Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Quest For Homemade Bread

I am an amazing cook and baker but when it comes to bread I fail miserably. I have no idea why but as far back as I can remember if a recipe calls for yeast and tons of waiting around for dough to rise then I end up with a bread brick. For all other baked goods I am the master. It might have something to do with my lack of patience or my hatred of yeast, I am not sure but my quest for homemade bread is not going well. 
I decided to use a bread mix the other day hoping that its helpful suggestions and corner cutting would end this bad luck. As my college students often say, it was an "epic fail". I followed the directions but the darn dough would not rise. In the end I had yet another bread brick. 
I am considering a bread machine or perhaps a recipe with out yeast or watching a bread guru. If you have any helpful suggestions about how I can overcome this issue it would be a great help!

Don't forget that you have until noon today PST to enter the organic giveaway!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

My Green Kitty

My kitty is not actually green, he is an orange tabby but he lives a green life just like the rest of my family. Last year my husband and I were waiting on the adoption and it seemed like it would never end, we decided to take home a "kitten band-aid". Thus a little orange kitty became my feline child. While waiting for a name that seemed to fit we called him "the kitten" or "kitty" after a week or so we would just say the word kitty and he would come running and meow, so Kitten became his name.
Kitten is an eco-friendly kitty with a natural vet. Don't worry, I am not one of "those people" my cat is just that...a cat! I keep a balance. Our vet is great! She told me that if Kitten was an inside only kitty that he did not need any additional shots outside of the ones he had in the shelter. Also, inside kitties so not need conventional tick or flea medicine. If you do track in something on your shoes which gives your kitty live-in bug tenants then you can feed him a little brewers yeast (one tsp. daily in his food). The bugs hate the taste and will drop off of him in a hurry. I vacuum about every other day so this has never been a problem for us.
We feed him "Spot's Stew" which I buy from Whole Foods. It was one of the brands that my vet recommended but I chose it because all the ingredients were FOOD not weird stuff that I cannot pronounce. Plus, I read in Healthy Child Healthy World that most pet foods have the "four D's" which are disabled, diseased, dying or dead animals as meat for the food, I wanted to avoid my sweet kitty eating gross food but I also wanted to avoid foods that might cause diabetes. I kept the same rules for the cat as I do for my family, if you do not know all the ingredients then you do not eat it! This way if you get a curious toddler who sneaks a few kitten food pebbles you will not have to freak out. We also supplement with scraps from our dinners like salmon or chicken, he loves it when we share. Just make sure not to give him anything with bones, the tiny fragments can hurt his intestines. 
Inside cats need litter boxes which is my least favorite part of having a kitty. Our vet warned that little kitties sometimes try to eat their litter so you must choose wisely. We tried several litters before finding one that everyone liked. I have read several articles over the years urging people not to use clay litters so I tried wheat and corn. Both of those did not do a great job of masking odors and they would get stuck to kitty's paws which then spread around the house. Next I tried recycled newspaper pellets. Kitten hated those and started to look outside of the litter box for another place to do his business which alone was a reason to try a different litter but on top of that they also did not do a good job of masking odors. Finally I tried pine pellets. After one or two trips to the box they begin to break down into a powder which is handy because it tells you when it is time to clean out the box. They also mask odor fairly well and Kitten did not seem to mind. Finally, a winner!
When we first took little Kitten home he was the definition of "scardy cat". Everything frightened him, which was sometimes funny but mostly just sad. He ran from sounds like a phone ringing, movements like me walking into a room and new people. I was concerned that he was SO high anxiety but after a few weeks he calmed down...and then we had family visit. The whole process started again. Poor kitty! Our vet gave us an herbal supplement called "Animal Relief Formula" it is a blend of flower essences that have a calming effect on cats and dogs. It is natural, safe and impossible to overdose. All you have to do is put a little in their water bowl and it helps to keep them calm during anxious times. This has been great when we have visitors or during times when he becomes super high strung for no apparent reason.
I hope this helps you with just a few of the important choices we make for our pets. When I think of how much joy and love this little kitty brings to my life I know I am doing the right thing. Just like with anything else we learned through trial and error I included some resources for you if you want to do more research on your own.
Healthy Child Healthy World by Christopher Gavigan
Spot's Stew: http://www.halopets.com/faqs/spots-stew.html
Animal Relief Formula: http://www.animalsinourhearts.com/store/flower-essences/animal-relief-formula.html

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Giveaway Winner And How To Be A Lean Green Cleaning Machine!

 Thank you to everyone who entered my organic giveaway. It was lovely to get some new readers! I am preparing another giveaway to be announced soon so make sure to keep watching the blog! I have a great post below on how to clean "green", make sure to keep reading.
 The winner of the organic embroidered body suit is...
Please contact me with an address in the next 48 hours.

