"Sit down and feed, and welcome to our table." -William Shakespeare

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Lentil Soup

Well, I hope you don't find recipe posts too boring... that's what I've been feeling like writing about these days. I've been experimenting a lot lately and loving my 'new' gas stove. I've been leaving other meals and snacks raw, but dinner has become interesting to me again with a nice stove to play on.

And while I realize not many people are experiencing soup weather, this one is so good, healthy, and cheap that you may want to bookmark it and come back to it in a few months. (I simmered this 3 hours on the stove with the kitchen window and back door open, which kept things perfectly cool. Not to rub it in or anything.)

1/4-1 lb msg-free, nitrate-free sausage, pork or turkey (optional)
2.5c lentils
1.5c barley
2T extra virgin olive oil
13c water
2t salt
1/4t onion powder
1/2t garlic powder
2" piece kombu (optional)
1c tomato sauce, pasta sauce, fresh blender-ed tomatoes, or 1 can diced tomatoes
dash tabasco-style sauce or pinch cayenne
1-4c fresh spinach or 1/2-2c frozen spinach, thawed and well-drained

Before you start, wash then soak 2.5c lentils and 1.5c barley. I'm using hulled barley, but pearled (what you'll find at the grocery store) is fine.

Next, brown your sausage in the evoo, if you're using it. Otherwise, I'd grab some fresh onion, garlic, zucchini, celery, etc. to saute in the oil; I's also add some spices like oregano and extra garlic powder to make up for the flavor you lose if you leave out the sausage.

I usually brown a pound or sausage and put away about 3/4 of it for an egg casserole later in the week. Remove from pan. Add 1c water and a touch more oil. Scrape bottom of pan to get all the drippings and incorporate them into the broth. My sausage is not very fatty, but if yours is, you may want to remove some of the fat before doing this.

Next, add your other 12c water. Broth, veggie, chicken, or beef, would be good, too. When it is near boiling, dump in everything else. (Don't skip the Tabasco or cayenne; the soup isn't spicy or hot but it will taste flat without it.) And simmer for 2-4 hours. You could also put it in the crockpot on high for a few hours, or low all day.

About 10-20 minutes before serving, add the spinach. I forgot to add mine, so I saved it for a big green bed-time snack smoothie.

This soup is a favorite of my husband's. He ate three and a half bowls. He even requested the leftovers for work lunches. And he's not big on soup.

"I had the blues
because I had no shoes
until upon the street,
I met a man who had no feet."
~Ancient Persian Saying

(You might notice all my quotes lately are about thinking positive and counting your blessings. That's because I feel a little homesick and a lot annoyed at the lack of conveniences in the little village town- ahem- where we are living.)

And just for fun
some photos Isaiah took while patiently waiting for me to do endless shopping in Santa Fe last week.
This was at Trader Joe's, a nearly perfect place to buy food,
other than being *%x#@ miles away from my house.

I am going through city withdrawal
but ya,
I s'pose it's worth it.

"A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely."
~Roald Dahl

Friday, July 29, 2011

Quick Chocolate "Moose"

I'm vaguely aware that the rest of the country has been suffocating under an extreme heatwave. It's just a bit hard for me to sympathize when the days here dawn warm and clear... but before I have a chance to say, "Wow, it's hot," a wall of dark clouds rolls over the western mountain ridge, sprinkles us with a bit of water, and knocks the temperature down about 15 degrees.

It's basically an alpine paradise.

But I'm still suffering from altitude sickness and the curvy mountain roads continue to nauseate me. I pretty much feel pregnant all the time, but I'm sure I'm not. Waaah, waaah, I know. My dear husband promises I should be fully adjusted in another week. Here's hopin'.

In the meantime, here's another super-easy treat perfect for bribing or rewarding heat-weary children. Uh, not that I ever resort to that sort of thing. We ate ours on top of banana pancakes.

"Mom, how did you make the moose chocolate?"

"This is raw- shouldn't you cook moose?"

"Is this like moose hamburger or moose steak? Cuz it's good."

I'll let you take care of the difficult questions that go along with this recipe. I'm sure you can handle them.

Chocolate Mousse
1c raw coconut oil
1/2c maple sugar, maple syrup, honey, or agave
1/4c raw cacao powder

Blend in the blender till mixture thickens and blade sputters.

That's it.

Right out of the blender, this is like a mousse or a pudding. Refrigerate for a fudge-like treat.

