Zucchini “Apple” Cobbler

zucchiniZucchini  “Apple” Cobbler

This is a delicious and easy dessert and a fantastic way to use up the abundance of zucchini that rolls in during the summer months!

Filling

6 cups or so of peeled, cubed zucchini (I used 1 large and 1 medium)

juice of 1 lemon

1/3 cup sugar or other replacement, such as honey

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8-1/4 cup raisins (I just threw in a good sized handful)

Topping

1 cup almond flour/meal (other flour would probably work fine)

@1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup softened butter or coconut oil

handful of chopped pecans or walnuts(optional)

1. Put cubed zucchini in saucepan with lemon juice and sugar. Stir. Slowly bring to a gentle boil, then reduce heat, add raisins & spices, cover pan and simmer for about 5 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 375 and grease a square baking dish.

3.Prepare the topping by mixing the flour, salt and cinnamon, then cut in the butter or coconut oil with then side of a spoon. When the filling is done simmering, pour in to greased dish and sprinkle pecans or walnuts on top, if using. Then sprinkle the topping over the nuts.

4. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until golden brown on top and the zucchini is tender.

Taste just like apple crisp/cobbler! Top with ice cream or whipped cream or just enjoy it straight out of the oven!

 

What Is a Budget, Really??

money
What is a Budget, Really??
There is a whole lot of misconception around the word ‘budget’. Scary thoughts are conjured up in some people’s minds and others close off in anger and resentment. Others shut down altogether at the sheer mention of the word, thinking that ‘budgets’ are for the wealthy or for corporations. Not for “ordinary people.” Though I began using a small scale budget for the first time when I was 16 year old, I admit I have been through nearly all of these cycles and it has led to some serious mismanagement of money!
The truth is, a budget isn’t to meant to restrict your money or to complicate your life. In fact, the entire point of a budget is to simply allow you to see where your money is coming in and going to, and in what amounts. This may seem obvious to you, especially if you don’t make very much and it seems to be gone in a flash. But there’s something to writing it all down that makes it gel and organize. It all becomes clear in ways you just can’t get as numbers float in and out of your head. Priorities seem to form themselves without much effort at all. It really is pretty much painless.
It seems that when you don’t write down your incoming and outgoing money, the small expenses slip your mind easily and the little priorities fail to become priorities at all. Except that you will still spend money on them because somewhere in your mind, they are still a priority. Once you start keeping track, all this stops on its own. So how do you start a simple budget? I’ve seen some of the templates online and they can be a little mind-blowing for a basic household.
Start by making a column of all your incoming funds, from any source, and how often you receive them. Even if they seem too small to mention, write them down. Then make another column of your outgoing funds/expenses, no matter where it goes, no matter how big or small the amount and how often you pay that out/spend it. Below is a basic chart to give you an idea of what I mean. It includes most basic expenses and a small amount to savings. This is just a made up budget, but it gives you an idea of how to write it down.

income chart

 

Make sure you include categories for all the things you really and truly spend money on! Don’t worry about feeling guilty. Remember this is for your eyes only and it is meant to help you, not shame you. If you write something down and you see it’s not really working for you, then you can see how to re-work things, but not even acknowledging it doesn’t even give you that chance. Be honest with yourself! For example, if you smoke, you know you will be buying cigarettes, so budget the money. Buy them the most affordable way you can and budget for that in advance.
Once you have it all written down, you may see a few areas you want to start shifting more money to, or areas you realize you are able to spend less money in. You may see areas where you didn’t realize you were spending so much money or other areas where you aren’t really sure how much money you spend at all. A good way to get an better idea of how much you actually spend is it to keep receipts for 2 weeks to a month for every single purchase you make. Keep an envelope to store them in and sort through them occasionally to give yourself a clearer idea of how much you spend in each category. You may be surprised how much those morning coffees or afternoon sodas add up to over the course of a couple weeks! You may decide to shift that money elsewhere, but even if you don’t, you will know to budget the funds for your activities so they don’t get siphoned off of your electric bill or your rent!
The true purpose of a budget is simply to allow you to see where your money is flowing in from and flowing out to. Money is in a constant state of flow, like any form of energy. Like any form of energy, when you work with it and understand what it’s actually doing, it can work to your benefit.

