22 October 2010

Giveaway: Green Pasture FCLO

Just a head's up to a great giveaway. Green Pasture's has products I've been looking into getting for a while now and I just haven't had the extra money to do so. But they're giving away 20 bottles of FCLO so enter below:

21 October 2010

Warm Bread Pudding w/ Bourbon Sauce

So my sister and I were over at her house earlier this week making pear cider (I'll post pictures and info on that process when we've tasted the final product) and I happened to have brought the items to make bread pudding. My sister hates bread pudding. I hate bread pudding. However, we both went to Flag Fork Farm's Garden Cafe a while back and they had warm bread pudding with bourbon sauce for dessert. I fell in love with this stuff! So this is bread pudding for bread pudding-haters. I deconstructed the recipe for the pudding and sauce. When I asked, they said they used Jim Beam. My sister wrinkled her nose and I laughed when they said that because she had been talking about how Jim Beam is rotgut. Cass happened to have Maker's Mark (she lives ON the Bourbon Trail and I live close to it) so that is what we used.

I tried to think of a way to make this more nutritious, but then I gave up and realized that sometimes it's okay to have a little BPA, sugar, and alcohol. ;)


3 brioche rolls or equivalent amount of french bread, shredded into quarter-sized pieces
4 eggs
½ cup of sugar (heaping)
2 tsp vanilla
12 oz can evaporated milk
1 cup water

Blend eggs, sugar, vanilla, milk, and water together until fully combined. Put in a blender if necessary. Put the bread pieces in a casserole dish. Pour the custard over the bread, making sure the custard covers it all.  Push down on the bread with hands to make sure all the bread is soaked in custard. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Serve warm. You can also make this ahead and reheat before serving. Add nutmeg if desired, but the bourbon sauce comes through better without it.

Bourbon Sauce:

1 stick salted butter
1/3 - 1/2 cup sugar (to your taste)
2 tsp vanilla
1/8-1/4 cup or several good splashes of bourbon

Put the whole stick of butter in the pan. Pour the sugar and vanilla on top and crank it up to high. Let sugar and butter liquefy and start to boil. Slowly drizzle in bourbon, as much as desired. Cook and stir till slightly thickened, where it coats the back of the spoon. I usually add a small splash after that just to make sure there is still some alcohol in it. Stir it well and serve over the pudding. Enjoy!

07 October 2010

Snap Scouts

Okay so I came across this by accident. At first I thought it was a joke and I laughed. Then I looked into this and realized it's not a joke at all. Snap Scouts . . . sounds pretty innocent, right? Take a look at the picture below.

According to the website: "Want to earn tons of cool badges and prizes while competing with your friends to see who can be the best American? Download the SnapScouts app for your Android phone (iPhone app coming soon) and get started patrolling your neighborhood. It's up to you to keep America safe! If you see something suspicious, Snap it! If you see someone who doesn't belong, Snap it! Not sure if someone or something is suspicious? Snap it anyway! Play with your friends and family to see who can get the best prizes. Join the SnapScouts today!"

Hello Hitler Youth anyone? How dare someone think that it's okay to use our children in this way! And you know, they will likely use them most against us. Take my family for example. We homeschool. Many people consider that to be sort of weird and some people even think of it as abusive (yes, we're denying our children the right to have their heads flushed by jocks and to have inappropriate relations with other 9 year olds between classes). I'm sure that this system could possibly catch a crime, but how often will that happen? According to the website, 600 crimes have been reported already in 3 countries. How much more often will they 'catch' innocent people and send their pictures to be profiled for later use?

Snap Scouts asks their participants to: 'Once you've found something suspicious or caught someone in the act, you can tag it to report what type of crime it or just to let us know it "Looks Suspicious". After you've tagged it, you can enter the name and address of the people in the photo, too. The photo gets submitted to our super secret servers, where a team of trained security professionals reviews every image for possible illegal activity.'

Are you frightened yet? As my husband put it, 'it's like 1984 with a cartoon finish'. And just remember that 'SnapScouts was designed and developed for children to use, before they form stereotypes of other people. They're the perfect reporters, unbiased and unprejudiced by media concepts'. So that means that we should absolutely raise our children to spy on their neighbors because they are such perfect reporters! If this disgusts you, give me a 'heck yeah!'

Mrs. Yoder

05 October 2010

Review: Time4Learning

Okay, so here is my promised Time4Learning review.

