Learning each and every day

My quest to edify myself a bit every day

Archive for the month “November, 2012”

Day 332 – November 28

My foray into non-dairy milks continues. Today I tried almond milk. I was a little reticent to try this because of my weird nut allergy. But since rice milk wasn’t my favorite, I threw caution to the wind and made a half gallon of almond milk. I’ll cut to the chase . . .it was waaayyyy better than the rice milk, yummy, even. And, it was easier to make than the rice milk.

Take one cup of raw almonds, cover then with water, then stick it in the fridge for a day or two. Drain off the water, dump the almonds plus 4 cups of water and any flavorings (vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, chocolate, whatever) into a blender and blend away until you have a frothy mix. Strain the mixture through cheese cloth, making sure to squeeze out the extra liquid. Save the almond pulp to make something else. (I’ll be trying out a few things with this tomorrow.) Refrigerate and enjoy within 3-5 days.

I drank the milk plain, with oatmeal and used it to make some bread . . . . all were winners. I think this is a keeper. I have yet to figure out how expensive this will be. 2 cups of almonds made a half gallon, and I think it was about $2 or maybe $2.50. So more expensive than cow’s milk and rice milk. Next, I’ll be trying flax seed milk. Stay tuned.

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Day 331 – November 27

I just realized that my numbering is totally off. I was starting to write this post, and the day was ostensibly to be 353. “Whoa, we are almost to the end of the year! Waaaaiiiiit a minute. We aren’t THAT close to the end, just 12 days? Nope, something is wrong here!”

After some simple sleuthing, I realized that waaay back on the 1st of March, I skipped ten days, and I’m sure I goofed somewhere else, too. Oh well, so today is only day 331. I thought about going back and fixing all of the days. And then I smacked my anal retentive self in the head and said “Get a grip!”

Anyway, so today, I tried to make turnip hashbrowns. Someone had given us a 4 pound turnip, which was HUGE, and I needed to use it up. I didn’t have any lunch plans, so I thought fake hashbrowns with scrambled eggs would be good. The recipe I used was from the blog The Paleo Prize and can be found here.. I shredded the turnips, squeezed out the water and set to frying/sauteeing them. In the end, the consistency was not at all like hasbrowns, they were softer, less crispy. I experimented with three different seasonings, none of which were stellar. This particular turnip was good in that it didn’t have a bitter flavor, so that was nice. The hashbrown thing didn’t really work out, though.

So now, I have a ton of wanna be hashbrown turnips left over. What am I gonna do with them?

Day 350 – November 23

Quite a few months ago, I pinned this recipe for a stove-top potpourri mix. Since I happened to have an extra bag of cranberries in the fridge, and since I was in a festive mood, I decided to give it a go. The smell was delicious, but it really didn’t get much past the kitchen, which was disappointing. I was hoping it would make at least the dining and livingrooms smell delicious . . .no such luck. I’m thinking maybe I’ll dump the whole mix in the slow cooker. The only problem with that is that I’d have to have the slow cooker going the whole season, which seems kinda silly. DH jokingly turned on the exhaust fan to help circulate the fragrance. (Our exhaust fan doesn’t actually vent outdoors. It just sucks up the air and redepoits it close to the ceiling. Kinda pointless if you ask me!) The other problem with the stove top potpourri is that it seems it would be super easy to forget that you had something simmering on the stove. I could just see myself leaving the house to run errands with the stove still on. Not a good thing.

Sooo, maybe I’ll just pitch this recipe and add it to my list of things that “seemed like a good idea at the time.” Oh well!

Day 348 & 349 – November 21 & 22

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! As you can imagine, all of my learning for the past two days has revolved around food . . .food that is dairy and soy free. I sort of wondered how Thanksgiving was going to work out without dairy, but it turned out really quite well.

On Wednesday I tried my hand at making gluten steaks. I used this recipe courtesy of my friend Melisa.

Home-Made Gluten Steaks
1 1/2 cups gluten flour
1 1/2 Tablespoons flour (I use Millet flour)
1 1/2 cups water (cold works best)
Put gluten flour and regular flour in bowl, then add water. Mix together well, I get into it with my hands. Set aside for 1/2 hour. Take gluten out of bowl and slice and shape into cutlets. Drop sliced gluten pieces into boiling broth (below). Simmer for one hour (it works if only 45 minutes). A double recipe makes about 35 patties.

