.

I slammed on my brakes, and jumped out of the truck (I was driving Troy's truck cause he had my car) and stopped all traffic coming each way.  I scooped up the baby - maybe a year old kid -  and ran back to the truck.  I got Jack out of the truck, and along with another woman who stopped, we started looking for this kid's parents.

I lost my voice from coughing, so here I am rasping/yelling "um, did anyone lose a baby"?  The woman I was with knocked on doors and we found the kid's mom.  Apparently the kid just learned how to open their front door (lever handle instead of a door knob) and he slipped out without her noticing.

She was appropriately devastated that her baby was in the street, so she passed my meth addict test.  We talked about getting new deadbolts for the door, and alarm thingys that Troy and I used to have on our doors in Los Angeles.  Convinced that she wasn't some drug addict, Jack and I went on our way.

A fucking baby in the street!!!

In a weird way, I'm glad I got sick.  I'm never late to work, so had I not gotten sick and gone to Urgent Care, I would have never been late.  I would have never passed that kid.  Obviously another person stopped to help, but it makes me sick thinking if some horrible person had been 15 seconds in front of that lady.

Hug your kids tonight people.
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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Winners of the gluten-free challenge!

#1 and # 5 - Melissa and Elizabeth!

Melissa has been emailed, but Elizabeth ahem, you didn't leave me your contact info.  Please email me asap to arrange getting the prize shipped to your house.

Thanks to all who participated!

Gluten-free/paleo challenge wrap up

So, did you last the whole month?  How did you find the "new" eating style?

I did great, but just as I suspected, there is not a single cell in my body that can't handle not gluten (double negative, woot woot!).  I'm a-ok with the gluten.  I noticed a decrease in belly bloat and gassiness, but I attribute that to replacing carbs with veggies and fresh fruit.  I've been eating breads for almost a week now, and the gassiness and bloat still haven't returned.

Troy probably slipped up about every 3-5 days with this challenge, but they were all harmless things that he didn't realize as opposed to "I need a sandwich or I will die" kind of thing.  He did say he felt a bit less tired, but I honestly wish that he had been working out this past month too so that he could really test if being grain-free was increasing his weight loss and stamina to just go about his day.

Let's look at the numbers, shall we?

Before Weight: 151 lbs (it was 152 with clothes on, so I'm taking a guess)
After Weight: 149.05 lbs (it was 150.05 with clothes on, so again, I'm taking a guess)
Before Height: 6 ft
After Height: yeah, that didn't change...
Before Waist:30
After Waist: 29

Before Hips: 39(yipes!)
After Hips: 39

Before: I currently wear a size 8 tall, but a lot of clothes are not currently in rotation because they're too tight.
After: size hasn't changed, but I have a few clothes that now fit a little bit better.

Before Weight: 215
After Weight:  Not sure.  We don't have a scale!

Before Height: 5 ft 11
After Height: Didn't change.  Troy still remains the shrimp in my family.
Before Waist: 39
After Waist:
38 1/2

Before Hips: 43
After Hips: 43

Lessons learned from this challenge
I realize that I always thought we did a decent job of eating enough vegetables, but truly we didn't.  I'd love to continue having a big salad for lunch, or something else less "carby" than before.  I think it kept my blood sugar pretty constant throughout the afternoon much better than what I was eating in the past.

Also, I realized that I need to incorporate more veggies in our dinner.  In the past I thought it was fine to have pasta with garlic bread, but duh, um, no.  Of course if it is a special occasion or something like that and I'm serving bread, fine of course, but yeah, not any more.  My husband has ZERO self control when it comes to those things, so not even putting them on the table/meal plan is a change that will remain going forward.

I don't aim to follow any government food suggestions - these are the people after all who subsidize corn and soy so heavily - but part of the "myplate" recommendations that I like is that veggies are the largest part of your meal.  I've been aiming to have veggies take up half of the plates at dinner, and I think we're finding that a success.  The funny thing is that about a year ago, I actually bought smaller plates thinking that Troy would put less stuff on his.  Again, the man has zero self-control, so if it is front of him, he'll eat it.  All along, I should have just been offering more veggies to FILL the plate.

