Saturday, March 30, 2013

Fresh spring rolls

I wish I was as photogenic as spring rolls are.

Thanks to my meal planning day last week I have actually had ideas for food and not only that, many ingredients that I bought to go into those foods!

Today I chose spring rolls. The kids are big enough to roll their own and the small ones don't want or appreciate them anyway. They can have the leftovers.

When I look for recipes I like to look at many different ones to get a general idea of what you can use in those foods, so I looked at about 5 today and figured out what I wanted to do. Here is what I made today, I put out all the fillers and let my family members make their own. I liked everything in mine best.

Fresh spring rolls

-Firm tofu (shrimp is another great alternative "meat" source)
-Bragg Liquid Aminos or Soy Sauce
-Deli mustard

Slice tofu into 3 sections, press them in a towel to squeeze out water. Slice into strips and soak them in the Bragg's, mustard and some pepper for 1/2 hour. Bake on oiled (sesame oil, yum) cookie sheet for about 1/2 hour flipping them 1/2 way through.

-Package of bean or rice noodles, I had rice noodles today. Prepare as package directs. Typically only cook them for 3-5 minutes in boiling water.
-Package of spring roll skins/ rice skins/ spring roll wrappers. What ever you call them, they are round and translucent. They turn transparent when soaked for 1 minute in water.

Variety of veggies and herbs:
Mint is classic, and so is cilantro and even basil. Today we had cilantro only.
Green onions or chives. I chopped mine into bite sized pieces, works best for biting purposes.
Carrots, you can shred or chop into thin strips. Strips for me.
Lettuce, I had iceburg, cut into thin strips.
Cucumber, this would have been a nice addition. I didn't have it, it was good with out too.

Line up your fillings, get your sauces made or out of the pantry (like me). Set up a deep plate or bowl for your wrappers to fit into, dunk them in warm water on the plate one at a time for about one minute. Get a kitchen towel on the counter in front of your plate and put some water on it. Bring your wrapper out carefully onto the towel and fill. They wrap up nicely, takes a few to get the hang of it. Dunk in your favorite dipping sauce, that's the best part!

everything set up and my first one on the towel being filled
Update three days later: Most of the ingredients are still good and in the fridge, so we're having them again for dinner tonight. Tonight's are some fresh noodles, no avocado and plain cooked shrimp (it was purchased frozen that way). So good!

Silly Saturday

My kids are funny and they say or do amazing or silly things. Sometimes I write them down on facebook or here...

As you may know we are homeschoolers. Spring is the hardest time for school for any child and that does not exclude mine. Math seems to get harder this time of year as well and they loose their focus more than usual. I decided to declare a contest on Thursday and to let the kids race through the rest of their math books and see who could win a promised "large bag" of candy. Well the boys were ok with that but were convinced that their little 9-yr-old sister would be the clear winner. She was already 10 lessons ahead of the 11-yr-old and 16 lessons ahead of the 12-yr-old. Well little miss 9-yr-old decided that she was going to win and the first day did 3 lessons total and on Friday morning got up and did 3 more lessons before I even got out of bed! I asked her if she was even going to give her brothers a chance. She giggled, "No!" The boys gave up so I decided to offer a boy reward of the video game that they have been wanting. Yep, I'm desperate.

little miss stinker doing her math
Yesterday was garbage pick up day. I asked the kids if the trash man had come yet. My 4-year-old daughter responded. "Yes, he came and we talked and talked. Oh, mama, I have to whisper you something." "Ok."  I said and bent over. "I think the trash man and I are in love with each other." Hopefully my daughter will grow out of the extra tall, much older, really creepy men stage.

the girl who loves the trash man

My 11-year-old son has now read all of the Brothers Grimm stories he also had his own chicken job this week and his brothers as well. On Tuesday he wrote this story:

The Two Chickens

Once there were two chickens. One of the chickens ate eggs and the other was simple and stupid. One day the evil chicken overheard the farmer talking with his wife, "One of the chickens is eating our eggs! When I find out which one eats the eggs I will kill it!" When the hen heard that, she became frightened and then she remembered the simple one and thought of something evil. The next day the farmer came out with a hatchet and put an egg in front of both the hens. Then the evil hen said to the simple hen, "Hey guess what? There is a treasure inside the eggs, just peck them out." When the simple hen heard that she looked at the evil one and answered, "But I don't know how to do it. I have never done it before." When the evil hen heard that she became angry and yelled, "Why are you so stupid" Do I have to show you how to do everything? Look, you do it like this." Then the evil chicken pecked the yolk out of her egg. But no sooner had she done this her head was cut off. And the stupid hen lived happily ever after. Then end.

