Saturday, March 31, 2012

Chickens in the Spring

Our chickens have been loving the warm weather so I took the opportunity to take some nice pictures of them outside. If you remember from a previous post, we have some "top hat" chickens with feathers on top of their heads. They have grown into some of the funniest looking chickens ever...and oh SO friendly! They follow us around and ask to get pet. Granted if you're holding the chickens scrap bucket walking across the yard, it IS a bit disturbing to see 30 chickens following you. I mean, I KNOW they are harmless (well they are now that our attack rooster is no longer) but it's kinda creepy!

This is "Don King"

This is the sweetest and prettiest chicken I have EVER seen. I don't think I've ever seen her eyes. She has feathers on her feet too. If you hold her, she doesn't want you to put her down. Such a sweetie.

A Rhode Island Red. She actually looks silly to me without feathers on her head!

This picture is deceiving. This one is actually the smallest most petite chicken I've ever seen.
This one was actually really hard to get a picture of because she is SO friendly. I'd crouch down to take a picture and she would come right up in my face. I needed a macro lens for her, haha.
This is Manuka. She's our miracle chicken. We had 6 chicks we hatched last spring. They were actually way overdue (kind of like my kids, haha). They had gone past the 21 day incubation and we had no chicks. We had a big power outage part way through their incubation and we assumed they weren't going to hatch. at all. So at 5 days overdue we had to go out of town for two days. When we came back there were 2 chicks in the incubator! I freaked out and was running around screaming that we had to make a "home" for them and get them out. Over the next couple days we ended up with 6 total chicks. Over the summer they were let outside into a little fenced area. Our dog was completely obsessed with them. This is a dog who never cared about chickens before but something about these 6 made her crazy. They got a little bigger and were released into the coop. Not long later one disappeared. Then we found one half dead laying behind the coop with the dog over her licking her. We weren't sure if she had done it or found her and was licking her to nurse her. A couple days later as I'm finishing up the dinner dishes, my oldest boy comes running inside yelling that the dog bit the head off a chick. He had witnessed a headless chick fly out of the coop and the dog jump out behind it chasing it. Needless to say we weren't so happy about that. She was only allowed out supervised after that. But she did occasionally get let out by a kid or run up in the woods so we would lose track of her. With 4 kids the dog isn't always a priority. She ended up getting 2 more of the chicks. The one above was the last of that group of chicks. We protected her like crazy. I always called her Honey. She was so friendly. She had lost all her "friends" so we were her new friends. She followed us everywhere and would come running if she saw us come out of the house. Since she was our Miracle Chick, I changed her name to Manuka (manuka honey is a special kind of honey from New Zealand that has healing properties). She is still very friendly!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Homemade Graham Crackers

I am on a quest to not buy packaged food expect some great recipes coming your way! Homemade is always better, with less ingredients, better quality ingredients, and no preservatives. I've been anti-packaged foods for awhile but due to the munchkins I would still buy some snacks. In an effort to not do that anymore, I am trying out all sorts of recipes to replace the beloved snacks my kids love. These graham crackers are pretty yummy. They don't have the exact consistency of store bought crackers but they taste great. I also like that depending on how long you cook them they can be crunchy or soft. They taste like cookies when soft! Yum! You can use these to snack on, for smores, or for sweet dips. I generally always double the recipe below. As written it makes approximately 2 dozen depending on what size you cut them. I usually only make them about 2 or 3 inches long.

Homemade Graham Crackers

 1 1/4 cups organic whole wheat flour (plus some for dusting your rolling surface)
1 1/2 ts organic ground cinnamon
1/2 ts baking soda
1/2 ts good salt
2 TB cold butter,organic, cut into small pieces
2 organic egg whites, divided
6 TB organic brown sugar
2 TB honey
1 TB organic vanilla extract
3 TB organic sucanat or other organic cane sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. My oven heats unevenly so I do one baking sheet at a time. If you have a more reliable oven you can do more than one baking sheet at a time.

