gratitude journal entry dated April 25, 2017 …

GRATITUDE JOURNAL ENTRY DATED 4/25/17, 10:15 pm:

We bought the land for our small ranch about a year and a half ago … and we did it knowing it had been deeply ravaged by the stewards who held it before us. There were years of over-grazing, years of fertilizing, years of seeding non-native plants, years of what, in my humble opinion, amounted to serious abuse, with very little care for the future.

But when we found our piece of paradise, we saw hope in the land. We weren’t discouraged by the Mullein or the Thistle that had overtaken about 1/3 of the acreage. We weren’t daunted by the overabundance of prairie dogs.

The kids are definitely in the weeds …

We relished the site of eagles flying overhead finding their sustenance in the pock-marked landscape. We appreciated the fox den, although we’ve never seen the inhabitants. We admired the silver coyote who works with the badger to help reduce our prairie dog population. And we were amazed by the siting of an endangered black-tailed ferret.

Check out our “animal highway” … those markings are all animal tracks! So fun to know this land is home to so many creatures!!

We had the land witched and found water.

We seeded with native dry land grasses (with the help of our very best neighbors Ashley and Shannon from Red Fox Farm.

And we planted a few trees (5 quaking aspen make up our “grove” right now … and an autumn blaze maple seedling sits boldly in the front yard of the house we are planning and brought us so much happiness when we saw the bright red of the leaves last Fall …

… a sign that our soil is perfectly acidic for the apple and pear trees we will plant this year!).

So while our plans start and stop and move forward and bump into roadblocks, we know that we are working WITH the land to bring it back to life. We are honoring the soil, and treating the land with respect. We are holistically (albeit slowly) re-establishing the natural order of things.

Twenty years ago, I knew I wanted something different, but I’m not sure I would have expected that THIS would be my dream … or that it would be such a challenge to achieve … or that I would WANT to work this hard to make it happen…

And so another day passes, and with it another opportunity to be grateful …

caesar dressing … it’s not just for Romaine

The not-so-littles in our house LOVE Caesar Salad.

Love.

It.

And not just because of the crunchy herby croutons that are super satisfying coated in garlicky, citrus-y, creamy Caesar Dressing. (Although I would be ignoring the facts if I didn’t admit it was the crispy bits that got our oldest, most bread-loving and significantly salad averse to try it.)

I wish I could tell you that she made the discovery of her love of this salad at home … eating lettuce grown in our garden … with croutons that I loving made with staling homemade bread …

No.

It was at our local favorite pizza joint Gil’s Goods, in Livingston, MT. Firstly, I am a huge fan of Gil’s, who, as far as I’m concerned, offers the best S.O.L.E. food around… (Sustainable, Organic, Local, Ethical). If we’re going out to eat pizza (or pretty much anything on their homey menu), Gil’s is definitely my place of choice.

And secondly, I’m not suggesting this would work for you, but in my experience the littles are sometimes more willing to try new flavors at a restaurant than if I just plop it on their plates and tell them to dig in. It doesn’t matter that I’ve been making this simple and delicious Caesar Dressing for nearly 20 years … Until they tried it at Gil’s, there was no getting them to even take a bite at home. (I don’t fight them over food … they either eat what’s on their plates or they don’t eat … sometimes they don’t eat.)

Now, though, we’re past that hurdle and we’re all enjoying more salads at home … which is lucky since the lettuce is starting to grow and it’s my favorite food of Spring and Summer.

And I’m here to tell you that this Caesar Dressing is NOT just for Romaine lettuce.

Seriously.

We’ve had it on mixed greens and power greens and spinach and kale …

Actually, my favorite way to have a Caesar these days IS with kale.

Remember two (maybe it was three) years ago when Kale was the new super food?

There was all sorts of excitement about how antioxidant and awesome it is? How it’s a great source of calcium and manganese and phosphorus? It’s high in iron, has Omega fatty acids and a healthy dose of fiber? Sounds too good to be true, right? But then there were all those concerns about how uncooked kale is challenging to digest and not good for folks with Thyroid issues?

Yeah … well … I like kale. And I don’t want to cut it out of our diet because the good things are just too good to ignore!

And happily(!), there’s science that shows doing a fine chop on kale and either cooking or adding citrus like lemon juice or apple cider vinegar breaks down the bad and makes all the good available to us!**

Whew!

Which makes me even more happy to share this SUPER SIMPLE  (only 5 ingredients!) family favorite recipe with you all.