We're currently buying the huge organic salad container from Costco ($3.99 for a big ole' tub) and doing a really good job of going through that in a week.  Before, we would maybe eat 1/4th of it and let the rest go to waste. I'm also doing better putting more greens in our smoothies.  In the past if I was out of spinach in the fridge, I'd be too lazy to walk 10 feet in to the garden to get kale.  Now, it's not an option to make a smoothie without the greens.  It's just such an easy way to get additional veggies in my diet and Jack's.  I made a smoothie a few weeks ago with tons of spinach and an extra tablespoon of almond butter in it, and I was so satisfied that I didn't even want lunch until about 2 pm.  Usually, the nature of my job has me snacking a bit in the morning and longing for lunch at 11:30 am.

In the last two weeks, in his limited spare time, Troy has built me three new wooden garden beds that are each 4x6.  They replace an area at our rental house that was used about twice a year for additional parking.  Well, when that is the only area of the property that gets enough "sun"light during the winter to successfully grow anything, I couldn't see keeping it for a function that saw such limited use.  Besides, we have great neighbors and pretty much everyone can just borrow each others driveways during big social events.  I'll share the details of the garden beds soon, but I brought them up because they have essentially more than quadrupled my fall/winter gardening capabilities.  Troy is going to add some dohickeys to the sides so that we can bend pipes over the tops and cover with plastic when the frosts and limited snows come.

The reason I bring this up is that now that I have these, I can definitely increase our winter veggie selection (Brussels sprouts, kale, rutabagas, kohlrabi, lettuce, beets, and spinach) all while decreasing the dependency on buying fresh veggies at the grocery store.

So, bottom line, we're going to maintain our increased level of veggies in our diet, and consider carbs/grains more of a limited option.  I'll continue to make homemade bread, 8 loaves at a time (because if I am going to the trouble to make it, I don't want to just make two loaves) and freeze them, but I'm contemplating cutting the loaves in half before freezing them.  I think it's so tempting to have a huge loaf of delicious homemade bread in the breadbox.

Now that I'm done rambling, I'd love to hear how you guys did.  I had an email conversation with a reader recently, and she told me that they're going to maintain this new lifestyle because they feel so much better on it.  How about you?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Winner of the Ambrosia Candies giveaway says the lucky number is #3 - Toilie.  Congrats on winning the $20 gift card from Ambrosia Candies!  I'll be emailing you for additional information! If you're sad you didn't win, remember you can still get 20% off your first purchase by using the coupon code "BEINGFRUGAL" on Melissa's website

The lazy lady's guide to cutting a watermelon

If you are new here, you may not realize how freaking lazy I am.  I do a ton of stuff around the house, and make homemade (insert random food item here), but man oh man if I can find an easier way to do something, I pounce like a puma.

We've been eating a lot of watermelon lately with our gluten-free challenge, and it's great to have it all cut up and ready to go in the fridge.  When you have delicious fruit on hand, you're less likely to reach for something less healthy. 

I had been spending a lot of time (like 6 minutes, which is considered a lot for me) cutting the melon up on the weekend.  However, last week, I found a faster way to get this done, and I'm never going back.  Quick note, we buy those little personal sized watermelons.  They probably are more expensive than buying a huge one, but our fridge is way too small to store all of the extra watermelon.  Stupid fridge.  :kicks fridge:

Step One:
Cut the watermelon in half down the middle - the opposite of where the melon butt and noggins is.   Set one section aside.
Step Two:
Cut the half in half through the melon belly button.
Step Three:
Cut the pointy ends off of the watermelon.
Step Four:
Slice down the melon, keeping in mind your desired thickness (that's what she said).

Done!  We pack it in the rind since it's faster to eat the fruit from the rind than it is to cut the fruit from the rind.

This new method takes me about three minutes tops.  So, I'm saving three minutes which may not seem like a lot, but those extra three minutes give me time to write up a pointless blog post.

Hey readers?

You're welcome

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Mostly Homemade Mondays, week 9

It's Monday - that time of the week for Mostly Homemade Mondays - the link party for people who like cooking healthy food, but sometimes have to rely on the occasional store-bought item. And for crafty people. And gardeners.

Got something cool you posted recently on your blog? Link up so that the rest of us can see the awesomesauce!

