Vanilla Pumpkin Bars

I made some yummy pumpkin bars today. Nicholas had gotten a little pumpkin when his class went to the orchard, and it was going to go to waste. So I roasted it and made my own pumpkin puree. How domestic, right? And me, still recovering from my self diagnosed h1n1, lol (seriously, I am). Anyway, it really knocked me for a loop. Well, them and the rest of the stuff I cooked today, homemade rolls, chicken and stuffing casserole, and baked butternut squash. But they are pretty good. Here is the recipe. I'm claiming it as my own. I started with a recipe of someone else's, but by the time I substituted for stuff I had on hand and changed and eliminated things I didn't like, I figured I'd be like one of those people on Allrecipes who changes a bunch of stuff in a recipe and then bitches about how it turned out crappy. Except, I am such a skilled cook that my stuff doesn't come out crappy. Anyway, without further ado.

Vanilla Pumpkin Bars:
1 vanilla cake mix
¼ c. vegetable oil
4 eggs
1-16 oz can solid-pack pumpkin or equivalent amount of fresh pumpkin puree
1-14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
½ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 (325 for glass). Reserve ½ cup cake mix. In large bowl, combine remaining mix, oil, and 1 egg. Mix until crumbly. Press firmly into bottom of greased 13x9 baking pan. Combine remaining ingredients, including the ½ cup reserved cake mix. Mix well, pour over prepared crust in pan. Bake 50 minutes or until set. Cool. Cut into bars.

Thinking about a Change

I've recently watched Food Inc. I've been reading up on clean eating, a little and looking at some of Michael Pollen's thoughts on the subject of food. As my boys and I ride out what seems like our 15th illness of the winter season, I feel like it might be worth trying a change. It seems like we're sick for 2 weeks, we have one week of relative good health and then we start in with another sickness. I can not avoid getting sick when any of the boys are sick. They are all over me, licking me, drooling on me, snotting on me, etc. They fall asleep at night like a little pile of puppies all around me. Being a mommy is so glamorous. I'm the kind of person who needs to have concrete evidence that something is working though, so I thought I'd use my (terribly neglected) blog to keep track of the process. I'm going to keep doing things like I normally do them for the next couple months, and keep track of our general health status, menus and our grocery bill, and then implement the changes, and continue to keep track of our health status, menus and grocery bills. If I see a positive change with these healthy lifestyle tips most of all, after 2 months, I think it will show me that it is a good change to continue. I'm not planning to be rabid about this. I mean, I need a Starbucks now and then. And if we want to go out to dinner, I'm not going to make it a big ordeal. These are the things I hope to implement.

Reducing our meat consumption, and switching to grass fed beef and real cage free chicken (not cage free in the term of just keeping a door open in the house of chicken torture) switching to organic produce eliminating high fructose corn syrup and drastically reducing our consumption of refined grains making all of my bread, I currently bake bread a lot for eating enjoyment, but I still buy packaged bread for sandwiches and stuff cut out soda at home (Mark and I are the only ones who drink soda. I guess I can't force him to stop it, but I will). I like Michael Pollen's idea that nothing really has to be off limits, but if you want something "junk foody", you have to make it yourself. I can do that. Some of the things that concern me are. Being able to find the meat products I want to change to. I haven't really looked into it yet, but I don't think they will be available at the local (backwoods) grocery store. Dealing with my kids' constant snacking. It's so convenient to just hand them a granola bar from a package. Whether my hubby will go along with me on this. I'm pretty sure he will. He's generally pretty easy to work with. Whether the cost of our food will really escalate. I know I don't really ever worry that much about money. My theory is that Mark will tell me if I have to stop spending it. But I don't think he'll be a huge fan of our grocery bill quadrupling. And there will go my hopes of ever getting those tall black uggs I want.

I cook a lot for the fun of it. I eat at least an apple a day and I like to try new recipes and bake yummy treats. I worry that our diet will become very boring. So, for week 1 of the first phase of my plan, I spent $112 at the grocery store. Our menu for the week is. Monday - Deep Dish Chicken and Veggie Pizza. Tuesday - Pasta Fagioli. Wednesday - Lentil and Kielbasa Soup with homemade bread, Thursday - Chicken Phillies, Friday - Pioneer Woman's Enchiladas. Some of the $112 was for incidental purchases though. Like a bottle of generic Mucinex for my horrendous cough. I feel like if I could just hack up a glob of crap the size of a golf ball, I might start to feel better. Are you happy I shared that? If you're lucky, I won't take a picture if I'm able to produce it. hehe Also a big bag of mini Reese's cups to make Peanut Butter Brownies with. Pretty sure those will be on the "don't" list of the new plan. General health assessment is Crapola. Nicholas is finishing up a course of antibiotics. He, Tristan, Luke and I are all coughing like tuberculosis patients, congested and intermittently feverish. Mark has been taking Tylenol and Motrin too, but he complains less than I do, so I don't have a detailed list of his symptoms. Kaitlin was coughing a little yesterday, after school, but it's hard to include her in my (very scientific) research, due to the amount of time she spends at her dad's, where they will not be utilizing my plan. So, there are my thoughts. We'll see how it goes.

Granola Recipe

I went to the health food store today. I always get a little nervous when I go there. Like they can tell I'm not legit, lol. The girls who work there are so wholesome and fresh and natural looking, and in I trudge with my shiny black purse and a little too much eye makeup. But anyway. I went. It's much less convenient that the normal grocery store. I didn't full on grocery shop. I just wanted to get a few things. I got all organic bulk supplies to make homemade granola cereal, organic milk, organic yogurt, some Annie's crackers for the kids to snack on, some natural, organic yogurt covered raisins, and a thing of natural, organic ranch dressing. I froze the yogurt in cubes to make smoothies out of. I made the cereal. Here is my homemade, organic, all natural, sugar free cereal. It actually tastes pretty good, here's the recipe.

Granola Recipe:
3 cups (300 grams) old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
3/4 cup (75 grams) sliced or slivered almonds
1/2 cup (45 grams) raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup (45 grams) raw pumpkin seeds
½ cup unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup wheat bran
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup honey
1 cup dried fruits (cranberries, cherries, apricots, dates, figs, and/or raisins) (optional)

Melt butter in small saucepan. Add honey, cinnamon and salt. Heat on low and mix until combined. Combine remaining dry ingredients. Pour honey mixture over and mix well. Spread on 2 cookie sheets and bake for 20-25 minutes at 325, or until lightly browned. Break apart as soon as you remove from oven. It will be a little soft as soon as you take it out of the oven, but it crisps up as it cools. Once cool, add dried fruit of your choosing (I used chopped dried apples) and store in airtight container.