Friday, January 30, 2009

I imn't nuts

I had some major cabin fever last year - Sandy of LCCK recommended Vitamin D (as did my mother). Because of their advice, I decided to do a pre-emptive strike and have been taking a Vitamin D supplement sporadically and Cod Liver Oil everyday (CLO has vitamins A & D, and is high in omega 3's) throughout the year. Squeeze won't touch the CLO, but takes the vit. D every day. Good boy. So while I know it is only January, the weather has been -10 to -20 for the last month and because of that, we've been plenty cooped -- and I just wanted to do a little check-in and say: I'm feeling GREAT! Seriously - very optimistic, and even enjoying the endlessly snowy days. Especially the bright and sunshine-y snowy days.

The reason I brought this up is because a couple of people within the last week have inquired if I was going totally nuts, which I hadn't been thinking about at all. Not noticing that we are cooped has led me to the conclusion that I am feeling very balanced this winter, and that feels very good. In fact, I've been downright snug and happy. I think I have my Cod Liver Oil to thank. I give it to the boys as well - they clambor over each other to get their spoonful and beg for more. (We take the mint-flavored kind, which isn't very minty at all - it is actually almost a non-flavor, if that is possible.)

We have also noticed that our family has been a lot healthier this winter - any sickness we have had has been mild and fleeting, which was NOT the case last year during the cold/flu season. I've wondered if Cod Liver Oil has something to do with our total well-being. The only other difference is the eggs we are eating: our own chickens vs. store-bought. [And...I suppose I am soaking all of our grains vs. none at all. They do say that overall health lies within our gut.]

And finally, the "imn't" in this post title is a shout-out to my dear Diego, who invented the word and uses it regularly.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Home Birth Safety Act

The legislative season has started in SD again, so much of my computer time is taken up with following and promoting and defending the Home Birth Safety Act. Last year, the state passed a bill that allows Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM) to attend homebirths, which was a strong step in the right direction. (Though very disappointing at the time.)

The problem? Roughly 1% of CNMs nationwide work in a homebirth setting. The rest of CNMs practice in the hospital setting. There is one CNM in the state of SD that attends homebirths. She had been fighting for years to make it legal, and finally - in June 2008 - was able to move her practice from WY back to SD, where she lives. Bless her.

So this year, the legislature is being lobbied to take the next step: certifying Certified Professional Midwives (CPM), who specialize in homebirths. This is their realm of expertise. That is what they do: attend homebirths. You may remember last winter, when I was all whooped up about this issue. Yes?

Currently, in the state of SD, CPMs are prosecuted and jailed for attending a homebirth. SD is one of nine states who follow that path. Can you believe it? It seems outrageous, but it is true. My very own midwife, whom we worked with this last pregnancy, is from SD and has served jail-time for assisting births in a home-setting. She was arrested for "practicing medicine without a license". She now works exclusively over the MN border until the laws change. In MN, CPMs are protected through state law.

The medical lobby is very strong in SD. But the fact remains: women and their families deserve the right to choose the care provider of their choice.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Eggy Oatmeal for the Three E's

The original recipe called for 1/2 cup rolled oats, 1/2 cup water and 1 egg. I'm pretty sure that I did 1 egg to 1 cup soaked steel-cut oats. I am going to try a smaller ratio tomorrow to see how it turns out.

Steel-cut oats are a whole grain, and therefore superior to rolled oats. Rolled oats are not a whole grain, though better than "instant" oats from which the nutritional value has been all but destroyed by high-heat processing. Why soak them? Like beans, soaking grains makes them more digestible, making the nutrients more available to our systems. They also cook much more quickly. The general rule for soaking oats (or brown rice, for that matter) is 7 hours. Perfect for overnight! It takes a little planning, but the amount of work is laughable.

[For more information on soaking grains, check out Nourishing Traditions from your local library. The basic run-down of nutrition and nutrient-dense foods at the beginning of the book is fascinating.]

