Monday, June 29, 2009

Coupon Adventures 6/29

This week at Ingles...
Tyson boneless, skinless chicken breast is 1.88 a lb, which is a pretty good price, especially if you have a meat coupon.

Also, kool-aidaid is 8 for $1 and Ingles is one of the few stores that has dye-free kool aid flavors. Combine that with last weeks $2 off sugar and its quite a deal. I use the sugar for canning and make the koolaid with splenda or stevia for the kids.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Food Allergies, ADHD and life in the real world, cont'd

The ongoing saga of Food Allergies...

How do you deal with the normal day-to-day life that is America these days when you have a child that *really* shouldn't be eating "normal" food at all? Its not like you can pop into McDonald's and get an organic scrambled egg on a wholewheat tortilla with raw cheddar on the way to piano lessons. Here where we live, its a little easier. There are caf├ęs with organic foods and whole foods and I can make it work, if I am willing to pay for it. And I do mean PAY for it. But might I remind you that this is the blog of a stay-at-home mom? You know, one-income family?? Those places are usually not an option, even on our best day. So I do a lot of cooking. I make whole wheat tortillas by the dozen...regularly. We grow a garden to obtain as much "free" organic produce as possible. We raise chickens for the organic and humanely raised eggs. We do what we can, but it still doesn't erase the fact that the bank drive thru always puts a corn syrup and food dye laden treat in the money envelope and the grocery store bakery has a bin of free cookies when you walk by. Other well-meaning people are always offering a cookie or treat to my son. They usually ask if its okay, but at this point my son already sees the treat and knows he can't have it. Its frustrating really, but he knows what will happen and so do I. Sometimes we do let him have some "junk" as we so lovingly refer to it. And he "freaks out", as he puts it. He will be invited to a birthday party and will have some cake, maybe without the icing or take home the goody bag and keep some of the candy. Its an ongoing process. It seems like everyday has a challenge or two. You have to be prepared at all times to provide a safe alternative if you want to stick to it. I suppose we are blessed in that we don't have severe reactions that require medical attention. And, since we homeschool, I don't have to medicate him to make a learning environment for 20 other children. Its just us and we make it work.

There are those frustrating moments though. Recently I discovered that his allergies were not taken seriously by some of my family. They didn't see a change in his personality when they slipped him some sugar, so maybe I was over-reacting. Actually, they didn't get to see my "overreaction" because I chomped down on my tongue and wrote it off to another day in the trenches. We moms of kids with food allergies have to fight our battles. That week, my son had had piles of no-no's at various times. At his birthday party just two days prior, we really went off the deep end and he was still coming off the effects of that, so perhaps there really wasn't a huge change; you know, from bad to worse? But for whatever reason some people just think you are imagining it when you, as the mother, see them change before your eyes due to a food allergen. So that afternoon he unknowingly had some sugar, went crazy soon after and then came home and was sick. He ended up with a bad headache, went to bed early and woke up with dark circles under his eyes. But of course, that was my imagination. So I asked if perhaps the sugar-free dessert wasn't really sugar free. It wasn't sugar-free they admitted but they didn't see any change and it was only a little sugar... you see, you have to was just my imagination.

That morning I decided we would go back to strictly non-allergen foods. No more walks on the wild side for a while. It will be BYOF from now on. I am happy to report that he's back to himself and feeling pretty good after only a week. The temptations to stray from the eating plan are there daily. I try my best to fill him with healthy whole foods and make him special treats as often as I can. As for eating out, we have discovered a few things we can eat safely. A thin crust pizza at Pizza Hut with only veggies, traditional sauce and light cheese works. A fast-food salad or fruit cup with a juice box is good and if all else fails, we brown bag whatever part he can't eat there. Its not like we eat out all the time. We can't! But the occasional need to is easier once you research your options and plan ahead.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Food Allergies, ADHD and life in the real world

