Tag Archives: Review

2011 Blogging Review

The WordPress.com stats made my blog an annual report. It’s really fun to see what posts were most popular, where you dear readers are from and which posts yielded the most comments.

This is really fascinating considering the changes I’ve made to the direction of this blog, and encourages my efforts on Scratchtreehouse.com!

Thanks again for reading…now for your curious eyes, the report:

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,500 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

A Spontaneous Raspberry Picking and Making Granola: Reviews

Last weekend we went camping. My husband’s folks, brother and sister-in law joined us in the North Cascades. I successfully tested my home-made marshmallows on them (thumbs up all around).

To my delight our trip took us right by  The Cascadian Farm (regionally local company selling berries, granola and jam). I love their jam and berries. A cute little stand sells Ice Cream made on-site, Coffee, fresh berries and snacks. They also have U-Pick berry fields. While we stopped to enjoy a smoothie (they easily obliged to omit the dairy for our little girl), I confessed to my husband, that I really wished I’d planned ahead to pick berries (at $2.25lb for Organic Raspberries it’s a deal!). He did his super-hero thinking and found an empty container from our camping supplies to use. They do supply the cardboard boxes you normally see at stores, but I wanted something to reuse.

Our kids were a lot of help, and picking went quickly (granted our daughter may have eaten more than she picked). With loads of gigantic, sun-ripened Raspberries all around us, it was hard to stop. And we only picked one row. But, we had plenty, and I didn’t to have so many that they’d smash each other. We had enough for a frozen stash, smoothies and to try a home-made Granita recipe.

The experience was so much fun, that we agreed it would be worth a day trip next year to restock our Raspberry stash.  At about an hour and a half drive from Seattle proper, it’d make a wonderful day trip.

Granola and Granola Bars Review

As I stood in line to pay for our 5.5lbs of Raspberries, I scanned the products for sale: Granola, Granola Bars, Chips, Salsa, Crackers, etc. I was curious about the Granola Bars since I had just made my very own for our trip. The ingredient list included over 7 things, including some “natural” preservatives. I understand that they are needed for a long shelf-life, but our home-made batch never lasts more than a week. And, from my experience, fresh tastes best.

Home made Granola!

I used a recipe from Kitchen Stewardship‘s eCookbook, Healthy Snacks To Go. The book cost $6.95, and so far, I think it’s paid for itself. I’ve made the Granola and Granola Bars. The Granola recipe takes all of 20 minutes to prepare. Seriously, you mix together butter/Ghee/Coconut Oil, Honey and a little water with Oats plus whatever else you want like nuts and dried fruits. You can do this while your oven pre-heats to 350 degrees. Then, you toast it for 10-15 minutes, mixing it half way during the bake time.  Granola Bars take a little more time, but are mostly the same ingredients with a slight change to the ratios. The only change I’ve made to the Granola bars is to use less sweetener.

Now, I know there are a lot of Granola recipes out there on the web. I’d even like to modify this one using Olive Oil and baking at a lower temperature. The reason why I used this recipe on my first try is because Katie at Kitchen Stewardship has a long track record on the blogging scene, and I was sure this recipe had been tried many times over. I scanned all the other 20 recipes, and know I will be spending time trying them all out as we get ready for the school year. Really, I’m excited to recommend this handy book that includes gluten-free, dairy-free and other “allergy free” options, easily labeled. So, if you want to check it out and buy it, here you go: Healthy Snacks To Go (affiliate link so I make $2 if you buy it). Or you can just wait until I review each one and rave about them:)

Do you have any snack recipes I should try out? Please do share! Bonus points for dairy-free recipes.

Recipe Review: Marshmallows – Corn Free

Home Made Marshmallows

Most Americans can’t imagine camping without making S’mores. Well, last year, I decided we as a family would try our best to not consume Corn Syrup. Every package of Marshmallows I’ve seen has it as a staple ingredient. So, that meant we didn’t make S’mores when we went camping…Guess who wasn’t the most popular Mama?  So, you can imagine how excited I was to find a recipe that didn’t use any corn? I didn’t jump up and down, but was giddy to give the recipe a try. The blog, A Messy Kitchen, posted a recipe for Lemon Honey Cardamon Marshmallows. The author’s daughter is allergic to corn of any type, even corn starch. But, she’s an amazing baker and goes above and beyond to make substitute treats for her. I asked about this recipe, because I just wanted to make plain old Vanilla Marshmallows. Since it was my first try, she suggested I start out with Cookie Baker Lynn’s recipe for Classic Vanilla Marshmallows.

