Monday, May 31, 2010

Middle-Eastern Rice and Lentils

Middle-Eastern Rice and Lentils Recipe

Another great recipe from my The Occasional Vegetarian book.

1 cup lentils
1 cup canned tomatoes, crushed
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock or stock of your choice (I use my chicken broth)
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup whole grain rice
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, sliced

  1. Bring the lentils, tomatoes, bay leaf, cumin, stock, & pepper to a simmer over a high heat in a medium sized pot. Stir, cover, and turn the heat to low, and simmer until the lentils are cooked through and have absorbed the liquid, 45 mins to 1 hour. Add 1 tsp of the salt during the last 5 mins of cooking. Remove bay leaf
  2. Cook the rice in another pot during this time.
  3. Meanwhile, in a skillet, saute the onion in the olive oil over medium heat until golden, about 5 minutes (I like to make extra onion. It's yummy)
  4. Place the rice on a plate, put the lentils on top of the rice and the onion on top of the lentils. Serve hot or at room temperature.
This recipe is very simple and easy to make. It's filling and tasty. I double it for my family. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Menu Plan Monday-May 30

Here's what's on our menu this week:

Monday-Spaghetti w/ Simply Delicious Spaghetti Sauce, salad, garlic bread (I learned this great easy make-ahead garlic bread trick)

Tuesday-Middle Eastern Rice and Lentils

Wednesday- Potato Leek Soup and salad

Thursday- Pita Pizzas, veggie sticks with guacamole for dipping

Friday- broiled sole, steamed green beans, whole wheat couscous, Apple crisp

Saturday- leftover Potato Leek soup

Sunday- frozen pre-made veggie & tuna noodle casserole

Friday, May 28, 2010

Give a Home Haircut - Frugal Friday

Before you say "NO WAY", just hear me out.

It's not THAT hard.

OK, it's a little hard, but not really. If you've never done it before, learn a few tips, and then you learn by practicing. And here's where little kids come in handy. They don't really care if it's not quite right.

I have given all of my boys all of their haircuts since they were babies. I started learning on the first one, and got better with time. Now, I have four whose hair I cut every 2 months or so.

Here's what I do:
  • Sit child wearing bib or apron on top of table, at corner (so I can stand on the side)
  • Play video in front of child. This helps him sit still and not try to watch what you are doing.
  • Spray hair with warm water. Using a fine tooth comb, hold a section of hair up between your second & third fingers. Cut desired length.
  • Repeat, cutting section adjacent to already cut section. This is how you make sure it's the same length.
  • On the top of the head, make sure you go front to back, and on the sides and back of the head go up to down. Otherwise you end up with stripes. (ask me how I know).
I'm sure there are some video tutorials on YouTube; at the time of this post I didn't have time to look for one. But I will add one later on if I find a good one.

I had NO previous experience. Really. And I make a few mistakes now and then, but not too bad. Honestly, it's not that hard. I think the hardest part is to be willing to do it, to believe that you can, and to not be afraid.

It grows back. :)

For more FrugalFriday ideas, visit

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Slowing Down A Little

I haven't posted in a couple of days. Unusual for me since I began really spending more effort on the blog. But sometimes, you just need to slow down. Know what I mean?

This is one of my favorite photos. My oldest (now 7), when he was just a little one.

Today, take a deep breath. Take a relaxing walk, a nice bath, or sit with a book and a cat in your lap. Relax.

I'll be back soon.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bill Cosby's "Brain Damage"--Tee-Hee Tuesday

I got this great idea for a Tuesday Theme from my friend Diane.

I don't have time for a longer post, and this is one of the funniest things I've seen. If you have children (especially of the little variety), you will understand.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Menu Plan Monday-May 24

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend. We had a family beach day yesterday. It was our first time to the beach with FIVE children; the baby doesn't sit well yet and needed to be held most of the time. But it was fun.

I can't believe it's time to post a menu plan. As I've said before, I'm glad for this accountability. I haven't made my menu plan yet. I don't want to. I'm making it right now, literally as I type. Sometimes I'm more organized than this; this week is not one of those times. So...

Monday-Burgers, fresh coleslaw, potato wedges
Tuesday-Gnocchi/pasta & salad
Wednesday-Minestrone soup & salad
Thursday-Scrambled Eggs & veggies, toast
Friday- Some kind of fish, steamed vegetable, apple crisp
Saturday- leftover Minestrone soup
Sunday- leftover buffet

Friday, May 21, 2010

Totally Delicious But Not At All Healthy Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I am not going to try to pass this off as a recipe that will help you improve your health in any way. But if you are a chocolate chip cookie snob like I am, you know how hard it is to find one that's made just right. This is one of those cookies, and I just can't keep the recipe to myself since some of you out there just might want to make an unhealthy cookie once in a while, and since there's just no other place to get recipes (ha ha)....well, I'm sharing this one.