Anyone that has a child with ADD or ADHD knows what its like to have a child that you know is bright, sweet and full of life trapped in a hyperactive, unfocused crazy person. Its distressing to see glimmers of that child but never for long. About a year ago I discovered that my son's seemingly out of control behavior was caused by food allergies. What led me to this discovery was nothing short of a miracle. I was at the library with my daughters and stood in an aisle waiting for them to find a book they were looking for. I turned around in the small space and of all the books there, what caught my eye was Twelve Effective Ways to Help Your ADD/ADHD Child: Drug-Free Alternatives for Attention-Deficit Disorders
Flipping through the book I knew in my heart that this was what was happening with my child. For years I had watched certain foods or meals seem to trigger insane reactions with my son that didn't make sense. Sleepless nights after a piece of candy, dark circles under his eyes after pizza, bouts with intestinal cramping, mood swings, hyper activity, lack of focus. So many different things that seemed to disappear when his menu was simpler and involved a week of eating at home. I devoured the book that day and was convinced that a common foods elimination diet was how I should start. I explained to him what we were going to do and why and we set the date to begin. It was challenging at first. The withdrawal symptoms alone were horrible. But after two weeks a new child emerged. The boy I always knew was there. I was thrilled. HE was thrilled. He felt better, slept better, looked better and most of all we had better school days and less behavior problems. But then came the BIGGEST problem of all...implementing this in our daily life...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Steak Sandwiches on a Budget

Due to our various dietary and financial restrictions here at home, I sometimes have to think outside the box to create a meal that suits our needs. This one was quite successful and has been served frequently this spring. Its not terribly difficult if you plan ahead. Its great with a side of slaw or cucumber salad.

First you need to make a batch of Whole Wheat Tortillas.
Set those aside and have them ready when you want to make dinner.


1 large steak(sirloin, ribeye, any kind) still slightly frozen
3 T olive oil
1 super large sweet onion, sliced thin
1 large red pepper, cored, sliced in strips
1 large green pepper, cored, sliced in strips
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T chili powder
1 cup of shredded or sliced cheese(we prefer provolone, but mozarella is good too)
salt to taste

Slice the steak into thin strips and then cut into 2-3" lengths. Heat a large skillet with olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion and peppers and saute till tender/crisp. Add the chili powder, garlic and the meat and cook till meat is done. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Lay or sprinkle cheese over the top of the meat and veggie mixture, do not stir. Cover skillet and remove from heat. Allow cheese to melt.

To serve, spoon meat mixture into a tortilla. Add lettuce and tomato if desired. Fold filled tortilla in half or roll up to serve.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Whole Wheat Tortillas

Tortillas are a staple food at our house. It is very economical to make them at home and they taste much better when they are fresh. Tortillas make a great breakfast filled with scrambled eggs and cheese, a nice lunch filled with fresh veggies or lunch meats and are also a snack when cooked till crisp and served with Salsa. We also have them quite frequently with the very-economical refried bean filling(for lunch or dinner) and make burritos with various fillings(potatoes or rice, meats or beans) all the time for dinner. Its an easy recipe to mix but cooking them takes the more time. If you can find an electric tortilla press you will be in business because you can knock out a dozen of them in 20 minutes or so. A manual press is the next best thing since they press them out quicly and evenly and you have a little less mess on the counter. I know some women can make them with their hands, but a rolling pin is my choice weapon for getting them the right shape and thickness. Here's my favorite recipe:

2 cups warm water
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tsp sea salt
1 T Rice Lecithin(optional)
1/2 tsp baking powder
5-6 cups freshly ground wheat flour

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Take out 1/2 cup scoops of the dough and roll out to about 1/8 to 1/16" thick disks on a lightly floured surface. If you have a tortilla press, this is much easier. Heat a skillet over a medium heat and spray lightly with olive oil. Place a tortilla in the skillet and flip after about 2 minutes. Cook an additional 1 minute until lightly browned and cooked through.

What's on my Food?

This calculator lets you know the types of chemicals currently being used on various food crops. Interesting and frankly, a little scary...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Coupon Adventures 6/23

Stopped by Harris Teeter this morning with my coupon binder to grab some freebies during Super Doubles. Harris Teeter is doubling all coupons up to $1.98 this week and a few deals can be found if you shop carefully. This is what I got...