In a food processor, mix together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and butter. Process until it's fine meal consistency. If you don't have a food processor you can mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl and work the butter in with your fingers. In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 egg white, brown sugar, honey and vanilla. Add this to flour mixture and stir until a sticky dough forms. I find I need to get my hands in there to get all the flour incorporated.

Turn half of the dough out onto a very well floured surface and roll out into a 10-inch square (it will be thin). Cut into 12 rectangles and transfer to the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Repeat process with remaining dough and second prepared baking sheet if doing two at a time. Otherwise wait until after baking first batch.

Brush crackers with remaining egg white. Note that when I double the recipe I still only need one egg white to brush the tops. Sprinkle with the sucanat or cane sugar, or a mix of cinnamon and sugar. Bake for 10-12 minutes. My oven does them perfectly at 11 minutes, 9 minutes if I want them soft. They are usually done when you can smell them. They won't harden until cooled.

Repeat with the rest of the dough.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

First 5k

Last Saturday I spontaneously decided to run a 5k. The night before hubby started talking about it and decided he wanted to do it. I hadn't signed up for it because I didn't feel ready...but then hubby who has barely ran in the last year suddenly decided to do it, so that was a challenge, I had to do it. Though I did walk some of it, I finished it, and beat my previous time for 3 miles at home by almost 5 minutes. Of course hubby beat me by 3 minutes. But of course he was in some pain afterwards. That has only encouraged him to start running more. As for me, it has given me a goal of a time to beat, and to be able to run the whole thing. My internal battle with running continues and I am determined to beat it. At the very latest, I will be running another 5k in July, and I WILL run the whole thing =) I took a week off from running this last week but I am back to it tomorrow. Anything is possible when you put your mind to it. A friend told me to "just keep running". And that is what I will do!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Whole Wheat Crackers

This is a great basic whole wheat cracker recipe that you can spice up any way you want. My kids actually like this recipe as is, nice and plain. I like it with about 1/4 ts garlic powder in the dough. You could add rosemary, or thyme, any herbs you like! Making your own crackers is great for your health. When you make them yourself, there are no added ingredients. No preservatives. No MSG. Nothing that you don't want in there. Try them! Once you make your own crackers you won't ever want to go back to store bought crackers again. Adapted from this recipe.

1 1/4 cup organic whole wheat flour
1 1/2 TB organic evaporated cane juice, sugar
1/2 ts real salt or more to taste
1/4 ts organic paprika
Optional: 1/2 ts organic garlic powder, or onion powder
Optional: 1 TB organic dried herbs
4 TB organic butter, softened
1/4 cup water (plus more if needed)
1/4 ts organic vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, salt, and paprika. Add any other herbs you would like at this time. A TB would probably be enough depending on how herby you want it. In a food processor with a dough blade, pulse together butter and flour mixture. Or you can cut it in with two forks, or a pastry cutter. You want the mixture crumbly. Mix together water and vanilla. Return mixture to large bowl and add water. Kneed together with your hands. If the dough is crumbly, add more water a TB at a time. You don't want it sticky. If you add too much water, add more flour. Divide the dough into two equal parts. Roll out one piece on a floured board until very thin. Using a pizza cutter, slice dough into cracker size pieces. Use a spatula to transfer the pieces onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 5 minutes and then check. You want them just starting to brown around the edges. If they aren't brown yet, give them another minute and check again. The longest I've ever gone is 7 minutes, and a few of them burned. While those are baking, roll out your second piece of dough and slice into cracker pieces. Once the first batch is done, put the second batch in the oven. You can bake both batches at the same time if you wish but you will need to rotate the baking sheets every few minutes to avoid uneven cooking and burning.
My kids like to use cookie cutters to make fun cracker shapes:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Running - Suffering leads to glory

