Sunday, October 31, 2010

Meal plans and the week ahead

Happy Halloween!! This is going to be a fun week! This morning, we're heading to church. Then we'll be going over to my SIL's house later on for dinner and trick-or-treating. Tuesday I'm off of work for Election Day - gotta go vote!! Wednesday I'm having dinner out with some friends. Friday I'm off to prepare for Saturday, but I'll also be taking Carson to Kindermusik since I think we'll miss one of the days later in the semester... and I need to do the normal milk and CSA pickup. Saturday, we're having my dad's family over for Thanksgiving... yes, its really early, but this way we're not eating a ton of turkey and stuffing all in one weekend... and we can actually have some down-time over the holiday weekend. So it actually works out really well! 

Here's the plan...

Sunday ~ church; trick-or-treating at SIL's
(chop cabbage and veggies; prep Monday's dinner)
B: greek eggs
L: split pea soup in crockpot; muffins from freezer
D: pizza at SIL's

Monday ~
(make steel cut oats; thaw chicken)
B: peanut butter banana smoothies
D: cabbage roll casserole

Tuesday ~ Election Day!
(prep brussels sprouts; prep other veggies for soup Thurs.; start chicken stock in crockpot after dinner; start turkey thawing in fridge)
B: steel cut oats with maple syrup and banana
D: crockpot rotisserie chicken; crockpot brussels sprouts

Wednesday ~ dinner with friends
(strain chicken stock and reserve for making stuffing on Saturday)
B: steel cut oats with homemade strawberry jam
D: Kevin & Carson - leftovers; Sara - dinner at Don Pablos w/ friends

Thursday ~
(prep veggies for stir-fry on Fri.; prep veggies for stuffing on Sat.)
B: yogurt with granola
D: chili chicken and veggie soup

Friday ~ off, milk/CSA pickup
(prep food for Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday; clean; prep quiche for Sat. morning)
B: yogurt with granola
D: stir-fry with leftover rotisserie chicken, green peppers, onions, mushrooms, and corn

Saturday ~ Moore family Thanksgiving
(start turkey stock in roaster after dinner)
B: quiche with ham, swiss chard, onion, and swiss cheese
L: leftovers/misc.
D: turkey; stuffing; gravy; mashed potatoes; green bean casserole; corn; brussels sprouts gratin; dutch apple pie; rolls

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Soft Cheese (like Chevre/Goat Cheese)

I've been dabbling in the world of cheese making for the last month or so now. I have tried a couple different cheeses, first of which was soft cheese. I followed Wardeh from GNOWFGLINS' instructions in her guest post on Edible Aria, as well as some guidance received via email and facebook. Wardeh has been a tremendous resource to me - in more areas than cheese-making, but I especially appreciate her guidance with cheese. I'm not sure I'd have tackled the cheeses I have so far, nor plan to do the cheeses that I want to try very soon, if it was not for her. So, thank you, Wardeh!

Soft cheese would be called chevre or goat cheese if I used goat's milk, but since I use raw cow's milk, its just soft cheese. It is one of the easiest cheeses to make... hence why I chose to start with it. :) You don't need any fancy molds or presses. Just your ingredients, a jar, some cheesecloth, a large bowl, and a way to hang the cheese. I've now made soft cheese three times and will be making it again this weekend. Its great to use plain (spread on toast, sourdough english muffins, sweet muffins, as fruit dip, etc.), mixed with herbs for a delicious spread on crackers or veggies, as sour cream, salad dressing, or in dishes. We've really enjoyed the results when using it in cooked dishes. Its such a nice, mild, creamy cheese.

The recipe I follow makes about 3 cups of soft cheese. It will keep for about a week in the fridge and it freezes well. Depending on my meal plan for the week, I will keep 1-2 cups of it fresh in the fridge and freeze the remainder for use the following week or whenever. Here is what I do... it may sound like a long process, but the active time is very minimal and does not take much skill at all.

Soft Cheese

1/2 gallon of raw goat or raw cow milk
1/8 teaspoon all-purpose mesophilic culture (MA or MM)
1/4 cup clean, filtered water
double strength organic liquid vegetable rennet
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

You will also need:
cloth napkin and rubber band
stainless steel or other non-reactive colander
stainless steel pot or other non-reactive large bowl into which the colander fits
2 pieces of 90-count cheesecloth or butter muslin


On day one, pour the milk into a half-gallon mason jar. Then, sprinkle the mesophilic culture on top of the milk and stir with a wooden spoon (do not use metal).