Dawn Essentials Detergent
10 oz bottle of Heinz 57 sauce
15 ct box of Hefty gallon freezer bags
1 lb of organic beef
32 ct box of hefty trash bags
Package of Chinet cups
Box of Jimmy Dean Breakfast croissants
16oz of Daisy Sour Cream
Loaf of Sourdough Bread

Total before coupons: $32.34
Total after coupons: $8.41

I probably could have skipped the breakfast croissants and the heinz 57, but they are not regularly inexpensive, so I splurged a bit. I may go back and shop again this week and try to get a few more freebies, but only if I am going to be in the area.

I also stopped by Walgreens and picked up a tube of Aquafresh Advanced toothpaste. I paid $2.08 out of pocket and got back $3 in register rewards.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Poison Ivy

I am highly allergic to poison ivy, to the point that it is almost ridiculous. If someone were to burn it in their yard, the chemicals in the smoke alone would cause me to get a rash in my nasal passages. If my family had some on their clothing, it easily transfered to me when I would do laundry and I would have to deal with rashes and blisters for weeks. In the past, exposure to it almost always led to steroid treatments and months of topical creams to treat it.

Then last year, I heard that some people have treated it with Rhus Tox a homeopathic remedy used for some forms of arthritis. Rhus Tox is actually small doses of the poison ivy plant oils in pill form. You start by taking 4 a day for a week, then take one a day for the rest of the summer. I tried this and discovered that it allowed me to build up an immunity of sorts. When I ran into the plant later in the summer, I had no reaction at all! I was truly amazed.

Feeling brazen with my new found immunity, I decided to get rid of the poison ivy growing near our chicken yard. I was able to walk through the patches and sprayed them with a bottle filled with full-strength vinegar (not the diluted stuff you find at the grocery store). I sprayed the leaves generously with it and a few days later, the poison ivy was dead. Victory was mine! Using nothing toxic, I not only beat my allergy, I also killed all the poison ivy in our yard.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Cheap Substitutes

Sometimes when I am cooking I am frustrated by the items required in the recipe because I don't have them in my own cupboard. Oftentimes this is because that particular item is overpriced or its a convenience item loaded with preservatives and I refuse to pay for it. Othertimes its just not a normal thing to have in our house, like lemon curd or maybe buttermilk. Here I plan to keep a running list of "Substitutes" or "clones" for common items required in your recipe books...

Evaporated Milk
Reconstitute dried milk with only 40% of the water required on the package.

Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 cup + 2 tbsp nonfat dry milk powder
1/2 cup warm water
3/4 cup sugar
Heat on low heat until sugar dissolves. Allow to cool before adding to most recipes.

1 TBS of vinegar or lemon juice
1 cup milk
Set aside for 5 minutes, stir, then use as buttermilk in the recipe.

Self Rising Flour Recipe
To each cup of flour add:
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Mix well and use right away.

Never Fail Pie Crust
3 cups flour
1 cup shortening
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, beaten
5 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon vinegar

Cut together flour, shortening and salt until it resembles small peas. Combine the egg, water and vinegar and gradually add to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened and a soft dough forms. Divide into two equally-sized balls. Wrap individually and refrigerate until ready to use. Roll out and use with your favorite pie recipe!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Cheeseburger Pie

Cheeseburger pie is very popular at our house. Its a quick prep meal and is great with a tossed salad, coleslaw or fresh veggie plate on the side. Different from the usual fare, its popular with my kids because the flavor is quite familiar and popular with me because it doesn't involve all the work required for hamburgers and all the condiments that go with them. No greasy frying pan or grill to fire up either and its quick, quick, quick.

