5/27/14

Cinnamon Roll Loaf

These tasty cinnamon rolls were easy and fast. And they were a hit. They are 100% whole wheat and whole delicious. I cut out a step in the middle to save time and just baked one big loaf, instead of individual rolls. Same great taste, only half the effort. A win, win for me! You can skip the frosting and slice the loaf in thinner slices for some gourmet French toast as well!



Recipe:
20-22 oz of your favorite bread dough (I used this whole wheat bread)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup Brown Muscovado Sugar (affiliate link)
1 t cinnamon
1/4 t vanilla
1/4 cup raisins

Roll the dough into a rectangle. Spread on the butter. Mix the sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla and spread evenly over the butter. Sprinkle on a handful of raisins if desired. Take one end of the rectangle and roll it until you have a loaf. Put the loaf in a Bundt Pan (affiliate link) and squeeze the ends together so you have a circle. Alternately, just put it in a regular loaf pan and let it raise until double in size. Bake at 350 for 20-25 min until brown. Take out of the pan and allow it to cool completely.

For glaze:
1/2 cup Organic Sugar, Powdered (affiliate link)
1/4 stick butter
1 T whipping cream
1/2 T vanilla

Work the butter into the sugar. Add the whipping cream and mix until completely smooth. Spread over the cooled loaf, then slice.



Alternate frosting (No sugar):
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 T Pure Maple Syrup (affiliate link)
2 T cream cheese
1/2 T vanilla

Whip the cream cheese with the syrup and vanilla until smooth. Whip the cream separately, then combine the two. Spread over the cooled loaf and slice.

For French toast, omit the frosting, and slice thinly. Dip each slice in your favorite egg mix and fry lightly on both sides until golden brown. Serve with maple syrup.

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5/8/14

Confessions of a (Former) Couponer

I am really good at couponing if I do say so myself. At one time, I considered myself extreme in my own right. Anyone who will drive from one CVS to another in search of a free toothbrush is an extreme couponer.!  I just loved taking those pictures, you know...I got all this for free, in fact, they paid me $10 to leave with it. Truth is, today I would not take it if they paid me ten times that amount. Seriously, what did I get for my money?  Or, for my time, which is much more significant to me?

Good deal! Almost free!

In the end I lost so much more than I gained...except for my weight, I definitely gained that snarfing down frozen pizzas and ironically "Healthy" Choice lunches. Gee, Wasn't I a "Smart One."

I waved my "Lucky Charms" over the cashier and walla, free cereal.

Thankfully I never lost my virtue in my couponing days. I was honest to a point of spending 35 minutes in Walmart Customer Service trying to explain why I owed them ten dollars and they could not for all the coupons in America figure out:

A. Why I would confess this
B. That I was really serious
C. How the heck to accept my money without the whole operation crashing to the ground.

I had my hands slapped by a cashier for trying to pick up one of my own coupons! I experienced the Eye rolling as they treat you as "ugh! one of those people. Seriously, in the end it was seriously beneath my dignity to hand over a coupon and I almost went in in sunglasses and a trench coat.

I grappled with myself as to whether it was honest to come home with 15 bottles of some vitamin I will never take (still have some if anyone wants them) because I "made" $5 in Walgreens credits just for stepping in the store.

So, there were many reasons I stopped couponing but the biggest one of all happened a couple of years ago when one day, as I was thoughtlessly downing a free box of Mac and Cheese, free Crystal Light drink mix and following up with 66 cent Oreos (score!), I stopped a second and looked at the ingredients. Not just the calorie and fat content. But the actual ingredients. Then I threw up in my mouth a little. I was not eating food. I was not sure what I was eating, there were 25 ingredients on the box and I didn't recognize a single one... except high fructose corn syrup. I knew that one. My world came crashing down that day.


                                        Image courtesy of cbenjasuwan/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I tossed the coupon book, cancelled my four, YES FOUR, Sunday paper subscriptions and went all old fashioned. I started sourcing raw milk and grass fed beef. We bought chickens for fresh eggs. I tossed the white sugar and flour, purchased raw honey and real maple syrup and started making my own bread. I decided that we would only eat food that was still actually food, not a food like substance and are we richer because of it?

I am not going to lie. It is expensive. But are we richer? In more ways than I can count. I do not spent 25 hours a week clipping coupons, checking coupon sites, and driving to five or six different stores to pick up one or two items at each for free. Now I spend my time learning and growing and teaching others. Our health is amazing. Our moods are even. And I know more now than ever before.  So, are we richer? Absolutely in more ways than I could ever have imagined.

I have become a conspiracy theorist in my old age. Life was easier when I had my head stuck in my closet smiling staring at my latest haul. But when I look at what the coupons are good for, I have to wonder what is the marketing tool used for? And who is footing the bill?


Indulge me in this for just a moment. Couponing did not get me hooked on a single product. In fact, my friends who refused to jump on the bandwagon with me and coupon refused because they only wanted to use Tide, and nothing else. Couponers can't be choosy. You pick the brand you can get for pennies on the dollar...or free is even better! So, if it is Sun, you get Sun. So, the idea that companies dangle a coupon out there for you to try their product in hopes you will love it so much you will be loyal does not jive with me. There are a few people that may roll that way, but not extremists, Oh NO! Branding means nothing to us. So, why are companies consistently just giving the stuff away?