The "rules":

1) Please link back to this post so that people reading your blog know they can find more fantastic posts here!

Friday, August 17, 2012

"Hi, my name is Sarah. Can I please pick your fruit"?

:Subtitle: Why it never hurts to ask.

Last week, the lad and I were scavenging picking blackberries in the neighborhood.  After filling a 10 pound bucket, we set off for home.  As we turned the wagon on to our street, a car pulled in to the house at the top of the hill that no one seems to live in.

Now please keep in mind, I'm a friendly neighbor to everyone.  But, if your house appears unlived in, and your yard is douched with trees full of fruit screaming to be picked, we're instant besties.

As the driver of the car got out, I yelled "is this your house"?  The man turned around, said "yes" without making much eye contact, and tried to walk away from the crazy lady with a wagon full of blackberries.

Dear reader, I am not that easily brushed off.

I (again) yelled out "I used to know the couple who lived here - the Jones (made up name) (the stranger is now looking at me), "the woman had such a lovely garden.  I used to mow her lawn on occasion and she paid me in cucumbers".  I now have direct eye contact from the man as he says "those were my parents"!

We then talked for about 15 minutes about his wonderful parents who passed in the late 90's, the garden, etc.  I found out his son occasionally lives there, but he travels for work and the gardens weeded over and the gorgeous fruit trees go unappreciated.  Now that Stan and I were suddenly great friends, I dropped the question that was in my brain.  ", can Jack and I please pick your fruit"?

And.  It was out there.

He said that would be fine, and took me one a tour of what was available.  They have a green apple tree (no clue as to the type of apple), and two plum trees.  You guys, these trees are LOADED with fruit that is only a few weeks away from being ripe.

I told him I'd pay him cash, and/or in canned goods for the privileged of picking.  He (wisely) chose the canned goods (SCORE!), and we set up a picking procedure:
  • I call him to ask permission to pick.
  • He will call our nosy neighbor George to tell him I'll be there picking so that George doesn't hassle me.  George likes to sit on the deck in the summer and strum tunes on his banjo that make me feel like I'm gardening during a scene of Deliverance.  It's as if any moment when I'm trimming tomato plants I'll hear someone telling me "you have a pretty mouth".  (which is true)
  • I'll let him know when the canned goods are ready.  I will leave them on their front porch and he'll pick them up the next time he is at the house.
Everyone wins in this arrangement.

But, mostly me.

And my wallet.

I know I spent a lot on organic apples last year, and our applesauce (or applesquish as Jack calls it) still ran out in March.  We'll get about 40 pounds of organic apples as part of our fruit CSA this year, but I love that I am able to supplement our extreme applesauce habit for free.  And 40 pounds of apples is simply a drop in the bucket as far as Jack is concerned.

I am a bit nervous that these apples won't be good saucing apples, but we also love making apple chips and "apple Jacks" (recipe coming this fall.  Just trust me on why I can't share it yet, m'kay?), so if worse comes to worse, I'll have to source saucing apples somewhere else.

And if you'll give me enough time to craft a load of crap explanation, I can convince you that I'm keeping the neighborhood free of pests who would descend on the feast of dropped fruit from the neglected trees.  Really, that kind of makes me the best neighbor on the block, yes?

Now what to do with all those plums...?

Thursday, August 16, 2012


It is finally here - recipe day!!!!!  I've been waiting to share this with you guys for almost a month.  I am horrible at keeping good news quiet.  I'm the kind of person who has to tell you what you're getting for Christmas months in advance because the suspense is too much for me.

A few weeks ago, someone from US Kids magazine (publishers for Turtle, Humpty Dumpty, Jack and Jill, etc.) contacted me about creating a recipe that kids and adults can make together.  I submitted two, and both were accepted!  The first one is posted here on their website, and the second one will be posted some time in September!

This was such a cool thing for me, and I'm thankful for the opportunity!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Leaving on a jet plane, and the end of the gluten-free challenge

Jack and I are leaving today to go see my bestie/baby momma, and one of Jack's godmothers, the infamous Anne!  We'll be there for four days, and I'm pretty much peeing myself in excitement.

