Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Excellent Salted Pumpkin Seeds

Ahh! Fall is here, pumpkins, falling leaves, pumpkins, acorn squash, pumpkins, leaf fights, pumpkins, thankfulness; did I mention pumpkins?

We love everything pumpkin around here this time of year, or at least I do. I make pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice latte's, pumpkin cream cheese muffins, pumpkin bread, and pumpkin seeds. Oh there are a million more recipes, but these are by far our favorites. While I will most likely post more about the other recipes later on, today is about the seeds.

Aside from storing them for planting next summer, one of the best uses for those seeds after you carve out your pumpkins is a treat for, well, most of the people I know. Salty, buttery, snack pumpkin seeds.

So without further ado here is my recipe for pumpkin seeds

You will need:

1- 1 1/2 cup of Pumpkin Seeds (about two carving pumpkins worth)
1 1/2 tbsp Sea Salt (Divided)
3 tbsp Butter (we use Homemade)
water to fill pot to 1/2 full

A small sauce pot
A Colander (or a lot of patience)
A cookie sheet (with or without tin foil cover)
An Oven or Toaster Oven

Bring 1/2 pot of water to boil. Reduce Heat. Add 1 tbsp of your sea salt. Add seeds. Boil for about 15-20 minutes stirring occasionally.
Drain and rinse your Pumpkin Seeds in cool water (colander is really helpful for this)
Melt your butter into the pot you just used. Add remaining salt to the butter.
Toss your seeds back in the pot and cook on medium low in the salty butter for about 3 minutes.
Dump the whole pot, butter and all onto a cookie sheet, lined with foil makes for easy clean up but isn't necessary. Spread out to approximately single layer.
Pop in the oven at 300 Degrees. Stir about every 10 minutes. Usually it only takes about 35 minutes to get the crispy golden seeds.
Let Cool.

Boiling the seeds sucks the salty ness into the seeds and makes them a bit more flavorful than if you were to simply rinse them and bake them. We have also done seasoned seeds in the same manner and they turn out just as great! Experiment for yourself!

What kind of pumpkin treats do you like? Have you made pumpkin seeds before? What are your favorite methods?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Making Sweet Butter

Sweet Butter is one of the easiest things to make, and yet often one of the things most people would rather buy. Although we have no access to Raw Milk right now and therefore no cultured butter, there are still a great deal of benefits to churning (or shaking) butter at home.

When you make it yourself you have the added benefit of knowing exactly what is in your butter. No natural flavors, no added coloring agents (such as Annatto), no added preservatives, oils, or nitrogen and if you trace where your milk comes from you can know that the milk isn't altered and is harvested from naturally raised cows.

Another great benefit is the limited processing allows for fresher butter which means more/better flavor.

If you have a raw milk supplier you can "culture" your cream and make cultured butter adding a great deal more nutritional value to your butter.

and finally .. . Drum roll please . . . . The Buttermilk. . . Oh how you will love the buttermilk! This milk is much better than any store bought buttermilk. Store bought buttermilk is often not buttermilk at all but rather fermented skim milk! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buttermilk
The buttermilk you get from churning your own butter is by far superior and makes excellent pancakes!

Although there are many methods of churning your own butter at home some using blenders and whisks, some with traditional churns, I've heard of people using stand mixers, we shake our butter.

As we use it quickly we don't usually worry too much about pressing the butter and we usually make it in small batches. This method is cake easy and really doesn't even require too much thought. Our whole family participate! Ok ok enough blabbing are you ready?

Get an empty jar with a tight sealing lid. We use old peanut butter jars most of the time.

Fill your jar 3/4 full of Heavy Whipping Cream (or fresh cultured cream)

Let the jar sit until the cream is room temperature.

Shake the snot out of it! You will notice as you shake that the cream will become very thick (the whip cream stage) and then almost suddenly it will start to clump together and there will be liquid swishing in the jar.

Congrats you have butter. You then just need to separate the butter and buttermilk.

Pour out the milk (save it for your pancakes tomorrow!) and keep shaking. Shake and pour, shake and pour until you can't get much more milk out of the butter.

Refrigerate or freeze both your Butter and Buttermilk. Or just enjoy it on some rolls right away. This butter will last anywhere from 3-6 days in refrigeration. If you need it to last longer you can press more milk out of the butter either using knives and wax paper or a butter press, or even washing the butter with water. We rarely do this as we use what we make quite quickly.

Bon Appetite!

