Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Grandma Lourie's Molasses Cookies

My mother made these each Christmas and they are my go-to cookies for Advent since there are no eggs in this recipe. They use a lot of molasses per recipe so I buy it buy the gallon now from where I get a lot of organic and bulk grains and things.

"Grandma" is my mother's grandmother who she was near growing up in Vermont. Her grandma would bake these cookies every Monday and the grand kids would visit and knew they were allowed one cookie each upon their visit. There was a very special old lunch box she kept them in inside her pantry and one of the cousins bought Grandma's old house last year and is working to fix it after it fell to an owner who didn't take care of it. I believe that that old lunch box is back in it's proper place and if you visit Grandma's old house I have a feeling that our sweet cousin will be sure there are cookies available in that box.

Tomorrow is the feast of St. Herman of Alaska and many of us American Orthodox make cookies on his day (I'm not sure why we also have made pretzels on his feast day). Today I made stars (for his nickname the North Star) and spruce trees since he lived on Spruce Island out of Grandma's recipe this evening.

1c. sugar
1 c. shortening (I like the butter flavored Crisco)
1 c. molasses (not blackstrap. I use the first boiling: Barbados old fashioned aka light, but the second boiling: full or dark are fine)

I take these three and mix them in my mixer very well. Then slowly add:

1c. hot water (keep the mixer on low or there will be a big mess! ask me how I know!)

7 cups flour (may need a tad more but this should be enough, need more for rolling them out too, my mom's recipe says 6 cups but that's never been enough for me I always add at least 7)
4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp salt

Mix all together, don't add too much flour. Put dough into large pieces of saran wrap, flatten them a bit and put in the refrigerator until chilled. Then roll, shape with cookie cutters and bake about 8-10 minutes in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven.

Picture won't upload now...maybe later!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Sprouted Refried Beans (Sooooo good!)

I love sprouting! I often forget to sprout ahead of when I want the actual sprouted bean, but sometimes I remember. I wanted to cook some of our 25 pound bag of pinto beans I'd picked up at Costco a few months ago. My friend gave me the best recipe for vegan refried beans and my kids DEVOUR them at coffee hour when ever she brings them, so I got the recipe and it's InstantPot friendly and I got one of those last year and love it. I decided on an 8 quart InstantPot last summer after researching my brains out. Because my year has been so busy I haven't learned how to use it much yet... The Instapot and I are still dating and not in a full time committed relationship yet. But this recipe has helped me warm up to him quite a bit.

I use this sprouting method for all of my beans and our favorite is lentils because they sprout even faster. I have to use this bowl/strainer set up pictured below all the time now. I used to use jars more when we didn't have as many hungry teenagers.

My sprouting set up. The first night I soak beans in a big bowl of water.
In the morning I dump them into my spaghetti strainer and rinse them.
Then I put them into the bowl and put a random lid or a plastic plate
or saran wrap on top to trap in some of the moisture.
I also use sprouting jars (2 qt jars) and a sprouting screen if I'm doing smaller batches.

Can you see the tiny sprouts right in the middle?
I soaked about 5 1/2 cups of beans on Monday night (I think?) and today is Wednesday. This makes a LOT, you won't want this many if you have a smaller family. It nearly fills up my 8 qt pot once they are all cooked up. I knew I'd like to have a fasting/vegan food on Wednesday that the kids would gobble up and this is CHEAP and good for them especially when sprouted. When you sprout grains and legumes it removes the bad stuff (I forget the science name) on the outside that naturally preserves the grain and beans from bugs...but it doesn't let our bodies absorb the vitamins in the grain. So if you ONLY soak them for 12 hours you're helping your family out a ton. Sprouting it it starts to change the chemistry and turns it from grain/legume into a vegetable and makes it much healthier, upping the vitamins, nutrients and sometimes the protein. Amazing stuff.

Anytime after the initial 12 hour soak you can cook your beans, but if you rinse them once in the morning and once at night they'll start growing and then you can cook them as healthy little plants! You'll notice a considerable reduction in gas in the family if you eat a lot of beans and some people who can't eat beans at all because of gastrointestinal issues can eat these just fine. After you sprout you can cook any of your beans any way. But we love this way!

