April 28, 2016

Save Money, Help the Environment and Improve Your Health, Vol. 1: In the Kitchen

The Go Family's ongoing journey toward health has had myriad positive side effects. One of which has been the mind-blowing expansion of my at-home cooking knowledge. Another has been saving a boatload of money by doing said at-home cooking.

Did you know you're allowed to make your own condiments? It's true! And it's not even hard.

The following are all so stupid easy to make that even seeing the prices on them in the grocery store makes me pull a lemon face. In no particular order, here are some of the staples in our kitchen that are not only free of hidden additives, but save you money, help the environment by creating less waste and make you sound really cool by going full-on DIY:

1. Salad Dressing

Look at the ingredients list on the back of the salad dressings at the grocery store. I dare you to find one without added sugar. Ok, there's probably one or two for $6/bottle, but why waste your money and then have garbage to throw away at the end when you can make your own in the old pickle jar you have sitting on the top shelf of your pantry?

Here are some easy, yummy vinaigrette recipes for literally a fraction of the cost of store-bought. We've been on a Ranch Dressing Bender that has the added bonus of being high in fat (see #4 below). Extra credit for growing your own dill on your windowsill.

basil, dill and cilantro

2. Salsa

Canned salsa has a different taste than fresh, but I'm not at the canning stage yet and fresh is so easy to make and tastes so good that I see no reason to stray. 

I use this recipe but in a batch with 3 tomatoes instead of 6. Throw your ingredients in a food processor and that's literally all there is to it.

Compare $2 per fresh, delicious batch (roughly 16 oz) with the price of jarred salsa at your grocery store, and then start questioning all of the purchases in your cart.

3. Almond Butter

Prepackaged almond butters at the store are so expensive it hurts my eyes to look at. Our Whole Foods does fresh-grind for $8.99/lb, but you can get $6.88/lb raw almonds on Amazon Prime Subscribe & Save (or $8.08/lb for a one-time purchase). (I could do a whole post on the virtues of Amazon Prime but I'll condense it down to say on S&S you get 20% off the things you buy on a monthly basis.)

Toast the almonds for 10 minutes at 350 and then food process the hell out of them. Honestly just let it go for like 10 minutes, scraping down the sides intermittently, until the oils release and you get creamy dreamy almond butter of a consistency to your liking.

If you want a step by step, Google 'easy almond butter' or just go here.

4. Mayonnaise

The mayonnaises are suspiciously never refrigerated in the store so I had no idea the ingredients include raw egg. But lo, combine an egg with light olive (or sesame) oil and you get delicious, additive-free mayo! 

I use a combination of this recipe and this recipe from my bro, Sarah Fragoso. Mustard and cayenne in your mayo is most excellent and highly recommended. Use an immersion blender for maximum impact and minimal time investment. 

Use your homemade mayo and windowsill herbs in your ranch dressing to impress your dinner guests.

A Note About Supplies

The only thing you might not already have to make most of these is a food processor. We bought this Cuisinart in 2011 and still use it on the reg. (Side note: make your own smoothies in this bad boy. Half a frozen banana, a couple frozen strawberries and some milk. Throw a spinach leaf in there for the baby, she'll never even know. DO NOT go to Jamba Juice for this shit or I will disown you.)

This Cuisinart immersion blender is also pretty rad. It's almost worth it just for the mayo alone, but I've used it to make mashed potatoes and other creams as well.

Honorable Mentions:

5. Pizza/Pasta Sauce

While not a staple, I make it once every couple months or so and it's so crazy easy I can't even walk down the sauce aisle anymore without having a fit.

Don't pay upwards of $3/jar (for comparable quality) when you can get a can of tomato sauce and tomato paste, throw it together with an onion and some spices for less money, and not have to deal with another glass jar floating around in your pantry.

I use Sarah's recipe from this book that I use allllll the time, but you can Google 'paleo pasta sauce' and get some ideas.

6. Gluten-Free Bread

While not a condiment, Babs loves a good ole Almond Butter and Jelly sandwich, and you can't make those without bread. You can get fancy with it, just like you can with anything, but the Gluten-Free (Paleo) bread recipes I use have about 5 ingredients. They usually require a lot of eggs and mine never seem to rise to a traditional bread shape; they're more like biscotti. But it's mainly a vehicle for almond butter anyway so it doesn't matter.

it's so flat. maybe my bread pan is too big??

This one was Babs' favorite for a few weeks, until she moved on to the 'nothing but smoothies and pie' phase we're currently on.

7. Sauerkraut

There's not huge cost savings here, since you can get a can of Kraut for .79 and a head of cabbage for .69, roughly. But Mr. Go claims to like homemade better, so I do my best not to get cuts on my fingers before I make a batch. Learn How to Make Homemade Sauerkraut in a Mason jar here.

The Extra Bonus: When you make these things yourself, you not only save your hard-earned money for better things like retirement, you also have a reason to reuse your old mason jars instead of paying for packaging and then throwing that packaging away.

Live Green and Save Green. 

April 21, 2016

Why I Want my Daughter to be Like Me

Please don't misunderstand my last post; I'm awesome. Self-love and confidence are very important. There are way more ways I want my daughter to be like me than not. I do my best to really play up my good qualities for her, since she is a little sponge and soaks up absolutely everything I do and say.

a happy little sponge
1. Kindness (Generosity/Empathy/Selflessness)

These are all connected; one runs into the other in a cycle of goodwill and harmony. You see someone in need, you understand how you would feel in their position, you help them.

I get a thrill when I help someone. The other day a guy dropped some money on the ground and I helped him catch it as the wind blew it around. He was so appreciative; it made my day. I want my daughter to know this feeling; the most harmless (indeed, beneficial) high there is.