CAESAR SALAD DRESSING

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 large Cloves Garlic (grated)
  • 1/2 cup Avocado Oil (or Extra Virgin Olive Oil is nice, too)
  • 2 TBLS Mayonnaise
  • Juice from one lemon (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3-4 cups loosely packed Ribbon Chopped Kale or Romaine Lettuce (or any other lettuce you like)
  • 1/2 cup Shredded Parmesan & Asiago Cheese
  • 1/2 cup herbed pita chips

DIRECTIONS:

For the dressing: Combine the garlic, olive oil, mayo, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce in a jar and shake until well-combined.

For a KALE Caesar:  If you’re using baby kale, just make sure it’s cleaned and dried before chopping. If you’re using “adult” kale, de-vein after cleaning and chop into fine ribbons.

If you’re using adult kale, cut into ribbons and then coat with about 1/4 cup of the dressing and massage it well. Let it rest for at least 30 minutes (up to 2 hours in the fridge). Just before serving, toss with the rest of the dressing (or dressing to taste), cheese and croutons.

Extra dressing lasts in the fridge for about a week.

(PS – the Kale version is a GREAT salad to bring to a pot-luck because the longer it won’t get soggy and limp while sitting on the food line.)

For ROMAINE or any other lettuce, just toss and go …

Eat it up, YUM!

-J.

PS – here’s another (oft-requested) dressing I make at home because I haven’t bought salad dressing in more than 2 decades!

Warm Red Cabbage Salad with Mason Jar Ranch Dressing

 

 

on gratefulness* … happy thanksgiving!

I was 25 years old the first Thanksgiving I spent alone. It was the latter half of the 90s. I had recently moved to Los Angeles. I was two weeks into a new job (my very first job in the movie business, which was a huge deal to me at the time) so I couldn’t get the time off to travel home. And, to be totally honest, I didn’t have the cash to spend on an airline ticket … and I was too proud to ask my parents for help.

In retrospect, I think I thought it was something I wanted. I wanted my roommate to disappear for a few days. I was desperate to have our 550 square foot apartment to myself. To be able to read a book without interruption or have to listen to “bad” music coming from the other room. I looked forward to eating whatever food was in the fridge without worry about who paid for the milk. To not have the television on 24 hours a day. I was looking, I thought, for some quiet.

My boss and her fiancé had offered the “new kid” an obligatory invite to dinner at their home. But I turned it down, completely confident it would be awesome to not have any plans. I didn’t know many people in Los Angeles at that point, but the thought of spending it with my 30-something boss, her boyfriend and their parents made me cringe with anxiety way more than the thought of spending the day alone.

fall

But waking up in Sunny Southern California on what in my past had always been a chilly November day … on a day that had always been one of my favorite holidays … separated from the people that I love and with no plans on the horizon … It was strange. A noiseless void and a deeper quiet than I had known before. In my apartment. On the streets. In the nearby park where I walked my dog. In my mind’s eye, it was an emptiness not unlike a post-Apocalyptic world that is both serene and eery and full of a loneliness I hadn’t known possible.

Twenty years later and I’m still surprised by the length of that day and how much I missed my Mom. I missed slicing apples and making pies while my sister chopped celery for the stuffing. (It was always my job to make the pies.) I missed the laughter in the kitchen. I missed my Grandmother’s constant wiping up water spots on the coffee table made by sweaty glasses of soda and cider and beer and wine. I even missed the bickering and the flare-ups of old family arguments that seem to only rear their head at holiday gatherings.

At 40-something, with two kids, and having spent more than my share of holidays at home with all our family here in Montana, you’d think I’ve be over the emotional trauma of that one singular day.

But each year, as we fall into Daylight Savings Time and the Holidays loom large, it always comes rushing back. And while it wasn’t clear to me then (or for years after, for that matter), I now realize the Truth of what that day was. That day was, by far, my most utterly grateful Thanksgiving because it made me truly aware of what’s important and worth being thankful for.

Wishing you a Thanksgiving filled with love and laughter and gratefulness …

xo,

J.

Three of my favorite Thanksgiving Recipes:

 

*note: reprinted with permission from the Neighbors of South Bozeman Magazine, Nov. 2016 issue

if I’m honest …

I just totally overshared and re-wrote the O’Mamas About Page … it’s a total overshare. But it’s important as I’m exploring the future of this page and of our lives … the experience of building an organic and sustainable life …

I want O’Mamas to be a place where we can all overshare about this experience of living an organic, clean, simple and sustainable life … being an organic mama … being a woman who cares about the health and happiness and consciousness of my family, my friends, my neighbors and the world around me…

I hope you’ll check it out.

how to ripen tomatoes so they are as sweet as if they were vine ripened

We’re about to hit a cold snap and my garden is not ready for it. And I’m not sure I am, either!