The handsome 8 qt InstantPot containing the beans, onions,
cumin and salt. Does not yet have salsa or water.

Turning it on is no small feat! I use the beans setting and put it for 20 minutes.
I think it should work for any soaked beans. This will PRESSURE COOK your beans...
so if you don't have a handsome InstantPot you can cook them on the stove
in a traditional manner in a normal pot for a much longer number of minutes...
you'll have to figure that one out. Basically you don't want them crunchy.

Note, my fingers are pushing the lever into the "pressurized" position.
Don't let this recipe sit on venting or it won't cook
in 20 minutes and it'll spit a lot at you.

Sprouted Vegan Refried Beans

5 cups pinto beans - soak and sprout 2 days in advance or do quick soak or overnight soak method as stated on the package
Put beans into the cooking pot then add:
1/4c minced dried onions
2 T garlic salt
2 T cumin
Water up to right UNDER the beans for sprouted beans...and just over for soaked beans.

Cook in your InstantPot on pressure cook for 20 minutes, then let the pressure slowly dissipate on it's own. Set your valve to pressure. Should take around 45 minutes in all. Carefully check your valve and carefully move it to venting with a wooden spoon. Close again if pressure starts bursting out and wait. Once it does not vent anymore you can remove the lid. If using a normal pot, cook as normal on the stove.

2-3 cups salsa-medium

1/2c. corn oil

Heat up oil in 8 qt dutch oven or other heavy bottom pot.

Carefully pour in beans into the hot oil. Let them fry for a bit then mash them up with an immersion blender or potato masher.

You can eat immediately with chips or tortillas. The next day they have set up firmly in the fridge and also the flavors have blended nicely. Use for burritos, tacos, quesadillas or freeze in 1 qt yogurt containers. If you freeze: thaw and fry your pre-frozen beans in a small frying pan (like with eggs, in oil or not) to get rid of the excess water that seems to come with freezing beans.


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Here is the 8 quart InstantPot but people love the 6 quart also.

This is not the same immersion blender that
I have but it gets great reviews for the price!

I use my 1/2 gallon jars regularly.
To store grains, sprout grains, store goat milk, homemade juice...

Waste Not Want Not

Before we first got chickens I was oblivious to how much food we were wasting. I would scrape things into the trash regularly and not think twice.

When we got chickens we discovered a new found appreciation for food. Especially our hen's eggs, but it had a trickle down effect into all of our other foods. When we realized how much time, energy and money we put into raising hens...and all of a sudden eggs became our most expensive and most precious food item.

Fast forward 10 years after raising meat and egg chickens, fishing, hunting moose and caribou, raising goats for milk and for meat and having a decent garden....and also having 7 kids. Food is now a huge deal and we do NOT waste food!!!!!!!! (well I sure try not to anyway)

We don't have chickens yet in Washington, we have been talking about getting them and my son just literally offered to build me a chicken coop! So he's doing it as a learning/helping mama project and I could not be more proud! I see chickens much nearer in our future now.

Today my daughter requested potato soup...and by that she means for me to cheat dinner (always a favorite of mine) and use a Bear Creek Potato Soup mix and then if I'm feeling ambitious I add potatoes from the pantry. I didn't know what to cook in addition to the very last Alaskan salmon fillet we had in the freezer and soup was a nice fit to make dinner stretch. That reminded me I hadn't checked on my stash of potatoes lately and I didn't want any rotten ones in there spoiling the whole bunch...sure enough there were 4 that were turning and *the smell* had just begun. So I was able to salvage 4 potatoes to add to the soup making it stretch even farther. We were also recently gifted 3 large boxes of frozen peas...that equaled 18 gallon zip lock bags full! I've shared a few with church friends but still have a large stock pile of frozen free peas. I am very thankful when we are gifted free food and it happens in this very poor town REGULARLY....(It's like God is taking care of the poor people here or something....). I've realized that God is providing for us so generously and that free food is just as precious to me as the food we buy with our hard earned money or raise out of the garden or barnyard. Typically I add peas to this soup anyway so I also added 2 cups of frozen peas.