Broth to cook patties in
5 cups water
3 T Chicken like seasoning or beef like seasoning*
1/2 cup onion chopped
1 Tablespoon celery salt or 1/2 cup celery chopped with 1/2 tsp salt
1 Tablespoon vegex or savorex (not sure where you might find these, I get it at health food store or ABC)

I added about 3T of nutritional yeast instead of the vegex. Once the gluten was cooked, I made a roux with the broth (2T coconut oil, 3T flour, leftover broth) and seasoned it with cardamom, garlic powder and ginger. The gluten itself turned out quite chewy and blandish. DH thought it was delish, I’m wanting to experiment some more with the type of gluten flour, and also with adding spices to the gluten itself. The sauce was decent, I think I’m not a fan of cardamom, though. But, the big victory is that I now know how to make gluten, which apparently is one of DH’s favorite food. So, hooray for that!

My mom likes to bring random recipes and leave them in my recipe box. I found a recipe for baked sweet potatoes with apples and raisins and thought “Why not?” It was bascially sweet taters, granny smith apples, raisins and a sauce of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice mixed with apple cider and molasses. It was decent, if not a bit dry. I don’t think it will become a Thanksgiving staple, but it was pretty good.

One of my staple desserts is a pumpkin chocolate chip bundt cake, whose recipe I found on the blog The Mother Huddle about 3 years ago. It is crazy good, but I didn’t know how it would work out with coconut oil instead of regular vegetable oil. Well, it was still crazy good . . woot! I tried to make a fake whipped cream out of coconut milk. I had opened a can a few days ago and the rest was sitting in the fridge, so it thickened up. I whipped it for a long time in the Kitchen Aid mixer . . . . nothing and it tasted terrible. I added some powdered sugar and cream of tartar . . still nothing. It thickened up nicely after being in the fridge overnight, but I can’t say that the flavor was all that great.

All in all, we still had a yummy Thanksgiving feast, I ate way too much, we have plenty of food left over and I have a few new food items to add to my list of dairy-free soy-free foods.

Day 347 – November 20

Today was a soup and bread kind of day. I decided to try out this orzo soup from the blog The Family Kitchen. I grabbed my newly made vegetable broth and set to work. I followed the recipe pretty closely, but did make a few changes. Here’s what I did:

1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 small turnip, shredded
20 oz frozen spinach, partially defrosted
1 15oz can diced tomates, undrained
2 quarts vegetable broth
1.5 quarts water
1 1b orzo pasta

Sautee the onion, garlic and turnips. Add the spinach, tomatoes, broth and water . . bring to a boil. Add the orzo, reduce heat to medium and cook for 10-12 minutes until pasta is tender.

When I tasted it at this point, it was highly unremarkable. I’d even go so far as to say it was bland. I added some salt and pepper and hoped for the best. DH thought it was delicious. Me, not so much. It was decent, (still needed more salt) but not yummy. It was edible (as my mom likes to say) when paired with bread and butter. We have a TON left over. The recipe makes roughly a gallon of soup, which is alot, even for a big family like ours. This means that we’ll have a fair amount of leftovers. Bring on the bread and butter, I guess!

Day 346 – November 19

Yesterday I made some baked beans. Partway through, I realized that I needed some vegetable broth, and I didn’t have any bouillion cubes that didn’t have soy. I ended up improvising, but decided that I should just make my own broth. So today, I gave it a whirl. I used this recipe from the blog Simply Recipes. There was a huge amount of chopping to do (nothing that my new Ninja blender couldn’t handle), and it took several hours to cook everything down and strain it out. In the end, I had 5 quarts of vegetable broth. But here’s the thing: I’m not convinced that it’s more economical to make your own, especially since I managed to find some cubes that didn’t have soy in them. You spend around $6-8 on just the vegetables, and then the time to chop everything and cook it down. A bottle of cubes was around $6. So, I’m thinking I won’t be making broth again. Unless, of course, I try the broth and it’s to die for!

The other new bit of information has to do with breastfeeding. Soooo, if it gives you the heebie jeebies to talk about breastfeeding, then I’ll bid you adieu and see you tomorrow.