It started from FannieFarmer's chocolate chip cookie recipe, but I altered it slightly to suit me.

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar (sucanat would work fine)
1 egg
3/4 tsp vanilla

1 cup flour (I usually use whole wheat, since that's what I have)
1/2 cup oats ( I use quick oats; regular rolled would work for a more textured cookie)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

200 g (2 bars here) of semi-sweet chocolate, cut into chunks*

*Note: the original recipe calls for 1 cup semi sweet chips. I LOVE chocolate, and was amazed to find this to be enough (I usually add more than whatever the recipe calls for). I only switched to the bars for the size of the chunks. If this is not important to you, the chips would work fine.

**And, if you're not into a chunky cookie, you can omit the oatmeal and add 1/8 c flour. A regular chocolate chip cookie with this recipe is delicious.

Oven 375F

  1. Mix the butter & sugars together, add egg & vanilla
  2. Mix the flour, oats, baking soda & salt together & add to the first mixture
  3. Add in the chocolate chunks or chips
  4. Chill till firm, then roll into 1 inch balls, placed 2 inches apart on cookie sheet
bake 11 mins or whatever works for you depending on how crispy you like them.

And yes, that's a glass of (gasp) cow's milk in the picture. Which I recommend for taste, not for health. And that's also the only reason to make these cookies.

Enjoy! But only once in a while.

The "Musical Fruit"-Frugal Fridays

"Beans, beans, the musical fruit. The more you eat, the more you....."

I always found this little rhyme at least moderately amusing. It makes me giggle even now. I haven't shared it yet with my guys because I just know they will probably not stop saying it & then collapse in hysterics. But, they are boys, after all, It might be time to teach them about armpit "honks". Crass, yes. But some things are just funny.

But I digress.

Beans are extremely nutritious. See bean nutrition facts here. Beans, when combined with rice, provide a complete protein. Many Latin American countries rely on this combination for most of their dietary needs.

But why do I mention it here, on Frugal Friday? Because beans are CHEAP! Really, really inexpensive. Buy the dried beans in a bag, soak them overnight, and then follow any of thousands of recipes. I have some recipes for beans here on my blog;

Chickpeas and Spinach
Lentil and Potato Stew with Spiced Oil
Mexican Taco Casserole
Cuban Black Beans
Amazing Black Bean Burgers
Easy Hummus

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Good Non-Dairy Sources of Calcium

There are many ways to get calcium from foods other than dairy products. In fact, you might already be aware that we are UNABLE to absorb the calcium in cow's milk; in contrast, our bodies actually PULL CALCIUM OUT OF OUR BONES in order to buffer the acidity of our blood when we drink the stuff. See my post on milk for more info.

  • Green leafy vegetables contain calcium. Examples are bok choy, kale, mustard greens, dandelion greens, turnip greens, artichokes and broccoli. Out of these options turnip greens have the highest calcium source with 200mg per cup. Fresh broccoli is our favorite. Unfortunately, I have not developed a taste for it raw, but I'm trying. Lightly steamed is better than not at all. Basically, the darker the green, the better the nutrients. Use Romaine lettuce in your salad instead of Iceberg, please!
  • Many beans are also fair sources of calcium.
  • Some fruits offering good calcium levels are figs, papaya and raisins
  • Sesame seeds in particular are very high in calcium and are so easy to add to a diet. They can be sprinkled over salads, added to casseroles, cereals and more. Tahini, which is a paste made from sesame seeds is very high in calcium with 2 tablespoons offering 130mg of calcium. Tahini is delicious spread on a pita, as an addition to a sandwich or added to falafel or humus. Humus which is made from garbanzo beans (chickpeas) offers 60mg per half cup and makes a wonderful dip.
  • Almonds are good calcium alternatives. 1 oz. of almonds provides 80mg of calcium. You can make almond milk from almonds to add to cereal or use in baking.
Daily Recommendations:

The daily recommended intake of calcium varies according to age, but will average between 500mg and 1000mg.(Dietary Reference Intakes, National Academy of Science, 1997)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Rewards Help Me Get It Done! -WFMW

You may have noticed a dramatic increase in my number of posts lately. If you haven't, that's okay. I know some people who have noticed, but not because they read this blog. I am, of course, referring to mi familia.

