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Monthly Archives: September 2014

Weekly Lunch Wrap Up #4

Welcome to another week of lunches! If you’ve found 9 years later via Instagram, a special welcome to you! Please check out the archives for lots of posts about our recent diet changes, our garden, and even some posts about our summer vacation (those are taking me way too long to write, but only a few posts left!).

If you’re a regular reader, did you know 9YL has an Instagram account now? Check me out over there – @9yearslater is my user name. I post a lot of food right now, including a collage of the week’s lunches. I will get more eclectic as we settle into our new food routines, I promise!

Anyway, on to the lunches!


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This week started off with Kiddo1 still not feeling well (last week he stayed home sick on Friday). So we took it easy with some light, liquid foods to help him feel better. He had leftover squash and sweet potato soup (in this awesome thermos that keeps the soup hot all day – even the leftovers were still warm when he brought them home) and a small fruit salad.


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Poor kid, still not feeling well. And the soup + fruit salad was just too much food for him to eat on Monday. So we went even lighter with a brothy soup made with ham hock, spinach, sweet potatoes, onions, leeks, garlic, spices, and homemade broth (of course this picture does not show off very many of the yummy ingredients!). I ate this soup for lunch two days straight – I just couldn’t get enough! Kiddo1 was kind of “meh” about both soups. He did (mostly) eat them though!


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Back to some regular foods! Still trying to keep things pretty watery though. Kiddo1 agreed to a salad with leftover ground turkey and cucumber. He also had some cantaloupe and homemade blueberry gummies. Gummies are so easy to make! I should write a post about all the wonderful things one can made with gelatin. So much better for you than that processed and industrialized Jello!


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More salad! And a “non-watery” food too! Kiddo1 was starting to feel just about 100% on Thursday. So he got to have these blue corn chips that he loves so much as a snack in his actual lunch. He was pretty excited! He also had more salad, yes, again with cucumber, plus some carrot sticks, raisins, and applesauce. He didn’t quite finish it all (I guess I got carried away packing everything!) but he said it was good!


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Apparently I was in quite a hurry this week because all my pictures are just a bit blurry! But there’s always next week for improvements! Anyway, today Kiddo1 had leftover chicken!! I understand that usually chicken doesn’t get two exclamation points. But we hadn’t had a whole chicken in at least a month and only some chicken tenders a couple weeks ago, so we were really excited to have a whole chicken for dinner again. We tried out a new farm (because the farm we love actually switched to a GMO-soy-based feed – who does that anymore??) and bought 6 chickens so having the first one turn out so good was so satisfying! And a bit of a relief. We took a gamble getting 6 chickens on the first shot, but I’m so glad we did. They should last us through the end of the year if we’re careful.

But back to the actual lunch! I offered to give Kiddo1 some strips of chicken or other shapes, but he just wanted this big ol’ chunk! It was the only bit of leftovers from the whole chicken that we had! (Besides making broth from the bones, of course! We do that every time we have a whole chicken so we have a nice stock of broth in the freezer.) He also had cucumber, carrots, strawberries, more of his favorite applesauce, and one Enjoy Life chocolate chip cookie.

It was a yummy week!

Vacation Recap, Part 6

After a lovely breakfast at the ranch in Wyoming, we got back on the road again for day 6 of our trip. Our first stop was the lovely town of Jackson.

Before we even got to Jackson, though, we got distracted! We happened to be by the Museum of Wildlife Art. Kiddo1 had seen a flyer for it earlier in the week and seemed pretty excited about it, so when I saw a sign for it on the road I had to stop!

Kiddo1 had a great time checking out all the art. The museum had an awesome sculpture gallery out front with life-size replicas of all sorts of local animals.

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Sculpture time!

Inside, there were several galleries of paintings and sculpture to feast our eyes upon. Baby2 enjoyed running the halls (the perk of visiting a museum on week days!) while Kiddo1 soaked in all the pieces. His favorite was this large painting of a wolf.

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One of the things we were doing on this trip was to try to find all the “World’s Largest” things we could. We already saw the World’s Largest Egg in Winlock, WA and, you could argue, the World’s Largest Superfund Site  in Butte, MT (even though Superfund is a US thing), so we needed to keep the momentum going.

Luckily Jackson did not disappoint, for it holds one of several Riley’s Believe It or Not museums which is a treasure trove of weird and large stuff.

Feast your eyes on these many large things, shown in small images:

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Big things

Clockwise from top right we have: the World’s Largest Bed Pan Collection, the World’s Largest Belt Buckle Collection, the Word’s Largest Cigar, and the World’s Largest Fishing Creel! All totally expected from Ripley’s, no?

What led us to this museum, though, was the main attraction. Presenting… the World’s Largest Ball of Barbed Wire!

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The main attraction should really have better lighting

Now we’ve really seen some cool stuff! Or something like that.