2. The Power of Choice

When I get crabby and Mr. Go asks, "What's wrong?" My response more often these days (rather than "you did x, y and z!") is, "I just need to get over it." We can't possibly control all situations or, heaven forbid, other people. What we can control are our reactions and our emotions.

Really, that's the biggest win of all. Someone acts like a jerk? They must've had a bad morning, or they're lacking the inner light you possess. The winds of life blow them around like a cloud. Poor them, it must be so exhausting. Take a moment to pity them, then carry on with your day; you are a mountain, steady and strong, Master of Your Own Emotions.

3. Adventurousness

This is a relatively new quality of mine that could use some more cultivating, but it's growing all the time. Going to a restaurant by myself, joining Meetup groups, talking to People: even tame things like these can make me uncomfortable, but I get such joy out of it at the end that it's worth it. And the more you do something, the easier it gets. I want this to always be a part of my daughter's life, so she doesn't have to struggle to learn it later, like her mom.

Explore, Babs, the world is your clam, or some other type of shellfish.

4. Chill

As high strung as I am about some things, I'm a pretty laid-back person in general. I go with the flow, I'm usually up for most of the adventures Mr. Go proposes and it's pretty hard to offend me. Life is easier and more enjoyable if you're not digging your heels in, riding the brakes and trying to make everything to go your way.

This has the bonus side effect of Self-Love and Confidence: Ever notice how much easier it is to be happy with yourself when you stop caring what other people think of you? When the only standard you have to live up to is your own? I used to only get there when I was too exhausted to overthink; now I'm a frequent visitor to this state of mind, if not a permanent resident.

Really, I could go on and on about my admirable qualities, but it's starting to get a little self-congratulatory.

Point is, if you want your children to grow up to be generous, contributing members of society, it starts with you. They want to be like you, for better or worse; use a big spoon like mommy, swipe at a cell phone like mommy.

And if they're going to parrot you anyway, you might as well give them something good to imitate.

April 17, 2016

Why I Don't Want My Daughter to be Like Me

As parents, our job is to make as many mistakes as possible, so we can learn from them and pass that knowledge on to our offspring.

We want the best for our kids, and sometimes that means knowing what in ourselves we don't want them to be.

When I can, I try to ask myself this question before taking an action: Would I want my daughter doing this? Kids learn by example. You can tell them "do as I say not as I do" until you're blue in the face but they're clever. If mom can do it, why can't I?

In the 2 years since Babs has come to be, I've identified several more traits than I thought I'd be able to that I don't want her exhibiting.

1. Woefully Inadequate Anger Management

Note to self: next time I want to slap some sense into Mr. Go, take a breath and ask: would I want my daughter feeling and acting this way?

2. Oblivious Accidental Selfishness

Stay present in each moment, Babs. Whatever's got you wrapped up in your head isn't as important as the here and the who in the now.

3. Serious Face

Not only do I have a literal Serious Face that shows up when I'm lost in my head-- squinting, brows down, lips tight-- I take myself way too seriously. You only live once; it'll be loads more fun if you can laugh at yourself and your mistakes. Because there will be a lot of them.

4. Get Out Of Your Basket

When something is new and different, historically I haven't been terribly open to it. I'm a recovering Excusahol. Life will be richer and more exciting if you take chances, have experiences and get out of that safe, comfortable basket.

It's easier to give this advice than to live it, but if there's anyone I could do it for, it's my daughter. Yeah, you should want to better yourself for yourself, but sometimes that's not enough. And I've found that having a kid is the strongest motivator there is.

You've gotta start somewhere, and there's no better time than the present.

April 1, 2016

Babs Turns 2

Throwing a toddler birthday party doesn't have to be a wild affair. I know, you only turn 2 once, and she gets SO excited by NEW things.

But on the other hand, a $1 package of balloons and a visit from Gamma is all this girl would've needed to have had the best day of her life so far.

So maybe we overdid it a little.

Someday we'll learn. You don't need a gigantic pile of birthday presents wrapped in wasteful (albeit festive) Disney Princess paper to have a good time. Alas, today was not that day.

But it sure was FUN! (Probably just as much, if not more, fun for us to watch her as for her to open gifts and play.)

Gamma and Gampa, Babs' former Nanny and her Fiancee and two honorary Uncles were there to celebrate 2 years of sleepless terror joyful life. We had snacks, visited, watched Babs open presents and then play with them. I FaceTimed in my folks (who had to miss the event due to my mom's cracked tibia). We sang Happy Birthday (now Babs' favorite song) and Mom helped her blow out her 2 candles.

These Paleo Cupcakes were DE-licious. I added literally one drop of red food coloring to the frosting (ivory from the coconut sugar) and it turned out a pretty dusty pink. I was pleased. Mr. Go and I were still easing out of our Ketogenic diet cycle, so it was the best thing I had ever tasted in my whole life ever.

We'd created an Amazon wish list for the Grandparents so we could carefully curate Babs' toy stock. It didn't help much. My mom loves wrapping lots of tiny things, so we still got clothes and such. Which is fine, since Christmas taught Babs the joy of tearing off paper to reveal something new.

Here are the items that were on our wish list:

Rad Batman Quad
Swing (or as Babs calls it, Pinger. Why? No fricken clue, but I laugh every time.)
Corduroy Bear

Those specific bubbles were not purchased for us, but I wanted them SO bad, and let me tell you why. The library uses them at the end of every story time and the bubbles hang in the air FOREVER. A+ bubbles are hard to find.

Pinger, mama. Pinger.
A good time was had by all, especially my girl. The day was a thorough and wild success, and I'm already looking forward to the next one, while at the same time hoping it never comes.

Stay little, my sweet girl. But also grow up so you can wipe your own ass, 'cause that one's getting a bit tired.