Coming November 4th–A Huge Healthy Ebook Bundle!

Just a quick note to let you all know that starting Monday, November 4th you can buy a great ebook bundle, The Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle at an incredible price! It’s over 80 healthy living ebooks for only $29.97! Plus a ton of bonuses and a membership to a series of online conferences on healthy living.

I already own a few of these like Better Than a Box, Real Food on a Real Budget (awesome resource!), A Simpler Season (a wonderful holiday planner), and One Bite At A Time. But there are still a ton that I’m drooling over, like the books about herbs and essential oils, allergy free cooking and Kimi Harris’ salad cookbook Fresh (which I’ve been wanting ever since it came out). And at this price, I don’t feel bad having a few duplicates on hand.

Did you know you can gift any titles you don’t want to keep to a family member or friend? Just as long as you delete it from your files–it’s fine! *Christmas Idea*

I have all the titles for you below. So take a minute to see what interests you and plan to join me on Monday when the sale launches!

This post contains affiliate links. I’ll earn commission for any purchases you make through these links. Thanks for your support!


Easy DIY Recipe–Clarified Butter

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What is clarified butter?

Clarified butter (or ghee, as it’s often referred to) is just butter fat. All the milk solids and whey have been removed and what you have left is like a butter oil. It can withstand higher temperature frying or sautéing before it smokes and it no longer foams up or leaves all those floating solids when you melt it. It keeps well at room temperature where it becomes a soft, spreadable solid.

Why make clarified butter?

I suppose clarified butter is most often made in cooking applications when you want a high smoke point, or a chef doesn’t want all those floating milk solids in the final presentation. But that’s not why I make it. For many people with dairy allergies, clarified butter is a great option. In most cases, it is the casein (or milk protein) that causes the allergic reaction. Carefully filtered clarified butter removes these proteins, leaving you with the goodness of butter fat. And this is why we keep it on hand.

Now, please note–I did NOT use my daughter as a guinea pig. We were incredibly careful when we first tried this. My daughter’s allergist is always very concerned that Ella gets enough of the nutrients and foods she needs to grow well, and she encourages us to carefully test foods and if she tolerates it–then eat it.

It was worth it to me to test out the clarified butter, because I didn’t want to feed her all the fake butter spreads and margarines out there that are 100% dairy free. In most cases, those are made from hexane extracted, chemically refined vegetable oils–nothing real there. (Once, before we began our real food journey, I purchased a tub of spread that they failed to add the food coloring to. It was gray. Yuck!) It’s especially important for growing children to get real, nourishing fats to help with brain development. Plus her fragile, dry skin needs all the internal help and elasticity it can get.

And pancakes and baked potatoes and biscuits need butter. Am I right?

The How-To

This is probably one of the easiest things I make in the kitchen. Shamefully easy, actually. Here’s the low down…

  • Put one or two sticks of real butter in a small pan. I usually buy salted, but it really doesn’t matter.
  • Turn the burner on low heat and let the butter melt slowly. If it starts sizzling too much or spitting a lot, turn it down. Otherwise you’ll burn it.
See that stick of butter peeking out--getting all melty?

See that stick of butter peeking out–getting all melty?

  • After the butter is all melted down, continue to slowly simmer on low for about 15 minutes. The milk solids will start collecting in clumps on top and the whey that sits at the bottom will evaporate as it simmers away.
  • Turn off the heat and let stand for about 5 minutes.
This is what it will look like after you've simmered a while. All the foam is clumping together into milk solids.

This is what it will look like after you’ve simmered a while. All the foam is clumping together into milk solids.

  • Set a strainer over a medium sized pitcher or bowl and line with a double (or more) thickness of tight weave cheese cloth or a tea towel or linen napkins. I use two thin-ish linen napkins I picked up at a yard sale. You don’t want too tight a weave, or the melted butter will just soak into the towel and have a hard time dripping through. But if it’s too thin, some of those milk solids will drip through. Just watch it the first time and play with your straining method until you find what works best for you. I personally like the napkin or tea towel approach, because I can wash and reuse them. As opposed to cheesecloth, which you usually throw away.

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  • Pour the melted butter through your strainer and cloth and give it time to strain. If you notice a white-ish liquid pour through at the end and sit at the bottom, that’s the whey that didn’t completely evaporate out. It will stay at the bottom and usually isn’t a problem for most. My daughter has a severe dairy allergy and has never had any problem with a few drops of whey. (But again–not a doctor–BE CAREFUL and check with your physician if you have any questions.)