I must say Marshmallows are really a lot of sugar, like over 5 cups! So, I was amazed by the process of heating and mixing and beating to make them.

Lessons and Notes:

Doesn't my borrowed Kitchen Aid look pretty?

– Use a stand mixer. You’ll need to beat the hot syrup with sugar in a bowl on high speed for 10-12 minutes. I don’t recommend using a hand mixer simply because there might be some splatter, and you won’t want to get burned. Plus, the fact that beating for that long will give you an aching shoulder. I borrowed one, and a candy thermometer – Key tools!

– From start to finish, making these took over 2 hours, plus setting up overnight (the recipe says all you need is 4 hour to set).  But, I made my own sugar syrup, and took my time checking each step. Just so you know, hot sugar syrup burns like wow! I was trying to ladle it from the pot into a jar for later, and accidentally got some on my thumb. It wasn’t a blister level burn, but did make me worry that I’d mess this first try up. So, be very careful when you’re making the syrup and when you add it to your mixer to make the Marshmallows.

– The only change I made to Lynn’s recipe was with the finishing powder – calls for Powdered Sugar and Corn Starch. I used Arrowroot Powder instead of the Corn Starch, and think you could also use Tapioca Starch. And, some Powdered Sugar already has Corn Starch added. I found some at our local Co-Op made by Wholesome Sweeteners that doesn’t add anything. Whole Foods also carries some that has Tapioca Starch instead.

Sticky like glue, the Marshmallows set in 4-24 hours.

– Yield: I got 36 out of this, but cut some really small to fit into a cup of coffee, and others large enough to roast over a camp fire. The recipe says you can use a cookie cutter for fancy shapes, but I think the sticky factor would keep me from trying it out. I am happy use a knife and make squares or diamonds.

My official taste testers approved of the results and can hardly wait for camping to enjoy the rest. I’m so happy with how these turned out, that next time I want to try the Lemon-Honey-Cardamon recipe! Or, I might modify a bit and use her latest, shortened Vanilla Marshmallow Recipe, which uses a store bought Sugar Syrup, cutting the time down to about 30 minutes plus setting up (4-24hrs).

p.s. My friend Fran says you can also just roll the Marshmallows in sprinkles and avoid the Powdered Sugar coating step all together. I’m sure they’re not healthier, but I bet very pretty! A great party idea too.

Sprouted Mung Bean Review

Pre-soaked and dried Mung Beans

I was first introduced to Mung Beans as an ingredient in a Traditional Chinese Soup for soothing a sore throat among other things. Since then, I’ve started using it in other ways trying to integrate it into our diet. The soup calls for sprouting the Mung Beans before cooking with it, and after trying to simply cook them like regular beans, I can tell you they taste better pre-sprouted first. It isn’t very hard to let 1/2 cup of Mung beans sit in a bowl on the counter to sprout, but does require planning ahead since they need about 12 hours to do so.

When I saw Pre-Sprouted, dried Mung Beans at our local Food Co-op, I was excited. The package promised only 5 minutes to cook. And, they were from a company I already love. Their Quinoa is the least expensive around, especially since I can buy it at Costco.

Here is what I thought after trying them out:

The first try yielded a grainy, almost not done yet texture. So, I tried cooking them twice as long. Fail. None of us liked the grainy texture or lack of flavor. Mung Beans have a specific light flavor similar only slightly to Edamame. I tried again soaking them overnight. Fail. So, I give up, and am back to sprouting them myself. Plus, they are a bit cheaper. The Pre-Sprouted bag cost over $5, but would have saved hours of planning ahead. Dried Mung Beans cost slightly over $2/lb, so you get a lot for your money.

Mung beans eaten with sauteed vegetables, Olive Oil and salt.

Lesson learned: Mung Beans are best when I do the work at home (not that letting them sit on the counter is much work, but planning ahead can be).

p.s. I love cooking from scratch, but also love finding ways to cut the cooking time down.

Growing Pains: I need your help!

A fern grows in Seattle.

