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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Reading Helps the Parent/Child Connection

Welcome to my all-new, We-Read Wednesday's!  I have decided to dedicate all Wednesday posts to reading, reading with your kids, literacy, reading ideas, etc.  I hope you find them informative, fun and inspiring!  Reading with your children is so important for obvious reasons like literacy and speech development, but today I would like to spend time on this aspect of reading....spending quality time connecting with your child

There's a special correlation between spending time connecting with your child and their cooperation with you throughout the rest of the day.  Did you know that increasing your quality time with your child by a mere 5 minutes will increase their willingness to cooperate?  Wow!  With all of the fabulous learning benefits of reading, why not use this tool to spend that special face time with your child?

Here are a few bullet point ideas to increase snugglies and smarties in your reading time:

  • Ask lots of questions like, "Can you find the duck hiding on this page?"  Or, "Does the boy's face look happy or sad?"

  • Make silly jokes to keep your kids on their toys like, "Oh look at the cow!!"  When there is no cow on the page (ok, your child has to be old enough to know what a cow is for this to be funny).

  • Ask your child their favorite picture, or what they like best about each page.

  • Repeat phrases, sounds or names in the book and have your child repeat you.  ex. "The duck, duck, duck goes quack, quack, quack!  Can you say that?" 

These fun and simple ideas will add a significant richness to the time you spend with your children.  We have such a short period of time with them- let's make these moments count!

sources and further reading:
conscious discipline by Dr. Becky Bailey- http://www.consciousdiscipline.com/
ABC Music and Me- http://blog.abcmusicandme.com/

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tuesday's Real Food Recipe- Baked Oatmeal (sans phytates)

The house is currently a chilly 64 degrees.  Outside my window it's a drizzly snow/rain mix.  I'm cozy in my brand new purple knit sweater (thanks, Mommer and Dad!), but all I can think about is hot tea and hot coffee to warm up my hands so I can actually type correctly!  Thinking about what Real Food Recipe to share today, I can't think of anything more apporpriate than a delicious, warms- the- heart comfort food recipe.  BAKED OATMEAL.  This family favorite is sure to be requested more than any other special breakfast food, and now...it's yours!  But wait, there's more!  This recipe has the added benefit of being "soaked!"  I truly hope you love it as much as my family. 

you're probably thinking, "wait...did you just say, soaked?"  Yes, I did.  this recipe is started on day 1, soaked overnight, and baked the morning of day 2.  You can make it all in the morning and bake right away without changing the recipe.  HOWEVER, the benefit of starting this recipe 12-24 hours in advance is that you have the added health benefit of soaking the oatmeal, which nuetralizes an anti-nutrient called "phytic acid." 

In short, phytic acid (known as inositol hexaphosphate (IP6) binds to important minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc and draws them out of your body.   A common and simple way to counteract this is by using fermentation.  If you would like to remove as many phytates from your grains as possible, a general rule of thumb to follow is to add a little yogurt (with live cultures) or apple cider vinegar to the liquid in the bread/grain recipes you are using.  Just mix the liquid in your recipe with 2 tbsp. of APC, yogurt or whey (example: if the recipe calls for 2 cups of water, add 2 tbsp. yogurt, and then fill the remaining two cups with water.)  Mix this with just the flour in your recipe, and let it sit overnight.  Add the remainging ingredients the next day and bake as usual.  It's so simple! 

On to the recipe!

Soaked Baked Oatmeal with apples


Day 1:
combine in a glass bowl- 1/2 cup melted butter, 3/4 cup sugar (preferable Sucanat), 3 cup rolled (old fashioned) oats, 3/4 cup plain yogurt (preferably homemade), 3/4 cup water and 1 tsp. cinnamon.  Let sit 12-24 hours.

Day 2: preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Greese 11 x 17 baking dish.  Add to mixture: 2 beaten eggs, 1 tsp sea salt, 2 tsp. baking powder, 1-2 apples, chopped.  (you can also use raisins, etc.)  pour mixture in baking dish and bake uncovered for 30-35 minutes.   We love ours best served with plain yogurt.  Just the right mix of sweetness!

sources, and for further reading:
Food-Info.net - What Is Phytic Acid
Cambridge Journals: Phytic Acid
Wikipedia- phytic acid

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

How To Brine Your Turkey

Today I am borrowing a blog from my friend John Moody who runs Whole Life Co-op in KY.  His really cool and informative new site for all things local/whole food/ buying club related is: http://www.foodclubsandcoops.com/ ...Meanwhile, check out his blog on brining your turkey.  After brining, you will NEVER go back!  Also, see the value in buying a local bird, where you actually get what you pay for!  Happy reading, and a Happiest Thanksgiving to you! 

