Saturday, March 28, 2009

Another Holiday, Another Batch of Cookies!

I love holidays. Holidays=sugar cookie baking and decorating. And these photos show the pretty pastel colors than can be achieved with the India Tree natural food colors. You won't get brilliant brights, or the deep reds and greens you might want for Christmas, but I was really excited for Easter because I knew I could get some nice colors! As you can see I didn't have great luck getting a pale springlike grass green, but the pink, light blue, pink, and yellow turned out great!

I used the sugar cookie recipe I have posted here on this blog, and made 2 different icings; one is Alton Brown's Royal Icing that I used for thicker icing that can be piped or spread. The other is a smoother, glossy icing (recipe on this blog--check the tags to the right under "recipes" or "cookies). I made it a bit runny this time--next time I'll remember to make it a bit stickier (and that's easy to do by adding powdered sugar).

My elder Nature Kid has a sleepover with 2 friends tonight, so she decorated some cookies for her friends to take along. We had cousins over last night to decorate with us--it's a great, inexpensive, fun way to spend time with family!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

This is exciting news!

Western Wake Farmers Market to Open in May.

Great news for Cary, NC and surrounding areas: on May 2 in Carpenter Village (off Morrisville Carpenter Rd in northwest Cary), the new Western Wake Farmer's Market will open. The location is ideal for folks in Cary, Morrisville, Durham, and parts of Chatham county. I'm really excited to be able to take my Kidz there to look at locally grown, fresh produce.

The organization's website even has a seasonal calendar to keep shoppers aware of what's in season at any given time. This summer the Nature Kidz and I plan to plant an organic garden in our own back yard, but our space and food choices will be limited, so I'm thrilled to have this option available quite soon. We'll be able to purchase fresh foods directly from local farmers--now that's eco friendly, community friendly, and socially conscious!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Green Cleaning for Lazy Momz like Me

Triangle Green Cleaning

I've written here about my cleaning methods; I no longer use all those harsh chemicals or artificial colors and scents. I don't even have to shell out lots of money by paying for fancy cleaners at Whole Foods or even Target. It's cheaper and easier to clean the way our grandmas did, believe it or not.

Forget those faux-boutiquey air fresheners from Glade (gosh, those commercials annoy me); forget the pine sol and brightly colored cleaners that children have mistaken for sports drinks. Instead, try good old fashioned white vinegar, water, and a few drops of essential oil (I like lemon) if so desired. I use this to mop floors (with hot water), to steam clean carpets, and in spray bottles to do counters, showers, mirrors, windows, and toilets. It's antibacterial and cleans even better than commercial cleaners. If you don't like the scent of vinegar, it goes away when it dries.

Plus, the recent news is that it's not good to use antibacterial products like hand soap. They get washed down the drain and enter our water supply, and eventually help create resistant bacteria. Not good!

But what if you hate to clean, like I do? If you have spare cash (which I don't!), you can actually hire a cleaning service that will do the job for you and do it in the greenest way possible. At least, you can in the Raleigh, NC area. Check out Triangle Green Cleaning's website. Prices are competitive. Right after I win the lotto or the economy improves well enough to earn us both fat paychecks, I'm there!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Recipes for a Snowstorm, Part 3

Home made whole wheat pancakes with whipped cream

Well, the snowstorm has long since passed by now and the weekend is predicted to be in the 70s. Snow day on Monday, family cookout on Saturday!

That being said, I'd planned to put all 3 of my snow day recipes on the blog so here's the last.

My kidz love pancakes. Sure, you can buy the frozen ones but they're really just empty carbs and even though they're not terribly expensive, making a large batch and freezing the leftovers is healthier and very inexpensive--the ingredients are average household items. You'll pay a bit out of hand for a bottle of real maple syrup and heavy cream but they'll last, are far more natural and taste much, much better.

I made these on the morning of our snow day and have plenty in the freezer for a week's worth of breakfasts for the kidz. Yummy!

