Finding Funding for Missions in Unusual Places

The collection deadline for Samaritan’s Purse missional shoe boxes is fast approaching!  Our church collected the last of our donated boxes on Sunday.  My kids were SO excited to send ours on its way, and rightly so, because they played a big part in providing the funding to make it possible.

A few months back, I mentioned that we wanted to come up with funds for supporting missions.  We set a goal to reach by the end of the year, and the kids caught the vision that they could be God’s hands by helping send the gospel into the world, literally.  Excited, they went through their rooms looking for spare change.  They found a lot, actually.  I think they probably dipped into their hard earned spending money.  They caught the “giving bug”.

Being God's hands to the world

We joke that our 9 year old is a money magnet.  She loves going to town with me, and no wonder since she always comes home with change in her pocket.  It helps that she is very observant, but this kids finds money everywhere!  She began the habit of tucking it into my hand and telling me, “Here, you can put this in our missions money.”

I offered that maybe she should keep every other coin, and give every other coin (cuz honestly, some days she comes home with more than a dollar), but she wouldn’t be deterred.  She set such a good example that we all decided to do as she is doing.  When we find coins in town, we bring them home and add them to the mission fund. 🙂  Bring on all those nice Aldi shoppers who give away their carts when leaving the store!  They have no idea the good that they are doing!

Nearly all the contents of our Samaritan Purse shoe box was paid for with lost change.  We’re pretty excited, because we’re re-starting our mission fund now for next year, and I can’t wait to see how much we’ll be able to do.  I’m positive that we find far more change than we used to find, whether because we’re more aware of our surroundings (ulterior motives) or God is blessing our plans.  Probably both.  😉

I paid for our shoe box label/shipping donation online.  You can learn more about it at this address.  When you pay for shipping online they track your shoe box so you know to which country it has gone, and that knowledge is going to be such joy for my crew.  It will keep them motivated to want to do this again!

One thing I will do differently from now on is that I will more intentional when shopping this coming year:  I will notice bargain items that are appropriate to put in these shoe boxes.  I  will buy school type supplies ahead of time, when they are on sale in August/September.  EVERYONE was buying shoe box stuffers in November, and I ended up paying more for items like colored pencils and a pencil sharpener because the “deal items” were completely gone, even at the Dollar Store!  I did find a Ty Beanie Baby at the thrift store for 50 CENTS that was like new, tag and all.  Kinda the frosting on the cake!

Anyway, the purpose of sharing all this is not to show off, but hopefully to inspire you that it’s possible to give more… pray how God would have you do it.  Maybe it’s:

  • Buying less Starbucks
  • Buying a more affordable cell phone so the monthly bill is less
  • Contributing funds you save when couponing
  • Raising money with a garage sale
  • Have a bake sale!  One of the families we know sells cookies, pies, and other delectables to raise money for missions–their friends are very generous when they know where it’s going!
  • Or, perhaps you’re just a money magnet too, LOL.

Do you have ideas?  How does your family set aside funds for missions?  Please share them with me so all our mission funds can benefit from your creativity!

 

Caring For Your Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter

 

 

gluten-free starter care

If you have never baked with sourdough, there are a few good things to know.

What Is Sourdough?

Sourdough is a mixture of flour and water that contains wild yeasts and lactobacilli. These naturally occurring cultures actually “eat” the simple sugars in the grains, beginning the process of breaking it down.  During this process, they produce carbon dioxide, which appears as bubbles, that helps rise your dough.  These cultures also produce lactic acid which prevents the growth of harmful bacteria.

Sourdough is an efficient way to bake for your family.  As long as you save some some “starter” each time you use it, and continue to “feed” it, giving it more flour and water, it will continue to multiply and serve you indefinitely. Because using sourdough incorporates the use of these wild yeasts as leavening in your baked products, this means you do not need to buy instant dry yeast from the store… so you may expect to save time and money.

Since the wild yeasts feed on the sugars in the grains, properly prepared sourdough products are lower on the glycemic index than non-sourdough goods.   Now, let me be clear here… I said it is low-er on the glycemic index… I didn’t say it’s safe to pig out  😉 Grains are still starches that provide quick energy to the body.  Moderation, as always, please.

Also, because the sourdough yeasts begin the process of breaking down the flours you bake with, the finished product is easier on the digestive system.  The wild yeasts and bacteria neutralize anti-nutrients and enzyme inhibitors that are naturally occurring in grains, and actually produce some vitamins themselves, which means more nutrition is readily available.

Other Advantages

Gluten free grains are often more dry and gritty than their glutenous counterparts, and recipes can require more starch.  As the yeasts begin to break down the grains, they are softened, giving baked goods a more pleasant texture, and our family thinks they have a richer flavor.

How to Care for Your Starter

  • Wild yeasts do not like metal.  Whether you are cultivating sourdough, kefir or kombucha, please do not store your cultures in metal–it will kill them.  You can use metal fork/spoon for mixing your baked goods; just don’t store it in metal. Keep your sourdough starter, and unbaked products, in glass.  Except for dipping, as shown in the featured photo, avoid storing in plastics as you do not want your culture to leach chemicals for your family to later consume.
  • Only use un-chlorinated water because the chemicals will kill your starter. If you live in the city and do not have filtered water, measure your water, leave it set for 12 hours before using, and the chlorine should evaporate out.
  • If you are perpetuating more than one type of culture in your kitchen: ie, kombucha…  it is a good idea to keep a few feet between them.
  • Cover, but do not seal air tight.  Fruit flies and other insects just love fermented goodness.  If your sourdough is not covered, it will turn into an insect trap.  (yuck!)
  • Sourdough is more active in warmer temperatures, and slows down in colder temps.  If you keep your starter out on the counter in a moderate temps, it will probably need fed every 12 hours.  If you use it daily, then this is perfect.  If, however, you do not want to use it daily, store your freshly fed starter in the refrigerator and it will not have to be fed for at least a week.
  • After sitting, if there is a layer of liquid on top (may be clearish, pinkish or brownish), this is called hooch.  Just pour it off, down the sink, and freshen your starter: assuming your gluten free starter is brown rice, so feed it some brown rice flour and water.  Stir well, cover, and give a few hours for your starter to get all bubbly and active before using in a recipe.  If you are used to glutenous sourdough which can get frothy on top, it’s helpful to know that the rice starter does not get bubbly on top, but you can see the gas pockets all through the “sponge” through the side of your glass storage container.  (In the past, I did maintain a buckwheat starter, which I began following the same directions as the boosted rice starter.  It was easy to maintain.  I eventually threw it out because buckwheat is stronger smelling and the rice worked equally well.)
  • It is important to know guidelines for how much to feed starter.  Do not exceed 4:1. Four parts new flour and water to one part active starter.  You may feed your starter less, but do not feed it more than this at once because you do not want to weaken it. If your starter will be sitting on the counter all day, do not feed it less than a 1:1 ratio; One part starter to one part fresh brown rice flour and water.  So, for example, if I have had 1/2 cup of starter in the fridge all week and I take it out to use it, I am going to feed it 1/2 cup of fresh brown rice flour and stir in enough water to make it the consistency I want it.  If you make it too thin, the extra water will rise to the top.
  • If your starter sits too long and the top gets dry and pinkish, use a spoon to ladle off the top and discard.  Transfer to a clean glass container and then feed.
  • What about discarding down the sink?  The yeast is amazing for your pipes and septic.  A friend of ours is a septic designer and he highly recommends it!  😉
  • Recipes are mixed up ahead of time, and ferment to allow the wild yeasts to do their magic.  They should not ferment for less than 7 hours before baking.  If you are in a time pinch, remember that sourdough is more active in warmer temperatures.  You can place dough next to a slow cooker or place in an oven that is OFF: if you have a gas oven that is kept warm by a pilot light, or if you have an electric oven you can turn the light on to keep warm.  If you feel the oven is too warm, just prop door open a smidge by placing an oven mitt in the way so it doesn’t close completely.  Remove to complete and bake when ready.  If you have a cool kitchen in the winter, then again, you will want to let your goods sour longer, or find a warm spot for them.  If you have a HOT kitchen, your products will be ready to bake sooner rather than later.

If you have questions or need clarification, please ask about it in the comments.  If you are wondering, someone else is bound to question the same thing!

Well, now you are ready to begin baking with your starter, and I am ready to begin sharing recipes!

Care instructions are available as a PDF for download here: How to care for your gluten free starter

 

Making a Gluten Free Sourdough Starter

It was 7 years ago that I decided to delve into the world of sourdough!  I was pregnant with Precious #6, and I took a sourdough e-course from GNOWFGLINS Traditional Cooking School.  The class was awesome!  The series began with teaching how to make a starter from scratch and then how to use that starter to make everything from breads to cakes.  The course included a pdf for those who learn best from reading, and it featured videos for visual junkies like me–I learn best from watching and doing.  I was able to cultivate a starter from spelt flour (a glutenous ancient grain), tried the recipes in the e-course, and soon converted my own recipes to this more healthful method of preparing breads.

At the time, we ate a lot of gluten free foods as well.  I had been wheat free for many years, but everything I read about gluten free sourdough, which used a brown rice starter, said it could be difficult to maintain and that it may require re-starting a starter now and then.  I am all for easy, so  No, thank you!  And so I was too intimidated to try.