How to brine a turkey


If you have never brined a turkey or other poultry, you do not know what you are missing!
Moist meat, full of flavor all the way through, with a shorter cooking time.

Would you like meat with your salt water?

Many store bought poultry and meat items are industrially brined or otherwise enhanced… but this is not for the purchaser’s benefit.  A brine is just another name for a salt-water mixture. Store bought birds are injected with salt water to make them moister and to add weight so that people pay… for salt water.
How much of the bird is salt-water? A recent USDA study found around forty percent!  That almost doubles the price per pound of what the almost meat actually costs.  Good deal for industrial poultry producers and processors – salt and water is cheap.  Bad deal for the buyers, you are getting low quality salt and water instead of the almost meat they paid for at checkout.

Real poultry from local farmers is never industrially injected with icky stuff, so not only are you getting a nutritional deal (pastured birds are far healthier and more nutritious than industrial birds), you are also getting a clear, fair price.

Why brine?

Brining has three main benefits.

First, it helps ensure your turkey will be moist. Nothing is as sad as a bad Thanksgiving bird. We have all had them – dry, listless, lifeless, flavorless.

Second, brining helps drive flavors deep into the meat. We have all had meals where the flavors are stuck on the outside but as you dig down, these become blander and blander.  A proper brine helps ensure more even flavor all the way through.

Third, brining produces extra liquid for making a lovely reduction sauce to go with your meal.

At least for our family, we never have enough drippings to make sufficient sauces! Every little bit more is appreciated.  If you overcook the turkey, brining may just save your neck… turkey neck, that is.

A few years ago, my wife overcooked our turkey by well over thirty minutes… and the bird was still tender and extremely moist.


What you will need –

A large stock pot or five gallon food grade pail/bucket
A good turkey, preferable free-range, pastured bird from a local farm
Good quality salt (1-2 cups)
Various herbs and spices
Chicken or turkey stock, 2-4 cups


What you will do –

Thaw.  We will remove our turkey (15-20lbs range) from our freezer on Monday afternoon and place in the fridge to thaw. Smaller turkeys can be done Monday night, larger ones Monday morning.
Once thawed, we will remove the organs/giblets/innards and reserve.

Brine.  On Tuesday night, we will make the brine and add the turkey.
Dissolve the salt in warm water. In the large stock pot, add the brine (salt-water), spices, and turkey to the pot. Add water until the turkey is covered (or, if the turkey is too big for your pot, just rotate the bird every 6 hours or so).  For the spices, we enjoy using garlic, onion, thyme, rosemary, sage, and pepper, but the options are endless.

For a 2 gallon stock pot we use a teaspoon to a tablespoon or so of each spice, but feel free to experiment.

Place the pot in the fridge (or outside if the weather is cold enough, but not below freezing) and allow the turkey to brine for 24 to 36 hours.
The larger the turkey the longer you want it to sit in the brine.

Cook.  About 3 hours before you want to eat, remove the turkey from the brining mixture so that the bird’s exterior dries before cooking.

Reserve at least half a gallon of the brining liquid or more.

Rub the turkey with oil, rosemary, and sage (use coconut ghee, ghee, lard, palm shortening, or another good quality cooking fat) and set it into a roasting pan, large cast iron skillet, or whatever else you use to cook your turkey on or in.

Bake at 325 degrees – brined turkeys cook much faster than their unbrined counterparts but stay far more moist and tender.

Cook the bird until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.



Optional ROASTED VEGETABLES

If desired, you can cut up various vegetables (green beans, carrots, onions, mushrooms, peppers), coat and mix with oil, and place these down around the turkey along with a cup to two cups of the brining mixture.
While the turkey is cooking, occasionally stir the vegetables.

Optional REDUCTION SAUCE/GRAVY
About an hour before your meal, remove the roasting pan from the oven. Either transfer the turkey to another roasting pan along with the vegetables or otherwise remove all the drippings from around the vegetables and turkey.  Place the turkey and vegetables back into the oven to finish cooking.

On the stove top, take the drippings from the turkey and vegetables and combine with 1-2 cups of the brine and 2 cups of turkey or chicken stock.

Reduce over high heat until a thick sauce forms. If necessary or desired, you can add some good quality gelatin or other thickener.  At first, stir occasionally. As the sauce reduces, stir more and more often.
Near the end, you will need to stir often, almost continuously, but only for 1-2 minutes as the sauce finishes and thickens. *Be careful near the end of the reduction not to burn the sauce to the pan.

We hope each of you has a thankful, restful, and joyful Thanksgiving.



