Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Fun With Rice

For lunch today Ella and I made (or at least attempted to make lol) California rolls (they didn't turn out too pretty but they tasted good just the same), a tangy sesame cucumber salad, and heart shaped rice using a heart shaped bento rice mold topped with heart shaped nori cut outs. Ella had a lot of fun "helping" Mommy. Cooking with a toddler takes about four times longer than just doing it yourself, but the smile on their face and seeing them excited about eating is definitely worth it. :)

Here's Ella's heart shaped rice.
Here's Ella......who needs a fork when you can just dive right in? lol
Here's my sorry attempt at a California roll lol
More rice, topped with carrot, a nori heart, and black sesame seeds, served on
a little bed of spouts and cucumber slivers
My heart shaped rice mold. You just pack the rice in, then pop it out (there's a little push tab underneath) and you've got a heart. Easy, peasy.
I got my mold from
Nori punch. (basically like using a paper punch on seaweed)

Cucumber Salad (garnished with a bit of sprouts and carrots)
The recipe I used I found on one of the forums (although I didn't cut out my cucumber seeds, just diced it up to make it easier and not waste any cucumber):

Japanese Cucumber Salad

2 cups thinly sliced cucumbers (Japanese, English, or regular)
1/2-1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon sugar (or slightly less honey)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons sesame seeds

If using English or regular cucumbers, they need to be peeled, cut lengthwise, seeded and sliced into thin half moons. In a large bowl, combine cucumbers, salt and pepper, mix well. Add sugar (or honey), soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and sesame oil and mix well. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and mix. Let marinate for 20 minutes before serving. Adjust seasonings before serving.

Enjoy! :)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Cute Picture of the Day

Today it has been snowing outside all day. Perfect weather for curling up on the couch with a warm, fuzzy blanket and a good book or to take a nap...or both. *smile*

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Creating your own herbal infused oils at home

Yesterday while browsing through Mother Earth Magazine's website I came across an article about making your own herbal infused oils. Herbal infused oils are great for many purposes: bath oil, massage oil, a healing after shower oil for dry skin, a base for making your own herbal balms, salves, lotions, creams, soaps, or even using directly on your skin.

I had dried a few herbs from our garden over the summer and I had a lovely little fragrant bag of beautiful dried lavender from my dryings that I had been saving for something special to use it for and this sounded like the perfect project. :)
Lavender is a wonderfully soothing and aromatic herb regarded for it's antiseptic, muscle relaxing, pain easing, and nerve soothing properties.

I have never made infused oils before but I read through the linked 'how to' page and I had everything on hand so I thought I would give it a try.

There are actually a few different ways to infuse an oil with can do it using a solar method (I would like to try this one out in the summer but since it's not very sunny right now I thought I would skip this method for now), using a double boiler, using a crock pot (which I found on another site), or using your oven. I choose the oven method since it sounded the most simple and I just wanted an afternoon project (although I'm sure the solar method would probably give you the best results since the herbs are in the oil for a longer period of time and would probably give you a more fragrant oil).

So I gathered my supplies and got to work. All you will need are your dried herbs, a carrier oil such as an organic cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, an oven proof dish with a cover, a spoon for mixing, a strainer, and a clean sterile jar to hold your finished oil in.

Heat your oven to 150 degrees, mix equal parts of olive oil and your dried herb together in your baking dish (make sure the oil covers the herbs so your herbs don't burn), cover your dish and stick it into the oven for 2 hours stirring occasionally. After the 2 hours is up carefully remove your dish from the oven and let it cool completely. Once cool then strain your oil so all the bits of herbs are removed so your oil won't go rancid. You may have to strain it more than once to remove everything. I ended up having to strain my oil a second time through 2 small squares of toilet paper to remove the teeny tiny herb pieces that remained (since I didn't have any cheesecloth on hand and we don't buy paper napkins or disposable coffee filters and I didn't think dh would appreciate his coffee tasting like lavender lol... so the toilet paper was the only thing I could think of to use...but hey it worked lol). The openings on my bottles were too small to directly strain the oil into so I strained it into a liquid measuring cup first and then once it was all strained then used the measuring cup's pour spout to pour the oil into my glass bottle...a lot less messy that way.

I made both mint infused oil (the green oil pictured directly above) and lavender infused oil (pictured at the top of this post).