In a separate jar or cup, put the 1/4 cup of water. Add one drop of the double-strength liquid rennet and stir well. Take one tablespoon of this solution and add it to the jar of milk. Stir the milk well with your wooden spoon. (If you are using regular strength liquid rennet, mix one drop with the water, but add 2 tablespoons of the solution to the milk and stir well... I just use the double strength since that's what I bought after seeing what Wardeh uses... maybe someday I'll try the regular strength.) If you think you will be making more soft cheese within a week or two, keep the rennet solution in the refrigerator. Otherwise just throw it away.

Cover the jar of milk with a cloth napkin and secure with a rubber band. Let sit out at room temperature to culture for 24 hours.


Once the milk has cultured for 24 hours, it should resemble the consistency of a thick yogurt. Put your colander inside your pot or bowl. Layer the two pieces of cheesecloth or butter muslin in the colander. Gently pour the cultured milk into the cheesecloth. Tie up the cheesecloth, making a sort of bag to enclose the curds. You can just leave this in the colander as is, or hang it above the colander/bowl setup. I hang mine after I've let it drip in the colander for about an hour. Leave this at room temperature for 24 hours, during which time the whey will drip out and the curds will thicken.

Untie the cheesecloth and check the consistency of the cheese. It should be thick, but spreadable and not dry. You may let it hang longer if you wish the cheese to thicken more.

Once your cheese has reached your desired thickness, transfer to a clean bowl. Add 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt. Stir. Adjust amount of salt to taste. Pop the cheese into the refrigerator to chill. You may freeze some if you don't think you'll use it within a week or two.
Make sure you save the whey that has collected in the pot/bowl. Keep this in the refrigerator for up to 6 months to use in lacto-fermentation or add to soups. 

I end up with a quart of whey, plus three cups of cheese from this recipe.

This post is shared as part of the GNOWFGLINS Tuesday Twister.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Everyday Minerals/Everyday Naturals Makeup

I have been looking for a better, natural makeup for quite awhile now. I've tried several different kinds, but really haven't been all that happy with them. I was very interested in a brand that my SIL recently tried - Everyday Minerals/Everyday Naturals. Mary was very happy with their face makeup - you can read her review here. I was almost out of a few different eye shadows, so I decided to place an order and give them a try. I ordered five eye colors to start with so I could get 2 different looks. I also ordered some brow color, lipstick, a face powder brush, and a face powder sample set (which was actually free).   

I've been very happy with everything and have placed another two orders for some new looks (more eye colors, some blush, some bronzer, another lip color, more face powder samples, and some more brushes). I really like the coverage and vibrancy of the eye colors. The color stays put all day and doesn't get all gunked up in the crease of my eyelid like many other brands have. I don't generally wear foundation or concealer or anything, but you can try a face powder foundation kit free with any order so I've had a chance to try a few different powders. I've been quite impressed with the bases. Like the eye colors, they stay put all day... the face in the mirror at the end of the day actually resembles the face that you created that morning. I still prefer to wear no foundation makeup, but on the occasions when I want to wear it, I'm very happy to have this in the drawer.  I've also been very impressed with the blush and bronzers.  The lipstick is very nice, too.  I do wish it was a long-wear lip color, though. 

All of the Everyday Minerals/Everyday Naturals makeup is organic, vegan, and eco-friendly. All of their products are rated 0-3 by the EWG. They do no animal testing. All makeup ingredients are sourced in the United States and are made in Texas (they do source their containers from Taiwan and make the brushes in Korea, though.. but I'm happy their makeup is all sourced here).

All of the makeup is also very reasonably priced. It was very refreshing to see some good, healthy makeup that is available at such great prices! Each of my eye colors was only $6.50 or $7.00, which I think is amazing compared to the prices I have been paying! They're always offering free gifts with purchase (in addition to the free face makeup samples) and have run some really great sales (I got 25% off, plus free stuff on one of my orders!).  Shipping costs are also very reasonable and orders ship very quickly.

I am very excited about this makeup! Thank you, Mary, for making me aware of it! I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a new makeup that contains healthy ingredients that are not going to poison your body.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Meal plans and the week ahead

This is going to be a nice, low key week by the looks of it. I was supposed to be in Quebec again this week, but I'm able to stay home instead - yay!!  It will be very nice to have a low-key week to get lots accomplished in advance of our crazy week next week. I'm actually looking forward to doing some heavy duty cleaning in the house this week. For the last few weeks, we've just been doing light cleaning in most of the house (exceptions being the kitchen and bathroom are always cleaned well).

