Monday, August 25, 2014

Dehydrating Peppers and Saving Pepper Seeds

Our peppers have done pretty well this year [especially the hot peppers :) but that's a post for next time - Home Canned Salsa Roja - stay tuned!!]. This year instead of dicing and freezing the peppers I decided to dice and dehydrate them. I am really trying to get away from depending on my freezer so much and since I only use the peppers for sauces, who cares if they are frozen or dehydrated prior to use?


In order to know exactly how much dehydrated peppers equals one serving (I consider one serving a half of a cup of small diced peppers) I simply put a half cup of freshly diced peppers on ONE tray and then filled the remaining trays as usual.



In all I got 4 full trays plus the one tray with one serving. Each tray contained 6-7 servings, so that's over 24 servings. Not too bad I guess? This yielded almost one packed quart of dehydrated peppers. 1/8c dry equals 1/2c fresh. To rehydrate, simply put 1/8c dry peppers into a half cup measuring device, fill with filtered water and allow to sit until rehydrated.


Saving pepper seeds is super easy. Hot or sweet, the procedure is the same: simply set aside the seeds to dry for about a week. Once dry, store in a cool, dry place. Be sure to label the drying seeds!! You can see below that I just set the bowls over a paper with the seed description. I then taped the paper to each bowl just in case it got bumped or moved around. Of course your seeds must be heirloom to properly reproduce.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Old Schoolhouse Free Digital Planners

There is a coupon right now where you can get all of The Old Schoolhouse's digital homeschool planners for free. I just did it and it works ... though I had to register with two different places (the place that the coupon goes through [educents] and The Old Schoolhouse). I'm not sure but they might start bombarding me with junk email and junk snail mail; I guess time will tell.

Here is the coupon if you are interested:
OLD SCHOOLHOUSE FREE DIGITAL HOMESCHOOL PLANNERS
It's good for 8 more days I think. Just go to the link and follow the instructions. An email will be sent to you with links to all the digital planners (5 total). You have to add each one to your cart and then enter the coupon code.

I have downloaded them all but have only browsed through the highschool one (they offer primary, middle, highschool, special needs and schoolhouse planners). The highschool one is a 401 page pdf with a TON of stuff in it, including 'must know' lists like science, math, English and other subject info, bible stuff, and more. Calenders, blank forms/sheets (like goals, to-do, assignments, hour tracking, community service log, etc), address book and so much more.

The "Schoolhouse Planner" is a zip file containing all sorts of things relating to homeschooling and housekeeping ... however I have not looked at it yet!

I hope this is of use to someone. Have a great day!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Healthy, Whole Grain Sourdough Pancakes


If you've never had REAL sourdough pancakes, you are missing out!! In this video I share how to make this healthy, delicious treat. Also, this is the first video in a series of sourdough videos. Coming up are videos on Sourdough Bread (sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives and fresh rosemary sourdough bread!), Sourdough Cake, Sourdough Biscuits and Sourdough Crackers ... and maybe Sourdough English Muffins. We'll see how ambitious I get.

Now, on to the pancakes!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Paleo Diet, Wahls Protocol, Vegetarian, Vegan, and more

Unless you are blind, deaf and/or a hermit, you cannot help but notice all the hype recently about "the Paleo Diet" or "the Caveman Diet" or other similar terms. The basic philosophy is to eat as our 'caveman ancestors did' ... which they say did not include grains, legumes or dairy. Does it work? What do you think? Well I'll tell you what I think (of course!).

Those advocating the paleo diet are strong against processed foods and sugar. It does not take a genius to put two and two together. ANYONE will do better when they eliminate processed foods and sugar. No more chips, fries, sodas, donuts, candies, chocolate, and the list goes on. And since grains are eliminated too, that cuts out a whole food product that is being grossly abused: breads and pastas ... which are usually consumed in a very refined form.

No more dairy either. Cheese ... very tasty and ok in SMALL AMOUNTS once in a while, however so easy to overeat. A 'serving' of cheese is only one ounce. In case you did not know, that tiny little OUNCE of cheddar cheese packs in 114 calories and 9.4 grams of fat (a whopping SIX GRAMS of saturated fat). You may cut those numbers nearly in half by consuming the same amount of part-skim mozzarella cheese ... but who only has one ounce of mozzarella cheese on their 2-3 slices of pizza? Or baked spaghetti? And if you're eating out, who knows if 'part skim' was used instead of 'whole'? Let's be real here.

On this kind of diet [IF followed properly] you will get high quality meats, some nuts and seeds, fresh vegetables and fruits, and many also stress LOTS of greens. Oh yes, and some strongly promote the consumption of lacto-fermented foods.