And the way they have noticed is this: every evening when the kiddos are told to lay out their clothes for the next morning (something I learned from Flylady; very helpful), I inevitably hear something that sounds like this:

"I can't find a shirt" or "I have no socks" or, well, you get the picture. And although I do believe we must house an entire tribe of sock hiding gremlins, at least one or two pair would be found for use, that is, if I had actually folded and put the laundry away.

I get it washed; doing one full load (sometimes 2) a day keeps me on top of it. And it gets line dried in the sun. I even figured out that I can fold as I take it off the line and stack it by owner as I put it in the basket. But still.....I just haven't been putting it away. Some, but not all.

So, I made a new rule for myself, starting today: No Publishing A Post Until ALL Laundry is FOLDED and PUT AWAY.

As you can see, I did it!

Little rewards help me get things done. It works for me. What works for you?

See what works for lots of other moms at

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

How (&Why) To Make Chicken Broth

Other than eating a yummy bowl of chicken soup (especially with matzah-balls) once in a while, I used to think that there was no real reason I would spend my time making it. I mean, soup is for eating, right? Wrong.

I found out that chicken broth is for cooking with. From soups and stews to seasoned rice and sauces, chicken broth (or any good vegetable broth) is an absolute must-have for cooking. And although you can buy canned or boxed broth, it costs MUCH LESS to make it yourself. And it really is easy.

Oh, and you don't need to use any MSG to make it delicious! I actually used to use chicken boullion in my chicken soup and didn't know I could get it to be flavorful without it. I mean, our grandmothers must have been absolutely primitive to not have such a convenience item, right?

Freeze your broth in a muffin tin, then pop out the frozen servings for easy use.

  1. A BIG pot
  2. Bones or carcasses you've been saving from previously roasted chicken dinners. OR necks or carcasses you get on sale at the market. OR 2 whole chickens (this will be a little more work, but will give you meals out of it as well)
  3. Add 2 onions (halved), 4 carrots, a bunch of celery leaves/1-2 stalks
  4. Add a bunch of parsley and a bunch of dill (thanks to my cousin Wendy for teaching me!)
  5. Cover with water and simmer away.
If you are using the 2 whole chickens, take the meat off of one chicken after 1 hr, returning the bones to the pot. Simmer away. Save that chicken meat for another yummy meal.

After a couple of hours, strain and remove remaining meat. That meat will be tough but works fine for chicken salad, etc. Remove all solids, strain soup, cool, and freeze.


Myths & Facts About Diapers

The folks at Pampers evidently feel the need to clear up some "confusion" regarding diapers. Specifically, regarding the debate between those backwards non progressing tree hugging natural crunchy cloth diaper users and normal modern people. They actually have this myths and facts page on their site.

Here's one of the (humorous? Unbelievable?) highlights for me.

"Myth: Disposable diapers are harmful to the environment.
Fact: All of the component materials in Pampers diapers are gentle to consumers and safe for the environment. Pampers diapers are made of materials that are also frequently used in a wide range of other consumer products."

The italics is mine. I did it to expose an incredibly flawed logic that I believe is extremely dangerous. (Not that my mommy brain is the queen of logic, mind you)

They are saying that you should accept the toxic stuff in their diapers as being safe for the environment (and also for you) because it's "frequently used in a wide range of other...products."

Um...hello? Many, MANY products are FILLED with toxic stuff. That's the problem. It's all around us. It's...ubiquitous! (How's that for an SAT word from this mommy's brain!? If you want to rid your body of the toxins it's accumulated, you must do a purposeful detox. More on that here and here.

SODIUM POLYACRYLATE is the chemical, added in powder form to the inner pad of a disposable, that makes it super-absorbent. When the powdered form becomes wet, it turns into a gel.

It can:
Can absorb up to 100X its weight in water.
Can stick to baby's genitals, causing allergic reactions.
Reported to cause severe skin irritations, oozing blood from perineum and scrotal tissues, fever, vomiting and staph infections in babies.
When injected into rats it has caused hemorrhage, cardiovascular failure and death.
Banned from tampons in 1985 because of its link to Toxic Shock Syndrome.
Has killed children after ingesting as little as 5 grams of it.
Causes female organ problems, slows healing wounds, fatigue and weight loss to the employees in factories that manufacture it.

above info taken from an article on The Diaper Hyena; entire article here

According to the Clean Air Council, parents throw away 570 diapers PER SECOND! And one diaper takes 300 YEARS to break down.

Watch a 2 min news report on why a mother of triplets has chosen to switch to cloth diapers.

