Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Easy Ranch Dressing from Sour Cream

We love this homemade ranch dressing, modified from Katie's at Kitchen Stewardship.  Sorry for the uncertain measurements.  I always do it by feel.  Find what you like!

  • 16 oz. sour cream (home-cultured if you're awesome... like I might be soon)
  • 2 Tb. red wine vinegar
  • 3-4 cloves fresh crushed garlic
  • 1-1.5 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2-1 tsp. each dried parsley, dill weed, chives
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • black pepper to taste
  • sea salt to taste
  • Mix everything together
  • Salad dressing
  • Vegetable dip
  • Hamburger topping
  • Pizza dip...
  • What can't you use it for?

3/4 c. mayo
1/2 c. sour cream or plain yogurt (I like half of each)
1 Tbs red wine vinegar
2 cloves crushed fresh garlic (less for young children)
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4+ tsp. each: dried parsley, dill weed, chives
a few shakes cayenne pepper
black pepper to taste, preferably freshly ground
salt to taste (not always needed with the fresh garlic)
3/4 c. mayo
1/2 c. sour cream or plain yogurt (I like half of each)
1 Tbs red wine vinegar
2 cloves crushed fresh garlic (less for young children)
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4+ tsp. each: dried parsley, dill weed, chives
a few shakes cayenne pepper
black pepper to taste, preferably freshly ground
salt to taste (not always needed with the fresh garlic)
3/4 c. mayo
1/2 c. sour cream or plain yogurt (I like half of each)
1 Tbs red wine vinegar
2 cloves crushed fresh garlic (less for young children)
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4+ tsp. each: dried parsley, dill weed, chives
a few shakes cayenne pepper
black pepper to taste, preferably freshly ground
salt to taste (not always needed with the fresh garlic)
3/4 c. mayo
1/2 c. sour cream or plain yogurt (I like half of each)
1 Tbs red wine vinegar
2 cloves crushed fresh garlic (less for young children)
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4+ tsp. each: dried parsley, dill weed, chives
a few shakes cayenne pepper
black pepper to taste, preferably freshly ground
salt to taste (not always needed with the fresh garlic)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Simple Crafts for Halloween: Ghosts, Pumpkins, Spiders (and the Boo Cannon)

I have generally not considered myself particularly crafty (as in: thank you cards, holiday decor, scrapbooking...).

I think it's because I'm too practical. I tend to use my creative time to produce things that have clear utility. Since crafting doesn't add to my health, enrich my mind, or clean my house (quite the opposite, in fact), I have not often sought them out. Even when I look through a book of fun and easy sewing projects, appearance is second to function. (It wasn't until recently that I decided that it might be okay to include some non-edible flowers in my garden, alongside the vegetables.)

I feel very boring admitting this.

But recently I've been thinking back with great nostalgia at some of the decorations that adorned my childhood home around the holidays. At Halloween, it was the big pumpkin in the front window, the "elegant witch" on the mantle, the gangly skeleton hanging on the wall, the flying ghosts on the kitchen ceiling fan. I can't imagine my childhood empty of these festivities.

So last week, I thought, we need some ghosts to brighten up this holiday! I ended up spending the afternoon making some inutile but completely awesome little Halloween decorations with my kids. They are a cinch (had to be for me). You probably have everything you'll need already.

I hope one of these adds some fun to your Halloween week!


Items needed: tissue paper, string, marker, tape

I have kept every piece of tissue paper I've been given for the last seven years, so I have lots! If you don't have any, it would work equally well with regular old tissues.

1) Lay a tissue paper out on the table (cut smaller for smaller ghosts).
2) Crumple a second piece of tissue paper into a ball, placing it in the center of the first.
3) Gather the corners of the flat tissue paper up around the ball and tie with some thread.
4) Draw eyes (and mouth if desired) and hang.

I used an extra long piece of string to tie up the necks so I'd have some leftover for hanging the ghosts. To help them hang straight, I brought the string up the back of the head and taped it to the top. We like watching them slowly turn as people walk through the room.

Sammy made some all on his own, preferring longer "floaters" (his term) to the smaller ghosts I made.

Items needed: paper, scissors, stapler, tape

This is basically just cutting, folding, and a little taping and stapling. These were fun to make, but I really wouldn't have made so many if Sammy hadn't insisted he needed 10 for a project he had up his sleeve. Instead of doing a step-by-step for you, I'll direct you to the YouTube tutorial I found. I tried all the sizes she suggested, then made up some of my own.

Isn't it a sweet little pumpkin patch?

Note to those who make up their own sizes:
The width of your strip of paper = the squatiness (width) of the pumpkin
The length of your strip of paper = the heighth of the pumpkin

Items needed: egg carton, paint, pipe cleaners, googly eyes, glue gun

This idea came from my neighbor's bush, and actually, but not surprisingly, exceeded my scant crafting supplies. I lacked the googly eyes and a glue gun (Keenan says every home should have a glue gun hiding near the back of some cluttered cupboard... apparently his home was like mine!). I'm thinking about investing in one for these spiders. Anyone know of another kind of crafty glue that would stick tight and dry fast??

