t h e m a y f i l e s is foremost a family blog, chronicling everyday life. Life including natural, healthy eating (with recipes thrown in at random), home educating (with ideas popping up sporadically), an attempt to homestead on .2 acres (with very meager yields), raising 3 of 4 children with a rare genetic disorder, and lots of highly personal family triumphs and failures. You may also find an eclectic array of musings on politics, exercise, sewing, emergency preparedness, backyard chickens, and religion. This blog isn't a campaign to glorify anyone or anything. Just simply a record.


Aerogarden Update: 4 Weeks

Week 4 and my Aerogarden is thriving! All this after being gone for an entire week. It waters itself. I actually used my first little harvest today. I took a few sprigs of dill (in the back left hand corner, next to the basil) and added it to our tuna. Delicate and fragrant, it was the perfect addition. I can't wait to make my Garlic Tomato Basil Sauce this week!


Boston...Slipped Away

Boston is full. Being the brainiac that I am, I thought I would wait until February to sign up...they would never fill 22,000 spots before that, right? Wrong. The Boston Marathon officially filled up January 26th, without me.

This has been such a part of my world for the last year...I can't believe I didn't sign up sooner. We have the plane tickets....

I guess now it will be an anniversary trip, with a much more comfortable plane ride home.

I signed up to run the Ogden Marathon this morning, May 16th. I will run with a vengeance now.


Chocolate Valentines Day Cookies No Refined Sugar

Chocolate Sweetheart Valentines Day Cookies with Agave Whip Cream

Toss the Teddy Grahams and box of chocolates this Valentines Day and head straight for these yummy healthy Chocolate Sweetheart Cookies. Of course you can switch up the shape for occasions. These are a perfect way to satisfy your chocolate craving. Use little cutouts for just the perfect portion.

Chocolate Sweetheart Cookies

1 c whole grain flour + 1/2 c if needed
1/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t real salt

In saucepan melt:
4 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, chopped
4 T unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4-1 1/2 c natural sweetener*

*I recommend agave or brown rice syrup.
You will need more if using brown rice syrup less if agave.

Let cool and add:
1 large egg or 1 powdered egg

With a mixer on low, beat until well blended.
Gradually stir in flour mixture (dough will from a ball).

Divide dough in half; roll out each on parchment paper to 1/4 inch thickness. Freeze until firm, about 20 minutes. Using cookie cutter, cut out cookies.
Place on buttered baking sheet. Bake 7-10 minutes.
Be careful not to overcook. Transfer to rack to cool.

Dip and serve with Agave Whip Cream.

Agave Whip Cream

8 oz cold whipping cream
1 T agave
1 T vanilla

Combine in metal pan. Blend until firm.

Callista was going a bit crazy with the dough. She got quite a bit on herself, but some made it into the oven.
Ellery and Aunt Amy...notice we didn't butter the pan...opps. Don't forget!


Basic Bran Batter

Zucchini Muffins Scroll down for recipe and Variations Galore!

When you try to make everything from scratch, sometimes it can seem overwhelming and daunting. There are a few tricks to keep up your sleeve. This basic bran batter is one of those tricks. It is delicious, simple and extremely versatile.

Rarely will you open my fridge and not find a big tub of this basic bran batter. It is adaptable to muffins, breads, cakes cookies, pancakes and waffles with variations galore! You never tire of the same taste. This recipe makes 1 gallon at a time and lasts in the fridge for 5+ weeks. The acid in the buttermilk provides the long life.

Every morning or afternoon, I can scoop out 2 or 3 cups, flavor, and we have hot muffins or bread in minutes. This recipe is from "The Amazing Wheat Book" by LeArta Moulten. It only required minimal substitutions on my part so she gets all the credit!

I no longer make any other type of quick bread or muffin. These are too easy, nutritious and adaptable.

Basic Bran Batter

Mix and set aside to cool:
2-3 c oat bran*
2 c boiling water

*You can substitute any bran, wheat rice, corn commercially or hand rolled. You can also use commercial flakes (wheat, corn, rice or oats) or 100 % bran cereal. I don't use these because often they have added sugar.

Cream Together:
1 c olive oil
2 1/2 c honey or other natural sweetener
4 eggs, powdered or regular

Add and mix well:
2 T soda
2 t salt
4 c buttermilk
cooled bran and water mix
7 cups whole grain flour

Store in a tightly covered container and keep refrigerated at all times.
Makes 13 cups (1 Gallon).


3 cups of Basic Batter
12-16 muffins
1 cake
1 loaf quick bread
24 cookies

Baking Times and Temperatures:

Muffins = 375-400 degrees for 20-25 min
Cookies = 375 degrees for 10-15 min
Cakes = 375 degrees for 30-45 min
Bread = 375 degrees for 40-60 min
Pancakes = medium heat
Waffles = regular waffle heat

Recipe Recommendations: The pancakes and waffles don't crisp up, so they aren't our favorite. They are great reheated in the toaster though. Do not add extra pumpkin or more banana than the recipe calls for. The batter will not cook properly. If the batter is too thick thin with yogurt, milk or juice. If batter is too thin, thicken with wheat germ, oat flour, cornmeal etc.

Here is what makes this batter the best...it has a dozens of variations:

Recipes for Sweet Muffins
Combine any of the following with 3 cups of Basic Bran Batter...or be creative and create your own versions. I have tried all of these...they are wonderful.