What methods have you tried to make butter? What do you think of fresh butter?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Devotion Excerpt: Who is this God we serve anyways?

With the challenges of Christian life, what are we passing on to others around us? Do we know who God really is?

This week in an effort to know God I am going to be more intentional about my devotions. The sitting down and just reading is great, it's important, but I want more. I need desperately to know this God that we pray to work for and are supposed to teach our kids about. No matter how often in my life I've thought "I totally understand God" I am beginning to realize it has never been true. I really don't know God like I would like to. I don't understand the depths and heights and lengths of his love, chances are I never will. But I do know that I can make an effort to know him better. We all know that every relationship begins with getting to know each other. So here is the beginning. . .

To know God as I am reading I am going to start taking special notice of where God is mentioned in the script I read. For example:

Romans 11:33-36 reads ~
Oh, the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgements and unfathomable his ways!
For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?
or who has first given to Him  that it might be paid back to Him again?
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

Do you see him? Do you see how this passage describes who God is?

The first part praises him for his knowledge and wisdom, tells of his character in how we will never fully see it all at once. The next asks why we think we know when we don't. The third asks why we think it was us who brought us what we have. The fourth explains who did, God. He created all, Sustains all, and Owns all. That is why we need to glorify him.

That is how I am trying to read the text from now on. What does the text say about the God of the universe?
My hope is that by reading it this way, I will come to have a better understanding of who God is and what he has to say to me.

Which brings me to part two of my new study method. Life application.My life is supposed to mirror Christ to the world around me. Does it always? Do I truly show God to the world? The first step is to know who God is the next is to apply his attributes to my life.

In the passage above it states that the Lord knows all and has wisdom beyond what I can even imagine. So in my time of need, God already knew. I can have peace in the fact that God knows what comes next too. How many people can we say that about? and If he already knows and is wise who should I turn to for the answers? God's word. The Bible tells us that we cannot counsel the Lord, but he can most certainly counsel us! The next reminds us that He gave us what we have, even that which He takes away. We have nothing without him.Which also means we have all through him. We shouldn't worry about anything because he holds the future. He will sustain us.

Now if I apply this to my life. Say that giant bill that looms that I have no idea how to pay, or even the Job applications my husband hasn't heard back from. The possibility of a move. None of these things should worry my or trouble me. God knows, God has a plan to pay that bill, the perfect place for us to live is already in the works and God will hand Daddy-O the job he needs when the time is right. So what do I do? Relax! Rest in him and let him take care of it. Makes it so easy right? But only if I truly throw it on him. If I worry and fret and dwell on the maybe's I dwindle away that precious time Jesus is giving me to rest. What does my obedience look like to the rest of the world that needs to see God? Guess what? They can see him! When I obey the Lord and rest, they see the peace of Christ surrounding me. How cool is that?

What kind of things do you look for when you read God's word? Is there a devotion method that has brought you a better understanding of God?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Great Halloween Debate

Photo Credit: http://blog.tinyprints.com/Cards/fall-decorating-ideas/

A post I was reading re-kindled a few thoughts I have studied in depth on Holidays. I thought I would share them here. Today I will share specifically on Halloween, later on I will post more on other Holidays especially Biblical Holidays.

While I will primarily rely on Wiki Links for my sources know that I have done furious research in the past to this effect and I would encourage anyone with a passion for anything to do the same. (thorough research, be a Burriean as Paul states)

There is a great debate in the Christian community about Halloween and what should Christians do about it?
Here I thought I would shed some light on some preconceived notions.

Halloween is not a secular holiday.

Yes you heard me correctly. Halloween is actually based on a Christian root. Misunderstanding early Christians clinging to the Abraham's Bosom of the Old Testament came up with this idea of purgatory when told that Abraham's Bosom no longer existed. (as Christ abolished the need for separation from the Father through his death and resurrection) The idea was that recently deceased would go to purgatory to wait until the one time every year that they could all continue on into heaven. This continuation was All Hallow's and therefore All Hallow's Eve was a day to celebrate the saints and bless them as they went into paradise. As you can guess the Devil knowing full and well that the idea of purgatory being false used this idea to spark fear. It was twisted by saying that souls could haunt the earth on all hallow's eve and seek their revenge one final time before entering their final destination whether that be Heaven or Hell. This incited fear and people would don costumes to hide from the spirits. This tradition spread much more than honoring the saints. (The devil is clever you know!) and now it has become either very ugly or very perverse.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halloween

So how do we fix it? How do we celebrate a holiday that has become so ugly?