After the museum we needed to get some lunch and we were just about totally out of food. Luckily we found a great place for some burgers! It was called Liberty Burger and it had grass-fed beef burgers and game. It was nice to be able to find something right there in town that we felt good about eating!

We also got to go by the second grocery store that I was super excited to visit, Jackson Whole Grocers. I was glad I did a little reading about it beforehand because it had just moved and Google Maps was not at all updated yet. The new store is big a beautiful! I can’t compare it to their old one, but when we met up with friends later that night they told us it is a big improvement! We found a couple snacks – we didn’t need much since we were on our way to said friends’ place down in Pinedale, WY.

Pinedale is a very small town about an hour South of Jackson. It does have a brewery, though! We were meeting our friends from home who had moved out to Wyoming a couple years ago. We brought them lots of yummy Pacific Northwest beer. They showed us all the beautiful hiking and scenic viewpoints near their home. Kiddo1 floated in the river (I have a picture but it’s stuck in the lost camera memory card!) and Baby2 watched a little kid catch a fish! They don’t have much beer but they do make up for it with scenery! We had dinner at this sweet little place that is along a lake, the only access is a very long gravel road. How they manage to get good food down there is beyond me! Probably via boat on the lake.

While stopped in Pinedale we unloaded the car and cleaned it out so we could reload it again. No matter how well you pack there’s still a need to shift things around now and then! Surprisingly, though, the back of the van was in pretty good shape. We cleared out the bits of trash and dirty clothes but there wasn’t much! We did a couple loads of laundry (one load of clothes and one of diapers) and settled in for the night with friends, recalling our days of living in the same town and talking about how different small town life is for them. Even though it is different, they still super love it! It was nice to see them happy in their new town.

Tomorrow we start the last leg of the trip, making our way home.

Weekly Lunch Wrap Up #3

Here are the lunches we sent to school with Kiddo1 this week!


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From left to right we have a roll-up in romaine leaf with leftover pork and cucumber, small carrot sticks and cucumber disks, regular red watermelon (we miss yellow watermelon!) and a homemade chocolate chip cookie. I was all set to publish my chocolate chip cookie recipe, but then I started on a mission to remove the granulated sugar from it. So it may be a few more weeks.


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Kiddo1 was fairly receptive to the last salad I sent with him, so I thought I could push my luck a little and sent more of a real salad than just white lettuce with cucumber and ham all over it. This time it was more of a “build-your-own” approach with leftover beef and disks of cucumber and carrots. My attempt didn’t work out too well, though, since he came home with most of the food still in the box. But baby steps. Somehow the watermelon and Enjoy Life chocolate cookie disappeared though…


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A little more simple today! Just some ham sticks (shapes are fun), disks of carrots and cucumber again, some dehydrated zucchini chips (he actually did eat one or two, but he says he still doesn’t really like them yet), grapes, and an Enjoy Life snickerdoodle cookie.


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Too bad this picture sucks ’cause I thought this lunch was gooooood. We just couldn’t seem to get away from carrots and cucumbers for lunch this week, but on Thursday I did add a new homemade treat – blueberry gummies made from fresh berries that came in our CSA box. We also have mini kabobs with turkey meatballs and leftover red kuri squash with some BBQ sauce.

We skipped school Friday – Kiddo1 was not feeling well. Mr. Handsome and I ate big salads and Kiddo1 had some fruit. No pictures though! Sick day threw me off! We will strive for better next week!

Vacation Recap, Part 5

Day 5, over halfway done! I feel like I’ve been writing about vacation forever so I hope it is easier to read!

Today was full of more Yellowstone adventures! We made breakfast and cleaned up camp pretty quickly in the morning so that we could make sure to fit in as much site-seeing as possible. It was much cooler for our second campground breakdown than it was for our first one in Yakima! That definitely made the work easier.

We took a clockwise route along the main Yellowstone park road starting at Madison campground. There was so much to see! We stopped as much as time would allow, since we knew it would take at least a few hours to complete the whole loop in the park. Plus it actually took more time than we calculated because, even though they tell drivers over and over to pull over rather than stop in traffic when you see wildlife near the road, people stop anyway! We passed by a large herd of bison which was amazing but slowed us way down! But we stopped to appreciate it anyway.

Another time the traffic slowed way down and there were people pointing at something in the near distance, but we could not figure out what it was! Tons of people were stopping. I kind of wonder if there’s a “mod mentality” thing that goes on there sometimes: people see other people stopped so they stop to see what the other people saw. It it an interesting phenomenon there!

My plan was to show our Yellowstone adventures just in pictures, but would you believe it I can’t find them! We used our phones to take photos almost everywhere on our trip, but since Yellowstone doesn’t have any cell reception (which is both fantastic and frustrating) we took almost all our pictures with our Cannon D40. But somehow I’ve lost the memory card. I’m sure it is around the house somewhere… I hope! When I do find it I will update this post with all the amazing images we saw in the park!