So anyway, here's the plan this week...

Sunday -
(strain chicken stock; clean fitness room and basement playroom; make granola; make butter; make apple pie)
B: scrambled eggs with veggies
L: italian wedding soup with kale in the crockpot
D: italian style spaghetti squash; creamed spinach and swiss chard

Monday -
(roast butternut squash)
B: yogurt with grain-free apple cinnamon granola
D: baked chicken tenders; sweet potato fries; green beans from freezer

Tuesday - in Detroit
(clean bedrooms and bathroom)
B: pumpkin or cornbread muffins; fresh fruit
D: butternut squash soup; pumpkin muffins

Wednesday -
(clean living room and family room)
B: pumpkin or cornbread muffins; fresh fruit
D: loaded baked potatoes with local sour cream, raw cheddar, chives from garden; lettuce salads with veggies and homemade creamy dressing

Thursday -
(clean kitchen and dining room)
B: apples with cashew butter
D: leftovers

Friday - flex day; Kindermusik, milk and CSA pickup
(start beef stock in the crockpot; make yogurt; make soft cheese)
B: scrambled eggs with veggies
D: baked local whitefish; roasted brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower; lettuce salads

Saturday -
B: sourdough pancakes or sourdough crepes
L: lettuce salads with veggies, hard boiled egg, and homemade dressing
D: mummy meatloaf; garlic-spinach mashed potatoes; roasted carrots

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Meal plans and the week ahead

We're headed to church this morning. Then we may go on a little color tour, possibly making a stop at a cider mill or heading down to Kensington Metropark. I also have to pick up some fresh chickens - I ordered another four whole birds, 40 feet, and 20 necks. I totally forgot about picking them up yesterday, so I'll go pick them up later this afternoon. Tomorrow I'm headed to Sarnia, Ontario for a couple days, staying over just one night. Wednesday I'll be in Windsor all day. Thursday Kevin may go mountain biking. Friday night we might meet up with my SIL, BIL, and nephews at Crossroads Village for trick-or-treating if the weather is nice.  And Saturday we're headed to Almar Organic Orchards with my mom's family for our monthly family day. We'll go back to my Grandpa's house for dinner, playing cards, and hanging out.

Here's the plan for the week...

Sunday - church; color tour?; Parshallville?; Kensington Metropark?; pick up chickens
(cut up chickens and freeze; freeze feet and necks in packages for stock)
B: scrambled eggs with cheese and veggies
L: picnic
D: crockpot chicken noodle soup

Monday - in Sarnia
B: yogurt and granola
D: leftovers

Tuesday - in Sarnia
B: muffins from freezer
D: at my parents'

Wednesday - in Windsor
(boil eggs)
B: pumpkin scones or muffins
D: crockpot baked potato soup with ham from the freezer

Thursday - Kevin biking?
B: hard boiled egg; fruit
D: chicken divan over spaghetti squash

Friday - Crossroads Village with Poiriers?  
(make yogurt)
B: scrambled eggs
D: grilled salmon; roasted veggies

Saturday - family day/night at Almar Orchards and Grandpa's
B: sourdough pancakes
L: leftovers
D: at Grandpa's house... we're having homemade chicken noodle soup (with homemade noodles and broth... mmm!) and other things that are TBD, I'm bringing pumpkin muffins (I'll be modifying the recipe for soaked whole grains, coconut oil, and healthy ingredients... I'll post the result)

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Impact of Fruit on Digestion

I've been listening to some of Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride's lectures lately.  They all focus on food and digestion.  Much of it I've heard in one way or another before, but in the lecture I was listening to a few days ago, she was talking about fruit.  I hadn't really heard much about how fruit impacts digestion, so I found it interesting.  Here are a few of the highlights that I wanted to share. 

Don't eat fruit with meals.  There are a few exceptions - lemons, avocado, tomatoes... basically any of the non-sweet fruits.  Dr. Campbell-McBride advises that you do not eat any sweet fruits with your meals, as it really interferes with digestion.  Especially in the digestion of meat - you should really avoid having fruit with meals that contain meat.  We usually have fruit with many of our meals - we all love it and it serves as our dessert.  I'm going to make some changes so that we don't have fruit with our meals anymore and see how it impacts our digestion.  I am pretty sure we'll find it right in line with this concept as I think back to the last few days and think about how I felt after different meals that did or did not contain fruit.  I just never put two-and-two together, I guess. 