1 lb Ground Beef
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup Ketchup
1/3 cup dried bread crumbs
1/4 cup chopped onion
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 deep dish unbaked pie crust(or make your own)
4 oz shredded cheese
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Combine beef, milk, ketchup, bread crumbs and seasonings in a large bowl. Mix well with hands. Pat mixture into pie shell. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes. Toss together cheese and Worcestershire sauce and sprinkle on top of the pie . Bake 10 minutes longer. Cool 10 minutes. Slice and serve

Monday, June 15, 2009

Doing More with Less

Being unemployed has made us look even harder at how we do things around here and one place that has been lacking has been our family outing time. In the past, it always involved some cost to us as we enjoyed movies, or shopping or eating out together and that was our first pick for family night. When things got hard, we just stopped doing anything and that really isn't the answer. Why I couldn't just become more frugal in this one area probably boils down to the fact that it would require more work on my part. So can I call it sheer laziness?

This past week my husband mentioned it would be nice to do something after church as a family. I knew this was my opportunity to plan something and make it happen, but once again I was thinking about how I would have to work at it to make it free, which is the only affordable there is these days. I admit I did try to weasel out again by mentioning that gas was going up, but I was quickly trumped by the fact that there was plenty to do right near our house. So I started thinking about it.

After getting a "yes" vote on a hike, we picked Mt Pisgah as our outing. We decided to go Sunday afternoon, after church and a quick lunch at home(leftovers). We packed a backpack with a snack(apples in the apple bin) and water bottles(filled at home) and took off. The drive was quiet and beautiful and we arrived eager to start our ascent to an elevation of over 5,500 ft. We reached our destination an hour later having talked and laughed all the way to the top. We took pictures,

ate our snack and rested for a while and then scurried back down the hill for a pretty drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway. There are several tunnels on that part of the parkway and we were forced to play a favorite family game...roll down all the windows and scream at the top of your lungs as you go through the tunnel. My youngest son has the highest pitch, longest lasting scream in the family and wins for giggles. I made a ringtone(free) out of my husband's scream, which will now send us all into fits of laughter when we get a phone call for months to come.

I figure this outing cost all of $3 in gas...maybe...and gave us a lifetime of memories. Not a bad investment in this economy.

You are what you eat

Food, Inc. exposes America's industrialized food system and its effect on our environment, health, economy and workers' rights. Learn about these issues and take action through the Hungry For Change cafeteria and check out the 10 Simple Tips for making positive changes in your eating habits.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The other GM disaster

Sowing Seeds of Starvation: Monsanto Hype in Growing Food Crisis

The rhetoric is common. We've been hearing it for years; sponsored by Monsanto, the world’s largest corporate agribusiness chemical firm, we hear it touted how their genetically modified (GM) seeds are going to save the world from environmental catastrophe and human hunger.

The Monsanto ads are, quite simply, false. The premise is that Monsanto’s GM seeds are going to save the world from environmental catastrophe and human hunger, but the reality of Monsanto’s seeds and the company’s ethics and commitment to fighting world hunger have little to do with either.

Eighty-five percent of all GM seeds are engineered for herbicide tolerance, most of these being Monsanto’s “Roundup Ready” cotton, corn, soy, and canola seeds. This allows plants to withstand significant amounts of pesticides being sprayed on it, in effect promoting pesticide use. Guess who produces those pesticides?? As a direct result, there has been an increase in pesticide use in the United States since the introduction of GM seeds. Since the introduction of GM crops in the United States, more than 120 million pounds of additional pesticides were used.

At the same time, not a single GM crop has been commercially introduced that is intended to increase yield. Agronomists and plant scientists made far greater advances in yields through conventional breeding methods than they ever have with GM crops. In fact, there have been several studies which show that there are actually yield losses associated with Monsanto’s Roundup Ready soybeans. GM crops are not feeding the world, and they are not enabling us to produce more.

Monsanto wants you to believe their crops are feeding hungry children in Africa, and that they are allowing farmers to use fewer chemicals. But their actions demonstrate that their concern lies solely in their profits.


  Grist May 13, 2009

  GM-Free Ireland Network(pdf file)

Dr. Joesph Mercola's Comments:

Anyone who believes Monsanto’s proclamations of saving the world from environmental catastrophe and hunger is clearly not paying attention to some very blatant signs that this is not true.