Potato pile...are they good or not? Can you spot the bad ones?

The four bad boys...they are not good influence on the rest of the nice potatoes.

I don't compost potatoes, the bad parts will go into the trash can. The rest of the good parts are diced up fairly small and go into the cold water measured out for the easy-peasy soup.

We fell in love with Bear Creek Potato soup when Costco used to sell it in large vats. I now find it online at for the best price. The local grocery store carries it too. So from $3.50 to $5 per pack it provides an easy meal especially if you stretch it with more veggies or make it loaded with bacon, cheese and sour cream!!!

Gallons of peas, for the win!

Finished soup in my favorite pot.
The special girls requested soup...found a lovely view to eat.
The last three years I haven't really been myself...I missed Alaska for a while, but then it's taken me a while to get back into the groove of life. That includes being a homemaker again. Cooking more and making better use of our grocery money by buying in bulk again and building up our stock of grains, legumes, nuts and foodie type things.

I realized we were tossing too many leftovers that had gone bad out of the fridge and it really started eating at me...realizing it's my duty to eat or freeze the leftovers or make it appetizing for the kids or hubby to eat and stop wasting so much food! Since I hadn't eaten much I took the leftover "company rice" as my mom calls it and made us last week, the left over peas and a handful of peanuts to tide me over until dinner. I also discovered 5 lonely shrimp in a bag in the bottom of the freezer and I ate those too.

Shrimp cooking in my favorite little toaster oven ever.
Leftover company rice (wild rice with Crazins and onions) peas and peanuts.

Something else to mention is that I don't throw away my egg shells either, I don't compost them with the regular compost anymore. I found out that they can really help keep bugs off of the plants if you put them around the plants when they are little. They act like shards of glass and after a while the calcium just adds good minerals to the soil for the root growth. So I'm doing this now and I didn't loose as many baby plants to bugs as I did last spring. I'm guessing that it's due to better soil structure from adding compost for the last couple of years and because of the egg shells. I also have heard that the pine needles will also be "pokey" to bugs and they don't like them. That's the primary ingredient in my compost...and even after breaking down for 4 years there are still plenty of very long Ponderosa Pine needles in my garden beds but the plants are much happier and healthier this summer!!!
Egg shells rinsed and drying a bit. (washing them helps to not attract bugs, it's not a must). When we moved here I finally bought a proper compost bucket (in the back) and I LOVE it. I don't know why I didn't get one for so long.

They finish drying in the ice cream bucket with the others. When it's full-ish I just crush them's surprisingly satisfying to crush little brittle eggs shells.
Also, this may seem silly to most. But hey! My blog is our silly old lives and I'm allowed to post silly stuff!!!!! I hate throwing away containers just because nothing squeezes out anymore! That's my pet peeve. My daughter was going to throw away this Just Chipotle Gold! I adore this's vegan (fasting) and I love all the Just Mayo things. Anyway, I got at least 2 tablespoons out of the bottle as seen on this plate and there's still another two left inside the bottle at least! I find this at Fred Meyer but I just discovered Amazon beats their price on this dressing by at least $1.50 per bottle, that's pretty big. I'm used to spending around $4.50 a bottle at Freds.

Taking the time to scrape out the jar will save money and ease your conscience!

There are all sorts of other ways to save food and money. I love to make a game out of it and I have realized that being a good homemaker actually saves money for the family. What are your favorite ways to save and conserve??

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Friday, August 10, 2018

Exercise in Futility

Tonight my kids were playing out in the 85 degree evening during the sun set and discovered TWO baby birds being carried around by our big cat, Bear. They younger three are 12, 10 and 4 now and they immediately had to rescue the birds...what else could they do?!

