I clearly remember one week in March of 2009. Ryan was outside digging a garden bed with our little girls. His mother was visiting and staying with us for the week. I suspected something, peed on a stick, saw two lines, and ran outside to whisper to Ryan that I was pregnant! It was too hard to keep it a secret with family around, so we invited everyone over for desset and shared our news right away.

I remember sitting on the living room floor late at night, talking about midwives and baby names. A few days later I was still not feeling sick yet so I took another test and the line was lighter. Then, the spotting started. I made it through a family dinner, then called a midwife who helped me understand what to expect. It was a blessedly quick process – one night full of cramping and bleeding, and it was over. We had to tell all the family members, and it was awful.

Fast forward to March of 2010 – so much has happened. I got to see those two lines again on another positive pregnancy test! My big girls turned two and three. We moved from Texas to Florida. And, one day in the middle of March, our newest daughter Eliana Joy was born!

Her name means “My God has answered me with joy.”

A bread machines is a versatile and frugal kitchen appliance. Here are a few tips for creating simple meal-starters using your bread machine:

If you have a few hours at home, put your bread machine to work and mix up some pizza or bread dough. Then, place the dough in an oiled gallon-sized bag and save it in the freezer for a day when you don’t have time to make dough. Defrost the dough in the refrigerator (or on the counter briefly) and get a head start on your pizza dinner on a busy day.

Make mini-pizzas: here’s an alternative to buying processed frozen pizzas for your kids. Instead of freezing one whole bag of pizza dough, cut the dough into 4-6 small pieces and freeze them separately in oiled sandwich bags. Also put together sandwich bags of pizza or spaghetti sauce and bags containing a small amount of mozzarella cheese and other toppings. In the morning, place each bag in the fridge to thaw, and at dinner you can create a mini pizza for each child in less than 10 minutes!

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SDC10440Three generations of moms and daughters!

I’m way behind in my quest to blog our bio-intensive gardening process. We started much of the planning and soil preparation as early as January, and now in the second week of March, we are well into digging, fertilizing, and planting.

Our backyard has experienced a tremendous makeover – from four narrow garden rows to four large, deep bio-intensive growing beds. The digging method in the book “How to Grow Everything…” is known as a double-dig, and it truly is amazing to watch it make our soil expand and fill with life.

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We have four homemade wooden flats for planting seeds. This picture shows the very first bed Ryan dug. Just by adding a bit of compost and doing a big double dig, he raised the level of that dirt to the top of those boards. :)

img_87432This shows the first two beds, as well as the paths we set all around them (in order to walk through to plant and weed without stepping on any planting area.

More pictures to come!

Last year, we started a garden in our tiny suburban backyard. In the Spring, we enjoyed a handful of zucchini, cantalopes, and other goodies. We poured over books and websites, and learned everything we could about garden pests, watering, composting, etc… and in the fall, we actually enjoyed quite a few tomatoes, beans, and other fall crops. By then, we were completely addicted to growing our own food, and couldn’t wait to expand our garden this year. 

Gardening has become our family hobby – every weekend getting our hands dirty, staying outside, exercising, and watching plants grow – but it is much more than a hobby. We are learning how to become more than consumers in our world. Our little backyard is producing food, our trash is producing compost that goes back into our food, and it goes on and on! Ultimately, we would love to grow plenty of food to eat/sell/give away, and to leave our bit of land better than we found it.

Over the winter, my sister gave me a gardening book called How to Grow More Vegetables (and Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops) Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine). It has changed our life – really. This book teaches the “bio-intensive” gardening method. It is a very intimidating read; it truly is not for the novice gardener. But, the ideas of maximizing your land and giving back to your soil instead of stripping it of everything valuable is quite appealing. We have since found another book with a very similar philosophy, but that is much easier and more pleasant to read: The Vegetable Gardener’s BIBLE.

In January, we eagerly started the preparations for our expanded bio-intensive backyard garden. I’ve decided to regularly blog our garden progress, mostly just as a way to watch and keep a record of our progress. 

So, here is the beginning:

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Ryan and the girls bring wagon-loads of leaves into the backyard for composting. (Note, there are two girls on that wagon!)

sdc10090Our roommate JoAnn helps us prepare the old garden for digging. (We previously had four narrow rows; we are now creating two wider beds in that location and adding two other beds to the yard.)

More coming soon!

