Monday, October 31, 2011

Gluten Free Living - Day 2

Today I had planned to go and visit with my sweet friend, Marci. I LOVE this gal! She and I are like soul sista's! We are both free-spirit, hippie, gypsy girls, and I think we could both travel the world together and never look back. So I was very excited about going to her house and enjoying lunch with her and the four boys. Then I remembered - I'm not eating BREAD! ACK! So I told Marci I would be bringing my own lunch, because I certainly didn't expect her to try to cater to me and my crazy stomach.

So last night, I stayed up a little late looking up gluten free bread recipes, and I came across some really great looking ones. I finally found one that I had most of the ingredients for - from the bags of "flour" that I had bought grocery shopping the night before. And for what I didn't have, I looked online to find a suitable substitute, which I DID have! (YAY for Google! I just LOVE the info I can find on the Internet!) Before I went to bed last night, I mixed up all the dry ingredients so I could have a jump on my bread making this morning before going for my visit. When I woke this morning, I went straight to my kitchen to finish up making my bread. All I can say is - WOW! It smelled WONDERFUL! I finally realized what it is that I love about bread baking in my house. It's the YEAST! It smells sooooo wonderful! I even topped this bread with some sesame seeds to give it a good texture and to make it look and taste more "real". I wrapped it up, and I was off to visit my friend.

Before lunch, I pulled out my electric knife and sliced it into sandwich sized pieces. Marci, Britches, and I were ready to try it. We all three took a bite and - well, it was... different. We decided it would be much better slathered in butter, so of course that's what we did! Bread without butter is just crazy! It was really pretty good with the butter on it.

For lunch, though, I had mixed up peanut butter and homemade muscadine jelly, and that's what went in my sandwich. I must say, with PB&J, that was a really delicious bread! And I am thinking it's going to be really great as French toast, toast and jelly, or just warmed with butter as a side for my left over potato soup tonight.

There are several other recipes I plan to try in the near future, but not until I finish this loaf. All in all, though, this recipe is a keeper. I really liked the way it rose, just like my normal yeast bread. It had a great texture. There was no soy flour in it, so it didn't have any funky taste I didn't like. And it held up well for my sandwich. I'm pretty sure I will be making this one again.
This really was a lot easier to make than my regular yeast bread, too, because you only mix everything once, put it in the loaf pan, and let it rise. There is no kneading and waiting and kneading and waiting.

If you are playing around with the idea of gluten free foods, here is the recipe - just to try. Remember, you don't have to commit to anything just by making something like this. Call it a science experiment, and be prepared to throw it out if you hate it. You don't have to be married to it forever. Just give it a try! I did substitute a few items, since I didn't have the other items readily available. I swapped the tapioca or potato starch for corn starch. Instead of millet flour, I used brown rice flour. And instead of xanthan gum, I used an equal amount of milled flax seed. I did use the 2 whipped egg whites, and it did work well.

So if you DO give this recipe a try, leave me a comment and tell me how it went for you. Tell me what you liked or didn't like about it.

And now, I'm heading off to reheat some left over yummy cheesy potato soup for supper! Can't wait to try it with my new BREAD!

The Great Awakening

Music is a key to my soul. Music says things that I can't think to say, but echo the cry of my heart. This song is one such piece of music. The Great Awakening by Leeland is a simple yet amazing song that tells exactly what I feel. Here are the words of the song.

One man wakes, awakens another
Second one wakes his next door brother
Three awake can rouse a town
And turn the whole place upside down
Many awake will cause such a fuss
 It finally awakes all of us
One man wakes with dawn in his eyes
Surely then it multiplies
Surely then it multiplies 

One thing I desire in this life is to be the one who awakens in a child the knowledge of the love of Jesus Christ. And then for that child to awaken his friend to the love of Jesus. Then for those two children to each share Jesus with another and another and another, until it turns the whole place upside down. And it will multiply on and on and on. I love to see a child wake "with dawn in his eyes" when he finally comes to understand the deep, deep love that Jesus Christ has for him. I want to be the one to share that with children. It is the deep desire of my heart. 