1 3/4 whole wheat flour (or 1/2 and 1/2 or use white wheat flour)
2 T sugar
4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1 3/4 Cups whole organic milk
2 eggs
3T vegetable oil

sift dry ingredients together. In another bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and oil. Mix into dry ingredients with a wooden spoon just intil combined. My ladel onto hot, greased griddle (I use an electric griddle) and turn when bubbles come to surface. Yield depends on size of pancakes. Top with whipped cream, maple syrup, butter, or berries.

Whipped Cream:
1 Cup heavy cream (I use Horizon organic)
1/2 cup sugar (or evaporated cane juice)
2tsp vanilla (add 1 at a time to taste)

Place metal mixing bowl and whisk in the freezer. I use a large stand mixer, but you can do it by hand. Pour very cold cream into bowl just out of the freezer. Whip until cream just starts to thicken; then add sugar and vanilla slowly to taste (we tend to like ours sweet). Beat until peaks form and it's desired thickness for you.

My kidz like their pancakes silver dollar sized with the syrup and whipped cream on the side for dunking.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Recipes for a Snowstorm, Part 2

Trader Joe's 17 Bean and Barley Soup mix and Nachos.
(Want more on Trader Joe's frozen foods and all foods frozen? Check out, a vlog by Gregory Ng, the Frozen Food Master.)

Dear Trader Joe,

I write to confess my love to you. I know, perhaps I should be ashamed to do so, as I am a married woman, but this is no ordinary love. This is not even an affair of the heart, a la Maddonna and A-Rod. This is an affair of the stomach. Joe, from your frozen dinners to your all natural Whoopie Pies to your 17 bean and barley soup, I adore you.

Of course, being a woman and you being a (albeit fictional marketing tool) man, I do feel the need to change you to suit me. Thus, I recently purchased and prepared your 17 bean and barley soup for a frosty snow day's dinner and oh--it was perfect!

Here's what I did:

1 package Trader Joe's 17 Bean and Barley soup mix
32 oz box Trader Joe's chicken broth (low sodium)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 TBS organic olive oil
4 organic carrots, peeled and diced
1 tsp. garlic
1 small can green chiles
small onion, peeled and chopped
1.25 pounds Trader Joe's all-natural chicken breast
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. basil
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
organic sour cream
grated cheese (about 8 oz; I buy a brick and grate it myself)
Trader Joe's tortilla chips

Soak bean mix in water overnight. In the morning, rinse beans and add to slow cooker with chicken broth, bay leaf, tomatoes and basil and set to high. Heat skillet with olive oil. Add chicken, garlic, cumin, carrots, onion and chiles. Saute until chicken is browned. Add to slow cooker and cook 4-6 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low.

Serve topped with grated cheese and sour cream. I served nachos on the side: I placed white corn tortilla chips, covered in grated colby jack cheese, in the broiler for a minute or two until bubbly.

Very, very easy and very yummy. As the snow day wears on the aroma of the soup spreads through the house. Cozy.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Recipes for a Snowstorm, Part 1

I never imagined I'd be writing about a snowstorm in March from my southern haven, but I am! Of course, we only got a couple of inches here, but it's more than enough to make for a snow day for the Kidz, who were thrilled!

One of the first things we did after breakfast was send the Kidz out into the tundra to gather snow for snow ice cream, a treat I fondly recall from my own Virginia childhood. It's incredibly easy to make and incredibly delicious. Here's the recipe:

Snow (oh, about a gallon; not the yellow stuff)
milk or cream(a cup; keep it out to add more to taste)
sugar, agave nectar, or stevia (I used about a cup of organic cane sugar)
2 TBS maple syrup or 1 TBSP vanilla

I divided my snow into 2 bowls and added 1/2 cup cream to each; I then put about 2/3 cup sugar in one with vanilla; I added 1/3 cup sugar and maple syrup to the other. After stirring them well I divvied them up in pretty antique bowls for the kidz. The pretty bowls were, of course, lost on them completely, but they sure gobbled up the snow cream and came back for more!

No snow storm, no matter how wimpy, is complete without it.