Super Creamy Peanut Butter – Step Aside Skippy!

For everyone who can’t get their kids to break away from Skippy or Jif. To all who can’t get used to the taste of plain, natural peanut butter. To each person who doesn’t want to struggle to spread homemade creamy peanut butter onto a piece of toast. This recipe is for you! (And for me, because while I love homemade, natural peanut butter – I can’t get enough of this new recipe!)

You’ve read the ingredients in Skippy and Jif, right? Unreal. Literally.  It does have some peanuts in there somewhere, but it mostly has hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup. Poor Peter Pan. I doubt he wanted his good name tarnished like this.

And now, to replace that popular grocery store item, I bring you this completely real food, non-hydrogenated, nothing scary, all natural, wonderful, spreadable, smooth, creamy, delicious peanut butter.

The first day I made this, I licked so many spoonfuls I lost track of trips back and forth to the kitchen. After one such trip to the kitchen, once I finished what was on my spoon, I actually found myself sucking the life out of the spoon, apparently in hopes that more of the deliciousness would secrete out of the metal? Then I realized what I was doing and went back to the kitchen for another spoonful. Someone just bring me the jar!

Super Creamy Peanut Butter

I was not alone. Matt and the kids acted like this was candy. Maybe we’ll make it into a sandwich someday, but for now, we’re getting our protein fix one spoonful at a time. Ah-mazing. Here is the recipe already:

Super Creamy Peanut ButterYum

Super Creamy Peanut Butter - Step Aside Skippy!
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 cup natural peanut butter (tutorial link below)
  • 4 Tablespoons palm shortening
  • 1 - 1 1/2 Tablespoons real maple syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan, melt and stir together all four ingredients until smooth and creamy.
  2. You can make this more or less sweet by adding more or less maple syrup.
  3. Pour mixture into a pint sized jar.
  4. Chill until thickened (about 2 hours).
  5. Spread on a sandwich, eat with a spoon, eat with a spoon, eat with a spoon, or eat with a spoon.

Make Your Own Natural Peanut Butter!

Wondering where to get Palm Shortening?  My favorite source is Tropical Traditions. Spectrum brand Organic Vegetable Shortening (which is made with 100% palm oil) is also good, and can be found at Amazon, or health food stores. Just do not use regular vegetable shortening (like Crisco) – otherwise you’re right back at the not-so-good-for-you peanut butter.

Over the weekend, I made about 8 cups of this peanut butter. I figured my food processor was already messy, my palm shortening was already out, so why not make this effort worth my while? I now have 4 pint sized jars of this peanut butter in my fridge. Well, 4 pints minus several dozen spoonfuls.

Alright – what do you think? Will your family love this?? (The answer is yes.)  What kind of peanut butter do you like at your house?

Should I Eat Organic Food? (part one)

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Whenever I have mentioned that our family eats mostly organic foods, many of you have asked:  Is it worth it to pay extra money for organic food? Is eating organic food really that important? Is non-organic food really so bad for you? And really…isn’t this whole “organic eating thing” just kind of trendy and gimmicky?

After much research and thought, my answers to those questions are:  Sometimes, Sometimes, Sometimes and Sort Of But Not Necessarily.

Okay, so did that clear up any confusion? Good. Now what questions would you like me to answer?

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Just kidding. I’ll elaborate. I’m definitely not an organic food expert, but our family has been trying to eat a whole foods and mostly organic diet for about six years now, and I really wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t feel like it was important. We also don’t have unlimited funds in our budget, so don’t assume we eat organic, whole foods because we’re rolling in dough. (Unless you’re talking about bread dough, because then occasionally I’m rolling in it.)

The fact that eating organic food is “trendy” in some areas was big news to me. Where I live, eating organic food is not very popular and pretty much not the norm. Therefore, my very uneducated and inexperienced opinion on why many see organic eating as a trend is that not everyone who buys and eats organic food “gets it”. They might just see it as “the thing to do” and feel  like if the package says “natural” or “organic” is must be better for you.

