Thursday, November 8, 2012

Baby Shower Gifts

The other day I was in need of a baby shower gift for a new baby girl.  I usually go to the store and pick something out...but since I am currently unemployed and have more than the usual time on my hands I decided to make something instead...

But what to make?

I'm not the best at sewing, but it is something that I want to get better at.  I found these patterns online and thought I would give them a try...

Well here is my finished products...

I did add leather to my baby shoe bottoms because I had it and have put on leather soles before.  I also added an extra felt insole because it seemed like it needed it to me.  I also made flower pins that I put on there, but they probably aren't too practical for wearing or for safety of a baby.  I just thought they were cute.  All and all I am happy with the way they turned out.  Too bad I don't have my own baby to sew for lol  

Monday, October 29, 2012

Lamb Ragout

We recently purchased a half a lamb and have quite a bit of lamb to eat so I've been looking for lamb recipes recently.  I stumbled upon this recipe at (  and it is really a great and basic ragout.  I made a few changes to use ingredients I had on hand.  I also boiled down the sauce a lot to make it a thicker sauce for my pasta.  It was really delicious with my homemade spaghetti pasta and some freshly grated parmesan!


1-2 lbs lamb chops or other lamb meat
1 T butter
1 T olive oil
3-5 cloves minced garlic depending on your love of garlic
1 tsp dried rosemary or 2 tsp fresh rosemary
1/2 cup red or white wine (I used a Cabernet Sauvignon)
1 14oz can broth (I used water and chicken broth concentrate)
3 T tomato paste
1 14oz can of diced tomatoes (including juice) or 4 Roma tomatoes diced
1/4 cup olives (I used the garlic stuffed olives from the jar because that was what I had)
1/2 tsp fresh oregano chopped (optional)
1/2-1 tsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp onion powder (optional)
salt and pepper to taste


1.  Heat butter and oil in a pan and brown the lamb on each side.
2.  Add the garlic, rosemary, broth, tomato paste, and wine and simmer the lamb for about 1 hour.
3.  Boil water for desired pasta and cook pasta (amount depends on how much sauce to pasta ratio you like, I used fresh pasta and it ended up being two meals for two people and the pasta alone filled a medium sauce pan when cooked)
4.  When done remove lamb and cool, pick meat off the bone and remove fat.  Break lamb meat into small pieces shredding as much as possible.  Add shredded lamb back to the wine sauce in the pan.
5.  Add tomatoes, olives, oregano, parsley, and onion powder to the wine sauce in the pan and increase heat to medium high and cook down the sauce to desired thickness.  I really cooked down the sauce because I didn't want my pasta to be in liquid.
6.  Add salt and pepper to taste for the pasta sauce and then combine pasta with the ragout sauce.  Serve with shredded Parmesan.  Enjoy!

I really like that this recipe doesn't use as many tomatoes as my usual spaghetti sauce and it was just as satisfying at spaghetti.  You could also easily add mushrooms, different kinds of olives, larger pieces of garlic, or even vegetables like zucchini at the end.  My husband and I actually both liked it better that my spaghetti, so for us this recipe is a keeper!

Monday, October 22, 2012

French Apple Cake

This is a recipe from the Full Circle Farm blog and here is the link to the original and it's really a great and easy cake to make.  We liked it so much we are thinking about using it for Thanksgiving instead of an apple pie!  I made a couple adjustments to fit ingredients I had on hand of course...


3/4 cup flour (I used spelt)
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
pinch of salt
4 large apples pealed and cut up into 1 inch cubes (you can use any apples you want including a combination of different types)
2 large eggs
1/2-3/4 cup sugar depending on your preference for sweetness (I used 1/2 cup and it was plenty sweet with the apples I used)
3 T dark rum (I used coconut rum)
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 T (1 stick) melted


1. Grease a 9 inch cake pan and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a small bowl.
3. In a medium bowl whisk eggs until they are foamy, add sugar, rum, and vanilla.
4. Add half of flour mixture to egg mixture and combine, then add half of melted butter, then rest of flour mixture, and then rest of melted butter, mix well.  Batter will be smooth and thick.
5. Fold in apples and mix well.
6. Pour mixture into the cake pan and even out top with a spatula.
7. Bake for 50 or 60 minutes or until top of cake is golden brown.
8.  Let cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.  Would be delicious with some homemade vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

Note:  This is such a basic recipe I feel that you could easily substitute other fruits for the apples if you wanted to.  I'm sure I will be experimenting more in the future with this recipe...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Cherry Almond Oatmeal Cookies

Oatmeal cookies are definitely a classic American favorite.  This recipe is a nice twist to an all time favorite.  The original recipe came from

I felt that the original had too much sugar and was too busy in general.  I altered a couple of ingredients to make it just a bit better.

