Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Celebrating Life

I am so blessed. There is simply nothing like a couple of great birthday celebrations to make a girl feel super special and blessed. Seriously, I can only thank God for the amazing people in my life that I get to share this journey with. It's so exciting to see how God has worked and brought me to where I am right now, the people that I've been blessed to know in the past and then think about all the great relationships that I get to continue into the future. Life is so short and if I'm allowed another great birthday in this world I only hope that I can bless others as much as I have been blessed. Thank You Jesus!

My mom brought me this giant balloon yesterday. It's quite ridiculous and amazing. We had dinner at my house and I made some really great loaded sweet potato soup. The recipe can be found at one of my most recent favorite blogs, here. I used a great combo of grass-fed beef sausage with sweet potatoes and acorn squash. It was fabulous with the added coconut milk and bacon on top. 

Mom even made my requested gluten-free carrot cake cupcakes. Although they weren't quite as good as the amazing carrot cake that my former boss/advisor/mentor made for me in the bake lab, I'm thinking they're awesome in a whole new way. First of all, gluten free, made with almond flour and a ton less sugar is involved in the making of these cupcakes. They're fabulous! Recipe for those can be found here.

All in all, great day. Much thanks to the ladies I work with for the great birthday lunch and my parents and friends for the great birthday dinner. Much more thanksgiving to Jesus for all my blessings!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

DIY: Venison Jerky

I'm getting ready to embark on a wild, grand, amazing adventure. This involves a whole lot of trust in Jesus for the details to figure themselves out. More on that adventure coming soon, but in the meantime I'm gearing up for the trip by preparing myself with some healthy snacks.

I just completed a great batch of homemade, no nitrate, all-natural VENISON JERKY! It is oh so good and inspired by this post. I've actually made homemade jerky before but it's been a while and in that jerky I used those packets of cure and seasonings that came in a box. The same seasonings are still hanging out in the farm's pantry, but after I read the ingredients, I decided heck to the no will I put all that crap in my jerky.

Here's what went into mine:

Batch #1: Chipotle style

  • 1.75 pounds ground venison
  • 1 Tablespoon salt, (Preferably sea salt, but I used canning and pickling salt)
  • 1 Tablespoon chipotle spice rub, (mixture of salt, brown sugar, chili pepper, garlic, onion, etc.)
  • 1/2 Tablespoon smoked black pepper
  • Several dashes of smoked paprika
Batch #2: Italian style
  • 1.75 pounds ground venison
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon oregano
  • 1 Tablespoon basil
  • 1/2 Tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 Tablespoon smoked pepper
I mixed these both up by hand and pressed into a rimmed baking sheet. I then used a piece of wax paper over top of them and a rolling pin to roll out to about a 1/4 inch thickness. These then went into the oven set at the lowest temperature possible, 170 degrees for me. I left them in the oven overnight for about 8 hours, got up this morning and flipped them and let go for another 2 hours. It really depends on how thick the meat is as to how long they will take. Remember after taking them out of the oven and cooling they dry out and harden even more. 

These are super tasty and I'm excited for my meaty treat perfect for a long traveling road trip!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Bean Burger Salad

A very tasty dinner I enjoyed this past week of my homemade black bean burger atop a nice bed of romaine with my very own sprouts and pickled summer squash. Topped with an amazing slice of raw milk pepperjack cheese, this meal was fabulous. I must say that since attempting to eliminate gluten and greatly reduce all grains in my diet I have been enjoying more meat and veggies. This bean burger does have some quinoa and corn meal in it, but overall this is a great way to dine on a burger without the gluten bun!
Good eating!

Sunday, February 19, 2012


I had my first experience making my own kefir this week. It went splendidly and I am quite proud of my ability to do more with less! Kefir is an amazing fermented milk product that contains great beneficial bacteria and pro-biotics. Since it is fermented much of the lactose in milk is digested, making it more easily digestible for lactose intolerant people. I enjoy it simply because it is kinda like a super-food and is so good for my digestive system. Remember healthy bacteria in our digestive tract is important, we want it there!

Kefir production requires the use of kefir grains, which are not really grains at all but tiny cauliflower looking like culture. These are submerged in the milk and allowed to sit at room temperature for about 24 hours or until sufficiently fermented to your liking. The grains are then strained out and you have great kefir ready for consumption. I have been enjoying my raw whole milk for my kefir and feel so great drinking this amazingly healthful substance in my smoothies!

My kefir grains!

Fermenting overnight in my cupboard.
Although I could easily buy kefir from the grocery store or even from my new favorite farm store I am still saving much money by making my own. The average price of a quart of kefir in store: $3.50- $4.00
The price I pay for amazing raw whole milk: $4.00/ half gallon. Price for kefir grains: free from a friend! Price of my raw whole milk kefir $2.00/quart. Savings! Plus I get the added bonus of knowing it is super fresh!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Feel the Love!