The pictures would have showed a cool sulfur pit. It smelled really bad but it was all smoky and erie. And there was a bison just chillin’ in the middle of it all! Clearly the bison didn’t mind the smell. We saw a bunch of little geysers and hydrothermal features. I liked the places that had boardwalks so that you could get to the main attraction – they had to have boardwalk because the ground is too acidic to walk on! Funny that we saw two very acidic sites (the Berkley Pit and Yellowstone) but both are the way they are for very different reasons!

We could have spent another few days there easily, but we had so much to see elsewhere too! We noted the places that we want to come back to and the places we missed. We hope next time we can spend a couple days in the park and stay at at least two different campgrounds or hotels in the park so we’re not rushing around the loop the whole time.

After the awesome and super large Yellowstone lake came the Tetons, awesome and super as well! We had an excellent view of them both from the road and finally from our hotel for the night which was a charming little ranch about an hour South of Yellowstone. Quite a view! (You can tell we’re out of Yellowstone because we have pictures on our phones!)

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Getting stormy, just after we settled in at the ranch

We didn’t have time to try out any horseback riding or other ranch animal fun while we were there, but we did enjoy the full-service restaurant where we had filets, potatoes, and fresh salads before bed. Finally, a meal we didn’t have to cook in a place that had some non-super-processed foods! Which was great because we were just about out of food at that point!

We met a few fans and alumni of Auburn University while we were at the ranch. Mr. Handsome is a big Auburn fan, always wearing his fan gear everywhere we go, so of course we are bound to run into other Auburn fans here and there. They are always the nicest people to talk to. The conversations usually start with where everyone is from and how we all became Auburn fans. It’s always interesting to hear about the people who are often just as obsessed with Auburn as my husband!

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A lesson after dinner

We hung out in the lodge for a bit after dinner but we were all pretty tired from all the nature! I’ll write all about our more relaxing day 6 next time!

Eliminating Kitchen/Cleaning Paper

Yesterday I wrote all about my very first tie dye experience. I was inspired to tie dye because I really wanted to switch to cloth napkins, but I didn’t want some boring white ones. We have a blue kitchen and I saw some beautiful shibori on Pinterest, so I put all those thoughts together and I got the need to indigo dye some napkins!

This was a pretty cheap project, just $12 or so for the indigo and another $10 for a bundle of cloth napkins. Compare that to spending $5 or more every couple months on a bundle of paper towels and we’ll recoup our cost and start to save money in just a few short months. These cloth napkins should last us a lot longer than that!

We keep four napkins – one for each of us – hung up on hooks in the dining room for easy access. There are 12 napkins so we keep a napkin hung up between meals until it is in need of a washing. That way we aren’t over-washing them but we aren’t letting them get super gross either! I can only handle so much reusing, knowwhatImean?

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Ready for meal time!

So far the system is working out really well. We’ve stopped handing out paper towels before meals and have started tossing the cloth across the table.

It just feels nicer to use cloth. The napkins are bigger, they cover more of my lap while I eat. I feel more… refined? Even though they are hippie fun tie dye! I super highly recommend getting some. Even if they’re not hippie fun tie dye.

We have also changed up our kitchen cleaning routine a bit. I was pretty attached to cleaning wipes. You know the ones – little disposable baby-wipe like clothes that come pre-wet with a cleaning agent. I got the Seventh Generation ones and told myself, it’s cool, you’re being good to the Earth because of the brand. But I knew I was telling myself a fib. Just because they’re a little bit better than the toxic bleach ones doesn’t mean they’re perfect! I sought out a new system.

The thing about wipes is they’re so easy! When mess happens, just open the container and wipe away! Toss in the garbage like no mess ever happened. How could that ease possibly be replicated in something reusable?

Then I found my answer. Mr. Handsome was clearing out his old undershirts – the ones with holes, stains, etc. I had struck cheap cotton gold! After I procrastinated and finished up my “I swear this is the last container” of wipes (like three “last” containers), I triumphantly pulled out those t-shirts from the box I stashed them in and cut them up into squares about the size of those wipes I love. I saved two of the Seventh Generation containers and put my dry cloths in there for easy keeping. Those containers are great because they have a snap lid and they’re easy to carry all over the house.

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T-shirt rags in a jar

The only hurdle left was… how to I get the wet cleaning stuff into my cloth wipes? And just what is that cleaning stuff made of, anyway? I have no idea. And I don’t have time to research what Seventh Generation really uses (because you know they don’t put every ingredient on the packaging). So I went with a great natural, all-purpose cleaner: vinegar. I have a little spray bottle and I use it combine and hold about one part water and one part orange-infused vinegar. Now I spray down the counters, kitchen table, and stove top, wipe it all down with one or two of my rags and put the rags in the wash for next time. I have a ton of rags – they totally fill up my two containers (one for the bathroom and one for the kitchen).