Here is my version:


1 cup all purpose flour (I use spelt)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup plus 2 T softened butter
1/2 cup organic sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 cup oats (I used quick oats because that was what I had on hand)
1/2-1 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional, I felt they made the cookies too busy)


1. Preheat oven to  325 degree F and line 2 cookies sheets with parchment paper
2.  Combine dry (flour, oats, salt, baking soda) ingredients in a bowl
3.  Combine wet (butter, sugar, egg, extracts) ingredients in a separate large bowl
4.  Add dry mixture to wet mixture and combine
5.  Add dried cherries, almonds, and chocolate chips if desired
6.  Drop cookie dough by spoonfuls two inches apart on the cookies sheets
7.  Bake 15-20 minutes depending on desired crispiness ( more browned on the edges will be more crispy in the end)
8.  Enjoy!

Note:  This is a good basic oatmeal cookie recipe and it seems to do well when changing up the dried fruit, nuts, and chocolate.  Experiment and have fun!  Let me know what wonderful variations you come up with.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Organic Produce

Organic produce in the mainstream consciousness is something rather new.  Pesticides and chemicals are often put on non-organic produce to get an even larger crop yield in a small space.  Its about efficiency and money.  However, we consume the chemicals and pesticides that soak into the fruits and vegetables.  Lets not even get into the EDCs (endocrine disrupting chemicals) and genetically modified crops and their potential effects.

Back to the point, these chemicals and pesticides are linked to a multitude of human conditions and illness.  Now whether or not you believe that these chemicals and pesticides affect us, its never a bad idea to stay on the safe side and eat organic when possible.  That is pretty much my stance.  I'm not sure that eating non organic is giving us some of these diseases, and I'm not sure that it isn't. My thinking is that eating 100% organic is wonderful and probably the best option out there.  Unfortunately it can be very expensive...  I know not what we want to hear!

As there are many things you can do (garden!) to offset the cost of organic produce there is also the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 to help you set your priorities while grocery shopping.  This list is all over the Internet ( or, but I'm going to share it here as well for inspiration!  I like that the EWG site had a couple added to the dirty dozen because they still have a high level of pesticides but not enough to make the dirty dozen list.

Dirty Dozen

  • apples
  • celery
  • sweet bell peppers
  • peaches
  • strawberries
  • nectarines-imported
  • grapes
  • spinach
  • lettuce
  • cucumbers
  • blueberries-domestic
  • potatoes
plus: green beans and kale/greens

Clean 15

  • onions
  • sweet corn
  • pineapples
  • avocado
  • cabbage
  • sweet peas 
  • asparagus
  • mangoes
  • eggplant
  • kiwi
  • cantaloupe-domestic
  • sweet potatoes
  • grapefruit
  • watermelon
  • mushrooms

Organic produce is the main reason I like gardening so much. I like that you know what is being put on your plants and it is often very easy to grow your garden entirely organic.  I know for us I am not able to grow all of the variety of fruits and vegetables we want.  So for me this list is very handy and makes it so we can prioritize which things need to be organic and which do not.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Switching to Organic Meats

In general as a society we have given up on knowing where our food is produced in the name of convenience.  The conditions in which the animals are being raised for meat is pretty attrocious in factory farms today.  There are several documentaries out there that show some of the negatives of factory farms such as Food Inc.  I have gotten to the point that when I eat factory farm meat (which is pretty much any meat in the grocery store) I think about the treatment and thats the last thing you want to think about when you are eating a delicious meal!  I have decided that I no longer wish to support factory farm meats with my business.

