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Looks Good In Polka Dots

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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Kefir, What?

We've started making and enjoying dairy kefir and our first round of water kefir for "soda" is working away in the cabinet.

When I tell my friends and daycare parents about kefir, they're all, "Whaaaaaaaat?".

It's simple, really.

Pour fresh (raw, if possible) milk into a clean glass quart jar (pour boiling water over the jar after its washed).  Add milk kefir grains.  Place a coffee filter on the top of the jar and secure with a rubber band.  Place in your cupboard (or other dark, warm place) for 24-48 hours.  In our (cooler) house, it takes about 48 hours for a batch to finish, which is perfect because we use half a jar per day in our afternoon smoothies.  Once the kefir is finished, remove the grains from the jar, mix the kefir milk using a plastic utensil and store covered in the fridge.  I place my grains directly into another jar for a fresh batch, if you need to take a break, simply cover them with a small amount of milk and store in the fridge for a couple days.

For the smoothies, we have tried several variations...  in this photo, we used our "base", unfiltered organic apple juice, bananas, and strawberries.

Our base includes:
1/2 quart dairy kefir
2 large handfuls fresh, organic spinach
Small amount of sweetener, we are enjoying maple syrup, agave or honey

To this we add a variety of fruits, some of our favorites have been-
Bananas and Mixed (frozen) berries
Fresh strawberries and bananas
Banana and Peanut Butter
Strawberries and Natural Orange Sherbet

When my kids first discovered that I use spinach, they were all, "EWWWWW".  Then I made a smoothie batch without the spinach and they decided it was much better with.  The dark colors of the berries disguise the color well, if the green color is a turn off in your house.  Today's stayed a bit green since it only had a few strawberries for color.

I was blessed to get my dairy kefir grains from a fabulous family friend whose grains had grown to a larger than needed size, so she simply cut off a section for me.  I purchased our water kefir from Cultures for Health (they also have dairy kefir). Kefir grains may not appear frugal at first glance, but you get to culture batch after batch with your grains and dairy kefir will multiply so you can also share with your lucky friends (water kefir doesn't multiply as much).  My water kefir starter kit was $22.99 and I also purchased 3 grostch style bottles for $4.99/each.  If I can replace my husbands soda habit, the grains and bottles will pay for themselves in less than two weeks time.   Even if he keeps buying his junk soda, the rest of us will be reaping health benefits that far exceed the start up price!

Over at Passionate Homemaking, you can watch a video on making coconut milk kefir, the process is the same for dairy kefir.  I haven't made coconut milk kefir yet, but will start alternating every batch or two (kefir grains should be replenished with dairy at least every few batches to keep them healthy).  I realized (too late) that the coconut milk we purchased at the local Asian market has some nasty preservatives added, so we won't be using it and I haven't made it back for more!

*Side Note* My GF daughter has been having major bowel issues lately... as in can't go without major drama... since we started the smoothies, she's having zero problems in that area.  Coincidence? I think not.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Soap Making on the Mom-Stuff Blog Tour

Over at Mom-Stuff, you’ll find my post on making your own soap… what a fun, crafty way to spend Spring Break! I’m thinking if we get cracking now… we should have enough made by Mother’s Day for all the Aunties, Grandma’s and God-Mama’s in our lives. What a great handmade holiday idea!

Head on over and check it out!

Don't forget to check out my original blog, LooksGoodInPolkaDots, where it's not just about Mothering, Gluten Free Cooking, and Socially Responsible Living.

Orzo for Lunch

Lunch today... Beefy Orzo.
Today there are 7 children & 2 adults for lunch. Total- $6.89

2 pkgs orzo (on sale, .75/ea) $1.50
1 lb ground beef ($3.50)
4 oz grated Parmesan cheese $1.49
1 cup whole milk (raw or at least non homogenized) .40
pepper & sea salt to taste
1 tsp each garlic & onion powder

Prepare orzo, drain, and set aside. Brown beef. Add garlic, onion, salt & pepper. Add grated Parmesan cheese & milk. Cook until melted and hot. Add drained, cooked, orzo to pan and combine well. Continue heating until hot through. Serve with side salad and carrot sticks (+ $2.00).

**To make Gluten Free, replace the orzo with brown rice.**

Organic salad cost savings tip- I buy a 3lb tub of organic salad mix at Costco for $3.99. This lasts 4-5 days. We have already planted our salad greens in the garden beds and also have some growing indoors as well.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Mom-Stuff Blog Tour

click me This image, or the one in the sidebar will take you to Mom-Stuff to see what it's all about. To find the blog tour, click here.

Beginning Monday, March 8th both of my blogs will be featured over at Mom-Stuff Blog Tour.

Go. Now. You know you want to.

Things We Eat Raw

I'm all for a more raw diet... afterall, there is no disputing that fresh food is good for you.  That said... I'm a moderate Mama and believe that 50-75% raw is a great way to go.

For 50% raw, just make sure half of your plate at each meal is raw.
To reach 75% add raw snacks.
Simple, No?

Things we eat raw:
Fresh fruit
Fresh veggies
Nuts & nut butters
Ice pops (that's another post)
Dehydrated (under 106 degrees F) fruits, veggies, seed crackers/tortillas, and fruit leathers

Things I have no desire to eat raw:
Any recipe that requires multiple expensive ingredients
Kelp pasta
Faux anything

I often make pancakes or french toast for breakfast.  My children, like most, would eat until their belly aches if I let them.  So, we have a two rule.  Everyone gets two pancakes or two pieces of french toast.  The rest of breakfast is fresh fruit.  I slice up apples, oranges, bananas, etc... to fill them up.  Difficulty level to reach 50% raw- EASY

At lunch time, I serve a portion of pasta, sandwich or other "main" dish.  Then I add a large green salad, sliced fresh veggies (carrots, broccoli and snap peas are popular) and slice up some more fruit.  Difficulty reaching 50% raw- EASY

For snacks, enjoy a frozen ice pop (raw), bananas and almond butter, veggie sticks and dip, or a smoothie.  Difficulty reaching 100% raw- EASY (We try for one raw snack and one regular snack a day)

At dinner,  my husband wants MEAT.  I'm not much of a meat eater myself, but I can appreciate the need for a good protein.  Everyone eats a larger portion of the "main" dish at dinner alongside fresh garden salad, veggie sticks, fresh fruit salad (with a little real whip for dessert).  Enjoy a small glass of fresh juice made from carrots, apples and oranges.  Difficulty reaching 50% raw- EASY.

The kids always want a before bed snack, this is the perfect time to whip up a raw smoothie or give them another ice pop.

Monday, March 1, 2010

A Private Affair

Who doesn't love FREE STUFF? I sure do! Recently, I won A Private Affair over at Project M.

The game just arrived and I'm excited to share it with my husband. You can get your very own A Private Affair for $34.99 (I think it counts as a date night, except this expense will see you through many date nights). My current date night budget is $100/month.  Since date nights are essential to any marriage and should be made a priority, we allow enough of a budget for one a week. Maybe we will invent another fund to slip date night leftovers into... you know, for those times when we stay in or save money by finding a free event.

I took this photo of my actual game... I cheated a tiny bit and flipped through a few of the cards (the game recommends not peeking in advance so both partners are surprised by the questions).  Each card has a thought or question on it... the purpose is to get couples talking.   I won't share the details here but I can bet this "game" will help improve any marriage.