"Suffering leads to Glory".
 I read this statement on a sign outside a church on my way to the store. I was in week 4 of the Couch 2 5K program at the time. This statement seemed to come right at the moment I needed it. Running, to me, is as much of a mental battle to convince myself I can do it, as it is a physical battle to convince my body I can do it. It has never come easy to me. I have a love/hate relationship with running. I hate doing it, but LOVE how I feel after. Except for a brief time in college when I had trained myself to be able to run for 30 minutes straight, I have always struggled with running. It seems every time I get started on running, something happens that interferes and I stray, and then I have to start over. I am now on week 8 of the program (it's a 9 week program) and I keep asking myself why it isn't getting easier. Then I remember that in week 1 I was running for 1 minute at a time. In week 8 I am running for 28 minutes. Granted every 3-8 minutes I stop briefly for a water or quick catching my breath break (10-20 seconds). Though I wish I could run that 28 minutes straight through without stopping, it IS an improvement and I have to keep telling myself that. Week 9 brings 30 minutes of running, and I don't expect to be able to run the whole time, but I do hope to gradually improve on the length of time I can go without stopping. My goal is to be able to run for 30 minutes with very few breaks if any. I don't have any grand hopes or goals to run 10 miles....or a marathon, but for me, running for 30 minutes is HUGE. I actually feel like I'm almost there. I just have to remember that working through the pain is what is going to get me there, it's not going to be easy....Suffering leads to glory.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Copycat Strawberry Surfrider Smoothie

We have some wonderfully beautiful weather lately, with more to come! That makes me all sorts of giddy! Though I am a little sad that we haven't had any descent snow this year, just a little. We've gone sledding a whopping two times this winter, and they were both in a weeks span. Usually by this time in the winter I'm tired of sledding and longing for swimming and sprinklers. But not this year. We've been hiking and running around outside, it's so nice!

In the spirit of warmer weather, my mind drifted to the Strawberry Surfrider smoothie from Jamba Juice. It's my all time favorite Jamba smoothie. It's so refreshing, especially when it's hot out. Granted I wouldn't call it "hot" out, but it was still nice to indulge even with just warm weather. After some research into what goes into a Strawberry Surfrider, I made some substitutions as to not put sherbert in it, and what I came up with was so very close to what I remember!

Here it is in all it's "whole food" glory....

1 organic lemon, peeled
Juice of 1/2 organic lemon
Juice of 1/2 organic lime
1/2 lb organic strawberries
1 TB organic raw agave (or honey)
1 cup organic raw milk
Handful organic peach slices (mine were frozen)
3 scoops organic strawberry whey protein (not totally necessary)
1 cup crushed ice
Water to cover

Throw all ingredients in a blender, VitaMix is preferable, and blend! This recipe made about 50 oz.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Chocolate Sunflower Butter Krispy Treats

These are a healthier version of the standard Rice Crispy Treats. I still won't claim these are completely "healthy" but they are great for an occasional sweet treat, and much better than the original! Enjoy these sparingly...if you's hard to just eat one! These are amazingly good!

1/2 cup raw honey
1/2 cup organic sunflower butter
1/2 cup fluff (look for a brand without dyes in it. Jet Puff has blue dye, which is odd since it's white. Some health stores carry RiceMellow Fluff, which works if you can find it)
2 tb organic butter
1/2 ts good salt
5 cups Koala Krisp cereal (this is an organic gluten free chocolate version of Rice Crispy cereal)
1 cup organic chocolate chips, for topping

Line two 8x8 baking dishes with parchment paper. In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine honey, sunflower butter,salt, butter, and fluff. Heat and stir until melty and well combined. Remove from heat and stir in cereal until well combined. Divide between the baking dishes. Place in freezer for 5 minutes. Meanwhile melt chocolate chips in a double boiler. Take dishes out of freezer and spread melted chocolate over the top. Place bake in the freezer for 15 more minutes. Remove from freezer and slice into squares with a sharp knife, carefully. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. They stay firm at room temperature for awhile, but I've never left them sitting out for more than a few hours, so I don't know beyond that.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Raw Date Balls

These little balls are packed with so much punch! Dried fruit, nuts, seeds....they have it all! These babies will give you a burst of energy, curb hunger and cravings. I love to have one or two before or after a run. Before gives me the energy to get through. After helps head off hunger and helps recover. If I feel like snacking in the afternoon, I just pop in one of these and I'm good...well sometimes two =) My oldest son would eat them before wrestling matches for extra energy. I stash a few in hubbies lunch when he's going to have a long day. These would be great on hikes or bike rides. They are so easy to make, my kids can even make them. Plus they don't take more than 5-10 minutes to prepare!
Inspired by this recipe
This recipe makes 20-30  1 inch balls