Also, today marks the end of the gluten-free challenge.  How did you do?  Did you stick with it?  I'm picturing the second we leave Troy will have a loaf of bread in each fist.  I don't have the final results of our personal challenge because Troy has been gone and we don't have a scale.  I'll post a wrap up next week at some point, but I'm super interested to hear how you did!

If you made it through, post a comment so that I can compare it to the original post for the drawings!  I'll do that next week when I'm back from vacation.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Review: Ambrosia Candies

Melissa from Ambrosia Candies contacted me a few weeks ago about reviewing her homemade soft peanut brittle.  The recipe has been passed down from her grandmother, and is gluten, dairy, cholesterol, and preservative-free; phew!

The brittle arrived quickly, and not a moment too soon, for the PMS monster was raging in my house.  This delicious brittle kept Troy and Jack from being sold to gypsies, so in my opinion, it's a huge win for everyone involved!

So that I would have multiple unbiased sources, I had the boys try it too.  Troy described the taste as "awesome old timey candy", and Jack just said "more please mommy".  I had to hide it to keep their grubby mitts out of it.

Want to get your own sample?  Melissa is generously offering one of my readers a $20 gift certificate (shipping included in that total) to pick their own yummies from her shopTo enter, leave a comment telling me which delicious candy you'd like to try from Melissa's shop (hint: do NOT look at her Etsy shop with a 3 year old looking over your shoulder), and a way to contact you.  If I can't contact you, you can't win!  You can leave a comment and then email me your contact info if you don't want it out there on the interwebs.

Winners will be drawn on Monday the 20th using in the morning

If you don't win, there are still opportunities for you to get your own sweet haul from Ambrosia Candies!  Melissa is also offering readers 20% off of their first purchase on her site.  Please use BEINGFRUGAL at checkout for your own savings. 

And check her out on Facebook at

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to head down to the garage to my super secret candy hiding place to finish this off.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Mostly Homemade Mondays, week 8

It's Monday - that time of the week for Mostly Homemade Mondays - the link party for people who like cooking healthy food, but sometimes have to rely on the occasional store-bought item. And for crafty people. And gardeners.

Got something cool you posted recently on your blog? Link up so that the rest of us can see the awesomesauce!

The "rules":

1) Please link back to this post so that people reading your blog know they can find more fantastic posts here!

Postscript: looks like I buggered up the code guys. Sorry about that!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Cleaning out my cell camera

Every once in awhile, my cell phone gets full of photos that need to be shared.  I did a photo dump of the ones (where Jack is actually wearing clothes) that I thought you all might enjoy.

This grumpy-looking elderly man was walking by with a sour look on his face.  On glance at Jack, and he left the produce section chuckling.
Jack has recently started setting the table.  It may not be perfect, but he is so proud to help, and I'm so proud that he cares so much!
We went to an outdoor concert last week, and a local place was selling homemade ice cream.  I almost took a chomp out of this bad boy before I remembered we're not eating gluten this month.  The lonely cone...
I got a new haircut!  Also, we have a alligator bath mat.  And dinosaur sponges stuck to our wall.  So?
This is why Seattleites prefer things "moderately" warm outside.  No one has AC!  This was my thermostat on Sunday night.
Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Just this moment

One photo, no caption, no explanation.  A tradition started by Soulemama.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

It's hard to think about December already, but homemade holiday gifts to start now

We finally hit 85 degrees here in the Pacific Northwest, and yet my mind is already turning to the end of the year, and holiday gift giving.

If you are planning to give away some homemade goodies this year, here are some things to get going on stat!

1) Homemade vanilla extract.  Recipe here.  Price breakdown here.
2) Have a lot of mint in your garden?  Try your hand at peppermint extract.
3) Lavender salt (my lavender is starting to dry up here, so I assume the season is coming to an end.
4) Hard lotion bars.  I'm calling this a summer project, because if you want to add any dried flowers or herbs to the bars, this is the time to start drying them.

I have some new ideas brewing in my brain for edible homemade gifts this year, but I still need to do some taste tests before sharing.  They won't be too time consuming, and therefore you can still make them kinda last minute in the fall.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Good things DO come from exercise - blackberry crisp

No matter how many times I type "crisp", I keep writing "crispy".  I'm going to rename this blackberry crispy to keep myself from looking like an idiot.

