Homemade “Storebought” Granola

A few years back I learned to make homemade granola. Boy, I thought I had hit the jackpot. I love granola, but it is rather expensive to buy storebought. I was thrilled to find out I could make it myself at a fraction of the cost. My enthusiasm waned before long because my granola didn’t taste like the storebought kind. Instead of bold exciting flavors, my granola tasted like dried oatmeal and honey. I set out to make a really yummy granola that I would want to eat everyday (ok, maybe not everyday, but at least several times a week).

I started out by reading the ingredients of the storebought granola and tweaking my recipe to include some of the ones I liked. I change it up a bit every now and then, depending on my mood and what I have in the cupboards. Here is the recipe of the moment, but I will include some delish alternatives at the end of the post. Enjoy!

The mix of honey and maple syrup gives the granola a rich flavor without overpowering the other flavors in the granola. I found that by adding in the 1/2 cup of ground flax seed, the granola stuck together a bit better and was clumpier. I like my granola to have chunks in it rather than it being loose oatmeal mixed with nuts and berries.

Like I said before, this is the recipe that tickles my fancy, but you can really change it up and come up with lots of different recipes. Here are a few suggestions to get you going…

granola ingredients @ponderthepath

Flavorings: vanilla extract, almond extract, cinnamon

Nuts: pecans, almonds, walnuts, pinenuts, peanuts, cashews

Dried fruit: Berries, Raisins, Coconut, Banana Chips

Yummies: Peanut Butter (add in with butter and oil), chocolate chips (add after granola has been cooked and is cooled), orange zest, cocoa powder

How ’bout you? What do like in your homemade “storebought” granola?

 

Turtles in the Snow Cheesecake Bars

{In our house, my 16 year old son is our dessert connoisseur. That is why I collaborated with him on a new recipe to enter in an online contest. Our favorite recipe was eliminated because it took longer than 30 minutes to prepare. I decided to share it with you all because I am sure you won’t mind waiting for this one to chill. It is definitely worth the wait!}

Turtles in the Snow Cheesecake Bars

Crust:
1 stick butter, melted
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons sugar

Filling:
2 8 ounce packages cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream

Topping:
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped pecans
3/4 cup coconut flakes
3/4 cup caramel sauce (you can make your own by melting caramels with a dash of milk and a sliver of butter)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix ingredients for crust and press into a 9 x 13 inch pan.
Bake for 6-8 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix cream cheese and sugar until fluffy. Beat in flour, eggs, vanilla, and sour cream. Pour over crust. Top with chocolate chips, pecans, and coconut, pressing down slightly. Bake 25 minutes. Turn off oven and allow cheesecake to cool in oven with door slightly ajar for 45 minutes. Refrigerate 2 hours. Drizzle caramel sauce over cheesecake bars before serving.

Food Reformation: Learning to Make Mozzarella Cheese

This is a post I have been wanting to write for 6 months, but the truth of the matter is that I just could not get the cheese to turn out the way it was suppose to. I received my cheesemaking kit from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company back in June.

I have attempted making the 30 minute Mozzarella four different times. Each time the cheese turned out a little better, but never as well as I would have liked. I am pretty determined to learn how to make cheese. In a few months we will be moving to our “farmette” in Texas and getting a milk cow is high on our list of priorities. I need to learn to make cheese, and soon!

Thankfully, my persistance paid off and I was able to make a wonderful batch of cheese today using fresh, raw (unpasteurized) cow milk.

Mozzarella and Ricotta Kit

Because I had never made cheese before, I decided to start out simple. I figured it couldn’t get much simpler than fresh mozzarella. Plus, we love eating fresh mozzarella in our Caprese Pasta Salad.

The kit contains all the items you will need (except milk) to make 30 one pound batches of fresh mozzarella or ricotta cheese: Dairy Thermometer, Butter Muslin, Citric Acid, Vegetable Rennet Tablets, Cheese Salt and Recipe Booklet.