For information on making your own herbal salves using your homemade infused oils (another thing on my every growing 'to-do' list *smile*) check out: here

Enjoy! :)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Urban Sustainability

If you've never heard of the Garden Girl you must check out her site! It is packed full of great information and how to videos on gardening and urban sustainability.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Monday, Monday

One of my goals for 2009 is to cook more from scratch for my family. So this morning we had homemade waffles with ground flax seed, wheatgerm, fresh fruit and some chocolate chips thrown in there too for good measure. ;) Mmmmmmmm. :)

Another of my goals is to improve my gardens this year. I have been doing lots of research online and came across an interesting idea...winter seed sowing! I had never heard of it before but it sounds very intriguing, especially since we live in a small house and have limited room to start seedlings indoors. So I thought I would give it a try. As they say in gardening there are no mistakes only experiments to learn by. So why not give it a try?

So I dug some milk jugs, juice jugs, and even a few water bottles (I'm not sure if they are too small to work or not but thought I would give it a try since I actually had some on hand) out of the recycle bin and got to work. :)

Unfortunately I haven't placed my annual seed orders yet so I scoured the house to see what I could find to in way of seeds to plant lol. Luckily I came up with some pink columbine seeds my friend and fellow gardener Rebecca had given me over the summer.

I'm hoping it will work and anxious to find out in the spring whether I'll end up with anything or not. We will have to wait and see. One thing gardening definitely teaches you is patience. *smile*

"Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience."
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Saying Goodbye to Winter Break

Today is the last official day of the girls' winter break. We had a great Christmas spent with family and a good New Year which by the way I ended up sleeping through lol until I was awaken by the phone ringing (Raven was spending the night with a friend and called to wish us a Happy New Year). *smile* We even took a little mini vacation after Christmas to the Amish area to visit Lehman's. The girls had so much fun and I was happy to pick up a new canning rack, a butter bell, some blackberry jelly and peanutbutter whip (which sadly is already gone...*pout*) and of course I had to make a quick trip to Troyers Bakery to pick up a couple of loaves of fresh baked bread before heading home....mmmmm.

The girls outside of Lehmans

My dream stove at Lehmans :)

I can't believe how fast time flies....blink and Christmas break is already over....sigh. Raven is super happy about getting to go back to school, Gwen of course is not lol, and I have mixed feelings. I love getting to spend so much family time together, it's been great but of course there is such thing as too much of a good thing lol, so I will also be looking forward to a little peace and quiet during the day while they are at school even I will not be looking forward to starting my day at 6:10 a.m. again. Ick. :P

To celebrate our last day of break I made a giant pot of homemade vegetable, lentil, and black bean soup and 2 loaves of fresh homemade herb bread. I was out of a couple of the herbs listed in the recipe so I had to substitute a couple things and also added in some ground flax seed and wheat germ but it's a very versatile bread and it turned out fabulous. Our house smelled heavenly all evening. *smile* The herbed bread recipe was given to me by Rebecca. It was SO yummy! I will definitely be making it again. Everyone loved it so much I only have 2 tiny pieces leftover for tomorrow.

Garden Herb Bread

1 1/4 c. warm water
2 T melted butter
3 c. bread flour (or 1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour)
2 T nonfat powdered dry milk
2 T sugar
2 tsp rapid rise yeast or 3 T active dry yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp chives (if chives are unavailable then substitute w/1 part cumin 3 parts onion powder)
1 1/2 tsp. marjoram
1 1/2 tsp. thyme
1 tsp basil

Combine water & butter in bowl. Mix remaining ingredients in a sperate bowl & then add to liquid mixture. Mix thouroughly; let dough rest for 15 minutes. Knead dough until soft & elastic (this is a soft dough). Place dough in a greased pan & allow it to double in size. Bake at 375 degrees 30-45 minutes.

Hope everyone has a great year in 2009! :)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Grow Your Own Sprouts

I love sprouts. They are very nutritious and delicious. I add them to the tops of my salads, stuffed in pita pockets along w/some shredded cheese, black beans, veggies, lettuce, and a little salad dressing, in sandwiches, or in stir fry. Gwen (who is my super picky eater) even likes them dipped in ranch dressing. :)

Growing your own sprouts is very easy and inexpensive. All you need are some untreated sprouting seeds (you can find them at almost any health food store), a clean canning jar, a small bowl or tray to rest the jar in, and a lid to strain the water out. You can buy a plastic strainer lid that fits onto your glass canning jar especially for growing sprouts (I found mine at a health food store for a few dollars) or you can make your own from a small piece of cheesecloth and a rubber band or a small piece of wire mesh and a canning ring (I've even used a small piece of cut out pantyhose and a rubberband it worked just fine). Here is a list of detailed instructions on growing sprouts at home complete with little drawings: