Homemade Pizza

I made homemade pizza last week and it was a hit. Here is the breakdown of how I made it:

  • I made the pizza dough from the Healthy Youth Program. It is quick and simple. You may have noticed that I use a lot of recipes from HYP. You can take the girl from the HYP, but you can’t take the HYP from the girl! As usual, the flour was from Camas Valley Mill.
  • For the sauce, I roasted tomatoes from my garden with a bunch of garlic. After roasting, I drained the liquid and mixed in my food processor with a little salt and oregano.
  • I found an affordable way to buy local bacon. If you buy a bag of random pieces and end pieces, it is so much more affordable. For $3.00, we had enough to spread sparingly on two pizzas.
  • I had cooked Oregon Wild Rice the night before for rice bowls, so I sprinkled some of the leftover rice on as a topping. Seems like it might be gross, but it was actually really delicious!
  • We also topped with broccoli and peppers from Peoria Rd. Market and Tillamook Mozzarella Cheese.

Homemade pizza will for sure stay in our menu. You can easily make 2 quality pizzas using local ingredients for less than what one pizza would cost to buy.

 

My Garden

 

A view of our garden from the studio.

This is the time of year when I am usually sharing pictures of my garden and what’s growing in it. Not this year friends. In the almost 5 years that we have lived in our house, this is by far my worst gardening year. At this point, it is just looking very very dead and neglected. I often feel a little sting of sadness and disappointment when I look at it.  It’s been a challenging year in some ways but also a year of growth. Sometimes it feels like there are so many things I am in charge of taking care of and keeping alive, and it can feel overwhelming. My family is obviously my biggest priority to nourish and focus my energy on, so while in the midst of feeling stressed, something had to give. And that unfortunately was my garden.

Because I feel like the way a person gardens can say a lot of them, I have felt very vulnerable thinking about people coming to my house and knowing that I am far from having my life together by one look at my garden. It was enough to give me a little anxiety about hosting things at my house (like the two baby showers that I hosted).  I’ve kindly been reminded by a friend that other people don’t necessarily think like me and that the general population  probably doesn’t judge or overanalyze my life based off how my garden looks. In fact, many friends of mine (mostly the ones who aren’t really into gardening) saw all of the beautiful sunflowers growing in my garden and were in amazement at the amount and size of sunflowers that I had. People were seeing great beauty in my garden that I was being so critical of. And by other people telling me how beautiful it was, it was a reminder to me that I needed to stop focusing on the negative! I am so blessed to have so many people in my life who can find the beauty in my garden, and in me. Because I forget sometimes. I think that we all forget sometimes.

Each year, our sunflowers have spread more and more. We started a few years ago with a small bunch, but each year new volunteers come up. This year when the dozens of volunteers came up in the spring, I knew in theory that I should be picking most of them out so that my vegetable garden wouldn’t turn into a sunflower garden. But for some reason… I couldn’t bring myself to pick even one volunteer out. During the grey spring (when I was also feeling some grey in my life), I just knew that the sunflowers would make me so happy in the summer. So I left them.  The result was as you would expect.. a large sunflower garden, with some pathetic vegetables trying to find enough nutrients and sun to grow. And a person who didn’t have the energy to tend to any of it like I should have.

Though I really did find a lot of happiness in my sunflowers this year, next year I know that I will go ahead and take out some of the volunteers (and maybe spread the cheer to some friends instead of tossing them?). And just so you all know, I am not going to all of your houses wondering the secrets of your soul when I see your garden :). Just as I am often much harden on myself than I am other people. But I am working on that..  and making progress!

 

sharon - September 14, 2014 - 7:43 pm

Love this picture of you, Kara, and the sunflowers in the background. I agree gardens are often metaphors for our lives, and also agree that we are so much harder on ourselves than others. Thank goodness for those friends who can see the beauty through the weeds and remind us of the good things we have growing too. Lots of good and beauty growing in that garden of yours, Kara :)

kara - September 14, 2014 - 9:33 pm

Sharon, you are good at seeing the beauty in any garden :). That’s what makes you so wonderful and why I am so lucky to have you as a mother-in-law!!