15 pitted organic Medjool dates
1/2 cup organic raw almonds
3 organic figs, chopped
5 organic dried apricots, chopped
2 TB organic chia seeds
1 TB organic raw pumpkin seeds
2 TB organic raw sunflower seeds
2 TB organic cacao nibs (or you could use organic chocolate chips, but that would make this not completely raw, but still super yummy...roughly chop them)
1 ts organic cinnamon
1/4 ts good salt

In a food processor, combine dates and almonds until ground up (see Note below). Remove from processor and scoop into a large bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and combine well with your hands (obviously make sure you wash them well first). I kneed it like bread to make sure it's well combined. Wet your hands and roll into 1 inch balls. My kids like to make stick or carrot shapes too =) Place in a glass container that seals and store in the refrigerator.

Note: There have been a couple times I've made this and the almond/date mixture wasn't sticky enough. Not sure why. You want to be able to pinch a chunk and have it stick together really well. So to remedy it when it's not quite sticky enough, I put a couple spoonfuls of honey in the processor and mix it in.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

GOT Kale Chips

GOT Kale Chips? That would be Garlic Onion Thyme Kale Chips! GOT just seemed easier to say =)
If you've read previous posts, I love kale chips. I love finding new flavors. My fav is Sour Cream and Onion Kale Chips but for the sake of saving time on soaking nuts or seeds, not to mention the price, I like to experiment with other flavors. GOT Kale Chips are very flavorful and snack-worthy! Enjoy!

2 bunches organic kale chips
1/3 cup organic evoo
2/3 cup water
half an organic onion, roughly chopped
2 large cloves organic garlic
1/2 ts good salt, or to taste
pinch of ground organic pepper
1-2 ts organic thyme

In a blender, combine all the ingredients except the kale, and blend. Remove kale from stems and tear into bite size pieces. In a large bowl, toss the dressing with the kale, rub it around good to make sure it coats all the pieces. Lay out on dehydrator sheets (don't worry about spacing them too much, they will shrink down a lot). Dehydrate at 105 for 5-7 hours or until completely dry. Store in airtight containers. Great savory snack!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Salt: Good vs Bad

White "poison" table salt
Not all salt is created equal. Over the years salt has been given a bad reputation, and for good reason. Table salt (sodium chloride) is one of the biggest causes of high blood pressure. Sodium itself is needed to stay hydrated. Sodium is the highest concentrated mineral in your blood, that's why blood tastes salty. It is needed for proper muscle function and balancing your body's PH level. It is something your body NEEDS.

Redmond RealSalt
A 2006 study published in The American Journal of Medicine tells us that “sodium intake of less than 2300 mg (the daily recommended allowance) was associated with a 37%  increase in cardiovascular disease mortality and a 28% increase of all-cause mortality.”

Sodium Chloride on the other hand is man made and un-natural. One good rule of thumb: if it was made by man, it is not good for you and will probably kill you. You only want to consume what God made.

Commercial salts contain over 30 synthetic chemicals. As with bleached white flour, it is also bleached with Clorox-type bleach.They also lack in minerals and cause acidosis (a low PH). Our bodies were created to function optimally with proper mineral and salt intake.

As well as high blood pressure it causes fluid retention, and kidney problems.

Any iodized salt has synthetic iodine in it. They only add the iodine because it's been refined and processed first. Yes your body needs iodine, natural iodine, not synthetic iodine. Synthetic iodine is a chemical, not a natural mineral.

Some sea salts are ok but you want to be careful that they are natural and un-processed, and not iodized. Plus you are at risk of environmental toxins from the ocean. Sea water usually contains more than 60 essential trace minerals, but most salt producers today remove these high-profit minerals and sell them to vitamin manufacturers. When they do this, the salt is left with a bitter taste which the salt manufacturer then masks by adding sugar and other chemicals. Check out your table salt label (which I hope you don't have) is there dextrose? Sugar!