The recipe book covers several different variations in cheesemaking, including using fresh milk, store-bought milk, powdered milk, or goat milk. You can also choose between using a microwave or using a hot water bath to stretch the cheese.

Making Mozzarella

I will go through the basics of making the cheese just to give you an idea of how it’s done. Really though, you will want to go the the website and download the free instructions so that you don’t miss something in the details. I have found that little things can really make the difference between a great and a not-so-great batch of cheese.

1. To start off, you mix citrus acid and chlorine-free water in a cup. The chlorine-free is very important. The first couple of times I used water from the tap, thinking that because we are on well water it has no chlorine. This is true, but I suspect even the minerals in the water can cause issues with how the cheese turns out. Today I used distilled water for the first time and had great results. Coincidence? Maybe, but I am sticking with the distilled water.

2. Mix 1 gallon milk with the citrus acid water. Stir and heat.

3. Add rennet and let set for 5 minutes (I let mine set 10 because I was using fresh milk) until the curds began to form.

4. Cut the curds and stir slowly until heated.

5. Remove whey from the curds.

6. Heat and stretch the mozzarella cheese. Add cheese salt.

That wasn’t hard, was it? Actually, the difficulty lies in the details, but I finally feel like I have a handle on the process. Looking forward to graduating to hard cheeses!

Online Cheese Making Class

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Hopscotch with us January 14th – 18th as we share another round of over 110 posts full of homeschooling activities and advice, Biblical encouragement, and much much more!

Food Reformation: Learning to Make Pomegranate Jelly

This was a fun project I decided to try out one day when I was at the store walking through the produce section and I spotted these huge pomegranates. There was an elderly lady nearby, and we struck up a conversation about making jelly with the pomegranates, and I thought it was a lovely idea.

{Fun Fact: In Spain, pomegranates are called granadas because of their grenade like shape.}

Why Make Your Own Jelly?

Besides feeling a huge sense of accomplishment when you stand back and gaze at your pretty jelly jars all lined in a row, making your own jelly is both healthier than eating most store bought jelly and it costs less than buying the so-called health food jellies.

I did a comparison of the ingredients from a typical SAD (Standard American Diet) item — grape jelly, and my own pomegranate jelly. Here is what I found:

Grape Jelly
Ingredients: grape juice, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, fruit pectin, citric acid, sodium citrate
Serving Size: 1 Tablespoon
Sugar: 12 grams
Calories: 50

Pomegranate Jelly
Ingredients: pomegranate juice, honey, lemon juice, citrus pectin, monocalcium phosphate
Serving Size: 1 Tablespoon
Sugar: 4 grams
Calories: 16

The pomegranate jelly also has the benefits of being fresh and being made with of raw honey.

Items Needed to Make Pomegranate Jelly

  • 6-7 Large Pomegranates (If these aren’t available, 4 cups pomegranate juice will work.)
  • 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup raw honey
  • 4 teaspoons Pomona’s Pectin (I like this pectin because it sets well with little or no sugar.)
  • 4 teaspoons calcium water (The calcium powder comes with the pectin. Simply mix 1/2 teaspoon powder with 1/2 cup water in a small jar. Refrigerate unused calcium water for later use.)
  • 6 pint size canning jars with new lids and rims

How to Make Pomegranate Jelly

1. First, you will need to juice the pomegranate. I might have done it the hard way, but it worked fine. Ideally, a sieve and a wooden pestle work the best. I just placed a strainer onto a large glass measuring bowl. I rolled my pomegranates around a bit, putting firm pressure on them to “pre-juice” them. Once I cut them open, I poured this juice into the bowl and put the pomegranate pieces into the strainer. I then took a glass jar and pressed them until all the juice is pressed out.

2. Strain juice through a cheesecloth to remove any unwanted particles.

3. Measure out 4 cups of juice and pour into a sauce pan. Add in 4 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice and 4 teaspoons of calcium water. Bring to a boil.

