Friday, August 27, 2010

Hearty Pasta Sauce

We are here in Rwanda now & although we were greeted by a completely bare kitchen (not even a plate or cup) my kitchen is up & running now (although in a minimal state).   We even have an internet connection - though it is painfully sloooow compared to our high speed in the US.
 I would like to share with you a recipe that I have made several times during past trips here.  As far as feeding your family in Rwanda is concerned, anything not grown or produced locally is going to be expensive.  So, if we are buying pasta we are paying about $1.50 per bag.  And pasta sauce in a jar?  Forget it- probably about $5 or $6 per jar!  That will sure give you some motivation to cook from scratch (well, almost scratch, this recipe does use tomato paste which is used in a lot of recipes here).  This sauce recipe is not a “Ragu” type sauce, but more of a hearty tomato- based vegetable sauce that you can use on pasta or pizza.
I originally got the recipe from the cook at the guest house where we've stayed here in the past, and I am not sure what American or European cookbook she may have got the recipe from.  Here's a picture of the veggies and everything all prepped (I didn't have enough tomatoes so I used extra tomato paste):
And, yes I wanted to show you my hand- can you see that it is stained orange from shredding carrots?  Just in case you wanted to know a possible side effect of cooking from scratch!  That pile of green in the foreground is from prepping green beans.  The green beans they have here are in fact "string beans"- and you have to de-string them.  I was prepping quite a bit more than what we needed for one meal, just to save some for later.  I also brought Italian spices from home, because they don't have much of that here either.  This table is a high table, like bar height- but can you see how short my refrigerator is?  And the freezer inside is just a compartment in the top of it, with no door.  All part of the experience!
Hearty Pasta Sauce
1 onion (chopped)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
2 Tbsp. oil
2 carrots, shredded
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped (or 2 Tbsp. dried)
4 tsp. Italian seasoning
6 cups tomatoes
6 oz. tomato paste
1 Tbsp. honey
salt & pepper to taste

Saute onion & garlic in oil until soft.  Add carrots, peppers, parsley, & Italian seasoning, stir.  Add tomatoes, tomato paste, honey, salt, & pepper.  Simmer for 1 hour.  Serve or freeze.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Going "No 'Poo"

Before you get any other ideas, when I say "no poo" I'm using the term that refers to washing your hair without using shampoo= no 'poo!  Why would I want to do that?  Well, you can understand why if you read in Dr. Mercola's newsletter talking about some of the chemicals in shampoo, have you seen this article?

I have been thinking about going "no 'poo" for a while now, but what really gave me the bravery to try was this video blog posted at Keeper of the Home.  Part of my hesitancy stems from the fact that for a long time now I have had to use a very specific shampoo for my hair: one that addresses greasy roots and dry fly away ends.  This shampoo was working fine for me, but when I ran out of it, I thought it was time to be brave & try going more natural.

Actually, I was afraid to go all "no 'poo" to begin with, so I thought I'd transition first to a shampoo bar (also called solid shampoo).  It's like a bar of soap, but it's supposed to be for your hair.  I bought one on Ebay; however, I was disappointed from the beginning with it.  It was called "rosemary mint" but it only smelled like regular old soap.  (Maybe this Ebay seller was just selling old stuff, knock offs, I don't know.)  As I used it my disappointment only increased.  It felt like I had soap build up on my hair.  Greasy, yucky feeling.  Here's another blogger who went no 'poo & used a shampoo bar too, but she had a good experience with it.  I had heard of a "transition phase" as your hair gets used to not being stripped by shampoo all the time, so I kept pushing through.  Every third or fourth wash I would use regular shampoo just to cut the build up back down.

Finally, I got down to it & made my baking soda mixture.  Using the 1:7 ratio talked about by Keeper of the Home, I mixed 2 cups water with 1/4 cup baking soda.  (Note: since this time I have done more internet research I have found out the usual ratio is 1 Tablespoon baking soda per cup of water, so 2 cups water would only need 2 Tablespoons [1/8 cup] baking soda.).  I also mixed in some rosemary sprigs (hopefully to help with dry scalp).
I was going to use this repurposed spray bottle, but it had a strong odor that would not go away, so I ended up using an empty lemon juice bottle (has a small opening so the mixture doesn't pour out all at once).  I kept the mixture in the shower, would shake it up, and use it to wash my hair (yes, it is cold on my head- but because it comes out slow it's not too bad).