It’s unfortunate that the U.S. has yet to follow the decision of several other countries that have already banned genetically modified crops. Germany, for example, recently became the sixth country in the European Union to take a stand against GM corn Meanwhile, tens of millions of acres of GM corn are being planted in the U.S.

According to the French Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini, a molecular endocrinologist and a member of two French government commissions evaluating GM food, the corn variety in question, called MON 810, has shown statistically significant problems in animal studies.

They found the effects of the GM crops were similar to that of pesticides, causing inflammation disorders, and problems with livers and kidneys, two major organs involved with detoxification.

Another scientist, biology professor Bela Darvas of Hungary‘s Debrecen University, discovered that Monsanto’s Mon 810 is lethal to two Hungarian protected species.

So how does Monsanto respond to Darvas’ disturbing findings? They simply refuse to give him any more Mon 810 corn to use in his tests. They’ve also refused his request for Mon 863, another GM variety. Is that really the enlightened action of an environmentally sensitive company that is looking out for not only your health, but the well being of the planet?

Common GMO Myths

As The GM-Free Ireland Network points out, there are numerous GM biotechnology propaganda myths in circulation, and none of them are true. If you’ve been paying attention to the news about genetically modified plants, you’ve probably heard some of them already. (For the full list, please see this pdf.)

Myth #1: Genetic engineering is a continuation of traditional breeding methods

In fact, most GM crops are modified with the introduction of DNA from other species entirely. This never occurs in nature, or with traditional breeding methods.

Myth #2: Opponents of GM food are anti-science

Leading opponents of GM foods include the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Independent Science Panel, the U.S. Center for Food Safety, and numerous agronomic, environmental, and health scientists.

Myth #3: GM crops have higher yields

GM crop seeds currently on the market do not increase yields, and are not designed to. In fact, GM crops typically render lower yields.

For example, GM soya has decreased yields by up to 20 percent compared with non-GM soya. And up to 100 percent failures of Bt cotton have been recorded in India. This in turn has spurred a staggering number of suicides among India’s farmers. According to the National Crime Records Bureau of India, more than 182,900 Indian farmers took their own lives between 1997 and 2007, potentially due to GM crop failures. An estimated 46 Indian farmers commit suicide every day.

Additionally, recent studies by scientists from the USDA and the University of Georgia found that growing GM cotton in the U.S. can result in a drop in income by up to 40 percent.

Myth #4: Americans have been eating GM foods for 15 years without any health problems

This one is perhaps most deceptive as GM foods are not labeled in the U.S., which makes traceability and accountability impossible. There may or may not be obvious health problems, but it is carefully designed so that no one can find out for sure.

However, according to Jeffrey Smith, author of Seeds of Deception, what we do know is that between 1994 and 2001 – at the same time as GMO’s flooded the market – food related illnesses DOUBLED. 

His findings show that GMO foods can be: 


Although the major food giants are carrying on with their claim that GM foods are no different from conventionally grown varieties, the research says otherwise. As GM crops are grown in America, the pollen not only negatively affects other non-GM crops by cross pollination, it is also causing other unexpected results like BT resistant bugs, weeds and death to other beneficial insects. GM foods are a disaster for the environment, a nonviable solution to world hunger, and undoubtedly dangerous for you and your family's health.

GM Crops Fail to Live Up to Advertised Promises Again and Again

The fact remains that GM crops have failed to deliver on virtually every single promise and expectation. After 30 years of GMO experimentation, there is data that proves there has been no reduction in pesticides use; an increase in the use of glyphosates, along with increases in other herbicides to cope with rising glyphosate resistant superweeds. GM crops do harm wildlife, as revealed by UK and U.S. studies. Bt resistant pests and Roundup tolerant superweeds render the two major GM crop traits useless. The evolution of Bt resistant bollworms worldwide have now been confirmed and documented.

Unpredictable transgene contamination is completely unavoidable, as science has recently revealed that the genome (whether plant, animal or human) is NOT constant and static, which is the scientific base for genetic engineering of plants and animals.