I realize I haven't done Food For Thought Friday in several weeks- so be sure you read a good book like maybe this one:
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (The Wolves Chronicles)while you eat this chocolate!

"If you don't get everything you want, think of the things you don't get that you don't want."
~Oscar Wilde

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Power Bars

Some days, the stars align,
children busy themselves with educational pursuits,
toddlers nap,
and mothers actually have time to play games with their children.

Other days, you make Power Bars anyway.

I am indebted to my sister-in-law Laura for the original recipe which has eventually morphed into this one. We both spent a lot of time and poured a lot of concoctions down the drain before the final emergence of the perfect high-protein snack. Most health food store bars are chock-full of sugar- organic as it may be- plus they are so small, each of our children could polish off three or four at one sitting. That's a pretty big pocket book ouch.

3c raw almonds
1c raw walnuts
1c raw sunflower seeds
Dash chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds (optional)
1/2t salt
Usually you add 5 Tablespoons vanilla, but I am out, so I added a 2" piece of vanilla bean

Process the above in batches in the blender or food processor into a medium-grit powder.
Add 1c whole wheat flour or pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
2-4 tsp cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice, optional
And mix.

Next add
3/4 c natural liquid sweetener (I am using agave nectar and brown rice syrup, but maple syrup, barley malt syrup, or honey would be ok, too.)
And a drizzle of molasses, but I was out so I skipped that.

You will need to knead with your hands until the mixture is sticky but still somewhat crumbly. It should pack together like a snowball, but it shouldn't be runny at all. Add more liquid sweetener if the mixture is so crumbly you can't pack it together at all.

Dump onto a large jelly roll pan or other sheet with a lip. Take precautions to prevent your pan from being raided while you wash your hands. Then place a piece of wax paper or parchment paper over the top to help you pack the mixture into the pan very firmly. Use the bottom of a large meauring cup or the heels of your hands.

Place in your oven and bake at 200 till totally dried out and lightly browned- 1 to 2 hours depending on your oven. The low temp preserves much of the raw qualities of the ingredients. A dehydrator would be great, too. If you are in a hurry, you can bake at 350 for 15-25 minutes.

Basically, you want the dough dried out, but not to brown, or else the bars will be too hard when cooled. Press a long knife into the bars while warm to cut.

You may melt a bar of dark, organic chocolate in the microwave or in a double boiler and drizzle over the bars at this point. But only for moms who have been really, really good. And frankly, I haven't.

"It's snowing still," said Eeyore gloomily. "So it is." "And freezing." "Is it?" "Yes," said Eeyore. "However," he said, brightening up a little, "we haven't had an earthquake lately."
~A.A. Milne

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Frontyard Nature Walk!

It doesn't even take any skill to find opportunities for nature study here... it certainly removes any pride I might have in coming up with great ideas... Kansas was another story. You've got to find subtleties and appreciate quiet beauty... here? Any Tom, Dick, or Harry is going to be steeped in natural beauty.

You can't help noticing the difference between deer antlers and elk antlers. When you nearly bump into deer in your back yard and you narrowly miss hitting elk on your bike on the front walk:

It's the element of chance that makes home education such an adventure, Imagine if I had set out to teach Isaiah the difference between deer and elk? I never could have orchestrated the run-ins a few days apart. (Deer antlers are pointed and fuzzy; elk antlers are blunt-tipped and even more fuzzy.)

Happy accidents are a pretty big part of our "curriculum." Not our whole curriculum, don't get me wrong, but a big part.

A happy accident from the library book store:
(Ya, 15 HOURS of read-alouds that I do not have to, um, read aloud.For three bucks.)

And something that's been on my 'want' list for years:
an old-school tape player/ microphone/ recorder found for free in a trash heap... a very unusual one. By our park, people dump useable things and other people take them. Sensible, right? (Yesterday a woman dropped off a vacuum while we were playing and a gentleman dragged it off fifteen minutes later!) Didn't even have to buy batteries, as Isaiah found a compatible adaptor in five minutes by rummaging in the rummage closet. Unlike modern technology, obsolete technology can be hurled down on hard floors by small people and survive unharmed. Nor can smart young people figure out how to connect to the internet or abuse in any way the single purpose design of a humble tape-player. And tapes are super-cheap wherever you can still find 'em.