Resources
http://alcsgreenwashing2.wikispaces.com/jdodge
http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/185431/20110722/brine-injected-meat-labeled-usda.htm
 Love,
Anna

Friday, November 18, 2011

Pumpkin Pie a la Georgia

I have a confession to make: sometimes I test out a new recipe on guests or at a church pot luck.  Yes, I can just see your raised eyebrows as you read this, judging my little idiosyncracy, but the fact is, my attempts are always successful.  Er, well, minus the skillet cookie for my girlfriends, which I swear is because we ate it after it had cooled too much.  Last night as usual, I didn't have the correct mix of ingredients, so alas, I had to put on my creative cap and science apron and get to work coming up with a new pumpkin pie recipe.  I found two very different recipes in my go-to cookbooks, and still didn't have the correct ingredients.  Going to the grocery store was not an option, so I had pumpkin, sweetened condensed milk and spices....onward! 

See, those of us who lack proper planning skills have to compensate by being ultra creative.  The two somehow work interdependantly, right?  So, I thought I would share what I came up with in case YOU are looking for a twist on your old pumpkin pie recipe this Thanksgiving.  Oh, and as you can tell, it turned out *deliciously.*

Praline Pecan Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients:
1 9inch pie dough
1 can pumpkin puree
12 oz. sweetened condensed milk
2 eggs
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg (totally worth the cost of the whole nutmeg and microplane!)
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
contents of 1 vanilla bean (substite 2 tsp. good vanilla if you don't have a bean)
1 TBSP. Bourbon (optional)
1 1/2 Cups pecans (whole, half or crushed- whatever look you want for the top)
3/4 Cup brown sugar or Sucanat
2 Tbsp. Butter at room temp.

Make your favorite pie dough and bake in a 350 degree oven for 17 minutes (to avoid a soggy crust.)  brush the outer edge of crust with whisked egg white or milk for a beautiful crust.  Use pie weights, or lay tin foil on top of the pie dough and lay some dehydrated beans in the bottom to keep crust from puffing up while baking.  Remove partially baked crust and turn oven temp to 425 degrees.

Meanwhile, lightly beat eggs, then mix in pumpkin, condensed milk, salt, cinnamon, ginger, clove, nutmeg and contents of the vanilla bean (see description below to learn how to remove seeds from the bean).  Mix thoroughly, then poor into the hot pie shell.  Bake at 425 for 15 minutes.  Reduce oven temp to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 30 minutes. 

Remove the pie from oven.  The center will still be jiggly at this point.  Mix the pecans, brown sugar, and butter together and sprinkle on top of the pumpkin pie.  Place back in the oven for an additional 10-20 minutes- until the topping looks slightly browned on top.  Serve at room temperature.  Enjoy!

*Note: to remove seeds from vanilla bean, place bean on a cutting board.  Using a sharp paring knife, cut down the middle of the bean.  Place top side of the knife (upside down) on the bean, pushing down the sides, and lightly scrape out the inside of both halves of the beans.  Don't waste the pod!  Toss it into your sugar bowl or simmer in chai tea for a special treat.

So there you have it!  Enjoy the twist!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bearful Will Sing!

I am tickled to announce publically that Bearful Bear and His New Moves will have an audio accompaniment! 

I am personally in love with books that come with an extra- a CD and instrument, a stuffed animal, etc., so, with my Kindermusik background I thought adding a musical element was the only way to go.  I have been writing little poems and songs to go along with each animal in the book, as well as writing a melody to go along with the text of the book.  My one hope is that my son, Noah, can be the voice of Bearful Bear- how adorable would that be?!  So, here's hoping that he will be confident and sing loudly when we get to the recording studio! 

What has thrilled me the most about this project is to hear Noah sing the songs I have written when he is playing by himself!!  He loves the one lullaby I wrote about Harry the Horse, and sings it frequently.  Sometimes he says, "Mommy, sing the horse song!!"  Which says a lot because what I hear most often these days is, "Mom- NO SONG!!!  STOP SINGING!!!"  haha.  So sad, but true.  So, that my son is asking for a song says a lot, and mostly because I wrote it.  I can't wait for this project to be completed, and I am hopeful that YOU and YOUR CHILD will adore this children's book and Audio as much as we do.

Question of the day: What is your child's favorite song/CD/music artist?

Mine?  Sharon, Lois and Bram from The Elephant Show!  We STILL listen to the cassette tape in the car almost every day.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Secret to Being a Great Parent

Did I peak your interest? 

It's a special secret that encompasses every tip and piece of advice from every book and parenting site....

Are you ready??

It comes down to this:

In order to be the best parent possible, you need to follow your own guidelines and wisdom first!