Each spider is a single section of egg carton, painted black, with pipe cleaner segments hot glue gunned to the sides and eyes on the front. Too cute to be spooky.


My 5-year-old was thrilled with my holiday craftiness and jumped right on the decorating bandwagon! The following gradually appeared around the house:

Window ghosts and witches
Some quick-sketch scares
A sparkly knight
The "Boo Cannon:" pull the string
and the mini-ghost pops out!

He tells me he has decorating plans to last us all week! Personally, I'm glad he's taking over so I can get back to my boring, functional life. ;)

Have you made anything fun to display at your house this year?

Happy Halloween!!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

GMO Labeling: An Update and a Plea

A year ago this week, I did a post on California's Prop 37, aimed at requiring the labeling of genetically-modified organisms in our food. Narrowly, the proposition failed, thanks to a ruthless ad campaign by the opposition, who collectively donated $46 million to confuse voters and ensure its defeat. I was sad about all the misinformation that was propagated during that time.

Since then, MaineConnecticut, and Vermont have passed labeling laws, joining 64 other countries around the world.

Now the state of Washington is fighting the good fight for GMO labeling with ballot initiative 522, coming up for vote next month. As with Prop 37, recent polls show that the gap between Yes and No voters is narrowing, due again to an influx of advertising cash from the opposition.

Right now, Dr. Bronner's and Nutiva are TRIPLING donations made to FoodDemocracyNow! on behalf of I-522. Will you contribute to this cause? Even just $5.22? If you can't afford to donate but still want to help, now is a great time to make calls to voters to help educate them on this issue.

Truth be told, I am generally in favor of less regulation, not more. And there are other ways to make it happen. The Non-GMO Project is a good start. Whole Foods Market is requiring labeling in their stores by 2018. Other stores and companies are refusing to include GMOs in their products as well. I couldn't applaud them more loudly! But allowing states to legislate on this issue resonates with my strong desire to stand up to the wealthy food bullies, who, in my opinion, are good stewards of neither earth nor body.

A win in Washington is a win for all of us. So I just donated what I could. Will you?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Family Personal Scripture Study

My five year old (who has just become an independent reader) recently started asking for his own Book of Mormon.  We thought it was a great idea, and started a morning personal scripture study time right when the kids wake up. The younger siblings can only look through scripture related picture books. We do it for about ten or fifteen minutes. I've been really tempted to use the time to make a delicious breakfast for these cuties, but I feel it is important for them to see me studying my scriptures too.
 So far, the boys love it and remind us right when they wake up!  It makes sense to start personal scripture study now, while they are young and excited about it. That will make it all her to continue that tradition as they grow.
Happy Autumn!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Yin and Yang

My mother is in Argentina right now, and has had something of a monastic two weeks by herself to contemplate and meditate.  In her weekly letter to family, she included this brilliant piece about Yin and Yang.  It's worth a read, and will give you some food for thought for your weekend.  With her permission, I share it now.
In prayer and reflection time, I've thought of the concepts that eastern philosophies have words for the energy balances we need in our lives--yin and yang (my feng shui teacher insisted that we pronounce yang in a way that rhymes with "song," not the orange breakfast drink!) Life would probably have been easier for me if we had words for them in English. As I understand them, they acknowledge that a balance of both energies in each system (a life, a family, a home, a country, etc.) is ideal for well-being. 

Yin, known as the female energy, is receptive, quiet, nurturing, characterized by listening, hearing, understanding, mercy, beauty, winter, the moon and night. The male yang is a bright energy of activity and growth, action, and justice. It is dynamic and powerful, characterized by the sun, speaking, acting and giving. These characteristics should not be confused with the genders they represent, as all people have, or should have elements of both in their being, though the gender association is surely not accidental. In my unofficial observation of marriages for example, I think that in some cases the wife is the more yang and the husband more yin of the two. It probably doesn't matter.

They both sound good to me in my own extremely yin season, and yang sounds especially good at the moment.

Together, they represent perfection (think of the yin/yang symbol). But each energy in its excess leads to dis-ease. Yin can cave in on itself, and implode in sloth and inaction. Yang is hurried and competitive. Unmoderated, it leads to enmity, thoughtlessness, aggression, insensitivity and violence. Ultimately, it explodes. Consider young men at war. (Hugh Nibley's article "Matriarchy and Patriarchy" has informed my thinking on this, and is probably another way of looking at the same energies). It's interesting to consider the tendencies toward violence and ugliness (in my opinion) of very yang societies which repress or pervert yin energies, such as some in the Middle East. According to Nibley, yin societies stagnate.