Apple Cinnamon
1 c finely chopped apples
3 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t cloves
1 c raisins (opt)
1 c nuts (opt)

1 c finely chopped zucchini
3 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t cloves
1/2 c chocolate chips (opt)

Banana Nut
2 well mashed or blended bananas
1 T vanilla
1 c chopped walnuts
1/2 c chocolate chips

Black Cherry
1 c fresh or canned black cherries (toss with 1 t flour)
1 T cherry extract or vanilla

1 c blueberries (fresh, frozen, or canned)
Add just before baking:
1 T cinnamon or vanilla
2 T grated lemon peel (opt)

1/2 c raw, finely grated carrot
1/4 cup pure maple syrup, honey or molasses
2 t ground cinnamon or orange extract
2 T grated orange peel
1/2 to 1 c each raisins, nuts, coconut

4 t baking cocoa
1/4 c natural sweetener
1/2 c nuts or chocolate chips (opt)

1/2 c chocolate chips
1 c potato flakes
1 T coconut extract

Coconut Mandarin
1 c potato flakes
1/2 c coconut
1/2 c mandarin oranges

Date Nut
1 c chopped dates
3/4 c chopped nuts
1 t vanilla

1 T cinnamon
1 t each ginger and cloves
1/2 c molasses

1 c rolled oats
2 t cinnamon
1 t nutmeg
1 c each raisins and walnuts

Orange Cranberry
2 T grated orange peel
2 T orange extract or orange juice
1 c fresh chopped cranberries

Peanut Butter
1 c softened peanut butter
1/2 c sweetener
1/2 peanuts (opt)

Poppy Seed
2 T poppy seeds and any one of the following flavorings:
1 T almond extract
1 T each lemon extract and lemon peel

1 c canned pumpkin
1 T cinnamon
1 t each, nutmeg, ginger and cloves
1/2 chocolate chips (opt)

Raspberry Lemon
1 c fresh or canned raspberries tossed with 1 T flour
2 t vanilla or raspberry extract
1 T grated lemon peel or 1/2 c lemon yogurt
1/2 c chopped pecans (opt)


All About Oils

Amidst a sea of ingredients, sometimes fishing out the healthiest pick is daunting. Here is my take on oils. I should put a disclaimer...whenever I post it is to the best of my knowledge. However, I am never afraid to be wrong or to change when presented with new or more accurate information. In fact I love learning new things.

Case in point...Five years ago you would have found me using soy 3-5 times a week. After being presented with new information I now use zero soy in our house (excluding the raw soybean, edamame). I will post on that journey another time...

I cook exclusively with 2 oils. Olive oil and Coconut oil.

Olive Oil-Whenever possible I used cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil. It has a dark green color and a rich flavor. It cooks well, but adds a distinct flavor. If the flavor is too strong for my recipe I use an extra-light olive oil. This is a more refined oil, which means it has lost a lot of its nutritive value, but I feel it is still a better alternative than most.

Coconut Oil
-This is a little known extremely healthy oil. Look for virgin, organic varieties. The oil should have a nice coconut aroma. It is solid at room temperature. Although it is a saturated fat, which we have been trained to avoid, it's nutritive qualities are myriad. The chemical structure is slightly different than other oils which results in some very positive benefits. These include lowering cholesterol, weight loss, and anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. It is worth doing some research on if you are skeptical. Coconut oil is great for sauteing, granola*, pancakes, waffles and as lotion. In fact it makes the best baby oil. Little Emmett has enjoyed plenty of tropical scented massages!

(*Note to readers: If you have not made the multigrain granola you have got to try it. I just made it again yesterday. It is sensational. A must-have-on-hand item. It is worth searching out the ingredients even if they seem obscure!)

I am not converted to using coconut oil in baking. I have not had a good deal of success in substitution. But some recipes work. I purchase my coconut oil online from Mountain Rose Herbs. I have also used Nutiva. The Nutiva is slightly superior, in my opinion, but also a bit more expensive. I am always looking for other sources, when I find them I will let you know. The other great benefit of coconut oil is it will keep indeterminately. I have 6 gallons stored away in my basement for a rainy day.

I stay away from all other oils, including canola, soy, vegetable, corn, and any hydrogenated or partly hydrogenated oils.

I also use an oil sprayer for all my non-stick cooking needs. Brands in the grocery store may say they are pure olive oil, but they contain harmful accelerants. Purchase one you pump yourself. These are available at any kitchen supply store or online for under $20.

There are also oils like flax, hemp and others that are great, but I don't use too much in my daily cooking.


Questions on Bulk Food Purchasing and Storage

My friend emailed me with this list of questions. I thought it was worth a post as she had some great ones.

1. Is it worth the additional cost to buy organic grain?

Whenever I can I try to buy organic. Many of the specialty grains like kamut and spelt are only offered that way. My wheat is not organic. Sometimes if the prices are too disparate I forgo the organic. I always cringe inside when I don't buy organic but I am also passionate about living on a budget. Sometimes the budget takes precedence. If you can afford it, I would always buy organic.

2. When you buy your grain in bags, do you keep it in the bag or transfer to superpails?

I always used my bagged grain first. When I open a bag I transfer it to a 5 gallon bucket with a gamma seal lid. I try not to keep my grains in bags very long. I live in a very dry climate and have a lot more forgiving conditions for storage than those of you who live in high humidity areas. I move through my grains pretty quickly. About 100 lbs a month.

3. How does the cannery* Non-Fat Milk compare to Walton Feed's? Do you know the shelf life of the latter?

I have not used the cannery milk in a long time. I am not certain if it is instant or not. I love the Walton milk. It is the best I have ever had, but since there is such a price difference it would probably be worth a taste test.