Eggy Oatmeal

  • 1-2 cups steel-cut oats
  • Water to cover
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2-4 eggs


  • Soak steel-cut oats in filtered water overnight
  • The next morning: cover with water and bring oats to a boil, then simmer on low
  • Meanwhile, warm the eggs in warm/hot tap water
  • Once the oatmeal is fully cooked, crack the eggs and drop them into the hot oatmeal
  • Stir with a fork
  • Serve with butter and honey, or butter and applesauce and yogurt

Cook's Note:

I usually make enough oatmeal to last for at least two breakfasts. The day after, I just put the oatmeal into a pot with a little water and heat it up. It saves on a lot of forethought to do this! Also, the purpose for warming the eggs is to allow them to blend better with the oatmeal. If they are cold, your Eggy Oatmeal is going to look more like fried rice.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Real Milk: curds and whey, and butter-making

I recently found a source for raw milk.  It is delicious. Diego calls it "creamy milk" and I've been drinking it with cooled earl grey tea, which makes for such a sweet and spicy treat. 

I have also been making curds and whey and have made butter with the ripened cream.  Instructions are below.


1/12/12 Note: Edited for clarity and accumulated experience. This post gets so many hits that I wanted to make it more user-friendly.

Allow the raw milk sit out for 1-4 days in a bowl until the curds visibly separate from the whey. You can do this without fear of spoilage because the lactic acid in the milk breaks down the lactose and the milk will begin to ferment.

The cream will rise to the top and thicken.  Scrape (or spoon) this off the second day or so.  Underneath, the milk may look either liquid or solid.  If it is solid, your curds have started to set.

On my first attempt I was still unable to tell the difference between the curds and whey by the fourth day.  I stirred it up a bit, then saw it: the whey is a yellowish liquid and the curds are more solid and white.  If this isn't the case for you, let it sit another day or so.  The fermentation process is slower in cooler temps; conversely, the warmer it is, the quicker it will ferment.  It pays to check it each day.

When the milk has fermented sufficiently, dump the the contents into a clean dish towel secured over a large container, then hang, allowing it to drip. Don't squeeze - just let the contents hang until it stops dripping. This usually takes a couple of days and you may have to remove the accumulated whey to make room for more. The goal is to reduce the water content slowly.

Whey dripping from the curds

Once it stops dripping, you will have a container of liquid yellow whey, and in your hanging towel, solid white curds. The curds will have reduced in size and water content significantly. It is now homemade cream cheese.

Pick the lump of cream cheese off the towel and put it in a glass dish for storage.  This should keep for several weeks as-is.  Scrape the extra bits off the towel.  Put the whey in a glass jar for cold storage.  This will keep indefinitely; you will use it before it goes bad.

The reduced curds and whey

The whey can be used in conjunction with salt to ferment vegetables.  It can also be used as a preserving force to add shelf-life to homemade mayonnaise or ketchup. Or use it to soak grains and legumes, as the acidic medium to neutralize phytates, adding 1-2 tablespoons to the soaking water.

The cream cheese reminds me of goat cheese.  I've been eating it with dill flat bread . . . delicious.  It can also be added to soups or other dishes, adding a nice tang.

I followed the instructions from Nourishing Traditions to make curds and whey.


When the cream ripens, it looks not unlike sour cream. I put it in the blender and blended it on and off, on and off - giving it time to rest - until it thickened even more (and began to look like butter). I then scraped it out into a bowl with ice-cold water and "paddled" it with two flat wooden spoons until the water ran clear.

I salted it, and, my, my...we ate it with dinner than night and it was unbelievably delicious. So soft and tasty. It beat store-bought butter hands-down. I couldn't believe it.

One-half gallon of milk yielded the equivalent of one-half stick of butter. Like my MIL said, "No wonder why butter is so expensive!"

To make the butter, I referenced The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It as well as following butter-related conversation on my Traditional Foods yahoo group.

* * * * *

A few people have recently questioned me on how I have time for experiments like these with two little ones. I have already responded to them, but I thought I would add my conclusions here as well.

First off, I do pretty much all my experimentation while Squeeze is home. Enough said.

Secondly, cooking from scratch is both a mindset and a lifestyle. It does take planning, and though I am long past the point of no return, I don't make allowances or keep processed foods in the house. Processed "food" just doesn't taste good - and there are many, many recipes that are quick and easy to make (and I keep a lot of soups on hand for last-minute eats).