Last September, I had no idea that I would finally find a solution to my baby’s constipation and embark on a new passion: finding healing through nourishing food. As chance would have it the previous 9 months had laid the ground work for me to be open to making changes to how we eat, and spark my passion for learning more about food. Add to that the book, The Art of Non-Conformity, and you have the inspiration for my growth in wanting to share what I’ve learned and to finally start this blog.

This weekend, my husband and I will be attending Chris Guillebeau’s World Domination Summit – it may sound lofty, but it’s bound to be an exciting adventure as we get to hear from experts in the field of blogging, social entrepreneurs and crazy fun people doing what they love.

Back in December I attended Chris’ AONC book tour stop at the UW Bookstore, and still wasn’t sure about this whole blogging thing. I’m so glad that I finally started!

But, I want to hear from you, dear readers: What do you really enjoy around here? Please take a few seconds and fill in the poll below, or leave me a comment if you want to have your say about other stuff: Do you want complete meal recipes? More book reviews? Menu plans?

p.s. I’ll be taking off Monday from my regular posting.

[polldaddy poll=5103662]

eBook Review: Digital Dominatrix

Love books in all forms

Please, don’t let the title fool or confuse you. It did me. I didn’t quite get what it was about. Now that I have read it, I can tell you it has everything to do with digital survival. If I were to name it, I’d call it something like Online Reputation Handbook, or Online Identity Mastery.  If you have any sort of online profile, you need to read The Digital Dominatrix.

I learn best when I get to share what I’ve learned. So, please allow me to share the information that stood out to me.

Have you sworn off Facebook, MySpace or other networking sites in an attempt to protect your identity? The bad news is that even if you don’t engage in building an online profile, other people are already doing it.

Facebook, for example, makes it super easy to share photos. I might take photos at a family gathering and tag everyone in them. If one person is not on Facebook, I have already started a digital profile for them.

Kinda creepy, yes? The reality is that with ease sites like Twitter and Facebook provide to share information and photos, we are culturally evolving them into our daily lives. And it’s not just what all our friends are doing. Newspapers, tax records, and local organizations are all going online. If you’re mentioned in any of them, your online profile has begun. Just Google your name and see what comes up.

The Digital Dominatrix provides an overview of the two main theories for the evolving future of the internet as it integrates into our culture. But it doesn’t bore you. Dusti writes with fervor and honesty.  It’s like a friend passionately telling you something you need to know. I ate up the whole 65 page eBook in one hour. I think everyone should read it.

Confession 1: I have to admit that even though I loved Dusti Arab’s previous eBook, The Minimalist Mom, I was leery to read this. I didn’t get past the sensual symbolism she was going for in her new design and branding. But, now I am glad I got past that because it was worth it.

The book doesn’t bore you with endless philosophizing about the future of the internet, or tell you how things will turn out. It simply shows you how to take control of your digital reputation and use it for your own good.

Confession 2: I was slow to join Facebook. Once I did, all those applications my dear friends and family used would junk up my news-feed and  made me frustrated. But, I have discovered how to delete those. I really enjoy the ease it provides me for sharing photos with distant but dear relatives and friends.

I know others, like my friend Staci, who have found Facebook to be a big time suck in their lives (she’s making changes). I am only now figuring out my personal guidelines for using it. For example, I won’t post a photo if someone in it looks awful; frankly we all take bad photos sometimes. Also, I won’t tag someone if they aren’t already on Facebook.

So, I am still trying to sort out a balance with these cool tools. But now, I am more aware than ever that I need to be in control of my online reputation. And, I have some idea of how to start doing just that.

The Digital Dominatrix is free once you sign up for Dusti’s new venture – Undefinable You‘s newsletter. If you don’t like what she’s sharing in her regular emails, unsubscribe, but read the eBook first.

Have you read the book already? If so, what did you think?

Recipe Review: Artisan Bread in 5 Min a Day!

Fresh, Easy Artisan Spelt Bread

In my quest to make food from scratch, bread was the one thing that daunted me. I imagined a laborious process of kneading, kneading and more kneading. Plus, the family was pretty happy with home made Tortillas and Crackers. So, I didn’t have any pressure. But, my Aunt linked to this recipe on Facebook, and so I decided to check it out.