I use Walton for almost everything. Convenience and availability are key for me. I pay for both.

The shelf-life of powdered milk is quite long. Some brands will tell you only a couple years, but if kept in a cool dry location they will last indeterminately. You would know if your milk was bad because it would be discolored and have an odor. Even then I have read you can use it to make cheese. Doesn't sound that appetizing to me though :)

4. How does the cannery wheat compare to Walton Feed's? I'm asking because of the price difference.

I have never seen hard white wheat available at the cannery. I do not enjoy the red wheat. The color is darker and the taste more bitter. But I do know some people who love it. Additionally I find it wasteful to purchase my wheat in cans. I move through far too much. I have used several different kinds of wheat and my favorite is Waltons hard white.

5. How do you buy the flax seed that you grind? Do you buy golden or brown?

I buy my flax from Walton in 50 lb bags. I then transfer it to buckets. I had always bought brown but recently bought the golden. Originally I was under the impression brown was better, but my last research led me to believe there was no difference in the nutrition and the golden is said to have a superior taste. So I just purchased golden. I have yet to try it, as I am still working on our brown. A coffee grinder is perfect for grinding flax.

6. What kind of potato flakes do you buy? Do you buy them in bulk as well?

I buy my potato flakes from Walton. I purchase them in bulk, but in cans. I don't like the potato pearls or powder. The flakes work best in bread.

7. How do you buy your eggs in bulk - cans, boxes, buckets, pails? Do you know how long they last?

I was afraid of powdered eggs for a long time. I began by just buying a few small cans. I found I love them for baking and they contain no preservatives. I always buy the "whole eggs." I have around 15 lbs worth. It takes me a while to move through them. The shelf life is at least 3-5 years.

8. We love brown rice and I'd like to add that to our food storage room for long-term storage. Do you buy that in bulk as well, and if so, do you know how long it will store?

I do store brown rice in bulk. I have about 75 lbs. They say it will store for 6 months, but I have some that is 2 years old that I use which is perfectly fine. I am however moving away from using it, because they say it has such a short shelf-life. The nutritional value may be diminished. Instead I am steaming all sorts of other super grains like whole barley, rye and kamut in my rice cooker or pressure cooker. The taste and texture are similar and the nutritional value is unbeatable.

9. You mentioned wanting to buy steel cut oats in bulk. I had planned on buying Oat Groats and grinding them. Is that not the same thing?

Oat groats are whole oats. By grinding them you will get an oat flour. The flour is great for baking but I prefer the texture steel cut in my multigrain hot cereal and multigrain bread. Steel cut is more of a "cracked" grain feel. I cannot get it that coarse in my Nutrimill grinder. It says it has cracked grain, but it is too fine for my preference. I can put grains in my bosch blender and get a similar texture to the steel cut...so on further thought maybe I will just do that. But if I can find them for a good price, I will just buy them. We all deserve a little convenience right?

*The Mormon church offers Family Home Storage centers nationwide. These are often called "canneries". Canneries function as packing center for high quality food. This food is then distributed to members of the church in need of assistance as well as other humanitarian aid. The food is also available for purchase, for those seeking to store food in their homes.

The Magic Words

We are spending the week in Logan at my parents Full Circle Ranch. If my posts this week are a bit sporadic, that's why. Here is a sampling of a conversation between Grandpa and Callista:

Callista: Grandpa I want some water.

Grandpa: What is the magic word?

Callista" Looking at him thoughtfully for a few moments and then gleefully responds "Abracadabra!!"


Refined Sugar Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you have not made these Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookies yet, stop everything and get to it! I posted this recipe a while back but they are so easy and delicious and my new modification is worth a re-post. I am just discovering the beauty of cooking with brown rice syrup and barley malt syrup. They are far superior to the agave version.

Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 ½ cup rolled oats

1 ½ cups whole grain flour

1 ½ t baking powder

½ t sea salt

1 cup unsweetened coconut

½ cup pecans or walnuts, chopped (opt. I leave out b/c my kids won’t eat)

½ cup brown rice syrup

1/4 c barley malt syrup

½ cup light olive oil

½ cup milk

½ cup dark chocolate chips*

1/2 c raisins (opt)

Preheat oven to 350. Mix all ingredients. Drop spoonfuls onto baking sheet. Flatten. You may want to flatten 1/2 way through cooking as well.
Bake 15-18 min.

*I know these have refined sugar, but we allow them as a small vice in our diet! All things in moderation.

Be sure to check out the Sugar Cookie Recipe from a while back, they are perfect for Valentines Day cut outs.


Scrumptious Honey Whole Grain Cornbread

Whole Grain Honey Cornbread

Cornbread is a staple in our house. I usually make this whole grain, refined sugar free recipe 1-2x a week. This is so sweet, you can almost eat it as a dessert. In fact, when I am asked to bring dessert to a large function, often I bring this with some flavored butter. People tend to appreciate having an alternative to cookies and frosting....

Personally, I prefer this recipe plain. The honey flavor comes out pleasantly strong and the bread is moist. Nothing needed.

Scrumptious Honey Whole Grain Cornbread

1/2 c butter, melted

2 powdered eggs (if substituting fresh decrease milk by 2-3 T)

1/2 t baking soda

1 c
whole grain flour (plain kamut is delicious in this recipe)
2/3 c honey
1 c buttermilk
1 c yellow cornmeal

1/2 t salt

Combine honey and butter in a mixing bowl. Add eggs, buttermilk and soda.