YOU are an amazing beautiful creation of God. Perfectly created just the way you are. You are special, kind, smart, and very important. Don't ever forget that.

I had the amazing opportunity to celebrate this Valentine's Day with some beautiful perfect ladies. We had a grand time. It most definitely involved chocolate, carrots, and crafts! We like to keep things balanced and we definitely laughed a lot. It really was a fabulous evening and I'm so thankful for these ladies in my life!

 Our snacking spread involved these lovely brownies: Grain-free Zucchini Brownies. I was a little apprehensive about my zucchini brownies with little to no added sugar or fat, but the natural sugar of honey and zucchini came out nicely in addition to the almond/peanut butter combo I used. I also added 2 T. of cocoa powder to the mix.

My dear Jamie made this lovely chocolate concoction. It had a chocolate shortbread layer on bottom with a raspberry jam middle and ganache on top. The best part was definitely the chocolate red wine ganache layer on top. Delightful!

The fancy attempt didn't turn out too well.
Getting crafty. We made the t-shirt headbands described here.

Even getting out the sewing machine on our ladies night!

Love Love Love!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Crafty Creations

I have really enjoyed the greatness of pinterest and the ability to "pin" projects, ideas, recipes, etc. all in the same place for easy and convenient viewing at another time. I recently took the time to actually complete some of my pin project ideas. So exciting!

While out at the farm, I found my mother's collection of antique graters that were stuck in hiding. Absolutely love my new organized method of storing my earrings! So handy.

Additionally I was able to recycle some old t-shirt pieces that I kept from the t-shirt quilt that I made. I knew they could be used for something else and I decided to tackle the 5-braid headband. I almost felt like I was braiding dough for our 5 braid pretty bread loaf in the bakery. Almost.

I think that some of my lady friends are going to make more tomorrow when we gather and celebrate being beautiful independent singles ladies. Good thing I have a plethora of t-shirts to cut up!

But basically cut into five strips about double the circumference of your head. Then sew those together.

Get your five braid action going. Sew it together at the end and connect your ends. Make sure it's smaller than your head, but quite a bit because it stretches. I think my first band is too big. I'll make the next one smaller.

Love it!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Basement beginnings

Oh the things that go down in basements, treasures I tell you! I decided to go ahead and plant the remaining seeds that I have from the past two years, so this was the first weekend to think about starting my cool season crops. I am fully aware that seed does stay good for much more than 2-3 years so it's now or never for most of it. Although I haven't had the greatest luck with my own seedlings the past two years, I still end up saving a ton of money by starting my own seeds so I decided to go for it again. As I ventured down to the basement to set up my system of grow lights and warming pads I had to do a bit of organizing first. Although last year's growing season was the worst ever we still manage to have a stockpile of canned goods. Basically, in the event of a natural disaster we are going to survive on disgusting looking plums, pears of all forms, pickled products, and some salsa. It could be interesting eating. 

But onward with the anticipation of a GREAT growing season this year. Seriously, if I don't get any tomatoes this year I will be moving somewhere where it's not 100 degrees 24/7 for two months in a row. Please dear Lord provide just enough heat but not too much!

I started seed for cabbage, brussel sprouts, and lettuce! The beginnings of my garden season, so exciting!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Super Stew

I was super excited to try my very first package of grass-fed beef sausage. It went into this amazing pot of Sweet Potato Lentil Stew. 

Start with one onion and 1 lb sausage. Brown.
Add one small can mushrooms and one large sweet potato.
Add a can of crushed tomatoes and 1 cup lentils to the mix.
Add about 8 cups of chicken/veggie broth to the pot. Bring to a boil.
Then simmer for 15 minutes until lentils are cooked and potatoes tender.
Don't forget 2t. cumin, 1t. paprika, 1/2t. garlic pwd, 1/2t. pepper,
1/2t. chili pwd & 1/2t. rosemary

Add about 3 cups of chopped kale or other green and let sit for 5 min.

Lookin' good!

Oh so tasty on this cold winter day!

Friday, February 10, 2012


I have recently been enjoying using pinterest to mark specific recipes and projects that I want to complete. I often look at the lists we all create and wonder how many of us spend a ridiculous amount of time looking at things to do and then never actually do them. I think that in general we are really good at dreaming but not so great at the execution. I actually completed one of recipes to try! I'm proud. It's true.

Homemade toothpaste, inspired by this blog post

This is how my homemade toothpaste went down:
 Combine 5 parts Calcium powder,
2 parts baking soda
1 part castile soap (I used peppermint)
5 parts coconut oil (I had to melt it before adding)
I was a little apprehensive about this toothpaste because I didn't have the xylitol which is a sweetener. However, right after mixing it up I went and brushed with it and it was quite tolerable. Definitely not the super sudsy minty fresh feeling that we are all used to with typical toothpaste, but I feel so much better knowing exactly what I putting in my mouth!

