Lovely Lasagna

My sister, Rachel, has this amazing recipe for lasagna, which is very similar to the lasagna we grew up with our mom making, but with the addition of herbs and different cheeses to make it even more tasty!  I haven’t made lasagna in years due to my kids’ food allergies, but I decided that I absolutely need to have some lasagna on hand for while I’m breastfeeding so that I can do a better job of keeping up my milk supply with this little one.

Rachel’s Lovely Lasagna (with a gluten free option)

Makes approximately 1 13×9 inch pan

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground meat (beef, pork, lamb, etc.)
  • Lasagna noodles (or you could substitute spaghetti squash for a gluten free option)
  • 2 quart jars of your favorite spaghetti sauce (I like either homemade or 4 cheese)
  • 1 32 oz container ricotta cheese
  • About 2 lbs. assorted cheese (Usually 1/2 Mozzarella and 1/2 Cheddar, Monterey, or Colby jack)
  • 4 oz fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4-6 eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons Italian Seasoning
  • 1 Tablespoon Onion Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Oregano
  • Basil (optional)
  • Salt (optional)
  • Pepper (optional)

 

Directions

  1. Brown ground meat.  Mix with spaghetti sauce in a large bowl and set aside.
  2. Mix together cheeses (save some cheese for topping), ricotta, eggs, herbs, and spices.  Mixture should be slightly goopy but thick.  Add more eggs if needed to make it somewhat spreadable.
  3. Layer ingredients in pan, starting with sauce mixture, then noodles, then cheese mixture.  This usually makes 3 layers in a 13×9 pan.  Top with the cheese you saved.
  4. Bake @ 350 degrees for about 1 hour, or until noodles are done.

 

Notes

  • This makes a great freezer meal.  Simply use an oven and freezer safe pan and cover tightly with foil or lid.  Allow to thaw before baking, or allow more time to bake.  You may want to lower the baking temperature to 325 if frozen to prevent burning around the edges.

Enjoy!

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Extra Healthy Chili

This chili recipe has evolved quite a bit over the last 8 years.  The original recipe was given to me by my sister at my bridal shower, and I stuck to it for years, but as I tried to find ways to slip more veggies and organ meat into our diet, I gradually changed the recipe to be my own creation.  I always use what I have on hand, so each batch is a little different, but here is the basic recipe.  I like to make large batches (basically two dutch oven size pots or one huge pot) and share with friends or freeze for an easy meal later.

Extra Healthy Chili 

By: Becca                     Yield: Two dutch oven size pots of chili

Ingredients

  • Healthy oil such as coconut (we like the refined coconut oil for foods like this), olive, or palm
  • 1-2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1-2 lbs ground beef, lamb, or pork (or mixture)
  • 1 pint jar of puddin’, head cheese, other ground up organ meat (if using liver, only use a little bit- it’s pretty strong tasting)
  • 4 cups shredded veggies (squash, zucchini, and carrots have worked well for me.  Besides adding nutrition, these add a little bulk so it feels like you have more meat in your chili without actually having to use lots of meat.  You can probably do a veggie version by adding more veggies and cutting out the meat completely!)
  • 4 Tablespoons Chili powder
  • 4 Tablespoons ground Cumin
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 #10 can crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce (I like the crushed tomatoes because they generally don’t have anything added- check labels to avoid preservatives and allergens that are often hidden in tomato sauce)
  • 4 cups cooked pureed pumpkin or sweet potato (this is nice because it helps to cut the acidity of the tomatoes, plus adds so much nutrition!  My husband says he hates pumpkin and sweet potato, yet if I make chili without it, he asks what is wrong with the chili =)
  • 3 teaspoons real salt
  • 1-2 cups bone broth
  • About 8 cups canned or cooked beans (we like a mixture of black, red, pinto, and kidney beans)

Directions

  1. Cook first 8 ingredients in a large pot or cast iron dutch oven over medium heat.  You want your meat browned, and your veggies pretty soft.
  2. Divide between two dutch ovens if necessary.
  3. Add tomato, pureed veggies, and salt.  Bring to a boil and simmer for a bit (I like to partially cover pots so it doesn’t splatter too much.)  If you are using one large pot, be sure to stir frequently so your chili doesn’t stick to the bottom.
  4. Add as much bone broth as you want, plus the beans, and stir well.  Simmer for at least 30 minutes, while the flavors meld and excess water evaporates, stirring occasionally.