I wrote a 2 part post on cloth diapers and why I use them. You can read them here and here.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Simply Delicious Spaghetti Sauce

I always thought that to make your own spaghetti sauce (and have it be good), you needed to know some deep cooking secret. I was thrilled to find out how simple it is. Here's what I do:

1 can crushed tomatoes
1 tin tomato paste
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
4-5 large cloves garlic, chopped
splash of white wine
about 1 tsp each of basil, oregano, and thyme
1 tbsp honey/brown sugar/sucanat/stevia to taste
2 tbsp butter

  1. Saute the onion, green pepper, and garlic in olive oil a nice long 15 mins at least--till soft & sweet.
  2. Add everything except the butter and sweetener, if you are using them. Simmer at least 1 hour. Longer if you want. (you can use a crockpot if you want to walk away from it all day)
  3. Add sweetener and butter (the butter cuts the tanginess of the tomatoes), simmer another 15 mins or so. Taste & adjust seasonings.
  4. Serve over whole wheat pasta, top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese (if you use it), and serve it up with a nice big green salad. Enjoy!

Chickpeas and Spinach

from The Occasional Vegetarian

1 pound fresh spinach, washed & stems removed. (I use a bag of frozen chopped)
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped scallions, white & green parts (I've used onion or leek instead)
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp lemon juice

  1. Steam the spinach until the leaves are wilted, 1-2 minutes. Drain.
  2. In a heavy-bottom saucepan, saute' the garlic lightly in the oil, about 2 mins. Add the scallions and saute' for 1 minute.
  3. Add the drained spinach, chickpeas, cumin, salt, and pepper, Stir, cover, and cook over low heat until the spinach and chickpeas are heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the lemon juice, stir again. Add more salt and pepper, if needed. Serve hot.
I like to mix this in with some whole grained rice (about 1 1/2 cups) and some labana cheese (plain yogurt would work fine). I serve this with some good fresh bread and more labana and olive oil for dipping. I've added sauteed mushrooms in a few times and it was delicious.

Menu Plan Monday- May 17

I can't believe it's Monday again. Time flies, as you well know. I'm glad I've made this commitment to post my menu plan, because otherwise I might not make one. And that would be bad. Here goes:

Monday-Spinach and chickpeas, rice, labana cheese & pita.

Tuesday-Spaghetti with chunky tomato sauce (make double sauce to freeze for future use), Breadsticks, salad.

Wednesday-Creamy Carrot Soup (extra to freeze), salad

Thursday-Veggie & Tuna noodle casserole (make an extra to freeze), steamed veggie.

Friday- not sure. Probably fish of some kind, steamed veg, challah, Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk cookies.

Saturday- Leftover carrot soup

Sunday-Burgers & Fries, coleslaw

To see lots of other menu plans, go to

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Combo Platter: Eating Harmoniously (Proper Food Combining)

Is this your idea of good food combining?

If it'd better keep reading! ;)

Did you know that it's not just what you eat, but what you eat together? Even really healthy food, when combined improperly with other really healthy food, can cause indigestion, heartburn, gas, bloating, cramps, general malaise, fatigue, and more. Alternatively, proper food combining causes you to digest and assimilate the most nutrition out of what you eat.

Who Should Worry About Food Combining?

* Anyone who is sick or in recovery
* Anyone trying to detox their bodies
* Anyone with signs of indigestion
* Anyone in need of an immediate energy boost

Food combining is eating the proper combinations and quantities of foods at a meal as to contribute to easy and proper digestion of all the nutrients in the food you have eaten. Remember, digestion doesn't just mean that you put it in your mouth and swallowed it. Digestion means also that it must be assimilated--converted into living tissue.

Proper food combining helps avoid all the symptoms of not doing so, which most would be classified under the heading: "INDIGESTION."

There are 3 basic categories of macronutrients. They are

* Carbohydrate (fruits, potatoes/squash, and grains/breads/pasta/beans)
* Protein (meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy, nuts/seeds)
* Fat (nuts/oils, butter, avocados, coconut)

Non-starchy vegetables (like green leafy type) don't fall under any of these categories. They have few calories and are eaten for their mineral & vitamin content.

The easiest digestion comes when you eat foods that contain most of their calories from one macronutrient source (carbs, protein, or fat).

Combine any of these three with a nice green salad, and you are good to go. HOWEVER, if you combine 2 or more of these 3 together, you are asking for trouble!

Example: Baked Potato (carbohydrate) and salad, GOOD.
Baked Potato (carbohydrate) and Steak (protein), BAD.

