Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday Food Day: Better Than Nuthin'

My dear mother is many things (teacher, thrift shopper, gardener, reader, homeopathic practitioner, philosopher, earth steward, Sunday school teacher...) but a gourmet chef she is not. Based on this common understanding, the news that she had won a recipe contest made everyone in our family raise our eyebrows and lean forward on the edge of our seats. As we sat around an extra long table at Christmas, she told how she had submitted a venison recipe to the local paper, and her recipe won! It is a well known recipe in our family, and always a crowd pleaser. For those of you who get lost in long posts, I will post the recipe first and the whole story afterward. Here's the recipe (and Elizabeth, it's gluten free, I think :)!

Chinese Savory Beef (or Venison)
2 lbs. lean meat, cut into 1 1/2 inch squares (may use very tough cuts of meat) -or- 2 lb. roast
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves pressed garlic
4 slices fresh ginger
1/2 c. soy sauce or Bragg's Liquid Aminos
2 T. brown sugar
1/8 t. pepper
2-3 c. Water

Saute meat in a skillet or dutch oven. Add vegetables and saute. Add soy sauce, sugar, pepper, and water and cover. Simmer over the stove for 3 hours. Serve over rice or noodles.
***This recipe also works well just thrown in a crock pot for several hours***
serves 8

Now for the newspaper article in which my mom was interviewed. I know that my girls would love to read this when they are older, so I am going to post the whole thing here. I think it gives an interesting and accurate snapshot of my mom (and dad) in their early years together.

Award winning recipe came from "better than nuthin' " cookbook
by Becky Glander

A recipe out of the "better than nuthin' ' cookbook won Beth Knudtsen-Spears first place in a recipe contest.
Knudtsen-Spears, a homeopath who deals in complementary and alternative medicine as a trade, won the Isanti-Chisago County Star's $100 holiday recipe challenge with a venison recipe that originates back to the beginning of her 32 year marriage.

"It's an adapted recipe from the cookbook called, well what my husband, Don calls 'better than nuthin,' " Knudtsen-Spears chuckled. The cookbook is actually titled, "More with Less" and is put out by the Mennonites.

When they were first married, Knudtsen-Spears moved to West Germany where her military husband was stationed. She didn't bring much with her. The apartments over there at the time came furnished with linens and other household items, so she took only what she could fit in her suitcase- only what she thought a new bride may need. "I took one cookbook, I took two cookie sheets and some knives."

The cookbook, a wedding gift was a "crossover" cookbook - not fully vegetarian, but the recipes contain less meat, a little less sugar and promote healthier eating. Her plan was for her and her new husband to become vegetarians. The challenge: he had grown up on a beef farm.

"That first year we didn't know each other very well- like many newlyweds- but we probably knew each even less well," she laughed.

Knudtsen-Spears' lifestyle plans weren't quite working. The commissary refused to carry soy beans because "soy beans are for pigs" according to the commissary manager. She had little access to other vegetarian meat substitutes such as tofu.

Knudtsen Spears said she would use the Mennonite cookbook and adapt recipes out of it depending on the ingredients they had available.
"Many times, they were not edible," she said. "So Don would say "umm... good cooking." And I would say "yeah this is a great recipe." He would say "yeah... better than nuthin.' So that's how the cookbook came to be named."

When her husband got out of the army, they moved to Colorado. Both of them were going to college, basically living on the G.I. Bill. They actually did become vegetarians at that point. "Beans were cheaper than meat," Knudtsen-Spears said.

One day, her avid hunter husband shot an elk. "We had 800 pounds of meat, " she said. "So I learned how to fix meat."

She started to adapt the recipes in "better than nuthin' " for game. And so the recipe 'Savory Venison' was born which one day became a clear- almost unanimous- contest winner by Isanti-Chisago County Star staff judges.

Knudtsen-Spears lives in Cambridge and woks at WillowBridge Center. She could choose any place in town to put her $100 winnings toward in the form of a gift certificate. She chose WillowBridge Center, where she plans to use it to help pay for Total Wellness Coaching fitness boot camp.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Valentine's Celebration

We hosted a Valentine's Day party for Eva's friends again this year, and it was a blast! The girls are all one year older and a whole lot easier to keep up with.

Eva's friend Ella was the first to arrive, so we took a couple pictures of her with Eva and Hope.

