Saturday, October 23, 2010

Andrew Turns One...or...Let Them Eat MEAT Cake!

Oct 11-Climbing on a box.
Eating fermented beets, and loved them!

Yes, you read that right. I said meat cake.

For Andrew's first birthday, he got a meat cake. A truly nutritious and wholesome alternative to what usually gets served up.

I know, some would think I'm crazy. It's a one-year-old's rite of passage to get totally messy, with frosting and cake stuck in every crevice of their body, right? It probably is mostly okay to do fun things like that once in a while. But I think I'll wait till the 2nd birthday for that. Why? I'll save THAT for another post. Oh the suspense. ;-)

But now, for the cake!

Meat Cake

1. Mix up your favorite meatloaf recipe. I just used 2 lb. hamburger, 1 egg, then season to taste with salt, pepper, oregano, basil, whatever suits your fancy. Then I split it up into two 9-inch cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees till done. I think it took about 30 minutes.

2. Put one "cake" onto a plate. As a middle "frosting" layer, I used pureed squash, but you could also use mashed potatoes. Then put the second "cake" on to of the "frosting" layer.
3. Then "frost" with mashed potatoes. Decorate with ketchup and pureed squash. I put the squash into a plastic bag and cut off the tip to decorate.

That's it! You'll want to warm it up again before your meal, so make sure you use an oven-safe plate. Also, reserve a dollup of cold mashed potatoes to put on the cake to put a candle in, so it doesn't melt into your warm cake!

I tried hard to get them all looking at the same time. It just wasn't happening.

Enjoying his cake.

And here are some pictures of the birthday boy!

Oct 22-He crawled into the box and enjoyed some books.
Andrew and Mommy. I had to take the picture myself since Daddy was gone working all day.
After bathtime! He loves climbing onto Judah's bed.

Oct 23
Andrew is trying to say many things like, "kitty", "amen", "Judah". Those are just a few of many, and he does a lot of mimicking of sounds. It's so fun to see the light of recognition brighten up his face as he tries to make a new sound.

He's got such a bright smile, and shares it readily. He loves crawling up stairs, and we just are learning how to go back down stairs, with Mom's help of course.

He still hasn't taken that first independent step on his own yet, but I'm expecting it to be soon. He can rise to standing from sitting without any support. He prefers to walk while holding onto your fingers with a super-tight grip.

He loves milk, and is just learning how to drink from a sippy cup, although he prefers to drink from a regular lid-less cup. And he is getting quite good at feeding himself. I've given him a fork or spoon a few times, and I've caught him trying to put food onto the spoon or fork to try and put into his mouth. Oh the look of concentration! So cute!

He also loves reading books. I love peeking in on him in his room to find him contentedly looking at books.

So that's Andrew at a year! It's been fun. And November 1 marks his baptismal birthday. Hard to believe how much as changed in a year.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Homemade Shampoo

I have been wanting to lower my use of artificial, synthetic, and chemical products for a while now. I've pretty successfully eliminated them from my food as I've gone to a real foods, whole foods diet. And I've slowly been trying to eliminate chemical products from my house.

One way that I've wanted to do this is by steering clear of shampoo and conditioner. Some of you may have heard of the "No 'Poo Challenge" out there right now, which has intrigued me. I think it involves just washing your hair with baking soda and apple cider vinegar. Well, I don't think I really want to completely eliminate shampoo, just find a healthy alternative to it. (My hair gets really gross when it's greasy!) But I don't necessarily want to go expensive, either.

I've been trying to buy some "organic" and "all natural" products out there, but are they really that much better than the regular products out there for the price you pay? If you look at the label, some "organic" products contain just as many weird hard-to-pronounce ingredients as the regular products!

I listened to a podcast by one of my fav bloggers, Cheeseslave, a while back. You can listen to the podcast here. She interviewed the owner of Actual Organics who was talking about how many chemicals are in products we use every day, and eventually our body won't be able to handle the chemical load anymore and it will manifest as some disease or cancer. I don't remember exact details, but one thing I do remember is that anything with "eth" anywhere in the ingredient name is bad! Please listen to this podcast to get more details!

While I don't think I will ever be able to afford her products, the DIY-side of me got to thinking...why not make my own? I don't think I'll ever be able to do make-up, but when I came across this shampoo recipe, I thought, "Here's something I can do!"

I found this recipe in a cookbook called Healthy Choices put out by Keepers at Home Magazine.

Homemade Shampoo

1 bar castile soap (I bought a 3-pack of Kirk's Original Coco Castile Soap" from the local U-Save Store for about $3.49... not sure if that is a good price or not, but even at about 1.17/bar, this shampoo is quite reasonably priced!)
1 pint boiling water
1 egg

1. Flake soap, and melt in the boiling water, then cool. (I just cut the soap into shreds with a knife and put in the water.

2. After water is cool, put soap mixture into a mixing bowl and add one egg. Beat with beater. (It really foams up!

3. Put in jar. After it is settled, it is ready to use. This shampoo will keep.

For me, it filled a quart jar and a pint jar. I thought the texture would be very liquid, like store-bought shampoo, but it's not. Once the mixture settles, it's thicker than what it looks like. You need to make sure you scoop out enough to get it to foam up in wet hair. For me, I need about a tablespoon.

