Friday, June 22, 2012

Strawberry Shortcake for Breakfast

I just love it when inspiration strikes. Just when my kids were eying me suspiciously to see if I would serve them toast and smoothies yet again, I had the most summery, delicious idea. Strawberry Shortcake - for breakfast! Instead of sugary pound cake, I made whole wheat biscuits and covered them in molten, ruby-colored berries sprinkled with cinnamon and then topped with coconut cream. Healthy and oh, so delicious. June on a plate!

I know this is a travesty, but I confess, I used frozen strawberries. Even though they are in season and readily available right now, I had only frozen on hand. They are beautiful, organic whole berries from Costco though. I started them in a pan to defrost on medium heat. Then I made the biscuits...

I used this simple recipe:

3c whole wheat pastry flour
1c water (you could use milk but we are dairy free and they taste great with water)
1 Tbsp vinegar (I add this to the water to simulate the tang of buttermilk - works great)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt (I love using Real Salt brand)
1/2 c shortening (we love Tropical Traditions Palm Shortening - so healthy!)

I just mixed everything up, formed them with my hands into biscuit shapes, and baked at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

While the biscuits were baking, I added honey (a couple of Tbsp probably) and a little cinnamon to the strawberries and simmered them for about 15 minutes. Then I turned off the heat to let them cool.

To assemble the shortcakes, I spooned the warm berries over two biscuits and topped them with a big spoonful of coconut cream... You could of course use whipped cream instead.

These turned out so well! The kids vacuumed them up and asked for seconds.

 Here's one of my happy customers now!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Summer Is Here! 

For the last several years, I have felt like summer was over before it started and I felt like we had squandered it. Since I homeschool four kids, I really need a nice long summer to recharge for the next year. The kids need it too. But, we've been so busy the last couple of summers, I felt like it wasn't a break at all. This summer I want it to be different. I want to run around a lot less. I want to be intentional about making memories, having some good old fashioned summer fun, tackling several cool projects I've pinned on Pinterest, and accomplishing things around our homestead that sorely need doing.

Here are a few things that are on my list:

  • Saving up for a sewing machine and then learning how to make a simple quilt like this one:

  • Making ice cream and lots of it! This is one recipe that caught my eye. We have some lactose intolerance in our family and I have found some neat dairy-free recipes to play around with in my new Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker. Woohoo!
  • Signing the kids up for the summer reading program at our library and spending many hours enjoying their wonderful air conditioning while we look at books together.
  • Camping out under the stars and breaking in our new canoe at the lake. Yay!
  • Spending lots of time in Yosemite.
  • Practicing with my new camera and maybe even taking an online class I've had my eye on.
And, as for some of the things we need to get done around the homestead:

  • Renovating the chicken coop and yard for these guys:
  • Fencing off a yard for the dogs.
  • Working on growing some fresh veggies and fruits for our family.
 I do have some other things I hope to accomplish, but I won't beat myself up if I don't get it all done. I want to enjoy this summer!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sprucin’ Up the Deck for Summer

It’s 91 degrees here today and I am finding myself using my deck more and more. We just had it put in last summer and it’s like a whole extra room. I had no idea we would use it so much and really consider it more living space. I love sitting out there every morning drinking my chai latte reading the Bible and whatever book I'm working on at the moment (today it was Beautiful Outlaw which is SO good!).

 I haven’t done a whole lot with it yet except put some furniture on it which I got from one of my best friends who moved to Spokane recently. It’s fun having these visual reminders of her on the deck – every time I sit on my porch swing I think of my good buddy. We also scored an amazing deal on a gas grill last year. I’ve wanted one for so long, but they are not cheap! But, last year my husband was at the right place at the right time. The place was Home Depot and the time was after one was damaged or returned (not sure which). The friendly Home Depot guy told my husband that it was only missing two wheels and other than that it worked great and did he want it for $75? Uh, yeah!!! 

So with these basics, I started adding a few pots here and there which have sat neglected since early spring. I had some beautiful primroses in these, but they have seen better days. Here is a picture of my sad pots…

So I headed out the home improvement stores and our feed store (which has the most beautiful plants!) and bought a few things to just start getting the deck ready for the season. I also found some really, really pretty flowers at Rite Aid of all places including a gorgeous day lilly. Who knew? I wish I had bought more, because when I came to my senses and went back to get another, they were gone. Oh well. Anyway, here are some pictures of my efforts so far…old plants pulled out, new plants put in, everything freshened up!

I planted wave petunias which are supposed to cascade down the sides of the pots over the summer. I also added some color to the grill area and the table and check out that sunset!

Oh…and I had some great company, and entertainment from this guy…

Hope you are having a great weekend!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

My Husband's Favorite Dinner Gets a Healthy Makeover

My hubby loves, loves, loves Shepherd's Pie. No, this is not a dish that is very unhealthy to begin with, but I tweaked the usual recipe to keep inline with our healthier eating habits. This couldn't be easier and even my pickiest eaters went for it (healthy modifications and all).

I started by browning a pound of locally raised ground turkey with some diced onion. Then I got my organic carrots and potatoes boiling...

After the ground turkey had browned, I added about 1 1/2 cups of water and 2 Tbsp give or take of arrowroot powder to thicken the water and juices from the turkey to make gravy. As soon as it was as thick as I wanted it, I added organic peas and corn as well as the carrots I had cooked. 

Next, I mashed my potatoes,  flavored them with some nice sea salt and tarragon, then layered them over the meat and veggie mixture.