I personally am not an advocate of eating organic, whole foods (or doing anything for that matter) simply because “everyone else is doing it”. What a silly reason for me to go out of my way to find healthy foods. I try to feed my family organic, whole foods because my extensive research tells me that this is best. For the record, there are many foods with an organic label that I do not recommend. (I’ll elaborate on that soon.)

When I mentioned in this post that I wasn’t sure I felt that eating a non-organic apple was better than eating no apples at all…I really am not convinced that it is as a general rule. Some suggested that they’d rather feed their kids a non-organic apple than a bag of chips. Well sure. But I wasn’t comparing apples to chips. I was suggesting that maybe I should skip the non-organic apple and just stick with in-season organic produce instead. I have my reasons. I’ll talk about them in the next few posts in this series.

And then there’s milk and meat and grains. Those subjects deserve to be talked about a little bit too.

Thus begins a little series inside a series. (Did this just get complicated?)  I’ve been working slowly but surely through this Simple Steps Toward Healthy Eating series, and now within that series, I’ll be writing a few posts entitled, “Should I Eat Organic Food?”

See? It’s a series inside a series.   While you wait for these posts, I’d appreciate it if you go back and read some of my other series, which means that this is a series inside of a series inside of a series.

By the way, did you know that the plural form of the word series is series? I find that funny. Not laugh-out-loud funny, but the kind of funny that makes a person shrug and say, “Huh, how ’bout that?”.

Yeah, okay, it’s really not that funny.

Anyway, you may want to read the following series:  Feeding the Family, particularly these posts:

You should also read this series:  Our Healthy Eating Journey so that you know where I’m coming from.

Also, you need to be reminded that with all of my talk about healthy eating, sometimes our family throws out all the great organic, whole foods ideas and buys frozen pizza rolls with all the no-no ingredients in them. It’s called a compromise and I don’t freak out about it. (Nor, ultimately, do I freak out about the occasional non-organic apple, but again, I’ll get back to that within this series.)

Stay tuned for the following topics within this series of series:

  • What  does organic even mean anyway?
  • Which foods should I focus on for eating organic?
  • What if I can’t afford organic food or have any resources close by?

I’ll be posting the next post in this “organic food series” next Sunday night. Until then, I’ll leave you with this question:  Do you eat mostly organic food, some organic food, no organic food?

Also, the particular word series that I printed in green above, is it singular or plural? Yeah, see? Very tricky. And a little bit funny. But not really.

Five Simple Ways to Live a Natural Lifestyle

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What does it look like to live a “Natural Lifestyle”?

There are all kinds of different definitions for the word “natural”.   Many foods are labeled “natural” in an attempt to appeal to the conscientious consumer. Corn growers pay for advertisements that say that High Fructose Corn Syrup is “natural”. Well, sure it is…in a loose sense of the word I suppose, but that doesn’t make it good for us. Shucks…arsenic is natural.

My own definition of living a “Natural Lifestyle” I suppose would be “getting back to the basics”. Whether we’re talking about food, family choices, in general taking care of ourselves…doesn’t it just sound refreshing to “get back to the basics”?

Here are five simple ways I’d like to suggest to live a more Natural Lifestyle:

1. Eat Real Food

Yes, you’re so surprised I listed this one aren’t you? Real food is best. Food in it’s natural form. Food that isn’t processed. Food that tastes so stinkin’ good you don’t know what to do with yourself!!! It’s amazing what food without chemicals tastes like!

Need a little help getting started? Here are some links to past series I’ve written about how I feed my family and about why I feel real food is best:

2. Drink Water

I already wrote about how you should drink more water and told you about some healthy alternatives to soda and other not-so-good-for-you beverages. But really…one of the simplest (and cheapest!) ways for you to adopt a more natural lifestyle is to stop filling your body with icky beverages and just drink water.

