Roasted Tomatoes

Late last summer, we took a tip from our CSA farm‘s newsletter and converted some of our surplus tomatoes into roasted tomatoes, which we froze and later used in a spaghetti sauce.  This year, when I’m not pregnant and feeling weird about food, I am even more excited about delicious roasted tomatoes, and some experimentation has shown us that they’re even easier to make than we’d thought.

Roasted tomatoes are very flavorful, kind of sweet.  If you season the oil in which you roast them, they can serve as pasta sauce all by themselves.  They’re also delicious in omelets.  Roasting reduces the volume of tomatoes so that you can freeze them in less space than diced raw tomatoes–and freezing doesn’t really change their texture and flavor.  Roasted tomatoes also last longer in the refrigerator than fresh ones.

Even over-ripe or slightly under-ripe tomatoes roast well.  As long as they’re not moldy and don’t smell terrible, go ahead and use them, even if they’re past the point when you would eat them raw.  You can even use the good parts of a big tomato that’s gone partly bad.

Our farm advises roasting the tomatoes at a relatively low temperature, like 200F, for an hour or more.  Apparently this eventually will give them the texture and flavor of sun-dried tomatoes.  I don’t like sun-dried tomatoes, so I stopped earlier, while the tomatoes were still somewhat juicy.

We’ve now discovered that if you roast tomatoes like any other vegetable, at 400F, they are just as tasty and are ready sooner!  Just be careful not to burn them.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Trim the stems out of the tomatoes and remove any rotten spots.
  2. Take out the biggest clumps of seedy pulpy stuff.  Eat them.
  3. Cut the tomatoes into bite-size pieces.
  4. In a bowl, combine olive oil (about 1 Tbsp. per tomato) with salt, pepper, garlic, oregano, and basil to taste.
  5. Place tomato chunks in the bowl and toss with a slotted spoon.
  6. Scoop out the tomato chunks and spread them in a single layer in a glass or ceramic baking pan.  If you only have metal pans, you may want to line them with parchment paper to prevent the acid in the tomatoes from reacting with the metal.
  7. Bake at 400F for 10 minutes.  Stir.  If they are beginning to brown, bake another 5 minutes before you check them again; otherwise, give them another 10.  Keep baking until they look very cooked and smell delicious!
  8. If not serving the roasted tomatoes immediately, store them in a glass jar in the refrigerator, or freeze them.
  9. Make sure to eat the delicious oil left in the baking pan!  Soak it up with bread, or toss leftover cooked rice into the pan and stir it around to pick up the oil, if you don’t have any better ideas.
  10. If you have trouble removing blackened tomato juice from the pan, try this frugal scouring powder!

Roasting tomatoes works for me!  Visit the Hearth and Soul Blog Hop for more great food ideas.  Visit Waste Not Want Not Wednesday for more ways to make the most of your resources.

My 9-Year-Old Architect

I love drawing floor plans–even though I failed to become an architect–so I looked forward to illustrating my article about how we rearranged our home to make space for our new baby Lydia.  I thought this also would be a great opportunity to learn to use TouchDraw, a drafting app I’d bought for my iPad months ago but had barely gotten to play with.

Unfortunately, a mere 15 minutes of attempting to make those drawings taught me that TouchDraw sucks.  As best I can find, it can’t draw an arc–so how could I draw a door?  Its lines seem to be looking for every opportunity to jump just slightly away from being perpendicular when you lift your finger after drawing.  Its help files are laughably incomplete, set up by someone with good intentions of writing the help files someday.

Rather than spend time seeking a better drafting app, I decided to do the drawings by hand and then photograph them and post the photos.  Of course, I already have a hand-drawn scale drawing of every room in our house (doesn’t everyone?) that I made as soon as we bought the house so that we could use the scale model paper cutouts of all our furniture to decide how to arrange the rooms.  (We used it again to figure out this current arrangement.)  I would simply tape that drawing to the table, roll out some of the proper architect’s trace-paper that I still have, trace the room, draw in the furniture, and make handwritten notes around the perimeter as necessary to explain details.  I looked forward to doing this some night when Lydia went to sleep before I was totally exhausted and after I’d finished all my crucial chores.

Well, that didn’t happen any night last week!  When I got up on Saturday morning, I explained the situation to my nine-year-old son Nicholas and noted that I would need to spend a couple of hours during the day working on my drawings.

“But Mama,” he said, “What about Room Planner?” Read more…

Why I’m Sleeping in the Dining Room

Welcome to the September 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Home Tour

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have opened up their doors and given us a photo-rich glimpse into how they arrange their living spaces.