I read today that we’re in for freezing/cold rain and temps in the 40s and low 50s starting Wednesday. So regardless of my emotional readiness, all those beautiful green tomatoes on the vine? They are going to be super unhappy.

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But I’m going to share a few secrets I’ve been acquiring these past few years living above the 45th parallel so that I’ll be enjoying sweet tomatoes through the first or second week of October.

First thing I did this morning after feeding, watering and releasing our chickens was pick all the yellowish and orange almost-ripe tomatoes from the garden Then I put them in a pretty bowl on the credenza in our dining room … RIGHT NEXT TO a BIG BOWL OF APPLES.

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Have you ever noticed how fast your bananas go brown when they are in a bowl with a few apples?Here’s why: Apples of nearly all variety release a hormone that will ripen almost any fruit or vegetable in the vicinity.

So I started keeping the apples in the dining room … to save the bananas because I was getting tired of making banana bread!

That’s also why we don’t store apples in the same room as our potatoes or garlic. It’s why when the avocados from the store are too hard, I pop them in a brown paper bag with a few apples to ripen them … it generally takes only a day or two to have perfect guac-ready avocados.)

It’s why when we DO store apples in the same place as any other fruit they have to be individually wrapped. But even then … those pesky apple hormones are strong. So we really DON’T store apples near other foods.

Which is why we are now storing the not-quite-ripe-tomatoes in the dining room, next to our big bowl of apples. It does wonders to the almost ripe tomatoes that will suffer most if we dip below freezing for a few days in a row. In a few days, I’ll have bright red beautiful tomatoes that will be perfect to make some of our favorite tomato sauce.

But what of those precious little greenies on the vine?

photo-sep-19-2

Three days with lows in the high-freezing will NOT be good for these sweeties. I could wrap the tomatoes and hope for the best.

Or I could look at the long-term forecast and realize that this cold snap may very well be the beginning of the end of the incredible summer we were blessed with this year … in which case, it’s time to pull the plants.

But I refuse to give up on the tomatoes.

I’m friends with a lot of farmers and homesteaders. I am not afraid to admit when I don’t know something. So I ask a lot of questions.

Two years ago I got some incredibly useful advice from my friend Jenny at Sabo Ranch. She said that if the tomatoes aren’t ready to pick (aka, they are super green and won’t ripen in the bowl to sweet garden goodness), then pull the ENTIRE PLANT and then HANG THEM UPSIDE DOWN in a protected area (greenhouse, garage, garden shed, etc …). Apparently, there are still nutrients and goodness in the roots when they are pulled, and if you put the plants upside down, that goodness will travel down the stems and into the tomatoes …

I’ve never taken pictures of it … maybe I’ll do that this year and share them on Facebook or Instagram? (Not sure I’m ready to share an image of our over-crowded garage shrouded in upside-down tomato plants.)

This will be my third year following her advice and I’ll tell you this … it has increased my tomato yield by at least a third each year. Our summer is just not long enough for all the tomatoes I want to grow! And now I don’t have to let them freeze on the vine.

And that just plain makes me happy.

 

beautycounter … because another part of my life needed a clean makeover

You’re here (thank you, by the way!), so you know I’m passionate about living a simple, clean, sustainable life … one that is unprocessed, free of toxins, preservatives, chemicals, poisons and additives. I’m obsessed with the food we eat (how and where it’s grown/raised/processed), the way we garden, the way we live …

But the place where I was totally letting myself (and my family) down? Make-up and beauty products. (And now maybe you’re sort of laughing because getting beauty tips from someone who uses egg-white soap and coconut oil as her skin-care regime and only wears mascara and eyeliner once or twice a month and lip-gloss only a little more frequently is kind of laughable).

I am so on it when it comes to feeding my family good food and making sure there’s no poison in our garden.  I’ve got unsprayed organic straw as insulation for our chicken coop so the pesticides to make it into our backyard eggs. I know the farmers who raise the meat for our freezer or fill our milk jugs and know they don’t spray their fields so the grass the animals are eating is all organic goodness.

But I am totally guilty of half-a$$ing it when it comes to beauty products. Sure, I buy paraban-free shampoo. I make sure if we do put on sunscreen that it’s approved by the non-profit watchdog group www.ewg.org. But I’m a complete failure when it comes to make-up. I have been totally lazy about it. With my lack of beauty routine blindly I figured I can’t be getting THAT much exposure. NOTE: It’s not like I need to be “done” in the morning homeschooling and caring for chickens.