They begged me to let them keep them in a box in their room and since I was busy writing a blog post I said, "oh sure, girls, but you know they WILL be prepared". I couldn't stop them from being their little compassionate selves. It's a part of growing up. Trying to save a bird and it dying. Also the 10-year-old is a veracious reader. She remembered the instructions that she read in her "how to take care of your cat" book and remembered how to even care for the birds the cats try really, who am I to argue?

My husband asked me why I let them, since they will die. I basically said, "I don't know! I couldn't tell them no!" (hands over face and also not mentioning that I wasn't paying super close attention...) He said, "this is an exercise in futility". I love that he says such smart things like this in just regular everyday conversation. He told the girls that he tried doing the same thing as a boy but they must prepare themselves for the death of these birds.

We just went though this ourselves just two months ago. One of our cats had a little of kittens and one of them was stupid and fell out of a tree one evening. Well the darn thing broke it's leg and, as long as we have been married, have always vowed to never spend money on pets/mousers/working animals. But when that darn vet was getting ready to inject him and put him down with out really letting me make the decision, I said, "can I just call my husband first please?!" Hubby and I decided to let the doc amputate the leg which would have been the cheapest option of helping it live but the doctor decided to put a pin in and assured me it wouldn't cost extra. Well after the leg healed a month, there was a major blockage in his little intestine and he couldn't be saved. We finally had to let him go and we buried him in our yard.

In retrospect our case was also an exercise in futility, but what else were we to do?! God has given us the means to pay for a not outrageously expensive little baby cat surgery and God gave us that sweet little baby kitty. Neither one of us felt right about putting him down immediately with out giving him a chance. If we were poor then sure...we shouldn't spend the money. But we're not poor and we decided to try saving the little booger...but it just didn't work out. I cried when I said by to him. I had allowed myself to get attached after we decided to fix his leg. He was going to be our little indoor house cat buddy and my husband and I both loved his temperament. He loved to cuddle with him and me. We both pretended like it was a burden to pay for and keep this silly kitten, but inside we were both looking forward to loving him for a long time. We got one month. So I'm thankful for that. But writing this is making me teary again...but it's probably good to finally have closure.

I didn't want to get attached to animals after I had my kids. They die too fast. It's sad to loose them. I hate the book Old Yeller, who writes these things?! I actually hated the movie and refused to read the book....I talked to the girls about it just today...why read a book so sad? I think I'm extra sensitive, I'm not sure. It's ok though. I tried being tough for a lot of years but that didn't work out well...I'm trying to be who God made me. And that's a sensitive person and that's ok.

I'm sure this won't be the last exercise in futility the girls make, but that's ok too. They're my sweet girls and it's better to be compassionate and hopeful than to immediately write the creatures off as dead and discard them in the woods or let the cat have them for his supper. At least that's what I think.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Gravity Love

I suppose it's been my whole life, but lately, more so... The examples in the creation that God put on this earth and in the cosmos, to show us examples of His divine goodness and essence simply astound me.

Recently we drove south to experience the full total eclipse in Idaho. It was amazing. Imagining the sun being blotted out after Christ was crucified. How utterly terrifying if you didn't know to expect it. To see the world, the horizon, the stars, the bugs, the birds, the everything completely differently for over two minutes, not to mention the temperature significantly drop.... and it all happened so very fast. It simply reminds you of who really controls things. How our large spinning ball we call Earth is held up by His mercy. How perfectly He holds up the Sun each and every day. How the Sun reminds us of His exceeding brightness and strength. How the moon so elegantly decorates the night sky and how even it is an example of how we can be bright spots that can reflect God's love into the world if we so choose.

To see the moon blot out the sun. That was something else. I don't think I've had enough time to ponder's only been a week.

Gravity has been on my mind this year as a great example of God's abounding love for all of mankind...not just the "good" ones. Gravity doesn't choose favorites. It holds us all down to earth at it's own choosing and all equally. It "loves" each and every one of us. Whether we choose to dislike gravity or not. We are "loved" by it equally and perfectly. It stabilizes us. It does not waiver on whether it is having a good day or a bad day. We aren't subject to it's daily mood swings. Some days it does not treat us badly and hold us accountable and make us very heavy... And other some days it does not let us lighten our load and be a few pounds lighter because we behaved well. It's just the same, never changing, always consistent.