Check out this amazing song.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Gluten Free Living - First Attempt

The more I research the different symptoms I have with my stomach, the more I am leaning toward gluten as being the final culprit in my long attempt to settle my tummy issues once and for all. So far, I have cut out all meat and pretty much all dairy (except for the occasional sprinkle of cheese on my bowl of potato soup!), and I have severely limited my caffeine and sugar intake. So my next step in finding out what all the doctors haven't been able to tell me is to try going gluten free - for awhile anyway.

This week, the plan is to eat completely gluten free in an attempt to give my tummy a break, try to pinpoint if that is indeed the case of my tummy problems, and to see if one actually CAN live without gluten. As I have said before, I don't mind giving up meat one bit, because I've never really been just crazy about the taste anyway. But homemade bread, on the other hand, is a different story all together! When I make a loaf and the smells begin to fill my entire house, I just long for the moment when it emerges from the oven and I can cut off that first heel slice, slather it in butter, and chow down! I love bread with my winter soups and with my everyday lunch sandwiches. We have biscuits with supper on occasion, and I sometimes fix toast with our breakfast. Several times each week, I make waffles and muffins for breakfast. I LOVE chocolate/chocolate chip/banana muffins made with half white and half whole wheat flour! The smell is intoxicating! And a homemade waffle slathered in peanut butter and drizzled with honey is just fantastic!

I have no idea how I am going to make it this week without eating these delicious foods! Bread is a comfort food to me, and it's a good filler. If I'm still a little hungry after eating, a slice of toast to finish off the meal usually does the trick. Plus, I have been making homemade cookies with the kids lately, and of course I want to try one when they are finished cooking! So I am not really sure how I am going to be able to resist the temptation. But I am going to try my best!

Last night we went grocery shopping. So in addition to all my veggie foods, I stopped by the gluten free section to see what was offered. I have never really given much more than a glance at those shelves up to this point, but last night I just stood there and looked at each and every item. I couldn't buy one of everything, and didn't really want to, for that matter. If they tasted terrible, I didn't want to waste a ton of money on things that would end up being thrown away. So I chose two packages of noodles, a few bags of different types of flour (brown rice and sorghum), a bag of gluten free oats, and one package of mixed flours that will make some yummy french bread. Hoping that bread looks as good in person as it does on the box! So I am now set for the week.

I started on this first attempt today. I call this my first attempt, because it seems that everything I try, as far as my diet goes, takes a few tries before I fully commit to it. I'm hoping that won't be the case with this, but I'm leaving myself a way out just in case! This morning for breakfast, I had cereal. That's pretty normal for me. But when we went shopping last night, I picked up a few boxes of Chex cereal, because most of their cereal is labeled gluten free. YAY for cereal! Topped with some delicious rice milk, I was set. For lunch, I made a crock pot full of cheesy potato soup. By the time we got home from church, it had the house smelling GOOD! This is generally a meal I would LOVE to have a slice of homemade bread with, because cheesy potato soup just SCREAMS "Eat me with bread!" BUT, I resisted. I ladled out a bowl for me and added some vegan cheese to it, topped it with a little veggie "sausage" (from Morningstar Foods), and I had a great lunch! I was actually glad I skipped the bread, because, after eating a whole bowl of that filling goodness, I was stuffed! But my tummy didn't hurt after eating, which is unusual. For supper tonight, I am making quinoa stuffed bell peppers. I'm using the recipe on the quinoa box, and it looks very yummy. It's vegan and gluten free, so we have a win-win meal here! And I'm planning to broil some fish for the rest of my bunch. All in all today, my tummy feels much better. No gluten for just one day has made a difference. I am hoping that, by the end of a week, I will be able to tell a tremendous difference!

My attempt will be to blog about my week at least every few days to tell things like how I feel, if I can see any changes, the different types of foods I am choosing, and anything else that comes up. Also, I'll let you know how those gluten free pastas really taste, and if the french bread turns out great or if it's a bomb! If you have any great gluten free cracker or bread recipes, PLEASE leave me a comment and include the recipe! I need all the help I can get right now.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

**It's Official**

Well, I finally decided to take the plunge. For several years now, I have been toying around with this idea, but never could seem to commit to anything. But I finally decided it's time. I am now officially going vegetarian! YAY for me!!

