Sunday, September 30, 2012

Once a Month House Cleaning

This is part one of a series on Once a Month House Cleaning.  Click here for part two.

I admit to being a bit of a neat freak, but I feel agitated when my house is in a state of disarray.  Once my first baby was born, keeping our house clean started to feel a bit overwhelming. This only increased once I had a second child and started homeschooling in earnest. I did an okay job of keeping our home clean, but a few things kept falling through the cracks, like scrubbing the bathtubs. And I always felt like I was running behind.

About a year ago, I read a blog post about once a month cleaning. I thought it was worth trying, and I am so glad I did. Once a month cleaning has revolutionized the way I clean our house.

How Once a Month Cleaning Works
The idea is that, once a month, the whole house gets cleaned. I devote a couple days to cleaning at the beginning of each month, and the rest of the month I can relax and not worry about it! Cleaning day can be a bit intense, but I relish in getting everything done in one week rather than having nagging cleaning tasks always in the back of my mind.

In between house cleaning sessions, little things are still done to maintain the neatness of the house, such as sweeping the dining room floor and doing a nightly 5-to-10-minute clutter pick-up of toys, books, etc. If guests are coming over towards the end of the month, I'll also give the guest bathroom toilet a quick scrub and wipe.

Advantages of Once a Month Cleaning
  • Important cleaning tasks no longer fall through the cracks. For instance, our bathtubs now get scrubbed every month, whereas previously they sometimes weren't scrubbed for many months.
  • I can stop feeling stressed about cleaning by knowing that everything will get cleaned once a month.  This has been a huge de-stressor for me.  Instead of constantly feeling like I am behind and should do more, I can relax and know that everything will get cleaned soon.
  • It helps in setting the appropriate priorities.  For only one or two days a month, I focus on cleaning.  For the rest of the month, I have plenty of time to focus on homeschooling, playing with the kids,spending time with my husband, and cooking nourishing meals for my family.   
My Once a Month Cleaning List
Our home is relatively small at 1250 square feet, with 3 bedrooms and 2 baths.  When I first started once a month cleaning, since I had a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old, it took me 2-3 days to complete my cleaning.  Now that the kids are a bit older, I can easily finish before lunch on the second day.

My once a month cleaning list includes:
  • Living Room
    • Dust
    • Vacuum 
    • Horizontal surface organization 
    • Clean windows/glass doors (visible smudges only)
  • Kitchen
    • Dust 
    • Wipe stovetop and front
    • Wipe counters 
    • Clean sink 
    • Clean toaster oven 
    • Clean window (visible smudges only)
    • Wash dish drainer 
    • Wash compost pail
    • Clean trash can lid 
    • Wash rug 
    • Clean fridge water dispenser 
    • Wash butter dish
    • Sweep and mop floor
  • Bathrooms
    • Dust
    • Clean mirrors
    • Scrub bathtub
    • Scrub toilet
    • Wash sink and counter
    • Sweep floor
  • Master Bedroom
    • Dust
    • Vacuum
    • Clean windows (visible smudges only)
  •  Study
    • Dust
    • Vacuum
    • Clean windows (visible smudges only)
    • Horizontal surface organization
  •  Kids' Room
    • Dust
    • Vacuum
    • Clean windows (visible smudges only)
    • Horizontal surface organization
I'll be blogging more about how to make Once a Month Cleaning work soon.  Do you have a specific schedule or routine for housecleaning?

This is part one of a series on Once a Month House Cleaning.  Click here for part two.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Blackberry Ice Cream (primal : grain-free : gluten-free : GAPS option)

Creamy, beautiful, and smooth: this blackberry ice cream is so good!  I combined blackberries, a touch of lime juice, raw milk and cream, and unrefined sweeteners to make a great, fresh taste.  This is our new favorite flavor of ice cream.

