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The Very Next Thing


The Very Next Thing
January 3, 2012 at 5:03 pm

Hiya Friends,

I am typing this message to say good-bye — at least for now.

This blog won’t be continuing after today, and I am sad to see it go. I loved getting on each day and writing about my little organic steps and the things we were doing in our family.

Your comments made me happy, and I loved having the chance to connect with you.

I am not sure what the very next thing is going to be for me just yet. This year seems like one that will be full of changes — hopefully big and small. I’m odd like that — I actually really love change.

But I did want to get on one last time to say farewell, and to thank you for stopping by, and for the comments and support. Sometimes, this green business can be a bit lonely — especially for moms who spend so much time sort of insulated. It is so important to connect and find people who are like minded — someone else who feeds their kids green smoothies or wants to raise chickens pretty much more than anything in the world.

I’d like to thank I’m Organic for this opportunity. I don’t think I would have done this on my own, and the past year and a half has changed me — in good ways, I think. I am grateful for this space, but I understand that it is time for me to move along.

I have a few ideas up my sleeve for some new and exciting adventures, and if you’d like to know more, some say hi on Facebook or send me an e-mail at ksawrites@gmail.com.

Thank you again to you all. And may 2012 bring you only good things,

Kara

Posted in (General) by Kara
Comments (6)


Eating Well, Staying on Budget
at 6:00 am

In the past, I haven’t made a lot of New Year’s resolutions, but after a very big year, filled with a lot of changes, I have started to look at 2012 as an opportunity to begin again.

One of my resolutions this year is to focus on really, really good food, and making that food affordable for my family. Eating well has long been a priority for us, but I struggle with our food budget.

I remembered this series that we did when this blog first started in August of 2010. And I want to share it again in case it may be helpful to you. These smart mamas shared some wonderful tips as well as nutritious recipes. I hope you’ll find some inspiration here for the new year!

The following is the first in a series of interviews on eating well on a budget.

This series began in talking with my friend Rachel (featured below) about saving money while making eating nutritious foods a priority.

Rachel is mom to three boys, Isaac, 10, Adam, 4, and Noah, 3. Her husband Alan is a 5th grade bilingual teacher.

Rachel is an amazing volunteer and a very generous friend, who doesn’t mind being interviewed the week school starts. She is also a writer and someday hopes to return to her previous career in social work, but her current focus is on her family and what they are eating.

 TVNT:  How would you sum up your family’s food philosophy?

Rachel: My personal food philosophy (which in turn has become my family’s) is that foods should be eaten in as close to their natural state as possible.

As I learn more and more about how food is produced, I find more and more things I want my family to avoid eating (GMOs, meat, conventionally produced eggs and dairy, fruits and vegetables saturated with pesticides, etc.)

It can honestly make me a little crazy and I’m still working on finding a balance so my food philosophy doesn’t run our entire life. I think it’s important to have principles and to stick to them, but when it comes to eating in this country where so many things fall into that category of things I want us to avoid, to hold on to some semblance of normality sometimes I have to let go. 

TVNT: Do you purchase convenience foods? If not, what do you try to make at home (cookies, crackers, pretzels, etc?)

Rachel: No, I don’t buy many convenience foods. (It can be a little embarrassing at times when we are around other people with something simple like a bag of pretzels and my kids gobble them down like they’ve never seen such a thing before.)

For me it’s not that I have anything against these foods as much as it is that I find them too expensive for my budget. Convenience snack foods don’t fill us up, they are mostly empty calories because of that, it’s hard to stop eating them which in turn makes them seem more expensive to me because they never last long!

We make our own cookies and granola. (I’ve stopped buying cereal because of the cost and the kids have homemade granola instead now.) I’ve never ventured into the cracker or pretzel making arena but would like to try sometime. 

TVNT: I know you do things like bake bread and cook your own beans … how does that help your budget? Do you plan for baking and cooking? How do you make time for that, or does it just become part of your routine after a while?

Rachel: Oh I wish I was organized enough to say I plan for baking and cooking! I don’t at all unfortunately.

Cooking beans does take some forethought because of soaking time. Usually I pull out the beans sometime the day before to remind myself to soak them that night, then the next day I stick them in the crockpot all day and wah-lah, a cheap healthy form of protein.

Yes, this helps my budget a lot. Dried beans are a lot cheaper (and healthier!) than canned and making my own bread sure beats the price of buying it.

“I used to throw the ingredients into my bread machine and let that do the work. Now I prefer the act of making bread. I find it soothing to knead the dough, comforting to have a bowl of yeasty dough rising, waiting for me to punch it down. I love the entire process. I think that’s key with all of this– it helps tremendously if you enjoy making these things. I love baking and cooking but I don’t know if I could do half the things I do in the kitchen if I didn’t!