Finally, I am driven by enthusiasm and curiosity. It means a lot to me to feed my family nutritionally-dense foods.  But even more than that, I enjoy eating REAL food. Junk leaves me unsatisfied and unhappy.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Diego this, Diego that - and Special Oatmeal

Diego had a quick fever-and-vomiting spell yesterday. It lasted from early afternoon through the evening, starting with complaints that his head hurt - a first. I gave him a warm bath with lavendar oil; he drank chamomille tea and had a slight temp at 100.2 and pecked at his lunch. He took an early nap and his temp was 101.7 upon wakening; then laid around listlessly and eventually threw up in early evening; and with that, his fever began to subside.

I found great comfort in my children's home health reference book: Naturally Healthy Babies and Children by Aviva-Jill Romm. Instead of feeling frazzled and mystified by his sickness, I was able approach it calmly and recognize that his fever was actually a good thing - creating an environment inhospitable to bacteria and stimulating his immune system. Perhaps some of my calmness was also afforded by experience, but I give major credit to Romm's book. It is filled with practical advice and insight, home remedies, encouragement, and best of all, it is specifically geared for children. If you have children, I highly recommend this book.

Another issue we've had recently is Diego refusing to eat eggs in any form. He says they want to make him gag. Funny, because he used to steal eggs right off my plate and beg for more. But such is the way with younglings: I'm not going to force him eat anything, though we do a form of the "No thank you bite", which I think is a terrific idea. I've read that it can take a child 12 times tasting a new food before they accept it. I find it too easy to just give up, but I've resolved to continue with asking him to take one bite of something, then being able to choose whether he will eat it or not. This kid is going to like squash (some day).

Back to eggs: I ran into the most fantastic idea this weekend. Oatmeal with eggs mixed in! I found it in Real Food for Healthy Kids, a book I have on loan from the library. It is a pretty good book, they opt for organic and even mention locally produced foods, but I cannot abide for their recommendations to keep things low-fat. Ay! Children need good fats for growing, and I cannot understand why we are still not over the outdated mantra of low-fat everything. I don't buy it. Whole milk, butter, full-fat yogurt and sour cream, olive oil, coconut oil, and yes, lard. Everyone needs fat; but especially growing kids.

Nevertheless, RFfHK was a good brain-stormer, providing lots of ideas to expand mealtime endevours. It is way too easy to get stuck in a rut. They describe the oatmeal with eggs as "custardy" and it most certainly was. I thought it even smelled a little like waffles. Eggy-oatmeal is an extra bonus for me, because I have always needed breakfast protein. The days of cold cereal always felt me feeling a little sickly and over-hungry by mid-morning. I still can't eat 'just' oatmeal for breakfast, unless I load it down with walnuts or almonds. I need the staying power of protein.

So...I soaked steel-cut oats overnight (soaking grains makes them more digestable, just like beans, and they cook up SO much faster), and warmed the eggs in the shell in tap water prior to stirring them into the fully-cooked oatmeal. Breakfast was served with bit of butter, apple sauce, and plain yogurt mixed in. I called it Special Oatmeal - Diego has a special fondness for oatmeal, so Special Oatmeal was very exciting indeed. He wolfed it down and didn't know the difference. I did tell him that Special Oatmeal has eggs mixed in - but he didn't buy it and asked for more this morning.

I am so pleased to have found a tasty way to get more good-fat and protein-packed eggs into his diet. The more I parent, the more I learn.

Thursday, January 08, 2009


I was so mesmerized by this cabbage:
I cut it open for soup this weekend
and felt sorry that I couldn't stare
at it forever

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Patience as a goal, and a check-in on anger

Patience is a virtue - and one I feel that, at times, I have a tenuous grasp on. Motherhood pushes patience to the limits, of course, and that is exactly the reason why I'd like to cultivate it in my life. I suppose letting go of selfishness is part of the process, but what else? Counting to 10? Cooling off alone? Explaining yourself? These things have worked for me some of the time...