Coming soon:

Meatloaf (more comfort food!)
High-protein Power Bars

"The sun shines and warms and lights us and we have no curiosity to know why this is so; but we ask the reason of all evil, of pain, and hunger, and mosquitoes and silly people."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Touche, Ralph!
And sorry for the abysmal photos, I'm still making friends with my new laptop.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Real Soup for Real Recipes for Real People

It's been a culture-shocking week. I'm in need of comfort food. Isaiah 'hates' Chicken Pot Pie, but he's been promised frsh popcorn for bedtime snack, and I guarantee he will end up eating more than a 'no-thank-you' helping. (He does every time.)

To start any self-respecting Midwestern comfort food, you usually begin by cracking open a can of Cream of X Soup. Right?

Well, here it is, the full, illustrated guide. Make it dairy-full or dairy-free, carnivorous or vegan. Fully customizable, and it only takes 7 minutes. Of course, that's at 8,000'. It might take a minute longer in Death Valley, or Kansas.

In any case, I got this dinner into the oven in 33 minutes, from walking into the kitchen to closing the oven door.

Start with 3 T fat. I'm using EVOO, but you can use butter, coconut oil, bacon drippings (just kidding... I mean you can but I don't think you should...). Top it with 3 T whole wheat flour. This is white whole wheat from Trader Joe's and it is pretty much perfect.

Cook over low to medium heat, stirring till well-mixed and bubbling. I'm using my nano-ceramic teflon-free non-stick pan. If I had a silicone whisk, I'd whisk this. If I was using a stainless pan, I'd use my regular whisk. Without a whisk, you need to work it together really carefully.

SLOWLY add 1 3/4 c water/ vegetable broth/ chicken broth/ milk/ etc. and whisk/ stir constantly. It should hold together, more or less. Keep stirring/ whisking till the consistency is uniformly thick, bubbly, and delicious. I added some pepper, salt, and garlic powder.

Let it simmer till it is as thick as you need it. Stir occasionally so it doesn't scorch.

That's it. You're done. You may now proceed to dinner- sour cream chicken enchiladas (O for the days!), brocolli soup, chicken pot pie, green bean casserole... you get the idea.

If you want to make Chicken Pot Pie, add your veggies now. I'm out of my organic mixed veggies (sniff, sniff, and sadly, Azure Standard, my bulk buying saving grace, doesn't deliver to New Mexico), so I'm just using a cup of peas. Then add your chicken, about 3-4 cups and a little extra water. Simmer till it's nice and thick and bubbly. Adjust your seasonings.

Dump in your casserole dish and top with whole wheat biscuits. Usually I use a heart-shaped or star-shaped cutter but they're currently MIA. The kids eat more when things are cut into pretty shapes....

Bake at 450 for 15 minutes then turn down to 350 and bake till golden brown, about another 15-20 minutes.

Voila! Dinner.

And everybody ate, a lot.

"If a man does not make new acquaintances as he advances through life, he will soon find himself alone. A man should keep his friendships in constant repair."
~Samuel Johnson

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Backyard Nature Walk

Guess we'll be needing to trade in our Kansas Nature Guides for New Mexico ones!

"Human nature, if healthy, demands excitement; and if it does not obtain its thrilling excitement in the right way, it will seek it in the wrong. God never makes bloodless stoics; He makes no passionless saints."
~Oswald Chambers

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

View from the Kitchen Sink

Kind of like heaven, but with dishes to wash.

"How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains!"
~John Muir

Monday, July 18, 2011

Travel, Unplugged

How does a family travel without a dvd player or any of the host of other doo-hickeys and gizmos that seem to be "necessary" for children these days?

Well, here's how we do it. It's called a surprise bag. For a lesser trip, the surprises are less exciting, but this was a Big Trip and I wanted the children to have a delightful experience through and through.

One key to the surprise bag is that EACH SURPRISE MUST BE WRAPPED! To figure the number of surprises you'll need for your trip, take your number of hours of travel and multiply by 2. Voila, your number of surprises.

There's playdough (not the best idea), 3 sheets of bubble wrap wrapped separately, paper with stickers, paper with mini markers, a mini slinky, a mini kaleidescope, a mini tape measure, a rainbow crayon, a lollipop, some tiny wooden colored blocks, pipe cleaners, and a couple books (those went into the bags unwrapped).

Why wrap each surprise? Because it adds a layer of fun and it allows you to keep the interest much longer. Every half hour the children get to open 1 surprise. The packages are numbered so they unwrap the same number at the same time, but they don't have to go in order. Deciding which little package to open next takes about 5 minutes, unwrapping takes maybe 2 because I use really strong tape, and then by the time the little trinket gets boring, another half hour marker approaches.