So why in the world would I do this? I have several reasons. But the one most prevalent is my stomach. I guess for about the last 3-4 years I have just had one stomach problem after another. My belly constantly HURT! I did TONS of research, and I realized that meat and dairy products are some of the most problem causing foods. One of the reasons meat can give you so much trouble is the simple fact that it doesn't digest well in your stomach. It just sits there for days before it passes out of you. Which means for me, it was sitting there causing my stomach to hurt for days. And every time I would eat more meat, it just compounded the problem. The thing, for me at least, about dairy is the protein that is found in cows milk. There is just an amazing number of people who have a milk protein allergy, and I happen to be one of them. Every time I would eat a bowl of cereal or chow down on some delicious dutch chocolate ice cream, the protein in the dairy would just make my tummy SCREAM! Once I gave up eating red meat and dairy products, my tummy was feeling much better - but not completely. About 2 months ago I decided to try going without any chicken to see if the complete absence of meat would make a difference, instead of just doing without the red meat. Now, my tummy is even BETTER!! (Oh and just so you know, pork is just as bad, only I don't eat it anyway because it tastes like DIRT to me. Probably because the little porkers live in it all the time!)

So here I am. No meat and no dairy, and I feel worlds better!! In truth, I am working towards a complete vegan diet, but as of right now, I'm not there yet. There are 2 main things keeping me from saying I am a vegan. The first is the fact that I still eat eggs. I get my eggs from my daddy, who happens to treat his hens like royalty. So I know these gals aren't being mistreated just so I can have an egg from them. And the second thing is that I am not giving up honey. I happen to be very good friends with my bee keeper (she and I have been friends since high school), and I know for a fact that she takes really great care of her hives. So I know eating her honey is perfectly great for me. Not to mention the fact that I LOVE the stuff, and it is quite medicinal, so I don't plan to stop with it. Those are 2 things that vegans don't consume, so I guess I'll just have to say I'm sticking with being a vegetarian. Oh and I also occasionally still sprinkle some cheese on my food. Vegan cheese is expensive, so I just don't use it often. But occasionally I just really want some cheese on top of my baked potato or soup!

And what am I supposed to eat?? Oh my goodness, there is a world of great food out there! When you eat mainly a meat centered diet, you seem to limit the "extra" foods you are willing to try. You just pull into the first fast food restaurant you come to and order the same thing - burger and fries - and you think that's all there is. Well let me tell you, there is so much more to life and eating than burgers and fries!

One of my favorite websites is Vegetarian Times. If you spend only a few minutes perusing their site, you will find a plethora of yumminess that you just must try! Even the most die hard meat eater will want to sample some of the dishes, if only as a side dish. Believe me, I didn't start out with eating like this completely. Everything I tried was considered a side dish, because I felt like, if it bombed, at least we had our other food to eat. But now I find myself making more and more great veggie dishes, and they are now my main course. And oh the variety!

A book that I read recently was The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone. That is one AMAZING book, and I HIGHLY recommend it to anyone thinking of a change in lifestyle where your diet is concerned, or if you're just curious about why anyone would choose to live a veggie lifestyle. You can also check out her website - The Kind Life - for more recipes, info, and anything else you may be wondering.

Also, vegetarian items are showing up more and more in grocery stores everywhere! I can get vegetarian meat from Morningstar Farms that is just fantastic! They have the greatest veggie burgers that are so full of flavors and variety. Meat pretty much has one flavor, but not these tasty veggie burgers! I buy Rice Dream rice milk and Almond Breeze almond milk to drink, both of which are at my local Wal-Mart. Both of these companies sell some of the greatest dairy free ice cream, too!! YAY for ice cream!

So I say all that to say, I am really excited about my new vegetarian diet! It's still a work in progress. The rest of my family is not going this route with me, and that's OK. I still cook plenty of meat for them. So all of you meat eaters out there, don't worry! You don't need to invite my husband and kids over for supper. I'm still feeding them! But I will say that veggies are becoming the bigger part of our meals, and meat is taking a back seat for everybody. And as long as I keep cooking really tasty foods, no one is complaining!

One more change I am heading toward but haven't reached as of yet is a gluten free diet. Even after cutting so much from my diet, I still find I have stomach aches often. Even though my tummy feels worlds different from when I ate meat and dairy, it still isn't enough. I have too much to do in this life to be held back because of feeling lousy. So I am leaning towards going gluten free. But for right now, I'm sticking with the newest changes I have made and just getting used to them for awhile. It's a process. Good health and changing a lifestyle of bad habits doesn't happen overnight. It takes time. This change has taken a long time. But here I am now, and I am feeling all the better for it!