Blackberry Ice Cream
Makes about 5-6 cups of ice cream
  • 1 pint cream, preferably raw and definitely not ultrapasteurized*
  • 1 cup whole milk, preferably raw*
  • 3 raw egg yolks, preferably from pastured hens**
  • 2/3 to 3/4 cup of mild raw honey and maple syrup (honey and maple syrup combined give the ice cream a great flavor; for GAPS, use only honey)
  • 1/4 tsp celtic sea salt
  • 1 Tb fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tb organic vanilla extract
  • 10 oz frozen blackberries***
  • Needed equipment: blender, fine-mesh strainer, and optional ice cream maker
  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender.  
  2. Whir for several minutes, until well-combined.
  3. Set a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl.  Strain the liquid to remove the blackberry seeds. As the strainer gets clogged with seeds, you may need to stir the liquid and seeds around a bit to get the rest of the liquid to strain through. 
  4. If you don't have an ice cream maker, you can follow these instructions to make ice cream without a machine.
  5. If you do have an ice cream maker, pour the beautiful purple liquid into your ice cream maker and follow the instructions for your maker.  I use the Kitchen-Aid ice cream maker attachment, and it works great! NOTE: if you use frozen blackberries, it will set up VERY quickly in just a few minutes.
  6. Transfer to the fridge to freeze solid for several hours. Enjoy!
*Coconut milk can be substituted for the raw milk and cream to make this recipe GAPS-legal.  But, most people can also enjoy raw milk and raw cream on the GAPS Diet once they can well tolerate fermented dairy (such as kefir and yogurt).  On her FAQ page, Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride says, "The GAPS patients cannot drink raw milk right from the beginning: they have to introduce all fermented dairy products (gradually and slowly) first before trying the raw milk. Large percent of recovered GAPS people can introduce raw milk without any problems (having introduced all the fermented dairy first)."
**Since the egg yolks in this recipe will be consumed raw, it is a good idea to make sure the eggs used are from a trusted source.  Salmonella is typically only an issue with unhealthy hens.  Washing the eggs before you crack them will also reduce any potential salmonella risk, since it actually comes from bacteria on the OUTSIDE of the egg shells. 
***Except during our local berry season, I find that frozen blackberries have far superior flavor to the fresh ones sold in grocery stores. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Beef and Bean Layered Bowl (GAPS : primal : grain-free : gluten-free : nut-free)

This recipe is a simple combination of two foods we already enjoy: ground beef taco meat and basic white navy beans.  Top them with some garnishes and both my husband and daughter LOVE this meal!  This meal reheats well, and freezes wonderfully for easy lunches.

Beef and Bean Layered Bowl
  • Ground Beef Taco Meat (recipe follows)
  • Basic White Navy Beans (recipe follows)
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Chopped avocado
  • Sour cream
  • Salsa
  1. Make your layered bowl as follows: beans followed by a sprinkle of cheese, followed by beef. Top with more cheese, avocado chunks, a dollop of sour cream, and a scoop of salsa.  
  2. Serve and enjoy!
  3. If you'd like to freeze any leftovers, leave out the avocado as it gets a bit strange in the freezer.  But the cheese, sour cream, and salsa are all fine in the freezer.  Also, perhaps add a bit of the bean juice, as freezing can seem to dry things out upon reheating. We prefer to freeze in glass Pyrex dishes, that way they can be reheated directly in a toaster oven at about 225-250 degrees.  It can take quite awhile to reheat, but there is no work involved.   
Ground Beef Taco Meat
  • 1 pound ground beef, preferably from pastured cows
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped 
  • 3 fresh cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1-2 Tb butter, beef tallow or refined coconut oil
  • Celtic sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1&1/2 tsp dried cumin
  • On a busy night, you can substitute 1 Tb onion powder for the onion, 1/2 tsp garlic powder for the fresh garlic, and omit the tallow
  1. Melt butter (or tallow or coconut oil) in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat.  Add the chopped onion and a little sprinkle of salt.  Saute for 10-15 minutes, until the onion is translucent and soft, with a bit of browned color. 
  2. Crumble the ground beef into the skillet. Add the dried spices, salt, and pepper.  Stir to combine.
  3. Cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until the beef is nearly done.  Add the fresh garlic and cook for another minute or two, stirring as needed to make sure the garlic gets lightly cooked.
Basic White Navy Beans
  • 16 ounce bag of dried white navy beans 
  • Filtered water and a pinch of baking soda, for soaking the beans
  • Filtered water and/or chicken broth
  • 1.5 tsp Celtic sea salt  
  1. Soak the beans 12-24 hours in plenty of filtered water with a pinch of baking soda.
  2. Drain and rinse the beans in a colander.
  3. Combine the beans, salt, and plenty of filtered water/broth.  More liquid can be added as needed while the beans cook.
  4. You can cook the beans in either a slow cooker set on HIGH, or on the stovetop over low heat.  Once the beans come up to a hot temperature, skim the foam off (and discard). Depending on how fresh the beans are and how long they were soaked, they will need to cook for 2-6 hours.    
  5. The beans are done when they are nicely soft, with no crunchiness. I like to make a large batch of beans periodically, and freeze most of them (along with the bean juice so they don't dry out in the freezer).  The beans can then be thawed and used easily anytime I need some beans for a recipe.  

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Winners of 9 Subscriptions to Real Food and Health Magazine!

There were 57 entries to the giveaway for subscriptions to Real Food and Health magazine! I used a free random number generator to select the winners (nerdy, I know).  The winners are:
3-month subscriptions to Real Food and Health:
  • Number 7 - Kate Vieregge, who commented, "This sounds like a great magazine and I would love to win a subscription!"
  • Number 17 - Maureen, who commented, "Love to learn about new real food resources!"
  • Number 38 - Bethany Carpenter, who commented, "I can't get enough of learning about nutrition right now! Thanks for the opportunity to win and for sharing the knowledge you are gaining."
6-month subscriptions to Real Food and Health:
  • Number 8 - Lisa P., who commented, "This magazine sounds very interesting - I'd love to win."
  • Number 13 - Anonymous, who commented, "This looks super! I'd love to win."
  • Number 41 - Hayley, who commented, "This magazine looks great! Thank you for sharing. You are so inspiring :)"
one-year subscriptions to Real Food and Health:
  • Number 22 - Jennifer, who commented, "Thank you for this opportunity! I would love to win this."
  • Number 1 - Laura, who commented, "I would very much like to win a free subscription to Real Food and Health magazine!! Thank you for this opportunity and for all your great posts!! :)"
  • Number 3 - MamaTia, who commented, "Woohoo!" 
Congratulations to all the winners!  All winners must send an their e-mail addresses to me at no later than September 25th so I can get your subscriptions to you!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Apple Season!

Fresh apples are a wonderful treat at this time of year.  I try to avoid buying apples at other times of year when they are not in season (like during the spring and summer).  Eating fruit as it comes in season is a great way to ensure that the fruit you buy will always be fresh and delicious, rather than picked and then transported for weeks from some far away locale.  This year, our two apple trees provided us with plenty of apples right from our back yard.

Enjoy them now
We love to eat apples raw, and there are also some great ways to cook with apples.  Some of our favorite ways to cook with apples are:

  • Apple clafoutis is one our top five grain-free breakfasts. 
  • Cooked apples make a delicious side dish alongside pork or chicken.  Simply combine chopped apples with some butter, a dash of salt, and a bit of honey if desired. Then cook for about an hour over low heat.
  • Caramel apples are a delicious treat!
  • Apple cinnamon muffins are another beloved grain-free breakfast in our home.  

Preserve some apples
To extend our apple enjoyment, I like to preserve lots of apples.  An apple corer-peeler-slicer is essential to save time.  My favorite ways to preserve apples are:
  • Dried apples: Core and slice the apples; then dry them in a dehydrator or oven at the lowest temperature.  We like to dry them until they are nice and crispy.  Dried apples make a great snack, and they can also be used to make apple raisin snack bars.
  • Spiced apple butter: Throw cored apples (whole or sliced, with the peel on) into a slow cooker and let them cook all day.  Add spices like cinnamon, vanilla, ginger, and cloves.  Add a pinch of salt and some honey if desired.  Then blend it all with an immersion blender until it is nice and smooth.  I store apple butter in small jars in the freezer rather than canning it. It is wonderful stirred into a bowl of yogurt, on buttered toast, or on top of some homemade ice cream.
  • Apple worms: Rather than throwing the apple peels into the compost bucket, I combine them with a dash of maple syrup and sometimes sprinkle them with a touch of cinnamon. Then dry them in the oven for several hours at 200 degrees F.  The result is a wonderful, crispy snack!  My kids gets a kick out of eating these "worms".
  • Frozen raw apples: In a large pot or bowl, combine cold filtered water and some sea salt (I use 1/4 cup salt to one gallon water). Core, peel, and slice the apples, and then chop them a bit more into smaller pieces.  As each apple is prepared, drop the pieces into the salt water.  Once all the apples are immersed, give them a stir. Drain into a colander and do NOT rinse the apples.  Put the apples into quart freezer bags, and transfer to the freezer. Frozen appples are  wonderful in the middle of winter cooked into clafoutis or an apple crisp. 
  • Frozen cooked apples: Peel, core, and slice apples.  Cook them over low heat with a dash of salt and a little butter or coconut oil.  When they are nice and soft, they are done!  Scoop them into glass jars or bowls and freeze them.  These make a great quick side dish or treat.  
  • Apple core and peel jelly: Leftover apple cores and peels can be cooked to make a simple apple jelly.  I combine the peels and cores of about 20 apples with about 6 cups of water.  Cook over at a low simmer for about an hour, then strain.  The resulting apple liquid can be combined with sweetener of your choice to make jelly.  I use Pomona's pectin, which allows you to use any sweetener you like in much lesser quantities than traditional jelly recipes.
What are your favorite apple recipes? Are you preserving any apples this year?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

GIVEAWAY: 9 Free Subscriptions to Real Food and Health Magazine!

Have you heard of Real Food and Health magazine?  It is a one-of-a-kind digital magazine for Real Foodies, and it is loaded with articles, kitchen tips, and nutrient-dense recipes. I've been writing for the magazine for about a year, and I find it to be a great source of information that applies to my lifestyles of nutrient-dense cooking and natural living.

Heather Lionelle, the editor of Real Food and Health magazine, has generously donated nine subscriptions to the magazine to Nourished and Nurtured readers.
  • three 3-month subscriptions
  • three 6-month subscriptions
  • three 1-year subscriptions
And, another quick freebie: the first 25 people to follow this link and enter the code U3N5K will receive a PDF of the September/October issue of RFH for free!

Real Food and Health is unique in that it was specifically developed to be e-reader friendly, but also allows for recipes to be printed.  The magazine is 100% reader supported, and no ads are sold, so it is not loaded down with ads like so many other magazines. Issues are published bi-monthly, so there are six issues each year. The e-reader version of the magazine is sold on Amazon, and the PDF version is sold at the Real Food and Health website.
There are three ways to enter this giveaway:
  • Leave a comment below. 
  • Pin this giveaway on Pinterest and then leave another comment to let me know that you have done so. 
  • Share this giveaway on Facebook, and then leave another comment to let me know that you have done so.  

I will randomly select 9 winners on Wednesday, September 19th.  The first three winners will each receive a 3-month subscription, the next three winners will each receive a 6-month subscription, and the final three winners will each receive a 1-year subscription.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookies (grain-free : primal : gluten-free : nut-free option)

These chocolate chip cookies are a new standby in our house. They are soft, moist, and delicious! I sometimes have a hard time digesting nuts, particularly almonds and peanuts.  So I wanted to develop a new chocolate chip cookie recipe that could be nut-free and grain-free.  These chocolate chip cookies fit the bill. 

