Saturday, November 30, 2013

Holiday Bokeh

I am so intrigued by cool photography effects.  I am certainly not good at getting any cool effects in my pictures, but this evening I forced myself to watch a tutorial on how to achieve the bokeh effect.  Here are a couple of the results.....

I think Nick's is good....natural, nice close up, and very distinctive large circles of light off to the side.  You can't really tell it's the tree lights.  (BTW....we set up our Advent tree and decorations today at the children's request.)  So what do you think?  Needs work, right?  Finding willing subjects is the greatest challenge here.  That and getting all the equipment and lighting set up....sheesh!  Is it worth it?  Don't know....maybe.  The jury is still out!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pie Baking, Kid Wrangling

I felt super-overwhelmed this morning having all the kids but one home today.  I don't know how I home schooled all of them before!  I'm such a wimp now.  So I decided to pull a few tricks out of my home school Mommy hat and improvise.

I set up two work stations for the boys to make the pumpkin pies....

Lucas and Gabe did a great job and were very willing to don their aprons and roll up their sleeves to help out.  Those pies are now baked and finished and ready for whipped cream tomorrow!

Next, I put Molly on apple pie duty.....

Grandpa's apples....very organic, very nature intended!

I worked the corer, peeler, slicer; but Jane came over to crank the last two apples through.  She was so proud of herself for helping.  *Note to self:  teach Molly how to level off using a straight edge and not her finger!!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Haciendo Caldo: Break from the Prep

I figure I can't really make any Pre-Thanksgiving foods today.  Tomorrow will be a whirlwind with pie and mashed potato baking.  I'll put the stuffing together and get the second turkey ready for roasting on Thursday.

But today I was being a bit nostalgic.....tear-jerker alert for my sisters and my Mom.....

I was thinking of the times when it would be so cold at the farm where my dad worked for 16 years. There was nothing out there to do because of snow or high winds so Dad would get the day off and head home before we were out for school.  He would usually make a big pot of beef soup....caldo....for when we got home.

It was the perfect soup!  He used beef short ribs braised in oil and added potatoes, veggies, water or broth, seasonings, and finally cabbage.  We would eat this with saltine crackers.  He wouldn't add salt because of the saltines.  I would line my crackers around the edges of my bowl and allow them to soak up the broth, pick them up, and watch them drop back into the bowl.  It was saltine and soup mush that was so yummy!

To make this soup, I used 4 quarts of the beef broth I made last week.

Isn't that a great color?!
 Next, I added 2 stalks of chopped celery, 1 chopped onion, 2 cups of sliced carrots.....

and 2 pint sized jars of canned, stewed tomatoes.

I also didn't have the heart to feed the beef from the soup bones I made the stock out of to the dog.  So I bagged it up and thought I'd use it later.  I added about 1 1/2 lbs. of beef to the pot along with 6 potatoes I cut into large chunks.

I brought the whole thing to a rolling boil, reduced the heat, and am letting it simmer for about 35 minutes until the potatoes and carrots are cooked through.  After that I'll add about a 1/2 head of roughly cut up cabbage.  You could shred the cabbage, but I like large cabbage pieces in my soup.

To this wonderful pot of yumminess, I'll add a side of cornbread made from scratch.  This will ensure that the picky eaters who won't eat soup will at least eat cornbread for supper....sneaky Mommy!

I just put my nose up to the pot to take a little sniff, and I was so happy.  It smells just like my Dad's caldo.  It felt like a big hug from him!

¡Buen Provecho!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Still in the Kitchen: Pre-Thanksgiving Prep

Today, Nick and I decided to do a little experimenting.  I bought a bag of cranberries yesterday and wanted to make up the sauce in advance.  However, after this batch, I've decided to buy 2-3 more bags and run it all through my sauce maker.  I plan to put the sauce in jars and store it in the fridge so it will gel.  I know the longer I leave it sit, the more jellied it will become.

