Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sad News...

I recently became friends with a wonderful family from Alabama through blogging.
Their blog is called A Baker's Dozen Barnhouse News  
 and their life style and farm were so inspirational. I felt lucky to find them.
Last night, a tornado stormed through their area and left them without a home...and without a husband and father. 
He died trying to save his family.
 In the aftermath, Jordan, the oldest, was left trying to save his trapped sisters, brothers, and mother as the authorities were completely overwhelmed.
 Miraculously, the rest of the family is OK.
I wish there was something I could do, but I know that my prayers are all I can offer. 

Will you join me in keeping this family, as well as the many others affected by the horrible tornado in your prayers?

You can read about updates on the Lees  HERE.


Update...
* If you would like to help this family and other families affected by the tornado in that area....you can donate to Providence Church Tornado Relief Efforts or
click HERE to donate directly to the Lee family.

~Julia

Friday, April 22, 2011

Easter Basket Ideas

I thought I would share some really fun last minute Easter ideas.
I am filling all of our little Easter baskets with these goodies...

I am packaging cookies in little CD envelopes...

with this delicious recipe.
chocolate pudding cookies

And why not use up scrap paper and make these darling Easter treat boxes from Nifty Thrifty Things?
{easter treat boxes}
The kids made these sweet treats...

To make them just whip up a batch of Rice Krispy Treats and shape into little nests.
Set on wax paper and before they cool completely add a Peep and some jelly beans.
So fun!

And lastly, I made my two little ones and a special friend these sweet bunnies.
I was inspired by Emily at Jones Design Company to add a little flower to the girls' bunnies.
The pattern is really easy and fairly quick to make.




I used this pattern.

Wishing you a blessed and peace filled Easter celebrating the resurrection!

~Julia

Monday, April 18, 2011

Homemade Yogurt

Yogurt is such a healthy snack and we go through quite a bit at our house!
Making it has been on my to do list for a while, so when my friend Monica mentioned she was thinking about doing the same...I knew it was time to give it a whirl.
Monica is one of my dearest friends...the kind of friend who doesn't think it is weird that I get excited over yogurt.
The kind of friend who stays up and reads my late night emails detailing the yogurt making experience.
I LOVE the science behind food preparation and cooking:).

So, after trying a few different methods of making yogurt, I have come up with a recipe that we love!


I have made this several times now and we have truly enjoyed it, but please note I can't be responsible for any bad results:). Make sure you are working with clean equipment and sterilizing your jars. If you are worried, you can also take the time to search the internet and research yogurt making techniques and risks. We have never had a problem and I continue to make it because I know exactly what is in the yogurt AND it saves me so much money:). 

So, here is what you will need:

4 quart canning jars with lids and rings
1 gallon whole milk
4 TBS vanilla
1 - 1 1/2 cups honey 
1~ 6 oz. container of plain or vanilla yogurt with LIVE CULTURES
crockpot
candy thermometer

First, I sterilize the crockpot by rinsing it with boiling water.
You can also sterilize your quart jars.
Set them aside for a later time.

Turn your crockpot on low and let it heat up.

Next, fill one side of your sink with really cold water.

Pour milk into clean, heavy bottomed pot and stir constantly until it is heated to 180 degrees.
You want it to stay at that temperature for at least 60 seconds.
 I also add 1 1/2 cups of honey, as it will blend evenly in the warm milk.

Take your pot and put it in the sink filled with cold water.
Cool to 110 degrees...I stir occasionally.

Add 4 TBS. vanilla and the yogurt starter.


I have found that if you choose a yogurt that you really love, you will have a slightly similar tasting product.
Whisk everything together.

NOTE: I have not tried for a thicker yogurt, but some recipes call for 2 packets of unflavored gelatin to be added at this point.
 It might be something to try if you are interested.
Crockpot 365 has a great recipe.

Now, turn your crockpot off. Yup...unplug it.
Pour your milk into the crockpot, put the lid on, and cover with a thick towel.


Let it sit for between 7-9 hours. I prefer the 9 hour mark, as there is a bit more "tang."
Just sample a little to see if it is where you want it to be.

Now comes the fun part!
Just look at that beautiful yogurt!

It is not quite the same consistency as store-bought, but really delicious and so healthy!
There are many different ways to thicken your yogurt, but so far I haven't attempted it.
I really like the final product just the way it is. 

At this point, you can also add jam, fresh fruit, or any other flavor. 
Just use your blender and create to your heart's delight.
DON'T worry if the yogurt looks really runny after blending! It will thicken up in the refrigerator.

I like to at least stir it up in the crockpot before removing. There will be a little whey....don't worry about that.
Just mix it right in. Some people like to use a cheese cloth and strain it out, which you can try, too.
 It makes the yogurt slightly thicker.

Next, pour into your quart jars. I use a little funnel because, well, I'm messy.
Now put in your refrigerator and let them sit for a few hours.
Before you know it, the yogurt has thickened and is perfect for breakfast, dessert, or a snack.
If you feel your yogurt is not sweet enough, just add a little powdered sugar and stir in.
It's so good with granola and a little jam on top:). Yum!

Make sure to save at least 6 oz. for your next yogurt starter! The yogurt is great for about a week. 
If you don't consume a gallon {like we do} feel free to cut the recipe in half.

Enjoy!

~Julia

PS: Here is the best part: each 6 oz serving costs about 11 cents {once you have your starter}.
My milk cost $2.39, is 128 oz, which is {21} 6oz. servings. That averages to 11 cents a serving:).

Want more tips on creating great yogurt?
Click HERE!