Troy has occasionally been jogging with Jack in the stroller (that Jack no longer fits in, but it doesn't seem to bother anyone involved), and they have a blast together.  Troy gets company and motivation ("go faster Poppy"!  "I am going fast Jack".  Then Jack gives him a look that pretty much means "yeah right, move it fatty".), and Jack gets out of the house and 1on1 time with Poppy.  I get a quiet house, if only for a little bit.

Last week Troy and Jack went running and found the haul to end all hauls - a dead end street with no traffic and GOBS of blackberry bushes.  Blackberries are the official weed of Western Washington, and they're some damn tasty weeds.  I always snicker at how much blackberries are at the grocery store because they grow EVERYWHERE around here.  For free.

Jack and I headed there early on Friday morning (before it got hot.  We're a pasty people and need to avoid the sun at all costs) and got to picking.  Well, I got to picking, and Jack got to eating.
Don't think that he's putting that blackberry IN the bucket; he's taking the last of the two in there OUT.
After about 4 minutes, he sat in the wagon and decided to "supervise".  "There is a blackberry mommy.  Over there.  Pick that one.  You're doing great mommy".  So helpful that one.  In less than 20 minutes, I had a 10 pound bucket full of free "organic" blackberries. 

I headed home and did some searching on the interwebs, and found these bars that looked delicious.  But with 3.5 cups of sugar, and gobs of flour (remember, we're gluten-free this month), they needed a remodel.  Oh, and I decided to make it in to a crispy crisp instead of bars.

Oh, and while I was reviewing the photos on my camera I had taken thus far, I realized that I had forgotten to add the brown sugar to the topping.  Then I realized I was out of homemade brown sugar.  I cleaned out the kitchen aid bowl, make some brown sugar, then scraped as much of the topping off of the crisp that I could, and remixed it with the brown sugar.

Cause I'm AWESOME.

So just picture the crispy topping in the photos as darker.  And um, sugarier.

Healthier and gluten-free Blackberry Crispy
Inspired by Joy the Baker

2.5 cups of oatmeal
1/2 cups of coconut flour
3 tblsp powdered milk
Pinch of cinnamon
1/4 cup of honey (raw and local if you can find it!)
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cups of butter, cut in to chunks

6 cups of blackberries, or other fruit of choice
3 tblsp cornstarch (organic if you can find it)
dash of homemade vanilla
4 eggs
1 cup of greek yogurt
pinch of salt
1/3 cup of honey

1) Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9x13 pan.

2) In a stand mixer (or using a pastry cutter), mix the oats, coconut flour, brown sugar, powdered milk, cinnamon, and cut it with the chunks of butter.  Process until the butter is incorporated and the mixture is nice and crumbly.

3) In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and cornstarch together; mixing REALLY well.

Add the vanilla, yogurt, salt, and honey; stir well.

Gently mix in the blackberries.

4) Pour the mixture in to the greased pan, and top with the crumbly topping.

5) Bake for 50 minutes, and then cool for at least an hour.
Scoop a small amount of the finished crisp in to a bowl, and top with whipped cream or ice cream.  Then, take that small bowl, set it aside, and eat the rest straight from the pan.

You're not getting any judgement from me.  After all, I'm the idiot who called this a "crispy".
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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

My new favorite gluten-free lunch

Man oh man, I look forward to lunch now each and every day.  My mom actually ate the same lunch for about 15 years.  I'm not that bad, but I definitely go through fads, and this is one of my favorites in recent memory.

Tuna salad on half of an avocado.

Yeah, yeah, I know, it doesn't sound like a very filling lunch, but hot damn it is!  We have a small salad with it (I usually do mine without grilled chicken or steak since I'm already getting a lot of protein from the tuna), and loads of fruit.  Sometimes a slice of cheese on the side.  Speaking of sides, here is a side note: if your Costco has something called Lake House cheese (or something along those lines.  I threw away the wrappers, so forgive me) dude, BUY IT.  It's a super duper sharp cheddar (pink puffy hearts), and it makes my tummy happy.

Some of you might be thinking "that is a lot of fat", but avocado is good fat, and filling up with protein and good fat instead of carbs and sugar makes you feel fuller longer.

