Beet Hummus (aka Princess Dip)

My kids like hummus. I like hummus. So I make hummus! For those of you out there who don’t know what hummus is, it’s basically pureed bean dip. That’s the way simplified explanation, of course, but you get the picture.

A few weeks ago I whipped up some hummus in my handy dandy food processor. By the way, that is one of my favorite kitchen appliances! I had some leftover beets in the fridge from dinner the night before so I decided to throw them in to the mix. The result was incredible! This hummus was the most brilliant hot pink you have ever seen. I almost didn’t feel right giving it to my kids with our dye free status and all. But they gobbled it up and loved it. The beets definitely added flavor, although for those of you who are not so much into beets, you’ll be happy to know that it wasn’t overly beet-y.

This magnificently colored hummus required a better name than, well, hummus. So in honor of my daughter who is everything princess and my eldest son who also happens to be in the princess phase, I named it Princess Dip.

Beet Hummus Recipe:

  • 2-3 cups garbonzo beans
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • a splash of lemon juice
  • 1/2 – 1 cup cooked beets
  • salt to taste
  • olive oil
Mix first 6 ingredients in a food processor.  Add olive oil until it’s the consistency you prefer.  Taste as you go, and change things up as you please!  Easy peasy.  :)

Food Dye Sensitivities: Our Journey to Cutting out the Junk

I have wanted to write this post for a while, but I don’t know…..I guess I haven’t had the right motivation to get me going.  I have not found the motivation until now that is.  A few weeks ago, the FDA met at the request of the Center for Science in the Public Interest to discuss adding a warning label to foods that have artificial food dyes as an ingredient due to concerns that they might be increasing behavior issues in some children.  Not surprisingly (to me anyway), the FDA voted 8 to 6 against the warning label.   Here is a pretty decent article summarizing what went down.  That’s fine.  It’s government, and there’s always more to the story than we see, namely money.  I do my own research without the help of the FDA and act accordingly.  I am sad for people who blindly follow their recommendations simply because they are the FDA, but that’s another post altogether.

So what does all of that have to do with our food journey?  Let me tell you.  Food dye sensitivities/allergies/whatever you want to call them are real.  Very real.  I have a child who is extremely sensitive to the dyes that are nonchalantly placed in so many of the foods you see in a grocery store.  I consider myself lucky to have figured that out by the time she was 24 months old.

Little miss H was a high needs baby, and as we entered into toddlerhood it became a struggle to figure out how to help her.  Some days were good, and some were not so good.  It felt like we were just all over the place with behavior, tantrums, sleep, etc.  Granted, part of this is just the nature of a toddler, but deep down inside I knew something else was going on.

One day an online friend mentioned that her daughter reacted horribly to red food dye.  I decided to do a little experiment and see what happened when I eliminated red from H’s diet.  I noticed pretty big changes.  The hubster was a bit skeptical and didn’t really see them at first.  But one day as we were sitting down at dinner, I looked at H and jokingly asked him what she had eaten that day.  He looked at me pretty solemnly and said, “I gave her a red jolly rancher.”  I think that was the moment that he realized how real this really was.  We vowed to each other at that moment that we would not allow her to have any red dye.

Easter came along a little while later, and we figured that we could bend the rules for the holiday.  We only let her have a tiny bit, but it was enough to send her (and us) over the edge.  She took forever to fall asleep, slept very restlessly when she did sleep, became aggressive, and lost any self control she would have normally had, and these all lasted for days, not hours like one would assume.  We both knew that it wasn’t fair for her to have to suffer for our bending the rules.  So from that moment on we decided to be strict in not allowing red dye.

And let me just say that it is extremely difficult to avoid dyes.  Potlucks are a challenge because there is no labeling, and you just have to make your best guess.  Some foods that you wouldn’t ever consider as possibly having dyes in them do in fact have a rainbow assortment of dye.  I learned very quickly that if we buy something out of a grocery store, the label MUST be checked and rechecked for dyes.  It was hard to get out of the mode of just assuming something wouldn’t have dyes and into the mode of checking every little thing.  I made a lot of things from scratch anyway, but out of necessity, I was forced into the from scratch thing even further.

As time went by, we noticed reactions (albeit not quite as dramatic as with the red dye) from other dyes and eliminated those as well.  We have also eliminated high fructose corn syrup from our diets simply because the research on that is frightening at best.  When we walk into a typical grocery store, there are very few things we can buy.  That is sad.  I wonder how many children are suffering with behavior problems, ADHD, and who knows what else simply because no one thinks to look at the foods they eat as a possible problem.  How many children are being medicated when a change in diet could be the cure?  Okay.  Off the soap box for now.

Having a child who reacts to dyes is a struggle.  For starters, people often look at me like I’m some wacky hippy mom (okay, I am!) with 3 eyes.  They often think it’s an excuse I’ve made up for poor behavior or whatever.  And how could my child possibly have problems when there are so many who don’t?  My parents, in fact, were pretty skeptical at first until they saw H “on red dye.”  I think that sealed the deal for them that this is real.  People expect hives, a rash, or an inability to breath.  Behavior and sleep problems are harder to see.  It’s a lot more subtle.  Ultimately, a lot of people will think we are just too hardcore and not letting our children “experience” life.  I can’t change anyone’s misconceptions, but I can protect my child’s health.