Mix cornmeal, flour and salt in small bowl.

Add cornmeal mixture to wet mixture. Stir as little as possible (you don't want to activate the gluten and make your bread chewy instead of crumbly).

Butter pan (I always use glass), or make into muffins.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes.

*Sour milk works well in a pinch (2 T apple cider vinegar combined with 1 c milk (minus 2 T)), but for fabulous bread go with the real buttermilk.

Sidenote...In almost all of my baking I use powdered eggs. These are whole eggs just with the water evaporated. I store them for emergencies and baking. The also reduce costs. We don't like them plain however. The nutrition content is the same. I purchase mine from Walton feed. For me convenience is key, so I order all my bulk things together and have them delivered. It is just about impossible to try to get to the store with my 3 little ones.


Cloth Diapering: Everything You Wanted to Know

Above you see some essentials, a baby with a really cute bum, diapers, spray bottles, wipes and a wet bag.

You can read a million different opinions on cloth diapering. Is it better or worse for the environment? Pockets, folds or All-in-Ones... I won't try to go through all of these. I will only give you my recommendations based on cloth diapering for the last 3 years with 2 different children.

Sidenote...Don't try to cloth diaper for the first 4 weeks. Just my personal opinion. Having a newborn baby and a beat up and cut up (in my case) body is enough to worry about. But by 4 weeks I find my babies stop pooping after every feeding and I am feeling ready to tackle life again...kind of.

What you Need:

Diapers (about $50-$250)
Start with 3-6 diapers. This is a good amount to test the waters to see if cloth diapering is right for you. I use pocket diapers. I like the flexibilty in absorbency. At night I stuff in 2 inserts to keep Emmett dry. I find the covers stay perfectly stain free. After trying a bunch of brands, I think the very best are Bum Genius and Haute Pockets.

My preference is based on functionality, longevity, quality, and cuteness. I do not recommend any of the other brands I have tried. I really dislike snaps. (After Callista I had to put new elastic in the legs of my diapers, but they work perfectly with that small mend.) I now have about 16 diapers and at least 50 inserts. This is plenty with laundering every 1-3 days.

Wet Bags (about $25)
I recommend two. A small wet bag to put in your diaper bag or purse, for changing on the go. Then a large bag to store diapers in. I use wahmies but I have seen some fun new brands out since I bought mine 3 years ago. Look for your bag to have a hemp or terry cloth swatch to put essential oils on. This masks the odor.

To store in my wet bag, I remove the insert, then shake soiled diapers into the toilet, and swirl if necessary. Sometimes I am lazy and just throw the diapers in rolled up. Honestly it works too. But you can't leave them more than a couple days.

This is my big wet bag I keep in my laundry room next to the toilet and washer.

Spray Bottles
(about $3-$10)
I recommend 3 spray bottles for diaper changing. I just bought mine at the groccery store. I have one 4 oz bottle for my diaper bag or purse and two 12 oz bottles for my two diaper changing locations in my house. My favorite solution: Fill with warm water and add 3 drops lavendar, and 5 drops tea tree or chamomile oil.

Flannel Wipes (about $5-$20)
You can make your own by just buying flannel and surging the edges or buy them already made. I bought the most basic. I have about 50. Which works great, except when my girls snitch them to use as their dolls "baby blankets" and other random uses. Callista is often found spraying one wet and smoothing her hair out. It is a good look for her, lol! I spray my babies bottoms, then wipe clean with the dry wipes. I just put the wipes inside the diaper to throw in the wet bag.

Detergents (about $25 for 6 month supply)
I use Charlies Soap, baking soda and vinegar. I love Charlies Soap Liquid detergent. It is biodegradable, all natural....and you only need a couple tablespoons. It lasts forever. I bought it when I started cloth diapering and now use it on all of our laundry. If I find my diapers are starting to smell I strip them.
Stripping Cloth Diapers

Wash once normally with soap

Wash with 1/2 c vinegar
Wash with 1/2 c baking soda

Wash in plain water, until there are no bubbles when the water is agitated during wash cycle.

Always be sure to run your diapers through a cold water rinse before you wash them normally. Follow with washing on hot. And always use an extra rinse. Never use bleach or harsh grocery store detergents. Charlies Soap is available online and is affordable. I order 2 gallons at a time. I haven't tried the powder. I may though.

My detergents and essential oil neatly tucked away in my new laundry room cabinet!

Essential Oils
(about $10-$30)
Lavender, tea tree, and chamomile are my favorites. They have antibacterial and healing properties. I use a few drops (I always change up the combination) in the final rinse cycle when I wash, in my wet bags, and in my wipee solution.

Wipee Solution
3 drops lavender oil
3 drops chamomile or tea tree oil

Combine all in a spray bottle and keep with your diapering essentials.

*Note...Always wash your diapers with as much water as your machine allows. I have heard it is very difficult to cloth diaper with front loaders which are so popular now. Unless your machine has an adjustable water level you may not be able to get your diapers clean.

**Another Note...Hang your diapers to dry on a line in the sun whenever you can. The UV light act as a sterilizer and stain bleacher! And plus they look oh so cute hanging up.

These are the basics. It definitely requires an initial investment. But the majority of these costs are one time occurrences. I buy all of my cloth diapering essentials at Nickis Diapers. I like her site, it easy to navigate and the prices are competitive.

I have never paid extra for organic, hemp, or fancy inserts. The cotton inserts that come with the diapers have always been sufficient.