I am linking to these great places.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Reflecting on Motherhood

I am joining Anne Marie this week to reflect upon motherhood, all that it encompasses for those of us who are blessed with children, and what I can do to improve my highest vocation in this life. 
What a wonderful way to end the Lenten season and to really take a look at the impact I am having on my children.

First fishing trip of the season.

I often wonder....how will they remember me?
Will they have warm, lovely, happy memories?
Or will they only remember me correcting them, telling them to do something like brush their teeth, make their beds?
Will they remember my smile?

This is my highest calling in life.
These children are my greatest accomplishment and my greatest gift from God!
I know that I care for them so well: nutritious foods, a clean, fairly organized home, fun activities, lots of love.
But, do I have their hearts? 
That right there is the creme brulee of being a Mom.
When I have their hearts, I know it....I can see it in their demeanor and their actions towards one another.
It is the total answer if you have arguing and chaos going on in your home:).

And to be honest, sometimes I let that goal slip.
You see, I get busy with the day to day things like laundry, making a phone call, and cleaning.
At times, I am so guilty of not making the time to look into their eyes and really connect with them.
The kids and I on a nature walk/ bike ride.

I remember the ever famous saying growing up "Quality not Quantity."
Oh boy, I really don't like that one!
Whoever came up with that obviously didn't have kids!
It takes both...large quantities of time AND the quality they deserve.
On a Spring nature walk/bike ride:).



I love how Mother Theresa sums it up...

Speak tenderly to them. Let there be kindness in your face, in your eyes, in your smile, in the warmth of your greeting. Always have a cheerful smile. Don't only give your care, but give your heart as well.

I know this is where I need to improve.
My four blessings are absolutely precious to me and I want them to remember me as a gentle, kind, and loving Mother.
Sure, that doesn't mean I have to be a softie and let them run amuck.
But putting down the dishes, or closing the laptop when one of them needs to talk....just to really look into their eyes. 
Doing little things like coloring with Jack, saddling a horse for Tim and watching him ride, taking the time to really look at Will's newest motor repair, or dressing a baby for Lily...even if I am busy.
Tim with his horse Clover.

It is the little things that grab their hearts.
It means dropping what I am doing and realizing that a fleeting moment means more than a clean house or an errand run.
It means hugging them and telling them they are absolutely the best whenever the moment arises!
Did you know that  a child needs at least 12 hugs a day to feel loved? 
Whew...that means I need to wrap my arms around these guys 48 times a day.
I love it. 
I love them.
I truly love my job as a Mom...even though I am not perfect.
I know this time is so brief and that it is the small moments that make the memories and tie me to their hearts.



Thanks Anne Marie for the inspiration!

~Julia

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Homemade Microwave Popcorn

We love popcorn around here and eat it often as a snack.
A couple of my kids beg me to buy the microwave popcorn at the grocery store, but it is usually much cheaper to buy kernels and pop it at home.
Well, I ran across this idea and was pleasantly surprised!
Homemade microwave popcorn...easy, thrifty, and delicious!

Here is the recipe:
1/4 cup popcorn
2 tsp. olive or vegetable oil
1/4 tsp. salt
brown paper lunch bag

I combine everything in my measuring cup.

Pour into bag and give a little shake.

Fold down top a couple of times and secure with a piece of tape.

Microwave for 2-3 minutes or until there is about 5 seconds between pops.
Whalaa!
You have a delicious snack!



Hope you enjoy:).

~Julia

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Kamut Flour

Do you know about Kamut flour?
It is a wonderful flour/grain that is very high in protein and fiber. 
Many people who are gluten intolerant can handle this grain. 
It is slightly sweeter than other wheat flours and has a delicious nutty flavor.
For me, it has been a great treat....so easy on my blood sugars!



The flour is rather dense.  Besides having a delicious French Bread recipe from my friend Beth, I was in need of a good sandwich style loaf. I played around with a few recipes and came up with this one.
The flavor is amazing and the texture is light and moist. 



Kamut Bread

Yield 2 loaves – 24 slices
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Baking Time: 30 minutes
  • 2 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees)
  • 2 Tablespoons yeast
  • 6 cups Kamut flour, freshly ground
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup Tablespoons vital wheat gluten flour **** do not use in a wheat allergy
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c. milk
  • More Kamut flour, as needed
Place warm water, yeast and 2 cups Kamut flour in a large mixing or mixer bowl.  Mix well and let sit covered for 15-30 minutes to sponge. The mixture should be bubbly.
Turn the mixer on briefly to release air, (or stir down with a wooden spoon), and add remaining ingredients, mixing well after each addition. Be sure to add the flour only 1/2 cup at a time and stir well, or add flour with the machine running. Only add enough flour until the dough clings to itself in a ball and cleans the sides of the bowl. The dough should be moist, but not sticky. Knead for 8 minutes in the machine and 10-15 minutes by hand. If kneading by hand, add just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to surface.
Let the dough rise about 30 minutes in a covered bowl. The Kamut dough will be slightly denser than regular whole-wheat dough. Punch dough down by hand, or turn machine on briefly to release air. Turn out on an oiled surface to shape into 2 loaves and place in prepared 8 x 4 inch pans.
Let loaves rise in a warmed oven to about 2 inches above the rim of the loaf pan. I usually just turn my oven to 170 degrees and let them rise in there. Turn oven on to 350 degrees and bake for 30 minutes or until the loaf is golden brown and cooked through. Put a bowl of water on the lowest rack while baking...it will help keep the bread moist.

I bought Kamut through one of my favorite co-ops... Azure Standard.

Have a great day!
~Julia
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