Cool links & Other Updates

The next 10 days or so will probably be rather sporadic on the blog as I take some time off to focus on Holy Week. I will probably post little odds & ends, but will resume with the series on dairy in the weeks to follow. I also have an exciting set of ponderings on Trader Joe's to share! Stay tuned.....this blog has so much fun to come! Time is my only limit. As a mother who makes everything from scratch, there's not always a lot of time to blog!

However, currently all dishes are done, everyone's asleep, and so I'm stealing away for some odds and ends and updates.

Since I love all things local, real, and sustainable...I want to pass on some information I received on a new store opening up in Vancouver, Washington. StitchCraft (see link on my "Got Bookmark? section). First of all, it is owned by a mom, and former Attachment Parenting International leader. The store is the first, traditional retail shop in the country with the largest concentration of organic yarns, fabrics, laces, home dec fabrics and wallpapers. It's not just organic stuff, but high quality organics that are a pleasure to work with, and owner Nicholette claims she can can "tell you the backstory on each product in the shop! In addition, to organic, you will find natural fibers like cottons, wools, silk, and alpaca. There is no acrylic here! I won't put plastic on any baby!"

Check out her website for details on her grand opening coming in May. Now, if only I could crochet something useful, other than a scarf! I would LOVE to learn how to be more "thrifty" in the garment/fiber department. But that's for another phase of life....

Also, I came across Alyss' "Year of Lunches". If you're in the market for some whole food lunchbox inspiration, look no further than Alyss' page! It's a flikr page, so you can scan through them nice and quick. She uses the "Laptop Lunch" system, which I consider to be a Thrifty Oreganic staple (although I have yet to purchase one. We eat all our lunches at home with very little exceptions!). The LLS can be found locally at New Seasons Market, which is a locally owned (read: not owned by Kroger, Safeway, Target, or any other Big Box Company).

Speaking of local, I just received confirmation on my CSA membership! Yep, we're trying one out this year at a farm just about 20 miles from here called Sun Gold Farm. I'm so excited about eating seasonally. We will have "harvest boxes" delivered to my husband's place of employment weekly from June through October. All for $18 per week, which I would easily end up paying at the grocery store or farmer's market anyway! Luckily for them, all their memberships are sold out. I'm so glad that people are investing in local farms!

To find a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) near you, or to find local farms or markets, check out Local Harvest, a very extensive website showing farms, CSAs, and farmers markets all over the US. I can't believe they're not on my links section yet! I better add them.

Ok, so back to the lunchbox-meets-thrifty-oreganic theme: I never really expounded on all the great creations you can have with your homemade yogurt. Here are some quick ideas (great for packing in that lunchbox!) for inexpensive, healthy yogurt treats:

  • Vanilla Yogurt: To one cup of yogurt, add 1/4 tsp of Real Vanilla Extract plus maple syrup to taste. This is the best you'll ever have, I promise!
  • Berry yogurt: Add any berries and some sweetner. I like frozen blueberries and 4 drops of liquid stevia and so does my 3 year old!
  • Botched yogurt: Ok, so I totally botched a batch. My usual "incubating" cooler was incubating my seedlings, so I used something else and it didn't really work. I mean, my result was yogurt, but it was very separated and runny. So I made some whey and cream cheese by straining it, and it was actually pretty good. I used the rest to soak my oats overnight for Baked Oatmeal a la my friend Maria's blog!

Coming soon:

For those of you who have asked, I will talk about fasting & traditional foods (yeah, about 5 weeks too late some of you may say!) I have a very interesting sunflower seed cheeze that's still in the testing phase, and I'm experiementing with seed yogurt and will share the results as soon as I can!

Thanks, as always, for reading if you got this far!

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Junkfood Makeovers: Smoothie Edition

Thus begins a new "column" that you'll see from time to time: Junkfood Makovers.

Have you seen those "Danimals" or "Yoplait Endulge" or whatever they're called drinks at the store? Ever been tempted to down one of these "healthy" drinks? Perhaps you have (even I used to) but then one look at the dreaded "Nutritional Info" and it's clear that High Fructose Corn Syrup and "emulsifiers" and "red #4" isn't so healthy.

Here's a delicious way to treat your kids to a quick, healthy breakfast using plenty of homemade yogurt:

Thienes Family Power Smoothie

Basic smoothie:

1 cup homemade yogurt (or kefir) OR coconut milk (for a vegan treat!)
1 Tbs coconut oil
1 banana
6 drops liquid stevia (or sweetener of choice)
1 cup of frozen fruit (berries, mangoes, pineapple, cranberries; whatever we've got!)
2-3 egg yolks (don't freak out people! I use pastured egg yolks from a farmer I know!)

Bonus features: (add any of the following...for the brave and strong!)

+1 Tbs nutritional yeast (this is a strong flavor-- best hidden with lots of raspberries)
+1 scoop of Rice Protein Powder (I don't love this, but my husband does)
+1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
+1 tsp spirulina
+fresh or frozen spinach (I promise you won't taste it!)

Whirl in blender. Serve to happy, hungry, family members with a handful of nuts or a piece of toast, and you have a complete breakfast! Toddlers especially enjoy eating this with a spoon in a bowl for "breakfast ice cream". Shhhh! Don't tell. Freeze leftovers for popsicles, or pour directly into your ice cream maker!

With Jamba and Booster Juice at about $4.50 a pop, this is a very thrifty way to make a delicious whole-food meal. And unlike other smoothies that are laden with sugar, this one being full of good fats with sustain your blood sugar throughout the morning.

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How to Make Homemade Yogurt

Ok, yogurt makers! You are now 12 hours away from creamy, homemade yogurt!

I want to give my friend Kathleen K credit for sharing this method with me. I researched lots of different methods to make yogurt, and all seemed very daunting to me because they required lots of equipment that I didn't have or just took too long. This is the easiest way to make yogurt that I've found, and it makes incredible results!

First, gather the materials listed in the last post (at the bottom of the page).

1. Fill a large pot with water.

2. Using your choice of milk, fill a 1 quart mason jar.

3. Place the milk inside the large pot (use a dishcloth to "pad" the bottom of the pot so it won't rattle).

4. Place the candy thermometer (if using) inside the milk. Boil the milk to 180 degrees. This step kills competing bacteria. Remove the jar from the boiling water bath.

5. When milk has cooled to 110 (or "when you can place your
finger in the milk and count to ten" thank you George Papas), take 1 Tbs of starter (from Brown Cow or Cultures for Health). Stir and cover tightly with lid.

6. Wrap the yogurt tightly in a wool or warm blanket and place in cooler.

7. After 8 hours, check the yogurt for consistency and taste. I usually leave mine for about 12 hours for the consistency I like.

Hint: If you begin this process at 7 pm, you'll be able to enjoy fresh yogurt for breakfast the next morning!!

Discussion points:

1. Generally, the yogurt will be "sweeter" if you culture for 8 hours, and more tart for longer.

2. Culturing yogurt is very temperature-dependant. Results may vary based on the season!

3. If the resulting culture is too "wheyish"simply strain a bit of the whey off.

4. If you want Greek yogurt, strain the whey off for about 4 hours or so. Basically, the longer you strain, the closer you'll get to cream cheese (which is really good too!)

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