That's right. Meat plus potatoes is NOT a good food combination.
The same can be said for meat plus grains (that Big Mac)

The reason these things need to be divided into categories is:

The chemistry of your body, because you have one stomach, does not let you digest efficiently when you create a contrasting environment in that one stomach. Protein digests in an acid environment, and carbs digest in an alkaline environment. Remember chemistry? If you mix an acid and a base together, you get salt and water. You cannot digest food anything in salt and water! The food will pass through the body undigested, never broken down, not assimilated. It becomes food for bacteria which have a good ole' time. Of course those produce gas, etc.

The quantity of the food matters, too. If you eat a baked potato and feel good, that does not mean that you can eat 3 baked potatoes and still feel fine. That is because your body only has a certain amount of digestive enzymes available at any given time. You eat too much of one thing, even if it's a good thing (and properly combined), and you will get indigestion.

So it's best to not mix multiple sources of the same macronutrient you are eating at a single meal. Example: Don't eat bread AND potato AND dessert in one meal.

Practical Plan to Institute Good Food Combining In Your Diet

* Stop eating proteins and carbohydrates in the same meal.
* Do eat concentrated protein meals and concentrated carbohydrate meals with a big veggie salad.
* Stop eating 2 or more types of carbohydrates or protein in the same meal
* eat grains and foods derived from grains no more than 3 times per week (unless gluten intolerant)
* Eat animal proteins no more than 3 times per week (if at all).
* Eat fruits alone
* Stop drinking with meals. Do drink 8 oz of water 30 mins prior to meals.

WellWithU Radio had a show on this same topic last week. Click here to listen to it.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Food Combining and Stewed Crockpot Chicken with Vegetables

I love using my crock pot. I don't do it very often, because it seems to work best for stewed type meat, and we only eat meat for dinner about once a week. ( I do also use it for soups and beans). But when Friday comes and I have SO much to do before our special family dinner that night, it really takes a load off my mind to make a one-dish-meal that I can start in the morning and forget about until dinner time.

It's simple. And it simplifies. Something that I REALLY like.

I recently listened to this WellWithU radio show about proper food combining and why it's important. I was reminded that meat & potatoes or grains is not a good combo. This I already knew; we don't do it much and seem to tolerate it all right once in a while. But the important thing that I was reminded of was that couscous AND potatoes AND bread all in one meal would be TOO MUCH of the same type of thing in our bodies (even if it were properly combined). So, I made a change in the dinner I was preparing. I usually add potatoes to the stew, but realized that it would be much better to leave those out and fill up with more veggies instead.

Crock Pot Stewed Chicken

About 2 lbs chicken parts*. I've done it with wings, legs, thighs, whole bird cut up. Whatever.
1 large onion, chopped
3 carrots, sliced
4 celery stalks, sliced
Any other veggie that you have laying around and want to use up. I usually add cabbage or zucchini. This time I added 1/2 a bag of frozen green beans.
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 tin tomato paste
About 1/3 c white wine
A big pinch (approx 1 tsp) each of Basil, Oregano, Thyme
1 Bay leaf

Put everything in, turn it on, walk away, come back 8 hrs later to dinner. Serve over rice/couscous/quinoa (whole grain, of course)

*I recommend that you only consume animal meat that is certified organic and free to roam, with no antibiotics or hormones injected. And even then, do so sparingly. Accompanied by lots of veggies.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Barefoot and Fancy Free

I've been thinking about feet lately. Strange, I know. Here's why.

I've always had problems with my feet. I had orthotic inserts as a child for fallen arches. I seemed to grow out of that problem as I got older, but my feet still would get achy and tired much quicker than anyone I knew. I found that foot massages would help and made it through my twenties able to wear cutsey shoes. And then, I grew up. I mean, I got old(er). I mean, my body did this thing at age thirty which told me suddenly that I was not in my twenties any more. And my feet were a part of this mutiny.

I found my feet unable to tolerate anything but good quality sneakers. Now, at age 36, I wear them every day. They are my "lace up shoes" and I wear them to work at my job, in the home.

Learning from the Flylady how important it is to wear shoes in the house only confirmed to me that barefoot was not a good thing. But now, I am reconsidering.

The other day we went for a walk to the park. We took off our shoes to walk barefoot in the grass. My two year old cried and thought the grass was hurting his feet. And it didn't feel too good to me, either. I realized I'd caused a problem.

By saying "no" to bare feet, I think our feet are getting to be too sensitive. I am now wondering if perhaps my sore foot problem is actually a lack of strength, caused by wearing shoes all the time.