Enjoy!

 

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New Birth on the Farm

We have been blessed with some new little ones on our farm!  One of our hens showed up two days ago with 4 tiny chicks at her side!  These are the first baby animals to be born on our farm, and they were born with absolutely no help from us.  In fact, we hadn’t been able to find the mama hen since we got back from our Christmas trip, and I assumed she was gone for good, so this is a double blessing- to have a good hen back, and to have 4 new chicks for our flock!

I still don’t know where she hid to hatch her babies, but we’ve done our best to set up a safe place with food and water that she can use if she chooses.  I’m afraid to intervene much since she’s doing such a great job mothering, but I do have concerns, both with the cold nights we’ve been having, and the predators in the area.  During the day, we (my kids and I) play or work near our sweet hen (her name is Black Beauty by the way, and she is a Black Australorp I believe), and make sure none of our other animals bother her- especially the cats.  She has a pasture and a chicken tractor all to herself, but the ducks, geese, and cats have been very curious, and the cats easily climb over or slip through all of our fences.  We are hoping and praying she and her little ones make it!

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The Many Values of Harvesting Your Own Food

The other day we had a windy night and my kids and I were excited to find a decent drop of pecans under our pecan tree the next morning.  I hadn’t expected to get anything from our pecan tree this year since I didn’t see many nuts on the low branches and it has been struggling with some sort of fungal issue this year.  But low and behold, the ground was littered with healthy pecans!  We had a great time cracking them between two boards, pulling out the nut meats and eating our fresh pecans.  Not only are these healthy and full of beneficial enzymes you won’t find in the nuts that have been sitting in the store for who-knows-how-long, but my picky girl who usually won’t even consider eating any kind of nut was cracking and eating these as fast as she could!  All of my kids are more than happy to try pretty much any food straight from the garden, yet as soon as I take it inside and wash it, their interest in eating it goes way down.  There is just a special magic to picking a food and putting it right in your mouth- especially for children.  You just can’t beat the feeling of picking a fresh, dew-washed berry and popping it right into your mouth!  My girls were so excited to find a few tiny heads of broccoli in the garden the other day, they sat right down and started eating them as fast as they could!  The same girls who barely nibble at store bought broccoli!

There are of course many other reasons to harvest your own food and eat it as fresh as possible.  Studies have shown that the highest concentration of enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants are found in freshly picked, fully ripe produce.  Unfortunately, most of the raw produce available for us to buy at the store has been picked before it fully ripens, then shipped and stored for anywhere from a few days to several months.  Some of the best cancer preventing antioxidants are produced in the final day or two of ripening on the plant, so some of the fruits and veggies that are listed as “full of antioxidants”, may not be so full of antioxidants if they weren’t allowed to ripen on the plant.  In general, every day that a harvested fruit or vegetable is stored before being eaten, it loses some of it’s nutritional value.

So whether you grow it yourself, go to a nearby farm for pick-your-own, or find wild foods to eat, try to take time to harvest at least a little of your food with your own hands this year, and be sure to try some straight from the plant.

Enjoy!

Posted in Children, Farm, Food, Garden, Health, Snacks, Summer, Uncategorized, Wild Edibles | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Organizing for Natural Remedies

One of my favorite bloggers, Katie from wellnessmama.com, published a wonderful post this week with organized lists of ingredients and recipes for her favorite herbal and natural remedies.  I’m excited to stock up on our favorite remedies before the baby comes, and this is an amazing resource!

My plan is to make one herbal/natural remedy per week, at least until the baby comes in March.  Do you have a plan to increase your natural remedies in 2016?

Enjoy!

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DIY- How to Make a Simple Train/Lego Table

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My kids love trains and legos, but I don’t love having train tracks and lego creations all over my floor.  For a while I actually made my kids play with their train tracks outside on a piece of plywood, and it worked pretty well.  When they were ready to go inside, the train set went back in its box and into the shed.  No “I want to leave it out so I can come back to play with it later”.  But now that it’s really too cold to spend hours outside everyday, and because trains and legos are such good things for young kids to spend their time on, I’ve been tripping over train tracks and legos regularly.