Grain Free Chicken and Dumplings

cauliflowerGrain Free Chicken and Dumplings

Comfort foods are amazing. They can remind you of a special time in your childhood and just generally soothe and heal your body, mind and spirit. My husband and I are contending with a bit of a cold today and some chicken and dumplings, like my Mom used to make sounded just right. Only grain free.

Once a month I buy 2 chickens, as well as my eggs, from a local farm that I completely trust. They are family owned and they let the chickens live a free and happy chicken life, not a caged one. They provide amazingly kind shelters for their “ladies”, as they call them and treat them like fellow family members.  I get about 4 meals and 8 cups of chicken stock from each of the chickens. Nothing goes to waste and all of the bird is honored deeply.

This recipe uses shredded chicken picked from a previously roasted whole chicken, frozen and thawed for this meal as well as stock made by boiling the bones and skin from the chicken after all the meat was removed. You could also buy chicken thighs or breast, cook it and shred it and buy chicken stock, but it’s cheaper to buy a whole chicken, roast it (or crock pot it for several hours) and then pick it clean and freeze what you don’t eat in 1 or 2 cup portions for later meals.

Grain Free Chicken and Dumplings

1 head cauliflower, cut in half

@ 2 cups shredded chicken (leftover from cooked whole bird)

4 cups chicken stock, split in half (made from bones and skin left from picked clean bird)

2 cups water

@ 2 cups chopped carrots

@ 1 cup chopped celery

@ 1 cup parsley or carrot tops (optional)

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon sea salt or Himalayan salt

additional 1/4 teaspoon sea salt or Himalayan salt

1 egg

1/4 cup coconut flour

1/4 cup tapioca flour or arrowroot

 

1) Chop half of the cauliflower and add it to 2 cups of the stock and 2 cups of water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Turn down and simmer for 10 minutes.

2) While that is cooking, chop the other half head of cauliflower and run through a food processor until it is very fine and grainy looking. Add a half inch or so of water to a pan and bring to a boil, then add the cauliflower grains to the water and cook for about 5 minutes. Drain through wire mesh strainer and rinse with cool water. When cool enough, place on a doubled over piece of cheesecloth or a thin dish cloth and squeeze while twisting to get all the liquid out. Set aside in a medium bowl.

3) Pour the cauliflower and stock into a blender and liquefy to make a smooth and thick cream like base. Pour back into the pot and add carrots, celery, parsley, salt, pepper, thyme the rest of the stock and the chicken and bring back to a simmer for about another 10-15 minutes while making the dumplings.

4) Add an egg, both flours (or arrowroot) and 1/4 teaspoon salt to the cauliflower grains you set aside in the medium bowl and stir well with a spoon. Then knead with your hands for a couple minutes until it feels nicely pliable and holds together well. Only takes about 2 minutes.

5) Check on the soup. If the carrots are tender and seasonings are as you like, then form the dough ball into about 9, 1/2 inch dumplings and drop then into the soup. Let them rise to the top on their own. Put the lid on the pot and let simmer on low for about 10 minutes. Serve.

Adapted from: http://paleoparents.com/2013/guest-post-popular-paleo-cauliflower-dumplings-with-creamy-chicken-soup/

Shampoo Free Hair Washing (No-Poo)

july2014

Nearly a week into “no-poo” hair cleansing!

Shampoo Free Hair Washing(No-Poo)
For the last year and a half, I have been hearing about the “no-poo” method of washing your hair. There are a few ways to do it, but the most common way is to replace your shampoo with baking soda and apple cider vinegar rinse. When I first heard of this, I was completely grossed out. I was totally on the road of using all natural cleaning and hygiene methods, and I used baking soda and vinegar to clean most everything in my home, but I wasn’t ready to think of using it on my hair as the only method of cleansing it. However, as usual, my curiosity got the better of me after awhile. I kept hearing praise for the no-poo method and I had to try it for myself.

