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Off the Menu

There are two things that will be off the menu for a while starting tomorrow. We didn’t just give things up… we made substitutions. And those substitutions need to be re-replaced for a while:

Nuts:  Nuts were always one of our preferred snacks even before the fast. They taste good, they are healthy and they satisfy little hunger attacks pretty fast. They are also ideal to take with you. You don’t need to cool them or heat them up and you don’t even have to fear any messes eating them. But there is too much of a good thing… Cashews, pecans, and walnuts became our main snack during lent. And this means we are probably going to stay away from them for a while.

Banana bread: I would say that we mastered banana bread making in the last 40 days. We probably came up with 38 varieties – most of them really yummy. We baked banana breads with cocoa, carob, nuts, raisins, banana chips, applesauce, almonds, homemade granola, etc. – to list just a few. So we should almost be able to write a cook book that only contains banana bread recipes. And I’m very thankful for all of them. They got us through the tough times where we really wanted to have just a little cookie or a piece of nice coffee cake. Still, I think we need to take a little banana bread break.

So it looks like we need a little fast from some of our “fast foods”. I’m sure they’ll make a comeback pretty soon.

Change

We are in a period of change. A lot is happening in our house right now. It’s really not the right time for a fast, I have to say. This is a time of convenience. A time where things have to go fast at times. A time where planning is hard.

Yet I believe there is a reason for why these times overlap. It seems that stressful times test us. Who can make a meal from scratch when they have all the time in the world? Probably most of us. It’s a special treat for me to spend some quiet time in the kitchen preparing a wholesome meal for my family. It’s a joy.

Who can make a meal from scratch when they have about 25 minutes left and the kitchen needs to be cleaned and ready for show-time an hour later? There might be still many of us who can do it, but the enjoyment shrinks noticeably. These are the times where we want to believe in advertisements that tell us that this quick meal takes the stress out of our hectic lifestyle. We wish to disregard our commitment and give into the “quick fix”.

Yet these are the times where it is most important to take the time. To eat well, for once. And to make room for some quiet family time.

There is a reason why we are fasting right now. There is a very good reason why we are forced to slow down in a time where we are tempted to go, go, go. I hope I will remember this in the stressful times to come.

Check in

So here we are. Almost done. Only two more weeks to go. And it’s starting to get hard. That’s not what we expected. Many of our predictions didn’t really happen:

  1. The beginning will be really hard! – not so much… it was actually much easier than we expected. We didn’t have to change too many of our eating habits and we actually discovered some really yummy alternatives.
  2. We will feel totally different! – not so much… although I have to say that the results from the first weeks are completely skewed because we were so sleep deprived. Ken insists that without the fast we would have felt even worse…
  3. Something wonderful and unexpected will happen because of the fast! – many wonderful things happen every day and continue to do so. Hard to tell if they are at all related to the fast.
  4. We will crave certain food items! – at the beginning: No. – Now: Yes! We are starting to crave food that has a more intense flavor. More salt, more sweet, more something. Hard to tell what exactly it is but things start to taste a little bit the same. My favorite things to have: A piece of dark chocolate and barbecue sauce (not together, though). Ken’s cravings: chocolate, potato chips, string cheese.
  5. We will have to cut the children some slack. – Not really. At the beginning I let Marlena eat “processed” crackers, for example, when we would get together with other kids and they would share.  I realized after a short while; however, that she truly didn’t care if I said, “No, let’s eat what I brought.” So I stopped making exceptions. It didn’t seem to bother her one bit.
  6. We will miss the “convenient” helpers in the kitchen! – Yes. There is one product I miss terribly…. Drum roll…. It’s PAM cooking spray. That’s sounds almost embarrassing but I hate buttering every baking dish. PAM will definitely come back into this kitchen!
  7. We will save some money. – I wish. We cut out a lot of food and that definitely saved some money. But we also added certain foods – and they were rather on the expensive side. For example, instead of other treats, we treated ourselves to special indulgencies, e.g. pure organic pear juice and organic cocoa powder… things that are rather expensive.
  8. This fast will lead to some long term changes. – Definitely. Hard to tell what exactly will happen and to what degree but our habits have changed so much that it is hard to imagine we would go back all the way. I doubt soda will ever find its way back into our kitchen, sugar and white flour will be sparse   (besides that dark chocolate…), we will continue to make our own stock, etc.

We are in the final sprint. I’m very curious what those last days are about to bring…

Cracker Bonanza

After a few unsuccessful attempts we ended up with three really good cracker variations. One of the keys to success seems to be to roll the dough as thin as possible….and then roll it a little more.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¾ cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 ½ cups rye flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1/3  cup oil
  • 1 cup water

                Variation 1 – Rye: add caraway seeds (about 1 tbsp)

                Variation 2 – Italian: add Italian seasonings (about 1 tbsp)

                Variation 3 – Sea salt and fresh ground pepper: add 1 tbsp of sea salt and 1 tbsp of ground pepper

We get the feeling that you can experiment with spices to get the taste you love… red pepper next?

Add all dry ingredients together. Add the wet ingredients. Mix with wooden spoon.

Roll out super thin (1/16 of an inch). Score with a pizza cutter. Poke each cracker with a fork. Sprinkle one last time with salt. Roll very gently to press salt into dough. Bake 18-20 minutes on parchment paper at 350 degrees (turn convection on for added crispness). Bake one at a time!