Update: I bought the wrong kind of coconut oil. You must buy the unrefined coconut oil and it must not be completely solid at room temperature otherwise you will end up with a block of toothpaste. I'm not sure whether it's the refining process or what but my coconut oil was solid so I melted it, but when left my toothpaste became a toothpaste block, not so great. We're going to have to try this again. :(

Monday, February 6, 2012

Powered Up

This past week I had the great opportunity to take part in a Big Rural Brainstorm. This gathering of 200 individuals from across the state of Kansas was meant to be a giant collection of brainstorming sessions to spur one another on toward great works in the state of Kansas. It was a remarkably inspiring event that made me so proud to be a rural Kansan by choice.

This group included Kansans from all age ranges gathered together with one purpose, get really freaking excited about Kansas and inspire one another to go make their hometowns awesome! We can't solve all the rural issues by ourselves, sometimes we need the help and encouragement of other rural Kansans to get things done. I was a part of the group called PowerUps. This would be people between the ages of 21-39 who are rural by choice. I never really thought of it that way, but I am definitely rural by choice. Although there are many days when I feel like running away I am indeed rural by choice.

Reasons I am rural by choice:

  • I don't feel the need to lock my car in my rural town.
  • I never lock up my bike at home or around town.
  • I know my neighbors and sometimes invite myself over.
  • If my front door gets left open all day, my neighbors call me to let me know.
  • My landlord is kinda like my grandpa.
  • When my picture is in the newspaper, my students let me know they saw it.
  • I know my city commissioners and they know me.
  • My car insurance is much cheaper.
  • I have plenty of space to have a garden in my back yard.
  • People generally know all my business and I'm okay with that.
  • I get unobstructed views of the sunrise and sunset on a regular basis.
  • My commute to work is one mile and I am able to ride my bike.
We left the conference with at least one thought regarding what we could take away from the event. In general I was able to take away a greater appreciation for my rural hometown. We live in a great state and although it has much need for improvement to make it even greater I am proud to be a Kansan. My rural action commitment involves educating myself more about my rural town and other great rural destination places in Kansas. Then when I am able to host couchsurfers and others passing through the state, I can be a more informed Kansan and perhaps entice them to stay a while and spend some money in Kansas!

Are you proud to be rural or proud to be urban? What makes you excited about where you live?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Waiting for kraut

Earlier this week I got upset because I could not get into the home preserved jar of sauerkraut. I went to the fridge, took the jar out, and realized why it was still in there. Because I couldn't open the freakin jar. It was super frustrating to be unable to budge the metal clamp that keeps the glass lid on. I literally thought I was going to break my fingers trying to pry it off. So yesterday when I was at the farm I enlisted the help of my father and I finally got into the jar of sauerkraut! It was so worth the effort and wait.

I ate sauerkraut for breakfast this morning. I added it to my potatoes and onions for a nice addition to my morning eggs. Wonderful. Lately I've been loving my turmeric and paprika spices on my breakfast skillet so that is why my picture is quite yellow. A nice thick piece of raw cheddar goes on top for a fine breakfast feast!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Smoothie Love

I love smoothies and I love my new tablecloth. I managed to confiscate such tablecloth from the deepest hiding place in a long lost cabinet shelf at the farm. I'm pretty sure that my grandmother made this tablecloth from sherry-like towel material. It's fabulous and it needed to see the light of day so it's on my table now. Thanks Grandma!

The past couple of weeks have been smoothie heaven for me. These two weeks in my kids classes we have been making two different smoothies. I normally would prepare the same food sampling in all of the classes of a particular curriculum but I decided that 11 classrooms with the same food prep would get boring for me so I decided to try two different smoothie recipes. So the smoothies I've been enjoying with the 2nd graders include:

Power-Up Smoothie 
1 banana
1 1/4 cup Orange Juice
1 1/4 cup frozen mixed berries
1/2 cup silken tofu

Soy-Good Chocolate Banana Smoothie
1 banana- sliced and frozen
1/2 cup silken tofu
1/2 cup soymilk
2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 Tablespoon honey

These have gone over really well with the kids, although initially they freak out about eating tofu. I'll be honest, tofu is not that appetizing to look at plain, but blend it up in a smoothie and you have a great source of added protein that you don't taste at all! 

Now for the smoothies I've been making for myself for breakfast and/or lunch include a random mixture of the following:
  • Whole raw milk Yogurt and/or Kefir
  • Hemp protein powder
  • Flax seed
  • Frozen berries
  • Splash of OJ
  • Kale!

Smoothies are so great because as you can see you can put whatever you want into them. Just be sure to keep the added sugar (including juice) to a minimum.