Despite the fact that this recipe uses only coconut flour, they do not taste overly coconutty.  The secret ingredient that makes these cookies so moist and yummy is a bit of sour cream. Note, though, that these cookies are not GAPS-legal because of the sucanat and the chocolate chips. I previously posted a GAPS-legal peanut butter cookie here.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 40 cookies
  1. Set your oven racks so that none are in the bottom third of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 325 F.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the salt, baking soda, and coconut flour. Whisk well to combine and break up any lumps of coconut flour.
  3. In another bowl (or stand-mixer), beat the softened butter and sucanat together for a couple minutes, until it is light and fluffy.
  4. Add the honey and continue to beat for a few more minutes until the honey is incorporated very well.  If you are using a stand-mixer, make sure you scrape the sides and bottom a couple times to get everything incorporated well.
  5. Add the eggs one at a time while the mixer is running.  The easiest way to do this is to break all of the eggs into a bowl or cup and then just pour them in one-at-a-time.  Let each egg get incorporated before adding another one. (Note: the batter may look a bit curdled during this process, but don't worry about it!)
  6. Add the sour cream, and mix well to combine.
  7. Beat in the vanilla extract and almond extract.
  8. While the mixer is running, add the dry ingredients a little at a time.  Since coconut flour does not contain gluten, there is no worry of over-mixing it!
  9. Stir in the chocolate chips and optional pecans. 
  10. Scoop the cookies onto greased cookie sheets (or line the cookie sheets with silpats, which are wonderful since the cookies never stick and are less likely to burn).  I like to use a 1-Tb scoop for consistently pretty cookies, but you could just use a spoon.
  11. Press down the cookies with a spoon or fork. You may need to press them down a little less for subsequent batches baked on already-warm cookie sheets, as those cookies will spread more on their own.
  12. Bake the cookies at 325 F for about 15-20 minutes (or a few minutes longer if you are cooking them on stoneware). They are done when they are golden brown on top and a little darker brown on the edges.
  13. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 5-10 minutes.  Then use a spatula to move them to a cooling rack.
  14. Once cool, store these cookies in an airtight container.  They can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer if you won't be eating them all in the next few days.  They are nice and chewy straight from the fridge, and even soft enough to eat straight out of the freezer!  Storing them in the freezer will also remove the pressure of having to eat them all in a week or so, as they will last for months in the freezer.
*You can omit the almond extract if you have a nut allergy, but it really helps balance the flavor of these cookies and makes them less coconutty.
**I've recently switched to Bob's Red Mill brand coconut flour and I find it tastes better and is easier on digestion that the Let's Do Organic brand I used previously.  The reason I switched was that I noticed the Let's Do Organic brand started to be a bit of a darker color (maybe burnt?) and was also giving me a bit more heartburn.
***I use dairy-free, soy-free chocolate chips.
****I love using my Kitchen-Aid stand mixer for making cookies as it makes it very easy to add the ingredients while the mixer is running.

This post is part of Pennywise Platter!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

LEAVE THE BUTTER OUT! (on the counter, of course)

When we switched to using wholesome, healthy butter back in 2005, one of my biggest complaints was how hard it was to spread butter on bread, muffins, and waffles.  Luckily, a friend who had grown up eating butter told me the trick: leave the butter out on the counter!

What a perfect solution!  I always have a stick of butter in the butter dish on the counter.  It is always nice and soft, ready to slather on our morning waffles, muffins, or even sandwich bread. And for those of you wondering: no, the butter doesn't go bad on the counter!  Admittedly, a stick of butter never lasts us more than a week, but I know others who have left it out for over a week with no problem. 

I do not use one of those fancy butter keepers that have water in them, just a plain butter dish.  My butter dish happens to be metal, but glass is fine, too. I like to leave the butter stick in its wrapper, so that I don't have to clean the butter dish very often.  But I know plenty of others who go ahead and place the stick of butter directly on the butter dish.