My writer man on his birthday. I had to go with the Instagram 1977 look because of his vintage
Star Warst-shirt and his Star Wars cake his sister made for him.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Our daily bread

I got a request to share our weekly bread recipe. I don't expect most people to want to make it this way because you need a grain mill and a variety of grains to mill, but none-the-less this is the way we do it...

Multi grain bread (makes 3 large loaves)

Add to grain mill, typically we set it on fine:
1 c Prairie Gold wheat berries (Hard white spring wheat, known for it's light color)
1c Hard Red wheat berries (I use this because a friend gave me hers, she didn't know it was flour, another reason to have a grain mill, you can score free food...)
1 c Spelt berries (ancient type of wheat, nutty flavor, high protein, not gluten free, typically paired with Kamut)
1 c Kamut berries (another type of wheat, high protein, not gluten free, typically paired with Spelt)
-we grind these 4 cups of wheat berries in our NutriMill grain mill-

4 kinds of wheat berries made into flour
Combine flour with 3.5 cups of water and cover with a plate, let sit overnight. (I have done a decent amount of research and have discovered that whole grains have Phytic acid in their hulls. This is not good for you and prohibits your body from absorbing the good nutrients in those same grains. Soaking or sprouting those grains breaks it down making it better for you and easier to digest. Not to mention that it makes a much nicer loaf of bread. The easiest way I have found to soak is after grinding, that way I don't have to soak the grain, then dry it then grind it. Saves many steps for us.)

here is the wheat soaking in the water, getting all soft and good for us
Add to grain mill:
1/2 c lentils (what ever I buy in bulk, I believe they are green or brown lentils)
1/2 c millet (this is a gluten free grain, is a complete protein, high in nutrients and much less expensive than quinoa)
1/2 c brown rice (I personally don't love cooked brown rice...perhaps I even hate it, so I add it to my bread)
-grind, this acts as my "white" flour that I add in later, these grains probably *should* also be soaked, but the recipe only calls for 3.5 cups of water and I'm trying to eliminate extra white flour)

Next day add to the dough:
1 heaping Tablespoon of yeast
1/4 warm water, proof

1 heaping T of salt
1 scoop (maybe 1/4 or 1/2?) of white sugar (this is clearly not the best sugar for us, but it's cheaper than honey or maple syrup so I use it because of cost and ease)
1/2 c ground flax seeds
1/2 c whole or quick oats
2-3 glugs of oil (that might be 1/4-1/3c oil? I use olive oil but any oil will do, I won't get into the trans fats oil thing today...)
(we use a large Kitchen Aid mixer, this recipe fits the normal large size, I have seen larger Kitchen Aid's just recently but this recipe is to the max of my large one, my sister does a large recipe in her Bosch mixer)

Gradually add your lentil/millet/rice flour. When it needs more flour start adding white all purpose or bread flour, you should only need one or two cups of this to make a nice, not sticky dough. Knead the rest of the way if you think it needs it. Let rise for 1.5 hours.

Grease 3 large loaf pans (I should measure mine, but I believe they are "regular" sized loaf pans, not mini size). Divide dough into 3 parts, shape into pretty oval loaves, flour, put into pans and let rise for 1/2 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Let preheat for another 10 minutes, don't let the bread rise for more than 45 minutes. If you do, pop them out, re-grease pans, reshape loaves and let them rise a third time for only 20-30 min. It will rise much faster this time.

Bake for 45 minutes at 350. Remove loaves and pop them out of pans right away, they should be nice and brown on the bottom. Let cool on their sides. Put in bags when cool and eat within a couple of days or freeze. There are no chemicals so it WILL mold if it sits out for too long in a bag.

As is most bread, it's best enjoyed warm. You can also shape into rolls instead or create cinnamon/raisin bread with it instead of regular bread.

We typically start our bread on Thursdays and bake it on Fridays so we can have a yummy fresh loaf every Friday night.

As you can see it has many grains, thus the "Multi grain" name. I like using different grains in my cooking because they are a great way to get extra protein, minerals and nutrients into our diet. A better balance, if you ask me, than just plain wheat bread. I like knowing that even if my kids only put some butter and cinnamon/sugar on top they are still eating a "healthy" snack and they won't be hungry in 5 minutes.

The grain mill in an investment to be sure, but any whole grains are better for you if you grind them fresh and wheat flour can become rancid if it sits for too long after being ground. I originally split the mill with my sister and we'd share it, but she has since bought a hand crank mill (which I envy) and her little boys enjoy grinding her wheat for their weekly bread.

I have used the mill to make my own gram flour (not to be confused with graham flour). Gram flour is made from garbanzo beans or chickpeas or chana dal. Also called garbanzo flour or besan. Used a lot in Indian cooking and I've seen more in gluten free recipes. It grinds up those large beans no problem. If you are on a gluten free diet I would imagine that a NutriMill or something similar would be a great investment. Those tiny bags of specialty flours in the health food stores are expensive! But beans and rice are not. You just grind up what you need and you have your flour. I have a coffee grinder for the stickier (more oils) nuts and grains and spices. So if I need almond flour or to grind some flax seeds I use my coffee grinder for those.

