Kefir

A few weeks ago I posted on my old blog about making kefir, but didn’t really give you all that much information about it. I decided to leave it  intentionally vague, because I knew I wanted to write more about it once I had this lovely blog up and going. So, here we go!

I first heard about kefir about a year ago, when I started to read various blogs about “real food”. Real Food is a movement started by Weston A. Price. I won’t go into all the details about it here (that will be left for a later post!), but in essence it means eating food that would be recognized by our great-grandparents. This obviously means trying to eat food that hasn’t been processed or re-engineered by human hands. There are a lot of other aspects to the “real food” movement, some of which I agree with and others which I’m still researching. However, the overall principle makes a lot of sense to me.

I mean, what exactly is vegetable oil anyway? And why would I want to eat something that has a list of about 50 ingredient, half of which are unpronounceable? My blogging friend Elizabeth put it well in a recent post where she mentions her own thoughts on food: try to eat SOLE foods (or Sustainable, Organic, Local, and Ethical). That cuts out most things that come prepackaged and mostly prepared for you. Obviously, this isn’t always possible, but I think it is a good goal to strive for.

One area that this can be particularly difficult is in cutting out drinks that are highly processed. It is easy enough for me to make my own french fries and cookies using ingredients I approve of, but soda? That’s a whole different issue. Enter kefir.

(Left: Kefir grains in sugar water; Right: strained Kefir water with dried fruit)

Kefir is a little grain that is a combination of yeast and bacteria, which basically has probiotic qualities. Kefir eats sugar and creates carbonation and fermentation, making it the perfect natural way to create your own soda. Not only does it satisfy your desire for a little fizz, it is super good for your digestive system! Now that’s the kind of soda I want my kids asking for!

After reading about kefir on several blogs, we decided to give it a try. We bought the kefir grains from Culture for Health online and they came dehydrated. Once the were rehydrated, we put them in a canning jar with a quart of water (pre-boiled and cooled) and 1/4 cup of organic raw sugar. You leave it like this for 48 hours. Then strain the grains and move them to a new jar and repeat. Take the sugar/water/kefir-less mixture and add whatever flavoring you like. We like to add dried fruit (strawberries, berry mix, mango-berry mix) but you can also add lemon juice or other flavorings. Let it sit for another 48 hours and then strain the dried fruit out. Voila! You have a healthy and yummy drink.

It sounds complicated, but really the amount of active time you spend is very minimal. It basically does all the hard work for you! Lovely! The finished product does have a slightly fermented taste to it, but not too bad. I usually can’t stand any type of alcohol and am able to drink these with no problem (at least the ones with a stronger flavor, like the berry mix).

Now that I’ve entered the world of bacteria, maybe it’s time to make my own yogurt? Hmmm…

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Oatmeal Cookies

Sometimes you just want something a little sweet. OK, if you are me, you always want something a little sweet. But, I also don’t want to throw away my whole day of working hard to eat healthy on a huge bowl of ice cream. Well, I do, but I would regret it later!

That’s why I think that oatmeal cookies are the perfect remedy. They are quite a bit better for you than their plain chocolate chip cookie counterpart, but I think they taste just as good. A few months ago I found this recipe in Cooking Light and it has been my go-to recipe since then. (Although, I would definitely add a second egg, otherwise the recipe is rather crispy. And I like a good chewy cookie.) Yum!

Has anyone experimented with recipes like this one by substituting whole wheat flour or a more natural sugar?

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Happy Birthday, Nikki!

Tomorrow is my lovely sister-in-law’s birthday. Happy Birthday to you, Nikki!

I am so thankful that I married into such a wonderful family. A few summers ago, we lived with my in-laws while we were in limbo between moving out of our CA apartment and moving across the country to IL. Most people would be complaining about living with their in-laws, but it really was a fun time for us all to get to know each other better. Especially for Nikki and I.

I grew up having a great relationship with my sister, so I was so excited to have another one in Nikki. I’ve learned a lot from her about cooking, working out, and being kind. She is just super thoughtful and doesn’t ever want to be a burden on anyone. A year and a half ago, I even got to be a bridesmaid in her wedding–it was so fun!

Not only is she a great sister-in-law, we’ve also become friends. I just have to say, that this is one talented chica. I love her style and how she puts a bit of herself into all that she does. This was super apparent in the awesome Christmas present she gave us this year. Check it out:

Yep, she painted this herself! And without ever having taken art lessons. I’m super impressed. Sadly, we haven’t found the perfect spot in our house for it yet, so right now it’s hanging out here on the floor. I totally think she should sell these–don’t you?