Then I read that there are thousands of cancer-causing, hormone-disrupting, potentially toxic ingredients in daily-use beauty products and only ELEVEN of them are banned in the United States (1,400 are banned in the European Union and Beauty Counter has taken things further, banning 1,500 harmful ingredients from their products).

So if at that moment in your life one of your favorite yoga teachers shows back up in your life with mascara that’s not going to poison you? And it actually works! And feels good? And does make your lashes look longer? (Thank you, Jen!) … Oh … and it’s from a company that’s partnered with and approved by one of my favorite watch-dog non-profits, www.EWG.org?

bc-mascara

Maybe that’s a good time to start listening … and start learning … and start sharing.

If you know me at all you know how uncomfortable I am about multi-level marketing companies. Not that I don’t like the products … I LOVE my essential oils. My sister-in-law swears by  her Keto-lifestyle. But the “selling” is really a challenge for me. I’m struggle with the idea of “building a team” or “trying to recruit you.” Because I want you to know that if we’re hanging out, it’s not because I want to sell you something, it’s because I truly want to hang out with you! I’m simply letting you know where I am on the path to create the life I want for our family.

All that said … I am going to admit that at very long last I’ve found a company that seems to reflect all the things I tout on this blog and in my life, one that encourages a clean and simple life that helps reduce the toxins in our home and does it fairly and with integrity … so without further fanfare, I’m joining a B E A U T Y + R E V O L U T I O N!

And I’m here to help you if YOU want to join the revolution, too!

So … Take a moment to consider your make-up and personal beauty products … decide for yourself if you’re exposing yourself or your loved ones to chemicals that don’t belong in your body. And if it’s time for you to switch things up … click the link, or direct message me for more information!

xo,
Jeanne

http://www.beautycounter.com/jeannegaisford

plain & chocolate mini cheesecake bites (GF, refined sugar-free, paleo-friendly)

I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking for something I can bring to a potluck that’s going to tasty AND good for you AND look cute on a serving dish. (Should I not admit that? I mean … don’t you like it when stuff looks cute?)

Listen … I am not above bringing boxed brownies on occasion because the Ghirardelli Brownie Mix at Costco is just kind of perfectly easy (I sub coconut oil and use eggs from our backyard chickens so there not as bad as they could be, I guess …)

But if I want to bring something that looks and tastes good, and my gluten-free friends can enjoy, these are my go-to.

At least they are now.

NOTE TO SELF: Apparently a little recipe testing apparently goes a long way because these Grain Free, Refined Sugar Free, Paleo-friendly dessert bites don’t feel like they are missing any of the decadence of any other sugar and grain-laden dessert. And that makes me happy. Especially the plain ones. The chocolates are good. But the plain ones … yeah … I can’t be alone near the dessert table when there’s mini cheesecake bites.

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Plain and Chocolate Cheesecake Bites

INGREDIENTS:

Crust:

  • 1 c. hazelnut meal (or almond meal)
  • 1 TBLS pure maple powder
  • 3 TBLS melted butter

Filling: 

  • 16 oz cream cheese (two 8-ounce packages)
  • 2 tsp. stevia
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 2 large eggs (room temp)
  • 1 TBLS raw cacau

Whipped topping:

  • 8  oz whipping cream
  • 1/4 tsp. stevia
  • 1/8 tsp. vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F)

Line two mini-muffin tins with 24 muffin liners

First comes the crust: Stir together all the dry ingredients and then dd melted butter. Mix until thoroughly combined

Add one heaping teaspoon to each liner and press down into the liner. (Reserve leftover crust mix to sprinkle on top of the cupcakes.)

Bake for 8-10 minutes (until very lightly browned).

Remove from the oven and cool while preparing the filling.

For the filling: In a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and stevia at medium speed until light and creamy.  Add the vanilla and salt. Then beat in the eggs on low, until well incorporated.

At this point, using about half of the batter, fill the liners of ONE of the mini-cupcake tins with the plain cheesecake batter. If you’re only making plain cheesecakes, fill the second tin. If you’re looking for a mix of chocolate and plain, replace the bowl of the stand mixer and to the second half of the mixture add the cacau. Mix until well-blended and then fill the second tin’s liners with the chocolate batter.

Bake for 10 minutes or until the centers of the cheesecakes don’t jiggle when the pan is tapped. Open the oven door (at least 1 foot wide) and let the cheesecakes cool to room temperature – about 1.5 hours.

For the whipped topping, combine the heavy cream, stevia and vanilla in a clean stand mixer bowl and whip until peaks form. I load the whipped cream into a ziplock bag, cut the end off one corner and then use my pseudo pastry bag to top each mini-cupcake and then sprinkle with just a pinch of the reserved crust crumble.