4. While waiting for the juice to boil, sterilize the jars, lids, and rims by placing them in hot water brought to a boil then left to stand until jelly is ready.

5. Thoroughly mix honey and pectin together in a small bowl. Once juice begins to boil, add honey/pectin mixture, stirring continuously (I have found a whisk works well) for 2 minutes. Mixture should return to a boil, then remove from heat.

6. Fill jars until they reach the bottom of the rim. Put on the seal and rim tightly and place in a pot of boiling water, making sure the water covers the jars by at least an inch. Boil for 5 minutes, then remove and let cool.

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Linked up at Like a Mustard Seed for Living Green Tuesdays.

Hopscotch with us January 14th – 18th as we share another round of over 110 posts full of homeschooling activities and advice, Biblical encouragement, and much much more!

Food Reformation: Learning to Make Sourdough Bread

Several years ago I tried to make sourdough bread. I remember that the bread came out as hard as a brick and didn’t rise at all. It didn’t take much neglect until the starter was rancid and in the trash. I really didn’t believe it could be done.

Then one day I was reading my friend Keri Mae’s blog and saw that she had been making sourdough bread. And her bread was soft and delicious and she didn’t use any yeast other than her starter. I was amazed! I wanted to try again, but really lacked confidence in myself to make it happen. I decided to order a couple of starters from the company Keri Mae suggested. It took be over a year to get the nerve up to try them (I didn’t want to ruin them waste my money).

One day someone posted a link on Facebook to a free e-book, Vintage Remedies Guide to Bread. Now I will tell you, I was blown away by all the research done for the book. It totally makes sense to me. I have been grinding my own wheat now for 6 or 7 years, and I could never buy into the idea of soaking my wheat berries then drying them out so that I could grind them. For one thing, it is just too much hassle for me. Second, I was really skeptical of the perceived benefits of soaking the grain.

Thankfully, what Jessie shows in her book (in a nutshell) is that sourdough really is the way to go with baking. Sourdough is full of beneficial bacterial that is so good for our gut health. And it makes the nutrients in the bread more readily available. So I believed in the concept, I just didn’t know if it was doable on a practical level.

Anyhow, I decided to jump right in and get started. At first, I experienced the same presumed failure I had experienced before. The bread didn’t rise and the starter started smelling like paint thinner. However, this time instead of throwing it out, I went to Google first. Come to find out, I hadn’t ruined my starter after all. I just needed to feed it much more often, and wait about a week before using it. I did that and I now have the most pleasant smelling starter that works every time!

Here is what I have learned so far:

I took about a cup of flour (freshly ground whole wheat–soft or hard, doesn’t matter), a cup of water, and half of the starter from my packet. I stirred that up in a jar and left it sitting on the counter. I have found that my starter needs to be fed at least 2-3 times a day. I take about 1/3 cup flour and 1/3 cup water (always use approximately the same amount of each) and stir it into the jar. The first week while you are getting it ready to use, you will end up feeding it so much that it is too much for one jar. If you want, you can poor half into another jar and start it for a friend (or you can just poor out the excess).

After about a week, I noticed that when I fed my starter, not only would it start to bubble (it had been bubbling from about day 2), but it would also rise in the jar. After a few hours it would fizzle down and develop liquid on the top. This liquid is normal, just stir it back in when you feed it next.

When I make bread now, I usually try to feed the starter about 30 minutes before I want to use it so that it will be good and active in the dough.

I tried several recipes before I finally came up with my own. I wanted something simple and the size of this recipe is perfect for my large cast iron pan. I am not sure how many loaves it would make, as I just make rolls with it.

Flaxseed Sourdough Rolls

5 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup oil (I use olive oil most of the time, but have also used coconut oil with good results)
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup (before it is ground) flaxseed
1 cup starter
1 1/2 cup water, lukewarm

Very simple instructions…I just throw everything in my mixer and mix for a good 6-8 minutes. I usually don’t time it precisely, just make sure the dough has a nice elasticity to it.