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When Daniel and I bought our house 12 years ago, we made sure to choose one that had space for a child.  We planned to have one child; we thought we might consider having two, but in choosing the house we were allotting space for one.  Here’s the whole story that led to our daughter Lydia being born in May, nine years younger than her brother Nicholas.  “Everybody knows” that siblings with such a large age gap don’t share a bedroom and/or that siblings of opposite sexes don’t share a bedroom…but I’ve never quite understood how a newborn baby can share a bedroom even with her three-year-old sister: Doesn’t the baby’s crying to be fed every few hours disturb the older child’s sleep?

Besides, our experience with getting Nicholas to sleep put me firmly in favor of co-sleeping with my baby at least until she’s weaned.  It’s just so convenient to respond to those 2am whimpers by opening my nightgown and cuddling the baby closer, instead of dragging myself out of my warm bed and into a chair in another room where I’d have to stay awake the whole time she’s nursing!  Daniel fully supports my sleeping with our babies, but he isn’t all that keen on sleeping with anyone and is sometimes disturbed even by my presence; a few weeks of sleeping with the newborn Nicholas (and me) convinced Daniel that co-sleeping was something he could handle only on an occasional basis.  Therefore, we couldn’t use our master bedroom for co-sleeping with baby Lydia–and for many reasons, we’d concluded that having the family bed in the kid’s room works best for our family.

The trouble was, we didn’t have a spare room that could become Lydia’s bedroom.  Our house has three private, upstairs rooms, but the back one seems to have been built as a sleeping porch and later enclosed–it partially overhangs the back yard, and that half of the room is encased in siding rather than brick–and although we got extra insulation added when we had the siding replaced, that room gets much colder than the rest of the house in the winter.  That’s why we use it as Daniel’s home office rather than a bedroom.  It would not be a healthy sleeping place for a baby.  Also, Daniel works from home and is an introvert; he needs his own room.

We thought back to what we’d learned from the apartment where we couldn’t sleep in the bedrooms and the home-buying process that inspired: Instead of making a list of rooms we needed, we made a list of spaces we wanted to have.  When we toured a house that we thought might be the one, we tried to work out where each of the spaces would fit.  One of the things that attracted us to this house we bought was the large and versatile dining room.

Read more…

DIY Deodorant

'Becca:

I am reblogging this because the iPad makes it much easier than pinning it on Pinterest, and I realized I have never “reblogged” anything and don’t know how it will look….

I have never tried making deodorant or using homemade deodorant, but I keep thinking it’s something I will try someday. Let’s see if putting the recipe on my own site motivates me!

Originally posted on The Zero-Waste Chef:

Unlike my other recipes, you don’t actually eat this one. But because I make my deodorant (mostly) out of food ingredients and several people have asked me how I do it, I thought I would go ahead and post the recipe on this food blog.

This stuff works. When I first decided to attempt to live plastic free, I had the most trouble replacing conventional shampoo and deodorant. I tried to solve these problems simultaneously. I was a mess. The bar shampoo I bought left my hair dull and matted to my head. I found Lush’s deodorant bar difficult to apply. Rock crystal deodorant did not work. Using no deodorant did not work. I looked bad and smelled worse.

Thank goodness for baking soda. I wash my hair with it—followed by a cider vinegar rinse—and use it as a base for deodorant.

ingredients

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup baking soda (purchased in bulk)
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch (purchased in…

View original 343 more words

This regular bra works as a nursing bra!

I bought all my nursing bras from Target, and I hate them all.  Target makes great nursing camisoles (with shelf bra) which I was wearing all the time on maternity leave earlier this summer and will wear as undershirts when the weather gets colder; if you are small-busted, they have adequate support and are very comfortable.  But Target’s nursing bras, all 3 different styles I bought, are uncomfortable, stiff in the wrong places, and oddly proportioned, at least compared to my body.  One style looks really lumpy under clothes, while the others are so padded that it’s difficult to get the cup out of the way for nursing.

While I was pregnant, I bought a few bras of the same style I had been wearing for a few years before, but in a larger size.  I am thrilled to discover that they work as nursing bras!!  They are Barely There Invisible Look Wirefree bras, sold at Kohl’s and other stores.  They have “convertible straps” which means the front end of the strap detaches from the cup so that you can crisscross the straps if you want.  The fastener is a snap kind of thing that stays together really well (never comes undone in the washing machine, even) but can be quickly undone with one hand when you want to, with a little practice.  Here I am holding it with two hands just so you can get a good look at what kind of fastener I mean. Read more…

Green Ribbon Lentils

Almost two years ago, I saw this recipe for Garlicky Lentils and Tomatoes, which is very flexible.  We have tried it several different ways, and this variation has become a favorite.