The best time to eat fruit is first thing in the morning.  Your digestive system is better equipped to handle it in the mornings, so it just digests bests then.  We tend to eat fruit in the mornings quite often, so I guess we'll continue doing so. 

Eat fruit as a snack between meals.  Eat it by itself as a snack a couple hours before and after your larger meals.  And don't combine it with other types of food, just plain, fresh, raw fruit.  This is easy enough, we all love fresh fruit as a snack. 

Eat only ripe, local fruit.  Fruit you find in the grocery stores are undigestible for your body because they were not picked at the peak of ripeness.  Fruit needs to be fully ripe when picked to be digested well... if it ripens off the tree or bush, it is undigestible for your body.  Fruit is very good for your body, as long as you are eating it when it is best and fully digested, which means it fuels your body best.  Fruit will cleanse your body.  It is full of antioxidants and detoxifying substances.  We try to eat fresh, local, sustainably-raised fruit as much as possible.  Its tough sometimes, living in a northern climate with a short growing season, but you don't need a lot of variety at all times of the year.  Apples over-winter quite well in cold storage and I try to freeze and dehydrate a good deal of fresh, ripe fruit.  This year I froze blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, dewberries, strawberries, peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots, pears, apples.  I dehydrated blueberries, strawberries, peaches, apricots, and apples.  I also canned a few things, even though I know they're nutritionally lacking.  I buy very few fruits from the grocery store - normally just bananas, lemons, limes, and pineapple, grapes, and avocado on occasion - the rest I get from my local farmers.  I'm sure we'll pick up some oranges or clementines this winter, but I'm hoping that's about all we'll need to buy from the store. 

We'll be making some changes in the way we incorporate fruit into our diets.  It will be interesting to see how it impacts each of our digestion.  Of course, we won't stick to these principles all the time - there will be times when we're out and about and choose not to stick to these - but we're going to try to when we're home.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Meal plans and the week ahead

We have a normal week this week with no traveling. Kevin thought he may have to be on another work trip this week, but he doesn't, which is nice! This afternoon, we'll be going over to my BFF's mom's house to visit with Jaime and Jeff before they had back to Arizona. Tuesday I'll be going to my local WAPF chapter meeting in the afternoon. Wednesday Kevin may go biking. Friday i.s my flex day. Carson and I will go to Kindermusik and then head out to pick up our milk and CSA order in the morning. In the afternoon, I may be going into my niece's classroom to do an activity on maps and bridges with her class. Saturday we're planning to be in East Lansing for MSU Homecoming tailgates if the wweather is nice.  We're not going to the game, just going to walk around and see our friends that will be in town.  My nephew's first birthday was postponed till Saturday due to some colds, but we're not sure if we'll make it back in time for the party, or not. 

Last week was productive, even with Kevin gone.  I made cultured butter.  I froze a lot of squash and pumpkins.  I think I'll get a couple more jumbo butternuts and maybe a couple more sugar pie pumpkins this week and call it good for the year.  I also made a large batch (gallon) of sauerkraut.  I decided to buy a Picklemeister since its much more efficient than doing it the way I did last time (I never posted it, but last time I did it the way the Wild Fermentation book describes it, which can also be found on the Nourishing Gourmet blog).  I'm very excited to see how the kraut turns out at the end of this week.  I also made and canned a lot of applesauce last week.  I've got another batch to do today and maybe one more next weekend if I order more organic apples, but then I'm done for the year.  I think that's really the last of my canning that I'll do this year.  I also did quite a bit of dehydrating last week - squash and pumpkin seeds, apple slices, and parsley.  I think I've dehydrated enough apple slices for awhile... I have 4 half-gallon jars full of them.  I have about 2 quarts of squash seeds and about 1 quart of pumpkin seeds.  And I have a quart of dried parsley.  I ordered more parsley this week so I can dry another quart and that should get me through the year, I think. 

This week, I'll do another batch or two of applesauce.  If I order more squash and pumpkins, I'll roast and freeze those, as well.  I'll be making a gallon of kim chi at the end of the week, after I pick up our CSA order.  I'll be chopping and freezing celery and onions and blanching and freezing more carrots.  I'm also planning to do some baking with my sourdough... right now I'm thinking pumpkin sourdough bread and I'd like to make some sourdough crepes. 