I then roll the dough in balls and place in my cast iron skillet. I cover, let rise overnight, and pop them in the oven in the morning.

I usually bake at 350, but I am not sure how long I leave them in there. I just check to see if they are done.

More With Sourdough

I know that I have just scratched the surface with sourdough baking. I tried to make some sourdough donuts, but it was before my starter had really starter going and they were just too tangy. I am anxious to try it again now that I “got the hang of it”. In her book, Jessie has recipes for all kinds of sourdough goodies.

My friend Keri Mae is writing about sourdough today as well. I can’t wait to see what she posts. I am always learning something new from her and I am sure I will today as well. She has been using sourdough for a while now, so she’s sure to have some goodness in store! Make sure and visit her to learn more about sourdough bread.

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Hopscotch with us January 14th – 18th as we share another round of over 110 posts full of homeschooling activities and advice, Biblical encouragement, and much much more!

Food Reformation: Getting Started

Steps to a Whole Foods Diet

Before getting into specific foods, I would like to take a look some basic areas of our lives to help us decide the best course of action for our eating. It can be so easy to get caught up in the latest fad diets and to look around and see what everyone else is doing, but we need to stay grounded and determine what is best for our family. God has created each of us as individuals and placed us together in a family. As the mother, and usually the primary meal provider, it is our responsibility to look to the needs of those the Lord has entrusted us with.

Also, our goals should reflect a lifetime of stewardship with our bodies. Although losing a quick 10 pounds would be nice, our goals should be long-term. With that in mind, there are several questions we can ask ourselves to determine a healthy diet for our families.

1. What Has God Allowed?

I like to start at the beginning and look at what God has created and allowed his children to eat. Because we are no longer under the law, we are allowed to eat plants and animals. However, there are great health benefits to eating the clean animals over the unclean. I love crisp pan-fried bacon with eggs, but I try to greatly limit the amount of pork I consume because it is an unclean animal and not the healthiest choice. And if you choose to eat animal protein, it is wise to limit the amount of animal protein you consume. It is more difficult for your body to digest.

2. Eliminating Items of Concern

These could be items that family members are allergic to or foods that exasperate illnesses (ie, dairy during cold). I personally use the following list I have adapted from Shonda Parker’s (Excerpted from Naturally Healthy Family Herbalist Course) red flag list of items to avoid:

  • white or enriched flour (look for this in the ingredients): devoid of all nutrients, high glycemic index, slows digestion and elimination
  • sugar or corn syrup: suppresses immune system, raises blood sugar levels
  • processed foods: the more processing involved=less nutrients + more additives
  • preservatives: BHT, BHA, sodium nitrite and nitrates, propyl gallate, sulfur dioxide, sodium bisulfate
  • caffeine, alcohol, tobacco (I would also add in sodas): depletes essential nutrients, alcohol and sodas causing weight gain
  • artificial colorings and flavorings: dyes, MSG
  • chemicals: artificial sweeteners (saccharine, aspartame)
  • natural additives: sorbitol

3. Determining What is Most Beneficial for Individual/Family Health

Just as you will want to eliminate foods that are of concern for particular members of your family, you will also want to add in foods that have particular benefits your family may need. For our family which has a high incidence of cancers, I wanted to make sure I included foods that help fight off cancer. These include salmon (high levels of omega-3 fatty acids), flaxseed, and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Recently, I have also increased our consumption of legumes while at the same time decreasing our consumption of meat.

4. What Has the Lord Provided (or not provided)?

For most of us, there are times in our lives when we cannot afford to eat the healthiest food possible. Our family prefers to eat grass-fed beef, but sometimes it is unavailable and other times we can’t afford to. One thing I have tried to do, knowing that the price of beef, especially grass-fed beef, is high, is to extend the meat (for example, I will use only a small amount of beef in the chili and add lots of beans) or eat meals that don’t utilize meat (potato cauliflower soup with fresh baked wheat bread). When I can, I choose the healthiest of what I have available to me. And no matter what it is, I am thankful.