3.  Exercise

Yeah, and this advice is coming from me…the girl who doesn’t really like to exercise. Guess what though?! My husband and I have made it a point to exercise together three days a week for the past few weeks and I’m actually starting to like it! I’ve heard people say that once you start exercising regularly, you begin to crave it. I never believed them. Until now.

It’s really not as hard as you think, but exercising is just like anything else you need to be doing…YOU ACTUALLY HAVE TO DO IT. I know, profound. The main idea is this:  Do what you can to not be sedentary.

A side benefit of exercising:  You’ll crave more water and more real foods. Yeah, somehow having a candy bar and soda after exercising feels a little silly. Water and fruit sounds much better.

4. Stay Home More

This may seem like a weird item for our Natural Lifestyle list…but it doesn’t get much simpler or more natural than this. Stay home more. You’ll save money, your vehicles will last longer…and joy of joys…you may not be so worn out all the time! I find that when I’m running from here to there and back again…I am completely exhausted AND behind on all the work I need to do at home. We don’t need THAT much outside “stuff”. When you’re home more…you’ll find you’ll be more rested and more relaxed…naturally.

5. Waste Less

The more natural your lifestyle, the less waste you’ll have. If you make your food from scratch, you’ll have a lot less packaging trash. If you serve smaller portions and make it a point to eat leftovers, you’ll throw away less food. If you don’t buy stuff you don’t need, you’ll waste a LOT less money. If you use cloth napkins and let your kids draw on used scratch paper, you’ll save a lot of trees. None of these things are hard. You just have to be a bit more intentional.

And then of course there are all kinds of other things I’d recommend as you work your way to a more Natural Lifestyle, like planting a garden, buying locally grown produce and other foods, getting good sleep and eating lots of chocolate.

Just kidding. Chocolate may be natural, but eating lots of it would be “The Simplest way to Gain Five Pounds”. That‘s another post for another day.

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Be sure to take the time to read these “Five Simple Ways” posts too! A big thanks to Toni at Happy Housewife for organizing this series!

Carrie from Springs Bargains: Simple Ways to Make Money From Your Blog
Jen from Balancing Beauty and Bedlam: 5 Simple Ways to Dress Fabulously for Less
Myra from The Casabella Project: 5 Simple Ways to Decorate on a Dime
Melissa from A Familiar Path: 5 Simple Ways to Take Better Photos
Jenny from Southern Savers: 5 Simple Ways to Start Using Coupons
Lynn from Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures: 5 Simple Ways to Save Time in the Kitchen
Toni from The Happy Housewife: 5 Simple Ways to Save Money in 2011
Laura from I’m an Organizing Junkie 5 Simple Ways to Organize Your Home

Unclog a Drain Naturally Without Bleach or Drano

I’ve mentioned before that our house has a lot of character. (I have to say it that way just in case my house is listening and so that it won’t get its feelings hurt.)

Our house is over a hundred years old, and while we love our house and feel completely blessed to live in such a nice, large house…it does have some crazy weird issues.  (Sounds like the lady of the house too, doesn’t it? Crazy weird issues indeed.)

One of the biggest issues in our house involves the plumbing. You don’t want to know the details, but let’s just say… No. Let’s not. You don’t want to know the details.

What I will tell you is that keeping our sinks and bathtubs draining nicely feels next to impossible. And as you know, we’d like to keep our house free from harmful chemicals like bleach and drano.

A good friend of ours was over recently and told us a nice tip for unclogging the bathtubs and sinks naturally using the ever wonderful baking soda and vinegar.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Take out your sink or bathtub stopper.
  2. Use an wet washrag to clean out around the drain hole.
  3. Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drain.
  4. Pour 1 cup white distilled vinegar down the drain.
  5. Stop the volcano from bubbling up out of the drain by placing a wash rag over the drain hole. You want the action to take place down where stuff is clogged, not all over your bathtub or sink.
  6. After thirty minutes, pour a big pot of boiling water down the drain.

And there you go.