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Still here? Alrighty. So the little boss is such a lazy latcher. He’s growing like a gangbuster, so clearly he’s getting milk, but he’s lazy and doesn’t really believe in opening his mouth very wide. It drives me NUTS! I have to fight with him at practically every nursing session to get him latched on. And when he is on, I still have to flip his lips out to make sure they are properly phlanged. So I went to the breastfeeding clinic to see if they had any suggestions. I actually learned a new little trick today, which was surprising because I have a good sized arsenal of little tricks. (Keep in mind, this is my 4th nursling, so I fashioned myself a very experienced breastfeeder.) Anyway, the lactation consultant suggested that compress the breast to make a sandwhich, (baby’s lips = bread, breast = filling). The idea is that by compressing the breast, the little ones have an easier time getting latched on and don’t get overwhelmed by breast. Makes sense, right? But there’s more. She said to make sure that the sandwhich was going the same direction as the baby’s mouth. So if the baby’s mouth was more horizontal (like it would be in a football hold or in an inclined cross cradle hold), then you’d compress the breast from the top and bottom. If it was more vertical (like it would be in a cradle hold), then the breast would be compressed from the two sides. This seems so obvious, but it was like a little light bulb went off. Ever since getting that little gem of info, my lazy latcher has been doing leagues better. Hooray!

So there you have it, two very different lessons today!

Day 345 – November 18

So far in this dairy/soy free endeavor, I’ve been using coconut milk and a coconut beverage in place of cow’s milk. It’s tastes okay, but is so expensive! Soo, in an attempt to not bankrupt us, I decided to learn about different milks. Today it was rice milk. It’s so super easy to make, time-intensive, but easy.

Add 1/2 cup of brown rice to 8 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 3 hours, stirring occasionally. You’ll end up with mush-looking stuff. Fill half of your blender with the mush and the other half with water. Blend until very smooth, then run through a fine mesh strainer how ever many times you need to in order to filter out the small bits of grain. And . . . .that’s it! Easy, right?

Now, about the flavor. I’m not going to lie, it’s not delicious by any stretch. But honestly, I’m not sure that cow’s milk is delicious, either. I drink it because I always have and am used to the flavor. I’m guessing one could get used to rice milk pretty easily. I tried adding some honey and vanilla, but that didn’t really help. Of course, I was drinking it warm, so I wonder if it will taste better after it has sat in the fridge for awhile. In any case, I have about 3/4 of a gallon that I’ll be using on my cereal and in recipes this week.

I’m also planning on trying to make oat milk and flax seed milk. Once I find a winner, I’ll make a ton, and then freeze it.

The other thing I discovered today is that coconut milk makes your bread behave in a weird fashion. I substituted regular milk for coconut milk and the texture of the dough was, well, it was just weird. I’m expecting the bread to be chewy based on the dough texture. . . . . Fast forward a few hours, the bread is only okay. It wasn’t chewy, but the flavor was just bizarre. I can definitely say that I won’t be using coconut milk in this recipe again.

Day 344 – November 17

Today I learned a very important lesson: chocolate chip cookies made with coconut oil and dairy/soy free chocolate chips are to die for! Chocolate chip cookies, the homemade type, are my weakness. I could easily eat a dozen or more in a day. In fact, yesterday I DID eat a dozen. Nope, not ashamed to say that at all! Anyway, I was very sad to discover that chocolate chips had dairy in them because then I wouldn’t be able to eat any more cookies. I found some dairy/soy free chips at the co-op . . .hooray! Today I used my trusty cookie recipe, substituting coconut oil for the butter/shortening and using the “safe” chocolate chips.

Whoa! They were yummy! I think I cooked them a bit too long, so they were crispy, but that was okay. They turned out perfectly round. I don’t think I’ve ever had my choc chip cookies turn out so beautifully round. I thought about taking a pic to share, but I ate them all instead! lol

I will definitely be making more of these cookies. I’m planning on always having them around this holiday season. That way, if I go somewhere are there are all sorts of baked goodies that are off-limits, I can just whip out my awesome cookies and be perfectly happy!

Day 343 – November 16

My lessons for today were babywearing lessons. I consider myself a very experienced babywearer, having spent most days of the past 5 years wearing someone and having used seemingly every carrier type known to man. I really didn’t think there was anything else to learn. I was wrong.