Personally I don't think abstaining is a good idea. Jewish kids in this country that abstain from Christmas celebrations are often jealous of friends and neighbors that get to participate and there becomes a negative stamina about their parents ideals on the holiday. Here is what my family is doing to "change what is"

1. We will be doing costumes, I think letting kids "dress up" spurs creativity and helps them to grow and learn. However we will be doing "cute" costumes and later on (once they are out of baby phase) they will have to come up with creative costumes. i.e. my sister one year got a bunch of mini boxes of  cereal and knives glued to some black clothing and went as a cereal killer . . . Which they can then help to build. We will not allow Gory, Gross, Demonic or Sexual Costumes. We will be emphasizing that this is just for fun etc.

2. We will not be participating in Trick-or-Treating. There really is no need for all the sugar and etc. Instead we will be eating a healthy "feast" and trying to talk any family members or friends into joining us.

3. Fall activity time. The week surrounding Halloween will be perfect for creating fall luminaries, wreaths, and garlands. As well as making pumpkin pies, pumpkin spice lattes and other fall favorite recipes.

and finally 4. The most important part I think is to give kids a proper understanding of what happens after we die. We will discuss Christ and what we can expect as "souls". This will more than likely change in what it looks like as our kids grow, but this is what I want to center our conversation around as we feast with friends and family.

Other things we may or may not do as a family throughout the years to come:

Harvest Carnivals- I think there are so many cool fall celebrations that we could attend at churches. They are also a great outreach to kids who don't know the Lord.

Fall nature walks- How much fun is it to watch the leaves change and collect pine cones and sticks? Nature is glorious and God gave us so much to see why shouldn't we see it?

Opening our doors- I think it's important to reach out as much as we possibly can and using a holiday to reach out and preach is a really great thing. So can the neighbor, stranger, neighborhood kids join our feast?

Have a Halloween Party to celebrate what an amazing gift we have to know that when we are absent from our bodies we will be present with the Lord.

This kind of "Godizing" modern holidays is what early Christians had to do with Christmas and Easter, which today are commonly known as Christian holidays but actually hold roots in pagan holidays. If they could turn a pagan day into a Christian one we can certainly turn a Christian holiday into a Christ focused holiday once again!

How do you plan to make God and/or Fall the center of your Halloween Celebration?

Monday, October 15, 2012

My New Favorite Toy

The other day, in the midst of making my banana ice cream for my toddler (I promise I will share the easiest recipe in the world with you very soon!) My blender decided to die. . . It made this awful grinding noise and started emitting a terrible burnt plastic odor. Although I am sure it will work for a few more blends, I am too scared to touch it again. I really don't want to clean up the mess after it's final fail! Soo . . We did some research this time around.

We don't like spending money that we know is going to be wasted, really I just don't like spending money but that's beside the point. I figured buying another cheapo blender really would accomplish nothing but waste in the end. Even though a 3 year life is amazing for a $20.00 blender, if we spend more and buy quality, we won't need to replace it as often (if ever) and that is much better all around. No extra waste, no extra spending long term, and with the tool we want better results. Note: I said the tool we want. . .

I have been researching for months on blenders. The pro's and con's of high powered blenders, brands and price comparison's, durability, on and on and on. The blender I settled on is a Blendtec. They work great, have a good quality reputation, can do everything I would ask of a blender and their customer service is friendly. The problem: they start at around 350 and right now we can barely spare 50! I cringe at the thought of buying a lesser product to replace it later, but 350 is just not in the budget! and who knows how long it would take to come up with that kind of money! Plus we're in the midst of our canning season and we use the blender a lot!

Recently, I have been hearing a ton about immersion or 'stick' blenders. They are compact, handheld, mini blenders with oodles of possibilities. We would want one of these anyways eventually, but just how many possibilities are there? Could we use one of these instead of a traditional blender? We decided to give it a try. In my usual stickler style, I decided we must buy a quality stick blender not just any old thing to test. I saw a Kitchenaid at Target and instantly I was hooked. I love Kitchenaid products, they work well and have awesome customer service! I bought it, took it home and to my dismay, the item I purchased, was used. It had been used, returned, and reshelved. I resolved to return it and replace it with an identical, unused one. Then I saw the booklet that showed the Kitchenaid Hand Blender product line.

