Category Archives: Being Healthy

Fabulous Cranberry Sauce

One of my favorite staples in the holiday meals is cranberry sauce, but we all know just how processed and unhealthy the average canned jellied cranberry sauces are.

I have tried several recipes to replace the store-bought stuff with something healthier, but none of them had the sweet and sour cranberry taste.  To put it nicely, they were horrible.

This year was different!

Let me share with you the Jewish cranberry sauce recipe that won over our whole family at Thanksgiving!

What you need:

  • 12 oz chopped cranberries
  • 1 orange chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar (we used raw, unprocessed sugar)
  • 1 tbl lemon juice
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup chopped celery

Here’s how you do it:

  • Chop the cranberries first, then mix them with the sugar and set that bowl to the side.
  • Finely chop and mix the rest of the ingredients together.
  • Combine the two bowls, mix thoroughly, and place in fridge to chill.

We used a hand chopper and it worked well, but I am going to try using the food processor next time to see how much finer we can get everything chopped up.

That’s it!  We made ours the night before to allow the flavors to mingle, and it was delicious.   It was even a huge hit with those of us who were pretty hard-core fans of the canned stuff.  *wink*

This is now the new cranberry sauce that has earned the privilege of being on our family table for all holiday meals and feasts in our home!

I hope you enjoy it!

All for God’s glory,

~Rhen

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For the Love of Strawberries

We are a family who loves fresh fruits and veggies, so when the opportunity came to pick strawberries, we loaded up the van and headed to the strawberry fields!

I thoroughly enjoyed our little adventure.   It was a great morning that rolled  science lessons, math lessons, a field trip, a buffet, and a fun time all in to one.

We divided the girls into teams of one Big, one Middle, and one Little with a basket and a goal.  The boys grabbed a basket and headed off with manly swagger to fill theirs faster than their sisters.    It is always a race.  Whatever it is, it is always a race!

They worked hard, but enjoyed every moment of it.  My job was to run the filled baskets up to the “office” and grab an empty one for them to fill.

In the picture above, you can see my boys (Israel -2, and Noah -14) roaming the fields eating and picking.   I am not sure if any of the strawberries that made it into Israel’s hands were ever put into the baskets.

The strawberries were so ripe, juicy, and sweet.

At the top of the fields stood an old shack whose front porch served as the “office”.  It fit perfectly with the couple who handed out baskets and took payment.

We took our bounty of eight overly full gallon baskets home to process.  The little trick of using a straw to core each berry worked beautifully.   Simply use a clean straw to poke through the berry from the bottom up towards the stem.  It will core it and pop the top off with ease.

We put all of the tops, cores, and trimmings to the side and fed them to the chickens.  They were delighted with their treat!  Oh, the happy squawking!

I dried 5 trays of strawberries in my dehydrator.  The chips will be used in our homemade energy bars.  They add nice crunch and flavor.

I cut up and froze a large portion of the strawberries to use in cobblers, smoothies, pies, and homemade ice cream this summer.

 I also attempted to oven dry strawberries as seen in this pin on Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/pin/102527328989401617/).   It did not work well at all.  The berries never dried as described and were far too moist to can in jars or bags.  Mold would have spoiled them quickly.  It is too bad it didn’t work.  If you try to oven dry them (not dehydrate them into chips), and it actually works, let me know what you did!    I am still intrigued by the idea.

With our strawberry harvest such a success, I am now looking toward our next fruit-filled adventure at the end of the month when we head out to pick peaches!

Do you enjoy getting out to the farms and being a part of the harvesting?

All for God’s glory,

~Rhen 

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Saving Money Without The Crazy

If you follow me on Facebook, then you know about my recent introduction to the tv show Extreme Couponing.

I am intrigued and fascinated by the dedication these people have to amassing great quantities of grocery store items and imitating said grocery stores inside of their own homes.  Shelves and shelves, rows and rows, and looming towers of toiletries, drinks, and boxed goods take up whole rooms!