Super Spicy Mustard

With grilling season officially open at our house, we had to make mustard. It was on our “to make” list from the beginning… but we just never got to it. So yesterday we did it!

Ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoons mustard seeds
  • 1/2 cup mustard powder
  • 3 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons honey

Grind seeds with mortar and pestle until semi crushed.

Mix seeds, powder and salt. Stir in vinegar, water and honey. Mix well.

Pour in glass jar. Let sit for at least 24 hours.

I’m sure it depends on the kind of seeds you use…. But holy smokes… ours turned out super spicy – but really tasty!

Accepting Help

I sometimes find myself in a dilemma. On the one hand, I’m hoping to get some help. Wouldn’t it be great sometimes to have somebody clean your house, grade your papers, work in the garden, entertain your kids… It sounds pretty enticing to me.

Of course, it doesn’t happen every day that somebody shows up on my footstep and offers to take something off my plate. But it does happen occasionally. And it’s wonderful. Or isn’t it? It amazes me every time how hard it actually is to accept help. How hard it is to “confess” that I truly could use another hand. How much easier life would sometimes be if somebody else offers another pair of hands. I wonder why this is so difficult. I think in part it has to do with not wanting to “look like” somebody who can’t do it all. So here’s a typical dialogue that starts in my head every so often…

A:            Your kids are sick? – let me come over and help you out for a while. I have time.

B:            Oh that’s wonderful. Are you sure you have time for this?

A:            Of course, not a problem.

B:            Well, wait, are you implying that I can’t handle this by myself?

A:            No, I just want to be nice.

B:            MMhhh, okay.

A:            I’ll be there in a little bit.

B:            Mhhhh, do you think it might look to others like I can’t handle it?

A:            Geez, you are starting to get on my nerves.

B:            Well, that’s my job. I’m here to question everything and try to turn something great into something partly dubious.

A:            Suit yourself. I’ll be over anyway. But I won’t talk about this. I’ll just play with your kids for a while. And then I’ll go home. Because I’m pretty sure you’ll do just fine by yourself. Even though it’s often just nice to have another person there.

B:            So true. Could you please bring something to quiet that nagging voice in the back of my head?

A:            Honey, you are on a fast. I’ll bring some red wine after Easter…

Time

It’s funny how this often goes. You are waiting for something. You check often. After a while, you start to forget about it. And all the sudden it’s there:

Marta’s first tooth came out today! Two weeks ago we started wondering. We tried to figure out why she wouldn’t sleep. We wondered about teething… but there was no tooth. So we gave up and forgot about the tooth. And now it’s here!

I often feel like time can play real tricks on your mind. We might have things going on parallel yet one just speeds along and the other one drags its feet. But we experience both on the same Monday…

Time can play tricks on you. And these tricks are sometimes very helpful in figuring out what you really want to focus on. What changes you need to make to get everything out of those moments that go too fast (which is in general a sign that it’s something really cool) and to better deal with the times that go too slow (meaning there are probably not that great).

But no matter how wisely you allocate your time. The anticipation of something great will never go fast – until you forget you’re waiting…

Kinderbrot

I remembered this recipe that we sometimes made when I was little. It’s not only really good tasting – you can also really get your children involved. Marlena LOVES to mix and knead dough. And to eat it afterwards, of course.

Kinderbrot (or Kinderbroetchen – meaning something similar to rolls) are easy and fun to make and a healthy snack.

Ingredients (for about 6-8 rolls):

1 tsp yeast
1/3 c warm milk
1/2 tsp honey

2 1/2c whole wheat flour
a little bit of salt
1 c lukewarm water
2 Tbs honey
2 Tbs melted butter

Mix the first three ingredients in a small bowl. Wait until it gets a little bubbly.

Mix everything else but the flour together. Once the mixture is smooth add yeast mix. Stir well. Add flour slowly into mix. Your kid can help stirring. Wooden spoon works best.

Once all the flour is mixed in, take dough out of bowl and knead by hand until it gets all smooth and a little shiny.

Transfer into new bowl with a little bit of oil. Let rise in a warm place until it doubles (about 30 minutes). Knead (briefly) again.

Make little or big breads. Be creative.

Put on baking sheet with parchment paper.

Let rise again for a little while.

Bake at 350F for 30 minutes (for smaller breads).

Eat pure or add butter, fruit spread etc. Tastes best warm…

Lighting the Candle

We recently visited the local Waldorf School. A warm and wonderful place that is very inspiring. One of the many things I took away from our visit was the fact that when we (a handful of parents and children) sat down together for the morning snack, a candle was lit. “When the candle is lit, we all sit”. That is the rule – which is gently but firmly enforced. And it seems that all the 2-4 year old children are somewhat entranced by the candle and truly sit (most of the time, that is).

So I decided to start this ritual at home. When we sit down for dinner now, we light a candle. It seemed to be a really good ritual for the children – or so we thought. Turns out, it’s also a very good reminder for the adults. It almost went unnoticed how often Ken or I would get up during dinner. Just to quickly check something, get something, take care of something. Becoming uncomfortably aware of this, we felt like little hypocrites. We might be the ones that need the candle more than our toddler…

When the candle is lit – we ALL sit. A powerful exercise that leads to a beautiful family dinner.

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