They have a whole attachment series for these handy tools that could replace 2 other small appliances I own! The stick blender itself, the whisk attachment to replace our hand mixer and a chopper (essentially a mini food processor). So now to make a loooong story short, we bought this one:

At $100 it was a bit more than I wanted to spend, however, I love it! It blends fruit for smoothies beautifully and I'm coming up with hundreds of new recipe's to test including homemade mayonnaise! And as a bonus I get to pass along three small appliances that took up tons of space in my cupboards, but were pretty well necessity in our kitchen!

I promise to share in the future how well it works and if I indeed decide that it will permanently replace a full size blender. But for now it seems to work great!

Happy Monday!


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Simple Honey Wheat Bread

I love bread. Love it. But I have noticed that unless I buy the expensive organic bread I get sick. Like really bad. I think there is something wrong with the conventionally grown flour supply. I buy organic flour myself and the more I switch our grain items to organic the less allergy problems I end up struggling with. I don’t want to go back to having awful allergy problems but paying 4.89 for a loaf of bread is getting crazy!

I have decided to make my own. I mean why not people did it in the old days and I already buy all organic flour. I’ve even heard that soaking grains and baking your own bread is better for you. Although this isn’t a soaked bread recipe I plan to make it that way (or make soaked bread that is similar) soon. Anyways, this recipe turned out really well! Here goes!

2 Cups Warm Water
2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
1 TBSP Active Dry Yeast
1 TSP Salt
1/3 Cup Honey
1/3 Cup Oil ( I used Olive Oil)
5 Cups All Purpose or Bread Flour ( I have worked  in a little more wheat flour alternatively)

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add honey, and stir well. Mix in whole wheat flour, salt, and vegetable oil. Work all-purpose flour in gradually. I found that I actually had to knead some of the flour in, around cup 4 it starts getting really difficult to work in more flour!

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead for at least 10 to 15 minutes. When dough is smooth and elastic, place it in a well-oiled bowl. Turn it several times in the bowl to coat the surface of the dough, and cover with a damp cloth. 

Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

Punch down the dough. Shape into two loaves, and place into two well-greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pans. Allow to rise until dough is 1 to 1 1/2 inches above pans.

Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 25 to 30 minutes.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Homemade Applesauce

You Will Need:
10-12 apples (pick your favorite)
A touch of water
Optional Cinnamon
Optional Sugar or Honey (Unsweetened at home is actually quite sweet usually leaving sweetening unnecessary)
Canning supplies if you intend to can your applesauce for later.

Making applesauce is easy. One of my favorite fall tasks and well whenever we run out of applesauce, which happens often with the little ones that love it!  I used to use Lindsay’s method (Passionate Homemaking) then I moved out of my parent’s house and realized the value of a good blender.
My new method for applesauce still preserves many of the great nutrients but works better for people  with cheap (or no) blenders.
I start by peeling and chopping all of the apples, They need to be cubes that will cook well and mash later depending on the smoothness of applesauce you like. Think making mashed potatoes :o)
I put all my chunks in a pot and add a tiny bit of water. If you are adding cinnamon most people say do it after it’s sauce, I say add it now, gives the flavors more time to meld. Turn the pot on to medium heat and stir until the apples begin to soften. If you prefer chunkier applesauce, as soon as the apples begin to soften start mashing or blending if you like smooth applesauce let it boil and cook a little longer.
If you are canning your applesauce (as I do) start your jar sanitizing while the apples cook. Sanitize 4 or 5 2cup (pint I guess?) jars for larger apples 1 or 2 jars for smaller apples.
Once the apples reach the softness of your choice, transfer the mixture to your second rate blender or pull out your potato masher.  Mash or blend your apples to the desired consistency. Your applesauce is done. Enjoy or can for later enjoyment.
Pull your jars out and ready them for the sauce. Fill the jars leaving about an inch of headspace (to the edge of the ring). Process in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes.  Allow the jars to cool on the counter Label and store for later!
Enjoy your applesauce!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

My Natural and Green Laundry Routine

I promised I would share with you how I keep my diapers clean and sanitary. Really I do all of my laundry approximately the same as my diapers so this is my “kill two birds with one stone” post.

First of all, I can’t stand all of the nasty chemicals and scents etc. that are in commercial laundry detergent/ products. We have been ridding our lives of everything chemically loaded why should we coat our clothes in them?

We separate out our clothes pretty simply. Clothes and Diaper covers go together and Diapers, wipes and rags go together. The clothes and diaper covers are washed in cold/cold cycles to preserve clothes and water resistance. Diapers, wipes and rags are washed in hot/cold cycles to sanitize.