Let's look at the places where you get your greatest coupon values! The Pharmacy. Isn't that Special? Why do CVS, RiteAid and Walgreens send you out with most of your products for free? Why is the biggest assortment of candy on earth available at these three stores? Why do these three stores that have the most items for sale to get you "well" also sell the products most likely to back to buy the products to get you "well," and well, if you have coupon for a free snickers, might as well pick that up along with your Tamiflu and Sudafed on the way out the door. Be back later for more free candy and expensive OTCs! Both of which are going to do the same thing to me...wreck my gut. Not to mention chemical laden cleaners and beauty products, synthetic vitamins that give the appearance of making you healthy, and shelves full of frankenfoods that have no place in the food chain.

Not everything in those stores is bad. They have razors, and...band-aids.. Around here, the two go hand in hand. You can also find glass water bottles and raw nuts. So, maybe, just maybe there is a reason that coupons exist. It is not and never has been to save the average consumer money. It is to get you to buy a product, period. And for most of us, it is a way to get us sicker and sicker so we have to pay more and more to the drug store. You can draw your own conclusions here. But I will pass on the coupons and the fake food and the drug store.

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5/6/14

Organic Gardening with Essential Oils

My garden is growing, well, some of it. We need some soaking rains this week. With gardens come bugs and other pests. I was curious to see what is available commercially, so I went to the hardware store today and hung out in the garden area. I was happy to see some organic bug killers that are safe around children and pets. But they were expensive and did have plenty of ingredients I could not pronounce. I decided after looking at them all to stick with a much simpler formula: Water, Peppermint Oil!

I like to think of my gardening this way:

 If I wouldn't eat the pest spray on my food, why would I put it on my plants?



How about apples sprayed with cinnamon water? Yes please!



As much as I love cinnamon, for 90% of your gardening needs, peppermint will do it! Just remember this one rule of thumb: 1-2 drops of oil per ounce of water. You can put it in a large garden sprayer or just a small spray bottle and send all the kids out to spray down the plants, trees, and grass. FIY, if it is hot out, spraying yourself with peppermint will lower your body temperature and is an awesome mosquito repellent. You can add a teaspoon of liquid soap as well for even more power.

My recipe for all purpose garden spray:
8 oz water
8 drops peppermint
2 drops white fir (optional)

Total cost: $0.88 cents
  • Plant fungus? Try melaleuca
  • Squash Bugs? Try cinnamon, cassia, or clove
  • Slugs? Try white fir or cedarwood
  • Ants? Aphids? Beetles? Caterpillars? Spiders? Mice? Peppermint to the rescue. (hint; If peppermint just doesn't cut it, try thyme)
Epson Salts are said to be great for soil. Add some peppermint to the salts and sprinkle them around the garden to deter pests like rabbits from eating your tender plants.

My recipe:
4 cups Epson Salts
20 drops peppermint
5 drops white fir
2 drops Thyme
1 drop cinnamon

Shake well to combine and sprinkle around plants or perimeter of the garden.
Total cost: $4

Two words of caution:
1. Do not spray in your eyes.
2. Don't drop one drop full strength on the leaves. They don't like that.

How do you use essential oils in the garden? Please share your tips below!

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5/5/14

Five Make Ahead Freezer Meal Recipes:

For the busy cook in your family!

One of the hardest parts of being a real food family is what to do when your time is limited. Mine seems to always be limited. So, having a few meals ready to go in the freezer is a really good idea. When I know I have to attend a conference or teach a class, or head off to lay on the beach in Mexico....hey that could happen...the last thing I want to do is say, "go to Sonic."

 Life was easier when I didn't know stuff!
 
So, today was freezer cooking day. Or actually, freezer cooking morning. I rarely have a whole day to set aside, so I will sometimes make two of one meal, keep one and freeze another. Or when I get home from the store, throw the roast in a zip lock bag with a marinade and put it away ready to thaw and cook.

Here are some of our favorites!

Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole from Heavenly homemakers


 This is a perfect casserole to make double, eat one, freeze the other.

 Macaroni Bake
1 pound macaroni noodles, partially cooked. (use GF noodles if sensitive)
1 pound ground beef
1 onion, diced
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
3 oz cream cheese
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese

Boil macaroni for 5 min. You do not want it fully cooked or it will be mush! While noodles are cooking, brown the ground beef and onion. Add cooked macaroni and the cream cheese and mix to combine. Then add tomatoes, salt and pepper and pour in a spare casserole dish to freeze. Top with cheese and cover with foil.

Add directions to the foil: Thaw, bake at 350 for one hour.


Terrayaki Chicken
1 chicken thigh per person
3/4 cup soy sauce (look for GF soy sauce if sensitive)
2 T olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
4 T arrowroot powder
1 can pineapple with juice
1 tsp ginger

Put all ingredients in a ziplock bag. Seal and shake it up to combine.
Label: Thaw overnight in fridge. Pour into a baking dish and bake at 350 for one hour. Serve over rice or cooked squash.

Barbecued Chicken
1 recipe of home made barbecue sauce. I LOVE this one and it is easy peasy.
1 Chicken thigh per person
Put the chicken in a zip lock bag and pour sauce over it. Seal and label bag:
Thaw, bake at 350 for one hour. Serve with baked potatoes and vegetables.


California Chicken Bake
4 chicken breasts
1 cup rice
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup salsa
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 1/2 cups cheese
1 T taco seasoning

Add all ingredients to a gallon sized Ziplock bag, seal and freeze.
Label: Thaw in fridge overnight, pour into a casserole dish and bake at 400 for 1 hour. Top with more cheese if desired. Great with a bit of guacamole and served with some organic corn chips.

This is just a small list, but all the foods here cook up easily and are so simple to put together. You can do them all in a matter of minutes and off to the freezer! I will share more when I get to my next batch.

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