Like I said before, this recipe will be way out of the league of many people and it certainly was for me a few years ago. But getting a system down really helps. And having a 9-year-old who only wants kitchen jobs (no animal jobs for her) is a great way to get my bread made weekly.

And I forgot to take more pics the day of baking. But here's the finished product.
Soft and extra delicious with homeade fireweed/rhubarb jam on top.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Meal Planning

Well today is Palm Sunday! Ha, psyche! I'm today is actually Orthodoxy Sunday (meaning the first Sunday of lent). So we're just getting started... Our Pascha (Easter) is May 5th this year! Pretty late, but the snow might just be melted by then, yippie!

Along with Lent comes a new way of thinking and cooking. Vegan style.

My 9-year-old already makes us bread once per week now, so at least that's covered. I have refined my bread recipe a few times since I posted in 2011. Now we grind 4 kinds of wheat on Thursdays, soak the flour overnight, then on Friday she makes it into bread adding lentil, millet & brown rice flour, oats, ground flax seed, olive oil and maybe a cup or two of white flour. We like the recipe and I like knowing it is full of protein and will last longer in their tummies than regular store bought bread.

I also stay well stocked on apples and bananas. They are the most economical fruits I have found and I pretty much buy them in bulk every time I visit the store. Great snacks for any time of year. One of my favorite snacks is apple slices and dry roasted almonds.

I have found the internet so helpful and am in love with vegans because they have so many fantastic recipes!

Today I read my friend, Ser's, blog and she had posted about meal planning, inspiring me to get my rear in gear.

I spent a lot of time thinking of meal ideas, after all, each lent I have to remember how to be a vegan all over again. I make a much bigger deal over it than need be. I made a meal planning notebook and a list of food ideas. Then I can start assigning meals to each day. I decided to write about my ideas because I can never find my list each advent and lent... but I can locate a computer, the internet, and my blog so that next year I can find my list again. I used my blog today to get started, so many recipes listed are already here and I added my lentil soup today so I could be sure to find it if I need it later.

Fasting/Vegan food Ideas:

Hummus Pizza
Tostadas w/ veggie "meat", avocados, caramelized onions, tomatoes, lettuce, re fried beans, salsa, fake sour cream, olives (made these earlier this year for company, sooo good!!!)
Vegan shepherds pie (can use the fake taco meat in this)
Seafood soup
3 Bean salad
Indian food! Cabbage Kofka, Aloo Mattar, Flat bread, Dal and Rice.
Pirogis, this recipe looks promising.
Dumplings and fried rice, these recipes look yummy, haven't tried them yet.
Yummy lentil soup
Chili and cornbread (have a recipe we love, will try to post sometime)
Falafels and Tabuli w/ pita (will be trying the one in the link this week, soaking chick peas now...update 3-26-13, the falafels in this recipe are fan-freaking-tastic!!!! I just put more beans to soak so we can have more tomorrow or the next day)
Hummus (have a new recipe we like better than the one linked, but have not posted it yet. This is my favorite hearty snack or lunch, especially with Kalamata olives.)
Spring rolls, so yummy.
Lentil veggie burgers (this look good! I just found this recipe)
Rib sticking pancakes
Waffles, I'm posting a successful recipe. I'd found 4 different ones then tried my own but it didn't really work.
Jambalaya (hubby's recipe with "gimmie lean sausage" fake chicken & shrimp, spendy recipe but very hearty, will try to post it sometime)
Roasted vegetables
Sweet and sour shrimp or tofu and rice, have a great recipe for this.
Shrimp fajitas. I LOVE these so much!

One of my favorite websites is Veg Web. I love how they have their website laid out if I need ideas and the comments people add are nice. I added recipes to it a while back, not sure if they are still there. Also, Laura at Hey What's for Dinner Mom makes meatless meals at least twice per week and she's in Alaska, so she shares good ideas of local foods that we can buy, pick or grow up here.

I know I'll think of more later, but this will get me going.

Pretty vegetables. link.

Yummy Lentil Soup

This  recipe has been a staple in our house for the last few years. Typically I make a giant batch in the fall (harvest) season so I can use up fresh veggies from the garden and freeze them in usable form. Usually in the large recipe I substitute some grains in place of some of the lentils to provide different nutrients and different texture.