We use Charlie’s Soap as our laundry detergent because it is naturally derived and rinses clean. It has no added scents or well anything really. It gets our clothes beautifully clean without anything added but . . .We have hard water. . Bad, nasty, difficult water that threatens to turn all of our clothes into burlap. Water softeners are expensive, one thing I realized, they are all essentially salt. So rather than spend a fortune on water softeners I decided to spend 59 cents and buy a can of salt. I now throw in about a teaspoon of salt in every load and BAM. No more hard water. So far our clothes are softer, the diapers are feeling more and more comfortable on the babies and I haven’t noticed any ill effects on our clothes. Every once in a while I will use vinegar in the rinse cycle as well as a fabric softener and in cloth diapers as sanitizer. Most of the time however I forget the vinegar, the washer doesn’t normally give me warning when the rinse cycle comes up.

Stains if treated quickly can usually be removed by one of three methods, I either 1. Let them soak in the sink and swish them around a few times before throwing the item in the washer (normally stain is pretty well gone when I throw it in the wash) 2. Rubbing a bit of baking soda into the stain to scrub it out or 3. This awesome stain remover made from ¼ cup of dish soap, 2-3 tbsp of vegetable glycerin, and about ½ cup of water mixed in a spray bottle this stuff rocks!

The one difference in the diaper loads is that we need to disinfect the diapers regularly as to not spread bacteria between the kids. To cloth diaper loads I add 10 or so drops of Tea Tree oil and about once a month I add a ¼ to ½ cup of lemon juice to sanitize and bleach them, leaving them to soak for about a half hour. This keeps our diapers fresh and mostly stain free. If I had the ability to line dry them this would accomplish all of this in one as sunlight is a natural disinfectant and bleaching agent!

When we pull things out of the washer Diaper Covers and Wet Bags, Wool items and Gentle Items (I.E. Bra’s) get thrown over the clothes line in the laundry closet the rest get thrown in our dryer with dryer balls I made with this tutorial from Kelly at ImperfectHomemaking

We usually fold the clothes when they come out of the dryer because I have nowhere to store unfolded laundry, but a lot of the time I really wish I had somewhere to toss it instead!!

Well that’s it, our lovely laundry routine! I hope you enjoyed our tour!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Slave Driver Mommy ~ Toddler Chores

In our home we all try to pitch in on the housework. Our oldest is just moving into the stage where she can start to help out too! Here are the things we've been having Noodle Doodle either help us with or do herself (mostly help us with)

1. Dishes- She actually loves to do the dishes! We wash all of the sharp things and then hand her the scrubbie and she goes to town on those dishes. Mostly we end up washing them, and the floor, and the cabinets under the sink, but she's learning valuable skills here so why stop her.

2. Loading/Unloading the Dishwasher.- Before we quit using our dishwasher Noodle would routinely load and unload everything she could reach.

3. Picking up her toys.- If she plays with it and pulls it out from it's home, she can most likely put it back! We are working hard to help her to play with one toy at a time. It doesn't always work, but it's a start!

4. Washing cabinet fronts - When mommy cleans the cabinets, I'm a neat freak and I wash them about every two weeks if not more often, Noodle has a rag and gets to do the scrub down on the lower cabinets too.

5. Bringing things for the New baby.- Blankets, Sucky's (pacifier), Burp Cloths, Diapers; when mommy and daddy's hands are full, Noodle Doodle's hands are big help!

6. Folding (and unfolding) laundry- I just started trying to teach her how to fold washcloths. It's not perfect but she enjoys tearing through the house with our laundry!

7. Wiping up spills on the floor.- Noodle is excellent at finding every floor mess there is. Since she is such a pro at finding them, I started giving her a rag so now she even wipes them up.

8. Cooking.- Now this could maybe not be a chore to some people, but to others it is. I actually enjoy cooking, but anyways that's beside the point. Noodle helps us mix things and is eve beginning to stir things on the stove, We're teaching her about the hot and cold and in's and out's of cooking now so that hopefully she can have better luck learning how to cook as she grows up. Plus it is super cute to see her stir a bowl of flour!

So these are the basic chores we have Noodle Help us with. They are all simple enough that she can do them, but learning for her that helps her with coordination, following orders, basic homemaking skills and mostly they are fun for her!

What kind of chores do your toddlers do?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Love the Unexpected

gotta love surprises! My internet service provider has decided that we need to pay m more to use our service on the computer, so my posts may not include our pictures for a couple days, oh and don't expect them to be long, the phones keys are awefully small! Here's hoping I get it straight quickly!