A Lean Green Cleaning Machine!
What a week! For a person like me who obsesses over a clean home it was difficult to rip the Windex, 409 and Bleach from my gloved hands. I will even admit to vacuuming the floor, cleaning the canister out and vacuuming again to see how much I had missed. This week I was reminded of how obsessive I can become about the cleanliness of my house. Our little kitty decided that my house plant looked like a tasty treat, munched on it when I wasn't looking and then began to throw up on my carpet. After chasing kitty around the house with a rag and bowl of baking soda mixed with vinegar I thought it would be helpful to post how I clean my house with out any harsh chemicals.
Basic Cleaning
For a green switch to cleaning all you need is baking soda, vinegar, lemons and essential oils. I buy baking soda and vinegar in ridiculously large packages from Costco. I have a glass bowl and scrub brush designated just for the purpose of cleaning. Into the bowl goes the baking soda, next pour some vinegar and watch the fun volcanic eruption of foam (be warned that this foam will be about twice the height of baking soda). Don’t worry about the smell of the vinegar, it will disappear after a few minutes and will not leave your bathroom smelling of a tossed salad. To create a better smell you can add lemon or essential oils to the baking soda. I like tea tree oil because of it’s antiseptic qualities, eucalyptus has a nice fresh smell and lavender smells pretty and calming. That mixture will work for kitchen, bathroom, floors and even laundry (see more on that below). For specific cleaning I do purchase certain products. The very fashionable 60s hot pink tile in my shower loves to hide mildew and in a beach town the battle never, ever, ends! To combat this problem I needed something that was easy to use everyday so I turned to the Method brand's tub and tile cleaner. It is as safe as you can get with out having to break out the scrub brush. If we do a deep clean every few weeks all I have to do is spray down the tile after a shower every few days. A side note, make sure you buy biodegradable sponges so we do not add to landfills in our green cleaning process! There are natural sponges that work just as well as their evil counterparts. Old rags work wonderfully instead of paper towels.
I hate carpet! It traps allergens, tracks the outside inside and gives dust mites a place to hide. This sick week the carpet was hated even more, wood or tile would have been easier to clean! Other then a warm floor in the morning when I get out of bed I have no positives to this invention. Sadly, our house is fully carpeted so I had to learn to call a truce. Baking soda and vinegar will also work for carpet stains such as coffee, red wine, oil, grease and kitten throw up. Just scrub the mixture into the carpet and rinse with water, after it dries vacuum a few times over the spot going in different directions. To get rid of carpet smells dust baking soda on the carpet, leave for a few seconds and vacuum. If your carpet is a darker color make sure you wash out the baking soda and vinegar or it may fade your colors. You can use this same combination in your carpet cleaning machines instead of the chemical filled cleaners at the store.
For spot-free clean dishes I like Mrs. Myers products. For heavy grease you can use...YEP, baking soda and vinegar! Make sure to skip the lemons or anything with citrus for dishes, it can break down the metal on your silverware. I fill one side of my sink with about two inches of warm water, 1/2 cup of baking soda and a splash of vinegar. The nice part about using vinegar is it makes all of your glass spot free and shiny. The one draw back is dry hands, places like Whole Foods sell eco-friendly washing gloves. I have a pair but almost always forget to put them on. For those of you with dish washers other then your hands there are excellent products from Seventh Generation and please only wash full loads!
For more information on cleaning green for a happy baby home check out my favorites, no new mom should be with out these books!
Green Babies, Sage Moms by Linda Fassa
Ecoholic by Adria Vasil
Healthy Child Healthy World by Christopher Gavigan

Friday, May 6, 2011

These cookies will rock your world!

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever!
For the last several years Mother’s day has brought only tears of sadness to my household. I have mentioned before that we are waiting for our adopted baby to come home but many of you may not know that we tried for years to get pregnant first and the adoption process has been years long with birthparents choosing us and then keeping the baby in the end. To cope I usually declare the weekend of Mother’s Day a stay-at-home, PJ’s only zone with funny movies and comfort food. Today after work began the first day of the adventure and I made my amazing cookies as a “baby band-aid”. 
There are a few tricks I use to create the best cookie you have ever had. One of my secrets is mixing flours and sugars the other is having a recipe that is heavy on the flour and light on the butter. My cookies are all about the preparation, make sure you follow how to handle the dough. Here is my recipe, I hope you make them at home and enjoy! (if you do please comment and let me know what you think)
Preheat oven to 345 degrees 
Begin with the the sugars in a bowl
3/4 cup cane sugar
3/4 cup coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
1 stick of butter slightly softened and cubed into the sugars
Use a pastry fork or whisk to combine
1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour
1 cup of oat flour
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 bag of chocolate chips 
Combine first with pastry fork then with your hands. The dough should be tiny pebbles and not smooth. Form dough into balls with your hands, flatten the ball slightly and place on a cool baking sheet. Place in the middle of the oven, only one sheet at a time! Bake for 10 minutes only, they will appear slightly doughy and not brown but that is how they should look. If you bake until they are brown you will have cookie candy! 
Don’t forget to enter my current giveaway and to stop by my Etsy store for an awesome Spring Sale!