When I HAD to go gluten free, I missed my sourdough!  Gluten free grains can be more gritty, and I knew my baked goods would not be as nutritious or digestible without the benefits of fermentation.  Eventually I decided to just try it, and I’m so glad I did!  No more guilt for whipping up quick breads, lol!  This gluten free sourdough thing is good, and as it turns out, it’s easy too!  My starter has been going strong for about two years and I have never had an issue.

After sharing a picture of some fresh bread on Facebook, I received a lot of requests for a recipe.  I plan to teach a local class in September, and will give starter to participants, but for anyone who is in a hurry or not local, I decided to share the steps to going gluten free sourdough with you.  The first thing you need is a starter!

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You will need:

Filtered water,

Clean glass mason jar  (for starting your starter!),

a paper towel or clean piece of fabric with a rubber band or jar ring to cover the jar,

brown rice flour,

and coconut water kefir.  If you do not have coconut water kefir, you can learn what that is and how to make it HERE.

Since I didn’t invent this Boosted Brown Rice Sourdough Starter, I’m going to send you to the web site that taught me.  You can find instructions over HERE at The Art of Gluten Free Sourdough Baking.

One thing I will add to her directions is:  Follow her directions exactly on the first day. However,  on the second day–on the second feeding and following when you feed your newly fermenting starter, before you add the 1/3 to 1/2 cup of brown rice and water, first remove and discard 1/3 to 1/2 cup of starter.  If you do not remove starter before feeding, you are going to be swimming in starter, and larger quantities of starter require being fed larger amounts.  So simplify and remove some starter before feeding.  You will know if your starter is healthy if it develops lots of airy bubbles throughout the jar.  You will be able to see these developing as it ages… less after being fed and more before the next feeding.

Here is a look at my thriving starter:

GF sourdough starter 1

And here is a top view.  The top looks a little dry.  It has been sitting, covered on my counter all day.  I’m ready to use some in a recipe for breakfast and then I will feed it.

GF sourdough starter 2

If creating your own gluten free sourdough starter is not something you feel like tackling right now, but you want to get started baking, you can buy a starter from Cultures for Health.  It will come with instructions that are easy to follow.

Starters are fermented, so definitely expect a sour smell.  It is unpleasant to some people, but I promise your finished baked goods will smell heavenly and taste yummy… rarely ever a sour flavor when you actually eat it!

If you have questions, please let me know in the comments below… someone else is bound to be wondering the same thing!

Good luck, have fun, and when you have a thriving starter you can come back here to try out some recipes with me!

 

 

 

From King Size to Twin Size, Breathing Usefulness into a Worn Quilt

One of the ways we are able to provide for the needs of our large family while keeping a reasonable budget is by thrift shopping, and I have discovered I really enjoy it.  It feels good to provide for a need (or want) and not break the budget.

We have a little local shop that supports a school, and it’s one of my favorite places to browse.  It is astounding, really.  If I think of something I know I’m going to want, or I pray about a need, it’s not uncommon to find it the next time I visit.  Other times I may keep my eyes peeled longer, but God always provides, one way or another!

Last year when we had a cold snap I realized that C1 needed a real bed quilt instead of the over-sized baby blanket and throws I had layered on his bed.  I started watching for a cotton twin sized bed quilt, and found a Target brand quilt with automobiles on it,  but a couple of the applique`s had begun to pull away so they were only asking $2.00.  This is something I can fix, so I was thrilled and thankful!

Then last winter that annual cold snap hit and I realized C2 also needed a real, bed sized quilt, but I wasn’t find anything.

My own bed quilt was a king sized quilt.  Our bed is a queen, but I like my quilts to hang long and cover the sides of the bed.  The top edge and whole first row of blocks had grown ratty from 12 years of wear, and my husband mentioned how nice it would be to replace it.  It did occur to me that our old quilt, a mix of blocks in the green and brown spectrum, could make a very nice boy blanket.

Sometimes using what you have is the most creative endeavor of all!!

I laid it out on the roomiest floor I could find, and spread C1’s quilt on top for a template, avoiding the ratty side of the old quilt.  C1’s quilt was a little shorter than I like, so I cut C2’s longer so that it will tuck under the bottom of his bunk mattress.  I just cut along the rows and pinned as I went to hold the layers together.

quilt 1

Using a heavy cotton camouflage fabric from Joanne’s, I cut strips and made a binding.  I used this tutorial as a guide to piece the binding and sew it on the quilt.  I’ve done a lot of bindings, but this is my favorite method by far!  The tutorial is clear and easy to follow, and it saved me a lot of time.  I did the whole project in one day.

quilt 2

 

quilt 3

I wasn’t sure I was going to like the camo fabric.  It had the browns like the quilt, but it was a completely different style.  However, when I put the quilt on the bed, I loved it!  The dark browns in the binding match the dark brown of the wood in the bed and make it look like I gave the project more forethought than I actually did.  (Really, I just didn’t find anything I liked better.)