My grandma did these bags for my 5 siblings and I on our summer trips to Colorado, and I remember the eagerness with which we unwrapped those little things. My grandma was the one who wrapped up sheets of bubble wrap. Genius, really. Kids love to pop bubble wrap! (The big bubbles are more fun than the tiny ones.)

Several hours into our trip my husband walkie-talkie'd me just to say how great the trip was going, how much he loved me, and how wonderful the surprise bags were! (The older 2 were in the UHaul with him.)

For John Paul, I wrapped a plastic magnifying glass, a makeup brush, an old cell phone, a wind-up dinosaur, and some other odds and ends from around the house. Here he is after tickling himself silly with the make-up brush:

So, yes, I purchased all these trinkets BEFORE the Made-in-the-USA challenge, if you were wondering. I spent about $25, which was money well spent. If you bought 2 new dvd's for a trip, you'd spend about the same, but you wouldn't build the same memories or the same imaginations.

And by the way, that UHaul was only thirteen feet long. Thirt. Teen. Feet.

Happy travels!

"It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity."
~Albert Einstein

Sunday, July 17, 2011

"Brick by brick my citizens, brick by brick."

And so it goes. A new place, new rules multiplied by the dozen:

Don't drag your feet on the trails or you kick up dirt in the face of the hiker behind you!

Wear shoes in the yard! (Groan- this is going to be a nightmare to enforce.)

Don't throw rocks at the deer! (Really, why would a kid do that? "Target practice, Mom. I thought we could eat it for dinner if I hit it!"

Don't push on the window screens or you'll fall to your death! (A beautiful but not child-friendly home design, but hey, at least the windows open here.)

Poor kids! Transitions are so hard on them. Favorite shoes torn to pieces on the rocky terrain (o, that made-in-the-usa challenge I voluntarily took on! do you know how many hiking shoes are made in the usa? zero, zilch, nada- not a single option), favorite stuffed animals lost, fingers repeatedly smashed in self-closing doors (a clever idea, right?), stressed and sore parents snapping and barking much more than usual.

But we did take our first hike today... of course we had to cross a police line to do so (pesky wildfire precations) and Ed and I were embarrassingly nervous about mountain lions (I did notice tracks).

And still- no pictures. I'm working on my new computer and when I finally download my sd card it will flood my hard drive with thousands of photographs. I'm getting up the courage- tomorrow's the day!

"Brick by brick my citizens, brick by brick."
-the Emperor Hadrian

Saturday, July 16, 2011


17 hummingbirds

1 buck (as in deer)

3 mourning doves

16 unidentified backyard birds

19 unmentionable meals

93 boxes (am I really a minimalist? 57 unpacked)

29 rescue helicopters (fighting the wildfires, still)

8 items made-in-china bought (ouch, ya)

8 ibuprofen

65 Yeast Defense tablets (because of the unmentionable meals)

346 photos taken (uploaded- zero)

What a week it's been. Bear with me.

"Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward."
~Kurt Vonnegut

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

To my Children

...as things get even crazier around here.

I promise:

vegetables every day

stories every night

sunshine on your face when it's sunny

rain on your face when it's raining

plenty of time in the woods

plenty of time around the craft table

goofy songs when we pick up toys


less yelling

more laughter

less nagging

more motivating

and when it's all over, your first hike in the mountains.


"We've had bad luck with our kids - they've all grown up."
-Christopher Morley

Monday, July 11, 2011

Thoughts for the Day I Turn Thirty

“Thirty was so strange for me. I've really had to come to terms with the fact that I am now a walking and talking adult.”
-C.S. Lewis

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”
-C.S. Lewis

"Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.”
-C.S. Lewis

“This is one of the miracles of love: It gives a power of seeing through its own enchantments and yet not being disenchanted.”
-C.S. Lewis

"I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.”
-C.S. Lewis

OK, so if you haven't caught on by now, I have quite the quotation obsession. I'm indulging it here because what are birthdays for?

“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”
-C.S. Lewis

"If I discover within myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
-C.S. Lewis

Friday, July 8, 2011

FFT Friday: Connection Parenting

Connection Parenting: Parenting Through Connection Instead of Coercion, Through Love Instead of Fear, 2nd Edition

One more book review! Sorry for 2 in a row, but I've been meaning to do this one for weeks. I've talked with so many moms who want to be kinder, gentler, and more peaceful with their children. But so often a mother gets frustrated because, hey, "I've still gotta get things done around here!"