Served with some banana muffins I made, it made a relatively fast and very yummy dinner.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Easy Non-Toxic Air Freshener

But, first...I am super excited to say that I got a new camera! Woohoo! No more crummy, washed-out, poorly-lit photos. Yay!!

And now for the air-freshener. This is the epitome of easy projects. I saw this simple, all-natural air freshener on Pinterest recently and had to try it. I had everything I needed on hand, including the cute little jar.

All you need for this project is baking soda, essential oil of your choice and a small jar with a lid. I had a few of these small, squat jars (I can't remember what size they are - maybe a pint?) and they are really the perfect shape and size for this project. 

Just fill the jar approximately 1/4 full with baking soda...

Then add several drops of essential oil - I used about a dozen drops give or take. In this batch, I decided to go with lemon - it's one of the most economical oils and shoot, it just smells purdy. Lavender would also be a really nice scent to use as would geranium. How about cinnamon in the fall or around the holidays? 

I mixed it around a tiny bit and then screwed on the lid. After that, just take a hammer and nail and make several holes in the top to let the scent escape.

Then, I added a ribbon to dress it up a bit...

And put it in the bathroom to try out! It smells really nice and I'm hopeful the scent will last quite a while. Of course, to refresh it, you can just add more oil or dump it and start over when you feel like a new scent. Cool!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Garden Window Spring Makeover

You know how when you look at something everyday, you stop really noticing it? Well, for some reason, last week, I looked at the garden window over my kitchen sink and thought "Wow, that looks really boring and neglected." Not the look I was going for. Here is a "before" picture (please excuse the poor picture quality - my camera died and I am improvising with a phone until I get a new one)...

How about those dirty dishes in the sink? And, doesn't Ajax just say "spring" to you? Just keeping it real. Anyway, I wanted something simple, clean, spring-i-fied (that a word?), and free. So, I shopped the house and came up with a basic vignette that I can add to as funds allow. 

I decided on a platter and a grape ivy in a weathered galvanized bucket (love the farmhouse look!) and a plaque with one of my favorite verses on it. Then I just added some lilacs and lavender from my yard to "spring it up" a little and a candle.

The colors are not as washed out as they appear in the photos, but this area definitely needs a pop of spring color. Hopefully when we head down the mountain in the next few days for our weekly town day, I can check out what Hobby Lobby has in the way of spring decor. C'mon sales!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Serving as a Family

As a Christian home schooling mom, I consider teaching my kids to serve to be one of my top priorities. It is not something "to do when they get older" or "when they are ready". I strongly believe that serving needs to be core in our daily lives. I need to teach them why we serve and how to serve. The basic act of meeting needs is one of the simplest ways we can participate in the Great Commission. That said, I also have a huge responsibility to serve in a way that is safe for my kids, age-appropriate and preferably teaches us all something too. Since I have children in a wide range of ages, I have found it is best to serve as a family. Here are some of the more structured ways we have served:

When we are presented with a service opportunity, we ask ourselves if we have time. We guard our time knowing that the most important ministry we have in this season of life is our own children. But, that must be balanced with being intentional about teaching service. If the answer is yes, we do have time or want to make time, then we ask if we can serve together. Sometimes mom, dad, and the teenagers are working while the younger kids are participating in the program. Other times, we are all working together, right down to our youngest child. It just depends on the work we are doing. 

I also believe that serving does not need to be a scheduled event. Those things are good too and definitely have their place, but I love it when we can just be ready, at the Holy Spirit's leading to serve. Some simple things we do to be available to serve are:

  • Realizing that we can serve our family in a myriad of ways everyday and intentionally finding ways to do that.
  • Keeping the common areas of the house ready (or close to ready - 15 min worth of tidying or less) for impromptu company. Honestly, I have struggled a ton with this one. I have a major pride issue here centered around having my house look "right". I am tons better than I used to be (when I just wouldn't have anybody over unless it was spotless) but am not where I want to be yet. I am able now, to frequently have people over, but still feel that prideful twinge looking around and seeing things that could look nicer. But, I am so convicted that making our home available for God's use is one of the most important things we can do. He blessed us with our homes and they truly should be used in any way He sees fit. It is my desire to show hospitality to anyone He brings to my door and be sensitive to His leading when He nudges me to invite someone over. I hope to write more about this soon - He has been up to a lot in this department lately!
  • Keeping a plastic bin in the back of the car filled with pre-packed lunch bags for the homeless. I read about this idea from Lorrie Flem several years ago and loved it! We packed our bags with non-perishable items from the dollar store like vienna sausages for protein, apple sauce, water bottles, granola bars, sunscreen (in the summer), Bible tracts and sometimes gift cards for fast food or a single dollar (enough to use for a value menu fast food item, but not enough to buy something detrimental). This is a good reminder for me to stock up another bin with these bags!
  • Keeping the pantry well-stocked with basic items that can either stretch a meal for extra guests, or can be quickly made into a meal or treat to take to someone.
  • Keeping a bit of extra bedding on hand plus a Hide-A-Mat from Costco (only $48!)  for extra sleeping space.
  • Listening! This is so simple but so effective. I have heard about so many needs that I could simply meet by just paying attention. We have been able to provide Christmas gifts for kids whose dad was unemployed, taken meals to people who needed them, given rides to those who didn't have one, and "scooted over to make room for one more" when someone needed a place to stay, a meal to eat or just an ear to listen. 
How do you and your family serve? I love hearing new ideas! And, how is God asking you to serve in the future?