Instead, geneticists have discovered that the genome is remarkably dynamic and changeable, and constantly ‘conversing’ and adapting to the environment. This interaction determines which genes are turned on, when, where, by what and how much, and for how long. They’ve also found that the genetic material itself has the ability to be changed according to experience, passing it on to subsequent generations. GM modification is a highly volatile process and it is unknown how many dangerous genes are being turned ON when they experiment with plant life.

How to Avoid GM Foods

To get an idea of just how widespread GM ingredients are, I recommend taking a look at The GMO Food Guide. It lists 20 different food categories that include everything from baby food to chocolate. The number of companies that are purchasing GM plant matter to make their products is astounding. All this has happened right under the general public's nose!

The increasing number of GM products makes avoiding them quite a challenge. Right now organic products are the only guarantee that you are avoiding these toxic foods. The four most prevalent GM ingredients in non-organic products are:


In addition, you will want to avoid the offspring of these products, which includes items like maltodextrin, soy lecithin, and high fructose corn syrup all common in processed foods. However it isn't just these foods that are being genetically altered. The list includes such common foods as wheat, potatoes, tomatoes, mangoes and even sugar beets, a major source of sugar in America.

You CAN Demand Better Food

It’s easy to sit back and think you can’t do a thing to change the current state of affairs, but the fact is, you CAN make a difference. You can demand something better -- food that is still food, grown the way nature intended.
First and foremost, you can vote with your pocketbook by avoiding everything that contains GM ingredients, and ask your local supermarket to stock their shelves with more natural organic foods. Some supermarkets will even allow you to special order food items. In addition, you can patronize restaurants the seek out organic and non-gmo products. Tell your friends what you have learned. Talk to your elected officials. Make business decisions that will play a significant role to advance this cause as well.

Growing your own food is another option. No matter how much land you have, you can grow food to help feed your family. There are many techniques for growing large amounts of food in a small space. From Square Foot Gardening and succession planting to Cooperative Gardens and Farmer's markets, you can get food you know is safe and fresh. Learning to make things from scratch is another way to avoid the pitfalls of convenience foods. By making it yourself you not only avoid GM produce, but you do not need to purchase products with preservatives, flavor enhancers and colorings either.

While it isn't easy, you can say no to GM and help to make what is becoming the norm today, no longer acceptable. As our children grow up, they are being exposed to more and more of these corrupt food products. The amounts they get of these unsafe foods are known to have adverse affects and it is up to us as parents to protect them. It's up to us to protect ourselves! Monsanto is and will continue to come up with more ways to alter foods from their natural state. They are even experimenting with putting vaccines in food! ( Please get informed and take action before finding a non-GM alternative will be next to impossible.

Related Links:

Seeds of Doubt

The Future of Food

  Germany Bans Genetically Modified Corn

The GMO Food Guide

Friday, June 5, 2009


Within walking distance of our hotel were the Great Pyramids.
One of the few stoplights I saw is in the foreground, and
was rarely obeyed. The driving there was exhilarating as
a passenger, but not something I would want to attempt myself!
In May, my father took me to a place that means a lot to him. He has been there many, many times and has taken many members of my family. I have wanted to go for a long time but since I am a stay at home, homeschooling mom, it is not often that I can just leave home for a week without there being a lot of sacrifice on the part of my family. This year, however, it worked out. My dad funded the trip, my husband and children graciously allowed me to leave them behind and I went. It was a the trip of a lifetime and I will never forget it. I began my journey in Cairo and got to see many of the sites that one would think of if they were to go to Egypt. Everywhere I looked there were amazing sites. I drank it all in taking notes feverishly so as not to forget a moment. I took many pictures and recorded the events but none of that can take me back there in quite the same way. The foods, the smells, the noises and the people were so memorable. I think I left a piece of my heart when I had to leave. Here are some photo highlights...
this boat was inside the pyramid ready
to be assembled for a ride to the afterlife.

below this Coptic Christian
church was where Jesus
hid from Herod with
his parents when he was little.

my dad is quite red after
our descent into
the oven-like pyramid.

inside the beautiful
Alabaster Mosque

The famous Nile River.