Have you made any lifestyle changes where your eating is concerned? Have a great vegetarian or gluten free recipe you want to share to help me out here? Leave me a comment and tell me all about it!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

As Silver Refined Book Review

Recently, I started reading a new book, As Silver Refined, by Kay Arthur. Here are my thoughts on it. 

As Silver Refined, by Kay Arthur, is a very well written, very well researched book. I think Arthur put a lot of great information in this text regarding how to deal with difficulties and disappointments that come in life from a Godly perspective. I loved the way she talked about the Deadly D's that can cause one who experiences disappointments in life to spiral downward into despair and depression if you don't see those disappointments through the eyes of God. I especially liked the fact that she included a complete bible study at the end of the book for anyone wanting to dig deeper into the Word of God to discover more truths.

The downside to this book is probably just my personal preference here. But I got a little bogged down by all the many scripture references she used. I personally would have rather she had taken one or two scriptures per chapter or even per page and based her thoughts around that, instead of numerous verses. But as I said, that is just a personal preference. I tend to get bogged down easily with too many words going in what appears to be different directions.

One of my favorite quotes from Mrs. Arthur's book was found very near the beginning. She said, "Christianity doesn't exempt us from pain, from disappointment, from the hardships of this life. Nor does it demand that we deny or hide our pain or our disappointments. But it does give us One who promises a purpose, an end, and a benefit in it all."

This book came at a time in my life when I greatly needed to be reminded of the fact that, though pain and hardships come my way, God has not forgotten me, He is not asleep on the job, and He has a plan for me. He does care about me, and He is forming me and shaping me, through difficult circumstances, into His likeness.

I would recommend this book to anyone who has ever been disappointed, let down, discouraged, or in any other way hurt in this life, and have questioned why God would "let this happen." It is a great book that is very well written.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Ecuadorian Cooking Day!

This week in our homeschool, the kids and I have been visiting Ecuador! I know some of you are probably thinking, "I thought you were doing that MONTHS ago." Yes, it was in the plan to do this unit over the summer, but, well - welcome to my homeschool. Something ALWAYS happens, and things ALWAYS get pushed back. And this summer was no different. There were so many "things" that happened, I just didn't get to studying this country with the kids. But, here we are at last! And let me tell you, this country is AMAZING!

We learned so many things about Ecuador. The kids loved the videos we watched about the Galapagos Islands, and they did a great job sketching some of the animals on the islands. We talked about the government system in Ecuador, which is a democracy like ours. And then we talked about the many different governments all over the world. The kids decided that a democracy was the best way to go. We watched a soccer match on YouTube, because soccer is their main sport. The kids filled in a map of South America and also colored a picture of the flag of the country. But the thing we all loved was making bread babies!

Bread babies are nothing more than homemade bread shaped into the form of a baby. But it is something that these people use to celebrate one of their major holidays, El Dia de los Difuntos - The Ecuadorian Day of the Ancestors. This is a day where they remember family members who have gone on before them. And to celebrate, families take a meal out to the grave yard to eat on top of the grave of their family member. Bread babies are one of the foods they take.

So of course, the kids and I HAD to make bread babies! We just LOVE cooking day when we are studying a new country! Here is the recipe:

1 Pkg. active dry yeast
3/4 C warm milk (115 degrees F)
1 Tbsp. sugar
3 C flour
1 tsp. salt
2 lg. eggs
1/2 C butter melted
Mix together the yeast, milk, and sugar and let stand for 10 min. until it is nice and bubbly. Add the salt, eggs, and melted butter and mix well. Add the flour, mix well, and knead in the bowl a few times. Lift the dough, pour a little oil in the bowl, and then roll the dough around to get it coated well in the oil. This keeps it from sticking to the bowl while rising. Let rise for about an hour or until double in size.
Once the dough is ready, punch it down. Divide it equally among your kiddos so no one's bread baby is bigger than the others and no one fights over the dough. Let everyone have fun shaping it into the shape of a baby. Encourage them to be CREATIVE with their babies! You can even tint some of the dough, if you like, to use for decorations on your baby. Also, you can add cream cheese, jelly, or jam in your dough for a treat when you eat it. All you do for that is flatten the dough, put your filling in the middle, and pull the dough up around it.
When everyone has their babies like they want them, preheat your oven to 375 degrees and bake them for about 15 min. or until golden brown. Once they are cooked, you can add more decorations with icing if you like.