There are lots of other nifty doo dads, but these essentials have gotten me by. I do think I am going to invest $45 for a diaper sprayer. They look really neat.


All About Powdered Milk and Partially Hydrogenated Oils

I had a reader ask me where to purchase "non-instant" powdered milk. I had no idea it was so difficult to find! Powdered milk is an essential kitchen ingredient if you are cooking for a family. It is smart to have in storage for emergencies. Think high protein, nutritious, comfort food. The milk supply could also become tainted or interrupted at any time.

After much experimentation, I find Rainy Day Foods, Regular Non-fat Milk from Walton Feed to superior to all others. It has an excellent shelf-life and flavor. My family cannot tell the difference between it and skim milk. My children drink it with pleasure. We use it in candy making and hot chocolate also. You can purchase it online. But feel free to experiment with your own varieties...everyone family is different.

What is the difference between Instant and Non-Instant Powdered Milk?

Instant milk has been processed twice. This allows it to dissolve easily in any temperature water. It takes about twice as much instant milk to make a quart of milk as compared to non-instant. Be sure you are clear which type of powdered milk your recipe calls for.

Powdered milk contains all the vitamins, minerals and protein found in regular milk. Only the cream and water are removed. The nutritional value of instant are regular powdered milk are comparable.

I find the taste of non-instant milk much more palatable. Just mix it up the night before using warm water, and cool overnight. It is worth the extra time for the taste and cost and space savings.

Powdered milk has a long shelf-life of 6 years if kept in a cool dry place. The flavor may begin to stale after a couple years but it is still edible. You will know if your milk is bad by the color (yellow) and the smell (do I really need to go into detail?).

Avoid milk-substitutes like "Morning Moos." This is commonly sold in the area. This product is made from whey and contains some nasty additives. From their own website...

Morning Moo's tm is made from sweet dairy whey, non-fat dry milk solids, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (contains one or more of the following: canola oil and/or Soya oil), corn syrup solids, sodium caseinate, dipotassium phosphate, propylene glycol monosterate, mono and diglycerides, lecithin, carrageena, vitamin A, vitamin D3.

Avoid Partially Hydrogenated Oils and anything that includes the words "Corn Syrup" at all Costs!

Always read ingredient lists carefully. The two I have highlighted in red above should be avoided at all times in anything! Don't be fooled by "partially hydrogenated oils," they are nasty trans fats. If you ever see partially hydrogenated oil listed as an ingredient, throw the box down immediately and run away as fast as you can. I don't care if it says "0 Trans Fats" in big bold green letters with lots of hearts and smiley faces! Don't trust the government mandated labeling.

I will be ever grateful to my good friends Joe and Sessalie for alerting Brent and me to the dangers of hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils six years ago (and, for the record, high fructose corn syrup). The night I learned was life changing. I went through our pantry and threw away box after box. Sick to my stomach the whole time. I poured over the information on the internet. What I found disturbed and upset me. Cooking everything from scratch began.

I ended up on a tangent again, from powdered milk to hydrogenation to government conspiracy... Hiedi, I am sure this is way more than you were bargaining for but I hope it helps!


The Week with No Microwave Experiment

We must perforce accept a new way of life.

Brent just introduced me to this new word, "perforce." It means, by necessity. A past-time we enjoy is vocabulary scavenging. Our dictionaries are kept close at hand to elucidate the convoluted verbiage in the books we peruse :)

My microwave gave out tonight. I did a bit of research and apparently we purchased a lemon of a make and model. So perforce we are accepting a new way of life this week. I always feel a bit uneasy popping things in the microwave. Immediately all those good enzymes in my food are denatured and destroyed. So we are trying an experiment. No micro for one week.

Really what I am most disappointed about are the rice bags.

Kiss goodbye the toasty tickling feet at bed time. Playing footsie with your husband and a rice bag in bed, far outweighs the alternative: him trying to squish his ice cold digits in my warmest pits! Ellery and Callista snuggle incessantly with their own. And have discovered a new found freedom heating them up themselves...Maybe this is why the micro gave out? How many 3 minutes cycles can it handle...

I can't think of an alternative way to warm them? Any ideas? Necessity is the mother of invention...I better get creative.

We shall see how the week goes. If I can learn to live without a microwave...I could fit double ovens!!! Wow. The things that bring me joy. I think I would have gagged at myself if I read this when I was 14-years-old. Double ovens and joy? Who would have thought.

Lemon Custard Agave Cream Puffs

Lemon Custard Agave Cream Puffs (scroll down for refined sugar free recipe)

I helped put on a baby shower this last weekend. My responsibilities included a soup, cornbread and a dessert. This seemed completely within the scope of my abilities...

Sidenote... Lately, I feel like I am running in a million directions a million miles an hour. I get to bed about midnight and then wake up between 5-5:45 am. I need to slow down. Today I actually crashed for a nap while my girls were playing and Em was sleeping. What the catalyst has been for this busyness, I can't quite put my finger on...

Trying to be diligent and prepared I made my soup the day before the shower. Which, btw, I lost my recipe and searched the internet frantically, to no avail. My aging 31 year old brain came to rescue and I actually was able to remember it decently. The end result was a satisfying Butternut Squash Bisque. Quite a few recipe requests...will post soon.

With all this forethought I felt in good shape for Saturday. I hadn't chosen my dessert however. On my morning run, Marie (in charge of the shower) began mentioning her cute pink cupcakes with little baby booties on them. Of course, I wanted to make something pretty and feminine too, as I enjoy this type of thing obviously. What to make? I scoured my cook book, and found what I thought to be the perfect dessert. Individual meringue shells, filled with lemon custard. The picture in the book was beautiful. I set out on my adventure with 4 hours from shower start.