As I have considered this tension, I believe one of the reasons that the world is heading toward its prophesized violent combustive ending is that yang energy is generally (but not completely) ruling the world, and increasing. Eckhart Tolle has mentioned this (see A New Earth). In some corners, yin energy is growing, as seen in the growing popularity of yoga, and meditation.

But generally, we are in a period of increasing speed of almost everything, including travel and communication, and living in general. We no longer recite or listen to poetry, sit together, visit one another, go for walks, or watch the sun set.We don't even write much, generally. (Most TV watching seems the worst of both worlds--utterly useless inaction spent watching an aggressive, self-focused yang world.) This has been coming on for a long time now, and much of it is due to technology, (which I mostly adore), but which obscures the natural rhythms of life--the gathering of darkness in winter, the cold which drives us inside to be together, to talk, to read and to listen. Now, it's always daytime, and we can always, day and night, tell and hear some new thing (Acts 17:21). Some may think this is not to be regretted, and candidly, I'm not sure how many poetry recitations I'm prepared to sit through at the moment. But I do think we are off balance when sensitivity, gentleness and growing things like marriages and children take too much time, as we rush headlong through hard and often thoughtless, activity-driven living; likewise when, as Elder Christofferson mentioned, women characters have joined the killers in video games. (And, to be current, when somehow it is weakness to negotiate compromises in a representative government, so that shallow, unexamined ideologies and enmity rule.)

My thoughts today have been that in the gospel, the Lord honors both yin and yang energies, and asks us to do the same. The Savior, with only three years in which to teach the gospel and organize His church, resorted often to personal prayer and reflection, often leaving the masses of people who wouldn't leave Him alone. (Sometimes He left them miraculously.) He made time for quiet conversation with individuals at the edges of wells, and in the midnight hour. He took naps on boats! His yang activities were mighty--cleansing the temple twice, feeding the multitudes (probably also twice), preaching at the temple many times. But He sought time with His Father always. The prophet Joseph Smith, the kingdom builder, also took much time for meditation and prayer. How he ever did anything but appear in court with the hundreds of accusations thrown against him is a mystery to me!

In the gospel, the sacrament, scripture study, prayer and temple worship are surely critical yin activities. Missionary work, service of so many kinds, provident living, and much of family life are usually mostly yang. All are essential. I think that yin energy may be growing in the Church, to its great benefit, as yang grows in the world, as the role of women in the family and society is celebrated as it was by many speakers in this conference, including Sister Stephens and Elder Christofferson and others. The importance of yin devotional time ("Abide with Me") is pared with yang work and energy ("Put your Shoulder to the Wheel"). We heard messages of "Never look back at what you have done. Look at what you still have to do," with "If you don't take time to be well, you will surely take time to be sick." And we are taught to take time to make sure we have the Spirit of the Lord with us as we engage in the yang work of teaching, serving and doing missionary work.

This weekend, I have felt the Lord's assurances that in my life, both yin and yang energies are essential, and that the Lord will allow time and strength for both, if I seek them, regardless of what my responsibilities now or in the future may be.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Tea Party Food

The tea party for our sweet baby's first birthday was really fun.  I tried to design the setup and food for the birthday girl and the other babies to be comfortable and enjoy themselves. And I think they did.
Birthday Princess
We had three little tables, one for the babes, one for the big girls, and one for the mamas.  They all had variations on the same food. 
The Mama's Table
The Mother's Table had herbal tea, banana cupcakes, cucumber sandwiches and oranges.

Cucumber Sandwiches
Mix softened cream cheese with dill-weed, a little lemon juice and a bit of Tabasco, salt and white pepper. Peel and slice cucumbers thinly, let sit in salty ice water for up to an hour or more in the refrigerator. Drain and pat dry with clean dish towel or between paper towels. Assemble on good quality sliced bread, and use cookie cutters to cut them into cute shapes :)
The Big Girl Table
The Big Girl Table had apple juice, mini banana cupcakes, and jam and cream cheese sandwich
The Baby Table
The Baby Table had water, cheerios, bread stars, and tiny cupcakes (in ketchup cups).  It was all in plastic, and baby-proof, and they were very happy to wander around a table their height and browse the food at will.
The banana cake is a sugar-free recipe I have (that works equally well as a muffin or banana bread). 


Beat together in a bowl:
3 ripe bananas
2 eggs
¼ cup natural peanut butter (I use chunky)

Stir together in another bowl:
2 cups whole grain flour (I use oat)
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon ginger (do not use fresh ginger root, use the powdered ginger)

Combine all ingredients.  Pour into greased pans.  For a 8" square cake pan, bake at 350 for about half an hour, until a knife comes out clean.

For frosting, I beat equal parts Trader Joe's Pumpkin Cream Cheese and Butter until fluffy, and then added a sweetener of choice until desired consistency.