Anyway, Happy Birthday, my dear sister-in-law! I look forward to many more years of friendship and sisterhood with you!

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Chubby McChubster (a.k.a. Parker Thomas)

I’m getting really familiar with the phrase “wow, he is really big for his age.” Just about anyone who meets my little Parker dude seems to proclaim it. He didn’t start out big, 6 months ago on his Birth Day — just 7 pounds 11 ounces of awesome.

He’ s a little bigger now.

As in the 100th percentile bigger.

Like he is almost 22 pounds.

Just in case you were wondering what that kind of chub looks like on a kiddo. Let me share.

Do you see those arms? I promise there is no rubber band around his wrist, they really just look like that.

Oh, and let’s not forget about these thighs. The kid can hide anything in those rolls. Believe me, bath time is always an adventure!

Ah, yes, the cheeks. Hilarious and scrumptious at the same time.

Let’s not forget how he got this way. He eats everything.

Yep, my fingers. (Do you see his teeth poking through? So stinkin’ adorable. And sharp. Very, very sharp.)

And my face. He really does suck on my face. Crazy kid.

Oh, then he looks at me like this and I’m in love all over again. Wouldn’t you be? (And that hair, oh goodness!)

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Spicing it Up!

I recently saw this spice cabinet project from Smitten Kitchen and couldn’t help myself. I’m a sucker for all things glass, so thinking of my beloved spices all gussied up in glass jars was just irresistible. Not to mention, I like to buy my spices at Penzey’s Spices (we have a local shop in Naperville), but many of their spices come in plastic bags. This makes for quite the messy spice cabinet! And you know how it goes once you start mixing and matching different size spice bottles, things just get chaotic and difficult to find. I’m a fan of anything that makes life a little easier and more streamline!

So, here is what I did. I made the trek over to our local Crate & Barrel and picked up 20 of these little glass jars. Aren’t they so cute? I believe Smitten Kitchen got them from Target for around the same price. Then, as was suggested on her blog, I used these labels to identify each bottle of goodness. After creating a huge mess transferring spices from their current homes to their new-and-improved version, this is what I ended up with:

So lovely, no?

I am one happy camper with the final product! Everything is just so easy to find and (in my opinion) darn cute! It will be interesting to see how well the labels hold up overtime, but for now they seem to be doing quite well. The best part is how well the bottles stack, giving me a lot more room to add new spices. I think I might be feeling a trip to Penzey’s coming on…

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Adventures in Bagel Making

Did you know you can make your own bagels? I know that sounds like a stupid question, but until a few weeks ago it had never occurred to me that you could make bagels (or as I like to think of them: little, round, pieces of heaven) at home. I love bagels. Can you tell? During my first trimester of pregnancy, they were about the only thing I could keep down. But at any time, they are one of my most favorite breakfast treats.

About a month ago, Brian and I were able to get away on a little date. As usual, we ended up at a bookstore and each picked up something we were interested in. He came home with three new philosophy books and I came home with this little beauty:

Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day: 100 New Recipes Featuring Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, and Gluten-Free Ingredients

I’ve tried several of the recipes since then and they are all golden. Golden-brown, crunchy crusted, whole wheat goodness. It is the easiest dough I’ve ever made and the recipe is so flexible. After making the dough, you can keep it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. From that same dough you can make bread, pizza dough, flat bread, cinnamon rolls, and, of course, bagels!

So, me being the bagel loving fiend that I am, I had to try out the bagel recipe. The best part is you can make any kind of bagel you fancy using the same dough. I am a plain, sesame seed, or everything bagel kind of girl. Brian is more of a cinnamon-raisin bagel kind of person. And yet, with one simple dough we are both happy!

Did I mention they were delicious? Oh yes, they were good!

In case I haven’t convinced you that this book is worth it’s weight in lots of yummy bread, try out this recipe from Passionate Homemaking. I do think the book’s recipe is a little more simple, but since I haven’t tried the above link I can’t vouch for taste. Anyway, making your own bagels is way cheaper than purchasing them at the store, and you can always be sure to have your favorite flavor!

::EDIT::
Apparently I’m not the only one talking about this book! Check out Kitchen Stewardship for her take on this book (along with it’s counterpart Artisan Bread is Five Minutes a Day. There is a giveaway of the cookbook so you’ve got to check that out.  Also, she has modified some of the recipes to allow for soaking the flour if you’re into that sort of thing!

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When the Kitchen Goes Awry

Sometimes when I’m reading other people’s blogs, I get the impression that I’m the only person who can’t keep it together 24/7. You know, you see people with their beautifully decorated houses, clean floors, freshly baked food, and smiling children. Of course it is easy to post all the lovely parts of our lives, but I wouldn’t want to give you the false impression that my life is perfect.