The first time I used it I was amazed!  My hair felt so clean- no more soapy greasy build up!  I usually wash every other day, so two days later I used it again and I thought to myself, "Wow, what was I so afraid of?  Clean hair?!"  After going through the yucky hair days with the solid shampoo, this was awesome.  On the third day after this wash my hair still did not feel greasy, but I thought I should wash it anyways.  That time what I got was a very dry, itchy, flaky, scalp.  Lesson learned: do not wash your hair until it actually "needs" it.

I also learned another lesson: rinse very thoroughly.  One day I was not careful to rinse thoroughly & ended up finding dusty soda residue in my hair- yuck.  Now fast forward another month or so.  I have been using the baking soda mixture for the most part, and only wash my hair about every 3 days.  Sometimes my roots are greasy and my ends are fly-away, but I use a straightening iron on my hair & that helps to even things out.  I'm still dealing with a dry itchy scalp quite often though (maybe it has something to do with my high ratio of baking soda?).  It's time to make another batch & I decide this time I will boil the mixture.  I want to do this so the baking soda will actually dissolve into the water, and also because I have hard water & I've heard this may help.

It has a little different feel on my hair but still works.  However, I'm tired of the itchy dry scalp.  I did some internet searching and decided to add some pure tea tree oil, which I just did a few days ago.  The good news: my scalp is a lot less itchy.  The bad news: it makes my roots more oily (so I'm washing more often) but a very thorough rinse seems to help that some.

This is all still an experiment in process.  I'm curious now to try a mixture with a smaller amount of baking soda to see how my hair will respond.  I'm also curious how it will work in Rwanda (with the extra sweat & dust my hair will be exposed to).  I'm writing this a few days before we leave for Rwanda, but posting will happen after we get there.  That way the blog stays active even whilst I am unpacking & getting situated in our new home!

How about you?  Have you gone 'no poo or thought about it?  Any tips for me?

This post is a part of Fight Back Fridays.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Oatmeal Snack Bars

I received this recipe from a family friend and I made it before our camping trip as a packable snack.  You could also use these to put in a lunch box (they're chock full of all kinds of good stuff)!  I made a half batch that day because I was low on peanut butter, but I will give you the recipe with the full batch amounts.

Oatmeal Snack Bars
2 cups oatmeal (want it healthier?  use Soaked & Ready Oats)
1 cup chopped peanuts (or other nut)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (I used pecans)
1 cup sunflower seeds (I didn't have any so I used cashews)
1 cup ground flax seeds
1 cup wheat germ (or you could substitute dried coconut)
1 cup raisins
1 cup dried fruit (I just used more raisins)
1/2 cup honey
1 16 oz jar peanut butter (2 cups)
1 cup fruit spread (jam, jelly)

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine all ingredients in a large bowl & mix together for about 2 minutes by hand.  Take a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan (I would recommend jelly roll pan) and line it with parchment paper.  Dump mixture onto pan or cookie sheet, and press down (easiest to do this without sticking if you use another piece of parchment paper between your hands & the bars).  Bake for 25 minutes (do not over bake).
 You can see in this picture here what stirring it with a spatula did to my spatula!  Yes, it is thick & sticky stuff!  fyi: The half batch was just the right amount for the pan that fits in my toaster oven.

Once cool, slice into bars & cover.  Will keep for several days at room temperature.  I would suggest putting half the batch in the freezer and then pulling it out when you're almost out of the first half of the batch.  Or, package individually & freeze so they're ready to toss into a lunch box as needed.


This post was written a few days ago and scheduled for today.  As you read this my family is on our way to our new home for the next 9 1/2 months- Rwanda!  We will spend about 28 hours traveling to get there - almost half way across the world from Washington state.  Pray for us!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Chocolate Pudding Pops & Mocha Smoothie

Do you ever have extra milk you need to use up?  Last week I did, and I decided my choices were either to make yogurt (but I already had 2 large containers of that) or make pudding pops- guess I have to make pudding!  I found this recipe on the Everyday Life blog, where she says you can either refrigerate for pudding or freeze for pudding pops. Start with the chocolate pudding & you'll be on your way to making some mocha smoooooothies...