Something to keep in mind is that I buy my tuna from Costco.  It's not the super dolphin-safe stuff that costs $4 a can.  Because I can't afford $4 a can.  So that, is that.  End of discussion.  PETA, watch yourself least I blow your mind with facts about what harvesting a wheat field can do to animals.

I think the secret to this great lunch is my bomb tuna salad.  I'll share the recipe with you all because a) I love you and b) I tend to share recipes like um, weekly.

Sarah's Tuna Salad
2 cans of all white tuna packed in water
1 green onion, diced
1/8 tsp dill
1 tsp dill relish
Salt and pepper to taste

1) Squeeze out what we call the "tuna pee" from the can, and chunk up in a mixing bowl.

2) Add chopped onion, spices, and relish.

3) Add the mayo about 1 tblsp at a time until it reaches your desired consistency.  I am NOT a fan of mayo, so I like the least amount possible in my tuna salad.  Mix!

Put a nice scoop in a halved avocado, and go to town!
Janky cell phone photo
A small jelly jar is the perfect way to pack this in your lunch.
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Monday, August 6, 2012

Mostly Homemade Mondays Week #7

It's Monday - that time of the week for Mostly Homemade Mondays - the link party for people who like cooking healthy food, but sometimes have to rely on the occasional store-bought item. And for crafty people. And gardeners.

Got something cool you posted recently on your blog? Link up so that the rest of us can see the awesomesauce!

The "rules":

1) Please link back to this post so that people reading your blog know they can find more fantastic posts here!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Meal plan for August 6th - 12th

The PNW finally got some heat this weekend.  In the process of 48 hours, my pumpkin plant grew 6 inches.  SIX!!!!!  I finally had to water the plants, and I harvested my first cucumber.  Exciting times 'round these parts!

Here is what we're eating for dinner this week.  Reminder, breakfasts are smoothies or eggs, lunches are leftovers or salads.  Snacks vary.

Monday::  Grilled salmon, grilled zukes, coleslaw, and fruit.

Tuesday:: Burgers (we never had these last week), grilled zukes, slaw, and fruit.

Wednesday:: Bunless chicken hot dogs (Trader Joes nitrate-free), salad, and fruit.

Thursday:: Either our weekly popcorn night, or going to a free outdoor concert.

Friday:: Tacos (corn tortillas), Spanish rice, black beans in the crockpot, and fruit.

Saturday:: Smoked salmon Caesar salads, baked potatoes, and fruit.

Sunday:: Troy and I are going to a wedding.

This week I sent $16 at the fruit stand, $7 for raw milk, $38.72 and the grocery store, and an unknown amount at Costco (going later today, but I'm guessing $40 ish).

What are you having this week?

Friday, August 3, 2012

We're going to need a bigger pitter

We picked up our first order of the fruit co-op we joined in spring.  It was 96 pounds of organic produce for something like $167.  I, being the genius that I am, ordered 2 shares.  Other drops during the summer will be apples, pears, and peaches.

"These ALL for ME mommy"?
I brought home 36 pounds of cherries on Wednesday, and let's just say, I'm going to have a super exciting weekend.  I've given away 9 pounds to neighbors and family, but it's more of them doing me a favor.  I have one small hand pitter.  It's going to be a long week.  I'm going to get pitting-itis.  My hand will look like a claw by Sunday.

My plan of attack:
-cherry jam/preserves (canned)
-cherry fruit leather
-pints of whole (pitted) cherries that I will can and then put on the shelf and figure out what the hell to do with them some time in January.

To keep all my effort from being in vain (well, I guess all the canned goodness is worth the effort), I'm using the pits as mulch in the garden.

So...who wants to help?  I'll pay you in cherries.
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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Parenting just amounts to a hill a beans

This post is by request of my friend Erika. 

I need to start out by saying my child is still crazy hyper (as was I at his age).  He still hits.  We call him Lenny, like from Of Mice and Men.  He wants to pet the rabbits, but sometimes he just pets them a little too hard.

