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Looks Good In Polka Dots

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Yummy Beans...

Best ever black beans... sort of refried. (Gluten Free)

1/2 bag black beans .67
1 inch section of bacon (I chopped the ends off the entire package) .50
Fresh herbs from my kitchen
Dehydrated onions & garlic .10
Sea salt & black pepper

Soak beans overnight (better yet, sprout them for about 3 days).
Place bacon into a large stock pot and cook thoroughly, pieces will separate as you cook. If desired, remove from pan and dice into smaller pieces. Soak and rinse beans and add to pan of bacon followed by 5-6 cups of water. Add herbs, onions, garlic, sea salt, and pepper (I add to taste). Bring to a boil, reduce heat to 4 (med-low), cover and allow to simmer until all liquid is absorbed and beans are starting to "fry" in the pan. Mash beans as they cook. Enjoy immediately with fresh tortillas.

If you plan to make a large batch and save for reheating later, I'd add more fat so that the beans don't dry out. This could be accomplished with more bacon or added lard.

I intended to have a photo, but the kids gobbled these right up!

You can find my recipe for a yummy Gluten Free sausage & rice casserole over at Polka Dots.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Lent... a Time of Reverance and Repentance

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. Our family will be attending Mass and beginning our Lent journey.

I will be giving up caffeine. This is a big one for me! I'm addicted to soda and coffee. I'm sure there will be some migraines in the next few days, but we will get through it! *Sigh*.

The children are giving up sweets, or at least candy. This will be difficult, because, well, they are kids and like most children they love their sweets.

I feel strongly that the children need to attend the Mass tomorrow night. This will enable them to move toward a full understanding of our faith and this special season. We give up food as a sacrifice to help us remember and ponder on the ultimate sacrifice, our Lord Jesus. Each time I crave a soda or a steaming cup of coffee, I will reflect on a much larger sacrifice. This is a time for sacrifice, fasting, and prayer.

My focus during Lent on this blog will continue to be on our food, however we will be practicing some dietary changes, such as no Meat on Friday's. Hopefully I can still pull off fish and vegetarian meals that both fit our budget and keep my omnivore husband happy.

I'm also shopping for First Communion dresses (and lots of accessories) for two of my daughters, Kaylee and Kenzie. I have a feeling this will not be a frugal endeavor because this sacrament is a once in a lifetime experience and I don't want to place my focus on frugality when it needs to be on the solemnity of the occasion. I frequently have to remind myself that frugality, like anything else can become a hindrance to faith in the way of a false God if I allow it to completely consume or over shadow my Spiritual life.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Nutrition Goals

Nutrition Goal #1- bye bye conventional sugar

For the last few years, we've only used organic evaporated cane sugar but I know it's still not ideal. We are making the switch to rapadura/sucanat (pure evaporated cane sugar with molasses still in the crystals), agave (which we've also been using for years), local honey (also not new), and stevia. The kids enjoy a sweetener on their breakfast cereals, rice, and oatmeal. For this purpose, I like Sun Crystals. I give each child a packet with their breakfast cereal. This way, I'm in control of portion size and they are still getting a bit of sweetness. The kids really enjoy being in control of their own packets. Sun Crystals are a combination of stevia and cane sugar, with 5 calories per packet. Once packet is equal to the sweetness of one tablespoon of sugar. The sugar switch may cost a bit more. I currently can purchase organic evaporated cane sugar for about $1.00/lb. Sucanat runs about $1.63lb for organic in 50lb bags or $1.02lb for conventional.

Nutrition Goal #2- bye bye soda pop and juice

This is the hard one for me. I have an addiction to Coca-Cola. Hubs is addicted to Mt. Dew and Rockstar. I know that there is no way I can get him to give those up 100% (unless he suddenly has an awakening), but I'm working on getting these nasties out of my diet completely. The children already consume almost no soda.

In order to fully accomplish this, I'll be starting water kefir. This way, we can enjoy a fizzy beverage while improving our health. I will also limit fruit juice to kefir juice.

Nutrition Goal #3- 100% local, grassfed, hormone free, antibiotic free meat


This one isn't hard to do, but it can get pricey! We already opt for organic foods in all other areas of our diet. The only thing holding us back in the meat department has been the cost. I opt for all natural, whole meats all the time, with organic as frequently as possible. In order to reach our 100% goal, we are using a portion of our tax return to buy 1/2 cow from a local farm. This will run us about $3.00/lb (approx output annually= $1000).