C2 bed

I’d like to do a little woodsy theme in the boys’ room, with stars and some camp inspired decor.  There are old, green and flannel marine sleeping bags on the bottom of the beds for colder nights.  They’re fun to crawl around inside too, if you’re 4 and 6 years old.  🙂

Back at the thrift store I found a pair of matching pillow shams for 75 cents that also contribute to this woodsy theme and I’m keeping my eyes open for small stuffed animals that match the sham.

C2 pillow

For $15.00 I replaced my quilt at the Salvation Army.  I still have some camo fabric to make the boys some hot and cold pack/bean bags (if I ever get around to it!) 😉

The best part?  C2 loves his new blanket, and seeing me make it for him makes him feel special too!

How to Make Coconut Water Kefir

In my journey to health I spent a long time eating Body Ecology style, which eliminated some foods, included some lesser known foods, and incorporated proper food combining.   I still apply some of its principles to the meals I prepare for my family.  Body Ecology founder, Donna Gates, highly recommends coconut water kefir.  She sells it on her web site, but being who I am, I opted for affordability and the challenge of making it myself.

Not to be confused with coconut milk, coconut water is found in young green coconuts, before it is replaced with coconut meat.

I was told by a “sample lady” at Costco about one of her customers who had served in the military.  He said that in times of war, when no IV fluid was available, they used straight coconut water in the IV’s of the wounded due its purity and high electrolyte content. Bottled coconut water is not as ideal as fresh, but this is what I have to use.

Kefir 4

Coconut water contains some B vitamins, and is high in potassium and sodium which are good for adrenal health.  It is sweet, as it contains easily digested carbohydrates which is what makes it suitable, temporarily, for kefir grains.

The name Kefir means “feel good” in Turkish.  Kefir contains the essential amino acid tryptophan which helps calm the nervous system and is also used by the body to produce serotonin.  Serotonin affects mood, appetite, digestion, sleep, and memory.

There are two types of kefir grains.  One thrives in milk and the other in sugar water (called water kefir).  I have not made water kefir, though I someday hope to try it.  I already had dairy kefir grains and so I use them to make my coconut water kefir.  If you have an allergy or intolerance to milk, you may want to use water kefir.

A mixture of live yeasts and bacteria, kefir grains digest sugars in the beverage they are added to, fermenting it into a sour but probiotic rich drink.  Combining the coconut water and kefir gains you the benefits of both, but with less natural sugars.  It provides good bacteria to populate your gut where most of your immune system resides and it improves digestion along the way.

Kefir 1

Here you can see my kefir grains have been busy turning this milk into a thick kefir. They tend to float up toward the top.

I use a plastic mesh strainer that came with the Kefir Kit I bought from Cultures From Health to rinse my grains.  Never use metal with your kefir grains.  Use a plastic strainer, but store your grains in glass so that your kefir does not leach chemicals from the plastic.

Kefir 3

When I wash the grains under cool water, I use a wooden spoon or clean hands to rinse the milk off as best as possible.

Because milk kefir grains thrive in milk, it is important not to keep them out for too long. They do not convert the coconut water as quickly as they do milk.  The grains will float up and down in the liquid.  Milk kefir is ready to consume 12-24 hours after adding grains, depending on how thick and how sour you want it.  I leave my kefir grains in coconut water between 2-3 full days.  I often do 2 batches in a row so my fridge is stocked and then I promptly put the grains back into milk for one or two cycles to make sure they are fed well and strong before placing them back into the refrigerator to store.  If they spend too much time in the refrigerator they will lose their ability to ferment.  As long as I give mine a couple of days in milk on the counter every two or three weeks they are fine.

Kefir 6

Once your coconut water kefir is done fermenting, strain the grains out and add to a clean glass container to either make more coconut water kefir or refresh with milk. Store your finished products in the refrigerator.

Drink 1/4 cup in your Plexus Slim for a lemonaidy taste or with meals for better digestion.  My little ones beg to drink it anytime as they are accustomed to sour flavors and enjoy them.  I love this since I know I am giving them something that will protect their immune system and benefit them in many ways.

Are you ready to add this to your wellness routine?

If you do not already have kefir grains, or don’t know anyone who can share (they multiply over time) you can order a starter from Cultures For Health.  The grains come dehydrated with detailed directions on rehydrating and using.  The website also has many video tutorials and recipes for using their cultured products.

If you would like to read about more of the health protecting benefits of kefir, Dr. Axe has a good article.

If you plan to make a boosted rice sourdough starter, this coconut water kefir is what I used to create the starter.  Look for instructions in a future post!

Can you use milk kefir grains to make kefir from coconut milk?  Umm, yes.  I did it once with canned coconut milk.  It worked.  It was also one of the few things that ever made me gag!  😉  So, you can try it if you want to.  Maybe you will like it better than I!!