How I Live Without a Microwave


I remember when my mom got her first microwave.  I think I was around five years old (about 1990).  She got it for Christmas.  It was in this huge box, and I had no idea what it was.  But it was a pretty big deal.

Microwaves were first invented in 1946 by accident.   Dr. Percy LeBaron Spencer, an engineer who was working on magnetrons, found that a candy bar in his pocket had melted.  After some experimenting, he discovered that microwaves could cook food much faster than conventional ovens.  The first commercial microwave was produced in 1954, and later in 1967 a domestic microwave was produced.  Of course the price for these was exorbitant!  As the years went on, microwaves became more affordable, and by 1975, microwave sales exceeded that of gas ranges.

So what’s my beef with microwaves?  Well for one thing, I have a very small kitchen, and I could not stand the amount of space my microwave was taking up on my counter.  All so that I had a quick and easy way to cook frozen meals.  Commercially prepared, over processed meals.

And let’s not forget popcorn!  Popcorn is one of my favorite snacks.  But according to the FDA, a chemical coating used in microwave popcorn bags breaks down into a “likely carcinogenic substance” when microwaved.  No thanks.

So how do I live without a microwave, especially with a large family?  Pretty easily.  I make popcorn on the stove top, and it tastes much better than the microwaved stuff.  I make sure to thaw meats ahead of time in the refrigerator (I never defrosted meat in the microwave anyways…it always turned out disgusting).  I melt butter on the stove top for  baking recipes.  I reheat leftovers in the oven.  Other than a few extra dirty dishes and bit more time, it’s really not that big of a difference.

I found that the pros of not having a microwave heavily outweighed the cons.  So what’s keeping you from getting rid of yours?


An Easy way to Un-Paper Towel

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Photo Credit: yourbestdigs Flickr via Compfight cc

Paper towels can be quite expensive, especially in a large family like mine (with small children).  In trying to save money on paper towels, the first thing I did was switch to cloth napkins for our meals.  We use them for about 2 days before switching to clean ones (unless they’re extremely dirty, or a child is sick and we don’t want to risk spreading germs).  I also keep old cloth diapers on hand (I mainly used these as burp cloths) to use for deep cleaning, or soaking up large spills.

It’s pretty, but I’m not going to spend my free time doing this. For reals.

I had been wanting to try making my own Un-Paper Towels, but I couldn’t find anything that wasn’t expensive or time consuming.  I saw all of the tutorials on how to sew your own, but I really don’t have time to spend hours sewing paper towels (and honestly, who would want to?).  I even thought about trying to rip old flannel fabric and blankets into squares to use for paper towels, but I didn’t have any on hand, and I didn’t want to spend any extra money on it.

Oh hey, come wipe my counters!

While walking through one of my favorite thrift stores one day, I came upon a large basket of cloth napkins.  They were 25 cents for each set of four.  I grabbed as many as I could, realizing that these would make an excellent replacement for paper towels!  I mainly picked up the cotton napkins, as the synthetic fabric ones aren’t as absorbent.  I put a basket under my kitchen sink, and once I had washed them, I threw them all in there (no folding or worrying about making them look fancy since they’re under the sink).  I use them for almost everything…I can’t bring myself to use them to clean up raw meat messes or any bodily fluids…ahem.  Once I’ve used them, I throw them in a basket I keep in front of my washer and wash them when I’m running low.  Greasiness can be an issue, but I’ve found washing them in hot water with some Borax (along with my regular detergent) helps to reduce it.

So there you go, an easy, cheap way to start your Un-Paper Towel journey!  Please feel free to comment if you have any of your own tips or tricks you’ve found helpful when using Un-Paper Towels.

How I Save Hundreds of Dollars on Homeschooling Books

Affording homeschooling can be very complicated, especially if your family lives on one income (like mine does).  I’m sure you’ve read all of the common wisdom around the inter-webs about saving money on homeschool books, like using the library and joining local Facebook buy/sale groups (I know I have).

But what if I told you about something you probably haven’t heard of, or didn’t think was relevant to saving money on homeschool books?  Something you could do that wouldn’t even require you to leave home?

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That “something” is Paperback Swap.  What is PaperBack Swap?  In a nutshell, it’s a website where you can post any books that you no longer need and get credits whenever someone requests one of your books and you ship it.  You only pay to ship the books.

In this post, I’m going to show you step by step how to use the website.

1. Visit  

2. Register as a New Member.  There is a reasonable yearly membership fee you must pay in order to use the site.

Standard Membership costs $20 a year and allows you to request unlimited books using Book Credits but without swap fees

Limited Membership costs $12 a year and allows you to request 30 books per year using Book Credits but without swap fees

Unenrolled (A la Carte members) pay no annual fee and each swap costs 1 swap fee in addition to the Book Credits for the items in the swap.