And all of this may sound like it's easy to switch to locally farmed organic meats.  However regularly buying organic, free range, and grassfed meats can be very expensive and really a lot of work to track down farmers within your area.  Some people are lucky to have organic options available in their grocery store or even local CSA co-ops ( is a great place to start) in which to get organic food on a budget.  Our problem has been that the distance to drive every month to go and pick up a box of organic food is just too great.

In Alaska we participated in the Full Circle Farm box every other week.  This was a great way for us to get organic fruits and vegetables I could not grow in our garden.  It was also very affordable.  Also when we were in Alaska we had a lot of local salmon, halibut, moose, and caribou (from my brother.)  When you live in a place a long time you find ways to get wild meats and I think that is a great way to go!

However, now that we are in the midwest and our families are not close, we find it hard to get wild meats.  I do hope to someday learn to dear hunt!  But for now we must be content to buy our meats from the farmers.  This poses several challenges:

1) It is usually only affordable to buy in bulk ie half or whole animals.  This has been a problem for us.  We do not have enough freezer space and we dont need that much meat for only two people.

2) We often have to drive quite a bit to get the meats we would like.  If you are factoring it in to the cost this makes the meat much more expensive.  I like to look at it as my personal entertainment :)  since I'm not a huge fan of sporting events like my husband.

3)  Buying in bulk or semi bulk is a lot of upfront cost for your meat.  If you are on a strict monthly budget with no extra cash to spend on food this will not work for you!  To stay within a monthly budge often you can get involved with a meat CSA in your area.  This is a great way to go if it is near your area.  Another thing to keep in mind is sometimes if you have several friends that can commit to a year long monthly subscription to the CSA you can often start one in your area.  If we knew more people in our area I would love to do this!

However, in our case the closest CSA has a drop off time that would require that either I don't work that day or my husband gets off work early to pick up the box.  This isn't something we want to lock ourselves into.  So for now we have decided to try and buy larger quantities from farmers.  I have found some farmers that are willing to sell me smaller quantities of meats for still a reasonable price.

We are also opporating on a yearly food budget.  But, this is our first time doing this so we'll see how it goes...  Another change I am working on is using less meat in our meals.  I think in general Americans including us eat too much meat.  I do believe that meat is good for you and includes many essential nutrients however I do not believe that it needs to be the majority or main focus of the meal.  I do feel that eating less meat is a key in making regular consumption of organic/free-range/grassfed meats affordable.  I use a lot more beans in dishes I use to make mainly out of meat.  For example tacos:  I used to just brown a bunch of hamburger and season it and put it on our tacos.  Now I use half as much beef and combine with black beans and season.  The result is just as tasty, but with less meat.  Beans are also very reasonably priced and quite good for us!

Whatever your stance on meat I'd like to encourage you to research some of the health benefits of organic/free-range/grassfed meats over conventional corn fed meats at the grocery store.  And if the health benefits aren't enough seeing some of the videos out there showing the treatment of the animals in factory farms is enough to make you feel sick.  These are a few that I find interesting about this topic in general:

NPR Article Comparing Grassfed Beef to Cornfed Beef

Humane Society Video

Friday, October 12, 2012

Asian Noodle Stir Fry (Fake Pad thai)

This noodle dish reminds me of some of the noodle dishes at PF Changs.  Its almost like pad thai too but not quite.  I will warn you that it is a little spicy.  If you are cooking for kiddos you may want to reduce the chili garlic sauce.  Its super easy and my family loves it!  It is the best asian noodle dish I have made yet!


2 T soy sauce or bragg's liquid aminos
2 T water
2 T peanut butter
1 T chili garlic sauce
1 T sweet chili sauce

4-5 oz thin rice noodles softened according to their packaging instructions
2 tsp fresh chopped ginger
2 tsp minced garlic or 1/2 tsp garlic powder
3 T oil
1 1/2 cups shrimp or sliced grilled chicken or pork
1 cup diced zucchini or broccoli
1/2 cup bean or lentil sprouts or your choice
1-2 eggs (optional)

lemon or lime juice
handful of chopped peanuts


1.  Whisk together sauce ingredients in small bowl and set aside
2.  Soften rice noodles and have them ready to use
3.  Saute Vegetables with ginger, garlic, and oil (if using chicken saute chicken first and then add vegetables) briefly on medium high heat, add shrimp and sprouts and noodles and saute a couple minutes
4.  Reduce heat and stir sauce mixture into the pan and mix well to coat noodles and vegetables evenly
5.  Saute a minute and then add eggs and scramble in noodles
6.  Serve with fresh squeezed lemon or lime and a sprinkle of peanuts (if its too spicy the lemon can help reduce some of the heat)
7.  Enjoy!