Have you seen these funky shoes? They are like gloves, to be worn on your feet, so that you can still feel the ground.
Here's an interesting article about running barefoot.
And another article.

And a whole site for "Healthy and Natural Barefoot Activities"

Welcome, Spring. I think it's time to kick of my shoes for a little while.

Do you like being barefoot? Do you let your children go barefoot? Let's talk.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Lentil and Potato Stew with Spiced Oil

This is one of our favorites. Lentils are about as nutritious and inexpensive as you can get, so those are two big pluses in my book. Make a double batch and stick half in the freezer for a ready made meal.

From The Occasional Vegetarian by Karen Lee

6 cups water
1 1/2 cups lentils
1 red or yellow bell pepper, cut into 1 inch squares
2 med potatoes, peeled or unpeeled, cubed
2 unpeeled carrots, cut into 1/3 inch rounds
1 large Spanish onion, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 celery stalks, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf

2 tbsp olive oil or butter
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin

1. Combine the water, lentils, bellpepper, potatoes, carrots, onion, celery, soy sauce, pepper, and bay leaf in a large pot. Cover and bring to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer for 45 mins.

2. Meanwhile, warm the oil in a small saucepan over low heat, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the ginger, turmeric and cumin. Stir and set aside.

3. When the stew is cooked, add the spiced oil. Season with salt and additional pepper, if needed. Remove the bay leaf. Serve hot.

I like to remove a little and puree it, then return it for a thickened stew.

This stew can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. I recommend doubling it and freezing half. Simple!

Assigned Dinner Helper-Works For Me Wednesday

I don't know about you, but the hours between 4:30 and 6:30 are really tough for me. Really tough. Naptime is over, snacks are dealt, and The Dinner Preparation Begins.

I'm feeling a grroannn just thinking about it.

That's because, in my family with 5 littles, it's not that simple. One or more will need a diaper. One will get hurt. Two or more will argue or fight. And they all want to help. In the kitchen. With me. Laugh.

Hey....wait a minute. If someone could actually be of help, well, that would be helpful, right? Right.

I recently discovered that my older children are actually capable of real help. I've been training them since the beginning to do chores. Of course, with little ones, the work they do is usually not helpful at all, to say the least. Now that the oldest are 7, and 6, I'm finding that they and even the 4 year old are able to provide actual help with what they can do. (Yes, that's my 4 year old cutting with (gasp) a real knife. Preparing a salad) It's wonderful! Yes, they are slow. Yes, their work is not high quality. But with good scheduling and lowered expectations, they get good practice at things they need to know how to do, and I get help.

Enter: the Assigned Dinner Helper plan. It's just as it sounds: I have an assigned helper for each day of the week. The older 2 get 2 days each, and the 4 year old gets 1. Twice a week I have no helper; I just don't want one on those days.

The boys are always very excited to help and look forward to their day. They get to wear an apron, ring the dinner bell to call everyone to the table, and be proud of their contribution. And you would be amazed how a child will devour a salad that he has made himself.

Having Assigned Dinner Helpers works for me.

What works for you?

See what works for lots of other moms at

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Serious Germ Paranoia

"So it's come to this. Kleenex Disposable Hand Towels: the ultimate in germ paranoia. Our dear friends at Kleenex want you to think that you NEED protection from nasty cloth towels that, heck!, everyone in your family uses. Shudder. Think about it: you've all dried your CLEAN HANDS on the SAME TOWEL. What are you, savages?"

I didn't write this. But I really liked the post. You can read the rest here at

Monday, May 10, 2010

Proper Food Combining: Radio Show

Did you know that it's not just what you eat, but what you eat together? Even really healthy food, when combined improperly with other really healthy food can cause indigestion, heartburn, gas, bloating, cramps, general malaise, fatigue, and more. Alternatively, proper food combining causes you to digest and assimilate the most nutrition out of what you eat.

My friends over at host a BlogTalkRadio show every Monday at 2pm EST.

Click here to listen to The Combo Platter show.

Join Dr. Jeff and Chaim to find out what a healthy "combo platter" looks like.
Topics to be covered: * Who should worry about food combining?
* What is food combining?
*Why is proper food combining essential for many people?
* Common symptoms of not combining well.
* Combining foods properly.
* A practical plan to institute good food combining in your diet.
*** Plus the last 15 mins of the program is reserved for listener questions. *** (Dr. Jeff broadcasts from Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Chaim from Jerusalem, Israel.)

You can listen to the player here (after the show, of course), or click this link to the archive.

This is an important topic: I haven't gotten to it yet as a post, but realized I can just send you over to the good information there. Enjoy! I know I will.

update: I created a newer post from the info in this same radio show. If you prefer to read than listen, you can go here for it.