What’s a mom to do?  Build a train table, that’s what!  I tried to find plans for a train table online, but nothing quite fit exactly what I wanted.  I wanted it to have locking wheels so that the kids could easily roll it away from the wall for play, then put it back in its place when they finish.  The wheels needed to be locking so that we wouldn’t have to worry about it rolling around when we want it to stay still.  I made it 23 1/2 inches tall, which is a perfect height for all of my kids, ages 1-7.  We are a short family though, so you may need to adjust the height for taller kids.  I debated whether to put a low bottom shelf for play and storing boxes of tracks and legos or to leave the bottom open and make rolling storage boxes that could be parked under the table, but finally settled on the shelf option, partly because of the price of castor wheels and the extra work involved in building the rolling boxes, and partly because I think the shelf option is nice for the extra play area.  With 4 little ones and another on the way, I think they will need all the play space they can get!  I made the table top 46 inches by 28 inches so that it would fit nicely in the space I allotted for it in my son’s room, but an added bonus is that it also fits through our doorways, so we can roll it anywhere in the house and use it for all kinds of things!  I nailed 3/4 inch quarter round molding to the edges to give a nice finished look and add a tiny lip that will help keep tracks and legos from sliding off the table.  It’s been two days since I made it, and I haven’t found a train track on the floor yet!

Here are the plans:

Supply list

  • 4 locking castor wheels (Mine are 2″ wheels.  I got them at my local Ace Hardware store for $4.99 each- $19.96 total).
  • 1/2 inch thick Plywood Project Panel cut into two pieces, 28 by 46 inches each (or whatever size you choose).  I got mine at Lowes and had them cut it for me.  It cost about $36 for the 4×8 project panel, which was much smoother and straighter than the regular 1/2 plywood at $20.  I have a nice size piece left left that I can use for another project too.
  • 150 or 180 grit sandpaper for sanding edges of plywood
  • 8 ft. piece of 2×2, cut into 4- 20 1/2 inch pieces for legs (I found this length by taking the total desired height of the table and subtracting the widths of the plywood (1 inch total) and the height of the wheels (2 inches).  You can adjust the height according to your needs. Just know that if you need legs longer than 24 inches, you will of course need another 2×2.)
  • 4- 8 ft. pieces of 3/4 inch quarter round molding.
  • 1/2 inch screws to attach wheels
  • Screws at least 3/4 inch in length and not longer than 1 1/2 inches to attach legs

Tools list

  • Miter saw for cutting molding at 45 degree angle and cutting legs.  The molding is optional, so if you don’t have a miter saw and don’t want to invest in one, just sand the edges of your plywood really smooth instead.
  • Screw driver and drill bit slightly smaller in diameter than screws for pre-drilling holes into legs (if you hold the bit up with the screw behind it, you should be able to see the threads of the screw, while the body of the screw is covered by the bit.)  It’s really nice to have two screw drivers for this project- one to drill holes and one to put in screws.
  • Tape measure for measuring before cutting!
  • Pen or pencil to mark measurements on the wood
  • Nail gun and air compressor for nailing quarter round onto edges of table.  You might be able to use small nails and a hammer to nail on the quarter round, but it will be a pain.  The quarter round is totally optional though- you could just sand the edges of the plywood really smooth and call it done.  I’m sure you could use wood glue to attach something along the top edge to give a little bump so tracks and legos wouldn’t fall off easily.  A piece of twine would probably work fine.

The How To:

  1. Cut your table top and bottom shelf or have them cut to size. Sand edges to remove splinters.  It doesn’t have to be perfectly smooth if you are going to attach quarter round.
  2. Cut your legs to size and sand slightly.
  3. Choose which piece of plywood will be your table top and set it on a long edge.  Hold a leg firmly in place at one corner and drill a hold through the plywood and into the leg, being careful to keep your drill straight and to not make your hole too close to the edge of the leg.  Use one of your longer screws to screw the table top and the leg together.  Make another hole near the opposite corner of the leg, through the plywood and into the leg.  Fasten in place with another long screw.  Repeat for the other three legs.
  4. Carefully flip your table so that the table top is flat on the floor with the legs sticking up.
  5. Place your bottom shelf plywood on top of the legs with the bottom of the shelf facing up.
  6. Drill hole and screw outside corner of leg as you did for the table top.
  7. Place a wheel with one hole overlapping the inner corner of the leg.  The wheel will be inset about 3/4 inch from the edges of the bottom shelf.  Drill hole and screw through this wheel hole and the plywood into the leg using a long screw.  Now use 3 of your 1/2 inch screws to attach the rest of the wheel in place.  Repeat with remaining wheels and legs.
  8. If you choose to add the quarter round, you will need to measure and cut to size very carefully.  The table edge measurement will be the “inside” measurement for the quarter round.  This means you will need to set your miter saw to cut at 45 degrees outward from your measurement marks.  Be careful not to cut your pieces too short, or you will have some ugly gaps to fill at your corners… like I do. =/  You should have a shorter inside edge of your quarter round that will align with your table edges, and the outside edge of your round should be longer so that all the corners of the quarter round will match up nicely.  Cut two pieces and make sure they are lining up properly before cutting the rest so that you can trouble shoot if necessary.
  9. Carefully attach quarter round to table and bottom shelf edges with a nail gun.
  10. Paint if desired.