I read an article that described how to do no-poo so simply that I couldn’t resist and about a week ago I quit using shampoo. I was not sure what to expect, since I have curly hair and all the people I had read about had straight hair, but I have to say, I am loving the results so far! My hair feels and looks so clean and the curls behave nicely, even though I haven’t used any styling product or conditioner on them in the last week. It’s not frizzy, even though it’s been incredibly humid here in the Midwest.

My hair (and curly hair in general) tends to be a bit dry overall, especially on the ends, yet a bit hard to keep clean and well rinsed close to the scalp. Build up can be an issue on the scalp, which sometimes leaves me with an itchy or irritated head. That doesn’t seem to be an issue with this method. In fact, within the first few days, I noticed the residue dissolving and coming off my scalp as I rinsed with the apple cider vinegar (ACV). It felt a bit weird and I was sort of worried my hair would dry looking dirty, but it didn’t. It was shiny and clean.

So here is how you do it:

Put 1 teaspoon of baking soda in a pint jar or container (I used an empty peanut butter jar) and fill with warm water. Stir to dissolve the baking soda or put the lid on and shake. Pour this over your scalp, letting it run down your hair. Work it into the scalp, loosening debris and massaging the scalp a bit.

Put a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar (ACV) into the same jar and fill with water again. Pour over head to rinse. Work through slightly and then rinse immediately with warm water. You’re done!

I measure the ACV into the lid of the jar so that I can just dump it in after I finish with the baking soda rinse and refill with water. Saves time and hassle. Also, if you have longer or thicker hair, you may need to use 2 teaspoons of baking soda. See what works best for you. I recommend using an organic, raw, unfiltered ACV when using it for food or directly on your body like this. Bragg’s make a very good one, but there are others, too. The regular ACV can be very harsh and not so good for you, especially to use long term. It still only cost a penny or so, even using organic. And don’t worry, your hair won’t smell like vinegar!

I needed to use this every day at the beginning, probably because it was working the residue loose from my scalp. But now that I am coming up on a week, I was able to skip doing it today and just spray lavender water (filtered water & 15 drops of lavender essential oil in a spray bottle) on my hair to refresh my curls and wet them down a bit.

I have chosen not to put any styling product in my hair as it released the residue to see if that helped the process and to see how well it did with just the no-poo method alone. I’m glad I did, because it did better without it.

If you’re curious like I was, be brave and give it a try! You truly have nothing to lose but a bunch of bottles in your shower and the expense of buying them.

“Miracle” Burn Salve

Burn salve“Miracle” Burn Salve

I have been experimenting with a new homemade salve recently. It’s a salve I would like to stop having opportunities to test out very soon, but I must say I am very, very impressed with how well it works! I created this burn salve on the fly one night when my husband came home badly sunburned a few weeks ago after attending an all day outdoor summer solstice music festival.

He had been applying sunscreen periodically and trying to make use of shade whenever possible, but had been in the sun during the peak periods of 10-2 and it was too much for his very fair skin, even with the precautions. (It’s truly nearly impossible to keep this man from burning if he’s in the sun very long!) I was concerned since he has had second and near third degree sunburns in the past. I knew aloe and other basic measures weren’t going to cut it. I whipped up this intense concoction and it not only took the pain away immediately, it healed the burn overnight! He peeled very slightly on his forehead where he burnt the worst and a little on one of his upper arms, but everywhere else it simply turned to a tan with no peeling at all.

Since then, we have tried the salve on a few different things like cuts and abrasions, but it seems to be perfect for burns. I found this out in a new test yesterday when I badly steam burned my forearm making ginger lemonade. It looked like a hot dog that cooked too long on the grill and it was swelling. Aloe was having no effect, except to take a bit of the sting out. I applied the salve and taped a piece of gauze over it. The pain left immediately. Several hours later, I peeked under the gauze to see if it needed to be changed and I couldn’t even tell where the burn was. No swelling, no redness, no more skin contortion. I removed the gauze this morning and there is a pink spot about a half inch in diameter that faintly stings when touched. That’s all. Most of my left forearm was swollen, red and looked a lot like Freddy Krueger’s face just 12 hours ago. Amazing!