Perfecto.

Refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Happy pot-lucking!

j.

Banana Oat Breakfast Cookies (dairy free, gluten free)

banana oat cookies

I was looking to make an easy on-the-go nourishing breakfast treat to get us out the door for skiing this season because the truth is getting chores done and out the door by 7:30 am on any given Saturday isn’t the easiest for this family.

And these breakfast cookies take all of 5 minutes to mix and 18 minutes in the oven so they totally fits the bill.

(The kids can even help make these … yay! Teaching moment — fractions made easy and fun and the reward is a tasty treat when all is said and done!)

teaching moment

Also, when you eat as many bananas as we do, you’re sure to have a few over-ripe ones every now and again, so this is an excellent way to put them to tasty use.

banana oat cookies in the bowl

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 over-ripe Bananas
  • 1 1/2 c. Rolled Oats
  • 1/4 c. Raw Chia Seeds
  • 1/2 c. Chopped Walnuts (I’ve also been known to add pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and or chopped hazelnuts … so long as the nuts add up to about 1/2 cup, it’s all good)
  • 1/3 c. Dried Fruit of Choice (we used tart cherries today but I’ve also made them with dates, blueberries, apricots and raisins)
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 c. to 1/3 c. Grade B Maple Syrup (most people like them sweeter than we do, so I figured the nutrition using caloriecount.com using 1/3 cup of syrup)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 360 degrees (F).

Mash the bananas. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir until well-combined.

Spoon “cookies” onto a parchment covered cookie sheet.

Makes 14-16 Tablespoon-sized cookies.

Bake for 18 minutes.

Breakfast-on-the-go … an easy snack … a treat for your next potluck. Woohoo!

banana oat cookies nutrition

changes at O’Mamas

Ahhhh growing pains …

We’re going through some changes at O’Mamas.

Nothing that’ll blow your mind.

We’re still committed to organic gardening, good and good for you food, simplicity and sustainability. But Abby’s spending a lot more of her time on her photography business and less time here.

She took these pics of our littles just before Thanksgiving …

Gaisford-4b
 

Gaisford-2
I love that Abby captures their personalities perfectly in this photo.

So if you’re local (in Montana in the Gallatin Valley or in the Dallas, Texas area) and are looking for a family photo, or your kid needs a senior casual, or your daughter-in-law is about to give birth and you want perfectly precious photos of your grandchild … you need to contact Abby. Schedule a session and mention this O’Mamas post and Abby said she’ll include 3 extra digital photos in the deal.

xo,

Jeanne

 

cinnamon coconut custard cake (a GF recipe review)

cinnamon coconut custard cake
Every once in a while I find myself pinning something and going back to it again and again and again …

and again …

and again …

… until someone gives me an excuse to make it.

Like today, when it just so happens that the husband of one of my BFFs is having a birthday and my very pregnant friend’s kitchen is mid-remodel and she can’t bake a cake for the love of her life.

Thursday also happens to be a very unscheduled homeschool day for us. No ballet. No violin lessons. No skiing or horseback riding. No piano or art. Perfect time to have school in the kitchen (measuring, weighing, blendering, baking, chemical reactions … can you think of a better way to introduce science and math to a 3-year old? Me either!!)

You see, since the New Year I’ve been working to eliminate grains from my diet. I’m not going “strict” paleo, but more paleo. Lots of veggies, some protein, good fats (like Coconut Oil and Ghee) and limited grains and sugars.

And if I’m gonna make a cake for someone, I would like it to be a cake that I can eat, too!

So this is the pin that caught my eye …

cinnamon coconut custard cake

Looks pretty moist and cake-like for a grain-free cake, doesn’t it??

Guess what? … it IS!

It’s moist.

It’s just this side of sweet perfection.

And if you like coconut, it’s deliciously coconutty goodness.

But I have to admit I struggle to follow recipes. I mean … I saw white chocolate chips in this cake and I don’t like white chocolate, so … no white chocolate. I didn’t even replace them, although I THOUGHT about swapping in some pecans or hazelnuts.

I imagine it’s because we’re at a higher altitude than the original baker, but it took at least 10 minutes longer in our oven to firm up and cook through.

And of course, I made this to celebrate a birthday, which to me means it needs frosting. So I whipped up a quick cream cheese vanilla coconut icing and sprinkled it with shredded coconut.

Happy Happy Happy Happy Happy Happy Happy Happy.

The hardest part of today was waiting to sing Happy Birthday!

One more time … here’s the recipe by the Holistic Health Herbalist. If you’re looking for a tasty grain-free, refined sugar-free dessert … I like it!

xo,

Jeanne