This recipe is easy, cheap, and pretty quick!  It is vegan and gluten-free.  It has lots of fiber, vitamins, protein, and iron.  It can stand alone as a meal or be eaten with bread, over rice, or even on a bun like Sloppy Joe.

It’s a great way to use some of the tomatoes that are so abundant at this time of year–but it also tastes great made with canned tomatoes at any time of year.  It’s also yet another way to use kale, a vegetable that tends to be affordably priced year-round and freezes well.

Best of all, this recipe appeals to our nine-year-old son, and it gets a lot of healthy dark-green vegetable into him!

I’m giving it this name because I like to make the kale into thin “ribbons”.  This happens naturally with Tuscan kale (a/k/a dinosaur kale or lacinato kale) when you peel the leafy part away from the tough central stem, because the leaves are so narrow near the base.  With any variety of kale, though, nice “ribbons” can be made by tightly holding a handful of leaves and slicing with a bread knife, making the strips about 1/4″ wide.

To make 4 hearty servings, you will need:

  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning or other herbs (rosemary, thyme, parsley, etc.)
  • 3 tomatoes, diced, or 1 cup canned or frozen-and-thawed diced tomatoes, including juice
  • 1 cup dry green lentils
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 2 cups fresh, or 1 cup frozen, shredded kale or other leafy green, such as spinach or chard
  • salt and pepper to taste

Slice or crush the garlic.  In a medium saucepan, saute it in the oil for just a minute or two.

Add herbs and tomatoes.  Stir and cook for another minute or two.

Add lentils, water, kale, salt, and pepper.  Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until lentils are soft and water is absorbed, about 15-20 minutes.

What prize level gets a green ribbon–third?  Much as my family likes this recipe, if we had to rank our favorite lentils, I think Honey Baked Lentils might come in first and Masoor Dal second…but I’m glad we don’t have to choose!

This recipe works for me!  Visit Fabulously Frugal Thursday and Thrifty Thursday for more low-cost recipes and other tips! Visit the Hearth and Soul Blog Hop for more food-related articles!

5 Tips for Green Lunch Packing

It’s back-to-school season!  If your child brings a lunch to school, now is the time to think about how to pack that lunch.  If you bring your lunch to work, this is a great time of year to rethink what you’re packing, too.

Choosing the right lunch-packing habits can make a big difference in how much garbage you create.  Reducing waste often saves money, too. If you shift from eating out of plastic wrappers to eating out of washable containers made of glass, metal, or other safe materials, you’ll be taking in fewer harmful chemicals.  So it’s a win all around, not just for the environment!

Here are a few main ways my family makes our school and workplace lunches more environmentally friendly.  This is not a sponsored post.  All of the specific products mentioned here were chosen by my family and purchased at full price, and all opinions are our own.  These tips are written as if you, the reader, are the lunch eater, but they all apply to packing kids’ lunches, too!

1. Use what you have.

The greenest type of reusable item is one that you don’t buy new, because even the most ecologically-produced objects take resources and energy to make.  Here are some things I’ve repurposed for packing my lunch: Read more…

The Internet of 20 Years Ago

I just happened upon this article from Wired magazine, which is undated but appears to be from right around 1994–the era when the World Wide Web existed but many major corporations still had no clue about what this Internet thing was, and when most people who did use the Internet still knew what a “shell prompt” was.

If you were already online then, you’ll enjoy this blast of nostalgia for that golden age before the Eternal September and the spam tsunami.

If you weren’t online yet at that point, you may be interested in this glimpse of how things used to be.

I was going to share this link on my Pinterest page where I post assorted interesting stuff–but it’s not pinnable because there are no images on the page.  Ah, those were the days!

9 Things I Forgot to Bring After Maternity Leave

Lydia is three months old now, and I went back to working outside the home last week, back to the same job I had while I was pregnant. In fact, I still do basically the same work as I did when Nicholas was a baby nine years ago (although we have moved office buildings since then), and Lydia is going to the same conveniently-located home childcare as Nicholas did, so my daily routine is very much the same as it was then. You’d think that would make it easy to remember what stuff I needed to bring to use at work and what stuff I needed to pack for the baby.

Apparently, it wasn’t easy, because by noon on my first day I’d made a list of SEVEN things to bring the next day . . . and I’d already noticed the most important forgotten item when I arrived at childcare . . . and when I picked up Lydia, her sitter informed me of yet another thing she needed! That’s NINE things I forgot! This made me feel really idiotic and panicked, so even though my actual job-related stuff went very smoothly and Lydia is quite happy with her sitter, my first day was very stressful.