Though I do think these things can grow on a person over time so I would say that someone who hates cooking and baking could learn to love it with time.

TVNT:  What are some things that you always buy organic?

Rachel: I always buy anything with soy (like tofu) organic, as well as milk and fruits and vegetables off the dirty dozen, like strawberries. 

TVNT: Are there certain foods that you rarely buy organic?

Rachel: I don’t usually buy my grains or legumes organic, unless I can get a good deal or the price difference is negligiable

TVNT:  Do you buy in bulk? How does that help your food budget?

Rachel: Yes, I love buying in bulk! I do think it makes a big difference with things we eat a lot of, not so much with things we don’t. (Something I just learned… if we don’t eat it a lot, it’s not worth getting in bulk.)

I mentioned earlier that I make my own granola so buying a fifty pound bag of oats allows me to buy them at 38 cents a pound, rather than about 75 cents a pound. Over time that makes a huge difference! The same is true with flour or yeast.

TVNT: What tips would you give someone looking to eat well but not spend a fortune?

Rachel: I have three tips for eating well and not spending a fortune:

 First is cook! It is expensive to eat out and those restaurant dinners and fast food lunches add up fast. Sometimes I splurge and buy something that costs more than we usually buy– portobello mushrooms or something and make a meal that costs more than our usual meals but then I like to play the game of figuring out how much such a meal would cost in a restaurant. It’s always amazing to spend what seems like a lot of money but then realizing that everyone is eating for 2 bucks a plate. So the first thing you have to do is start cooking yourself!

My other tip is that eating low on the food chain makes a big difference. My grocery bill dropped dramatically when I stopped buying meat. I’ve found the most expensive grocery bills are not the ones when I buy all organic as much as it is on how high on the food chain I’m going. Dairy adds up fast.

 The last tip is to try to stay out of the grocery store as much as possible! I buy way too much at grocery stores. I prefer buying through a dried food co-op once a month (where I can buy grains, beans, and sweeteners) and then doing my weekly shopping at a tiny local fruit and vegetable market, and then going to the grocery store once a month.

“I make a rule for myself that I’ll just make do in between grocery store trips. This forces me to be creative and use up that stuff that wouldn’t get used if I didn’t have any other choice!”

TVNT: What are some of your children’s favorite school lunches that you pack?

Rachel: My oldest has packed his own lunch for a while, but now I’ve got a second one in school needing a lunch every day. Their school has a microwave and last year my oldest often brought dinner leftovers. Otherwise peanut butter sandwiches with raw fruits and vegetables and a homemade cookie are pretty standard fare. The kids bring water to drink.

TVNT: How did being part of a CSA this year impact your family’s diet?

Being part of a CSA has forced more creativity with meal planning. I’m in a pick your own CSA though so I did have control over what I was bringing home. In weeks with surpluses I was able to freeze things and I’m looking forward to tapping into all the fruits and vegetables I’ve frozen this winter.

TVNT: Would you be willing to share a recipe that your family loves?

 Rachel’s Zucchini Boats

(to put use to those ridiculously gigantic zucchini that pop up at this time of the year)

 1. Cook brown rice (I always make 2 cups).

2. Chop 1 onion, add onion to some oil in a pan with some garlic (1-4 cloves to your family’s liking), a couple of tomatoes or you can use a can of them or some sauce, cook, then add cooked rice.

3. Peel zucchini (this is optional but recommended as the skins get tough) and then cut into halves, thirds or fourths depending on size of zucchini. Cut those in half and hollow out the insides, scooping out seeds.

4. Stuff the zucchinis with the brown rice mix, top with Parmesan cheese or Parmesan substitute (I use a mix of toasted sesame seeds ground up with nutritional yeast and a little salt). Breadcrumbs are optional.

5. Bake at about 375 for about 20 minutes or until zucchini is tender.

 Please join the conversation! How do you eat well and stay on a budget?

Posted in (General) by Kara
Comments (1)


Monday Morning Organic Journal
January 2, 2012 at 6:00 am

This Monday morning …

Happy New Year!!

I am focusing on healthy eating in 2012. I think a lot of us think of the new year as a time to revamp our diets a bit, so this week will bring you:

  • Some terrrific ideas for eating well on a budget, brought to you by some smart mamas who are also sharing fantastic whole foods recipes!
  • Ideas for incorporating kale into your diet. Are you a little scared? I was terrified of kale, but would you believe I eat it all the time now? You can too!
  • A recipe for easier mornings — a healthy pancake mix filled with nutritious ingredients that will be ready to go when you need it!
  • A dessert that feels really indulgent, but is fast, easy and good for you too. You need to eat more fruit, right?