After all the girls were there we took a few more pictures- before anyone had purple frosting staining their teeth and fingernails :). (L-R: Ella, Madalyn, Hope, Kara, Moriah, Eva) Everyone looked adorably dressed for the occasion.
Our first matter of business was to bead some candy necklaces. The girls sat very quietly and diligently beaded their necklaces. Although some of the little ladies had impressive and artistic patterns in mind, Eva's main goal was to beat everyone and have her necklace done first. After noting this, I commented, "Wow, you're really cruisin' Eva!" The other girls looked a little confused and asked me what "cruisin'" meant. I tried to explain it, then they continued stringing their sugary masterpieces. I noticed some of them accelerating the project, and a few minutes later Madalyn looked up at me and announced, "I'm really...(pause of concentration)... screwin'!" I looked blankly at her, then realized, "Do you mean CRUISIN'?" I asked. "Yeah, cruisin'!" That little dialogue gave something to smile about for the rest of the day...
After making their jewelery, the girls played together for a few minutes while I set up their heart themed snack. Heart cupcakes, cheese slices, jello, and berries were on the menu. To the girls credit, they all wanted seconds of the berries and they hardly finished their cupcakes. Good taste, girls!
I'm learning a few tricks for large living in small spaces. One of them is what we call "living room picnics". We often have adults squeeze around our tiny kitchen table and spread the kids out on the floor with a vinyl tablecloth to define their space. It works for us!

During snack time, I read the girls a clever story called Pinkalicious. In the story, a headstrong little girl turns her whole body red by eating too many pink cupcakes. The girls enjoyed the tale, and had some very interesting discussion about consequences, confessing sin, and obeying your parents. I found their conversation to be insightful, motivating, and all together entertaining!
Moriah and Kara.
Madalyn and Hope.
Up next we made a little craft. I found a little craft kit at Joann Fabrics with a bunch of ladybug magnets, enough to make 16 for less than $3.00. That was an easy, affordable, and cute plan, I thought. I wasn't really thinking then about the glue gun that I would have to use, but thankfully the girls were all very obedient and helpful and no one was scorched by the hot glue! Ella shows off her ladybug here.
As is often the case, Esther enjoyed the festivities from the safety of her Bumbo seat and while getting some Z's in our quiet bedroom. Of course, the girls wouldn't let her off the hook completely! After all the "big" girls applied their heart tattoos, Esther got one of her own. There has to be a first time for everything, and this was it for baby-tattoo-wearing. I thought it looked pretty cute next to her fat, little feet though! As you can see, she was completely nonpulsed by the whole event.

Thanks to all of Eva's friends for coming and sharing a fun morning with us. Lord willing, we'll do it again next year!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Today I am not Super Mom (I hope)

Today is an interesting day.

Hope is recovering from having the stomach flu, a variety that had her throwing up a lot, but for less than a full 24 hours. She has been vigorously playing all day, so she appears to be all better.

Eric is home from work because he is sharing Hope's virus, only from the other end.

Everyone (except Hope, since I didn't get to her fast enough) is LOVING my super intense probiotics. They really do seem to improve your gut feeling very quickly.

I am preparing foil fajitas for 12 men (don't worry, I'm washing my hands often!). Eric is going camping this weekend, and he promised the boys he'd bring dinner. I intend to make good on that promise, on his behalf.

We went to Mankato for the weekend to visit Eric's brother and family. It was fun and relaxing. They shared their stomach virus with us (no hard feelings though, DPs!!!).

Our house is a little bit messy. Or a lot messy. Correction: the kitchen is the only region that is not a complete disaster.

I am planning the preschool lesson for Thursday. We will be reading "The Big Green Pocketbook" and doing green activities.

In my searching for preschool activities, I landed on this homeschooling mom blog. Given the state of our home and variety of activities that I am juggling today, this post was very helpful. The title of it is Super Mom vs. Abiding Mom. Enough said, I think.

I know there are several moms who read my blog. I strongly suggest you head over and get a good reminder of what "Super Mom" really looks like.

Now, I am going to go be "Abiding Mom", and not "Computer Mom". :)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday Food Day: On Spaghetti

I recently tried a new spaghetti sauce recipe, and I am so in love that I have to share it with you. Eric thought it was amazing and super delicious, and I was happy because it was delicious but also easy, fast, and relatively frugal. See, I'm really trying to streamline our grocery spending lately. It's not easy to do when you're picky about what your family will eat. Everyone knows that hamburger helper is cheap (not that we ever actually eat that... it's just a good scapegoat for all over processed food). In fact, the dollar menu at McDonald's is a really cheap way to feed a family too. But, healthy it is not! Last weekend we watched the movie Food Inc., which is a documentary about how food is made in our country. Unsettling, and it really has me reexamining what I'm willing to pay for and put on our table. One thing that I took away from the movie is how much government choices influence the food production industry. I've decided to use my consumer power and cast my votes with my grocery bill. Hopefully, if more people do this in a thoughtful and informed manner, things could really change!

But this post was supposed to be about spaghetti, wasn't it?

