Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Kitchen Tip Tuesday: Gluten Free Baking Tips

I'm still getting used to gluten-free baking.  After pulling my one million flours out of the freezer, it takes quite some time to measure them all out.  Gluten-free chocolate chip cookies are amazing though and totally worth it!

To minimize the mess and save time, if I know we like a certain recipe, I mix two batches of the flours at once.  In the photo above, I have one batch of chocolate chip cookies started in the bowl and another in the container with the blue lid.  I store the extra mixes in the refrigerator.  Having the dry ingredients ready to go makes baking much easier the next time.

Another time saver is to freeze some of the cookie dough in little scoops all ready to bake.  My only problem with this is that we eat them straight out of the freezer before I can bake them!  I also keep gluten-free bread in the freezer and just toast a few pieces at a time as we need them.

Thanks to The Healthy Gluten-Free Life for the above tips, and for the amazing chocolate chip cookie recipe!  Do you have any gluten-free baking tips to share?  Linked to Kitchen Tip Tuesday.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, Guacamole Salad

This is such a simple idea, but I had never tried guacamole on salad before.  Delicious!

I love ranch.  Creamy, dairy-filled, can't eat it right now because I'm dairy free, ranch.  Italian dressing is okay, but sometimes I prefer something not so oily.  Surprisingly, the guacamole actually satisfied my creamy craving and was perfect on this salad.  The recipe is simple:

Pile on a plate and eat!

Easy Bacon:
Bake in a broiling pan at 400 for 20-25 minutes.  (Line the bottom of the pan with foil to catch the drips.)

Guacamole: (recipe from a friend who got it here)
2 avocados
2 Tbs lemon juice (or 1Tbs lime juice and 1 Tbs lemon juice)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Teaching Better Table Manners

I say the same three or four things over and over and over and over again each meal.

"Sit down."
"Take a bite."
"Lean forward."
repeat ad nauseam and occasionally throw in:
"No singing at the table, you're supposed to be eating."

One day I decided to put five pennies in front of each child's place.  I asked them what sort of things I have to tell them at the table.  They easily chanted off everything I repeat over and over at each meal, proving that they are listening to me, just not obeying all the time.  I told them that if I had to tell them something like that, I would remove a penny.  At the end of the meal, whatever pennies they had left would be theirs to keep.

We've done this a couple different times and had good success with it.  Tonight Lucy ate her meal in record time and cleared her plate and cup without being told!  (She's usually the one I have to remind to "Take a bite.")  Who knew would only take 15 cents for three better behaved children at the table?  If they get tired of the pennies, maybe I'll use chocolate chips occasionally.  This is actually a great motivator for me to keep my mouth shut too and not just repeat my phrases unless really necessary, because then I have to take a penny from them.

Do you have any fun ideas for encouraging better behavior?  We need to work on our bedtime routine and behavior too...

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Learning To Ride A Bike

Lucy and Julia learned to ride their bikes today.  In an hour.  

They have had these bikes for two years now and have been riding with training wheels on.  We also have a Strider balance bike that they have both spent quite a bit of time riding.  I am absolutely convinced that it helped them learn to ride their bikes.  We were literally outside for only an hour today and both girls could get started, ride down the driveway, and stop without any help!  

Julia (4) has been asking for us to take her training wheels off.  Here Ross is giving her a pep talk.

He helped her up and down the driveway a few times.  Then, while he was busy doing something else, she got tired of waiting and tried it by herself!  Soon both girls were riding amazingly well without any help.  It was clear that riding the Strider really did teach them balance.  We only had one small crash into the lavender bush.

Lucy (almost 7) was nervous at first, but did great!

I'm so proud of them!  I can't believe that they both grew up so much today, so fast.

Esther (2) is just learning to ride the Strider this year.  By the end of summer, I'm sure she'll be zipping around on it in no time at all!  (And yes, we need to get more helmets.  We've outgrown them.  They were riding on the driveway.)

I already loved our Strider balance bike and today proved how awesome it is!  Check out my review and video clips of them just starting out.  Way to go, girls!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

CSA: Week 2

Here is our big basket of veggies from the CSA this week.  We got lots of bok choy, spinach, lettuce, green onions, and kohlrabi.  Since some of the veggies are wet or dirty, I found it helpful to just put them in a laundry basket when we pick them up.  Looks like I need to bring along another one next time!

One of the bok choy got chopped up and put into chicken rice soup.  It didn't change the flavor of the soup too much, and was very easy to eat that way.  We used another one in stir fry tonight, and still have one more to use.  I tried chopping it up like celery for chicken salad, but the flavor of it raw was too strong.