This recipe comes from my mom, who got it from her childhood friend’s mother.  I believe it is supposed to taste like the cornbread at Marie Callendar’s restaurant, but my husband insists that it is much better. :)

Fabulous Cornbread

3 eggs, beaten
1 c. milk
1/2 c. melted butter
2 c. Bisquick (I’ve even been known to use homemade wheat pancake mix)
1/2 c. yellow cornmeal
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 t. baking powder

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 8×8 pan or regular loaf pan (the loaf pan will take longer to cook). Blend eggs, milk, and butter. Sift sugar and baking powder into separate bowl, then stir in the cornmeal and mix well. Add the cornmeal mixture and Bisquick to egg-milk mixture and stir with a wooden spoon only until blended. Pour batter into greased pan and bake 30-40 minutes.  Enjoy with a great soup or chili.

I don’t remember where I found this recipe.  I’m sure it was on another blog, but I cannot remember where. I’ve also changed it just a tiny bit… but I still wish I could give the other blog some credit.  

Everyone who tries this pizza dough says it is amazing, and asks for the recipe. So, here it is:

The Best Pizza Dough

1 1/3 c. water
2 t. sugar
1 1/4 t. salt
2 T. olive oil
2 T. cornmeal
3 1/ c. flour
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. garlic powder
1/4 t. onion powder
2 t. yeast

Put all of these ingredients in that order into your bread machine. Run the dough setting, then remove and make the pizza of your choice. Or, you can check out my original Easy Pizza Dough recipe for more tips on using the dough.

I’ve been meaning to share this recipe with several of my friends for weeks now.  Finally, here it is.  I’m sorry it has taken so long! 

I just made this for dinner tonight, and it is always so good.  I’m sure it is intended to be a side dish, but we eat it as a vegetarian main dish because it is just so healthy and yummy and filling. Tonight, we had this hot casserole with cooked sweet potatoes on the side.

Lentil & Brown Rice Casserole

2 c. chicken or vegetable broth
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 c. dried brown lentils, rinsed
1/2 c. uncooked brown rice
1 minced garlic clove
1/2 t. dried basil
1/4 t. dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1/8 t. pepper
1 c. diced tomatoes (or canned stewed tomatoes)
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. shredded swiss, cheddar, or other cheese

In a 2 quart baking dish coated with nonstick spray, combine first 9 ingredients. Cover, and bake at 350 for 40 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes and salt, cover, bake 20-30 minutes more, until rice and lentils are tender. Discard bay leaf. Sprinkle cheese on top and bake uncovered for 5 minutes more.

That’s it! This is healthy comfort food!

Because I just wrote about all of the cooking I have been doing this year, I thought it would be nice to share some of the links and recipes I’ve found.  There are so many incredible bloggers and cooks out there who have made it so easy to find out how to make just about anything!

Here is a fabulous blog post that explains how to make homemade yogurt with your crockpot.

My new favorite soup that uses any beans that I happen to have cooked, as well as fresh spinach.

Money Saving Mom is a great blog that keeps me thinking frugally and creatively.

Right now, I’m especially interested in finding great recipes that use dried beans and lentils, so I’ll be sharing the best recipes that I find (after I test them and make sure that they’re good enough to repeat).

I’ve been so busy in the last few months, and blogging went to the bottom of my to-do list. However, the other night, my husband and I started talking about what we have been doing with all of our time in 2008.

When I actually stopped to think about the things I’ve learned and accomplished this year, it turned out to be pretty encouraging! You might want to sit down and write your accomplishments down, too.  Here is my list so far:

  • My husband and I planted a small garden in our very small backyard, and began learning everything possible about gardening in small spaces.  We’ve actually eaten quite a bit of homegrown food in our first year of gardening!
  • I discovered wheat berries. We bought a grain mill, and now we grind all of our wheat flour and make all of our bread from scratch.
  • I learned how to cook dried beans.  It is not nearly as intimidating as I thought!
  • I’ve made homemade yogurt, granola, pretzels, jam, salad dressing, and other things I used to think you could only buy at a store!
  • We turned our dining room closet into a second pantry full of baking goods, beans, and rice for all of this home cooking that I’m doing. 
  • I started a Meetup group in my community to meet other Attachment Parenting mamas.
  • I’ve taken a very small part-time, temporary job doing bookkeeping – to keep my mind working. :)
  • I’ve gone from being a mom to two babies to being Mommy to two very active and incredible toddlers!

Well, that’s my list so far.  What is on your list?

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