Honestly, I doubted the “5 Min a Day” claim, but after looking over the recipe and talking to my Aunt, I learned that it takes about 3-4 hours from start to the finished result of eating a slice of bread. Or, you can keep the bread dough in your refrigerator and make a fresh loaf in the morning after about 5 minutes of shaping it (hence the name). The recipe is from FrugalLivingNW.com – they do a great job of lining out the process and include a YouTube video for more instruction. So, no need for me to repeat it here. Instead, I want to share what I have done with it.

Important note: Warm water = 100 degrees.

First Try: I made a slight alteration and used refined Spelt Flour instead of regular Wheat Flour. And, I didn’t have 6 cups of flour, so I halved the recipe and shaped 2 loaves instead of 3.  The result: small, tasty fresh bread with lovely hard crust and a moist center – but, it didn’t rise very much. Fortunately, I made my first loaf in time for a play date with my cousin and her little kids. She had experience making this recipe and gave me some good advice: make sure the “warm” water is at 100 degrees. Adding that suggestion to my notes make the loaves actually rise more.

Another tip: The recipe says it yields 3 loaves, but they are small. They’d serve just 4-6 people as a complimentary addition to a meal. As my cousin also suggested, you can remedy this by using the full recipe to make 2 larger loaves. I like this approach, because I can actually get sandwich sized slices out of it.

Since that first try, I have made this bread many times and just last week used the dough to make pizza. It was perfect! All we did was to knead it with additional flour after the rising step. That way it was less sticky as we shaped and flattened the dough out before adding our toppings.

I’ve also used a 50/50 ratio of Refined and Sprouted Spelt Flour and find it tastes even better. So, if you want to use Whole Wheat or combine flours, I think it would work out just fine. If anything, it might not rise as high.

Makes a great Pizza Dough!

We love the bread so much that when I make it, the challenge become to not eat all of it in one day. So, I don’t make bread every week because it nearly doubles our grain consumption.

Do you have a favorite easy bread recipe?

I’m looking for a great Sourdough recipe and a non-Artisan recipe – feel free to link me to it, or pretty-please do share it in the comments.

Remedy Recipe Review: Mung Bean and Kelp Soup

Dried Kelp

The Traditional Chinese Mung Bean Soup is actually a desert item used to cool folks in the summer.  I learned about this from the Chinese Herbalist we have been seeing for our daughter. She recommended it to me during this past illness – I was a little hesitant to try it, but pleasantly surprised by both the taste and affect it had on me. It felt great smoothly going down my sore throat.  It was even better than Chicken Soup! Don’t get me wrong. They are two totally different soups with opposite flavors. But, both have their place in helping me feel better.

Remedy: Mung Beans are supposed to help with edema, and removing toxins ingested from plants or minerals. It is traditionally used as a summer soup to cool the body, and eaten cold. Kelp is a natural source of Iodine and helps to reduce swollen glands.  As with any remedy, I was told to use this in balance – so not the only thing I am eating. It was also explained to me that Kelp varies in Iodine content so if you have Thyroid issues, this is probably a home remedy you need to talk with your doctor about using.


Mung Bean Kelp Soup

Soaked and ready: Mung Beans and Kelp

– 1/2 Cup Dried Mung Beans

– 2 inch Piece Dried Kelp

– About 4 Cups Soaking Water

– 6 Cups Cooking Water

– Brown Sugar to Taste

– Salt to Taste

Mung Beans are done.

First, soak the Mung Beans and Kelp in a bowl of water for at least 4 hours, or up to 24 hours.  Drain the water from the soaking Mung Bean and Kelp, then break up the Kelp into strips or small pieces.  Add 6 cups water to a pot, then add the Mung Beans and Kelp. Bring pot to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Let the soup simmer for 60-80 minutes or until the Mung Beans become so soft that they start to come out of their skin.

Serve warm or cold, then add Brown Sugar or sweetener of choice (Maple Syrup, Honey, Sucanat, etc) and a little salt. Makes 3 large bowls, or 4 small ones. The recipe can be increased or reduced to accommodate your servings. Use within 3 days or toss leftovers.

Finished Soup!

Review: This is really tasty, even if it looks ugly!  With swollen glands and a sore throat, I felt this was really soothing. It had a lightly sweet and savory flavor unlike anything else I’ve tasted. The texture was a little bit like a bean soup with onions. I enjoyed it. But, the kids wouldn’t try it.