I currently use the Limited Membership, but lately I’ve been swapping more than 30 books per year, so next year I may switch to a Standard Membership.

3. Post any books you no longer want!  Once you post your first 10 books, you get two ‘startup’ Book Credits and two free “swap fees” good toward the selection of any other club member’s books.

If it has an ISBN number, you can usually post it.  Sometimes a book cannot be found in their system, but they do give you the option to upload your own picture of the book along with it’s information.

The books must be in good condition (no tears, bends, rips, scribbles, etc.).  You can also set your own Requestor Conditions under Account/Settings.  I have a horrible mold allergy, so I am not willing to accept moldy books.  You can put anything you want, like no pets, smoking, etc.

4. Browse the library to find books you want.  Here is the fun part!  Enter a book title, author, or keyword into the top right search bar on the main menu.  You will then be taken to a results page.  The menu at the left of the page allows you to refine your results.

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Under “Search Type,”  you want to select “Posted Books.”  This will allow you to see what is already listed in the database.

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5. If you cannot find the book(s) you want, go to “All Books” under the Search Type, and place the book on your wishlist.

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I absolutely love the wishlist feature!  I check my children’s curriculum requirements for the next few years, and place any books I might need on my wishlist if it isn’t available.  Sometimes you have to wait up to two years to find what you’re looking for, but if it’s a rare book, it’s worth the wait.  Paperback Swap will place it on hold for you and send you an email when someone posts it into the system.  Paperback Swap is also good about suggesting similar titles that you may not have placed on your wishlist (like newer editions, or hardback versions).

6.  When someone requests one of your books, Paperback Swap will send you an email.  When you open your email, there is a link to go straight to your Paperback Swap account.  There you will see what book(s) have been requested from you.

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You only have a certain amount of time to respond to the request before it is cancelled.  Click “I Can Mail Within 2 Days.”  Now you have two options for shipping:  you can take the book(s) to the post office and pay shipping there, or for a fee of 0.55, you can print a wrapper with prepaid shipping right from your computer!  I always choose this option, because I certainly do not want to take my four small children with me to the post office unless I absolutely have to!

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Click to “Print your Wrapper.”  I always choose the middle aligned position because I just fold under the sides and tape it to the front of my package.  Paperback Swap automatically estimates the weight of your book, and I’ve found they are almost always correct.  If you’re mailing multiple books, you may want to double check the weight.  Select the date you plan to mail it, then double check the cost.  You can add money to your Paperback Swap (PBS) account if you need to.  Click “Print Wrapper Now.”

Once the wrapper has printed, you can close the window, and mark the book as mailed.  Once it’s been marked as mailed, you now receive a credit.

I try to re-use envelopes from books I’ve received or from Amazon packages I’ve received. If the book(s) won’t fit, I wrap the book in shipping paper.

So there you have it!  Feel free to ask any questions you might have in the comments.

6-Minute Soft-Boiled Eggs

6 minute Soft-Boiled Egg

I absolutely love poached eggs.  But I just do not have the time to stand over the stove and watch them simmer.  I even tried buying some of the cute little metal poaching bowls, but I still had to be careful not to overcook them.  That’s where the 6 minute soft-boiled egg comes in.  While you do not have the same presentation value of a poached egg, you certainly get the taste and texture.  These eggs taste excellent on my Sprouted Wheat Bread, and make a fast breakfast, lunch, or dinner!




1.  Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil.

2.  Gently add Eggs to the water with a slotted spoon.

3.  Make sure none have busted, or are completely floating on the top (the floaters are rotten eggs).

4.  Set your timer for 6 minutes.

5.  Pour some coffee.

6.  Look out the window.

7.  When the Eggs are done, hold the Eggs in place with the slotted spoon while you drain the hot water out.

8.  Run cool water over the eggs, then pour it out.  Repeat two more times.

9.  If you plan to eat immediately, you may leave some cool water in the pot with the Eggs to cool them rapidly.  I usually leave no water on the Eggs since I can’t get to peeling them right away.

10.  When you’re ready to serve, carefully peel the Eggs (wetting your fingers in cool water sometimes makes the peeling easier).

11.  Serve!

Tomato-Free Sauce

Tomato-Free Sauce and Pesto on Sprouted Wheat Pasta
Tomato-Free Sauce and Pesto on Sprouted Wheat Pasta

Whether you’re allergic to tomatoes, or avoiding produce in the nightshade family, this is an amazing, healthy alternative to tomato-based sauces.  Using beets and carrots to replace the tomatoes adds a unique color and flavor profile that no one can turn down!