To make things easier for other moms returning to work outside the home, here’s the list of things I forgot. Not every mother and baby will need all of these things, but if you go over this list and think about whether or not you need each of the things, maybe your first day can be a little less frazzling than mine was! Read more…

Simple Tip to Ease Confusion with a Ring Sling

I love carrying my baby in a ring sling. (Mine is a Maya Wrap.) It is very comfortable, balances baby’s weight well, and can be adjusted very precisely to fit anything from a tiny baby to a big toddler, awake or asleep, in several positions.

One problem, though, is that it can be difficult to recognize which edge of the sling fabric is which. It’s important to put the correct edge underneath the baby so that the fabric is not twisted behind your back–that’s uncomfortable and can injure you if you keep carrying the baby that way. When you reach for the fabric below the rings to adjust the sling, sometimes it’s hard to find any edge, let alone the one you’re looking for, because the fabric is layered in a way that may not be immediately obvious, especially to a busy parent trying to make a quick adjustment while walking.

Luckily, in just a few minutes you can mark the edges of your sling in a permanent way that is easy to understand!

Read more…

Cleaning Carpets the Green Way

This is a guest post by Sarah Smith. Sarah is a small business owner and is currently learning about the environment, using the Internet. Aside from working on her own business, she likes to use social media and read travel books.

Many common household cleaners are full of harmful chemicals, and carpet-cleaning products are no exception. It is probably easier than you think to keep carpets clean and fresh without resorting to unhealthy cleaning products that can harm you and the environment.

Vacuuming

Carpets should be vacuumed at least once a week. Even if your home is very clean, dust will settle on carpeting and should be removed. The longer dust or dirt is allowed to sit on carpet, the more it settles into the fibers and the harder it is to remove. Choose the best vacuum cleaner you can find. It should have great suction and attachments for getting to hard to reach places. Read more…

Refreshing Herbal Iced Tea from Loose Leaves

In this hot weather, it’s important to drink plenty of water…but plain water gets boring. Soft drinks and juices are expensive and bad for your teeth, unless they are sugar-free and sweetened with weird chemicals.

Here is a calorie-free, caffeine-free drink that tastes great without any sweetener and even has health benefits!

I make herbal tea by the pitcher, using a combination of red raspberry leaves and peppermint leaves. I can buy both of these inexpensively in bulk at my local food co-op, but sometimes my mom gives me peppermint from her garden. Raspberry leaves do not taste much like the berries, just sort of leafy and mildly fruity. They are high in Vitamin C and healthy for everyone, but they are especially good for women about to give birth, postpartum, or menstruating because they help the uterus contract smoothly. I use peppermint mainly for its delicious flavor and cooling effect, but it may have health benefits, too. Both herbs are supposed to be good for digestion.

Here is my technique for making the tea: Read more…

Centerpiece

Our nine-year-old Nicholas has been interested in home decorating since he was about four years old. I often get frustrated with his desire to set up things that are merely decorative, have no useful purpose, and just get in my way! I am even more irritated when he wants to buy things just for decorating. I like our home to look clean and pleasant, but I feel we have enough stuff around without cluttering up the place with decorations.

However, I have learned that sometimes decorations help to motivate the family–myself included–to keep a space cleaner and neater, so that we can appreciate the decorations instead of losing them in the clutter or letting them be obscured by dust. The dining table centerpiece is a good example.

Read more…

Water Saving Devices for the Home

This is a guest post by Sarah Smith. Sarah is a small business owner and is currently learning about the environment, using the Internet. Aside from working on her own business, she likes to use social media and read travel books.

Saving water saves money and reduces the energy used in water treatment, but I have never been all that great at saving water, so I am pleased to have this guest post explaining how to do it painlessly as you upgrade your plumbing.

Latest Technology

If the water bills for your home are increasing drastically, then it is time to install new fixtures in the laundry room, kitchen and bathroom. One of the best ways to understand the most appropriate water saving devices to install in your home is to consult with a plumber. A knowledgeable technician from a plumbing company understands the latest technologies available to reduce water usage while also providing an attractive appearance. Read more…

Why I Spent My Birthday Money on Socks

My partner’s grandfather, Herschel, has a tradition of giving everyone a birthday gift of the number of dollars that matches her age, so he gave me $41 last month. I used it to order 8 pairs of socks from Maggie’s Organics.