Pros: I have to say that my daughter absolutely loved this program. It was a lot of fun for her with the games and activities. It has several areas for preschoolers such as colors, shapes, numbers but also other things like 'at the farm' where she got to do learning games based on farm items.

It also showed her HOW to use the computer, such as the mouse and keyboard, and it asked her if she wanted to proceed in ways she could understand such as using a green nodding smiley face for yes and a red frowning face for no.

Time4Learning did help my daughter with her numbers, shapes, and colors. It is remarkable how well she now knows her colors, and it helped to reinforce her number skills so she can count to 15 without skipping any numbers now. She especially enjoyed the paint program where she could actually mix secondary and tertiary colors. Time4Learning kept her attention for hours at a time and gave me the opportunity to work with my son on his schoolwork or to actually get some housework done.

Cons: My son wasn't too keen on the program. He only logged in once to try it. My son is older, 9, so maybe it's better for younger kids.

We had a lot of technical difficulties trying to get the program online and actually working. I had to jump through several hoops on my browser, but Time4Learning gave me step-by-step instructions online and I didn't have to call anyone to get the issue fixed so that made me very happy.

I also think that the program should have rewarded my daughter with a virtual blue ribbon only if she actually did a good job instead of when she also did poorly. It could have encouraged her to try again for the blue ribbon and made the blue ribbon a real badge of merit instead of something given no matter what. This is one of the reasons we've decided not to do Upward Basketball again this year with my son because they give prizes to everyone, no matter what, and I heartily disagree with that mentality.

As it stands, though, it's a small thing and could easily be overlooked provided you discuss the values of true merit with your children, or even set up a special rewards program just for them to use so they can understand your values.

My main problem with this company has stemmed from the fact that they seem to be a little dodgy in their wording. Since I was part of their review program and had a 30 day free trial, I received an email that said the following: As a thank you for posting your review, we want to offer you an additional free month if you decide to continue your membership.  After your review has been posted, simply log into your parent administration page and select “Convert Membership into an Automated Monthly Billing”. You will receive your second month with Time4Learning absolutely free.

So I went online and signed in to reactivate my membership and ran into an error. It said that my card was declined. I checked my bank and everything was fine. I assumed that they were going to authorize for a dollar and then drop the charge until next month when the full amount would go through. When I called, I was advised (just before she ran the card) that she was going to charge me the full price for this month. When I told her I was supposed to have my second month free, she told me that I had to pay for a month before I received one for free with the review program. When I looked back at the email, I saw that it could be taken to mean that, but it isn't what it actually said. If I hadn't run into an error online, my card would have been charged $35 when I wasn't expecting it because the page said $0.00 to be charged.

I've therefore decided that Time4Learning really isn't for our family, but maybe it will be for yours.  If there is information here that has not yet made itself known to me, I will surely post it here.

Mrs. Yoder

02 October 2010

Pickles! Pickles! Glorious, Crunchy Pickles!

Hey did you know I was going to talk about pickles today? It was a surprise to me, too, but someone requested that I post my raw pack bread and butter pickle recipe, so I am. And I'm posting other ones, too. Hope you guys like them! BTW, I usually buy my raw apple cider vinegar by the gallon because it is cheaper and I use a lot during pickle season.

I purchase Spectrum organic from the expensive co-op down the street and pay only $14. But I couldn't find Spectrum's gallons online. I did find Bragg's and they make good vinegar, too even if I don't trust some of their other products.

For salt, we use pink salt. I purchased a 25 pound bag of Himalayan salt from San Francisco Bath Salt Company earlier this year when they had a sale. If you keep an eye on their website and pounce, you'll find great deals. I managed to get a 25 pound bag of good quality salt for $40, no shipping! And they're having a sale right this minute in fact! No, I don't make any money off of this, but it is a fabulous deal. Everything is food grade quality.