Sunday ~ Bev's house
(feed sd starter; make kefirs; make and can applesauce; make baked oatmeal for week; make pumpkin sourdough bread?)
B: sourdough english muffins (from freezer) with herbed soft cheese
D: baked pork chops; roasted butternut squash with cheese and sage; applesauce

Monday ~
(make sourdough crepes)
B: baked oatmeal
D: sourdough crepe tacos

Tuesday ~ WAPF
(chop and freeze celery and onions)
B: sourdough crepes filled with homemade soft cheese and home-canned apple pie filling
D: TBD soup in the crockpot

Wednesday ~ Kevin biking
(blanch and freeze carrots)
B: baked oatmeal
D: sourdough crepes filled with scrambled eggs, cheese, and veggies

Thursday ~ Don Pablos with friends
B: yogurt with apple cinnamon grain-free granola
D: I'm going out with friends, Kevin and Carson will eat at my parents' house

Friday ~ flex; Kindermusik; milk/CSA pickup; activity for niece's class?
(roast and freeze squash/pumpkins?; make kim chi; start new cheese?)
B: fried eggs; toast with jam
D: crockpot apricot chicken; roasted veggies

Saturday ~ MSU Homecoming tailgates; Jonah's birthday party
(make and can applesauce?)
B: sourdough pancakes
L: at tailgates or at Jonah's party
D: grilled steaks; roasted veggies

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Meal plans and the week ahead

This week is not going to be quite so chaotic, although Kevin is gone to VA/NC/TN this week for work. But we don't have quite so much going on.  Today we might make a trip to the farmers' market, but maybe not since I have quite a bit to keep me busy as it is.  Kevin leaves very early tomorrow morning (has to leave our house by 4am) for his trip.  He flies home late Thursday night.  Friday night, we may go to the Davison Pumpkinfest - we'll see how the week has been and what the weather is like.  Saturday we have my nephew's first birthday party. 

I've been baking and freezing lots of squash lately.  I ordered a ton of it from the CSA last week.  So I've been doing 3 or 4 each day to try to get through them.  I'd do more at once, but can only handle separating so many squash seeds in a day.  So I only do a few each day.  I've also been working on apples this weekend... drying slices and making and canning applesauce.  I've got more organic apples coming on Friday in the CSA, so I'll do more next weekend, too.  I want to make some apple pies and freeze them, as well.  I'm planning to make some scones with fresh organic pumpkin and soaked grains this week.  I may do a few other things, too, but we'll see how much time I end up with this week.  I will probably need to make another batch of yogurt next weekend and I may do a new cheese, too.  I made soft cheese this past weekend (post to come soon) and want to try making some ricotta cheese soon, I think.  I'm also going to start sanding a bookshelf for Carson's room - stripping the paint from it so I can prime and paint it soon.  I'm planning to start sanding today and will hopefully get a little time one or two nights this week to work on it some more. 

Anyway, here's my plan...
Sunday ~ farmers' market
(make egg salad or hard boiled eggs for lunches this week; roast butternut squash and freeze; soak and dry squash seeds; dry apple slices; make and can applesauce; prep meatloaf; start sanding bookshelf for Carson's room)
B: scrambled eggs with veggies and cheese
L: leftovers
D: grilled porterhouse steak; lettuce salads with veggies and creamy salad dressing; applesauce

Monday ~ Kevin leaves for VA/NC/TN
(roast seminole squash and freeze; soak squash seeds)
B: sourdough cinnamon rolls
D: salsa meatloaf; steamed veggies

Tuesday ~
(dry seminole squash seeds; roast buttercup squash and freeze; soak squash seeds)
B: yogurt with fresh fruit
D: leftover meatloaf and veggies

Wednesday ~
(dry buttercup squash seeds)
B: sourdough english muffins (from freezer)
D: eating at my parents' house

Thursday ~ Kevin comes home really late tonight
(prep meatballs; roast sugar pie pumpkins and freeze; soak seeds)
B: yogurt with fruit and seeds
D: TBD soup in the crockpot

Friday ~ Davison Pumpkinfest?
(dry pumpkin seeds; soak flour for scones; roast rouge v'if pumpkin and freeze (reserve some for scones); soak seeds)
B: yogurt with fruit and seeds
D: meatballs stuffed with homemade soft cheese (instead of gorgonzola); garlic spinach mashed potatoes

Saturday ~ Jonah's birthday
(make pumpkin white chocolate scones with soaked grains; make raw macaroons with half carob; make yogurt?  start cheese?)
B: scones
L: at birthday party
D: cabbage soup; side salads; sliced apples