Chocolate Pudding
5 1/2 cups milk
1 cup sugar (I used rapadura)
6 Tablespoons cocoa powder
1/3 cup arrowroot powder (or cornstarch, I used arrowroot)
2 Tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons vanilla

Start out with a low heat on the stove and dissolve the sugar into milk, stirring or whisking until dissolved.  Then add the cocoa powder and arrowroot.  Increase your stove temperature to medium and stir with a spoon (to be sure it doesn't stick on the bottom- keep on stirring!)  After several minutes the mixture will thicken and you can remove it from the heat.  Stir in the butter and vanilla.  Allow to cool slightly and then either refrigerate or freeze.
Now I will be honest & say that I usually don't care for the "stand and stir" recipes (which most pudding recipes fall into).  It just doesn't feel efficient to me: I have to multi-task!  Of course this has been the death of more than one "stand and stir" recipe.  [Thanksgivings come to mind when I used to make a pumpkin custard pie every year for my father-in-law, and sometimes I would have to make it twice because of not minding it closely enough- ugh!]  Thankfully, my mom was visiting and could help me stir the pudding while I made blueberry jam.  Yes, I was multi-tasking: I can't help it!

Last week I posted about Creamy Probiotic Popsicles and I suggested that if you don't have a popsicle mold that you use a muffin pan.  So, this time I tried it.  Did I mention this recipe makes a lot?  Oh, yes it does!  And do you see how pitiful my popsicle mold stock is (I only have 5 containers, it is supposed to be 6 but one went missing years ago when my daughter was a toddler...)
After I took this picture I placed a toothpick in each mini muffin cup, just layed it in there, and put the whole thing in the freezer.  A day later I pulled it out & ran hot water over the bottom for a few seconds to loosen them (don't take too long with the hot water, they melt fast, and be careful not to impale your hand on the toothpicks- ouch!)  It worked great!  I put them all in a ziploc bag & tossed it back in the freezer.  Voila!
 Hmm, well that picture looks a little messy.  Certainly not going to win me any awards.  But we did end up with mini popsicles!

Now, I am going to share with you my favorite way to enjoy these.  See that ice cube tray up there?  I also popped those out & put them in a ziploc in the freezer.  The next day we had some coffee that did not get finished in the morning, so I put it in the fridge.  Later that afternoon when I was ready for a snack, I pulled it out & threw together this awesome mocha smoothie!  

Mocha Smoothie
1 cup cold coffee
3/4 cup milk
5 cubes of frozen chocolate pudding
small amount of stevia, honey, sugar, or maple syrup to taste

Combine all ingredients in blender until smooth.  Pour into a tall glass & say yum!  (Makes about 2 servings- so share, but only if you want to...)
 This picture was taken when I made it using 1/2 cup milk and 1/4 cup homemade vanilla ice cream- oh yeah!  Why not use all ice cream & make a mocha milkshake?  Now we're talking!


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Raw Cashew Cream

The original recipe for this Cashew Cream came from the She Let Them Eat Cake blog.  I thought I was making a non-dairy substitute for sour cream... but this is more similar to peanut butter than anything else.  She talks about both cashew sour cream and sweet cashew cream, so I discovered this is actually sweet cashew cream.  Great spread for breads, and I also have put a tablespoon in the blender when I make my iced coffees (coffee, milk, sweetener, ice) which was very tasty!

Sweet Cashew Cream
1 1/2 cups raw cashews
1/4 cup water
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
4 Tablespoon maple syrup

Place cashews in bowl, add water, and cover.  (I used a pie plate to soak them in, so more of the cashews would be in contact with the water.)  Allow to soak for overnight (or 8 hours).

After soaking, place in food processor along with lemon juice and maple syrup.  This is what mine looked like after a minute.
Keep processing until smooth.  Cover & store in refrigerator.  Use within one week.
I would make this again to use in my No Bake Granola Bars to replace part of the peanut butter.


This post is a part of Pennywise Platter Thursday.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Flourless Blender Pancakes

In my last post I shared about my adventure with sprouting wheat & making it into bread.  With the sprouted wheat berries I had left, I decided to make blender pancakes for the next morning.  Normally I make this with wheat berries (unsprouted) and oatmeal.  This recipe is easy & I love it.  Using sprouted wheat made it a little different, but I still want to share it with you.

This recipe comes from Sue Gregg's Breakfasts Cookbook.

Flourless Blender Pancakes (or Waffles)
1 cup cultured milk (buttermilk, or yogurt diluted with milk) 
*use 1 1/4 cup milk if making waffles
1 Tablespoon melted butter, coconut oil, or olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup raw brown rice, corn, buckwheat, or wheat berries
1/2 cup uncooked rolled oats

Place these ingredients in a blender & blend at highest speed for 3 to 5 minutes.  Let stand (in mixer) in warm place for 12 - 24 hours.