That kind of all seems a little complex or long. But I was trying to be thorough for you :). It’s really simple–promise! You can store the clarified butter in a covered container on the counter (easier to spread) or in the frig for a long time. We use it on pancakes and toast, as well as seasoning cooked veggies, or for higher temperature frying, when I don’t want to break out the coconut oil. If you’d like to try clarified butter or ghee, but don’t feel like making it yourself, there are lots of real food outlets that sell it (Amazon affiliate link). It’s WAY cheaper to make though–so I’d give it a go if I were you.

Have you ever made your own clarified butter before?

The usual disclaimers. I’m not a physician, just a mom sharing her experience. Please check with your doctor if you are dealing with food allergies and use caution if those allergies are severe.


3 Quick Fixes For An Unhappy Tummy

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For about a month, I had a really good stint of eating well. Taking care of some things that were bothering me, increasing my energy and keeping the tummy happy.

But I suppose I came to the end of my willpower. Maybe it’s because the weather finally turned cooler and I felt like baking more. Maybe my Irish heritage could no longer deny my potato cravings.

One recent Saturday I whined to my husband of my terrific craving for a local hot dog joint. (Yes, hot dogs. Keeping it real, people.) They also have the most amazing fresh cut fries. I could almost taste them. But I dutifully ate the stir fry we had planned.

Fast forward a few days. My father (who is much more vulnerable to my whining–and the possibility of hot dogs) agreed to bring a load of dogs and fries home to me and a house full of kids. School has been challenging and a bit wearying lately and we all felt the call of comfort/junk food.

So I ate two. And some fries, of course. And I felt the consequences.

3 Quick Fixes

Disclaimer here–I’m not a medical professional or a gastroenter–whatever. And this isn’t advice for more serious gut trouble like IBS or Crohn’s or any of that. But when you, like me, cave in to those fake food cravings, and then you’re suffering the consequences, there are some things you can do. (Besides swearing off hot dogs for a while. Which I’m also doing.)

Lacto Fermented Veggies (on the side)

A batch of kosher dills, tucked in the pantry to ferment.

A batch of kosher dills, tucked in the pantry to ferment.

I can’t claim to be completely blind sided by my tummy grumblings. I sort of knew after a month of eating really clean, my body probably wasn’t going to be too happy with me. So I did a little pre-emptive work and ate a few lacto-fermented banana peppers before the hot dogs showed up.

If you’re not familiar with lacto-fermenting, it’s basically the age old method of “pickling” or preserving before everyone started drowning their veggies in vinegar and canning them. By the mere presence of salt or the addition of a starter culture, beneficial bacteria known as lactobacilli begin to multiply. Their presence helps preserve the food (lacto-fermented foods will keep in cool storage for months) but more than that increase vitamin absorption, add enzymes and promote healthy gut balance.

Traditional foodies recommend a couple tablespoons or so of fermented or cultured foods at every meal. Think sauerkraut, kimchee or barrel cured pickles. The peppers work great with this method too. For recipes and additional information about fermented veggies, check out Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon (Amazon Affiliate). I’ve also gotten some great help from the GNOWFGLINS website and Cultures for Health.

Herbs for Digestion

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After my over indulgence, I realized that I needed a few more helps. So the first thing I did was put a kettle of water on to boil. Ginger tea (I usually buy this one) is especially helpful to aid digestion, relieve that bloated feeling, grumbling or nausea you feel. You can keep some tea on hand, or steep a peeled knob of fresh ginger in some simmering water for a few minutes. It always does the trick.

Mint. When one of my kids is feeling nauseous, we send them out to the herb garden to pick a piece of mint and give it a chew. Now that the herbs are all done for the season, I’ll probably give them some mint tea or a piece of the dried we have in the pantry.

Other folks also like chamomile, cinnamon or even cayenne.

Probiotics

Even with fermented veggies (or other cultured foods like yogurt) and herbal support, sometimes you just need a little more muscle. That’s when I reach for a probiotic supplement. Most days, I try to include one of these in my routine, but there are those hot dog filled moments that require an extra dose. I like to pick mine up in my regular Vitacost order. They’re not the most potent out there, but they do the job and fit the budget right now.

In a few minutes my little remedies worked like a charm and I felt much better. Not as good as if I had never had the darn things, but better none the less. There will always be those days when crazy cravings over rule your good judgment, better keep something handy to soothe your system.

What works for you when your tummy is unhappy?

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Planning a Harvest Party–guest post at Modern Alternative Mama

harvest party

 

Looking for a Halloween alternative? Or maybe a little extra kid friendly fun before the snow flies? I’m talking all things Harvest Party this month over at Modern Alternative Mama. It’s still not too late to have your own fall fun! Check it out here.