5. What Has the Head of the Home Allowed?

My husband is a picky eater. When we married, the only vegetables he would eat were corn and potatoes. Over the years, he has slowly come around and willingly eats several vegetables now. The key word is “slowly”! And although my husband doesn’t share my enthusiasm for eating healthy, he has allowed me to provide healthy meals for the kids and myself…he has even learned to eat a few of them as well.

One thing I have tried to do, is to make the really healthy foods at lunch when he is not home, then cook some of his favorites for dinner. Or I will make several items for dinner so that I can serve him something he likes and then serve us something healthier. Whatever the choice your husband allows, be gracious and do the best you can without complaint. Most meals can be made much healthier just by making them at home!

6. What Does Your Family Enjoy?

God gave us food to enjoy and to be blessed by. Meal time shouldn’t arrive with dreadful anticipation. Granted we can’t have our favorites at every meal, but we can strive to serve food that is pleasant. One of the things we have done is to look for healthier ways to create the foods we love. This may mean making desserts with farm fresh eggs, raw milk, and fresh ground wheat. It may mean substituting honey for processed sugar.

Join me tomorrow as I share how I got started making sourdough bread! It is a great way to add in whole grains to your diet, while at the same time building up a healthy gut (and a healthy gut means greater immunity against illness and disease!).

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Hopscotch with us January 14th – 18th as we share another round of over 110 posts full of homeschooling activities and advice, Biblical encouragement, and much much more!

Five Days of Food Reformation

It was no accident that man was placed in the garden shortly after being created. From the beginning of time, the garden has been a symbol of God’s provision for man both physically and spiritually. In Genesis 2:9, we see the Lord providing trees that are both “pleasant to the sight, and good for food”. The garden, and subsequently the food that it supplies, was a gift to mankind providing fellowship, comfort, nutrition, and nourishment. God’s plan for man’s sustenance was whole, complete, and lacking nothing.

Unfortunately, sin came into the world, by food no less, and our relationship with our Creator and His provision for us changed completely. No longer would man eat freely of the goodness of the garden, but by “the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread (Gen. 3:19)”. Suddenly, the ground was cursed and mankind was relegated to toiling for our meals. And although many of us in Western culture have plenty to eat on a daily basis, there is a continual struggle in our lives as we relate to food.

For the most part, we have traded in the wisdom of the Holy One for the fads of this earth. Man now determines what is wholesome and worthy of consumption. We have delegated our health and our nutritional intake to the professionals, seeking what they deem healthy. We have bowed down before the USDA pyramid seeking restoration when we should be asking our Lord for guidance.

As American’s we spend more money on food than any other country on earth, although ironically, as a percentage of our income we spend less than any of our country. What this means is that we are rich. So rich that only a small percent of our money goes toward buying food and we still manage to outspend everyone else.

For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.

Proverbs 23:21

Because of our riches, we have become gluttons. Our stores are filled to the ceilings with all kinds of products to gorge our protruding bellies. Twenty-four hours a day, we can pull up to a speaker and demand any delicacy of our choosing. Television shows, magazines, books, and the internet tantalize our taste buds with the images of melt-in-your-mouth goodness. We are surrounded by an abundance of food.

And while we continually desire more, we demand that it be given to us with very little sacrifice on our part. We want to be able to throw off restraint and eat all we want, but at the same time remain as thin as a runway model. Every meal should be an elaborate affair and we should never be forced to eat something that is not absolutely delicious. And the cost, well, don’t expect us to pay more than pocket change. After all, there are plenty of people willing to labor and toil in order to keep the cost of food to a bare minimum for us royal Americans.

With all of this abundance, we are the sickest, most malnourished nation on the planet. Cancers and illnesses are eating away at us and medical costs are skyrocketing. Everyone is walking for the cure, placing their hope in the God’s of this world. There are no lack of saviors ready to offer their miracle cure in the form of the newest diet or health regimen. And there are no lack of masses ready to throw away their money for a quick fix to their problems.