The village I stayed in, Kafr el Albien,  was the best part of my trip. Being surrounded by such wonderful, generous and kind people truly felt like home. Everyone treated me like I was family and I shared tea with so many lovely new friends that I could not begin to name all of them. The village was peaceful. Family was their first priority after God and it was perfect to me. The farm land was vast and the homes were not filled with the distractions that permeate life in America. Quiet, simple living, laughter, cool nights and warm days, children playing, men and women going about their daily chores. It was all exactly what I had hoped it would be and more.
a game of soccer in the courtyard
before breakfast.
We visited many people in the
village. Here is my father with the
police chief and the mayor.
We are at the mayors home.
a stable for animals.

a delicious breakfast. note: the 
women put out some of the 
jams I brought over :)

This group of farmers set out mats for us
to sit in the fields and when we said we
hadn't had breakfast yet, picked us
potatoes from the field.
After harvesting alfalfa, a husband & wife
stopped and greeted us and posed
for some pictures.

the view from the roof top
of the home I stayed at.

the canal along the main road provided
water for washing and irrigating of the fields
Here a woman quietly does her 

laundry and dishes as we walk by.

Farmer's Lunch

the fields were in long strips. Divided
amongst the families that lived in the
village and allowing for them to grow
what that wanted to grow.

In the mornings, we often rose far earlier than the others in the home we were at, so my father and I would go for strolls around the village. The dusty roads were quiet and when we did come across people they were warm and friendly and immediately offered us a seat, offered tea or something of their own. While there was very little I could communicate other than thank you (sho-kren), the smiles and nodding and laughter seemed to be enough. When we would get back to the house around 10am, there would be a fine breakfast with fresh produce, falafel patties, hard boiled eggs, pita, yogurt, yogurt cheese, tahini and fava beans.
The last day of my visit, lunch, which is served in the early evening was done outside. Called a farmer's lunch, we ate in the fields on mats and blankets. I loved it! They put out a wonderful selection of foods and we watched the sun set as we ate. After dark, we had turkish coffee and tea. My father managed to get in a water fight with some of the men and they chased each other all over the field in an effort to soak one another. 

boys will be boys
our last night in Kafr el Albien

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Making Mixes

One of the easiest ways to save money is to avoid convenience foods and make it yourself. If you are a SAHM(stay at home mom) and can follow a simple recipe, this is usually not a problem. I keep a running list of what I need to make and when I have free time, I knock them off my list. The nice thing about making your own products is that often its a healthier alternative. Unless you purchase organic products, most convenience products have either MSG, preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, food colorings, GMO foods, or all of the above. None of that is good for you or your family. You can control the amount of sugar and salt that goes into the recipe as well. If you are trying to reduce sugar in your child's diet, reduce the amount called for or better yet, try a sugar substitute or honey. You are in control when you make it at home!
Below are some simple recipes that taste great and can be used instead of the grocery store equivalent. These are recipes that I use frequently and find to be just as good, if not better than the store's equivalent.
If you like the idea of making your own convenience products, check out the book Make-A-Mix
at your local library or find it at The book is packed with not only spices and sauces, but freeze and bake cookies, bread mixes, and other items that rival the quick-fix foods at the store.

Seasoning Salt
2 tablespoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cornstarch(prevents caking)
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Pour blend into an empty spice bottle with shaker top to store. Makes 1/4 cup.

1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 tsp cinnamon
Pour into a bottle with a shaker lid

BBQ Sauce
This is awesome on chicken!