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Infused vinegar: just put orange or lemon peels in a jar, fill with vinegar to cover the peels and wait a couple weeks. Replace the vinegar as you use it to keep it going for a couple months!

I literally have not missed the pre-soaked disposable wipes at all. If there’s a small mess it is no problem to pull out a t-shirt wipe and either use it dry or spray a bit of vinegar – either directly on the mess or on the wipe. If a wipe is super, duper soiled, I have the option of tossing it out because I have so many and a virtually (to me) endless supply of more wipes as my husband clears out his t-shirts every year or so. I never go through the whole container of wipes, no matter how messy things are.

One last thing we’ve done to reduce our paper use is to get some microfiber towels for cleaning. I have always used newspaper to wash my windows. It is the only lint-free way, right? Nope! There’s the magic of microfiber!

I got a set of 36 cloths in three colors. The colors help me organize by use. Here they are all organized and pretty in my linen closet:

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Their organized look makes me happy to open the linen closet!

I need to start using them in the kitchen to do things like polish the stainless steel appliances and faucet, but I haven’t gotten around to that chore yet. So far I’ve just used them on windows and mirrors and they’re fantastic! A bit of lint came off in my first couple uses but now they’re just about lint-free. I can use them on windows and mirrors with just water and they do a great job! For a little deeper clean, though, I use this awesome diy window cleaner I found on Crunchy Betty. See the site for the specific recipe, but it is vinegar, rubbing alcohol, water, and, get this – cornstarch! I thought the cornstarch would be all streaky but it is actually the opposite! My windows and mirrors have NEVER been more clean!

*Update/side note: I’ve learned that microfiber is actually made with polyester and other petrochemicals, so it isn’t very Earth-friendly.  However, they clean with only water (no harsh chemicals) and can be reused for years. Since I already have mine I’m going to use them for as long as I can. By then hopefully there will be something amazing and not crude oil-based.

So… the big question… are the paper towels totally gone?? Well… no. I still can’t get away from using them for some things. Killing an errant ant is at the top of my list at present. It is ant season and we get one or two on the counters some days. Also cleaning the very sticky fingers of the children… I haven’t gotten myself to use the t-shirt wipes on them yet but I totally should! With a little water they are the perfect face wipe – softer than paper towels I imagine. But the biggest reason I keep them around is grease. When we have a bit of bacon grease left in the bottom of a jar, the best way we’ve found to get it out is wiping it out with a paper towel. I don’t think that much grease is good for my washing machine… I have yet to find a full replacement for those dang towels. BUT we are using a less towels, and that’s less waste, less cost, less environmental impact from the production and distribution of the product. So still something to feel good about. We will find a way to eliminate them entirely someday. I’m open to suggestions!

“Shibori” Indigo Tie Dye Fun (Updated to add more photos!)

Can you believe this crazy hippie had never tie dyed something until just recently?! I know, it’s strange. Now that I have done it I want to dye ALL THE THINGS. It’s so much fun and so easy! Just requires the smallest amount of prep.

What I did isn’t technically shibori because that actually involves threading your fabric in some way before dying. I just tied mine up in a bunch of funky shapes. Some ties I found by looking at Pinterest and Google, some I just kind of put together as I went. They all turned out pretty cool, but I definitely have some things I’ll do differently next time.

I ordered an indigo dye kit off Amazon (I’m trying to limit my Amazon purchases for a variety of reasons, but damn they are so convenient).  It makes 4 gallons of dye which they say is enough for 15 shirts, but I dyed 12 cloth napkins, a scarf, a t-shirt and a dress and I STILL have like 3.5 gallons leftover. Now I don’t know what to do with the leftovers… Luckily it is natural, plant-based dye so I guess I can just dump it out? Clearly, more research is needed.

The kit came with just about everything I needed, except the 5-gallon bucket and a stirring stick. I filled up the bucket with 4 gallons of water and tossed in the white powder packets and concentrated indigo. Then it was time to tie up my fabric!

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All tied up and ready to go

Perhaps I will try a true shibori next time and use some thread to bind my fabrics. I was intimidated enough by just getting some folds done! But it’s one of those things that looks kind of difficult but once you do it, it’s fun.

Hot tip #1: I tied up my fabric really tight which ended up giving me a lot of white space in my results. The dye just couldn’t penetrate all the way into the folds, which is good! But next time I think I’ll tie things a little looser so I have more blue.

After everything got all tied up, I soaked the little bundles in water. I used our kiddie pool – it was the perfect size for pre-soaking and rinsing. Plus it’s already blue so now it doesn’t look totally destroyed.

Hot tip #2: Dunk many, many times! I soaked my bundles in the dye for at least 30-60 seconds per “dunking” and repeated that at least once, but I wish I would have dunked some pieces several more times. Especially considering I had so much dye left over! But once you untie you can’t really go back. So that’s something I’ll remember for next time. Still, though, they look super dark all bundled up!

