Sunday, October 31, 2010

Don't Discard Your Pumpkin Seeds!

We are getting into the Halloween Spirit over here.  Yesterday we got in some early trick-or-treating at Nick's work.  Then, we spent this morning carving pumpkins, toasting seeds, and even baking some pureed pumpkin for baking purposes down the road.

I have never EVER roasted pumpkin seeds but after reading the recipe here I figured we'd give it a try.  I vaguely remember our family trying to roast them growing up but they tasted like little cardboard pieces.  We never made them again.  They were hardly worth the extra effort.

This cinnaminy pumpkin seed recipe is worth the extra effort!  I followed the recipe for the most part however I only baked them at 250 because there were complaints in the reviews that the temp was too high causing the sugar to burn.  Good thing I followed their advice.  These seeds were perfect and oooh-sooo sticky, sinful, and yummy!

Roasted pumpkin seeds along side Nick's carved pumpkin



Friday, October 29, 2010

Cloth Diaper Clif Notes

It's time for a cloth diaper follow up.  Most of you will find this post too detailed but I'm offering this out to other moms who want an honest oppinion on cloth diapers and what is working best for our family.  **Disclaimer - I am a newbie!**
Flip Diaper

I have to say I'm so disappointed in myself for not having made the switch to cloth sooner.  I've had a week to try cloth diapers on Green Eyes and I am impressed at how easy it is.  At this point, he needs only an overnight diaper but that has allowed me just enough time to experiment on him before number 3 arrives.  My only regret thus far is not doing this sooner.

After an AMAZING amount of research on cloth diapers talking with friends and scouring the internet, I intially leaned toward the All-In-Ones (AIO's- are cloth diapers where the cover and insert are all sewn together). I thought AIO's might make sense because they seemed the most like disposable diapers.  Hubby hasn't been exactly supportive of changing over to cloth and I thought they'd be the easiest for him. They are no fuss and hubby can't complain.  But, alas, AIO's are quite pricey (try $400 bucks for the 24 you'll need) and they take forever to dry (or so I hear).  When I calculate how much I spend on diapers with coupons, discounts, and generics it didn't make sense especially after you factor in special washing detergent, liners, time, etc.

I then looked into pocket diapers.  Pocket diapers are similar to AIO's except that you stuff in an insert.  This allows the diaper to dry quicker because the thick liner is separate from the diaper.  They are also pretty easy to use.  But like AIO's. you'll need a lot of them (like 24) to get you by because they are one time use and then you throw them in the laundry/wet pail.  This fact makes them more expensive but you can find them second hand on sites like  to keep the cost down (thanks Sara L!) 

Within each category there are versions of AIO's and pocket diapers with velcro tabs (which provide a better fit) and ones with snaps (less convenient and a little harder to get an exact fit but more durable).  There are also ones that offer multiple sizes in lieu of the one size.  Is your head spinning yet?

That isn't even half of it.  There are also fitteds, prefolds and contour diapers that you use along with diaper covers.  You have to fasten these with pins, snappi's or whatever contraption and then place a waterproof or natural wool cover, or homemade knitted cover on top.  Most of these systems are very economically but they looked too complicated to deal with (I'll have 3 kiddos mind you and a husband reluctant to change) so these options were all quickly eliminated.

I thought I was at a loss when I finally fell upon a hybrid diaper (a hybrid system is a system that allows you to use disposable and cloth inserts), the Flip System. The funny thing is that I won't be using it as a hybrid system at all. The disposable liners are neither cost effective nor are they the point! I will be using it as more of a diaper cover instead.

Flip Diaper (right) and Stay Dry Insert (left)

Flip Diaper with insert in place

Basically the Flip Diaper is just a versatile diaper cover.  When the diaper is wet you just toss the used insert into the diaper pail, wipe the inside of the diaper cover (you may need to replace the cover if it is a number 2 which we all know happens less often) and then replace the insert with a clean one. The beauty about this system is that you can reuse the cover without washing it so you aren't buying a lot of the most expensive part of the diaper, the cover.  I believe I'll be able to get by on just 6 covers and 24 inserts (around $150-$200 retail but LESS if you buy some at great deals or second hand).  What's even better is that you can use the Flip cover with either the Flip inserts, prefold diapers, or fitteds.  It's pretty darn versatile.  It is a one sized diaper that can fit babies 7-35+ pounds.  I think the only downside to this diaper is that it can't be used easily for newborns.  You'll have to wait a few weeks to get a true fit.  I'm willing to do disposables for the first few weeks in exchange for not having to buy multiples of different sized diapers because those weeks are going to be pretty darn hectic anyway.  I know the Flip diaper will grow with my third because it fits my 2.5 year old easily now with lots and lots of room to grow.

Before I end this awesome little diaper synopsis, I should mention that the Econobum is very similar to the Flip System.  The Econombum is even more economical and the only discernable difference I have found through my research is that the Flip System seems a tinsy bit more durable than the Econobum and the Flip System has flaps on the diaper to keep the insert snug in place whereas the Econobum does not.  Otherwise they are pretty close.