Yummy Lentil Soup 
(serves 6)

1 onion, chopped
1/4 c olive oil
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tea dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1 tea dried basil
1(14.5 oz) can crushed or diced tomatoes
2 c dry lentils (can substitute some lentils with barley and millet)
8 c water (or however much fits in the pot, more for soupy, less for stew like)
1/2 c spinach or cabbage, rinsed & sliced
2 Tbl vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

(huge pot)

6 onions or 5 lbs
3/4 c oil
12 carrots or 2 pounds
12 celery or 1 bunch
2Tbl oregano
2 Tbl basil
12 cloves garlic
5 bay leaves
6 14.5oz cans crushed tomato or 3 28oz cans or 1 large 10lb can
5 lbs lentils, rinsed
1 c barley, rinsed
1 c millet, rinsed
10 ish qts water
1/2 head to whole head cabbage or 3 cups spinach
3/4 c vinegar (or to taste)
2 T salt (or to taste)
1 T pepper (or to taste)


Heat oil on medium heat in appropriate sized heavy bottom pot (preferred).

Add onions, carrots and celery; cook and stir until onion is tender.

Stir in garlic, bay leaf, oregano and basil; cook 2 minutes.

Stir in lentils and any grain, add water and tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for minimum of an hour.

10 min before serving add spinach or cabbage, stir 'till it's wilted. Add vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Just fyi, I have canned this before and it's not good. I love lentils because they cook up so fast.

Just found this picture from 2010 on facebook of my kids and nephew when we were making a pot of this soup.
How quickly they grow up! Sniff.

Alaskan Fall Lentil Soup

8/29/2014: I cleaned out the garden and wanted to use more veggies that I had including the dill, parsley, beets, etc. I remembered the borscht recipe that I love so much and based the spices off of that one. I really liked it this way and it doesn't need tomatoes or basil that I can't grow with out a greenhouse.

This is for a double batch:

2 onions
1/2 cup coconut oil
4 carrots
4 celery and all the celery leaves
4 cloves garlic and any greens from the garlic from the garden
-cook these three up 'till onions are soft-
-stir in:
fresh thyme
fresh dill
fresh parsley
1/2 tsp pepper
3 cups lentils
1/2 cup millet
-then add-
16 cups water, don't need to add it all at once
-after about an hour of cooking add:
1 pint pickled beets
1 pint plain beets
one bunch kale
one bunch beet greens (about 2 beets worth of greens)
1 small head of cabbage
or any mix of the greens of your choosing
2 tsp salt

1/4 cup vinegar
more fresh dill
more salt and pepper to taste

May taste good with sour cream, will have to try that.

I was pleasantly surprised. Definitely a sweeter soup, but I loved it.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Bedside Table

Doesn't Instagram make pictures look so much better?

I wanted to write a blog post tonight but didn't know what about. Seems silly to me to not know what to write about but want to write...maybe not silly, but odd for me. I was browsing some blogs I follow and saw that on Nesting Place she wrote about the books on her nightstand.

Clearly, I'm stealing her idea.

Clearly my blog is not about cute and well kept houses. I like to think of my home as "lived in" don't most homeschooling moms? (That means "not clean" for you that don't know what I mean.)

My bedside table has belonged to me since before I was married over 17 years now. It would look very cute repainted in a shabby chic way, but the wax from the candle that spilled in our first year of marriage is still on the top... I did, however, clean off the clutter for this picture.

The funny thing about this picture is that I almost pride myself on being a non-reader, so it's strange to have so many books on here at the moment. I am a VERY slow reader. I tend to like "how to" books and I find novels hard to get into and usually not worth my time.

The books I have here:

Sarah (Orson Scott Card, borrowing from a friend, finding it harder to read than I'd like, I don't like how he makes her out as such a know-it-all)
Ender's Game (Card, second reading)
Flannery O'Connor (mom's book, haven't started it yet)
Les Miserables (watched the movie and was inspired to read it, haven't started it yet)
The Gift of an Ordinary Day (My mom gave this to my sis and I for Christmas)
Seven Principals for Making Marriage Work (good book, intense, good for my type of actual exercises and games for husband and wife to do, my priest recommended it)
The Five Love Languages (another good one, I have gotten a lot out of this)
Backwoods Home Magazine
Mary Jane's Farm

Now for the fun part, the things that I cleaned off (after 4-6 months of build up):

old bag of m&ms
carpenters pencil
sharpies & pens
airplane tickets
sake glasses from last night Chinese food "date night" in our bedroom
2 water glasses
Thrifty maps from Boston and Seattle
new Schoop skirt tag
bottles of: Tylenol, Ibuprofen, Calcium/Magnesium tablets
drawing of our family from youngest daughter
Netflix envelope

And since I'm in a sharing mood I'm listening to my youtube playlist my top favorites are:
Mumford & Sons (all songs)
Johnny Cash - Hurt
Live - Lightning Crashes
Metallica - The Unforgiven
Home - Phillip Phillips
U2 - Pride, Beautiful Day, really any U2 song will do...

Time to go put away the leftover waffles from tonight's dinner and get these kids in bed...after this song is over.

What's on your nightstand?