1 cup water
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup tomato paste
2/3 cup vinegar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons molasses
1 1/4 teaspoons liquid smoke
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
cayenne pepper to taste(if desired)

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan over high heat and whisk until smooth. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes or until thick. Cool, then store in a covered container in the refrigerator overnight. Makes 1 1/2 cups

Mild Taco Sauce
3 cups water
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
3 tablespoons white distilled vinegar
4 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more for a spicier version)

Dissolve cornstarch in water in a medium saucepan. Add remaining ingredients and stir well. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and cover until cool. Keep in a covered container in the refrigerator to store. Makes 3 cups

Taco Seasoning Mix
½ cup flour
2 T chili powder
1 T dried minced onion
1 T salt
1 T paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
3 beef bouillon cubes, crushed

Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Pour into a shaker bottle or air tight container. You use about 1/3 cup of the mix for 1lb of ground beef. Brown the meat, drain and add 1/3 cup of the mix and ¾ cup water. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat. Simmer about 10 minutes until the mixture thickens. Serve on your favorite taco shells or tortillas.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Making Laundry Soap

One of the cost-cutting measures I employ is making my own laundry detergent. It is not terribly difficult to do and I can customize the scent to our liking. The cost is predictable and when I cannot get nearly-free detergent with coupons, it is what I do.
There are three basic ingredients required; Fels Naptha, Washing Soda and Borax.

I took a picture of the products so you would know what to look for in the store. The ingredients can sometimes be hard to find. This time of year(spring) Fels-Naptha is in my local Harris Teeter grocery Store, as is the Borax and Washing Soda, but since Fels Naptha is only made seasonally, once the store is out, its gone till the next year. Your other option is to purchase it online. I have seen it on Amazon and there are some small business sites that carry it as well. Your other option is to use ivory soap. While the cleaning power isn't quite the same it is an alternative if you cannot find Fels Naptha.
I have heard people ask about using it in their HE machines. If you are using Fels Naptha, which I use, you shouldn't see any problems. While I am not an HE expert, my understanding is that the problem with these machines is they do not handle the sudsing action of typical laundry detergents and HE detergents don't get sudsy. Well this recipe doesn't either. I have used it for over a year on my HE machine with no problems. While this is not a professional opinion, its all I have to offer.

Now back to the recipe;

You will need
1 bar of Fels Naptha soap
1 Cup of Borax
1 Cup of Washing Soda
16 quarts of water
A large cooking pot
a slotted spoon or metal whisk
a grater
a 5 gallon bucket

Start by grating about 2/3 of the bar of Fels Naptha into a large cooking pot. I use a stainless steel pot. I grate the soap right into it. Add 3 quarts of water and begin heating the mixture on a medium high heat. Stir the mixture with a metal slotted spoon or whisk occasionally until the soap dissolves. Add another quart of water and stir. Next, pour in 1 cup of Borax and 1 cup of Washing Soda. Stir this in and continue to heat until the mixture has completely dissolved in the water.
It will look something like this:

Put about 2 quarts of hot water in your bucket. Pour the contents of the pot into the bucket and mix well. Add 2 quarts of cold water. Stir again. At this point you can add essential oils for fragrance if desired. I like Aura Cacia Essential Oils Their lavender is very pleasant and lemon is nice too. I have experimented with the amount and it really depends on the fragrance you use and the strength you want. This is optional and probably not a good idea if you have sensitive skin.
Put the lid on your bucket and allow to set overnight. The mixture will gel up and be light yellow in color. Take your whisk and mix it really well, breaking up all the clumps so that overall you have a nice consistency. I find that I usually have to stir it several times over the next week or so as it continues to thicken. As long as you stir it before using it, the soap will work fine.
You only need 1/2 cup for a large load in your HE machine. You may need a little more in a large regular washer, but experiment based on how dirty the clothes are. The remaining part of the Fels Naptha can be kept in a baggie (so it doesn't dry out)and used as stain stick when you need it, or save it till you make soap again.
In my rinse cycle, I use a 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar. This helps to remove the soap residue and also brightens the whites. I have used this method for cleaning clothes for years and have always been on a septic system with no ill effects.
I mentioned at the beginning that I did this because it was inexpensive to make. This recipe makes roughly 4 gallons of detergent. Cost to make 6 recipes is about $12.
I find it well worth my time to have 4 gallons of soap for a mere $2. I will still purchase detergent if I can get it for pennies a bottle and sometimes I can with couponing, but that's for another post on another day!