They best salts to stick with are Himalayan Sea Salt and Redmond's RealSalt (harvested from ancient dead seas). If you have high blood pressure and water retention, switching to these products will probably make those problems go away. Salt CAN be bad for you, but real salt is actually crucial to health.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Baked Chicken Parmesan Casserole

Chicken Parmesan is so awesome, but sooo time consuming with the breading. Making it into a casserole cuts your prep time drastically. Using packaged stuff or croutons instead of bread crumbs keeps that crunch  you expect from Chicken Parm. Try this super easy casserole and be wowed with how easy it was and how much it tastes like traditional Chicken Parmesan!
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves organic garlic, crushed
1/4 ts hot red pepper flakes
8 organic chicken thighs, boneless
2 cups organic marinara sauce
 8 oz organic mozzarella, shredded
4 oz organic Parmesan, grated
5-oz package organic whole wheat stuffing (check the seasonings to make sure it goes with the italian theme) or use whole wheat croutons

Drizzle olive oil in a baking dish. Mix in the crushed garlic and red pepper. Lay the chicken in the dish. Top with marinara sauce. Sprinkle with half the cheeses. Evenly sprinkle the stuffing mix or croutons on top of the cheese. Top with the rest of the cheeses. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes, check for doneness with a meat thermometer.  


Saturday, March 3, 2012

What's in a Pineapple?

This picture reminds me of the pineapple I snatched from our table at a luau in Hawaii when I was in college. My friend, who was attending school there, was with me. We ran around town that night toting this pineapple. I'm sure I have pictures of me with it somewhere. We thought it was the funniest thing to walk around with a pineapple. But we were in Hawaii, so looking back it really wasn't as ironic as it seemed at the time. The couple times I visited here there, I always brought home a case of pineapple to consume at home. Not that you can't buy pineapple in California, or anywhere else for that matter, but it was fun bringing pineapple home from Hawaii.

A pineapple is a very interesting looking fruit. There are so many interesting and healthy facts about pineapples.

Have you ever wondered why it burns your mouth when you eat a lot of it? Pineapples contain a plant enzyme called bromelain. Bromelain breaks down protein, which is why it is often used as a meat tenderizer. So basically, it's tenderizing your mouth like a piece of meat =) The highest concentration of bromelain is found in the core. This is actually beneficial if you consider that if you eat a lot of protein, a little pineapple for dessert would help with breaking down that protein.

As for health benefits, bromelain helps greatly with inflammation. It helps with protection against infection. It helps with would healing. Societies in South America use it to help digestion. Bromelain given after surgery can increase the speed of recovery, reduce swelling, pain, and inflammation. It is used widely for Arthritis pain as well as sinus pain. It has anti-clotting and anti-cancer properties as well.

1 cup of raw pineapple has 82 calories, 2 grams of fiber, almost 79 mg Vitamin C, 76% rda of Manganese.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Organic Alfredo

Who doesn't love alfredo? I can't really say I know anyone. My kids are NOT big fans of red sauce on pasta, though they love lasagna and baked ziti, go figure. So making a healthy white sauce is a must around here. I can only eat lemon pasta so much (probably their fav pasta). Alfredo that comes in jars just looks gross to me. I great, creamy, wholesome homemade sauce is a must. Try it! You won't regret it!

1 cup organic cream
1 cup organic milk
4 tb organic butter
4 tb organic whole wheat flour
1/2 cup organic Parmesan shredded, plus some for sprinkling on top
1/2 cup organic shredded mozzarella (completely optional, but adds a stringy cheesiness)
1/2 lb organic whole wheat fetuccine, or other pasta

Cook pasta according to directions on package. In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour. Cook for a few minutes while continuing to stir. Whisk in milk and cream. Cook until thickened, stirring often. Once thickened, remove from heat and stir in cheese(s). I don't always add mozzarella but I like the variation it adds. Pour over your pasta and top with a sprinkling of Parmesan. Sprinkle crushed red pepper on top if you wish. Enjoy!