Oh, and here is the stock festering away!  It has an awesome color and aroma.  Lo and behold, I found several references to Nourishing Traditions' stock recipes and tips.  I rarely get that book out, but now I'm even more informed about gut health.  Who knew?  Anyway, I'm so tempted to stop the process and make soup.  However, the book says the longer you let it sit and stew, the better.  But I'm so impatient!!!!!


Time to run around with the kids so I'm saved by my erratic schedule once again.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Keeping Busy: Pre-Thanksgiving Prep

I've found that keeping busy usually helps with the nausea.  It probably just helps to keep my mind off of feeling terrible.  I also have a lot to do so it all works well together.  I've been excited to be in the kitchen.  I've always found it very therapeutic and something about making food for Paul and the kids always makes me feel like a better mother.

Yesterday, I was feeling the morning.  Usually the nausea doesn't hit until after lunch, but yesterday I was slammed right around 10 in the morning.  I quick called Nick over to the kitchen, handed him his apron, and told him we were going to bake something.  He hopped up on the counter top and proceeded to narrate as I worked.  He's a great kitchen sidekick!  We whipped up 6 pie crusts, 4 loaves of bread, and prepared our roll dough.  I froze the shaped roll dough after several internet searches assuring me I can thaw the dough over night in the fridge and let it rise the next day as normal.  We'll just see if that all works out!

Today, I decided I'm too early to start baking any pies.  I think I'll wait a few more days before baking and freezing the pecan pie.  The apple and pumpkin pies will be made the day of or the day before.  I plan to roast the turkey on Sunday, and I bought a smaller turkey for roasting the day of just so there's roast turkey smell in the house.  Yum!

A couple months back, I made the decision to buy a quarter of beef to have in the freezer.  It was a great deal for all the poundage I purchased.  Unfortunately, I received six packs of soup bones to which Paul was ultimately disgusted.  What do you do with soup bones?  I decided to pull the packages and prepare for making a huge batch of beef bone stock.  After more internet searches, I am finding out there is a lot of nutritive value to beef broth.  Not to mention you can have your own broth on hand for soups and stews.  I'm all for that!  I figure I can also can it and squirrel it away to use later or even MUCH later.

The bottle of Malbec in the background (Argentinian Wine) was opened on Sunday.  I served it with braised beef short ribs since Monica was doing a presentation on Argentina for Spanish class.  Who says you can't do "homeschoolish" things with a public school kid?
Since I have six packages of bones, I'll roast them in the oven to get them nice and browned, but I'll make the broth in my stock pot. I was so drawn to using the crock pot to make the stock since it's out of the way, so to speak.  However, with this many bones, I think the stockpot is the better way to go.  I'm excited to see the product.

Likewise, I am in desperate need of poultry broth for my gravy and stuffing for next week.  Thankfully, I'm roasting the turkey on Sunday.  That should give me plenty of time to debone the turkey and make more stock!

I tell you, it's been awesome having kids in school and two at home that basically homeschool themselves.  I have time during the day to bear my nausea, read, and slave away in the kitchen.  Oh, I also get ample time to do laundry, clean, and do a lot of the administrative stuff of running a household.  Phew!  Imagine all the time I have!

All kidding aside, I really do love to be in the kitchen and at home.  Homemaking is definitely my bailiwick. I really do find great joy and satisfaction in it.  I'm also getting super excited for our newest addition.  When I look at the other kids and marvel at the amazing people they are, I get so excited to have another sweet flower in our field.  The girls are beautiful and talented and the boys are affectionate, handy, and skilled.  Even Nick with his "Dark Evader" apron is a help to me.  Even if he can't say Darth Vader, it's something I'll be mumbling in my 90's remembering the gems of my homemaking and motherhood!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Food, Food, Food