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Dyed and oxidized

When the bundles come out of the dye, they are actually a yellow-green color. The dye needs to oxidize in order to turn blue. It’s fun to see your yellow-green bundles turn to blue before your eyes. I had to make sure to rotate the pieces on my towel a bit so that all the bits of dye would oxidize. Of course this will happen eventually no matter what you do, but I thought it would be good to get all oxidized before I started any rinsing.

The bundles sat in the shade on my towel for 30 minutes or so, then I piled them all in my kiddie pool again and gave them a good rinsing, until the water coming off the bundles was clear. This makes sure that the dye doesn’t bleed onto everything else when washed.

Then I hung my pieces up to dry and walked away for awhile. I love things that include a “set it and forget it” step! Cause I’m super good at forgetting.

Next post I’ll write about WHY I wanted to tie dye in the first place, because I think it’s interesting! I’ll leave you with photos of a few of the napkins and the dress that I dyed…

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A little too much white space on this one, but I like the pattern at the corners!

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From rocks tied with rubber bands

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I don’t know how I got the subway tile pattern, but I think it is my favorite!

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This one was wrapped around a pole and tied with rubber bands

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I tie-dyed a dress! And took a selfie to boot. Yay for trying new things!

Update! A couple more photos I forgot!

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Taken right out of the drawer so it has fresh fold wrinkles!

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Actually, this one might be my favorite!

Updated! Even More Crispy Baked Sweet Potato “Fries” Recipe (GF, V, P, NF, AF)

Updated 9/24/2014: Higher heat and only one rotation makes this recipe a bit lower maintenance and, most importantly, more crunchy! Also updated 10/14/14 with small tweaks of goodness.

Confession time! I have a sweet potato addiction. I ate a whole sweet potato, like a pound’s worth, just today. I’d stop myself, but for ONCE something that tastes so good IS SO RIGHT. These babies are loaded with Vitamin A, Vitamin C, beta-carotene, calcium… all the good stuff. The best part is, they’re pretty easy to make and require minimal ingredients, yet they can be dressed up with more yummy stuff if you want! Awesome. (Of course they are a starchy veggie so try not to eat a whole sweet potato by yourself in one day).

Crispy Baked Sweet Potato Fries (gluten free, vegan, paleo, nightshade free, allergy friendly)

Here’s what you need:
A sweet potato. I used about a quarter of a 1-lb beauty when I made these. Any more and they won’t all fit on the pan (see below).
Cooking oil of choice. I used olive oil but you could go with coconut to maintain vegan or if not, lard or tallow would be amazing (I hope to have results of tallow rendering up soon!)
Salt. I’m a fan of Himalayan pink sea salt.

Here’s what you do:
Step-by-step photos are below, but basically you….
1. Preheat oven to 425
2. Cut potato into strips.
3. Coat with oil.
4. Arrange fries on a baking sheet with space between each potato piece. Sprinkle with salt.
5. Bake for 15 minutes on the top oven rack, then flip potatoes, turn the sheet around, and bake for 10 more minutes or until the fries are browned well but not burnt. (Different color sweet potatoes cook at different rates, so keep watch. I find white sweet potatoes are the fastest, followed by purple and orange take the longest amount of time.)
6. Let fries cool outside the oven for a bit, then arrange on a serving dish.
7. Watch your “fries” disappear!

This recipe yields enough fries for one person (I’m selfish). Just make at least two trays-worth if you’re sharing because they go so fast!

Now for a little more detailed instruction, with photos!

I start by selecting amazing produce. We’re heading deep into sweet potato season right now, so start looking at the farmers markets and local grocery stores for classic orange sweet potatoes, edgy purple ones or, even, the illusive white sweet potato (the latter is to be used to trick your family into thinking they’re eating actual potatoes – muhahahaha). Our market was just full of sweet potatoes last week so I scored a bunch of orange ones. Purple ones would really take these fries to the next level!

After selecting, washing, and drying the perfect sweet potato, preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and get to work on washing the produce. Once they’re washed they can cut. For fries I like to slice them thin, about 1/4″ square by a few inches long, depending on the shape of sweet potato you have. I also enjoy slicing them in cubes sometimes. They’re so versatile! Here you can see my chopped produce for this recipe.

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Don’t eat the penny! It’s just there for scale.

Save yourself the trouble and leave those tasty skins on when you slice them! Just make sure you washed them well before you start chopping.

After slicing, it’s time for some fat to help these beauties taste even yummier and not stick to the pan. I use maybe a tablespoon of olive oil. You could also use coconut oil or, if you’re not vegan, some tallow or lard.

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Just enough oil

Now just toss your produce around in the oil to cover it. CRISP TIP #1: Well-coated fries get crispier than fries that are sparsely coated or not coated with any oil or fat at all.

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Getting yummier

And arrange on a baking sheet. Don’t rush this step! CRISP TIP #2: You want to give each fry some space, otherwise they won’t get crispy.