Take Terry Wahls for example. I am familiar with her and her work because we have MS in common, which she claims she halted AND reversed with what is called the "Wahls Diet", which is kind of 'paleo' but not really. In her recent book, The Wahls Protocol, she stresses the absolute importance of eating A LOT of vegetables every day as well as berries and some fruits (but only the ones with deep colors). At least 3 cups (packed) of leafy green vegetables, 3 cups of sulphur rich vegetables and 3 cups of colorful vegetables and fruits. And that's only the beginning. NO JUNK. NOTHING PROCESSED. NO SUGAR. NO DAIRY. etc. On her basic diet she does allow for some grains and legumes, but not much and certainly not gluten-containing. In her new book however she offers 3 different diet plans, or stages if you will. You may stay at the first stage or plan, which is the basic Wahls diet, or you may move on to the "Wahls Paleo" and/or the "Wahls Paleo Plus." Something for everyone I guess.

I was not too excited about seeing the term "paleo" or "paleolithic" all over her book and other similar books [there are plenty of them being published right now]. It's akin to the fairy tale beginning, "Millions of years ago ...." and it certainly does NOT convince me that this is the way to go.

So yes, you WILL feel better on a 'paleo-type' diet because you will be eliminating all of the junk. But this is true for so many other diets out there.

What 'paleo' and 'caveman' diets really come down to (in my opinion anyway) is that someone is making money ... and it's NOT the dieters. So many are jumping on the money-making bandwagon; a quick search on the internet will turn up all sorts of 'paleo sites'. Some are just explaining the diet, but others are actually selling 'paleo food'. Really? Yes.

I've been in to health and diet for over 10 years, which I believe is long enough to see many of the trends and fads. I will never forget the Atkins craze. Like all diets, there were those who actually followed the good, healthy parts of it and then those who pushed the limits in any way possible but yet felt better about themselves because they were 'dieting'. What do I mean? Well, case in point ... two real life examples of Atkins eaters. Back in my corporate world days I worked with a man that was on the Atkins diet. A group of us went out for lunch. He ordered a steak, broccoli, some other vegetable and did not eat the bread. Another man I knew, on the same diet, was hungry one time while a group of us were out. His wife went to the store to get him a snack: a package of processed salami lunch meat. Which one do you think did better on the diet? Which one do you think saw lasting improvements to his weight and health?

And then there are the vegetarians / vegans and all the variations in between [we'll call them veg'n]. Some think they are doing something great by going veg'n. They swap their meat for processed soy patties, nuggets, slices and crumbles and their milk for processed, sugary soy milk. Instead of cheese they use a processed soy-based look-alike. To their credit, this is not all their fault; many are promoting these processed veg'n foods as healthy. Not much thought is given to fruits or vegetables. Junk food is still consumed as long as it's veg'n ... cookies, chips, candy, soda. But then there are the vegetarians and vegans who eat whole foods instead of the processed junk. Instead of meat and dairy they get their protein and calcium from a variety of whole foods like green vegetables, seeds, legumes and grains. Instead of processed foods they snack on something whole ... like carrots, an apple, a handful of nuts. This diet includes a lot of fiber, is low in fat, very nutrient-dense and yet it's veg'n just like the junk-food diet. So which one do you think is healthier?

I say just use some common sense. You don't need to purchase a book or do a whole bunch of research. Just eat as close to how God created it as possible. God did not make twinkies, soda, candy, and the like. He made vegetables and fruits. He did not make soy burgers or soy milk. He made some animals to eat. He gave us honey for a little sweetener. The bible has a lot to say about food; why not start there? Surely the Creator of the universe knows what is best for us. But sadly, man is always trying to 'one up' God. In the case of food, it's processing, preservatives, GMO's, pesticides. Why do we think we can thrive on these things? Yes, you may eat them when you have to, but if you don't have to then why not just choose the best option available to you?

And I believe that is the key: don't be afraid to eat them if you have to ... but when there is a choice, choose the better option.

Don't succumb to all the hype. Save your time and money. Just use common sense.

Monday, August 11, 2014

update on the Bees and Honey

Here is an update on our bees :)

We had our first official honey harvest this past june and now are ready for another ... and another. Of course we could just leave the full honey supers on the hive but I think we are all too excited to do that!

We got nearly 3 gallons from the first harvest and are hoping to have at least that much this time (the frames are in our living room ready to be extracted). Corban tried making a home-made spinner ... however his test-run was not so successful and time did not allow for adjustments. We thought of just extracting the honey again by hand like we did with the honey someone gave us however time did not allow for that either.

We decided to borrow our 'bee mentor's' electric extractor. It only holds 2 frames and is kind of big and clunky, but it worked great! Here are a few photos of that process ... for your curiosity and for our memories.