We are also working with local farms to purchase fryer chickens. Ideally, I'd like to have about 24 chickens. This will allow us to have fryer chicken 2x a month followed by soup made from the stock another 2x a month. The problem right now is that the local chickens I'm finding are about $20.00 each! I can purchase organic chicken at Costco for $10.00 each, but they aren't local and I don't know the farmers. (Annual output, $240-$480)

We are also planning to purchase 100lbs of tuna in August ($300-400). I will then can the tuna and we will enjoy it over the following year.

Hubs would like to purchase some local buffalo as well. Since it's a bit pricier, at around $4.00/lb, we will buy 100 lbs. Most of which we will make into sausage.

All of the meat purchases are staggered throughout the year, so that they will need replenished at different times (and adhering to slaughter/catch schedules). This will allow us to have a variety of healthy meats throughout the year. The farthest farm from us where we will purchase these meats is 60 miles. I'm fairly certain that this amount of meat will last us much longer than a year, as I try to limit our main meal to 1 lb and we don't generally consume meat during breakfast or lunch, except on occasional weekends. Obviously, our annual cost goes down if we don't consume all this in a 12 month period.

Annual cost = $2040-$2280 (or $170-$190/monthly) (approx 625 lbs at $3.26-$3.65lb)

$1000/beef, Feb/March (300-350lbs)
$240-480/chickens, May (24 fryers, approx 3 lbs each)
$400/tuna, August (100 lbs)
$400/buffalo, October (100 lbs)

Nutrition Goal #4- Grinding my own wheat

We already use whole wheat flour, a combination of hard red and white wheat. I soak a lot of our grains, but not 100% yet. This year, I intend to purchase a Blendtec Kitchen Mill ($179.00). Currently, I spend about $3.50 (.70/lb) - $5.49 ($1.10/lb) per 5 lb bag of organic flour. I can buy Organic hard white wheat berries from Azure Standard in a 50 lb bag for $23.90 (or .49 cents per lb). This is a cost savings of at least .21 cents per pound. According to these prices, it will take about 18 bags of hard white wheat berries to make up the cost of the grain mill. That will take our family about 15-18 months. After that, we will be saving about $10 per 50 lbs of wheat. The motivation is more of a health benefit versus cost savings, but we will reap rewards in both areas!

Longer term goals include growing the majority of our own fruits and vegetables. This year, I'd like to grow 100% for the 3-4 outdoor growing season. We will still have to do u pick from local spray free farms for much of our canning and freezing fruit needs for the winter. I'd also like to raise chickens, however since we are living in town temporarily, we can't. Our city has regulations that doesn't allow agriculture animals, including chickens. Eventually we also want to keep bees, goats, and cows.

Valentine's on a Budget

We don't do a whole lot for VDay... it's been too commercialized. That said, we do try to make it fun for the kids and at least a bit special for the adults.

I usually give each of the children a small gift... this year, it's 12" stuffed bears that are holding the words, "I LOVE YOU". I got them on sale for $2.99 each.

For Hubs, I found a package of chocolate dipped potato chips... sounds gross, I know. Evidently he had some at a work party a while back and said they were surprisingly delicious.

The kids made their own valentine cards. This year we made recycled heart shaped crayons... you can read my article over at Eco Child's Play. Total cost... $8.00 (for 5 children's classroom cards).

We will stay at home on VDay... I am planning a love themed meal. We will set the table with the lace tablecloth, add some candles, and heart shaped place mats (cut from construction paper). We will be serving sparkling pink lemonade in wine glasses, heart shaped biscuits with mini turkey burgers tucked inside and heart shaped home cut baked fries.

My total cost for this VDay celebration (including classroom trading cards) for a family of 7...

$14.95 gifts
$4.99 Hubs Treat
$2.99 Sparkling pink lemonade
$8.00 heart shaped baking/crayon mold

We already have the nice table ware, linens, candles and plenty of art paper around for making decorations/place mats. $0

We eat dinner every day... so that's not an additional cost. I'll be making soaked whole wheat biscuits cut with a heart shaped cookie cutter we already own. Then I'll patty up 2 lbs of ground turkey that I purchased for $.99/lb. I'll add some heart shaped slices of cheese (don't worry, I'll save the scraps for Monday's daycare lunch). 3 lbs of potatoes will run about $.60. This definitely still fits into our normal dinner budget.

The kids will spend today writing love notes to each of their siblings, and if we are lucky, they will also write them to Mama and Daddy. I give them the guidelines of finding at least two things about each sibling to appreciate in the letters.