We humans subconsciously relate God to our parents, it's a natural thing to do. We decide that God loves us only if we are good because that's how our parents (imperfect humans) usually show their love to us. They are happy when we behave well and upset if we behave badly. It's only natural we would assume God thinks this way as well. This is why many of us are stuck in the, "well, if I'm good then God will love me better." so we go through the motions, follow all the rules, but we still miss the mark. God loves us regardless of our actions. Gravity holds us down whether we are alcoholics, good mothers, bad mothers, thieves, priests (good or bad), or innocent children.

We have the choice, however, to turn to His love in thanks and awe or to turn away from it in disbelief and annoyance. The fact that it exists, however, still remains. The love is there whether we like it or not...grounding us, literally.

God grant us eyes to see our transgressions and strength to bring them into the perfect light that You shine so that we can repent and turn our darkened faces toward Your brightness.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Fantastic Curried Lentils (no turmeric)

My mother is an amazing cook. I never appreciated her cooking when I was a kid, but now-a-days I wish she'd be my live-in cook and just feed me breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. She has run her own bed and breakfast in our Alaska home when I was a teenager. She would bring home stray church guests almost every Sunday and feed them a big hearty Alaskan sourdough pancake meal with real Vermont maple syrup. Not to mention that she cooked us a full dinner from scratch every. single. night even though she worked as a school teacher. We always had a salad, a vegetable some grain and a main dish. When my dad was finally willing to retire they were asked to come run an Inn in Hawaii for two  years where they would cook a fancy breakfast about half of the time for people staying there. My dad became a master of Hawaiian fruit platters and my mom would whip up amazing casseroles, scones, killer oatmeal, apparently amazing gluten free things for her special needs guests as well. I visited them there once for about a week, just me and my little 1-year-old and I thoroughly enjoyed getting spoiled by her cooking and relaxing by the pool.

As you probably know by now we are Orthodox Christians and we fast for about half the year, this means that we eat a vegan diet on our fast days. (We are allowed shrimp, scallops and other shell fish as well on those days.) Needless to say, we very much appreciate the Internet and all the vegans out there in the world publishing their delicious recipes. It has given our generation a lot of access to the cuisine of other countries and their favorite recipes. I have discovered that we really love Indian and much of the Thai food in addition to the Chinese (obviously). Growing up my mom would make Curried Lentils, but I was never a fan, it had turmeric in it and I realized I just don't love turmeric. It's the classic bottle of curry powder that you buy at the store, it is always yellow. Once I realized that Indian food didn't have to contain turmeric I started enjoying it far more. (What Wikipedia says about curry.)

My mom brought out dinner to our house a few years ago on a fasting Sunday afternoon. She was cooking for my sister's family and my family. Our husbands tend to struggle with the amount of legumes, rice, potatoes and general non-meat dishes that us wives prepare. Of course, like any wife who cooks often, we fall into bad grooves and finally our husbands have to beg us not to cook that dish ever, ever again. She brought us Curried Lentils and of course my first reaction was the yellow lentils as a child that I would have to eat and endure and in my mind ask my mother never to make them ever, ever again. I think she sensed my lack of excitement and explained that this was a new recipe she'd found in Good Housekeeping (Jan 2014) and she'd even add some shrimp for the extra meat and protein. Well, we all fell in love with it, but none more than our husbands. My husband and my sister's husband were in fasting-food heaven. I asked for the recipe and have made it quite a few times. Coconut milk seems to be that amazing secret ingredient in so many of our new favorite recipes these days...It makes the most basic ingredients creamy and fantastic. I have started buying the canned goodness online by the case, because I get the best deal and can keep it on hand. It's not cheap at the grocery store, usually between $3-$4 per can.