My Simple, Natural All-Purpose Cleaner

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Monday we talked about getting a regular cleaning routine going. Just to keep myself accountable, I’ll let you know that on Monday I vacuumed the downstairs and worked on laundry. Yesterday I dusted the downstairs. I’d love to have gotten a little more in, but the kid’s schoolwork has been challenging this week, and that has taken up more time than usual.

Another homemade cleaner? I know. There are about a billion recipes for homemade cleaners out there. You weren’t exactly waiting with baited breath to know another one. Too bad. Gonna share anyway :).

Because, like many of you, I have the DIY books and web pages all bookmarked. And the more I read, the more confused I got. Or maybe I didn’t have some special ingredient. So I put it off and used up my supply of not so friendly store bought stuff.

You have to love the idea, though. Because the majority of homemade cleaning recipes are safe for your family and incredibly wallet friendly.

It all started with the familiar standby. Vinegar and water. I had been using that to clean windows for a while. Simple, effective, and no–your house doesn’t smell like pickles when you’re done.

Then little by little, I began to purchase a few extras like liquid castile soap and essential oils. (Don’t be scared about buying essential oils like I was. Sometimes you can find a decent brand at a store like GNC for not a lot of money. And they last forever.)

Finally, I’ve settled on this.

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In a 32 oz. spray bottle I combine…

  • 1/4 cup white vinegar (I’ve even made citrus vinegar with grapefruit rinds–easy and smells great!)
  • 2-4 Tb liquid castile soap depending on how soapy you want it (I like this brand.)
  • several drops of tea tree essential oil–around 15 (this is the kind I have)
  • fill the remainder of the bottle with warm water

The low down on the ingredients. We all know vinegar is great for a deodorizer and disinfectant. It also helps shine faucets and mirrors. The castile soap is non-toxic and brings a little lubrication to the party to remove stubborn grime. I like tea tree soap and tea tree oil because tea tree is antibacterial, making this a great cleaner for the kitchen and bathroom (or cold and flu season).

We use this on sinks, toilet seats, mirrors, counters, floors and to lightly dampen a cloth to dust. I don’t use too much of the soap in mine, so it doesn’t need rinsing. And the only smell left behind is clean–with a hint of tea tree, which I like.

And when I say we. I mean we. This stuff is so safe, I feel very comfortable letting my six year old help wipe down her bathroom sink. (It’s the cutest thing.)

But let’s say you want to make a homemade, less toxic cleaner with what you’ve got NOW. No problem. Just do the vinegar, a squirt of whatever dish liquid you have and fill the rest with water. It’s not completely natural (unless your dish liquid already is) but I figure it’s still leaps and bounds better for you and your family than the nuclear yellow stuff at the store–and super frugal.

There you have it. My contribution to the world of DIY cleaners. (I also use baking soda + water as a soft scrub…just so ya know.)

Your turn. Got a homemade natural cleaner to share?

 
 
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Reaping the Benefits of a Weekly Cleaning Routine

cleaning

I’m not a fan of cleaning. I do like a clean house. I appreciate order. But the actual act of cleaning doesn’t really get me going.

I’d much rather bake or garden or write. But the cleaning must be done, right?

In order to keep the house in relative state of cleanliness and order, it’s important to not let any one area get too far gone. You know what I mean. When the mountain of unfolded clean laundry is somehow larger than the dirty pile. When the bathroom qualifies as a science project. When everyone fears opening a closet because of the inevitable avalanche.

Not that I know anything about any of that.

The problem is, when we let it get to that point, it becomes a looming, nagging, all day project that we put off or stress about. (Like my upstairs hall closet right now.)

The key is upkeep. A routine of small tasks that when added together over the course of a week or month, enable you to keep your house relatively neat and tidy. Or at least a half an hour away from it. (You know, when everyone pitches in for a few minutes and order is restored, the bathroom not so scary.)

And lately, I’ve needed a reminder to get some sort of consistent cleaning routine going–not just doing it when I notice a problem area or when I think I have time. That’s not working for me.

In the past I’ve had a pretty good plan in place. Laundry on Mondays and Tuesdays and Thursdays (for the most part). Vacuuming downstairs early in the week, upstairs a couple days later. A quick dusting in different areas of the house on different weeks so no one spot gets too neglected. We even made sure the glass on the front door was cleaned regularly. It wasn’t perfect or comprehensive, but it worked for us.

Notice I say the words “us” and “we.” This the great catch-22 of house cleaning. When there are more people living in your home, there will inevitably be more mess. BUT there are also more people to chip in. So all the things I mentioned above were not done by me alone.

The kids’ chore chart

Do yourself a favor. Get some kind of regular chore expectations going for your children. Even toddlers can put their toys away, or pile up the shoes and bags in the downstairs coat closet, or “help” mom dust with a rag of their own. My kids help a lot–when I have a routine in place for them. Otherwise I have to give one thousand verbal reminders and I end up feeling like a nag at the end of the day. No good.