The Final Straw… or enchilada

We are getting close to almost two weeks of the September Challenge. Overall, I would say that things are going really well. Well… except maybe for that one day when I flipped out in the kitchen and told Chris that I was overwhelmed, about to flip out, and wanted to quit the project. Last Sunday, I tried to get a lot of prep work done to lighten my cooking load over the week. After a morning at church, I was ready to get some work done in the kitchen. I made enough bread dough for the week and set it out to rise. I honey roasted hazelnuts. I made 2 batches of zucchini bread. And then… I set out to make chicken enchiladas.

I knew that I wanted to make enough enchiladas to last for a couple days worth of dinners, but I didn’t really think about how time consuming the process would be. Around 1:00, I got Camas Valley Mill pinto beans out to soak so I could cook beans later that night to go into the enchiladas. I cooked a chicken that I bought at Farmer’s Market. I made homemade tomatillo sauce for the enchiladas. And… I found a recipe for whole wheat tortillas (http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2010/05/26/recipe-whole-wheat-tortillas/). I took a short break from cooking to go to dinner at a friend’s house as a family, but then as soon as I got home, it was back to the kitchen (in between doing normal mom stuff). This is when I kind of broke down. It was a hot day, and I had already been in the kitchen for probably 5 hours that day. I was so flipping exhausted. I started venting to Chris all of my frustrations and confessed that this kind of was feeling sucky and not fun on this particular day. I may or may not have proclaimed that I am actually not a good cook at all and that I don’t know what I was thinking to devote this much time to cooking when I clearly am not good at it. Chris was great and told me that he would take over breakfast duty each day and help do dishes more. I agreed that I would not be able to continue with this challenge without some sort of change.

In a very timely manner, someone posted this article on a mom’s facebook group about how mom’s often have very high standards about making homemade food for the family, but we also have so many other demands. Each of us only has 24 hours in a day, and we have to make choices about how to spend that time. I feel like from this challenge, I am already learning about which things will stick after September and which things I will drop. Though I love to cook, I am realizing that I have to prioritize what is most important to me. From what we have done so far, here are some of my thoughts:

  • I am hoping to do a homemade breakfast 5 out of 7 days a week. And… we will stick with local oatmeals (or rolled barley). It does not take a lot of effort to make a good breakfast if you plan ahead, and I really want to send my kids to school with a belly full of good food.
  • I will never make enchiladas 100% from scratch again :). I can see myself making homemade tortillas with beans or enchiladas with parts that are homemade, but nothing more complicated than that.
  • It is hard to imagine going back to store bought bread. It is just so much more delicious (and affordable) homemade. I am not going to beat myself up if I buy bread every once in awhile, but I feel like this is one of the things that is really worth the extra time.

So this is where I am at right now. I know that I am most definitely going to have to make adjustments, especially as I will have less time when I start teaching classes at the end of the month, but we will cross that road when the time comes.

chris - September 12, 2014 - 6:37 am

You are a rock star Kara! I’m so impressed with all the effort you have put into the challenge and all the work you’ve done to make our family healthy and happy. Doing breakfast is a small token, but I hope I can learn to cook some more in the future. I love you!!!

Pancakes

If you know me well, you have tried these pancakes already or at least know about them. I am yet to meet a person who didn’t like these pancakes (even kids). I made pancake batter on a school night and split it into two separate containers to use for two mornings as the recipe makes too much for my family to eat in one meal. I simmered down a delicious peach sauce and whipped up some whipped cream the night before. My family would probably be happy if we ate this every day. I will put in parentheses the specific Oregon foods that we incorporated!

As I mentioned, I can make food that tasted delicious, but it doesn’t always look that way. You’ll have to trust me on this one people!