I love that we can work on our drain issues using natural ingredients…thus avoiding an asthma attack and whatever other icky things we’re avoiding when we skip using bleach and other harmful chemicals in our home. And, as a side benefit…this method saves a lot of money. Do you know how expensive drano is?!

What other great uses have you found for baking soda and vinegar?

I wonder if they would help with the… Oh wait. We weren’t going to talk about that.

Our Healthy Eating Journey, Part 7

healthyeatingjourney

If you missed them, please catch up on
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and Part 6.

I wish I could tell all of you about the “magic bullet” that cured Malachi of his eczema. There really is no such thing and it’s been a huge struggle for us throughout this journey. I’ll tell you more about some of the things we’ve tried and what’s (mostly) worked tomorrow in a separate post, but I WILL tell you here and now that we have NO REGRETS that we pulled him off the steroids and cortisone creams. Especially now that we’re on the better end of his eczema battle, we can testify that you do NOT have to resort to drugs to help your child’s eczema…no matter how severe a case it is. 

Even though we were just at the beginning of our healthy eating journey, we had learned enough about food, drugs and overall health to know that eczema is NOT a skin issue. Skin is an organ. When something is going wrong inside our bodies, toxins have to go somewhere. In Malachi’s case…they appeared to be “coming out” through his skin. (This was explained to us both by our chiropractor and by another homeopathic doctor that we took Malachi to.)  If we were to just treat the rash as a skin condition, those toxins inside of him would be suppressed in his little body…and then what? It was making him miserable, but at least his body was trying to rid itself of toxins. 

Ultimately, this meant that there was no quick fix for Malachi. We were going to have to get to the root of his problem and figure out what was going on inside of him before the rash would go away. It was going to be a process.

We faced incredible opposition to our choices and took all kinds of criticism because “we were allowing our child to suffer” by not giving him the drugs. People couldn’t believe we weren’t “giving him anything for that awful rash”. From doctors to strangers, we felt like we were being looked down upon for “letting” our child look and feel like he did. 

It was a very painful time. I wanted to scream at people, “Do you think we LIKE watching our baby suffer? Do you think we don’t KNOW how bad he feels? Do you think we’re just IGNORING his pain? We’re NOT!!!!! We are SO not!! We hate this!!!! We HATE it! Don’t make this worse for us!!!!!!!!!!!!”

I know people didn’t mean to make it worse…I was just weary.

And so, we began learning about food and nourishment. We began learning more about how our bodies work. We began learning more about toxic cleaners and detergents. 

And we began changing almost everything about how we ate, cleaned, stored our food, cooked our food. So many changes.  Because of Malachi, we felt quite an urgency to make a lot of changes all at once, but wow was that very overwhelming! 

I’ll write a separate post tomorrow to explain several of the ideas that have helped Malachi because if you have a little one suffering from eczema…you don’t want to wait on me to get through with this series to hear about it!

But this post is already getting long and I have yet to tell you about my hospital stay because of asthma complications and how much I learned about myself and about true health and oh yeah…many of you are waiting to hear about how I finally gave up drinking Pepsi…

 More Coming Soon…

A Bunch of Azure Standard Stuff

I wanted to give you fair warning. I’m going to be writing a few posts soon explaining the benefits and great aspects of ordering food from Azure Standard.

This information won’t apply to many of you. If Azure Standard doesn’t deliver to your area (and I’ll be listing those areas soon), feel free to nod, smile and click over to a post that means a little more to you and helps you in some way. (Like my Chocolate Chip Brownie recipe, which means a LOT to everyone I’m sure.)

But if Azure Standard DOES deliver to your area, I’m hoping to encourage more of you to take advantage of Azure Standard’s wonderful services if you can. I’ll be posting sales and special features as often as I’m able. Maybe weekly (if they have anything cool in their bargain bin), or just monthly as they update their produce and sales.

Azure Standard isn’t paying me to say all of this (although if they want to, I’d be okay with that). I just LOVE Azure Standard and want to spread the wholesome food love.