Since we are Oregonians tried and true, we also celebrate Oregon's Birthday, this year we celebrate 151 years of statehood. My family has been here since before Oregon was part of the United States, so we feel a special sense of connection and pride! So, our VDay dessert will be a Happy Birthday Oregon cake. This Birthday celebration opens up lots of learning opportunities which we use as a topic for discussion at dinner.

Happy Valentine's Day and Happy Birthday, Oregon!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Shopping Steals

When I went to the grocery this week... I did quite well. I don't do a lot of "couponing" because we don't buy a lot of packaged foods. Packaged = processed which we try to avoid as much as possible.

Here's some of the deals we found:
Ground Turkey (85/15) Real Meat, not mechanically separated, $0.99/lb
Frozen Tilapia 8 fillets (2 lbs) for $6.99
Thin sliced steak, 10 steaks (3 lbs) for $6.38

Organic Fuji Apples, .98/lb
Organic Navel Oranges, .98/lb
Organic baby carrots, .99/lb

Rice Chex Cereal 8 boxes, $1.00/box (Sale $1.50each if you buy 4, + .50/1 coupons)
Orange juice, $1.99/gallon

Milk, $1.99-$2.49/gallon (Organic milk on markdown, 5 days prior to sell by date).

2lbs local cheddar cheese, $3.99

Ragu Pasta Sauce 4 jars, .75 jar (sale, $1.25 each + $1.00/2 coupon)

Packaged pasta .75/box (we usually make ours, but some days its nice to have a box on hand for the daycare)

Once all was said and done, I did all our grocery and household shopping for the week (Family of 7 plus 4 daycare kids) for $142.00.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Gluten Free Communion

We have First Communion coming up... it's a very exciting time. Read how we are dealing with Celiac and Communion over at Looks Good In Polka Dots.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Best Ever Sourdough Pancakes


I've spent the last 9 days making a sourdough starter. It's been an interesting experience. Here's how I made this batch... this is the first recipe, so we have yet to see how it works with bread and other risen goods.

Day 1- combine 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1 cup room temp water in a large glass jar. Cover loosely with lid (I also poked a hole in the lid).
Days 2 & 3- stir in hooch (clear brownish liquid that smells like beer), add 1/2 cup whole wheat flour and 1/2 cup water. (Most directions say to discard a portion of your starter prior to adding more... I didn't. I just kept the whole thing in a large enough container to accommodate, so I didn't have to waste any.
Day 4- Pour started into a large, clean bowl. Add 1/2 cup whole wheat flour & 1/2 cup room temp water. Wash and sanitize (boiling water) the jar and lid. Pour back into clean jar, cover loosely and place back on counter.
Day 5- Stir in hooch. Feed 1/2 cup whole wheat flour & 1/2 cup room temp water.
Days 6, 7, 8- Allow to sit on the counter. I stopped feeding to see what would happen. This is when I really started getting frothy bubbles and a nice soury-beer like smell.
Day 9- proof starter. Pour it into a large, clean bowl. Add 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1 cup room temp water. Mix well. Allow to sit on the counter overnight. This morning it was all frothy, bubbly, fabulous.
Day 10- Recipe time.


I intend to make bread and pizza crusts today, then restart my starter with more whole wheat flour.

Sourdough pancakes, DELICIOUS. (Modified from CowboyShowcase)

1 cup whole wheat sourdough starter
2 Tbs coconut oil in liquid form (place jar in a bowl of warm water to liquefy)
2 Tbs Sucanat or Rapadura
1 large free range egg
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp Celtic Sea Salt
3/4-1 cup whole wheat flour
Whole milk

Place started in a bowl. Add liquid coconut oil, mix well. Add lightly beaten egg. Mix well. Add rapadura, baking soda, and sea salt. Add 3/4 cup flour, mix well. Add whole milk, a little at a time until you've reached the desired consistency. My experience was that a thin batter worked great because these puffed up a lot! You can add a little more flour as needed.

Heat your griddle over medium, melt a pat of real butter on griddle. Pour by 1/4 cup onto griddle. Flip once. Enjoy with real maple syrup!

Later today, I will get going on some sourdough bread loaves. I can't wait!

*UPDATE* 2/13/10
I killed my starter... things were going well, but I continued to leave it sit on the counter once it was nice and active and deliciously sour... I didn't look at it, stir it, etc... over a 3 day weekend and on Monday I found MOLD. GAG. So I had to dump the whole lot and start fresh.