A couple cautions:
1. If you buy RAW butter, I would not recommend leaving it out on the counter.  If you do, it will develop a much stronger, almost cheesy flavor over time. This is because the live enzymes in the raw butter are still working just as they would in making raw milk clabber on the counter.
2. If it is very hot in your house in the summer months, then your butter might melt and make a big mess.  This won't be a problem unless it gets upwards of 90 degrees in your house.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Fresh Spring Rolls with Sesame Lime Dipping Sauce (gluten-free)

This recipe for spring rolls combines cooked meat and veggies with some fresh grated carrots and bean threads. Rather than frying these rolls, they are eaten fresh.  They make a great, light dinner.

One thing I am still learning is how to roll these up nice and tight.  That seems like something that will come with lots of practice.  One other thing to note is that fresh spring rolls need to be prepared immediately before dinnertime, as they don't hold together very well if they sit in the fridge for very long because the wrappers are so delicate.

If you want to make this dish grain-free, just serve the cooked filling in a bowl, topped with the grated carrots, bean threads, and a drizzle of the Sesame Lime sauce.  

Fresh Spring Rolls with Sesame Lime Dipping Sauce
Serves 4-6
  • For the cooked filling:
    • 2 Tb coconut oil or other high temperature cooking fat/oil 
    • 1/4 white onion, minced 
    • 3 baby bok choy cabbages, chopped finely (keep the white and green parts separated)
    • 8 ounces brown mushrooms, minced
    • one pound ground turkey, pork, and/or chicken
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • sea salt and pepper to taste
    • 1 tsp mild-flavored honey
    • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • 4 carrots, peeled and grated
  • 2 ounces bean threads (also known as cellophane noodles)
  • 12 rice spring roll wrappers (click here if you wonder why I use white rice instead of brown)
  • hot filtered water for soaking the bean threads and spring roll wrappers
  • Sesame lime dipping sauce (recipe follows)
  1. To prepare the filling, place the oil and onion in a skillet over medium heat.  Saute the onion for a few minutes, until it is translucent.
  2. Add the white parts from the bok choy and the mushrooms.  Season with salt and pepper.  Saute for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Push the veggies to one side of the skillet.  Crumble the ground meat into the skillet, season with salt and pepper, and brown for a few minutes.  Then stir it all together and cook a bit more. 
  4. Add the green parts of the bok choy, garlic, honey, and rice vinegar.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 2 minutes.
  5. Turn off heat and allow to cool to room temperature.  (If desired, the preceding steps can be done early in the day or even the day before, and the filling can be refrigerated until it is time to make the spring rolls. Let the filling sit at room temperature for about 15-20 minutes before you start rolling the spring rolls, just to take the chill off the filling.)
  6. Soak the bean threads in very hot water for 20-30 minutes, until they are nice and soft.  Drain well. 
  7. The spring roll wrappers need to be soaked in warm water one at a time as you roll them.  I found that a 9-inch cake pan filled with warm water worked perfectly for soaking the wrappers.  You can either cut the wrappers in half (as they are in shown in the pictures) or leave them whole for larger spring rolls.  You'll also need a couple clean damp kitchen towels: one to roll the spring rolls on and one to place the finished rolls on.
  8. To prepare each spring roll:
    • Soak a wrapper in warm water until it is translucent and flexible.  I found that a longer soak (~2 minutes) in warm water works better than a quick soak (30 seconds) in very hot water.  Carefully place the softened wrapper on a damp towel.
    • Place some grated carrots on the wrapper, followed by a bit of bean threads, and then a scoop of the cooked meat/mushroom mixture.  
    • Carefully fold up the sides and roll up the spring roll.  I used a method similar to rolling up a burrito.
    • Place the finished spring roll on a damp towel and begin another.
Serve the spring rolls right away, along with the Sesame Lime Dipping Sauce.  Egg drop soup makes an nice side dish. 

Sesame Lime Dipping Sauce
Makes about 1/2 cup 
  1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, and stir to combine. Any leftovers can be stored in the fridge.