A Facebook reader recommended Love and Logic last summer.  I read it, I enjoyed it, and it worked.  The problem was, Mr. Softy, aka Troy didn't read it, and wasn't on board.  He has a bit of a "weekend dad" mentality since he is always gone, and let's just say we were at constant loggerheads about discipline.  I finally made him offered him the chance to read Love and Logic too.  After he finished it, a light bulb went off in his head, and Team United Hard Ass was born.  I'd been waiting for this draft pick for 3 years.

I'm the first to admit that things have lagged in the few months since he got on board, but when we actually align, Jack is a much calmer and more well-behaved little lad.

Inspired by Love and Logic, last spring we set up two pint mason jars.  I used some stickers we had leftover from the pantry remodel, and drew a happy face on one, and an unhappy face on the other.  We called them the "good choices" and "bad choices" jars.

When Jack made good choices, we let him put dried black beans in the good choices jar.  When he made bad choices, we poured beans in to a lid from the good choices jar and Jack was responsible for putting them in the bad choices jar (recommendation by my friend Mary that worked great!). 

Troy drew a chart that we hung on the fridge.  It had three columns - one with a happy face, and the other with an unhappy face.   On the far left column, we had 1 (picture of a happy jar), 2, 3, and 4 and then drew lines under them.  I really wish I had photos of this because it's hard to describe.  In the next column, Troy drew a gift in each box and in the 4th "happy choices" jar, he drew a picture of me sleeping (that would be a gift to everyone). 

I bought 3 bribes rewards at TJ Maxx for a total of $10 - a bat and ball, a Dr. Seuss box set, and a Cars action figure/toy.  The 4th reward was me having a "sleep party" in his room one night.

The first night we started the jar system, he dumped the beans out on the floor on accident (lesson learned: use lids) and refused to clean them up.  After some motivating words by Troy and myself, we left him alone, for two hours on the floor as we waited him out.  He was told he had 10 more minutes to clean them up, because dinner was going to be served.  He didn't eat dinner that night. He chose to lay on the floor through dinner (I have photos of this, but he is naked, so they're not going on the blog!!!), but after bath he did clean them up.  Troy was a freaking wreck, but I was very proud of him for sticking to his guns.

The jars went everywhere with us - to family dinner, to preschool, to my aunt's, and any adult was able to fill make the decision to add or remove beans from the jars.  It took him well over a week to fill up that first jar, and we pretty much threw a party when he did.

Things got easier and easier as the jars got fuller and fuller.  If he was headed down the road of doing something naughty, we could bring him back with a "is that a good choice buddy, or a bad choice"?  We had a trigger word ("uh oh") to let him know that something he was about to do could get him in trouble.

The system worked, and once we got the 4th full jar, we stopped using the bean jars, but retained the good and bad choices nomenclature. 

Life gets busy, and sometimes we find ourselves falling back to old ways; yelling, stomping, etc.  But when both of us are on the same page, it is parenting magic.

Now, if I could just find a wand and put an end to the hitting...
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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Grill on grill action

So, the grilled zukes you see in my meal plans a lot?  They're fabulous and easy, and one of our favorites 'round these parts in the summer.

I can't grow zucchini to save my life, so we buy them from a local fruit stand that buys produce from Eastern Washington on Thursdays, and then sells it Friday-Sunday.  We have been buying "grey squash" from them in lieu of actual zucchini, and it's so sweet and delicious!

Easy Peasy Grilled Zucchini
-Zucchini (surprised?  We typically do 2-4 for 2 people)
-Drizzle of olive oil
-McCormick's Montreal Steak Seasoning (we buy this at Costco and it's awesome.  And MSG free!)

1) Slice the heads and butts off of the squash, and then make slices lengthwise.

2) Throw in to a bowl and drizzle olive oil over the squash.  Sprinkle with the seasoning.  Toss to coat.

Instructions from the grill master Troy from here on out:
3) Oil your hot grill, and slap (he said slapping was the key) the slices on the grill.
Maximize your grill time.  We were also grilling corn for dinner and a flank steak that Troy butterflied and was grilling for salad toppings for the week.
4) Grill for 3 minutes, and then flip.  Grill for another 3 minutes, and serve hot.  In the past, we've added a bit of grated mozzarella to them, but I've decided I prefer them more plain.
To kill some time while waiting on the zukes to finish, give your 3 year old the camera!
Bon Appetit!
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