Dutch Oven Bread (Regular and Sourdough version)

This is a recipe my mother gave me.  I adapted it to be sourdough.  The above picture is the last few slices of one big loaf.  When its fresh this bread goes fast in my house!

Ingredients for Regular:

1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
3 cups flour (I use spelt, but it makes it not as high)
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
Extra flour to form a ball
Sprinkle of cornmeal

Ingredients for Sourdough:

1/2 cup sourdough starter
1/8 tsp yeast (optional for added height but I feel it takes away a little sourdough flavor)
1 1/2 cups warm water
3 cups flour (I use spelt)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup extra flour to knead into dough to form ball
Sprinkle of cornmeal

1.  In a large bowl dissolve yeast or sourdough starter in the warm water and let sit 5 minutes
2.  Add flour and salt and combine well (it will be a little sticky)
3.  Cover and let sit 8-18 hours (I usually make this in the evening and let sit overnight, for sourdough the longer you let it sit the more flavor it has)
4.  The next morning ready a thin cotton towel, place on the counter and sprinkle a small handful of cornmeal on half of the cloth (this is where the dough ball will be placed)
4.  Punch down the dough and add extra flour to form into a ball and knead a couple times (when using spelt I find you need to add extra flour at this stage to form it into a ball)
5.  Gather up the edges of the flattened ball and pinch together, place pinched side down on the cornmeal on the towel.  Cover with the other half of the towel and let rise 1 hr or until doubled.
6.  Preheat oven and dutch oven (I use cast iron) to 475 degrees F, once heated to that temp remove dutch oven and flip dough into pan (the cornmeal will end up on top now.)  If the dough isn't even in the pay you can jiggle the pan a little to help even it out, but it will even out some during baking.
7.  Cover and bake for 30 minutes, remove lid and if not lightly browned cook for an additional 5-10 minutes uncovered.
8.  Remove and place on cooling rack and cover with the thin towel while cooling ( I do this so that the crust doesn't try out)
9.  This bread keeps for a long time in the fridge and also freezes well.

It sounds complicated, but really it is hard to mess this bread up.  I did one time when I used all whole wheat flour that may have been old anyway.  The bread baked into a hard was weird but has never happened again despite me making it out of spelt flour entirely.

Defining Wellness

First of all Welcome to my blog!

I hope that it inspires you!

To begin with I think we should start by Defining Wellness:

Wellness is defined by and most dictionaries as "the quality or state of being healthy in body and mind especially as the result of deliberate effort."

The second definition states that wellness is "an approach to health care that emphasizes preventing illness and prolonging life as opposed to emphasizing treating disease."

And as these are good definitions I find that personally wellness means something much more dimensional and abstract than the black and white definitions.  Wellness is physical, mental, and spiritual health and thus encompasses every aspect of our life.  I think  that wellness is different to every person.  What makes me feel balanced and whole in my life may not make you feel balanced and whole in yours.

 I find that to me wellness hints at an overall intentional contentment with life in our current state.  However, it is more than that.  I don't believe that contentment means that you cannot grow and change and seek to always improve.  There is nothing wrong with recognizing that we are not where we want to be in some aspect of our life and yet being content in our progress and enjoying the little things in the now.  Part of this is accepting that even challenges in our life are part of God's plan for us.  I really do believe that challenging life events have made me a more understanding and compassionate person.  It took me a long time to accept and recognize that these events made me a better person and were part of God's plan for me.  It is not easy.  And there are some things in my life I still struggle to accept.  But, it is all part of the Journey in Wellness.

I hope this blog can be a place to grow in overall wellness by examining the many facets of this word such as: nutritional ideas, recipes, gardening, health, spirituality, community and sharing, as well as DIY crafts and household ideas that help us achieve a confidence in what we are and what we can achieve.