While I would never buy most of what they hoard, some of the items have my frugal side perking up and taking notice.  Getting toilet paper, paper towels, toothbrushes, hairbrushes, ponytail holders, cottonballs, cottonswabs, and floss for little money or free is definitely something I am interested in!

After gorging on 8 episodes (thank you, Netflix!) in a row, I have been inspired to try the whole couponing thing again.  Will you see me with binders and boxes of coupons?  No.  Will I be dedicating 20 to 30 hours a week to couponing?  No.  I have a goal of saving money without the crazy, obsessive, diving-into dumpsters, and stealing peoples’ papers side of couponing.  *grin*

I challenged myself to saving just $15.00 per week.  That would be a savings of $780.00 per year.  Any money saved about that $15.00 per week is all gravy, my friends.

How did my first week go?  I saved $26.00!  Booyah!

Coupons and I, we hit it off quite nicely.

So, how did this healthy-eating family save money?  Let me share my oh-so-short, yet fun, jaunt into coupons so far.

Costco is my weekly grocery store.  By simply planning this week’s meals and food stock-ups based on the coupons they are offering this month, I saved $7.00.  That was easy!

Next, I focused on another store we use frequently, Earth Fare.  They offer coupons, put out a weekly specials flyer, and have a point rewards card for shopping there.  Just for signing up, I received an organic whole fryer chicken for free.  I also was able to grab up an Irish cheese they were offering free this week.  Their coupon book had coupons for a couple of items we needed for this week’s menu, and a little perusing on the internet afforded me a couple of manufacturer’s coupons as well.  Total saved at Earth Fare, $18.00!

While $26.00 may not seem like a lot to some, it is a great step forward and an encouragement to me.  Just a little preplanning and checking the internet for sales and coupons to the stores I frequent, and I can save a little cash.  That little cash adds up to big cash!

My minimum per week is still $15.00, but I am a person who loves a good challenge, so you know full well that I will be looking to beat $26.00 next week.  *wink*

Do you coupon?  Are you a healthy-eating family who coupons?  How is it working out for you?  Any tips to help me reach my challenge goal this week?

God bless,

~Rhen

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Crock Pot Oatmeal Deliciousness

Recently, Brandy (The Marathon Mom) shared a pin on making oatmeal in the crock pot.
If you are anything like me, you just had two thoughts:
1.) I would expect burnt, hard oatmeal
2.) or I would expect a gelatinous glob

Neither sounds appetizing, does it?
Reading the comments under the pin didn’t do much to change my mind, but I decided to go for it anyway. If it works, it would make Sunday morning breakfast a no-brainer and so much faster. After all, getting a family of ten out the door in a reasonable amount of time is already enough of a rodeo show. Streamlining breakfast would be awesomesauce. *grin*

The original pin calls for:

  • 2 peeled and cut up apples
  • 2/3 cup of brown sugar
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 2 cups of old fashioned oatmeal (not instant)
  • 4 cups of water

Layer these in this order in your crock pot and DO NOT stir. Cook on a very low setting for 10 hours. Stir and serve in the morning.

This is the crock pot full and ready to go Saturday night. I DID NOT stir the ingredients.

I doubled the recipe, used raw Demerara sugar, and organic Pink Lady apples.
It was de-li-cious! Huge hit!

Ready to go the next morning!

Now, I triple the recipe. Doubling it only gave each person one serving. Most of my kids like to have seconds, even if it is just a little bit.

Nice and creamy!

Since then, I have used peaches and blackberries (separately) we harvested and froze last summer. The kids gave both of those breakfasts two thumbs up. Next, I will be trying it with strawberries. Mmmm!

Two thumbs up?

What is your I-gotta-get-out-the-door-fast go-to breakfast?

God bless,

~Rhen

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Grocery Budget Reality Check

A second title option for this post is “Why I Am Totally Okay With Our Grocery Budget NOT Being $10.00 Per Person Per Week”.