Kara’ s Fruity Buttermilk Pancakes

  • 3 cups whole wheat pastry flour (this time I used Camas Valley Mill’s pastry flour)
  • * 3 tablespoons honey (or your sweetener of choice)- We use Honey Tree Apiaries (I bought gallon from FM)
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups buttermilk (Umpqua)
  • 1/2 cup milk (Lochmead)
  • 3/4 cup Applesauce (canned last month).
  • 3 eggs (our chickens)
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted (tillamook)
  • 1 peeled apple sliced into thin little bite sized pieces (twedts apples… I substitute any fruit for apple depending on season).

DIRECTIONS

1. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, beat together buttermilk, milk, applesauce, eggs and melted butter. Keep the two mixtures separate until you are ready to cook.
2. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. You can flick water across the surface and if it beads up and sizzles, it’s ready!
3. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture, using a wooden spoon or fork to blend. Stir until it’s just blended together. Do not over stir! Toss in apples and stir into mixture. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/2 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.

 

The Real Housewives of Benton County: Betsy Billman- “Money Mama”


Money, money, money! It’s that topic that can make a couple go from snuggles to sassy within seconds. It is the thing we don’t want to think or stress about, but most of us do. If I am perfectly honest, I would have to admit that I am neither horrible with money nor great with money. It is really important to me to not go into debt, but I also really lack organization and sometimes the willpower to save or invest how I would like to. I want to teach my children to be responsible humans, and money is one area where I would like them to be responsible.

I also have been thinking lately about what message we teach our children about what is important to us through how we spend our money. I have chatted with many friends/ family members through the years who are stressed about money, not feeling like there is ever enough, though we know that even people who are rich stress about money. Whether you qualify for food stamps or live in a mansion on the hill, all of us have to make decisions about how we spend our money. Some people truly barely have enough to pay for basic necessities, some people value living in a fancy house, some want to spend money on travel, or for some it’s clothes or eating organic. No matter our income… most of us have something in common. We want to manage our money better, but we don’t know where to get started! I am included in this category. I really want to do better and I need help!

This is where my dear friend Betsy comes in. Betsy is just awesome in so many ways. Betsy is loyal. She makes the best homemade whole wheat bread I have ever eaten and she has a love for eating/preparing whole foods. She is a great running partner, and she has really been there for me during some of life’s challenges. I always leave Betsy feeling uplifted and with more perspective. She always has a great scripture, talk, or spiritual thought to share. And.. she is willing to listen and hear me out without judgement.  She really is so easy to talk to and shows that she cares. The Billman family just moved to Idaho, and I am really missing this special  friend of mine!

Not only does Betsy always have great insight on life in general, but she has also given me great advice on finances and on how to teach children to be responsible. She has taken the time to really make a financial plan that works well for her family, and she follows through with her plan. I hope you will be inspired after reading this interview with Betsy! I would love for you to share your struggles and successes as well!

K-Have you always been financially responsible and organized with money? If not, when did you see the light?

B-Unfortunately I have not always been financially responsible with money! As a child I really liked having money and I babysat A LOT and probably earned a decent amount for a child. However, without any guidance, I usually spent everything I earned. As I got older I continued to work hard and continued to spend almost everything. Fortunately I didn’t make the mistake of running up any debt, so at least I was conscious of not spending more than I earned. When I got into college I had to become more responsible with my money. I was able to save for things I needed to pay for (half of my living expenses) but never could seem to save up anything for a “rainy day fund.” It wasn’t until Eric and I had been married a few years and we had started a PhD program that things started to change for me. I felt stressed about the little amount of money we had coming in and I wasn’t sure how to manage it. A friend of mine gave me the book “Financial Peace University” by Dave Ramsey and it really rang true with me. His philosophy is to spend in cash, not acquire debt of any kind (except a very conservative home mortgage), and “live like no one else so later you can live like no one else!” His principles are basic but to me it was a lot of practical sense. My goal at that point was to not take out any more student loans (we had taken a minimal amount out for the PhD) and to get better at budgeting. Spending in cash changed our financial life! It was easy to stick to and easy to see exactly where we were throughout the month. We are still primarily spending in cash almost 5 years later! Another thing Eric and I have worked on is getting on the same page, having a plan, and actually communicating about our finances. It has taken many years, but I feel like we have finally come together on our financial goals and dreams over the last year. I should say that we never really fought about money, but Eric never had a real opinion and I pretty much ran the show (I am a numbers person even though I am not a natural saver, go figure!). If feels so great to finally be working together – it has made all the difference!