I just alluded to this, but there are social difficulties involved too, especially for the kids.  When we go to a party or someplace where there are treats, I often have to tell my children that they cannot have what is being served or that they can trade in the candy they were given for something safe when we get home.  I do my best to keep them from feeling isolated in these situations by always having special treats in my bag, but it’s not always avoidable.  I couldn’t ask for more better children in this area.  They know when they can’t have something and deal with the disappointment graciously.  I suppose that’s a life lesson they will carry with them for years to come.

Like I mentioned earlier, it’s also difficult to keep these chemicals out the mouths of my children.  They are in so many foods it’s ridiculous.  (And do I ever have a huge load of empathy for parents of children with other allergies, and especially ones who react with anaphylactic shock!)  But we have to be vigilant with non-food products too.  We have learned the hard way that a lot of chapstick is not safe.  Even medicines which are meant to help are laden with dyes.  Our local pharmacy knows now that we cannot give our kids the usual pink antibiotic, but that first time I went in to get a prescription filled for H, we had to get the script changed to an antibiotic that mixed up white and not pink.  Dyes are everywhere we turn!

And yes, although one child has very strong reactions to dye, we have noticed smaller reactions in our middle child and made a commitment to keep them out of our house and out of the systems of all of our children.  I do wonder what will happen when they are older and need to take a pill that doesn’t necessarily come dye free.  It will be interesting.

My mom has sort of wondered out loud if H will outgrow this sensitivity.  She has also mentioned that she hopes it is something that will dissipate with time.  At first I definitely agreed with her.  I mean, it’s really inconvenient to be checking labels all the time and be really picky about what our kids eat when we are not at home.  However, I do believe this is a blessing in disguise.  Our whole family is healthier without these unnecessary chemicals.  I might not be able to quantify our healthiness, but I absolutely think our bodies and immune systems function a whole lot better than they would otherwise.  I’m thankful that we figured this out with our first child and that she essentially forced us all into a better way of nourishing our bodies.

Quick and Easy Chicken and Dumplings

I love comfort food and especially the kind that my mama used to make.  Whenever I got to request a meal, it was always chicken and dumplings.  I loved the cloud like dumplings, and the chicken, and the gravy…..YUM!  My mom’s standard way of making chicken and dumplings is to take a whole chicken, cut it into pieces, cook it with some veggies, thicken the gravy, cook the dumplings, etc.  It’s time consuming.  Delicious, but time consuming.

A couple of months ago I was in a time crunch for dinner, but I really had a hankering for chicken and dumplings.  So I did what I do best and improvised.  That experiment has become one of my go to meals!  The family loves it, and it goes together very quickly.  I don’t have specific measurements for this, so you’ll have to improvise a bit too.  :)

First things first:  Make a roux in a big pot with butter and flour.  I usually use a stick of butter and 1/2 cup of flour. If I have onions on hand, I’ll chop one up and saute it in the butter before adding the flour.

Next, stir in chicken broth. I kind of eye ball this depending on how much gravy I want. I think I normally use about 4-6 cups, maybe more. Chicken base and water are my friends for this part!

Once the roux and the broth have been incorporated and thickened, throw in whatever veggies you might have laying around in your fridge and freezer and some cooked chicken or turkey. Whenever I make a turkey, I freeze most of the meat to use in meals such as this. For the vegetables, I’ll throw in any leftovers and whatever sounds good from the freezer. This is typically peas, squash, beans, and maybe corn. I don’t necessarily use every type of vegetable I can find, but I do throw in at least two different kinds. Let this cook for a bit, until the frozen things are no longer frozen.

Now it’s dumpling time! This is my mom’s recipe for dumplings. I’m not entirely sure where she got it, but I do know that I will never be without it!

Fluffy Dumplings

  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 Tbs. oil

Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt together.  Combine milk and oil; add to dry ingredients, stirring just until moistened.

Drop spoonfuls of batter atop bubbling stew.  Cover tightly; let mixture return to boiling.  Reduce heat (don’t lift cover); simmer 12-15 minutes.

We love dumplings so much that I usually double the dumplings!  So there you have a quick, easy one dish meal that everyone will love.

Love, Twue Love

Let me tell you something about love. In our home, love is a dress. Love is a tutu. Love is a pwiiiiiiincess. Love is pure, innocent, and sometimes comical.

Everyday, I have the honor of witnessing the love and admiration a little boy has for his big sister. If she speaks, he watches intently and repeats to the best of his ability whatever was spoken (or in some cases yelled in some crazy gibberish language). When an interesting ballet move is made up, he is right there behind, copying every move of her arms and legs. The way he studies, and desires to be just like her…..that is admiration and love.