Stop by and say hi this week! I love to hear from you!!

Posted in (General) by Kara
Comments (0)


A Simple Sunday
January 1, 2012 at 6:00 am

We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. This book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.
~Edith Lovejoy Pierce

Posted in (Simple Sunday) by Kara
Comments (0)


A Very New Week
December 31, 2011 at 6:00 am

An assortment of recipes, books, blog posts, or other things that inspired me this week.

Light ‘Em Up — An idea for the new year

Savory Spinach Bites

New Year’s resolution: Drink more water … with lemon/lime ice cubes!

The Best Broccoli of Your Life

How to make Resolution Subway Art — notice the “Eat More Vegetables!”

What is inspiring you this week? Please tell us about it in the comments below!

Posted in (A Very Good Week) by Kara
Comments (123)


Games Everyone Can Win
December 30, 2011 at 6:00 am

We are having a lovely, leisurely week here — lots of times for good books, new puzzles and of course, games.

Our family loves board games, and we love cooperative games best — the kind that encourage working together. 

If you haven’t played a cooperative game, the basic idea is that players work together toward an end goal. Individual players may experience successes and failures throughout the game, but the games are less about winning or losing and more about working together.

Or in our case, just being together.

In the past few months, we have discovered some new favorites like The Secret Door and The Jigsaw Mystery Pack.

We were so excited to receive Snowstorm this holiday from my mom.

And of course, there are our favorites, which never sem to get old. Our first cooperative game was Harvest Time. In this game, players work together to harvest crops before winter comes. Some years are better than others. But a “farmer” who is having a lot of luck with the harvest can help the other farmers so that everyone succeeds.

Max soon followed. And Max is a regular cult hero in our house because around that time we also discovered this book. So Max, the game character, has taken on some of Max the book character’s personality traits in our family.

Just ask Ellery: “Max chases mice and rabbits and squirrels. Not a pretty sight.”

In Max the game, players work together to save small animals from big, bad tomcat Max by tempting him with treats like catnip and milk.

Wildcraft teaches about medicinal herbs while players hunt for berries to bring home to grandma.

Other games, we’ve found, can be made cooperative, like The Storybook Game, which encourages players to work together to craft a story. We also like to work together to keep Pandabo from toppling, and we like to play Dinner Games during our evening meal.

We still play competitive games sometimes. We like Farkle, Uno and Blink especially.

We all take our wins and losses and know that if it gets to be too much, Max in right there in the cabinet waiting to chase some wildlife.

As my grandma used to say “You’re not going to win every time, kid.”

But that doesn’t mean that you should ever stop playing.

Does your family have a favorite game?

Posted in (General) by Kara
Comments (0)


A Slow Breakfast Bite
December 29, 2011 at 6:00 am

You know how I know that we are rushed — when we don’t eat a good breakfast.

I say a good breakfast can be anything from a bowl of oatmeal, to waffles, to breakfast burritos to smoothies, to a bowl of nutritious cereal with milk and bananas but no marshmallows.

But when we start grabbing granola bars on the way out the door, that’s when I know we are rushing around too much.

This week is a slow week for us. It is deliberately planned that way, as we enjoy time together.

So today we are making a batch of homemade English muffins. Yes, they take a while. But hopefully, we wil take a while to eat them too, as we spend a morning in our PJs with a stack of books, and maybe a few board games.

Dairy-Free English Muffins from Scratch

(adapted from Country Living)

1/2 cup warm water

2 1/4 teaspoons yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

2 1/2 cups unbleached flour

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

2 teaspoons salt

3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (warmed)

2 teaspoons cornmeal

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. In a small bowl mix water, sugar and yeast and let stand until bubbly or foamy.

Meanwhile, in an oven-proof bowl, mix flours and salt. Heat in the oven for 5 minutes.

In the bowl of a food processor mix flour mixture and yeast/water mixture. Pulse until combined. With the motor going, slowly pour in warm milk.

Continue to mix until thoroughly combined.

Place dough in a well-oiled bowl and let rise for an hour.

Remove dough and knead for three minutes. Let rest for 30 minutes.

Divide into 8 equal pieces, and form muffin shapes. Dip both sides in cornmeal and let rest for another 30 minutes.

Warm a skillet over medium-low heat. (The original recipe says a cast iron skillet, but I don’t have one, so I used a regular skillet and it worked fine over slightly lower heat.)

Toast muffins for 8 to 10 minutes on each side or until golden brown, making sure they are done in the middle.

Split with a fork and toast, or not.