1 egg
1 Tablespoon ground flax seeds (optional)
1 teaspoon baking soda 
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat waffle iron or griddle.  Add egg to the batter in the blender and blend on highest speed for 1-3 minutes.  Add in flax seeds, baking soda, and salt and blend to combine (scrape down sides if needed). Grease waffle iron or griddle & pour pancakes (so easy from the blender).  Cook until bubbles on surface pop & then flip.
The batter I got using (over) sprouted wheat berries was very thin (the berries had already absorbed water during the sprouting stage).  At first I had a very rough time cooking them as they were more crepe like.  You can see they were making a mess there.  But then I learned that cooking them at a lower temp & longer would work.
Mmmm- yummy!  Tried & true even with my crazy wheat berries this recipe came through.  However, when I decided to throw some blueberries into the last part of the batch I discovered these are way too fragile to support that!
You may not be able to tell in this picture, but this is after the flip & they were sticking & making a horrible mess, all tore up inside.  I'm thinking to myself, "Things I do for my daughter!"  (My daughter loves blueberry pancakes.) 

Try out this recipe with raw wheat berries.  I've tried it with brown rice, but definitely prefer it with wheat.


This post is a part of Tuesday Twister.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

(Flourless) Sprouted Wheat Bread... oh my!

That "Oh my!" in the title there is not as in, "wow, this was so tasty!"  It was more as in, "Lions and tigers and sprouted wheat, oh my!"

I have had some wheat berries sitting in my pantry for weeks & weeks waiting for me to try this recipe for flourless sprouted wheat bread.  It sounded so amazing, making bread by sprouting the wheat berries and then making dough by running them through the food processor (and *not* having to grind them into flour).  This week I finally got up the nerve to try it... with mixed results.

It's a fairly simple process.  Day one:  take 3 cups of wheat berries, cover with generous amount of water & allow to soak for 24 hours.  I started mine in the evening & had to add more water in the morning (did you see my post yesterday about all the stuff I had soaking?)
Day two: drain in sieve, rinse thoroughly, leave in sieve & cover with damp towel.  Rinse at least every 8 hours and allow to sit for up to 24 hours.  Since I started in the evening, I rinsed them again when I woke up, and again the afternoon.  But in a warm summer kitchen this is what I found after 24 hours of sitting...
I don't know if you can tell in this picture- but these wheat berries are way over- sprouted.  The sprouts should not be longer than the wheat berry, and quite a few were already too long, some even with multiple sprouts...  ::sigh::  But despite her warnings about them being no good for bread baking, I was not to be deterred that easily.

The next step is to seal & refrigerate over night, which worked out perfectly since this was the evening/end of the second day.  The next afternoon I got them out & prepared to make the bread recipe:

Sprouted Wheat Bread
6 cups sprouted wheat berries (my 3 cups turned into more than this)
1 teaspoon yeast
2 Tablespoons warm water
2 teaspoons salt
3 Tablespoons honey
loaf pan, greased
clean kitchen towel
gallon zip lock bag

Dissolve the yeast in the water in a small cup.  Put half of the wheat, salt, honey, and yeast mixture in the food processor (that means 3 cups wheat, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 1/2 Tablespoons honey, + yeast mixture).  Process 30 seconds & then scrape down sides.
This is what mine looked like.  Now the next step is to continue processing until a ball of dough forms.   Do you know what happens when wheat over-sprouts?  It turns very starchy.
After several minutes of processing I still did not see what looked like dough, and it smelled like my food processor motor was starting to overheat.  Maybe it had something to do with what I saw when I lifted up the bowl...
Eww!  Look what it did!  The "stuff" went up inside the blade & down under & eww....  At this point you are supposed to repeat the process with the remaining ingredients.  I do (after cleaning up the first mess) but I don't process it for as long this time & the mess is much less, but I don't think this is what your dough is supposed to look like.
Again, I am not deterred that easily!  I decided to add 2 cups of spelt flour to the glob and knead it for several minutes.  Now, put your dough in a greased bowl & let it rise for several hours.  I figured it has yeast & flour, it should rise...  (I had to help mine out by putting it in a warm oven with a pot of boiling water.)  Eventually my dough did rise, my hopes are going up now!