One word. Disaster. My pale pink shells were a more fitting bridal shower "Victoria's Secret" hot pink! The picture does make them look a little worse (I dug them out of the garbage to snap a shot) but not much. They were sickenly sweet, and whether the xylitol's fault or mine, the "stiff peaks" of the meringue proved illusive.

My resulting blobs were not appetizing in the least. Even sweet-toothed Ellery, at first was mesmerized with their apparent pink girlish beauty, took one nibble and said,"Mom I don't think I really like this."

In a panic I sent Brent to Costco to find something presentable while I figured out what to do. I decided to put make a cream puff pastry, to fill with the lemon agave custard I made, which turned out amazing. Racing the clock they came out great and received rave reviews. So here is the resulting recipe creation...

Lemon Custard Agave Cream Puffs

Lemon Custard

1/2 c agave nectar

2 T cornstarch

3 beaten egg yolks

1/3 c water

1 t finely grated lemon peel

1/3 c fresh squeezed lemon juice

Combine ingredients in saucepan. Cook over medium heat until bubbly. Stir and cook for 2 minutes more. Remove from heat. Cover and let cool (mixture will be thick).

Puff Pastry Shell

1 c water
1/2 c butter

1/8 t salt

1 c Multigrain flour

4 eggs

In a medium saucepan, combine water, butter and salt. Bring to boiling. Add flour all at once, stirring vigorously. Cook and stir until mixture forms a ball. Remove from heat. Let cool 10 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well with a spoon after each addition.
Drop dough by 12 heaping tablespoons onto a greased baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes or till golden. Cool on a wire rack. Cut tops from puffs. Remove soft dough from inside. Fill with lemon custard. Garnish with fresh fruit and a sprig of mint.

p.s. I searched the internet to post a picture of a meringue shell that looked like the gorgeous one in my book...I didn't finda single one. They must be plastic :)


A Classic College CoEd Moment...

My little sister Monica, a 20-year-old BYU college coed, so selflessly watched our kids on Friday night so we could attend the temple. We left her with three rambunctious youngsters, and returned to three peaceful snoozers. What more could two tired parents ask for? Yesterday, I did discover she hijacked my camera and took some pics with the kids. I think Emmett was having a good time...lol.

Having sung her praises, I cannot let this classic college coed moment go unrecorded...What follows is a conversation during a Sunday Scripture game over the holidays.

Bruce (7-year-old Nephew): Monica, your question. Fill in the blank. Jesus said the following in this New Testament scripture, "In my Father's house are many_______."
Monica: Ummmm
Mom: It starts with a "M" and has an "n"
Monica: Ummm.... Oh! "Men!"

Huh. She wishes! Love you Monica. Sorry I couldn't resist. This had me laughing for hours.


How to Make Sense of Natural Sugar Substitutes

If you are baffled by all the sweetener names I throw out on my blog, here is an enhanced, updated recap of the natural sugar substitutes I like to use... And how to make sense of them in cooking.

My children are inundated with refined sugar. School, church, friends houses, grocery store shelves... I feel it's crucial to provide them healthier alternatives so they don't feel neglected or weird. We do not live a sweetener free life. But we have zero artificial sweeteners and virtually no refined sugar and zero high fructose corn syrup. Here is a breakdown of my favorite natural sweeteners:

Agave Nectar
-Is tapped like honey from the agave cactus plant. This is probably my favorite sweetener. It contains trace vitamins and minerals. It is sweet and mild. It is expensive, but not as bad as others. This works great in cooking and in hot chocolate and yogurt. I substitute 1:1 for honey or sugar. Reduce liquid if using for white sugar. Available at health and cooking stores. Buy organic and raw from a reputable store. Buying in bulk allows for the best pricing. I purchase the Madhava brand. Note, the herbal supplement containing agave should not be consumed when pregnant, but the nectar is fine.

Raw Honey
-Not for babies but for the rest of us! It is actually sweeter than sugar but contains trace vitamins and minerals. Great for baking and candies. Reduce the baking temperature in your recipe and decrease liquid by a couple tablespoons. Honey has a strong flavor, so only use it in recipes where you want the taste of honey, or you are using another strong flavor to mask, like cocoa or pumpkin. It is also a good idea to buy your honey locally, it actually can help with allergies. Honey is a staple in my breads, granola, and candies.

Pure, Organic Maple Syrup-Great flavor, it is expensive but works really well. Great for baking cookies, oatmeal, pancakes, and fudge. I also like it to sweeten yogurt, soups, and candy nuts. Try sweetening both hot and cold cereals. When baking I like to combine maple syrup with agave in cookies. Decrease cooking temp and liquid in recipe.

Sucanat-Stands for sugar cane natural. This is unrefined sugar cane crystals which still have all the vitamins and minerals. It is fairly inexpensive and has a yummy brown sugar taste. You may taste the molasses. (Molasses is all the nutrients stripped from sugar cane during the refining process.) We use this for cinnamon rolls or fruit crisps. 1:1 substitution. It doesn't get "gooey," or melt like refined brown and white sugar so I like to combine with a syrup like brown rice, barley malt or agave.