I was in a hurry when I made this salve, so I didn’t measure. I am giving you the ballpark measurements that I wrote down in my book. Re-work it to a consistency that looks and feels right to you, if needed.

Miracle Salve Recipe
@ 4 Tablspoons honey (raw is best, from a good source)
@ 2 aloe vera gel (preferably one without chemical ingredients, dyes, perfumes, etc. or make your own from a plant)
2 teaspoons bentonite clay
2 teaspoons myrrh gum (optional, adds anti-pain, anti-inflammatory properties. If you can’t find it, don’t worry.)
5 drops garlic oil (or puncture 2 garlic oil capsules and squeeze the oil out. These are garlic oil in a base oil and you’ll need more, but it works fine.)
1/4-1/2 teaspoon goldenseal root powder (or empty the contents of one goldenseal root capsule)
10 drops lavender oil
10 drops frankincense oil (mine was already diluted with jojoba oil; use 3-5 drops if you have full strength)

Add all ingredients in a container you can seal tightly and keep in the refrigerator. This salve feels very good applied cold and will keep for a long time in the fridge. The honey will add a preservative effect to it as well, as long as you use a pure, high quality honey from a good source. Do not use ordinary grocery store honey. Most of those have had the healing ingredients strained and heated out of them and many have had corn syrup added as well. They won’t help you heal and may cause problems.

I hope the salve helps you as much as it’s helped us! Make some up to keep in your refrigerator, in case you need it. I hope you don’t! I hope we don’t need it anymore either…

Grain Free Zucchini Muffins

Grain free zucchini muffinsI’ve recently had to make some changes in the way I cook and eat. My body has been sending me signals for awhile that it was having major issues with grains–all grains, even gluten free ones. I already knew sugars were an issue for me, but I had been ignoring that and steadily increasing my intake of various sugars for some time. My body was letting me know it couldn’t handle much more. I had to get off of the sugars again and I had to find a way to stop eating grains. This was a bummer thing to realize just as my zucchini were coming into season and berries everywhere were ripening! I wanted to bake! However, I am not one to be deterred. I have been in this place before when I had to go gluten free, and I found entirely new ways of looking at food and cooking. I have been able to do that again and I am rocking the kitchen once more! I have been making grain free, sugar free or extremely low sugar (no processed sugar) pies, cobblers, breads and muffins.
I have also learned a few things about how grains are processed in our bodies and what can make that difficult for us. In learning that, I have found that with many grains, if I soak them I have no trouble eating them. This has led to me learning how to make oat porridge (delicious!) and sourdough (makes great pancakes!), which I will be making bread from in the next day or two. Soaking grains allows them to release the nutrients, which aren’t available without soaking, and also neutralizes toxins that are naturally present in the grains. Our ancestors always did this. Only in recent modern times did we stop. Notice how in recent times our autoimmune disease have increased as well as digestive disease and gluten/grain sensitivity and celiac? There may be a correlation as the immune system is largely in the digestive tract, extending to the brain and the bloodstream.
Now that I’ve given you somewhat sciencey lesson in grains and immune health, I would like to share a new recipe I have created for grain free zucchini muffins! I made these for breakfast this morning and they are awesome! Nice and fluffy; sort of an egg like fluffiness. If you want a bit more of a grain-like feel, you could add a scant 1/4 cup of almond meal/flour to the recipe and that should achieve that for you nicely without sacrificing the airiness of the muffins. I may try that next time, just to see what it’s like.

Grain Free Zucchini Muffins
1/2 coconut flour
scant 1/4 almond flour/meal (optional, for a more grain-like texture)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt or Himalayan salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger powder
1/4 teaspoon allspice (optional, but good)
(*Note: You could 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice in place of the previous 3 spices)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 eggs, preferably pastured
3 Tablespoons raw honey or maple syrup (grade B works best for cooking)
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 small or medium zucchini, shredded (you need about 1 cup)
1/4-1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 and prepare muffin pans with liners or by greasing well.