On the website The Babywearer, there’s a wrapping forum and in that forum, we do carry of the week (COTW), where a carry or a group of carries are focused on for the week. The goal is to learn about new carries and help each other out. It’s how I learned to be a good wrapper. I think I started “playing” along in the 5th COTW, and it’s now on version 13. This week it’s front cross carry (FCC) and front double hammock (FDH). FCC has never been a favorite carry. In theory, it’s a poppable carry, meaning you tie the wrap onto yourself, and you can pop the baby in and out without having to do any untying or retying. It was always a disaster for me and I just didn’t really care for it. For some reason, today, it clicked. I was using a super narrow (15 inches) DIY wrap. The little boss was fussy and so I grabbed the closest wrap and decided to try out FCC. Amazingly, it worked really well, it was comfortable and I wasn’t stuggling to get everything adjusted. I think the secret was the narrowness of the wrap. Generally, the wraps I use are between 24 and 30 inches wide. As you can imagine, that’s ALOT of fabric for a newborn, they tend to get lost in it. The 15 inch wrap was much more manageable. I even tried it with another woven wrap and just folded the whole thing in half . . . again, success. Who knew??!! So this is going to be my go-to carry for running errands. And, it will be easy to tandem wear. I can tie on the wrap, get the toddler on my back, and then pop the little boss in. Voila! Hooray for learning!

The second lesson was a less happy lesson, but good to know, none-the-less. We have ALOT of mei tais at our house. I’m always trying new little variations and tweaks. This time, I decided to try a hybrid ring sling waist. This means that one side has a long waist strap, and the other side has a pair of ring slings that the long strap gets threaded into. In my brain, I thought this would be a great way to have easy adjustment, and I wouldn’t end up with a knot in my back. Alas, such was not the case. The fabric does not adjust easily at all. I think it’s because of the angle that I’m pulling, it just doesn’t work. And, the ring feel weird on my side, and I can’t seem to get it as tight as I would like. This translates into a less supportive carrier. Eh, oh well. I’ll be unpicking the waistband and either adding buckles or adding another strap. You can’t win them all, I guess!

Day 333 – November 15

Okay folks, fasten your seatbelts cuz today was a whirlwind of learning!

About 10 years ago I developed this weird allergy to some fruits and vegetables. I first noticed it when I ate some watermelon, and then promptly lost my voice for about 30 minutes. My cords got super swollen, such that they were unable to approximate, thus rendering me voiceless. Then I started noticing that if I ate certain raw veggies, my throat would swell or it would get itchy, and my nose would get itchy. As the years went on, I discovered more and more fruits and veggies and some nuts that would cause that reaction. Then, today, someone pointed me to this page on wikipedia. There’s a name for my allergy, oral allergy syndrome, and I”m not just crazy! Woot!

Speaking of allergy, I learned the difference between an allergy and an intolerance. My baby most likely has an intolerance to dairy/soy. That means that his body is unable to process the offender. An allergy, on the other hand, produces hives or swelling or something visible on the outside. Now that I know the difference, it seems so easy and obvious!

The big discovery for today, soy is in EVERYTHING! I was okay with dropping dairy. Sure, it’s going to be a challenge and I’ve gotten here kicking and screaming, but I figured it would be doable. Then I was told to drop soy as well . . .. uh, that’s more of a challenge. It’s seriously in everything: peanuts, oreos, cereals, cooking spray, shortening, chips, bread, pasta sauce . . everything! Ack! This is going to be interesting!

Today was our first dairy and soy free day. For supper I had peanut cakes/burgers on the menu. That flew out the window with the knowledge that peanuts have soy in them. So I found a black bean burger recipe from Cooking Light. I skipped the chipotle mayo as I knew non of the babes would like it. I made some hamburger buns, and substituted coconut milk and oil for the milk and butter. They turned out just fine . . . they didn’t taste any different than they tasted when I made the buns with milk and margarine. That was a happy discovery! The burgers were pretty good. They definitely were better than the previous version.

Speaking of coconut milk, I tried two different kinds today: plain and chocolate. The plain was just fine on my cereal this morning. The chocolate . . .blech . . . not good at all . . .it sort of tasted like cough syrup. I definitely won’t be spending money on that again!

The most important lesson from today was that going dairy and soy free isn’t for the faint of heart. There’s alot to learn in a very short amount of time, and in many cases, you can’t mess up. In my case, it isn’t life-threatening, but if I goof up and do ingest milk/soy, then the little boss is the one that suffers. So I’m reading labels, lots and lots of labels, and trying to explain to the babes why it’s okay for me to spend the day munching on unhealthy chips while they eat other more healthy things. (Hey, I need to get fat from somewhere!)

Stay tuned to see what dairy/soy free things I learn tomorrow! Riveting, right? =)

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