Brown Rice Syrup-This sweetener is a whole food sweetener produced from brown rice and barley malt. It is thick and creamy and has a nice caramel taste. This is perfect in pecan pie, fudge, cinnamon rolls, cookies, anything gooey or crispy. I have found this is the only natural sweetener that makes the "crisp" on a fruit crisp crispy. You can also add it to soups. It is not quite as sweet as white sugar, so you may want to add more when replacing in a recipe. Also, as with all the liquid sweeteners, decrease oven temp by 25 degrees and decrease liquid by about 1/4 cup. This is considered a "whole food" and is therefore a favorite natural sweetener for many. The sugars are also complex which will not spike blood sugar levels. I like Lundberg.

Xylitol-I was introduced to xylitol by our naturopath. She recommends it exclusively. It is a sugar alcohol derived from berries and corn cobs and does not spike blood sugar like honey or refined sugar. It also prevents cavities and has been proven to help ear and sinus infections. A great alternative to fluoride. We chew xylitol gum and mints. We also use it to sweeten cereal, hot chocolate, yogurt. It is replaced 1:1 in recipes. It is not my favorite to bake with, I don't recommend it... but works well in some recipes like the sugar cookie. Available at health food stores or online. I buy the brand Unique Sweet from Vitamin Research Products. This is the only brand I can find which derives the xylitol from berries instead of corn. According to our naturopath, that is important. It looks and tastes just like sugar. My children love it.

Barley Malt Syrup-Not just for beer. Beer making is by far the most common use of this substance, but it also makes a wonderful sweetener. It has a dark, rich flavor similar to molasses. It is made by simply sprouting, drying, then cooking barley. It has complex sugars and therefore will not spike the blood sugar. Low glycemic index. This is wonderful in anything rich and full of flavor. Cookies and cakes are wonderful. I substitute 1:1 and decrease liquid slightly. Purchase at your local health food store. I like the Eden brand.

Quick quiz....what is the sweetest of all...these kiddos. I will take all the sweetness they will dish out to me!

Aerogarden Update: 2 Weeks

My little plants are growing! It is so fun to watch them each day. I was very disappointed because 2 recipes I made today needed fresh herbs...but they are still too miniature to cut. I needed sage and mint. Sage for a Butternut Squash Bisque recipe and the mint as a garnish for some Lemon Custard Cream Puffs. I will post the recipes soon. I served these at a baby shower and they were a hit.

A few more weeks and I think I my little garden will be ready for its first harvest. I have my artificial plants in the background as cheerleaders for my little guys.


Whole Grain Pasta with Clam Sauce

Last minute. Sometimes I don't plan ahead and on those days this dinner works great. My kids love it with pureed diced tomatoes. It isn't extremely low calorie but it is a nice change to throw in the mix every few weeks. I promise to only post my tried and true, kids-will-eat it meals. If I don't I will warn you!

Whole Grain Pasta with Clam Sauce
1 lb whole grain pasta (spelt is yummy or wheat...I use linguine or spaghetti)
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 c butter
2 (6.5 ounce) cans minced clams, drained with juice reserved
4 cloves crushed garlic
2 T chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c grated parmesan cheese
1 can diced tomatoes pureed (option: my kids love this)

Cook pasta. In small sauce pan over medium heat, warm oil butter, clam juice, garlic and parsley. Stir and simmr for 5 minutes. Add clams and salt and pepper to taste. Combine with hot pasta. Add tomatoes (if desired) and parmesan cheese.


Family Photos and Thoughts on the Future

I have to say I have the hottest hubby around. Sorry ladies. He also keeps me and our kids in stitches...which if you know me is a blessing as I have a tendency towards intensity. Speaking of...Brent had our church congregation quite amused recently...

We both spoke in our Church on Sunday. I spoke first, speaking about the power of examples, how each of us should strive to let our light shine a bit brighter to help draw others to the saving light of Jesus Christ. It went well. I felt the spirit helping me. Upon my conclusion, Brent began very graciously expressing his love and affection for me...and then the following:

B: When I met Rebecca, as you can imagine, I was not the only suitor. In fact there were quite a few with whom I had to compete to win her. My only hope lay in her propensity towards short, bald men.You can imagine what followed... More importantly what followed that, was a beautiful talk on the importance of being examples to our children. He spoke of how as a family we are striving to instill in our children core principles and ideals.
  • Physical/Spiritual Health: Both are crucial. They cannot be separated, just as the body and the spirit. If we do not teach our children to treat their bodies sacredly, nourishing them properly with food and exercise, their spirits cannot be nourished. The Word of Wisdom is a principle with a promise:
Doctrine and Covenants
"All saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones...And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge...And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint. "
  • Proper Education: From the age of six, our children will leave the home to be educated in so many ways. As parents we must be vigilant, active participants in what they are learning, intellectually and socially. (On my own personal note...I am dreading Ellery leaving me next year for first grade. The idea of her being swept away from me for so long and for so many years....I must find ways to hold her close.) Elder Russell M. Nelson “Because of our sacred regard for each human intellect we consider the obtaining of education to be a religious responsibility.”
  • Media/Entertainment: The average American watches over 4 hours of television day. This equates to 2 months out of the year, or if you reach the age of 65, nine years of your life is spent in front of the television. (Personal Note...This is extremely disturbing. We have never been big television people, but in the last 6 months the time we spend with it has been nearly eliminated. Too many other more productive uses for our time...think blogging, reading and recipe experimenting :-))
Elder M. Russell Ballard
"The choices we make in media can be symbolic of the choices we make in life. Choosing the trendy, the titillating, the tawdry in the TV programs or movies we watch can cause us to end up, if we're not careful, choosing the same things in the lives we live...If we do not make good choices, the media can devastate our families and pull our children away from the narrow gospel path..."
  • Fiscal Responsibility and Preparedness: The concepts of sacrificing and building for a better tomorrow have been pushed aside for living for today, easy credit and a consumption-oriented society. Many Americans have never seen a rainy day and therefore simply never choose to save for one. We want things to be different in our home.
President Ezra T. Benson
“Each of us should make every effort to become economically independent, at least within the family unit. Avoid looking to government for handouts or future security. A government which is unable to pay it’s own bills can hardly be depended upon to pay yours. Any government powerful enough to give the people all that they want is also powerful enough to take from the people all that they have.”