So, there you have it, a month's worth of cloth diaper research.  Don't be a putz like me and not at least seriously consider cloth diapering.  Give it a little whirl.  Experiment, even if that means borrowing one from a friend.  You might be surprised!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tandoori Chicken Recipe

My sister requested that I share the tandoori chicken recipe I have been using lately.  It's the easiest recipe EVER.  It requires only four ingredients.  You can find the recipe at Penzey's Spices here. 

To make tandoori chicken you'll need to:
Mix 1-2 TB. [of Tandoori Seasoning] with 1 Cup plain yogurt and the juice of ½ lemon. Pour [the mixture] over a cut-up skinless chicken, cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. Remove from marinade, bake 45 minutes uncovered at 325°, turning and basting every 15 minutes. 
Note: I do not cook mine quite as long as the directions state and I sometimes use light sour cream in place of yogurt.  Add salt to taste.  If you thaw out some of the dough from your last naan dough making session while marinating your chicken you'll have a delicious meal in just minutes when you're ready.

I love Penzey's spice mixes because they save me a lot on time and money because I'm not buying several specialty spices to make one dish. (FYI: Penzey's tandoori spice mix contains 7 different spices!)  Another favorite spice mix of mine is their Italian Sausage Seasoning. I use it to spice up pasta sauces and turkey burgers.
Marinating tandoori chicken.
My husband's portion of tandoori chicken, saffron rice, broccoli and naan.

Naan - Delicious Indian Bread

It wasn't until I met my husband that I was introduced to Indian Cuisine.  Back then we didn't have kids and going to an Indian restaurant was doable.  Taking the kids for Indian these days is slightly stressful, not to mention costly so it's not something we do very often.  That doesn't mean we don't occasionally have cravings so I've resolved to making some of our own dishes at home.

An Indian dish is not complete without some naan, a traditional Indian bread.  Naan is available at most grocery stores for $3 bucks for two large pieces but it costs only cents to make your own. I find this recipe here to be a pretty good one though I do make a few modifications.

I grew up making mostly quick breads.  Yeast breads have always scared me because it was never something my mother made.  In teaching myself how to bake yeast breads I have learned that most yeast bread recipes require you to add a tablespoon or so of sugar to your starter (i.e. yeast allowed to sit until foamy in VERY WARM water).  This recipe did not call for sugar in the starter but I ignored this and added sugar to the starter knowing it would allow the yeast to foam up faster.  I also used fast acting yeast knowing it would work just fine for this sort of recipe.

I also find that as the weather gets cooler that my dough will rise better if I flash heat the oven and put the dough in the closed oven to rise.  That is to say, I turn on the oven allowing it to preheat for like 10-20 seconds and turn it off.  Doing so creates a nice warm environment for the bread to rise in without cooking it.

I then prepared the dough as instructed with my mixer (it has a dough blade attachment) then threw it in an oiled bowl.  (For the newbies, never allow a yeast dough to rise in a metal container).  I then allowed it to rise until doubled in the oven.

Doubled over dough ready to get punched (above).

After punching, I assembled the dough into balls (above) and allowed them to double again for 30 minutes covered in the oven (results below).

Once the dough had risen twice, I rolled the dough balls out when I realized I forgot to incorporate the garlic in the previous step!  We LOVE garlic naan.  So, I just sprinkled the minced garlic over top and rolled it into the dough as I rolled it out.  It worked into the dough just fine.

 Rolling the dough 

After that, I threw the dough on the grill with the grill on low as instructed per the recipe and brushed with melted butter.

 Grilling the Bread and looking bubbly.
The end result!  Yummy, cheap and easy eats!

Like most yeast recipes, this one takes some time but it's easy to prepare and doesn't require much preparation.  To save on time you can freeze your left over dough balls and make them on an as-needed basis for a future meal.  I freeze dough all the time and thaw it out a day prior to using.  It makes bread making easy even on busy weekdays.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Last Monday Garden Update of the Year

It is hard to believe it's October already.   I spent two of the last four weeks sick so it hasn't helped me get back in the garden as I had hoped.  Nick mowed the weeds down in the garden (that's how bad the weeds were) so I wouldn't be embarrassed when the neighbors went by.  When mowed, it at least looked a little tidier.  Things are getting back to normal, thank goodness. 

I was inspired by our farm tour this year and the use of lasagna gardening so we are now working on prepping our bed for next year by laying down cardboard and topping it with our homemade kitchen scrap compost in the hopes that it will naturally kill the weeds and seeds by the time we need to prep the beds again in Spring.  We have a ways to go before we are completely done.  There is a lot of area to cover.

 Lasagna Gardening

We are still getting plenty of eggplant and peppers out of the garden everyday.  It won't be long before this comes to an end so we are savoring the last of nature's bounty.

I've highlighted some of the hanging eggplant because they are hard to notice.

I also planted two short rows of mesclun mix in the garden with some arugula.  Arugula should last here until January or so with row covers so let's hope there is enough time.  We are a little late this year but I figure what the heck.

Below are some pictures of our recent adventures in the Shenandoah National Forest.  We went for a lovely little hike on Sunday with the kids.  It was cold on the mountain but a very enjoyable day.  We are so close to the mountain it's a shame not to get out there and enjoy it more often.

Ladybug examining some bugs on milkweed.