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Blurry because I’m so excited to eat them!

Second confession! I have an aluminum foil obsession too. I always line my pans with aluminum foil because they’re so much easier to clean. Just toss the foil! But I’m creating a lot of waste that way. Plus I’m not so sure if cooking on all that aluminum is good for us… but the pans themselves are aluminum too! So maybe once I get some better pans (stainless?) I’ll else up on my foil use. UPDATE: I’ve been using wax paper instead of foil lately. The wax paper just gets so smokey, so I wonder if it is any better than the foil…

Now is a good time to salt the fries so that the salt sticks to the oil. It’s okay to salt them after baking, too, but I find more salt ends up on my plate if I wait.

Now the baking part! CRISP TIP #3: My fries tend to get more crispy if I place my baking sheet on the top rack in my oven. I don’t know why, but that’s my oven’s sweet spot.

CRISP TIP #4: Rotate those fries! I bake them for 10-15 minutes, or until I can tell the bottoms are getting browned. Then I take them out and flip them all over. Before I put the sheet back in the oven, I spin it around so that the fries that were in the back of the oven move up to the front. If you’re baking multiple trays, move the bottom one to the top and vise versa. If your fries are of varying sizes, you may want to pull some out of the oven while the others are still baking. It is a delicate balancing act. Once you’ve got everything flipped and rotated, roast again for another 10 minutes or so, or until your fries are sufficiently browned. Browning makes them crispy!

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After roasting on all sides.

Then let them cool a little and put them on a plate.

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Salted and ready for my mouth!

There are variations a-plenty for these too!

Try adding your favorite seasonings! Just chop them fine and add them with the oil to make them really stick.
+ Minced garlic, or garlic aioli, or garlic powder
+ Rosemary
+ Cinnamon (toss with honey for an even sweeter treat!)
+ Balsamic vinegar
+ Thyme
+ Onion powder

For more variations, substitute another veggie for the sweet potato! You can make fries out of almost anything.
+ Yams
+ Squash (the shape of butternut or delicata works out the best for fries)
+ Zucchini
+ Rutabaga
+ Turnips
+ Beets
+ Celery root/celeriac

And speaking of shape, these don’t even have to be fries! They can be cubes or rounds. Slice rounds super thin and you’ll get chips! Just make sure to oil them really well or the chips will burn and stick like crazy to the pan. Experiment with oven times for these other veggies so they don’t burn and get nice and soft in the middle. Now I’m inspired to try variations too!

Enjoy the yummy healthy goodness!

Weekly Lunch Wrap-up

We finished our first week of school! And somehow a nutritious lunch was sent with Kiddo1 every day! Here’s what he ate…


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All the round foods! Sausage (grass-fed beef sausage I found at the local grocery store), disks of cucumber and carrots, strawberries, also sliced in rounds, and, finally, sweet potato “chips” that apparently were cut way too thick and were not too edible at all. We’ll get that one next time I’m sure.

I forgot what all the jokes were this week! I should photograph them with the lunch box or something… They were really funny, I swear.


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I told Kiddo1 I was making him a deconstructed ham roll-up today. Little did he know that really just meant it was a salad. But a salad with almost more toppings than lettuce! He said it was pretty good, yay! Rounding out the meal is an Enjoy Life cookie and yellow watermelon. Yes, the watermelon is yellow! We found it at the farmer’s market over Labor Day weekend. It’s amazing! It stayed non-mushy for like two weeks after we cut it. Tastes like watermelon but better.


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Sorry for the blurry picture. Sometimes I just shoot and run in the mornings! Lunch today is leftover ground turkey and asparagus stir-fry. He loved the turkey but… well I tried with the asparagus but it came back home anyway. In the muffin cups we’ve got cucumber and raisins, and on the right there’s carrot sticks and a broken Enjoy Life cookie.


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Ham roll-ups day! Or should I say, oh-crap-its-8am-and-lunch-isn’t-packed-yet day! We had this beautiful leaf lettuce leftover and it made the best wraps cause the leaves didn’t have stiff spines like romaine. They look pretty too. Of course, rounding out the box is an Enjoy Life cookie and carrots sticks because… well we were late.


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Why not begin and end the week with shape-themed lunches? Instead of circles today we have cubes! Okay well I guess the homemade chocolate chip cookie is a circle (why didn’t I make a couple cubed ones??) but for the rest of the lunch we have some more of that delicious yellow watermelon, ham, cucumbers, of course there are carrots and also some homemade BREAD! Whaaa??? Bread??? Yep, I’ve found a recipe for wheat/gluten-, egg-, dairy-, and nightshade-free bread that is soft and delicious. We’ve been making toast, french toast and even a couple sandwiches with it (and I’ll use it this Thanksgiving for stuffing). I’ll post the recipe later on. Oh and the cookie recipe!

Til next week!