Clearly, I have been richly blessed by the Lord. My husband is a bastion of spirituality, strength and heart. My children bring me a fullness of joy I never anticipated. I am unabashedly adoring of all three. I thank my Heavenly Father every day for these gifts, and the knowledge we will be together through eternity. I pray fervently to be ever worthy of this abundance.


Technical Difficulties

I apologize for the mess of the blog. My fonts and colors keep getting messed up, as well as my archiving. I am definitely tech impaired, so things look a mess right now. If you have any suggestions to offer let me know!

Buttermilk-Chocolate Sheet Cake of course minus the Refined Sugar

The beauty of cooking a lot is you keep getting better, as long as you are willing to risk disaster in search of a triumph. Case in point, last night. I tried a soup recipe in my shiny new pressure cooker. Thumbs down from all 5 family members.

...However all the practice does pay off. Most of the time I can take any recipe and modify it into something I feel comfortable feeding my family. This means excluding processed or refined ingredients. Such was the case with this recipe. I found it in my Better Homes and Gardens cook book. With a little bit of massaging it was a healthy hit. Sprinkles are optional, unless you have 3 and 5-year-olds whose names are Callista and Ellery.

Buttermilk-Chocolate Sheet Cake

2 cups kamut or spelt flour
(low gluten)
1 c brown rice syrup
1 c agave nectar
1 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1 c butter
1/2 unsweetened cocoa powder
1 c water
2 T powdered eggs (if using fresh decrease water by 4 T)
1/2 c buttermilk
2 t vanilla

Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and powdered eggs.
In a saucepan over medium heat combine butter, cocoa, and water.
Bring to just boiling, stirring constantly. Add brown rice syrup and agave.
Stir and remove from heat. Add to dry mixture and beat on medium until well combined.
Add buttermilk and vanilla. Beat for 1 minute (batter will be thin).
Pour into a buttered pan. Choose your own size depending on the thickness you want.
Cook at 350 degrees for 15-30 minutes.

Cookies and Cream Frosting

2 c whipping cream
2-4 T agave (to your taste)
1/4 c butter
3 T cocoa
3 T buttermilk
1/2 t vanilla

In a cold metal bowl whip cream with metal hand mixer, until peaks form.
Add agave to taste and mix a little more. Put in fridge.
In a saucepan over medium heat combine butter cocoa and buttermilk.
Bring to boiling. Remove from heat. Add vanilla. Beat until smooth.
Put in a bowl and place in freezer for about an hour.
Remove chocolate mix from freezer and beat with whip cream to combine.
You may want to add more agave to your taste.

(If you prefer a smoother chocolate frosting, allow the chocolate mixture to cool in the fridge. Then mix with cream until smooth)


My Five-Year-Olds first Diaper Change

Behold the results of Ellery's first solo diaper change. I was in the shower. She was so proud of herself. Despite being put on backwards, the velcro tabs held fast through all Emmett's cruising and army crawling.It was even a poopy diaper! Upon inspection I found his chubby little buns semi-clean...not kissable but not bad. She neatly folded up the dirty diaper ready for the wash....because yes, you saw right those are cloth diapers...and placed it in the wash bag. I love cloth. He is wearing a Haute Pockets brand. One of our favorites. Thankfully we didn't snap a photo in the "blossom pink," he doesn't look too manly, but Callista's little bottom sure used to look cute in that shade :)
A plug for cloth diapering...so easy even a five-year-old can do it.


Mulitgrain Hot Cereal for the Rice Cooker

MultiGrain Hot Cereal for the Rice Cooker

4 c steel cut oats
1/2 c barley (whole not pearled)
1/2 c red quinoa
1/2 c kamut
1/2 c spelt
1/2 c rye
1/2 c amaranth
1/2 c millet

Combine all ingredients. Put desired amount of cereal into a strainer and rinse thoroughly. Add to rice cooker in 1:3 ratio of cereal to water. You can add a dash of salt and some coconut oil or butter, if desired. Set on brown rice setting for extra soft and a white rice or quick cook for a firmer texture. Add desired toppings. We love pure maple syrup, raisins and almond or coconut milk. Fresh or frozen berries and cream (if you do dairy), be creative. I have also put in vanilla or almond flavoring. Experiment and share.

I do all the prep the night before. It takes 2 minutes and is piping hot for us at 7:10 am. You could do this on a stove top, cook as you would rice. A crock pot would work. I would cook a large batch in a 1:2 ratio, and just keep the leftovers in the fridge.

I recommend buying your grains in bulk and mixing up a huge batch to keep in your pantry. I actually fill a 5 gallon bucket and put a gamma seal lid on. These grains are so healthy and this cereal is the perfect way to incorporate them everyday into your families diet.

If my 10-month-old with that adorable little sharptooth, is this happy about it, you have no excuse but to try it! Feel free to add new grains and in different ratios...varying taste and texture keeps things interesting.