I find that there is a strange dichotomy within myself: at times, my self-control and endurance is deep, while other is all I can do to control my irritation. And therefore, this very thing - growing patience within myself - is my next big personal goal, now that I am gaining ground on anger and better at understanding (and dealing with) it in my life.

Angrrrrr ---
I feel like I have done very well working towards identifying and understanding negative feelings, gut instincts, and anger flashes since reading The Dance of Anger and pondering it within my own life.

This has been huge. As a spouse, I can be a terribly frustrating person to argue with at times; because I can be very confused and confusing, with looping arguments and seemingly incongruent ideas and opinions. With a this-or-that and cut-and-dried sparring partner, spouse or otherwise, it can be a nightmare. I am learning how to say, "Hold on a minute...let me figure that out" during disagreements and better yet, to be able to mentally/emotionally grasp what I'm feeling before I open my mouth.

But best of all, instead of feeling grouchy about an upsetting feeling, say an unhappy gut reaction to something, I am learning to say to myself, "Why?" and then give myself an answer. I feel so much freedom with that: instead of paddling in a pond of confusion, I am learning to get out of the water and walk on dry land. And that, my friends, is quite refreshing.

Friday, January 02, 2009

I'm reading like a madwoman

You haven't heard from me all week because I am obsessively reading through No Logo during any and all spare time. I consider myself a fairly quick reader, but when the book is 500 pages thick, and filled with lots of gnaw on, combined with about an hour of reading time per day (more or less) takes a bit of time.

Bit by bit, this book is blowing my mind. It is, without a doubt, a force to be reckoned with.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

2008 Booklist: Completed

  • Chez Panisse Vegetables - Alice Waters
  • The Heirloom Tomato From Garden to Table: Recipes, Portraits, and History of the World's Most Beautiful Fruit - Amy Goldman, Photographs by Victor Schrager
  • The Read-Aloud Handbook - Jim Trelease (2007 Edition)
  • The Compleat Squash: A Passionate Grower's Guide to Pumpkins, Squashes, and Gourds -Amy Goldman
  • Good Poems: Selected and Introduced by Garrison Keillor
  • Sugar Blues - William Dufty
  • The Music of Failure - Bill Holm
  • Mable Riley: A Reliable Record of Humdrum, Peril, and Romance - Marthe Jocelyn
  • The Read-Aloud Handbook - Jim Trelease (1983 Edition)
  • The Dead Get By With Everything - poems by Bill Holm
  • Shipwrecked! The True Adventures of a Japanese Boy - Shoda Blumberg
  • Author Talk - Compiled and Edited by Leonard S. Marcus
  • Boxelder Bug Variations: A Meditation on an Idea in Language and Music - Bill Holm
  • The Happiest Toddler on the Block - Harvey Karp
  • Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health - Toni Weschler
  • Writings to Young Women from Laura Ingalls Wilder: On Wisdom and Virtues - Laura Ingalls Wilder, edited by Stephen Hines
  • Writings to Young Women from Laura Ingalls Wilder: On Life as a Pioneer Woman - Laura Ingalls Wilder, edited by Stephen Hines
  • Positive Discipline for Preschoolers - Nelsen, Erwin, & Duffy
  • The Dance of Anger: A Woman's Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships - Harriet Lerner, Ph.D.
  • Many Thousand Gone: African Americans from Slavery to Freedom - Virginia Hamilton, Illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon
  • Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care - Jennifer Block
  • In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto - Michael Pollan
  • The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals - Michael Pollan
  • Plain Secrets: An Outsider among the Amish - Joe Mackall
  • Storey's Guide to RAISING CHICKENS - Gail Damerow
  • Chickens: Tending a Small-Scale Flock for Pleasure and Profit - Sue Weaver
  • The Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook - Sharon Kramis & Julie Kramis Hearne
  • Smart Soapmaking: The Simple Guide to Making Traditional Handmade Soap Quickly, Safely, and Reliably, or How to Make Luxurious Handcrafted Soaps for Family, Friends, and Yourself - Anne L. Watson
  • AFFLUENZA - De Graaf, Wann, & Naylor
  • The Discipline Book - Sears & Sears
  • Honey for a Woman's Heart - Gladys Hunt
  • Good Poems: Selected and Introduced by Garrison Keillor