Weekly Lunch Wrap-up & Guide

Waaaay back when I was pregnant, I did a weekly post called Tie Tuesday. It provided motivation for me to take care of myself and feel good about myself by holding myself accountable for getting dressed every day. Because getting dressed every day can be really hard for the pregnant! But forcing myself to not just throw on yoga pants but really try to put something together ended up making me feel really good about myself every day. I digress, but my point is the weekly posting of my outfits was a good motivation to do something I didn’t really want to do but was good for me.

So, I thought I might do the same sort of thing again but with a little twist. This time my dreaded task is lunch-making, but once I have it done I feel so super good that my son has a healthy lunch he can eat at school. I felt so proud the first day I even Instagramed a photo of my son’s lunch! And that’s when Tie Tuesday popped into my head again.

Each week I’ll post a photo and description of my son’s lunches. I hope this provides me with the motivation not only to make the lunch every day (actually, he needs to be making more of them too!) but I hope doing this also motivates me to use variety and new ideas when planning and packing meals out. Oh also! I write out a joke for his lunch every day too, so I’ll include that in the comments because I think they are very funny, even though I did not come up with them myself.

Let’s get to it!


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Okay so this is a short week because school started on the Wednesday after Labor Day. A good week to start with posting! Today we packed roll-ups with leftover pork, red onions, and a bit of BBQ sauce all wrapped up in a couple small leaves of romaine. Also packed: cut strawberries, carrot sticks, applesauce, and the dessert-of-the-week: homemade brownies (wheat-, egg-, dairy-free Bob’s Red Mill mix).

Today’s joke: What’s the king of all school supplies? (The Ruler)


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On Thursday I had fun with my julienne peeler on some carrots and cucumber. To keep with the theme I shredded chicken into strips as well! Coupled with BBQ sauce. Rounding out the left side is another brownie and grapes.

Today’s joke: What’s smarter than a talking bird? (A spelling bee)


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I wasn’t ready for Friday. We must pack lunches at night! So my fall-back lunch is a romaine wrap. It’s like a sandwich, sorta, because you can stuff things in it, but it isn’t bread and it sneaks in a vegetable too (both because of the romaine and I can usually sneak some onion or something in there too, although he is getting wise to that). So today we had chicken, cucumber, and a tiny bit of onion in our romaine wrap, along with more carrot sticks, broccoli, raisins and an Enjoy Life chocolate chip cookie for desert (those egg-free brownies are only tasty for a couple days, plus this cookie is the first “processed” lunch item  so far!).

Today’s joke: What did one mathbook say to the other? (I’ve got problems)

Next week is a full five days! Hopefully I’ll be better about packing lunches the night before by then. And my picture-taking will slowly get better, I hope.

Also! Bonus feature today since it was a short week. I created a sort of map for us to use when we pack lunches. It is a general guide for us to use when we pack so that any of us can attempt to put together a nutritious lunch. I only wrote down the foods that Kiddo1 has a high likelihood of eating, but I’m sure we’ll be adding to the list as the year goes on since we continue to try new foods, sometimes trying the same ones again and again! Anyway, this is what is hanging on our fridge now:

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I think it’s pretty self-explanatory but… each column is basically a food group that is needed for a complete lunch. We start with one protein, then at least one or two veggies, a fruit, and a dessert. Under each column title is a list of suggested foods that Kiddo1 likes. Of course we can put in other foods, these lists are just suggestions.

Below the list of foods for each column is a list of suggestions for serving. For protein you could put it… in a wrap, on a kabob with veggies, in a casserole or salad, etc, etc. Veggies can be cut in strips – thick or julienne/thin like Thursday’s lunch, cut in chunks or rounds for a kabob, dehydrated into chips, all kinds of things.

They all seem like simple suggestions but it’s really nice to have the list while you’re packing so you have a little less to think about. This also helps with my weekly meal planning so I remember to plan for a little extra food here and there so we have lunch ingredients handy. I’ve found it is hard for me to plan specific lunches, just easier to throw them together based on what we have. Perhaps I will change my tune after a couple weeks, I’m not so sure. Luckily I have the choice to change it whenever we all see fit!

Happy lunching, til next week!

Vacation Recap, Part 4

After our good times with friends and good food stores in Montana, we headed out for a full day 4!

Our first stop was the Berkley Pit in Butte, Montana. home of the Evel Knievel festival that we missed by just a week (but one of our friends went and it did look like a good time, although one you would probably want to go sans children). But we did learn all kinds of interesting and weird facts about the Pit: it was a mining pit, one of the richest in the country. It’s very deep, I don’t remember how much, but more memorable facts had to do with the toxicity of the Pit. The water is as acidic as lemon juice, even though it is filled with only fresh rain water. The folks that watch over the Pit have to shoot at water fowl (to scare them off) so that they don’t land in the water because if they do they’ll die (right away or later from complications I’m not sure…). And the Pit only has a few years left, I think until 2015 or 2020, until it is totally full and will start to overflow and spread toxic water everywhere. So they are building (or just finished building?) a pump to control the water level. WTF??? I just smacked my head like the whole time we were there. I can’t believe how people screw themselves over voluntarily. But that is probably a discussion for another blog altogether (perhaps one for which the writer can actually remember her facts!).

