Friday, October 23, 2009

Fourth Meal

I don’t think Taco Bell has anything on our family. We’ve been having a Fourth Meal for way too long around here. Perhaps it started with trying to eat as a family after various evening extra curricular activities or it could have been eating too early before said activities and then needing something later on. Regardless…the Fourth Meal habit appears to be here to stay at least while we have 2.5 teenagers eating at home (12-year-olds count as a half, right?)

A semi made from scratch dinner is served most every night. Nutritious, filling, and healthy. It may not go over well with some family members, but it is what we routinely eat. Dishes are cleaned up. Leftovers put away. The over-used dishwasher is loaded to the hilt one more time. A few hours pass, and then those stomachs start to grumble again. Out comes some leftover dessert; perhaps nachos are made or an ice cream shake is whipped up; it could be some stove top popcorn. Whatever ever the snack, it seems that everyone needs something. Plates are pulled from the cupboards. Dishes are filled. Utensils used. And of course more cups are out on the counter. Now multiply all of this by six household members. Regardless of whether they clean up after themselves or not, the fact of the matter is there seems to be a sink full of dishes by the time morning arrives the next day. Sigh. What’s one to do?

Well, short of padlocking the refrigerator…not a good idea since I do want them to eat up those leftovers…I’m thinking of other creative ways to limit the sink full of dishes that await me every morning. There is nothing like unloading a dishwasher and then turning around to fill it again first thing. Growing kids with active lifestyles do need to eat and frequently, so I won’t begrudge them their food, but it’s just the side issue of the residual dishes that result because of their Fourth Meal. So I believe my answer is going to be PAPER…paper cups and paper plates exclusively after dinner. Whether that is a green option or not is beside the point at this time.

So now that my shopping list is going to have some paper goods on it to purchase this coming week, it will be up to staff sergeant mom to enforce the new code. But hopefully the family will see that a happy mom is a happy home. Any other families with Fourth Meal dilemmas out there? How ever do you cope?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Goat's Milk Ricotta Cheese at Home

Do you ever wonder what can be done with goat's milk other than drinking it? Well baking and cheese making ranking pretty high around here as well. The simplest cheese on the face of the planet to make has to be ricotta. In fact I had no idea that I could have been making my own ricotta even from grocery store milk all along. It was one of those revelation moments such as I had when I started preparing my own buttermilk.

Here's how I go about making our own fresh, creamy ricotta cheese. Heat two quarts goat's milk to 180 degrees on the stove top stirring frequently but gently to distribute the heat. As it nears the 180 degree mark, stir in two tablespoons of either apple cider or white vinegar. As you continue to heat the milk, you will notice that the acid in the vinegar will begin to coagulate the milk and the yellowish whey will begin to separate. You may have to raise the temperature up to 200 degrees to achieve separate of curds and whey but do not let it go any further than that. If you have reached 195 degrees and there is no separation, add an additional tablespoon of vinegar and that should do the trick as it continues to climb to the 200 degree mark. Once you see the curds really begin to form, remove from the heat and allow to cool. The curds should float on the whey and form a semi-solid mass. For the creamiest ricotta, allow to cool undisturbed for a half of an hour. You can then gently lift the curds off of the whey with a slotted spoon and place them into a container. You may occasionally need to drain extra whey from your container as you fill it with the warm curds. Refrigerate and use within the week.

That's all there is to it. Once you're comfortable with making your own ricotta, next thing you know you'll be hankering for some semi-soft cheese as well. It's easier than you think and more rewarding as well. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Flu Update

So far, the nasty flu that Camo Queen came down with over the weekend has kept itself to her and her alone even though our high schooler, Big Country, is currently fighting a nasty cold. Yesterday, after over three days running a temperature that varied from 99 to the upper 101's, she woke up fever free. Her first comment when I had woke her in the morning was that now she felt like she could sleep comfortably even though she has been sleeping most of the weekend. When that fever breaks, you just feel relaxed.

She's still battling a cough though it's hard for her to tell whether it is coming from her chest or whether it is caused by dripping nasal passages. No matter what illness befalls her, an attack on her sinuses usually follows. I always blame that on me for having to return to work and not knowing enough to continue nursing her in the evenings. Her immune system never has been what the other three kids are fortunate to have who had the advantage of being nursed for a great length of time.

Afraid to miss any more of her veterinary technician classes at her college a good hour's drive away from home, she armed herself with cough drops and set off to school this morning...not quite prepared for the two tests that she was too ill to study for over the weekend. A phone call back home 45 minutes into her drive to let me know that she was stuck in a massive traffic jam gave me the impression that she's still pretty exhausted. There's a pretty good chance she will be entirely late to her first class in which her test was scheduled first off. It's hard to tell a perfectionist student to stay home and rest when they really do feel much better than they did.

Unfortunately, it usually takes her several weeks to completely combat whatever illness she encounters. And in today's environment we unfortunately do not seem to take the luxury of time that is required to completely heal ourselves before we launch back into life. Perhaps that is why it seems so foreign to us to read historical novels in which patients were confined to bed for weeks convalescing before they were allowed to do much of anything. There's something to be said for getting up and moving, but where to draw the line between staying at home and returning to your normal schedule is difficult at times. One of life's never ending questions I guess.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Garlic as a remedy

Although we have a fully stocked medicine cabinet at home and dip into it quite frequently, I am all for natural remedies that have worked throughout the world for centuries. Garlic is one of those. Research has found garlic to have anti-viral and antibiotic properties. The catch is it must be crushed and consumed raw and within a few minutes so that its allicin and sulfur compounds are preserved. So based on this information, I have recently started to dose up my kids with raw garlic at the first sign of a head cold or the flu of which we seem to have had plenty this year.