I found out that kohlrabi leaves can be eaten just like kale or swiss chard.  Last week I sauteed some with green onion and garlic scapes and served it over quinoa with a little Italian dressing.  It tasted ok, but I think I should have chopped the pieces a bit smaller.  This week I've been using the leaves in smoothies every morning.  The girls all enjoy smoothies and haven't noticed anything different than the spinach they are used to.

I used green onions in the chicken soup, stir fry and whatever else I was cooking.  I just have to remember to throw them in.

Honestly, the hardest veggie to use up this week is the lettuce!  We got 6 big heads of lettuce.  I gave one to our neighbor, and even with us eating salads every day, that's a lot of lettuce.  I did grow some sprouts to garnish salads with, very fun and easy.  Lucy was so excited to have a lunchmeat and sprout sandwich.  I'm going to make this dairy free ranch dressing and see how that goes.  At least lettuce is easy enough to give away - kohlrabi, not so much.

Do you struggle to use up all your veggies?  Any other tips for using up lettuce?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Book Review: Cleaning House

 Cleaning House
A Mom's 12 Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement
by Kay Wills Wyma

Cleaning House is one mom's story of teaching her children some important life lessons.  How to keep clutter under control, get a job, do laundry, throw a party, serve others, and more, are all topics included in the book. Kay takes one month to focus on each topic and shares how her family does with each task.  Her writing is fun and easy to read.  The topic is relevant and interesting.

I enjoyed reading Kay's stories.  I particularly like that she shares her mistakes, what didn't work, and her children's quite normal reactions, including lots of eye rolling and "but mommm!"s.  She doesn't paint a super-mom/ super-kid picture.  Reading the book definitely left me encouraged to try some similar things in my own family.  Cleaning House shares the importance of teaching our children these life lessons, and at the same time makes it feel very doable for those just starting out.

My only issue with the book is that her children are older than mine.  While I loved reading her ideas, I need her to write this book all over again with younger children in mind!  I am keeping Cleaning House on my bookshelf as a great reference for the teen years.  Kay's blog looks like a good resource as well.  Cleaning House will encourage you to train your children in valuable life skills rather than enabling self entitled attitudes.  I'm already creating my own list of topics to teach my little ones!

I received this book free of charge from WaterBrook Multnomah for review.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Kitchen Tip Tuesday: Storing Gluten Free Flours

If you've ever baked gluten-free, you know that it requires exactly one million different flours.  It took me a while to figure out how to store them all.  Here is my current system:

Many flours keep best in the freezer or refrigerator.  I use a basket to hold some of the bags.  Each bag has a binder clip on it to keep it shut.  When I want to bake, I pull the whole basket out of the freezer, along with anything else I need.

Some of the flours I buy whole grain and grind with my Vitamix.  Those are stored in lock n lock containers and labeled.  The whole top shelf of my freezer is flours and grains.  The little box in the front is ground flax, behind it is cornmeal and amaranth flour.  A few of the flours are in the refrigerator because the freezer was full.  (The bottom shelf is leftovers packed up for Ross' lunch, and fruit for smoothies.)  Sorghum flour and xanthan gum are in the cupboard.

How do you store gluten free flours?
See Tammy's Recipes for more Kitchen Tip Tuesdays.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

CSA: Week 1

This is our third year participating in a CSA.  CSA = Community Supported Agriculture, meaning we have a farm that we pay at the beginning of the year and then get to pick up fresh organic veggies once a week.  I love our CSA.  From growing flowers to take to an adult care center, to growing veggies right in the middle of the city, Eighth Day Farm has such a great heart and vision behind all that they do.  Our girls love going to the CSA!

Look how little they were last summer!

The first year, it was quite intimidating learning what to do with all of the veggies.  Some of them we had never even heard of before!  (kohlrabi? bok choy?)  I learn a little more each time.  Over the summer I will post a few updates including what veggies we get, how we use them, some recipes, and more.

This week we got:

4 bok choy
10 garlic scapes
14 green onions
12 radishes
4 kohlrabi
6 lettuce

We used a bok choy, some green onions, garlic scapes, and kohlrabi to make stir fry right away.  I chopped the rest of the bok choy, blanched, and froze it.  I've used some of it out of the freezer already for making soup.  This potato salad is amazing with garlic scapes.  The radishes and the rest of the kohlrabi Ross will eat with ranch dip.  Some of the lettuce, green onions, and garlic scapes went home with my mother in law.  We had salads with dinner a few times this week and it was wonderful!  So fresh tasting!