Our country is the epitome of Jeremiah 6:16:

Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.

We will not walk therein. So is the cry of the world today.

But as Christians, are we not called to a better way? Should we not steward the body that the Lord has blessed us with?

What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

For many Christians, we realize that we should be eating healthy and taking care of our bodies, but with so much conflicting information it sometimes makes our heads spin just thinking about it. Most of us were raised on “SAD” (Standard American Diet) and breaking out of it is difficult. We either feel defeated right from the get-go because the change seems insurmountable, or we over-correct and jump head-long into the man-made fads that promise restoration.

So what is the answer?

Well, I don’t think giving up is the answer and fads don’t work because they are incomplete, focusing only on the part, not the whole of our health. Our goal should be our overall health. Something that is doable and sustainable. Join me this week as I cover ways that we can reform the way we eat.

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Hopscotch with us January 14th – 18th as we share another round of over 110 posts full of homeschooling activities and advice, Biblical encouragement, and much much more!

Homemade Almond Joys

A few weeks ago my son and I were looking for a healthy snack to make when I remembered reading on someones blog how to make a healthy almond joy bar. It wasn’t long before we were enjoying our treat. It wasn’t long after that we were making trips to the bathroom. (Warning: Too much coconut oil in one sitting is not good).

I still had some coconut left over from that incident, so I decided to be brave and try again…this time I came up with my own recipe! My son wasn’t so sure about my abilities, but thankfully I proved him wrong. The homemade almond joys I made were not only totally yummy, they were actually pretty healthy {bonus}. Here is how I did it…

Ingredients:
1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
1 Tablespoon Butter
1 Tablespoon Raw Honey
1 Tablespoon Maple Syrup
1 Cup Shredded Coconut
1/4 Cup Almonds
1/2 Cup Dark Chocolate Chips

Heat coconut oil and butter until just melted. Mix in honey, maple syrup, and coconut. Stir until well mixed. Form a rectangle with the coconut mixture on a plate.

Add almonds to the top of the rectangle. Refrigerate until firm.

Meanwhile, melt chocolate. I place mine in a pyrex measuring cup and place in a pan of boiling water. Make sure none of the water gets into the chocolate or it will cause it to become hard and brittle.

At this point, I should have cut the coconut rectangle into slices, then poured chocolate onto each individual piece. Instead, I just poured the chocolate onto the top of the entire rectangle. I put it back into the refrigerator (not quite long enough though, I just couldn’t wait to try them!).

My son gave this one a 2 thumbs up!

Chicken and Veggie Wrap

Here is a quick and easy lunch idea…a chicken and veggie wrap!

We filled our wrap with leftover chicken, some greens, shaved cucumbers, red bell peppers, and topped with feta cheese. (I want to say there was some yogurt tzatziki sauce in there too, but I don’t see it in the photo.) Yum!

Caprese Pasta Salad

As we ease back into a school day routine, I have been looking for ways to free myself up so that I am available to work with each child a little more. One thing I have done is work out a schedule (did I really say the “s” word?). Each day I have my son (15) and youngest daughter (7) making lunch and my oldest daughter (18) and middle daughter (10) making dinner — with help from me when needed.

My goal is to teach each of the children to be as self-sufficient in the kitchen as possible. Yesterday, my son was busy finishing up his Algebra, so I went ahead and started cooking some pasta. Hannah decided she could handle the rest of lunch, so I just let her go. She got out the cutting board, a sharp knife (Yes, I let my young ones use sharp knifes after I have shown them how to use them properly.), some tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella and away she went.

I love this pasta salad because it is light and healthy and my kids just eat it up.  I learned to make it from an Italian lady living in Germany.  Go figure ; )

Caprese Pasta Salad

1 box pasta, cooked al dente and drained
2-3 tomatoes
2 packages fresh mozzarella
2-3 fresh basil leaves
1 clove garlic, crushed
salt to taste

Mix together and drizzle olive oil over top. Sprinkle freshly grated parmesan over the top. Enjoy!