Which is what had been happening lately. Which meant I’d end up feeling weary with all the reminding and just stop asking them to come help with something. This leads to messy build up and overwhelmed-fed-up-mom. So out came the chore chart.

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This is incredibly LOW TECH, people. I used to have a proper chart printed that had the same chores listed for every week, in a rotation. And that worked well. But not every week seems to go quite the same right now. So my solution was a sheet of printer paper tucked into a clear plastic sleeve and a dry erase marker. They each have their name on there and in the morning, I write down any school reminders as well as chores they need to get done that day (before play time or computer time or free time).

I can’t believe how much this very simple change has helped. I don’t have to nag (as much). They get things done before they get engrossed in something else. I have time to tackle bigger cleaning problems because I’m not trying to keep up with the vacuuming or dishwasher or bathrooms. (I do clean my bathroom, and the kid’s tub. But they handle the sinks and toilets on a weekly basis.)

I’ll probably get tired of looking at this eventually and make up something on the computer that’s a little neater. But for the moment, it gets the job done. Next, I need to take a good look at my week, make a list of what needs done, divide and conquer. I think I’ve been avoiding a routine for myself because there are so many large-ish projects that need to be attended to around here–making the dust bunnies seem not so urgent.

But dust bunnies conquered and laundry piles tamed free us up to tackle that awful hall closet, right? So what accumulation of minor crud is keeping you from ruling your domain? I’m ready for some order around here. Today, the new cleaning routine begins.

Do you have a routine for yourself and your kids? How do you keep up with cleaning?


What the Garden Has Taught Me

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Last week, the electric fence posts were stored for winter. The last of the bell peppers were brought in. And except for a few remaining herbs, the garden has been put to bed. (Or mowed down…since the weeds had taken over where the plants once were.)

There was much to learn this year, since we’ve never had a garden quite so large. So if you’ll indulge me a moment, I think I’ll ponder over what this year’s garden had to teach us.

Don’t put your eggs all in one basket (or get your plants all from one nursery)

While I hope to start many of our plants from seed next year, this past spring we were without that luxury and had to purchase many of our seedlings. We used a local nursery that always has a great reputation and grows just about all their own seedlings. Unfortunately, this year they were infected with a blight. So just about everything purchased there had the potential to spread disease.

We had trouble with the tomatoes right away. (Which was also partially due to very wet weather.)

Next year, I plan to order some heirloom seeds and hopefully have a place to start them indoors. What we do purchase, I think I’ll mix up between a few different local nurseries.

Gardens are like young children

They need tended to regularly and often. Sometimes, they’ll have minor emergencies that require your quick attention. (Like when an unexpected frost threatens, or a storm blows over your tomato plants.) They need fed and watered and cleaned up after. They need trained and coaxed to grow up right.

Having a larger garden is like having an extra child or two to tend to.

There’s no science lesson like gardening

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Over and over again my kids were captivated with seeds sprouting, flowers blooming, food growing. The girls especially followed me outside almost every time I went out there and studied every bit of new growth with fascination. We kept them pretty involved from planting to weeding to harvesting. (Mostly just because we needed the extra help, but also to teach them.)

And we found satisfaction in teaching them a skill that can serve them and their future families all their lives.

The garden sets the schedule

I don’t think I was prepared for how much my summer would revolve around the garden. You can try to predict when you’ll be doing weeding or harvesting or canning. But the truth is, you’re at the mercy of the garden’s schedule. So when the beans were ready, we were obliged to drop everything else and tend to the beans.

When there’s lettuce, you eat salads. When the weather finally breaks, you get out there in the mud and pull weeds. Which brings me to my next lesson…

Mulch is not optional

I thought we could keep up with the weeds. I thought mulch was an unnecessary expense. I was wrong. Next year, we’re going to have to find a cheap source. And lots of it.

There is nothing as gratifying as a meal you grew yourself

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Every dinner plate that held something we had grown seemed a little tastier somehow. Even now that the harvesting is done, we get a special pleasure in opening a jar of green beans or pickled beets.

Gardening grows gratitude

You’re grateful when it rains. Grateful when it stops raining. Grateful for new shoots and pollinating bees and the single zucchini that grew. You’re just thankful for all of it, because you know it was a gift. And that tomorrow it could be gone, a victim of critters or weather or blight.

Alright, I know, I’m getting all sappy and sentimental. Bottom line is, I loved puttering around in my garden this year. I’m going to miss the dirt, sun and occasional solitude I found there.

In the meantime, anyone know of any good seed catalogs I can read through?