I think I did pretty well using things up this week.  My only question was whether or not to save the kohlrabi leaves.  I did, but am not sure what to use them in.  Any ideas?  Are you part of a CSA?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Pacifier Use In a Breastfeeding Baby

Isaac is a paci baby.  There is always a pacifier in his mouth, or very nearby!

Breastfeeding experts recommend waiting to introduce a pacifier until nursing is well established (six weeks or so).  I avoided giving Isaac a pacifier as long as I could, but must admit that I sent Ross on an emergency pacifier run at 10pm one night.  Isaac was screaming and would only quiet if he was sucking on my finger.  My finger was getting raw and the options were:  let him scream, or give him a pacifier!

I nurse on demand and pretty frequently.  Even so, I am mindful of being sure to feed him if he is hungry and not just "hold him off" with the pacifier.  Nursing when the baby is hungry is the best way to keep up my milk supply.  There are times though when he definitely just wants the pacifier, not me.

Another one of the reasons experts advise against pacifier use in the beginning is because it is so different than breastfeeding.  When a baby nurses, their lips should be flanged out like a fish.  When a baby sucks on a pacifier, they do so with lips closed straight down.  Soothie pacifiers are a bit different:

You can see in the photo above that Isaac's lips are flanged out as he uses this pacifier.  I will sometimes even fiddle with his lips and flip them out a bit more.  This helps protect the breastfeeding relationship and not confuse his suck.  Because of this, Soothies are the only pacifiers we use.

My older girls gave up their pacifiers around 9 months.  They both seemed to not really need them much at that point, so I took them away.  We never had any battles over it.  I even tried to give Julia back her pacifier once out of desperation and she wouldn't take it!  Isaac sure loves his.  Hopefully its not a struggle to take it away someday.  For now his little paci face is pretty cute!

This is not a product review.  I just way over-think everything, including pacifiers.  ;)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Kitchen Tip Tuesday: Spaghetti

Spaghetti is one of our favorite easy meals.

My only problem is that the ratio is never right for leftovers; we always end up with more sauce than noodles or vice versa.  My trick lately is just to mix it all in a big bowl before serving it up.  Everyone gets just the right amount of sauce, and leftovers work perfectly too!  Don't ask me why it took me a couple years to figure this out...

See here for more Kitchen Tip Tuesday posts.  :)

Monday, June 4, 2012

Stork Stack

The package arrived on a grey and rainy day while my two year old was in her room screaming "I hate this day!" over and over.  No kidding.

What is it?

A Stork Stack!  A bit of serendipity on my doorstep.  Okay, so I stole the word serendipity from their website, and I had to look it up to be sure what it meant.  "the accidental discovery of something pleasant, valuable, or useful"  Agreed.  My Stork Stack was definitely a pleasant spot in my day, like getting an awesome care package from a friend.

Stork Stacks are a monthly subscription, each box including 5 products hand selected by the Stork Stack team.  I received a package for review and could not be more excited!  The package included a friendly note along with these fun products:

a monkey Wubbanub
organic BabyLegs
Earth Mama Angel Baby Body Butter
Earth Mama Angel Baby Happy Mama Spray
a reversible Baby Banz sunhat
three Milkin' Cookies

I love that they took into consideration my baby's gender, his age, the season, and more.  I absolutely LOVED everything in the package!  Wubbanubs are a big hit around here, and I'm excited to have another one for Isaac.  I've mentioned before that we are huge Earth Mama Angel Baby fans.  (They are rated zero in the Skin Deep database.)  

The sunhat is great - reversible and adjustable.  Isaac decided to model it right away.  It is super cute with room to grow all summer.

BabyLegs are perfect for cool sumer evenings and easy diaper changes.  We had plenty of pink ones around here, but no blue yet.

The price of these products individually would be well over the $28 Stork Stack fee.  The smile and fun brought to my rainy day was definitely worth it!  I'm already thinking about who I can send a Stork Stack to someday.  I can't wait to see what is in the July boxes.

Stork Stack says this about themselves:

We like to think of it as serendipity delivered monthly to a mom’s doorstep.  We do the research, you get the benefits.  No hassle, no fuss, just great products at a good value along with some helpful information and encouragement along the parenting journey.  In the end, our goal is to make a mom’s life easier so she can focus on the most important part: her little ones.

I love it!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

How to Calm a Fussy Baby

My first two babies were very fussy.  Like, put-you-at-your-absolute-wits-end, nothing-works, fussy.  They were pretty challenging babies and didn't sleep much.  Esther was a calm little one and loved to be snuggled.  Isaac seems to be a bit high needs, but has settled down with some dietary changes I've made.