Enjoy!!

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After buying colloidal silver for the last few years at over a dollar per ounce, I’ve finally decided to start making my own at home with this LifeForce Compact EZ-2 Colloidal Silver Generator Package I found on Amazon.  My Mom has been making her own colloidal silver for about a year with a set up she made herself, so I know it can be done, and I have used some of the colloidal silver she made, so I know it’s safe.  I chose to buy the kit because I know that I would just take too long to get around to setting up anything more complicated, and I need to get started with making my own colloidal silver.  The great things about this kit are that it costs only $20 more than buying a 32 ounce bottle of premade colloidal silver, and it can make 32 ounces of silver in 32 minutes.  I love to know that exact time because I have a history of forgetting what I’m doing while all my little ones are running around, so I can just set a timer and shut off the unit when the time is up!  I’m also purchasing this handy tester so that I can test to make sure the colloidal silver has the correct silver concentration that I’m looking for.  (UPDATE: this tester does not work for testing colloidal silver content after all.  I’m leaving the link to it in this post because I don’t want you to be confused about it as I was.  I read a review on Amazon that said the person was using it to test their colloidal silver, but perhaps they were not using distilled water and were just getting a reading from their tap water.)  I plan to review these items after using them for a few months, but felt that I should get these links out now since we are at the height of flu season, and you just might want to start making your own colloidal silver too!

 

UPDATE 1/9/16:  I made my first batch of colloidal silver today!  It was very easy- I just poured distilled water into a clean mason jar, used the thermometer provided to check the temperature (which was a little cooler than the optimal 72-82 degrees, so I stuck the jar in a pan of warm water to heat up for a bit), then used the plastic scrubber in the kit to rub the shiny coating off the silver wires and snapped the wires into the positive and negative ports on the little machine.  When the water was at 82 degrees, I set the machine on top of the jar with the wires in the water, plugged it in, and set the timer for the amount of time specified on the chart in the instructions.  It seemed to work just fine, though I’m not totally sure how to test the silver to be absolutely sure it has the amount of silver in it that I’d like.  The instructions note that you can’t use a TDS (total dissolved solids) meter to test the PPM of the silver because the silver is suspended in the water, rather than dissolved.  So, while it’s still fun to test our other drinking water (which, by the way, has a very low TDS count and therefore should be highly efficient at hydrating our cells), the TDS meter I mentioned above measures 0.0 when I put it in my colloidal silver made with distilled water.

Now, a note on the colloidal silver generator I bought.  I really like it’s simplicity, and the fact that everything you need, right down to the plastic stirring spoon, is all together in a nice little clear plastic storage bag with a zipper.  However, the same company sells a “barebones” package that is probably a better value.  It’s $55 rather than $69 and contains only the machine, instructions, and silver wires.  You can choose to get lower gauge (thicker) wires in this kit for a few more dollars as well.  The thicker wires cut down on the amount of time it takes to make a given amount of colloidal silver due to their greater surface area.  They also last longer.  This kit does not contain the plastic stirring spoon, plastic scrubber (it’s a green pad like you would use to scrub a pot in your kitchen), timer, bag, or thermometer.  However, most people have these things in their home, so if you don’t mind gathering them up for your silver making adventure, you could save a little cash by getting the barebones silver generator.

Note: The links in this blog post are affiliate links.  This is my first time trying the Amazon Affiliate program, and I’m interested to see how it works.  Thanks for your support if you choose to buy through these links. 

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