For approximately 6 cups


2 1/2 c. Carrots, steamed

1/3 c. Beets, steamed

2/3 c. water from steaming pot

3 Tb. Lemon Juice

1/2 c. Olive Oil

1/4 c. Butter

2 c. Onions, chopped

1 c. Celery, chopped

4 Garlic cloves, minced

8 Tb. Parmesan Cheese, grated

4 tsp. dried Basil

4 tsp. dried Oregano

2 tsp. Salt

1/4 tsp. Black Pepper

4 small Bay Leaves

2 tsp. Fennel Seeds


To steam the Beets and Carrots:

1.  Wash and peel the Beets and Carrots.

2.  Add steamer basket to a large pot with 2 inches of water in the bottom and bring to a boil.

3.  Add Beets and Carrots and steam, covered, for 15 minutes, or until soft.

4.  Let sit until cool enough to handle, then set aside Carrots and Beets in separate bowls.

5.  Mash Beets and Carrots (if you have extra, save it in the freezer for the next batch).

To make Sauce:

1.  In a large pot, melt the Butter with the Oil.

2.  Add the Onion, Celery, and Garlic and sauté until soft and transparent.

3.  Add the steamed Beets and Carrots, water from steaming pot, and Lemon Juice and mix well.

4.  Add remaining ingredients, and bring to a slow simmer.

6.  Simmer for 60 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

7.  Allow to cool and remove Bay Leaves.

8.  Add sauce to blender and blend until smooth (or use an immersion blender and mix directly in the pot).

Pizza Sauce
Pizza Sauce

Use as a sauce for pasta, pizza, or whatever else you can think of!  I freeze the sauce in 1 c. containers and thaw as needed.

Sprouted Wheat Bread (Essene Bread)

Sprouted Wheat Bread
Serve with your favorite dipping oil!

Sprouting grains is economical, ecological, simple, and tasty!  There is very little hands-on time, and the result is a highly nutritious, “living” food.  Sprouting, or germinating, allows enzymes in the grains to become active and create a host of nutritional changes:

  • Proteins are converted into free amino acids
  • Starches change into simple plant sugars
  • Minerals combine in a way that increases their assimilation
  • Vitamin content increases from 3 to 12 times

Wheat sprouts, in particular, contain four times more folic acid and six times more vitamin C than unsprouted wheat.

I will be specifically concentrating on wheat sprouts in this post in order to use them for Essene Bread.  Red Winter Wheat Berries are the best choice for sprouting.  Be sure that your grains are not sprayed with chemicals or dyed.  Use only grains that are certified to be edible.  Also, make sure your grains have no traces of mold, as this will get out of control during the sprouting process, and will make you sick.  Always be sure your sprouting container is clean (I always wash mine with hot soapy water when I’m finished sprouting grains in it) to prevent any carryover of molds that may have started to grow from the previous sprouting.

Essene Bread is so easy and nutritious that it’s the only kind I make.  It has a wonderful sweet, nutty flavor, and it’s chewy texture is reminiscent of an english muffin.  In fact, I use these for everything an english muffin can be used for…which is pretty much anything!

To sprout the Wheat Berries:


2 c. Hard Red Winter Wheat Berries

Large glass jar (I use a 2 quart Ball jar)

Cheesecloth or plastic lid with holes in it


1. Soaking:

Add 2 c. Wheat Berries to the glass jar and cover with two layers of cheesecloth, or a plastic lid with holes in it.

Add warm water, swirl it around to clean the seeds, then pour it out.

Refill with double the amount of warm water as there are seeds.

Place in a dark cabinet, or cover with a towel, and let it soak overnight.

Soaking2.  Sprouting

Pour off the soak water.

Turn the jar to spread out the seed.

Place drained jar in a dark place at an angle to allow any extra water to drain out.


Leave for 12 hours, then rinse the sprouts with cool water, and drain again.

Repeat until the sprouts have “tails” that are twice as long as the berries and have a sweet taste (taste them!).  It usually takes 2-3 days to accomplish this.

Wheat Berry "Tails"

The sprouts should be ready in the evening, so complete the final rinsing and let them dry overnight.  The jar will be packed full of sprouts!

Fully Sprouted Wheat Berries

3.  Grinding

Now that the berries are sprouted and drained (there will still be some moisture, which is needed to keep the dough moist), grind them to make the dough.  You may use a meat grinder, food processor, or hand-cranked grain mill.  I use my meat grinder attachment on my KitchenAid stand mixer.

The resulting dough will be juicy, sticky, mottled light and dark, and have the consistency of raw hamburger.

Ground Sprouts

4.  Kneading

Lightly oil your hands, or wet them with water, and knead the dough within the bowl for about one minute.  Keep repeatedly folding it over on itself, wetting your hands if the dough gets too sticky.