It seems food has always plagued mankind and never so much as it plagues me now.  I'm used to cooking for for meals, making bread, canning, and bulk cooking for the week.  Last Monday was no exception so I decided to make scalloped potatoes for dinner along with steaks.  I received a mandoline slicer for Christmas last year and have only used it a handful of times.  It's perfect for slicing potatoes, cucumbers, and making julienne strips for stir fries.  I was into a groove with the slicing when all of a sudden I felt my fourth finger on my right hand throb.  I sliced it clear across the middle only to be stopped by my nail.  It was horrendously painful and the blood, oh the blood.  I yelled at Paul to bring me a steri strip to pull it back together.  I was in no way going to go to Urgent Care for stitches.  We finally got the bleeding to stop and while I waited for another bandage to cover the whole thing up, my eyes glanced down to see the damage.  I suddenly felt woozy and spun around to toss my chips in the sink.  I didn't, but my knees buckled, my hearing started to fade, and I was blacking out.  Paul caught me, set me in a chair, and I proceeded to rest.  It was freaky scary sitting there not being able to move my arms, legs, faintly hearing things at a distance, and sweating.  I had broken out into a horrible sweat all over my face.  I was going into shock.  Paul quickly called 911 and within 5 minutes the paramedics were in my kitchen.  I could hear them, but I couldn't open my eyes.  They checked my blood sugar, oxygen intake, blood pressure, and my pulse.  They assessed that I had indeed gone into shock, but my blood and sugar levels were returning to normal.  They asked if I wanted to go to the hospital, but I just wanted to go up to my room.


Ever since that Monday, I've had the worst week of nausea.  I know nausea is a good thing meaning the hormones for the baby are all there and that things are working well, but wow would I be grateful to turn a corner with this.  Since I do follow a food plan, we had to make major adjustments to my meals fitting in more snacks so that my eating could happen every 2 hours.  I was only eating 5 times a day last week.  This week, I'm eating 8 times.  That adjustment has helped tremendously.  I feel a bit of nausea so I look at my plan and eat what's on it.  It's amazing to be so in tune with my body.  I know my midwives aren't going to believe me when I say I don't eat sugar unless it's listed 5th or higher on an ingredient label.  They didn't believe me with the last 2 pregnancies.  But they do like that I can pinpoint exactly what I've eaten and what makes me sick or feel well.

So far these are the things that are working:

Proteins (cheese, eggs, taco meat, steak, lunch meat)
Starches (rye bread, rice crackers, potatoes, corn tortillas, tortilla chips, Lawash wraps, oatmeal)
Veggies (salads, pickles, green beans, carrots, raw mushrooms, V-8)
Fruits (apples, bananas, raisins, oranges, applesauce)
Fats (almonds, pecans, coconut oil, avocado)
I also stopped eating yogurt for my dairy and have two 8 oz. glasses of milk per day.

I'm having 11 oz. of protein, 10 starches, 4 veggies, 6 fruits, and 7 fats per day.  I wanted to catalogue this here so I can remember what has worked for me at this stage of pregnancy.  I've never done this before, but maybe my girls might find it helpful in the future.  I guess I'm in my 6th week so I have a bit until I'm out of the first trimester.

I can't say enough about the oatmeal I eat.  I could eat it the whole day through, and I pretty much do!  We're now in our 3rd order of a 50 lb. sack of steel cut oats.  We make them overnight in a small crockpot that is dedicated for that purpose.  I have 8 oz. of oatmeal with 2 tablespoons of raisins, and 7 grams of coconut butter.  I've had offers to buy coconut butter in bulk from a friend, but we just get ours from Costco.  I love the aromatic smell and the taste is incredible!  To that little bowl of awesomeness, I add a bit of cinnamon and slip into the most comforting of comfort foods.  I've told Paul many times that it feels like a big hug!

So that's what's been quasi-working for me lately.  I also started taking Zofran yesterday for the nausea.  I really want to control things with just the food, but sometimes the nausea is too much to take, and I end up shivering in my bed like I have the flu.  It's that crippling.

As far as beverages go, I've been drinking lots of tap water, ginger tea, cinnamon tea, chamomile tea, and I have one 7-up per day.

Hopefully, things will change for the better.  For now, I'm trying to listen to my body and speak up about what is working and what isn't.
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