I was talking to a friend recently about her fussy baby and offering suggestions.  I realized that we've tried quite a few different things over the years and decided to list them here as a resource.  Nothing works for every baby all the time, but its nice to have some ideas up your sleeve.  Aside from the obvious (diaper change?  hungry?  tired?), here are some things to try:

nurse - Many times, rocking and nursing is the easiest and best way to calm down a baby.  I've spent many evenings with a baby in arms snuggling and nursing off and on until I am ready to head to bed (where we snuggle and nurse some more).  

exercise ball - I remember holding Julia tight to my body and bouncing up and down pretty hard on the exercise ball.  She didn't like to rock, but the firm hold and bouncing would settle her down after a while.

gripe water - Gripe water is an herbal concoction that made Esther puke when we gave it to her.  It seemed to help Isaac a bit though.  Its mainly fennel and ginger water.  (This brand seemed to have better ingredients than others I looked at.)

gas drops - The taste of these seemed to distract my girls long enough to quiet them for a minute or two.  

Windi - I haven't tried it, but everyone on Amazon seems to swear by this weird thing.  Several fussy nights with Isaac I would tell myself I would order it in the morning.  Then in the morning I would decide it was just too weird.

swaddling - aden + anais blankets are the best for swaddling.  Some of my babies liked being swaddled, some only tolerated it if they were in the right mood.  We used the miracle blanket with Julia, but then found that we liked the aden + anais blankets.  

a warm bath - at 2:00am?  Yep, we've tried it!  After long bouts of crying, sometimes a warm bath was just enough to relax baby to sleep.  Sometimes just the sound of running water calmed the fussy little one.

sleep noise - The girls have this sleep machine in their room that we've used for several years.  Isaac has a little sleep sheep (that he doesn't use because he is always snuggled up next to me anyway).

We'll call this one atmosphere - is it too bright in the house?  too loud?  Are his clothes bothering him?  Is he too cold or too hot?  Lucy and Julia were extra sensitive to these things.  Sometimes I will strip the baby down and check for a hair wrapped around his toes pinching them or something.  A position change can also help - Isaac likes to lay on his tummy (right beside me of course).

homeopathics - We've used Hyland's colic tablets, teething tablets, chamomile tablets, etc.  They do seem to help our little ones settle down sometimes.

sleep balm - Badger Balm makes a relaxing scented Night Night Balm that we like.  For a while we would rub it on cheeks and noses every night before bed.

baby carrier - This didn't work for my girls, but it does with Isaac.  If he's fussy and can't calm down, I put him in the mei tai.  He settles pretty quickly if I walk around for a few minutes.  

pacifier - I usually try to hold off giving a pacifier for a few weeks until breastfeeding is well established.  With Isaac,  I sent Ross on an emergency pacifier run to the store at 10pm once.  I use Soothie brand pacifiers because they mimic breastfeeding a bit with the way they are shaped.

chiropractic adjustment - Esther is the first baby that we took to a chiropractor/ kinesiologist.  I am now a huge believer!  Before she went to the chiropractor, she puked a TON several times a day.  After being adjusted, she completely stopped.  Completely.  We continue to see chiropractic care as important for the whole family.  I highly suggest it if you have a difficult little one on your hands.

reflux medication - Both Lucy and Julia were on medication for reflux as babies.  It seemed to help them a bit, but was a continual battle to get the dosage right.  I also did not love giving them medication daily.  Which leads me to...

dietary changes - I knew that I should have tried giving up dairy while nursing Lucy and Julia.  I did it for about a day with Julia, but just couldn't wrap my head around it.  Isaac was starting down the same fussy path and I finally gave it a try.  I have been off of dairy, gluten, and eggs for about two months now.  It took ten days to see the full effect, but since then we have had absolutely NO big crying spells.

Isaac will still be fussy for various reasons, and I would still call him a bit of a high needs baby.  He is happiest in my arms.  However, we have not had ANY evening crying spells where I have to pull out all the tricks to calm him and am at my wits end.  I wish that I had gone dairy-free with my other babies!  

Sometimes sensitive babies just need extra sensitive mommies.  Is the diaper wet and bugging him?  Did a noise startle him?  Are his clothes tight?  Sometimes even the most caring mommies can't figure it out.  If you're struggling with a fussy little one, you definitely have my sympathies!  Dr Sears has some great information and more ideas on his website here.

Do you have any tried and true ways to calm a fussy baby?