One of the popular subjects I am seeing many articles and posts about is getting and keeping a grocery budget, and I, personally, think that is a fantastic way of getting spending under control.  When we learn to plan and budget in one area, we can then use that knowledge and success in another area of our spending.

That is all well and good, except that I am finding that a good portion, not all, but a good portion of the posts and articles fall under two categories:  vague, generalized tips and food quality compromise.

As a mom and budget nerd, I am genuinely interested in finding those little nuggets of information that will help me to save money and/or get more for my money.  The generalized tips like:  use coupons, buy 2 for 1 specials, and keep your eyes open for deals, are frustrating.   Really?  That’s it?  I didn’t just take up valuable time reading the article to get “duh!” tips, did I?!

While I understand saving money is important, so is food quality.  Have you ever heard the saying, “You are what you eat”?  That is such a true statement.  Our children aren’t just processing food, that food supplies everything they need to grow.  If they are going to grow up healthy, strong, and with a fantastic immune system, they need REAL food.

I think this, shared by From Couch Potato to Marathon Mom, does a great job of showing the gravity of the consequences of what we eat and drink:

I have no interest in buying processed foods just because they are cheap.  They are cheap in price as well as in quality.  They do not provide the nutrients a body needs to stay healthy and be strong.  I do not want my family ingesting dyes, chemical preservatives, refined sugars, and GMO ingredients, just to name a few. If you can’t read the ingredient label and really get hungry the way you do when looking over a menu at your favorite restaurant, don’t buy it!

It is hard enough to purge the junk out of our diets and find quality foods to purchase without be pressured to purchase processed junk to save a little money. Besides, the doctor bills from being unhealthy cost a lot more than healthy food!

I have had the pleasure of reading a few good posts about real ways of saving money while eating healthy foods, and I have been surprised to find just how well these work at not only saving money, but also being organized.

Menu planning is one that surprised me with not only saving more money than I thought it would, it also helped organize our kitchen and streamline meals.  Bonus!

Canning and preserving our own convenience foods is another one.  One example from my own pantry is refried beans.  I bought dried beans in bulk and canned my own refried beans.  We also buy fruits and vegetables in addition to the ones we grow, and preserve them through dehydrating, canning, and freezing.  Local food co-ops can help greatly reduce the price of foods by buying in bulk.  Simply Canning and Cents to Get Debt Free both have great recipes and instructions for preserving your food.

I want to save money on the ever-increasing cost of groceries, but compromising and feeding my family junk is just not going to cut it.  I am willing to spend a little bit more per person to give my family the blessing of health.  I may not meet the expectations of those who live to cut budgets at all costs, but I’m okay with that.  We, as moms and dads, are responsible for more than the lowest grocery budget out there.  We are also responsible for providing healthy foods and a healthy relationship with foods.

What say you?  Have you read and/or implemented any tips that actually helped keep your family eating healthy and helped your budget at the same time?  What other sites and blogs offer recipes and tips that will save money?  There are many of us who would love to hear it, so please share!

Thankful For A Bountiful Harvest

This year’s garden has been one of our most successful and bountiful, and we are so thankful for the healthy, homegrown food we have been enjoying at the dinner table and putting up in the freezer and in the pantry.

“He who gathers in the summer is a wise son…”  Proverbs 10:5

Our purple podded pole beans are producing well, and the kids and I are working hard to keep up with keeping them picked and producing even more.

This is my first time canning our beans.  Usually we blanch and freeze them.  I found canning them to be no more difficult than the process to freeze them.  This leaves me freezer space for other fruits and veggies like pumpkin!

So far this year we have been blessed to can or freeze green beans, avocados, peaches, and tomatoes.

Coming up soon will be freezing some of our bell peppers, and our upcoming field trip to a local apple orchard will have us dehydrating apples, and making applesauce and apple butter!

“He who tills his land will be satisfied with bread…”  Proverbs 12:11

This season is not over yet!  We are in the process of cleaning out what has been fully harvested, feeding the soil, and planting more fall/ cool weather crops.  There is more to be worked, grown, harvested, and canned!  There are more lessons to be learned.  There are more great conversations to be had while weeding and working in the gardens together.