Gabrielle's Often Requested B&B Pickles

5 pounds of pickles (that would be small, warty pickling cucumbers) cut into dimes, thin or thick
2 large yellow onions, cut in half and thinly sliced into half-moons
6 TB good quality salt

Sugar to taste (here it gets tricky because it takes a lot of sugar to preserve these, but I can usually get away with 3 cups of organic cane sugar for the whole thing, or 2 cups cane sugar and a few drops of stevia, but I recommend just using good quality sugar for better taste. You aren't drinking the pickle juice!)
3 cups raw apple cider vinegar
1 cup filtered water
2 TB black mustard seeds

Spice Mix

2 tsp celery seeds
2 TB turmeric, or more if you want
2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp good quality curry powder (Frontier is great!)
1/2 tsp cayenne (if you want to, not necessary)

First things first, mix the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar together. So everything dissolves properly, I suggest using 1 cup boiling water in with the sugar and salt. When it all cools to room temperature, then add the vinegar. Otherwise, you kill all of the good stuff in the vinegar. You'll want to taste it at this point. It should be strongly vinegar tasting, very salty, but slightly more sweet than salty. Think to yourself, does this taste sweet enough for me? B&B pickles are sweet, and if you don't have the mix right, then they taste otherwise. Add your spice mix in about 1/3 at a time. People have different tastes, but you want this to be a bit spicier than you'd be comfortable with because you'll otherwise have bland pickles. So take the time here to test it, even if you've made them a million times before, and keep tasting that 'pickle broth' until it tastes just right. Also remember that it has to be stronger than the taste of a pickle because the pickles will only soak up so much of the taste from the brine.

I recommend mason jars, but you can use another type of glass container if you want to put your pickles in. Layer the pickles, onions, and mustard seeds. Shake the jars to get them to lay flat. We like the pickled onion bits around here as much as the pickles themselves so we probably use 1 onion per jar. You can use less, but use a little bit or they won't taste right. Then pour your brine over the top. I usually wind up going back to make a little more brine for these guys because it never seems to be the right amount. You can do just the vinegar, water, salt, sugar mix to top up the jars as long as they are at least 3/4 full.

Put your lids on and shake them all up. Make sure the jars are wiped clean of water or your husband will be wondering why you're throwing pickles on the walls (or at him). So shake really well and then put in the back of your fridge. The hard part is to leave these guys alone for a week. They taste better AFTER a week, but they're not bad if it's just a week. I often get requests for these pickles. My mother said that she once ate an entire quart jar of them in one sitting without realizing she did it.

The good thing about these is that you can re-use the pickle juice. After the pickles are gone, repack the jars with more pickle pieces and onion and do it again! You can also toss slices of roasted beets in the pickle juice and they make great pickled beets. I use the same recipe for the B&B's as for my pickled beets. If I'm making just beets, though, I usually leave out the turmeric and curry powder. Everything else stays. THEN you can take the leftover pickled beet juice and make pickled eggs with them, etc. It goes on. Very frugal recipe that you can do a lot with.

German-Style Dill Pickles (very similar to Gundelsheims, I think!)

The recipe is originally from Germany and I've fiddled with it a bit, but it's still a bit odd in places due to metric measurement conversions. I've found it has the best sweet-sour dill pickle taste so I had to keep the wonky brine measurements even if I changed the acidity of the vinegar.

6 1/2 pounds of pickles, sliced into spears and kept in salty ice water for several hours
1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped

Bottom of every quart jar:
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp dill seeds
1 tsp cracked black peppercorns
1 tsp tarragon
1 tsp garlic powder
1 clove fresh garlic, chopped roughly
1 bay leaf *
1/4 sliced onion
1 clean oak or grape leaf


4 liters filtered water
2 liters of raw apple cider vinegar (5% acidity)
1.1 pounds of sugar
2 handfuls of salt (I've figured that this is approximately 1 cup)

Note about bay leaves: Whole Foods usually carries fresh bay leaves in their fresh herb section. If they don't, or you don't have a Whole Foods around, try to find the greenest bay leaves you can. They should be heavily aromatic. I keep my fresh leaves in the fridge. They dry out over time, but they last at least 2 years in the fridge without quality loss. If you can only get the dried out brown ones, or they aren't very strong smelling, use 2 instead of one.

Heat your water, salt, and sugar until just dissolved. Add the vinegar when the mix has cooled down a little but is still warm. Taste it now. It should be strong, very salty, slightly sweet. Put your spices in your jar and get add your icy pickle spears to the jars. Stand them upright and cram the little guys in there. Cover the pickles with the brine, leaving 1/4 inch headroom, wipe the jar tops off, and process immediately. I put them in a water bath on boil for about 15 minutes. Out of 7 jars, 2 didn't seal so they went in the fridge. I found this article here to be invaluable with my pickles because I had never been able to figure out how to can them without making them mush.