Here is our fun day!

My gang getting their dough shaped.

My sweet Britches made her baby have pigtails in her hair. She added raisins for the eyes and buttons, and she put cream cheese and jelly in the body.

Little Man added raisins on the body of his, and put in cream cheese and jelly for the filling.

Little Sister decided to make an Angel baby, so hers has wings. She added jelly inside of each wing, and put raisins for the eyes, nose, and mouth. She had a blast with the sticky dough. She is my "messy" girl.

Even Baby Girl got to get in on this fun. She stuck raisins all in her dough and rolled it up in a ball. Of course, then she picked it up off the baking stone and reshaped and reshaped and reshaped it. She just had fun shaping it. 

These are the finished Bread Babies. The ball on top of Little Sister's Angel is the halo. She said she needed that round circle thing on top of her head. We sat the babies aside to rise for about an hour.

While we waited on the finished babies, Baby Girl finished off her raisins. 

This smelled sooooo good while it was baking. And when we pulled them out of the oven, this is what they looked like. Everybody got their own baby to eat, and that was lunch. Yes, that was all we had for lunch. But it was really delicious! 

I have to say, after spending a week in Ecuador via the Internet, I really want to go visit that country. I want to walk through the Amazon Rainforest and see all the fabulous green everywhere. I wouldn't even care about the rain every day. I just want to GO! But then, at this point in my life, I'm ready to go anywhere and everywhere! And now that you know what Bread Babies are, go try them for yourself. Have some fun making these with your own kids. And then come back here and tell me all about the experience. You will love it, I promise!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cleaning Day

Today is cleaning day. It's not that I really just wanted to clean, but I finally realized it was TIME to clean. I am at this moment in my day taking a break from the cleaning to catch my breath. I have spent most of the morning sweeping and mopping my front bathroom, kitchen, and dining room. We'll see if I make it to all the other rooms in the house. I decided that, after potty training a baby AND a new dog, it was about time for my yearly mopping of the house.

I can hear you laughing at that last comment, but let me assure you, I am quite serious. I mop my house about once a year, if that much. Actually, last year, I think Brient mopped for me. "Why only once a year?" you might be wondering??

A few years ago, I had 4 children, one of whom was a baby and another a toddler. There were just not enough hours in the day to finish everything I NEEDED to get done, let alone all the things I WANTED to get done. So I finally decided that a few things just had to go. I sat down and made a list in my head of all the things I was doing, and then I started eliminating things. I had to make some choices of what MUST stay (like food, clean clothes, and changing the baby's diapers) and what could be let go. Mopping fell on the list of things that I didn't just HAVE to do.

My kids are the most important thing in my life right now - THE "job" that God has called me to. I decided that I wanted to spend more time with them, instead of spending an entire day each week mopping my house. YES, it takes me an entire day. My whole house is linoleum, with only my bedroom having carpet. That means I have to spend a day with the kids cleaning up all the toys off of the floor, sweeping the entire house, and then coming back over the entire house with the mop. WAY too much time here. And yes, I do have them help me. They LOVE to mop, and would probably do it every day if I'd let them. BUT, when I get out the mop water, it's like an invitation for the baby to come play. So I just don't bother.

Now, before you start talking bad about me and my cleaning habits, let's think about this for a minute. First of all, it's not like I NEVER clean. If the kids spill a drink, it gets cleaned up with a wet rag. If the dog has an accident on the floor, the Clorox wipes come out. The second thing is this: what about people with carpet? For all of you people with carpet in your house, how often do you actually CLEAN that? Sure, if you get a spill on it, you clean up that spot. And yes, you probably vacuum once a week. But how often do you pull out (or rent) the steam cleaner to really CLEAN that carpet? ONCE A YEAR! So, in truth, I'm not really much different than you, now am I?

And for all of you who have been feeling badly that you just don't keep your house clean enough, feel encouraged. I can probably pretty safely say that you still clean more than me!

And remember this: your house will still be there when the kids are grown and gone. You can spend every day cleaning then if you want to. But for now, keep your priorities in the right order. Your kids are the most important job you have right now. They will be grown soon enough.

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.” ~Dr. Suess