1) Shred the zucchini and squeeze the excess liquid out then set aside. 2) Mix the eggs, honey or syrup and applesauce in a medium bowl until well blended. 3) Add in the flour(s), the zucchini, salt, baking soda and spices, mix well. 4) If using nuts, stir those in now. 5) Fill prepared muffin cups about 2/3 full. 6) Bake 20 minutes, until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Makes 12 muffins.

5 Things I Have Learned (So Far) In My Garden

1024px-Raised_bed5 Things I Have Learned (So Far) In My Garden
This has been my first year with a vegetable garden, so I am still quite a novice. But Like most things I do, especially when they have to do with plants, herbs, nutrition and being outside, I approached it with great curiosity, spend lots of hands on time with it, and done a lot of reading and asking questions. I also follow my own gut instincts and intuition an awful lot. So far it is going very well and I have learned a lot. One of the things I have learned about gardening is you are never finished learning about gardening. I have talked to people who have grown up on farms who admit they don’t know and are still learning. That’s good, because when you think you know everything, you are officially stuck for life!
Here are some of the things I have learned so far:
1) Plant garlic in a few places around the perimeter of your garden. Onions are good as part of your border, too. The reason is, garlic naturally repel rabbits, raccoons and other animals that may want to check out what goodies you have in your garden. The bonus is you get garlic (and onions, if you plant those). Just take a clove of garlic and plant it about an inch down.
2) Plant some flowers and herbs. Even if you think you don’t have enough room, or you don’t care about flowers or herbs. It’s not for you. It’s for the beneficial insects and the multitude of ways they can help make your gardening so much easier. Also, plant a variety of veggies. Planting your garden like this draws a diversity of beneficial bugs so that if the harmful bugs show up, they are there to defend your plants by eating them. Did you know that plants send out a pheromone signal that is specific to the bug that can rescue them from the bug that is eating them? But that signal only carries so far. Having a diversity of plants and flowers helps insure that they are more likely to reach the right bugs to help. Not to mention you draw multiple pollinators! And truly, having fresh flowers in the house and fresh herbs to cook with is pretty amazing, too!
3) Don’t be afraid of fertilizer! Fertilizer is your garden’s friend. And yours, too. It nourishes your plants and it builds the fruits and vegetables into healthy, large and tasty pickings. Not only will they not be very big or taste very good without fertilizer, if your plants produce much at all, but your fruits and veggies won’t have nearly as many nutrient. The plants transfer the nutrients the get from the soil into the produce they make, so depleted, malnourished soil mans you are undernourishing yourself as well. Choose a good fertilizer that is not made from chemicals as these leach into the plant and what they produce. There are various types of compost that can be bought very inexpensively or even obtained for free. You can also find compost mixed with manure for a very low price. Some folks are fearful of using manure as fertilizer, but I think the worries of E. coli are out of context with home gardening. Wash your hands after gardening. Soak your veggies in a tub or sink of warm water and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, then rinse to disinfect and to remove bugs. These steps, along with the regular small exposures to your own soil will reduce any likelihood of getting sick from fertilizer. If you feel more comfortable, choose a compost with no manure or a vermiculture compost, but do fertilize!
4) Cucumbers and tomatoes need a trellis or cage! Seriously, don’t wait. Especially with cucumbers. They kind of go crazy, fast! And they wrap around everything in an effort to find something to support them. As soon as they come up, provide them with a sturdy trellis. It needn’t be anything fancy. I made mine out of strong sticks I found in the yard after a storm blew some branches down, and a little twine. I threw a trellis net over that and they are happy campers now. The same with the tomato plant. Strong sticks and twine and I built a very tall tomato cage. I have had to add a new line of twine once, but the cage has held, even with strong storms.
5) There is more than one planting season. You can plant several times and keep your garden producing throughout the season, if you choose to. I planted my first crop in the spring of broccoli, cauliflower, onions, cucumbers, zucchini, squash, potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes , carrots, and herbs. Now my onions are harvested and I just planted okra where they were. I am in the process of slowly harvesting my potatoes and I will plant something else there. As I harvest lettuce, I plant more so I continue to have more all year. There are other crops that are fine to plant even at the end of the summer to harvest in the fall.
Share with me, if you have tips! As I learn more, I will gladly share what I learn along the way. Happy growing!