Raw garlic? And kids will eat it? Not exactly…but they have started even asking for it. Here’s the trick. Even I wouldn’t chomp down raw garlic. I am sure it would burn my tastebuds for a week, and I’d imagine as well leave a nasty taste in my mouth. At our local store’s nutrition center, I purchased a bag of clear gel pill capsules…the kind that separate so that they can be filled and closed again. I peel a clove of garlic and with a sharp paring knife, slice it vertically, turn it over 90 degrees and slice it again vertically making sure the cell walls are being crushed. I’m left with thin, match stick size pieces just about the length of the pill capsules. I begin to slide them down into the long half the capsule and layering them in until no more will fit. Usually a small length will be hanging out the top which will be enclosed once the cap is placed back on.

Voila! Enclosed raw garlic with no taste. Down the hatch it goes! One clove will usually fill about three of the capsules. I will tell you to not let them set long as the moisture from the garlic will begin to soften the gel capules and make them soggy. Not what you want to attempt to swallow. And as well, the garlic will coat your fingers as you handle it and impart a slight garlicky flavor to the capsules as you are working with them. No one has experienced much in the way of after taste or burping garlic afterwards, so we’re all happy.

I can’t scientifically prove that the garlic is making a difference. but it certainly can’t hurt. The more I read about natural health remedies, the more I’m convinced that as a parent I can give our family even a slight edge over the ills that face us in life. Once we have implemented garlic as a basic arsenal in our medicine cabinet, it will be time to move on a try another remedy. Have you had success with something in particular? Please share. We can all learn a little something new.

Swine flu...H1N1...seasonal flu...It's all yucky!

We've just entered the third round of flu to hit our family this year. And I consider us to a fairly healthy family. What's up?

This past March, our then 18-year-old daughter came down with a high fever and flu symptoms for three or four days just as swine flu, as it was then referred to, had hit our state. The other three children soon followed suit with similar symptoms. One's mind does begin to wander and consider the idea that it could have been swine flu and that hopefully we might have gotten off lucky and it passed through the kids fairly mildly. I have since learned that fever with a sore throat probably isn't indicative of the swine flu. Camo Queen had even made a trip to the doctor to rule out strept throat as it was so inflammed.

Then at the end of September, our twelve-year-old, Goat Princess, was hit suddenly with a high fever. Her symptoms persisited for three days before her fever broke. Soon to follow were the other three although their symptoms were not as severe as hers? H1N1? There were so many kids sick at the high school where our fifteen-year-old attends, that I seriously considered it could be.

But now that Camo Queen was hit again with the flu, only two weeks after this last bout, I'm beginning to think this might be the real deal...sudden high fever, no sore throat, immediate deep chest cough, chills and sweating, aching all over. She's into 48 hours with this flu and is feeling far worse than the other two incidences this year. Whatever she's been nailed with this's nailing her pretty hard. And so soon after this last round, I'm sure her immune system is down.

So her arsenal this time around is plenty of liquids, taking a capsule form of a cough expectorant to keep her cough productive, ibuprofen only as needed for sleeping comfort so that the fever can do its job, and raw garlic placed into empty gel capsules that can be swallowed with no taste. Supportive care and all the sleep that she can get follows the typical flu-care regime. Let's hope she pulls out of it and doesn't need to miss too much of her college classes this week.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Peppermint Tea

I have to admit...I used to think of tea as something grandmothers sipped. A rather narrow minded perspective to be sure, but the truth just the same. It wasn't until a few years ago that I decided to take a new look at tea and why people enjoy it. While reading about the benefits of herbal teas, I began to realize that there are so many components that make up the composition of plants - which are the basis of teas - that have been discovered to provide micronutrients that our bodies need. I decided to take one herbal tea and see what all it could do for my family and me...peppermint.

My bulk peppermint tea came from a local northwest company that has since become my source for teas, the Stash Tea Co. I generally brew it up by bringing to boil two cups of water and then letting two teaspoons of the loose peppermint tea brew for as long as it takes for the water to cool to drinking temperature. I found a Bodum tea strainer that I simply slip inside any mug that I happen to be using that works like a charm. The resulting drink is warm, steamy, and has a bright, clean flavor...a flavor that needs no sweetening at all.

Now here's what I found out about peppermint. Its main use is as a great digestive aid, which I why I now prescribe a cup of it for anyone in the family whose stomach is feeling a little off. And it does work. As an example this week, a few of us in the family seemed to be fighting some sort of an intestinal flu...bloating, cramps, just general discomfort. A cupful of that peppermint tea before bed eased those symptoms and let us sleep peacefully.

So I'm pretty confident that peppermint tea is here to stay in our house. I do have some peppermint plants growing in one of my flower borders that I will now take the time to harvest at their peak growth in the spring next year. My own supply of fresh, organic peppermint will be a treasure in the kitchen for sure.

Have a favorite tea? For a particular reason? Let's hear about it.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Tomatillos from the Garden

We're busy using up our produce from the garden as fast as we can before the rains and cold weather sets in. Head on over to our hobby farm site and grab our Roasted Tomatillo Salsa recipe. It's tasty!

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