Menu Plan Monday-May 10

I hope you all had a wonderful Mother's Day. Hubby made me a special breakfast, after which we all spent the day at the zoo together. The together-ness was wonderful, but after all of that I really enjoyed a quiet bath, book, & bed. It was a special treat.

Now, back to reality :) Here's what's coming up:

Monday-Shakshuka, Hash Browns, OJ (I didn't make it last night as I'd planned)

Tuesday-Homemade Hummus, Couscous Tabouli, Roasted Eggplant & pita

Wednesday- Lentil and Potato Stew with Spiced Oil and salad

Thursday - Homemade Foccacia & salad (like pizza without cheese-see recipe)

Friday - not sure yet

Saturday - leftover Lentil and Potato Stew with Spiced Oil

Sunday - Whole Wheat Pancakes with fresh fruit, apple juice

Visit for lots more meal plans.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Let The Sun Shine In--Frugal Fridays

When I was little, I'd see movies or commercials that showed little girls running through the sheets that were hanging out to dry. It looked like so much fun & I asked my mom why we didn't do our drying like that. She basically said that only "poor" people dry their clothes that way and that it didn't look nice to see laundry hanging. And I saw that she was right; in our neighborhood nobody would do such a thing, but driving into other sections of town we could see their laundry hanging. I just accepted it as the way it was and went about my business.

Until I moved to Israel. Here, hanging laundry is the socially accepted norm. For years I couldn't fathom hanging it every day like my neighbors and didn't like the way it looks. Then one summer my dryer broke. And I hung all summer long, until the rainy season began (winter here), and we prioritized the dryer repair.

But I've been thinking about it again, and a few weeks ago I decided to start utilizing this (free) power we all have-the sun, to save on electricity (translate: $$$). Good for the environment, good for the pocket, I'm happy.

It does take more time to hang the clothes and bring them in than it does to load and empty the dryer, and that has been my main objection. However, I have decided to enjoy those few minutes outside by myself as a little break. All moms need that!

And as for the way it looks, I hang it out on my roof deck where it doesn't show-not to the neighbors; it's out of my view as well. But twice a day I have a reason to stand and look at my gorgeous view of the Judean hills. (That's my laundry and my view) Nice!

I do one large load every day (keeps Mt. Washmore away), plus a load of cloth diapers. My drying rack holds only the one load; for now I'm still using the dryer for the diapers or if I need to do more than one load. Another drying rack or a line would solve that problem. I'll get there. Babysteps.

For more Frugal Friday ideas visit LifeAsMom.

For more about saving electricity, visit this site.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mexican Taco Casserole & Salsa Recipe

As a busy mom of five little ones, I'll take any help I can get; anything that makes life a teeny bit simpler. Enter: The Casserole.

Casseroles can be assembled when convenient and baked later. They freeze well. We lived on soups and casseroles for a while I'd prepped ahead when baby#5 arrived.

And Mexican food....Love it. But once the little guy became 2 guys and then 3 guys (now 4) who all needed help assembling tacos, we knew something had to be done.

Time to combine the two. How to do it? Simple. Take all your ingredients, layer them in a casserole dish, and bake. It's as easy as that.

Ex: salsa first (helps to prevent sticking), rice, salsa, beans or meat, cheese if you're using it, another rice or beans layer, chopped onions & black olives, cracked corn chips w/cheese to brown on top. Serve with lettuce and tomato, guacamole, salsa & sour cream. Yum.

You can sneak veggies in there too. This time I sauteed onion&garlic with eggplant, carrots, and cabbage. Usually I add zucchini but I didn't have any. You just make them taste "Mexican-y" with salsa, garlic, and lots of onions.

Make your own salsa cheap & easy w/canned crushed tomato, lemon juice, chopped fresh cilantro & chopped onion.

Aspartame's New Name

Too many folks know that aspartame is bad for you. So what's a manufacturing company to do? Why, change the product's name and re-market it, of course!

"Ajinomoto believes that the time is right to remind the industry that aspartame tastes just like sugar, and that it’s made from amino acids – the building blocks of protein that are abundant in our diet.

The name AminoSweet is appealing and memorable. It reflects that AminoSweet comes from the same amino acids that are abundant in the food we eat every day." -quote from this article.

Do NOT be deceived. Aspartame is POISON! To read more about what's in it, go here.

The following chronic illnesses can be triggered or worsened by ingesting of aspartame:(2) Brain tumors, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, chronic fatigue syndrome, parkinson's disease, alzheimer's, mental retardation, lymphoma, birth defects, fibromyalgia, and diabetes.