So, another reason that I love this spaghetti sauce recipe is because it isn't a jar of Prego or Ragu or whatever. Though, Prego and Ragu are cheaper than this recipe when they're on sale, this is much better for you, and a little closer to the way food used to be done. If it tastes like anything from a jar, it would be the four and five dollar jars in the grocery isle that I don't even look at!

Here it is, delicious, easy SPAGHETTI SAUCE

1 T. oil (I use olive oil)
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, pressed (I use four)
28 oz. canned tomatoes, diced (do not drain)
6 oz. can tomato paste
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
3 T. Italian Seasoning
1 T. sugar (I used raw cane sugar)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and saute for 2-3 minutes or until the garlic is golden brown. Add the remaining ingredients, and stir to mix. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. If it thickens too much for your taste, add up to 1/2 c. water.

Makes almost 5 cups (6 servings)

While I'm on a bit of a soapbox about food, let me tell you about my favorite spaghetti noodles. Tinkyada brown rice pasta has been our thing for the past year or so. I love it because it has pretty decent texture for an alternative to durum pasta. I originally started buying it because of my conviction about grains needing to be soaked or sprouted to be healthier for you. Since rice is the only exception to this, brown rice pasta seemed the way to go. I can truly say that this pasta is good nutrition. I order it in bulk through a buying coop, so I don't spend any more for it than I would for whole wheat pasta at the grocery store.

So, to summarize: I love this new spaghetti sauce and I think it goes great with Tinkyada spaghetti noodles. Give it a try!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Monday, February 08, 2010

Wisdom from Pa

It's no secret that we are Little House on the Prairie freaks around here. We're not all as freakish as the girls, but we do all enjoy reading a chapter together before the girls' bedtime at night. Currently, we're reading The Long Winter, which isn't necessarily the best choice in the midst of your own long winter, but we are enjoying it nonetheless. I find it fascinating to imagine raising my family in the harsh winter that Laura describes in the book. I also love thinking about housework, homemaking, and home educating in a house that was approximately 300 square feet. I like to ponder the ultimate simplicity of their lifestyle. Three knick-knacks, five cooking utensils (including pots and pans), hand sewing all the lace to edge their voluminous petticoats (OK, that part doesn't feel simple at all!).

Anyway, this quote really caught my attention a few days ago. The Ingalls family has moved to town to survive the winter, the worst in three decades, and they are slowing running out of every "convenience" they have become accustomed to. The kerosene is gone, and the train is not coming until spring due to 100 foot drifts blocking the railroad line.

"If only I had some grease I could fix some kind of a light, "Ma considered. "We didn't lack for light when I was a girl, before this newfangled kerosene was ever heard of."

"That's so, " said Pa. "These times are too progressive. Everything has changed too fast. Railroads and telegraph and kerosene and coal stoves- they're good things to have, but the trouble is, folks get to depend on 'em."

How would you survive without your modern conveniences???

Friday, February 05, 2010

Hope's Other Face

Hopers has been getting a little bit a bad rap on this blog lately. And she can't even defend herself, what with her illiteracy and lack of computer skills. So, in her defense, I'll throw out a few happy mug shots to restore her image a bit.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

The 30 Day Shred

I am undergoing a life transformation. Instead of having a satisfactory body shape, despite my varying eating and/or exercising habits, I now have a "mom bod". Baby #3 has been breathing her own air for a full four months now, and I am still huffing and puffing as if I have double the blood volume. And there is no baby in my belly, but you might think there was... I'd be due in about four months, by the looks of it.

Apparently I don't have the luxury of eating whatever I want and exercising only for leisure anymore. Don't get me wrong, I'm a devoted La Leche League nursing mom, so I will never truly cut calories while I'm nursing a babe. But, I am working out. Better yet, I'm mostly working out in the mornings before the girls get up, so I'm simultaneously working on my lazy morning habits and my sluggish abdominal wall. This could result in an actual-factual, real life transformation for me (you know, besides REAL life transformation like meeting Jesus). Anyway, it's been great. I'm surprised that after a little more than a week, I am already seeing my shape and my endurance improve. The beautiful thing about the 30 Day Shred video is that the workout only takes about 25 minutes. That is do-able, even with little ones underfoot (or blissfully sleeping in the early morning).

Another interesting thing about the 30 Day Shred is that Eva loves to do it too. Of course, her form and endurance are both terrible, but we're encouraging the enthusiasm. While I won't post a video of myself doing static lunges and bicep curls anytime soon, I do have this entertaining little clip of Eva doing push-ups and squats. In advance, please accept my profuse apology for the awful (AWFUL!!!) video taking job. And now, enjoy watching as Jillian Michaels teaches "prairie girl" a thing or two about hard work!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010