First they used this little handy gadget to puncture the caps. Since we were saving the comb for one more use, we thought this would be the easiest way to uncap the honey.
uncapping roller

uncapping the honey
Next the frames are put into the machine - the frame holders (?) pivot 90* so both sides get exposed.

Now turn the machine on and hold on! It seemed the slightest bit would make it off balance, but that could have been our crooked floors :) I was quite noisy. 
 
The process is continued till all are spun. We used a few rubber scrapers to clean out the barrel.
Honey comes out the bottom :) YUM!

The stars of the show. Our hive is doing very well. We should have split it in the spring but now we might just do it in the fall. We'll see what our bee mentor says.

I prefer to store things in glass ... but once it's all said and done we'll have several gallons of honey and that's a lot of glass. If you have bees, how do you store your honey?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Homemade Beef Jerky using Ground Beef

We really like beef jerky, however we do NOT like the high sodium nor the toxic preservatives and flavorings. Seriously, have you ever researched the stuff? If not, I encourage you to. These things are there for a reason - not only to excite your taste buds but to prevent the growth of bacteria, mold, fungus, etc. and also to keep it from going rancid too quickly - but at what cost to our health? Yes, we do still eat store-bought jerky from time to time, however recently I decided to experiment with making my own using organic, grass-fed GROUND beef someone gave us. No more store stuff for us! Making it at home is easy and affordable (especially if the meat is free), and the results are tasty and nutritious. 

Ingredients
2lbs ground beef (grass fed, organic is the best if you have access to it)
2T Bragg's or soy sauce
2t liquid smoke
2t salt
1t garlic
1/2t onion
1t cayenne
1/2t black pepper

Directions
Place the beef in a bowl with the liquids. Mix the dry ingredients separately and then pour over the beef/liquid and mix well with hands. Spread on to parchment paper, waxed paper, teflex or paraflexx sheets, or whatever other kind of sheet you have that is used for this purpose, score with a pizza cutter to desired size (see photo below), and then transfer to the dehydrator tray. If you do not have a dehydrator, I suggest using parchment paper placed on cooling racks. A baking sheet will work too, but only for the initial 4 hours or so (see further instructions below). I found it was easiest to use my hands, however you might prefer a rolling pin or some other device. Or maybe you have a jerky gun? Whatever the case, just be sure it's thin and even.


According to the settings on my Excalibur, the temperature for jerky is 145*, though some do it at a lower setting (I've seen instructions as low as 105*). If you do not have a dehydrator it is possible to use an oven set at 170*. Some ovens only go down to 200* ... that will work too but the results will not be as nice.

Side note: The USDA recommends heating the meat to 160*-165* PRIOR to dehydrating because of the potential risk of Salmonella and E. coli. I personally believe this is silly, just like a lot of what the USDA recommends, however you must do whatever you feel comfortable with. If you are concerned about things like this, here is the USDA website with further information.

Dehydrate for about 4 hours, or however long it takes to dry the jerky enough to keep it together while flipping it over. Turn it over on to a dehydrator tray (or cooling rack or the rack of your oven if it will not fall through the slats). Remove the teflex sheets, parchment or whatever you used for the first phase. Place dehydrator tray lined with teflex or parchment (etc) on the bottom of your dehydrator or a baking sheet on the bottom rack of your oven to catch any grease that might spill. Continue dehydrating till jerky is done, about 6 additional hours or longer. Thinner jerky with higher temps will obviously require less time than thicker jerky at lower temps.


Blot off excess grease, break along the scored edges and taste it. What do you think? Have others taste it as well. Note any changes you would like to make to the seasonings for next time. Maybe you will prefer more salt? More garlic? Less bragg's? No cayenne? Whatever. Just make it suit YOUR likes.

Remember, this is preservative-free jerky so the storage method and time will be a little different than the store jerky loaded with nasty stuff. Vacuum sealing is the best option and travels well, however a Ziploc freezer bag works too [yes, I am brand-loyal to Ziploc]. Whatever the case, just be sure it's an air-tight container. Keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 months unless travelling - it will last outside the fridge but as a general rule, keep it refrigerated - or in the freezer for longer periods of time (be careful for freezer burn though).

And if you were wondering, 2lbs of raw meat produced about 10.5 ounces of jerky. Not bad at all!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Note to self ...

Do NOT use strong extra virgin olive oil as the oil in homemade mayonnaise. It is nasty. Really.

I love evoo and use it in nearly everything I bake, including cake and bread ... so naturally I thought I'd like it in homemade mayo. Nope. Thankfully I just scored roasted walnut oil at the discount store and that turned out very good.

Now what do I do with 2c of evoo mayo? Any suggestions? Maybe use it on baked chicken??? (if so, how?) Or what else?? Help me! I want to use it ... just NOT in my egg salad!

;~)