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Beautiful toxic reflection

All those facts about the Pit were interesting, though, and it was a great opportunity to talk with Kiddo1 about how choices have consequences! Plus they had a nice little gift shop. I got myself a copper necklace and Kiddo1 picked up a wolf tooth charm necklace and a magnet (Kiddo1 and Mr. Handsome loved picking up magnets at almost every place we went).

We had a little picnic before taking off…

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Picnic at the Pit, very amusing

And then did more driving through Montana. It seemed like around just about every turn was an idyllic Montana scene: a small river running through evergreen-covered rolling hills with a mountain in the background. If only the road pictures could do it justice:

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Our last Montana stop was at the Southern-most tip of the state, that little bit that hangs down between Idaho and Wyoming. There we stopped at Earthquake Lake for a little break and some education before heading into Yellowstone. Earthquake Lake had all kinds of interesting and depressing facts too!

The lake was the site of pretty severe earthquake back in the 50’s. It occurred in the middle of a busy summer night in which the whole area was full of campers. The articles said there were even people camped by the roadside because campgrounds were full and the weather was beautiful. There was no moon that night, it was super dark, and all of a sudden this huge quake hits. They call it “the night the lake tilted” because apparently one side rose by like 20 feet I think, causing the lake’s dam to spill over (although it did hold even though it suffered significant structural damage) and all kinds of violent water sloshing. Geyers in Yellowstone erupted and aftershocks continued for months. It caused millions of dollars of damage, even in the 50s. A few dozen people lost their lives and the survivors had to huddle in the near-pitch darkness and wait until morning until they could both be reunited with their families and seek medical attention.

Luckily our time at the lake was much more pleasant. We toured the Visitor’s Center that gave us all the facts about the Earthquake and took some pictures of the lovely lake.

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Those tree trunks sticking out of the lake weren’t stuck in water before the quake

Then it was time to get into Yellowstone! We were so excited!

We arrived via West Yellowstone so we made Old Faithful our first stop, both because it is also in the West side of the park and because we wanted to make sure we didn’t miss it! We only had to wait about 20 minutes for the next eruption so we spent the time in the gift shop (of course) and running into some interesting characters who tried really hard to take pictures of our Baby2. They did ask nicely if they could take her picture but I politely declined. It happened several times while we were in the park, so by the time we left we were ready to be away from people for a little while!

After our gift shop adventure, we found a nice spot to watch Old Faithful, back far enough that we could get a good overall view:

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There she blows!

And we’re glad we were far back because the wind really kicked up and half the people sitting on the benches in front got pretty soaked with sulfur water! Stinky.

After Old Faithful we drove North and tried to fit in the Grand Prismatic Spring, but it was getting to be dinnertime and we still needed to set up camp. Kiddo1 and I rushed through the boardwalks and snapped a couple pictures while Mr. Handsome waited with sleeping Baby2 in the car. We were in a hurry, though, so we didn’t make it all the way back to the Grand Spring, just a few little pools off the parking lot, but it was still pretty cool! We will have something awesome to come back for next time.

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This little pool is a subdued version of the larger spring’s deep blue waters and orange “beaches” of sulfur

After the spring/pools we made our way a couple more miles North to Madison Campground were we stayed the night. We got all educated about what a “bear box” is (we didn’t use it, we just put our foods in the car), bought some Montana-grown firewood and set up our camp and cooking fires.

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Kiddo1 to the right, hacking up a tree stump with the hachet

We made beef stew in the cast iron dutch oven that night and it turned out pretty good. I had seared the meat and combined everything in a large freezer bag and frozen it solid before we left. I kept it at the very bottom of our cooler and it was still a little slushy when I got around to using it. I was a little nervous carrying around frozen beef for that long but we ate it and we’re fine! And it was already cooked so I felt the danger was fairly minimal, given that we were boiling it all again at the campsite.

After dinner we had to have some s’mores, of course:

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S’more and lingering sausage

Then we got everything cleaned up and we headed off to a nature talk at the campsite’s amphitheater. We took a path recommended by the camp director and it was very lovely in the evening!

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Trying to take a picture of Kiddo1 and Baby2 side-by-side but Baby2 was not having it and Kiddo1 had had enough

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Lots of bubblies coming up from the creek bottom

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His must-have standing-on-a-rock picture

We made it to the nature talk… but we didn’t stay very long. Baby2 was not amused and it was getting dark quickly. So instead of sitting with the others and watching the stars come out, we had another lovely walk along the creek back to the campsite. Luckily we had a near-full moon and flashlights to guide us back.


It was a great day 4!