Sam showing off his chore chart.

K-What is your philosophy about teaching children to be smart with money? And with chores?

B-It is critical for me to teach my kids about how to be smart with money. Dave Ramsey has a “Financial Peace Jr.” program that has worked well for us. It has lessons about how to work, save, spend and give. It also teaches about the dangers of debt. One day my 5-year-old daughter had a friend over to play and I overheard their conversation. My daughter asked her friend if she had ever heard of debt. When her friend replied “no”, my daughter went on to explain how bad it was and how you should never be in debt! It made me smile to think that my children were actually picking up on a principle I was teaching them! Yay! They have a very clear set of jobs to do each day and they are given “compensation”, not “allowance” for the work they complete. We have been using the system for over a year and it has worked so well. My kids make (mostly) mindful choices about how to spend their money and they have become much better at giving. I can tell my daughter has similar spending tendencies as me so I hope with a good foundation she can make good financial decisions in the future.

K-What are some of the most common mistakes that people make to hurt their finances?

B-I would say not being on the same page with your spouse. Like I said before, Eric and I didn’t fight over money, but I carried the burden of making most of the decisions because I knew what was going on. Now, we both have a say and we both keep each other in check. It has brought us closer in a way I hadn’t anticipated. I think another aspect that hurts people is not having a budget. As Dave Ramsey likes to say, give every dollar a name/mission at the beginning of the month so you know where every penny will go – that includes for expenses, saving, etc. Budgeting is hard work, but it does get easier. It is kind of like the concept of watching what you eat. Sometimes you don’t realize how much you are actually eating until you keep track and write it down. Small purchases add up quickly so having a budget that both you and your spouse agree on is critical!

K-What will you miss most about living in Corvallis?

B-Oh boy, what will I miss the most?? Besides my friends and the wonderful people I have met, I will miss the beauty of Corvallis. I have come to love the trees so much! I will miss being so close to the coast. The Oregon coast is one of the most beautiful places in the world! I will miss all the amazing produce and living in a community that is so health-conscious. That has been such a treat! I hope to spread that vibe in Idaho:)

Sam, Zeke, and Hadley are looking happy.. because that mama of theirs has taught them well!

K-What advice do you have for a family who has the desire to make changes but is also overwhelmed by the idea of budgeting and taking control of their finances?

B-I guess I would say think about your dreams and goals. What would you do if your finances were not an issue? Then, start by just writing down what you are spending. Get an idea of where you are and where you want to be. Try making your budget for the month and then taking out the money in cash. It hurts to spend cash! Plus, when it is gone, it’s gone. And give yourself time. It takes a few months to get it right. I am not sure if that is even helpful, but that is how Eric and I gained control of our finances.

K-What else are you passionate about?

B-I really love teaching people how to do things! I learned how to make bread about 5 years ago and make it every week (for the most part) for my family to eat. I have now taught several of my friends and family members how to make bread and now they make it for their families. I just love the thought of spreading good things around. I also love deep conversation! I love to read and discuss ideas with friends and family. I just love connecting with people.

K-What brings you peace and happiness?

B-I would have to say my religious beliefs bring me the most peace and happiness. When I am on with doing the things I have come to know I should do, life just functions better. Also, my husband and children bring me so much happiness. It is the things we work hardest on that are the most satisfying. I try and remember that when things are difficult – eventually those hard things turn into some of the most treasured blessings. Close friends also bring me so much happiness – like I said before I thrive on connecting with people! And finally, being in nature and just soaking in the beauty really brings peace to my soul. I wish I had more time to sit on the beach and just breath in all the beauty!