What a boring gift! It brings to mind the 1980s “Saturday Night Live” skit in which Hanukkah Harry, the Jewish counterpart of Santa Claus, brings a good little child a big box of…socks. Why didn’t I spend this money on something luxurious and fun?!

Read more…

Recycling Used-Up Pens and Markers

This is a guest post by Nicholas Efran, nine-year-old son of ‘Becca and Daniel. He wrote this article for the June 2014 issue of the Colfax Communicator, his school‘s newsletter. (Mr. Sikorski is the principal.) We hope it inspires other kids to start recycling things that are getting thrown away in their schools!

Three third-graders started a recycling program for used-up markers, pens, and highlighters at Colfax. Nicholas Efran, Sadie Rothaus, and Emma Reints got enthusiastic support from Mr. Sikorski in setting up bins around the school, next to the staircase entrances. Anyone may bring their used-up pens, markers, and highlighters from home, as well as those used in school. Read more…

Vegetarianism and Animal Rights: Explaining to Children

Welcome to the June 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Kids and Animals

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and wisdom about kids and animals.

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When my cousin Samantha was three years old and I was in college, I was visiting her family and we were eating chicken for dinner when Samantha asked, “What is chicken made of?'”

Her mother took a deep breath and said, “Well, chicken is made of a chicken.

Samantha’s eyes widened. To make certain she really understood what her mom was saying, she asked, “Chicken, buk-buk?” making a pecking motion with her hand. Her mom confirmed that the meat on our plates was indeed parts of a chicken who once pecked and said buk-buk. Samantha didn’t freak out, but she was surprised and sad and didn’t eat any more chicken at that meal.

The idea that people can eat animals startles many children when they first hear about it. Some parents want to prevent children from knowing that meat is animal flesh until they’re much older, to prevent objections that might complicate family mealtimes. I don’t like the idea of hiding such a basic truth about food from the people to whom it’s served, so I’m glad I witnessed Samantha’s response to this fact a decade before I became a mother; it gave me plenty of time to think about how I would handle my children’s questions about meat-eating. Read more…

The Best Alarm Clock-Radio to Buy Used

…is a Sony Dream Machine with EZ Alarm, made around 1988. You do not want a recent Dream Machine as it is a completely different product. This is an excellent clock:

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My dad gave it to me for Christmas when I was 15. Its radio reception was far superior to my previous clock-radio; no more holding the power cord in the air with my foot to enhance the signal!

The best feature of this clock is the way you set the alarm. A small switch on the top left sets it to beep, radio, or no alarm. Then you set the alarm time using those nice big dials on the front: one for hours, one for minutes. Read more of this post

What to do if your baby spits up blood

Well, of course you should call your doctor if you see any trace of blood–either red streaks or dark brown grainy-looking stuff–in your baby’s spit-up. Blood in the digestive tract can be a symptom of something terribly wrong that needs immediate treatment. But while you are waiting for that call back from the doctor, I encourage you to do one simple thing that just might help you calm down about this very alarming symptom.

Take a look at your nipples.

(That’s if you are the baby’s mother and you are breastfeeding. If you are the father, grandmother, etc., or if you are a bottle-feeding mother, your nipples are not relevant.)

It’s very common for a breastfeeding mother, especially one who has just started nursing a newborn baby, to experience skin irritation from the pressure and pulling of nursing and/or the exposure of the skin to saliva. This can get so bad that the skin cracks and bleeds a little. It happened to me within the first week of nursing Nicholas, so I was not surprised to see little scabs on my nipples by the time Lydia was four days old. I continued applying lanolin after every feeding and taking ibuprofen to reduce the pain so that I could continue tolerating nursing, knowing that in a few weeks my skin would adjust and my baby’s mouth would grow so that it didn’t hurt so much. This is an unpleasant stage, but I got through it before and knew I could endure it again. Read more…

The Towel Pull: A Helpful Childbirth Technique

Our daughter Lydia is now ten days old! She had a nice natural birth at the Midwife Center. The most difficult part was getting her head out, and for that I used a technique that also was very effective at that stage in the birth of our son nine years ago. Both times, one of the nurses was familiar with this technique while the other birth attendants were not–so I am spreading the word!

It’s called the Towel Pull or Tug of War. You, the mother, hold onto one end of a towel twisted the long way to form a sort of rope. Someone else holds the other end, or you tie it around a bar over the bed if there is one. You rest lying on your back with knees bent. When a contraction comes, you pull on the towel, curl your back forward, and pull your knees back and apart as far as you can, so you are making a C shape curved around your uterus.

It sounds like a lot of extra effort that could divert your energy from pushing. It sounds like ridiculous gymnastics. But it really works!

Read more…