Also, I thought castile soap was an olive oil based soap, but I guess it refers to any vegetable-based soap, as opposed to soap made with animal fat like tallow or lard. (Don't worry, homemade lye and/or lard soap is on my list of things to do....!) Kirk's is coconut oil based, which is cool. I like coconut oil.

Like I said, this is easy, I like it, and it's in my price range. :-)

About conditioner, I have been steering away from it, but I'll look into a homemade version soon!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Fermented Sauerkraut according to Me

I wanted to share with you how I go about making sauerkraut, a food that we hold near and dear in this household. It's good and so good for you.

These are the six huge heads of cabbage my husband snagged from a local gardener. They weren't raised organically, but they weren't raised with all sorts of chemicals, either, plus they were raised locally. I like to buy local when I can. It's important that whatever cabbages you use to make sauerkraut, that they are of highest quality. If they are nutrient-deficient, it will result in a very low-quality final product.

And that thing in the middle of the picture? THAT, my friends, is an old-fashioned kraut cutter from my grandparents. They used it to make sauerkraut back in the day, before there were food processors. Interesting tidbit of how my forebears used to make sauerkraut... my grandma said that they used to set the jars to ferment outside in the shade of the lilac bush.

With these beautiful heads of cabbage, we made sauerkraut. And not just any
sauerkraut. Fermented sauerkraut!

How do I make it? It's is really quite simple. Surprisingly so.

When we first started a couple years ago, it was very small scale, and the way to go for anyone starting out with the fermented sauerkraut endeavor. The basic recipe can be found here.

But this summer we've evolved into doing more at a time, especially since we've been able to acquire more cabbage heads at a time. AND we have honest to goodness crocks!

The process:

1. Shred cabbage, allow about 1 small-medium head to 1 quart of space. Food processor is easiest. I had to have my husband do the shredding with the manual shredder because it required someone stronger than me to use! But boy, it shredded cabbage really great, got the juices flowing a lot better. I don't like to shred it too finely, but whatever you like.

Here's a pile of shredded cabbage.

2. Put into big bowl with whey, salt, and caraway seeds, and pound with a wooden pounder until the juices start to pool in the bottom of the bowl. Allow about 4 T. whey, 1 T. real salt, and 1 T. caraway seeds (opt. but recommended!) for 1 quart. If you don't have any whey, here are directions for making some. Otherwise, you could skip the whey and substitute an additional tablespoon of salt. Why even add whey? In the cookbook, Nourishing Traditions, whey is recommended because it helps to ensure "consistently satisfactory results," and also supplies lactobacilli (this helps improve digestibility of food and increases vitamin levels, as well as producing helpful enzymes, and antibiotic and anticarcinogenic sustances, and promotes the growth of healthy flora in the gut... simply put, GOOD STUFF!) and acts as an innoculant (reduces the time needed for sufficient lactic acid to be produced to ensure preservation).

I use a nifty wooden pounder my husband made. You could also use a meat pounder, too. It also helps to mix it all together and let it sit for 10 minutes or so, the salt starts to draw out the juices.

We strayed a little from the directions as we used crocks this year. We were going more toward the directions in Wild Fermentation, which recommends to just layer the cabbage and salt, and to not worry too much about pounding. I think the pounding is really just to bring out the juices so you can push the cabbage below the salty brine, which is what keeps the cabbage from spoiling.

One of the crocks we threw in a few garlic cloves. Wow does it make a smelly kraut, but it doesn't taste bad at all!

3. Press pounded mixture beneath liquid and put a plate and weight on top of it. Cover with towel and let sit anywhere from 3-14 days. We fermented for 9 days. If you're going small scale with this endeavor, you can put a lid on the glass quart jar and just ferment for 3 days then put in the fridge. In the open crock, we made sure to skim the "bloom"(aka mold) that formed on the top of the liquid about every day. If you don't have a plate the right size, you could use a glass or plastic food-grade lid that fits inside the container you're fermenting in. If you're not using a crock, you could use a plastic food-grade bucket, or a larger glass jar. The weight we use is a smaller glass jar filled with water.

4. Put in jars and keep in a cool place. We filled about 15 quart jars from this ferment. Make sure to push the kraut below the brine. You may have to skim some mold off the top if you keep it for several months, but the kraut is still good, so don't throw it out! We will be keeping all our jars (I've lost count now, but we must be between 30-35 jars of kraut, plus all the pickles we've done) in the crawl space beneath the cabin, they should keep nice and cool on the cement floor.

Here's a bowl of the end result... sorry for the dimly lit picture.
And here I am, concentrating very hard at filling the jars. That wooden thing I'm holding isn't the wooden pounder I described above. THAT thing would make pounding anything pretty difficult. But it works well to push it through the funnel. And in the background you'll see two gallon jars half full of kefir soda fermenting! But that is for another post...
So you see, it's really pretty easy to do, just takes a little time. The longest part of it is the waiting, and that's not hard at all! Okay, maybe a little, if you're excited to eat some kraut. I know we're all strapped for time, but it's amazing how many people watch a lot of TV but say they don't have time... Okay, I'm off my soap box now.

I encourage you to try fermenting sometime, and sauerkraut is a great way to start.