Next form it into a loaf & place in a greased pan for the second rise.  I put mine in a warm oven again & after a few hours, it looked like this (I was also making sourdough bread at the time so I put them next to each other).
And look at me: I even remembered to slash my loaves!
Now, bake at 350 for 30 to 40 minutes.  The sad news is the sprouted wheat bread did not do it's third rise in the oven.  The good news is my sourdough loaf did & this was the first time for that!  My best sourdough loaf ever!  Wrap your sprouted loaf in the towel & place inside the zip lock bag for 45 minutes.
The taste of the sprouted wheat loaf was very starchy & chewy- no big surprise there.  I still had sprouted wheat left, so my next post will be about the pancakes I tried to make from it.  How about you?  Have you tried making sprouted wheat bread before?  Give it a go & let me know how it works for you!


Tuesday, August 3, 2010


How's this for a busy night?  What all is going on here?  In the oven I had soaking: wheat berries (for sprouting- those are up front), the granola I love (back left), cashews (bottom shelf- for cashew cream), and under the towel is a bowl of pancake batter in one bowl and blueberry muffin batter in another.  On top of the stove I have oats soaking for "Soaked & Ready Oats".  And if you see back in the upper left corner of the picture is my jar of sourdough starter.  When you have a small kitchen the oven can come in handy for nights like this!

I made the Soaked & Ready Oats because I am planning on making more No Bake Granola Bars, and I also want to make the Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Ice Cream recipe from the Just Making Noise blog.

To make the oats all you need to do is soak 4 cups oats with 4 cups lukewarm water and 5-8 Tbsp. of whey (I used 6).  Allow to soak for 12 to 24 hours, then drain in a sieve for 10 minutes.

Mine actually drained for a lot longer than 10 minutes because I walked away & got busy elsewhere!

Spread the oats out thin on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet (she suggests oiling the paper, but I didn't & it was fine).  I put them in the oven at 250 and dehydrated them for about 4 or 5 hours (doing this at the same time as I dehydrated my granola on another rack, meant I was getting the most out of having my oven on that day).
This is the second time I have made them & this time they were still a little soft in the middle- I probably could have dehydrated them for longer, but I went ahead & processed them into oat sized pieces, put them in a container & now they are in the fridge waiting to be used.
Do you soak your grains?  Do you want to know why I do?  You can read more about it on the new page I've added on the top of my blog "Why Soak?"  (Maybe I should have called it "Whey Soak?"  That's a soaking joke!  Sorry- couldn't help myself- tee hee!)


P.S. I'll post more about the other recipes I had soaking later this week!
This post is a part of Tuesday Twister.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Creamy Probiotic Popsicles

When I saw this recipe for popsicles using buttermilk, I knew I wanted to try it out.  The day I made mine, I decided to give them a little extra boost.  I substituted some of the buttermilk with 1/4 cup raw milk kefir.  I was unsure if freezing kills the probiotics in kefir or yogurt (or cultured buttermilk for that matter) and after doing some digging on the internet I find myself - well, still unsure.  It seems as though the jury is out on whether or not freezing kills them, but even those who say it kills them admits it does not kill all of them- so you are still getting some benefit.

So, if you're going to have popsicles, why not boost them too?  I also added a teaspoon or two or flax seed oil to the mix.  It completely goes undercover & gives you the benefits of essential fatty acids too.  I might try drizzling in a teaspoon of melted coconut oil next time too.  I was out of fresh fruit when I made mine so I used frozen strawberries.  I also ran out of popsicle molds (this recipe makes quite a bit) so I poured the extra into an ice cube tray (pop them out, put in a ziploc bag, then I throw a few at a time into our smoothies) and a couple small containers.  I ate those with a spoon like sorbet.  Mmmmm.

Here is girlichef's recipe with my adjustments...

Creamy Probiotic Popsicles

1 cup buttermilk (real & cultured preferred)
1/2 cup kefir (or yogurt)
1 banana
1 1/2 cups fruit (fresh or frozen)
1/4 cup raw honey
optional: 2 teaspoons flax oil or coconut oil (melted)

Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend completely.  Pour into molds (or muffin tin?) and place in the freezer.  (If adding your own sticks add them in after one hour & freeze for an additional hour.)

If you don't have popsicle molds, why not use muffin tins (or mini muffin tins)?  I remember as kids we used to use dixie cups, cover with plastic wrap, and then put a stick through the plastic wrap so it would stay in place.  I bet that would work for mini muffin tins or ice cube trays too!


This post is a part of Slightly Indulgent Tuesday and Pennywise Platter Thursday.