Pam Leo writes about WHY connecting with your child before correcting him or her is the key to successful discipline. She writes about getting to the roots of our knee-jerk reactions as parents. She writes about exactly why we resort to yelling at our kids when they don't/ won't/ can't hear us the first three times we ask "nicely."

How many times do I resolve to make our home more peaceful , go to confession on Saturday afternoon, beg for God's help, and by Sunday morning I've already blown it half a dozen times? For me, spiritual resolve without human wisdom just doesn't yield much fruit.

Connection Parenting has been the missing link for me. It was so much easier before my oldest passed about the age of 5.5. Distraction and redirection- those attachment parenting hallmarks- don't work that well with a six year old! Connection Parenting gives me a toolbox full of real solutions for misbehavior and bad attitudes- not just in my children but in myself as well.

I am a better mother when I read a page or two of this book each day. I read this book... and reread this book. And then I read it again. Today at the pool a lifeguard gave me the kindest compliment about my children. I felt so grateful, yet humbled, by her words. I know that I stand on the shoulders of giants, and I am not able to take full credit for my children's behavior. Pam Leo deserves some credit, Dr. Bill Sears deserves some credit, all my La Leche League Leaders deserve some credit, my mother deserves some credit, the Book of Isaiah deserves some credit (yes, that's where we got his name, the Book of the Bible that originally inspired our parenting style)....

Here are some excerpts from the book to whet your appetite for more:

"As new parents we hear, "Enjoy your children while they are little." Yet how much time do we spend enjoying our children? Many parents spend much of the day struggling with their childrn. How has this come to be? What makes parenting today more often a struggle than a joy?"

"When we are enjoying our children, we are spending time connecting with them. We aren't rushing them from one place to another. We aren't anxious, stretched too thin, and circling in busyness."

"When we have a strong connection with our children, we are more likely to notice their early, subtle cues of need, before need escalates to pain. The less connected we are to our children, the less likely we will notice children's cues. If we don't respond to the child's cues, they have to become more emphatic in communicating their needs to attract our attention."

(The above is applied to all ages of children, not just infants.)

"A power struggle is two people trying to get their needs met without connection."

Some skills you can gain by doing the excercises in the book:
-How to decode your child's behavior
-How to listen to your child and get him/ her to listen to you
-How to meet your child's unmet needs and thereby increase cooperation
-How to use words in a different way to increase mutual respect

That last one works great with spouses and other adults, too.

If you have read this book, I'd love to hear your thoughts on it in the comments. If you do read it, let me know what you think.

"Children need love, especially when they do not deserve it."
-Harold Hulbert

"If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants."
-Sir Isaac Newton

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Book Review: My Child Won't Eat!

My Child Won't Eat!: How to Prevent and Solve the Problem (La Leche League International Book)

I am very sad that this book is currently out of print. HOWEVER, it is sometimes still available from the La Leche League Bookstore on their website- sorry, my links are still getting eaten alive. You'll have to Google it.

This book could change your life and revolutionize mealtimes in your home. I kid you not! Dr. Gonzalez, a Spanish physician, does a superb job of helping mothers and concerned cooks everywhere understand the strange eating habits of small children.

My FAVORITE part of this book is where he turns a common food myth ON ITS HEAD and backs it up with seriously compelling science. We think, "If my child doesn't eat, (s)he won't grow!"

On the contrary, he explains, children EAT when they are growing. Whoa, there. He explains WHY children may seem to eat nothing, when in reality, they are probably just eating much less than they were last week because they are growing much more slowly this week.

Some days a child without a high calorie demand is just not hungry. A strange concept to me! I've been pregnant or nursing or both every day for the last 8 years (exactly, to the day today :)), so at any given time, day or night, I am hungry. I cannot remember what it feels like *not* to be hungry. All the time.

He explains why cajoling children to eat, eat, eat is counter productive to healthy habits and graceful, enjoyable family/ social meals. He ends the book with a truly brilliant, absolutely hilarious short story that really, really hits home how absurd so many parents obsession with their children's eating habits truly is.

In short, a must-read for parents of picky eaters everyhwere!

"More die in the United States of too much food than of too little."
~John Kenneth Galbraith, The Affluent Society

"If hunger is not the problem, then eating is not the solution."
~Author Unknown