So, in the name of being honest and real, this is what my kitchen looks like at this exact moment:

OK, it looked like that until I got embarrassed about posting this picture and then I promptly emptied the dishwasher and cleaned up this crazy mess. Just being real.

I used to be an insane perfectionist. Now I guess you could call me a recovering perfectionist. I still like things to be in order, but loving those around me is more important. And that often means not stressing over the details. Like a messy kitchen. Or when something I’m cooking turns out to be a flop. Or when my baby won’t take a single nap during the day.

Ultimately, those things don’t matter. I think it is hugely important to keep my home well, but it is more important that I keep my family happy. If I serve a tasty meal but ruin the atmosphere by being a huge grump, what good is that? As much as I talk about cooking, baking, decorating, cleaning, and overall homemaking, I hope that my goal is first and foremost to keep my own heart in order, so that my home may be a joyful and peaceful place. Even when my kitchen is a disaster.

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First Foods


Our little guy is officially 6 months this week and we’ve just started him on solid food. Yippee skippee! Before I was a parent I had no idea there were so many little milestones to look forward to. Now I know: from first smile, to first laugh, to first foods–parenthood is one huge journey of new adventures!

It is a little intimidating to start the “real, solid food” process when I’ve been so used to just breastfeeding my little guy for the last 6 months. I’m always concerned about the food I put on our table being nutritious. Knowing that our kiddo will be eating off our table soon just makes me all the more motivated to pursue healthy (and yummy!) recipes. I wouldn’t want Parker eating fast food or Hamburger Helper every night, so I want to start a lifetime of healthy habits from the get go.

So, for his first foods, he is getting all natural and all homemade food. Sweet potatoes, butternut squash, zucchini, apples, pears, and sweet peas. Far from being a chore, I’m having a little too much fun making all this stuff. Seriously, it should be illegal to get this big of a kick out of making baby food.

He seems to be just as excited about eating it as I am about making it!

For those of you who are interested in making your own baby food, it is a very simple process. Basically, you just need to bake or steam whatever veggie or fruit you are using to the point that it is easy to mash. For example, you might bake a sweet potato for 45 minutes at 400 degrees. Then, once it is finished baking/steaming, you just put it in your food processor or blender, add a little bit of liquid (breastmilk or water), and blend away. After you have the right consistency it is ready to serve! You can also freeze in ice cube trays, then pop them into other storage containers, and freeze up to 3 months. So easy!

For further reading on feeding baby check out:
Real Food for Mother and Baby by Nina Planck
Cooking for Baby by Lisa Barnes
Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron

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Welcome to Deliberately Domestic

I’ve had a couple of turning points in my blogging career (if spontaneous blogging could be called a career!). I’ve had the thought-provoking blog, the family update blog, and most recently, the crafty blog. It occurred to me that I don’t have to separate all these parts of my life, but could incorporate them all into one cohesive mix.

I decided it was time to Go Big or Go Home.

So, here I am with my newly spiffed up blog, complete with my own domain name and all. One can never tell where this sort of journey will lead, so we’ll just give a try — shall we?

You may be wondering as to the origin of the name “Deliberately Domestic”. I actually stumbled on this name after searching many different phrases in a thesaurus (Do you have any idea how many domain names use words like: natural, home, home-making, intentional, etc?! Apparently, I didn’t!). Other than my love for alliteration, this name really struck a chord with me.

Probably because it is what I do everyday. Or at least try to do everyday.

I’ve always wanted to be a stay-at-home mama. It was my only dream to care for my home and my family when I worked outside the home at an 8-5 job, 5 days a week. I would cry over this desire. Beg God to fulfill my desire. Ponder about the sorts of things I would do at home. And now, it is what I do. Day in and day out — this is my life.

I hate the fact that some people think staying at home is a brainless occupation, suited only for women who have no other options in life. I was a valedictorian in high school. I graduated with my Bachelor’s after only three years, and walked Summa Cum Laude. I worked for a publishing company, excelling in the editorial field. I didn’t choose to stay home with my baby because I couldn’t cut the mustard in the workplace.

I deliberately chose to stay home because it is where I will have the most influence in my entire life.

And I love it. Most days. And even on those hard days, I still believe it is the best job in the world.

So, I decided to write about it. I hope you will join me on my adventures in homemaking. I plan to share recipes, crafts, some personal updates, thoughts on life, frugal tips, natural tips, and anything else that runs through my mind. Together, let’s figure out what it means to be deliberately domestic!

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living deliberately for Christ in a capricious world