At my small group the other week we were joking about the expection of sharing that we put on our kids.  We scold them for not sharing right before we say something like, "Don't touch that, it's mommy's!"  Or, maybe something like this; You yell at your child for grabbing a toy from a sibling or friend right after you grabbed it away from him in haste!  Sound familiar?  These comical mishaps are so common in our day-to-day play dates, where we feel more like referees than "guides" leading our children to successful adulthood. 

We place so many expectations on our children, but sometimes we forget to place an expectation on ourselves, forgetting that self-control isn't just for public settings.  In actuality, it isn't that we as parents think to ourselves, "It's ok for me to yank the toy from my son while scolding him for taking the toy away from his friend."  The fact is, we just don't even realize it! 

These are quirky follies of parenthood- but there is a deep truth to working on your own self as part of the process of becoming a better parent. 

What I am not saying (which is just as important as what I AM saying) is that you should blame yourself, or feel guilty about your lack of parenting skills, people skills, or that you aren't doing everything right as a parent. 

DON'T EVEN GO THERE! 

We are ALL learning, doing the best we can with what we have, and there is no room and no time to blame yourself for everything. 

Ok, so back to what I AM saying.  We all come to the parenting world with lots of idiosyncracies, mannerisms, ideologies- good and bad, from our own upbringings.  Some of us may thank our parents (like me), and others might be scoffing their parents playing a slideshow of their crimes and wishing they would have had a better example to go on.  Whatever your life, you have to accept it for what it is, and make the decision to choose wise and positive practices for your children, leaving the best legacy possible.  And, you might even try, as hard as it may be, to really think of the positve things you did learn from your parents.  You may want to throw up in your mouth when you think of your childhood, but you may be surprised to realize you learned important values that you carry on to your children.

I absolutely LOVED the book Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline by Dr. Becky Bailey.  I was fascinated that the first half of the book was all about the parent, not the child!  Becoming a healthy, loving and assertive person was the key to raising a healthy, loving and assertive child using conscious discipline skills.  I felt like I had a semester of high quality counseling after this book!  See http://www.consciousdiscipline.com/ for more information on this exciting parenting guide. 

I wonder what the world would be like if we all took the advice we give our children?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

How does an "InfluencHer" Handle conflict?

"99% of conflict is misunderstanding"
                                              -Tricia Lovejoy
What a deep truth!  I was at a woman's ministry at Mountain Lake Church this morning called "Girlfriends", where we talked all about the ways God has called us to influence those in our closest circles, all the way out to those who we don't get along with (maybe people in your lives fall into the same category?)  It's pretty simple to come up with ways to influence our children, our families, etc, but what about those who are difficult to love?  What about the neighbor who let's their dog poop in your yard everyday without cleaning up?  What about the person who glares at you and never says hello and you have no idea why?  What about the person who has to disagree with everything you say? 

What misunderstandings are happening with your family or friends right now?
  
   Hurt feelings?  
       Communication lapses? 
             Differences? 

It is so easy to believe the worst in others who we do not fully understand.  It is easy to believe, when we feel that we haven't been heard, to assume that the other person doesn't care about us.  There may be times when the offense seems so obvious to you that it seems impossible the other person can't realize their actions are hurtful, but you continually sweep it under the rug while your view of that persons character dwindles. 

Did you ever think that your friend or relative may truly not know they are hurting you?  Have you asked them and told them in a loving way that you were hurt?  If you gently tell them your feelings, you may be surprised to hear them apologize immediately, developing a stronger relationship than you had before.  But this can't happen if you give in to the desire to get back at them, speak maliciously about them, or want to see them pay for their actions by showing them a slideshow of their crimes.  I find that I have had to dig deep to say to myself, "What could I have done differently?  What could I do now to make the relationship better?  Maybe they were having a hard day and it translated to me- I know I have done that to people in my life."  All of the sudden your hazy thoughts of how to handle the conflict will become clear.

There is an even greater purpose to handling conflict with those around you in a loving way.  It allows us to show Christ to others; to model the way.  Leveraging your influence for Jesus is such a powerful thing because Jesus gave us that charge in Matthew 28: 18-20.... 

"Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”


When God gives us a challenge, we know it's important!  God cares so much for our relationships because it is the leverage we have to bring people to Him.  But first, we need to understand that 99% of our conflicts start with a misunderstanding- not an evil person who is out to get you! 

I hope this thought blesses you today.  I hope you can think of some relationships in your life that you could rebuild by forgiving someone regardless of their attitude, by looking first at yourself and how you can change.  Blessings await you!

To learn more from Tricia Lovejoy, go to http://www.sharpenher.com/