And that's BEFORE it breaks down into formaldehyde as it does when sodas are stored at room or warmer temperatures! (think-outside at the gas station....) See this article for more about aspartame converting to formaldehyde. Remember: formaldehyde is the stuff that preserves the dead animals (specimens) to be dissected in anatomy class! You do NOT want to drink it!

Of course, everyone loves a good commercial ;)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Curried Pumpkin Soup

This is one of my favorite soups. It's very rich, so I don't make it very often. But the flavors of these ingredients combined are amazing. I first found the recipe here and it was an instant hit. I've made a few changes/substitutions, and as always, with soup, am not too specific with measurements. I'm attempting to measure so that I can write it down for you here.

1 large piece pumpkin (5 cups chopped)
2 large onions
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 cans coconut milk (of course, fresh would be the best)
8 Tbsp molasses or 1 cup black rum (I've tried both; I prefer the molasses)
1 stick butter (you could substitute oil, I'm sure. I haven't tried.)
Zest and juice of 2 large lemons (limes would be better)
1 Tbsp (approx) of curry powder
Kosher salt and pepper
2 bay leaves
1/3-1/2 white wine
*brown sugar -- you can substitute a little extra molasses and honey. About 1/2 c or to taste.

You will need 2 pots.

1.Pot 1: Boil pumpkin chunks with stock, rum/molasses, and water if needed to cover until very soft.
2. Pot 2: Saute sliced onions in butter or oil until soft. Add coconut milk, lemon juice & zest, curry, honey, bay leaves. Simmer about 1/2 hr.
4. Combine all and blend or puree
5. Taste and adjust seasonings and thickness (you can add more water or stock or wine or...)

Soup is a very forgiving dish. You can really play around with ingredients and amounts; feel free to experiment! I don't have any white wine today and am making it without it. Never think you can't make something unless you have all of the exact ingredients.

Serve it up with some freshly baked french bread, a salad, and enjoy!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Breadsticks/Baguette/Pizza Dough Recipe

This is my most versatile bread recipe. It came from my BreadBeckers cookbook. I use it for Pizza, Breadsticks, or French bread. Here it is:

1 1/4 c hot water
1/2 c milk (I use fresh almond milk) -makes lukewarm temp. when combined
2 Tbs. oil
1 Tbs. honey
2 tsp. instant yeast
4-5 cups freshly milled flour
2 tsp salt

Combine water, milk, yeast, oil, and honey. Add flour and salt. Stir until well mixed. Knead to make a smooth ball (about 5-10 mins by hand). Let rise until double. Turn dough onto a generously floured surface working with just enough flour to make the dough workable.

For Pizza Dough: Divide in half. Use rolling pin to roll to desired thickness; place on oiled pans for about 20 mins to rise. Bake 15 mins in preheated 400 F oven. Cool, add toppings at convinience, then bake again about 20-30 mins till done. (We use lots of toppings; it takes longer to dry out than it would with few toppings. Nobody likes soggy pizza!)

For French Baguette: Divide for 2 small, or leave together for 1 big loaf. I usually do one. Roll into a rectangle and then roll each side in tightly, tucking under the ends. Placed on greased pan. Let rise until double. Bake at 400F for about 30 mins. May glaze with slightly beaten egg white and sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds the last 5 mins of baking.

For Breadsticks: Roll out onto oiled pans, and use a pizza cutter to cut into strips. Let rise about 20 mins, then bake at 400F about 15 mins. I like to sprinkle with oregano before final rise, and baste with butter as soon as they come out. I also add 1 tsp garlic powder to the dough if I want them garlicky. Yum.

Menu Plan Monday-May 3

I'm really glad I've made a commitment to planning my meals again. Even having a general idea ahead of time is more helpful than none at all.

We usually have fruit & nut smoothies for breakfast, leftovers or sandwiches for lunch, so I'll just focus on the dinners for now.

Monday-Gnocchi with Mushrooms & Sage Butter, Salad, Fresh Garlic Breadsticks

Tuesday-Chinese Fried Rice

Wednesday- Curried Pumpkin Soup, fresh French Bread, and salad

Thursday-Mexican Taco Casserole

Friday-Fish of some kind. Not really planned.Couscous, steamed green beans, Challah. Chocolate mousse

Saturday-Leftover Pumpkin soup and bread

Sunday-Shakshuka and Hash Browns

I'll be adding recipes as I can; check back to see.

Have a great week!

For other menu plans visit OrgJunkie.
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