Almost authentic, dairy-free, homemade English muffins — super fun!

Posted in (General) by Kara
Comments (1)


Knitting After Christmas
December 28, 2011 at 6:00 am

Last week, I talked about family traditions — one of my favorites is the post-Christmas knitting.

I used to try to knit things for Christmas, but knitting on deadline takes the joy out of it for me. It makes it all seem so rushed and hurried, and I stop being able to infuse whatever I am knitting with goodness and happiness.

And so, as I pick up my needles this week, I am reminded of the sweater I knit for my son last year, and always, of my grandmother …

My grandma was a knitter, I have heard. I didn’t remember that about her.

She crocheted me a Barbie dress once when I was really little, but I had forgotten, I guess, about the knitting. Even when my mom gave me a knitted baby outfit at my baby shower for Owen, with the tag: “From Nanny” on it (she had knitted it for me when I was born), the dots didn’t fully connect.

Until I saw some old knitting needles at my neighborhood knit shop — they were great big aluminum ones with button-shaped tops. “The really old kind,” I was told.

And then I asked my mom, and she told me that my grandmother and great-grandmother had spent the years of World War II knitting sweaters “for the boys overseas.”

I realized then maybe where this knitting impulse had come from. I had wanted to learn to knit for years, and struggled to teach myself.

Finally, on my brithday two years ago, I asked for a knitting class as a gift, and my mom gave me just that. I sat at a big table with my teacher and she showed me the absolute basics, and I finally created a hat. All I had wanted was to knit hats for my kids.

Of course, after a while I got a little bored with the hats, and wanted to make sweaters. So I made a few of those.

Sometimes, when I am working on a project, I pause for a second and wonder if my grandmother had favorite patterns, if like me, she prefered wool in muted colors, if she wrapped her yarn the way I do.

I wish I had thought to ask her when I was younger.

When my grandma died, my grandpa asked me to take some things that reminded me of her. And one of the items I took was her button box.

I’m not sure why it made me think of her– she wasn’t much of a crafter in her later years, but the old cookie tin filled with buttons saved for decades somehow spoke to me.

As I finished up my most recent project, a hooded sweater for Owen, I needed some buttons. I planned on using 8 matching burgandy ones, but then I thought of that button box.

I was suddenly overcome with wanting to use my grandmother’s buttons on his sweater.

And so, as we drove down the highway toward St. Louis, I sewed 8 vintage buttons that didn’t match at all onto his brand new sweater.

I held those buttons in my hand for just a moment and pictured years before, my grandmother’s hands, soft and translucent skin, always cold, touching those same buttons.

I can’t help but picure those hands now, wrapping yarn around the needles.

I wish I would have thought to ask my grandmother about knitting all those years ago, but I have something almost as good now. I have the image of her knitting too, and I feel a deep connection, one that made me who I am, and that I can pass on to my own children.

Posted in (General) by Kara
Comments (0)


A Few of Our Favorite Things
December 27, 2011 at 6:00 am

Now is the time for slow days and a cozy treat. The house is calm again, and we are happy together.

Hot Cocoa and Snowballs

Cocoa

Prepare 2 mugs buy putting 1 1/2 tablespoons of chocolate chips in the bottom of each cup. In a medium saucepan bring 3 cups sweetened regular or vanilla almond milk and 2 tbsp coconut milk to a boil. Pour half of milk mixture into each cup and stir to combine. Sprinkle each mug with powdered sugar “snow.”

Snowballs

1 cup butter

1 tsp vanilla

2 1/4 cup white spelt flour (or unbleached four)

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/8 tsp salt

1/3 cup chopped pecans

In a stand-up mixer cream butter and powdered sugar. Mix in vanilla and blend thoroughly. Add flour and salt and mix until fully incorporated. Add pecans and blend again until just combined. Chill dough for 20 minutes. Roll into balls and place on parchment-lined sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes. While cookies are slightly warm, roll in powdered sugar.

Yield: 2 dozen cookies

Posted in (General) by Kara
Comments (0)


Monday Morning Organic Journal
December 26, 2011 at 6:00 am

This Monday morning …

We are focusing on rest and family time. Did Christmas wipe you out too? Join us as we …

  • Cuddle up together and indulge in some seasonal favorites — cocoa and snowballs.
  • Begin knitting again. I am no longer a deadline knitter, but I love to knit all winter long!
  • Whip up some homemade goodies for breakfast. This recipe will help you embrace the slowness of these in-between days.
  • Gather around the table for some cooperative games. We’ll tell you about our favorites including a few newly discovered ones!

Stop by and say hi this week! I love to hear from you!!

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Posted in (General) by Kara
Comments (1)


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