So yes, love is a dress around here. My little lady hardly ever wears pants, and you better believe that if she wants to be a princess, so does he! My little train guy won’t be a pwincess (I wish you could hear him say that) forever, and in the meantime, I have plenty of opportunities for graduation and wedding photos. And I have to say, in his defense, that he is very much his own person with his own interests. He is unique, and I hope that one day, despite the difficult moments, his sister will be able to look back and see how very much she was loved.

Worms and Chickens

I have been inspired!  Last night I went to a viewing of the movie FRESH. It was a nice way to get out of the house, and I am passionate about making healthy food choices. I figured the discussion would be good. What I didn’t quite expect was the urge to go home and become a farmer. Actually, since I was a young girl, a big part of me has always wanted to live on a big piece of land and raise a bunch of animals. I still want that (somewhat), but I also have to face reality. The reality of my situation is that I live on a corner lot in our little town. Yeah….I don’t think that herd of cows, goats, pigs, and chickens is going to fit so well. Bummer!

I am, however, going to do what I can with what little I have. We already have a pretty rockin’ garden, so I need to look a bit deeper. Ah, yes! Deeper……the earth in which that garden grows! Vermicomposting is the solution. I have given this some thought in the past, but I think it’s time for action. As soon as the weather warms up a bit, I am going to find some worms (I still have to figure out where I might get worms) and get to composting. That worm poop (I mean, castings) is going to nourish or plants and, in turn, nourish our bodies!

The other thing I’ve been inspired to do is get some chickens. We have casually thrown the idea around, but I think maybe we should consider it a bit more seriously. We are lucky to live in a town that would actually allow chickens. So the first step is to research what we would have to do to make this a reality. My husband has had some experience raising chickens, otherwise I would feel a bit more intimidated. I am thinking that we need to figure out how many chickens we can actually have in the city limits, what kind we might be interested in, coop options, and feed options. I am excited about this! I think it will be a great way to teach our children a little work ethic as well as how to treat animals with respect. They do love eggs!

The snow and ice that we have had on the ground since the beginning of November seems like it might finally melt in the next few days. Spring may finally be around the corner! I am ready. I am refreshed, rejuvenated, and full of a million and one ideas! Here’s to learning and doing something new!

I challenge each of you to find something new to learn about and maybe even DO this spring. 😉

Dutch Oven Lasagna (sort of)

I hope you’re ready.  I’m about to post a recipe….or as close to a recipe as I can do!  I cook like this:  a little of this, a lot of that, hmmm…that looks good, oh a bit more of this.  The other night I actually did measure what I was throwing into the pot.  Why?  I’m not sure, but you get to benefit!

I was craving lasagna but was short of time and ingredients.  So I wung it.  Is that even a word?  Who cares!  This is what I did:

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 pounds ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • a couple shakes of oregano and basil (I didn’t say I was exact!)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt (do whatever tastes best to you)
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen swiss chard or spinach, squeezed dry and chopped fairly fine
  • 1 pint crushed tomatoes (these are pints because they were home canned)
  • 1 pint tomato sauce (I use this as it is for spaghetti sauce, so if you’re substituting something store bought, use spaghetti sauce or marinara)
  • 4 cups bow tie pasta (this was measured dry)
  • 2-3 cups water (I didn’t actually measure this)
  • 1 cup of mozzarella (another approximation)

Directions:

  • In a dutch oven, brown the beef with the onion and garlic.  Drain any excess fat.
  • Add the remaining ingredients EXCEPT the mozzarella.  Bring it to a nice simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the noodles are cooked to your liking.
  • If it’s looking a bit too dry as the noodles are cooking, add a bit of water.  Don’t stress about adding too much water.  The extra can be easily boiled off until the sauce is the thickness you prefer.
  • Turn the burner off when most of the liquid has been absorbed by the noodles and/or boiled away and when the noodles are completely cooked to perfection.
  • Stir in the mozzarella, and you’re done!  Sprinkle some extra cheese on top of each serving if you like extra cheesiness.

I wish I had taken a picture of this meal.  I didn’t plan on blogging about it, but after one bite, I knew I couldn’t just keep it to myself.  It was delicious.  It was beautiful.  And best of all, it was EASY!

Bedside Book Storage…..LOVE THIS!


A few weeks ago I came across this tutorial for a hanging book holder. Now around here, we have a problem when it comes to the books that are read before bed time. They are read and then tossed on the floor, creating a big mess and adding a lot of wear to the books. Sure, they could be put back on the bookshelf with pretty minimal effort, but it doesn’t happen. When I saw this tutorial, I knew that it would be the perfect solution to our little problem!

I had the kids pick out their own special fabrics and went to town on my sewing machine. They were seriously easy to put together! My dad is a skilled wood worker, so I enlisted his help with the part that actually holds the book slings in place. I can’t even begin to tell you how pleased I am with how these turned out. The kids can put their own night time books away without getting out of bed, and it really adds a special personalized touch to their sleeping spaces!

Without further ado, here are the finished products!

I have one more sling sewn up that will go in our newly finished attic as soon as it is finished.  In the future I’ll probably make some shorter ones for our little office area.  The options are endless!