The time and effort we invest in our garden grows far more than just fruits and veggies, it also grows healthy children and healthy relationships in our family.

In and out of the garden, there is so much to be thankful for!

What are you thankful for today?  Do you garden with your children?

God bless,

~Rhen

Finding Your Gardening Niche

Welcome to part 2 of my little gardening series!

We started out with an introduction into gardening basics including:  the fantastic benefits, location, and some information to help you choose your fruit and veggie varieties.

In this post we will be digging  a little deeper (haha!  I  can’t help myself) into soil and gardening methods.  I am not going into great detail, but rather, I am giving an overview and links so you can dig deeper into what will work for you.  If I gave all the info I could, this post would be 4000+ words.  Seriously.

Single row gardening.

This is the traditional style of gardening that most people are familiar with.  An area is chosen, the soil is prepared, and the seeds are planted in straight rows the length of the garden with walkways between each row.  This is not my favorite style of gardening.  I realize that there are plenty of people out there who still cling to it, but that is because they have not learned that there are much better ways.  *wink*  My biggest issue with single row gardening is that so much time, effort, soil amendments, and money goes into areas that used as walkways instead of being concentrated in the areas where the plants are.

Wide row gardening.

This is a better take on single row gardening.  This method involves rows that are as wide as a garden rake up to 3+ foot wide.  Wide row gardening has several good points including:  more space is used for actual gardening than walking, you do not pack down the soil next to the plants where the roots are trying to grow, there is less weeding, soil amendments can be concentrated in the soil that the plants use, you can water selected areas easier, companion planting is easier, and more plants create more shaded soil to help keep the soil moist and number of weeds down.

Raised beds.

Raised beds work very similarly to wide rows, but with defined edges.  These edges can be made of wood, stone, concrete block, etc.  They share some of the same benefits as wide rows:  ability to concentrate soil amendments and water to the soil the plants are in and not wasting it on the soil in the walkways.  Raised beds can be adjusted in height to meet your particular needs.  They are fantastic for people who cannot easily reach the ground for various reasons (elderly, disabled, etc.)

Growing plants in raised beds or wide rows brings us to a couple of gardening ideas that can be very helpful in either maximizing space or creating healthy soil without tilling.

Square foot gardening. SFG maximizes the amount of food that you grow in a limited amount of space.  Click the link to learn all of the ins and outs of SFG!

Lasagna gardening.  This allows you to create very healthy, nourishing, and almost weed-free soil using newspaper, peat moss, fruit and vegetable scraps, manure, and more.  This is wonderful for people who are not interested in tilling the soil!

One thing about gardening that I cannot stress enough is soil, soil, SOIL!  Please take the time to figure out what your soil is lacking.  You cannot have large, healthy, disease-resistant, heaving-producing plants if you do not provide the healthiest soil!

There are two books I would like to recommend.  You can borrow these from the library or purchase them.  Personally, I like to own my books as I refer to them often, make lots of notes, and like to highlight ideas I want to use.

The first book is:

The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible by Edward C. Smith.  As far as I am concerned, this book is indispensable!   It almost never has the opportunity to rest on my bookshelf.  His soil amendments chapter is wonderful.

The second book is:

Garden Way’s Joy of Gardening by Dick Raymond

This was my first introduction to wide row gardening, and I have been hooked ever since.  Thanks Dad!  The difference in the amount we are able to harvest because of using wide rows in contrast to single rows is phenominal.   We went from producing enough to eat to producing enough to eat, can, freeze, dry, and share in much less space.

Take the time to read up on the gardening methods and choose what will work best for you, your space, your budget, and your food-growing goals.  Get a notebook to jot down and sketch the ideas that inspire you.

I am always glad to answer any questions, guide you to the best resources, or help in any way I can.  Email me if you need to!

Next up in the gardening series:  choosing the best seeds/ plants and starting seeds indoors!

All for God’s glory!!

~Rhen

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