Curried Lentils
Makes about 6 main-dish servings

Blend in food processor your curry spices paste:
2 med. shallots, quartered (I never have shallots, I always use onions)
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
1 jalapeno chili, stemmed (I typically have jalapeno slices in a jar that I use)
4 thick slices peeled ginger (I buy the ginger in the tubes in the produce section, it's quick and lasts quite a long time)
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper
-Blend these until mostly smooth, transfer to a slow cooker or thick bottomed pot. Be sure to use an 8 quart if doubling this recipe.-

Then add:
2 c. Vegetable broth
1 1/2 c. lentils, picked over
1 can (15 oz) light coconut milk (I usually use reg, not light)
3 c. large cauliflower florets, placed on top nicely after everything else is combined
-let this all cook for an hour on the stove on low or 5 hours on high in the crock pot or 8 hours on low-

Before serving add:
1 c. frozen peas, thawed
1 Tbsp lime juice
1 lb of shrimp-optional
1/4 tsp salt (taste it, be sure it's enough)

Serve over rice, garnish with pistachios if you like. You could also garnish with shredded mom just served me the curried shrimp with the turmeric powder when I was visiting her 2 weeks ago. She had chopped apples, shredded coconut, raisins and cashews to put on top, it was so yummy and fun to eat! I think that would be a fun addition to this recipe as well.

If you want to get really fancy you could sprout your lentils one or two days ahead. You won't need nearly as much liquid, so back off on the broth when you cook them. This seriously upps the protein in your grain and it's fin to eat little lentils with cute tails on them. It's also better for our bodies if we presoak our grains but especially when they're sprouted.

My last night in Hawaii with my parents.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Sweet and Sour Anything

The first time I ever ate this a young woman, who was a budding brilliant cook, brought this over for dinner when I had my son who is almost 17 now. It was love at first bite. She used chicken in her recipe. It's one that I for some reason forget about, you need to have canned pineapple, and that's not something I normally keep. But if I have it, I'll make this cheap and delicious meal.

Here's Christine's recipe she wrote out for me 17 years ago.

Sweet and Sour Chicken serves 4-6

Fry in frying pan with oil:
4 pieces boneless chicken breast
1 egg, 2 Tbsp. cornstarch
cube chicken and mix in egg and cornstarch

Mix in a large saucepan:
1/2 c. vinegar
1/2 c. white sugar
pineapple juice from the sm. can of pineapple chunks
Boil, then add:
pineapple chunks (what's left in the can)
2-3 Tbsp. soy sauce (to taste)

Mix in a little bowl:
1/4 c water
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
then add to the pineapple mixture

Add chicken once sauce has thickened and let simmer for 5 minutes.

Serve over rice. I usually double this recipe for our large family.

I add peppers and onions to as much as I can now, also celery is cheap and easy to throw in too. Carrots are good as well as most "stir fry" veggies...those stir fry frozen vegetable bags would work for this. If we're fasting then I'll cook the sauce in a separate saucepan and fry up my veg in a large pan, then add the sauce on top. Don't overcook your vegetables! Only cook a short time then add your sauce, you want them still a bit firm like in a stir-fry.

For Tofu:
If I use tofu I fry that ahead of time with no egg or cornstarch in a non-stick pan. I have been using peanut oil lately for frying things and that worked nicely tonight. I use the firm tofu that come in little boxes that you have to cut open. This way they are shelf stable and don't have to refrigerate. Also, when you open them up I dab off as much water as I can. I slice the block in half and dab it more. Then cube it up and add to a hot pan with oil. I used 2 boxes tonight for my family of 8.

This I'll just add to the vegetables. Shrimp cooks fast, add this last then the sauce.

Cheating recipe:
What I did tonight was instead of buying pineapple and making sauce, I actually bought two 15oz cans of Carnation sweet & sour sauce at the store. This was plenty to cover my vegetables and tofu and I got to skip making the sauce. I bought it for a night that I was tight on time and that was tonight. I prepared my tofu and vegetables and made my rice before church, then when we got home I fried the veg and tofu for about 5 minutes then let them cook in sauce for 5 min. Then served. Easy! I have a feeling that the Carnation sauce has all sorts of unhealthy things that I wouldn't have put into mine. But it was good.

Tofu, celery, onion, peppers before adding sauce.