5.  Shaping

Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Using wet hands, take a small amount of dough and place it on the parchment paper.

Flatten to to approximately 1 1/2 inches.

Shaped Dough

6.  Baking

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bake for 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours until the outside is firm, not hard (the low temperature, long term baking preserves most of the nutrients from heat).  The bread will spring back slightly after gently touching.  The bottom of the bread will seem a bit sticky, but that’s fine.

Allow the bread to cool on wire racks and then store in sealed plastic bags.  The bread will become softer and sweeter with time.

The bread can be kept at room temperature for three to four days, or refrigerated for up to four weeks!

I have a continual batch of wheat berries sprouting so that I don’t run out of bread.  I can’t get enough of it!

Tomato Pesto Mozzarella on Sprouted Bread
Tomato Pesto Mozzarella on Sprouted Bread

Summer Squash Pasta with Pesto

Zucchini Pasta with Pesto


If you’re going grain free or just want to add more veggies to your diet, this is the way to go.  All you need is a julienne attachment for your mandoline slicer.  If you don’t have a mandoline slicer, go get one!  Mine is a cheap slicer from Aldi, but it works wonders.

The Pesto can be used on pasta, corn on the cob, as a dressing for caprese salad, or even as an accompaniment to fish and meat.  The possibilities are endless!


For Summer Squash Pasta:

Summer Squash, washed and dried


For Pesto:

2 c. packed fresh Basil leaves, washed and dried

4 cloves Garlic, peeled

1/2 tsp. Salt

1/4 c. Pine Nuts

1/4 c. freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

1/4 – 1/2 c. Extra Virgin Olive Oil


For Summer Squash Pasta:

Slice both ends off of each Squash.

Using the julienne attachment on the mandoline slicer, slice Squash until you get to the center where the seeds are.  Discard the center.

Place julienned Squash in a colander and sprinkle generously with salt.

Soaked Squash

Set in the sink and let rest for 20 minutes.

Rinse with cold water, and squeeze out as much water as possible.

For Pesto:

Place Basil in a food processor or blender.

Pulse until well chopped.

Add Garlic, Salt, Pine Nuts, and Parmesan and blend until mixed.

With the motor running, slowly add Olive Oil until a thick paste is formed.

To prepare Summer Squash Pasta with Pesto:

Preheat a non-stick skillet over medium high heat.

Add desired amount of Pesto to pan, stirring until fragrant (approximately 30 seconds).

Add Summer Squash Pasta and briefly sauté until warmed through and well coated with Pesto (keep the sauté time short, in order to retain a bit of “crunch” to the Squash).

Serve warm.

The Pesto can be kept refrigerated for several days, or frozen for up to 3 months.  I usually make a large batch in the Summer and freeze it to keep me going through the winter.

Lacto-fermented Salsa

Lactofermented Salsa

Lacto-fermentation is a traditional preservation method that has been used for thousands of years.  It relies on the activity of lactobacilli, bacteria that are present on the surface of all living things.  The lactobacilli convert the starches and sugars in fruits and vegetables to lactic acid, thereby preserving the food.  Lacto-fermentation is a process that is ongoing, so once you have the flavor you want, refrigeration is required to slow the fermentation.  A root cellar (or any space that stays around 40 degrees Fahrenheit) will do as well.  For more information on Lacto-fermentation, I highly suggest reading Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig, Ph.D.

This Lacto-fermented Salsa will blow your mind!  I have kept jars in the fridge for months, and the flavor is still as amazing as the day I made it.  The Onions and Peppers keep their “crunchiness” too, which is really what makes this recipe a winner in my book!

Adapted from Nourishing Traditions:

Makes approximately 1 1/2 quarts


 4 medium Tomatoes, cut in half and seeded

2 small Onions, coarsely chopped

3/4 c. Chile Peppers, coarsely chopped (hot or mild)

1 Jalapeno Pepper, seeded

8 cloves of Garlic, peeled

1 bunch Cilantro, coarsely chopped

1 tsp.  dried Oregano

juice of 2 Lemons

1 Tb. Sea Salt

1/4 c. Whey (from strained yogurt) or an additional 1 Tb. Sea Salt

1/4 c. Filtered Water


Add Tomatoes to a blender or food processor and pulse until chopped.

Add Onions, and pulse again.

Add Peppers, Garlic, Cilantro, and Lemon Juice and pulse until well mixed.

Add remaining ingredients and continue to pulse until well mixed.

Place salsa in two 1 quart canning jars, mashing vegetables down to ensure they are covered by the liquid.

Make sure the vegetables are at least one inch below the top of the jar to prevent leaking.

Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for approximately 2 days.

Be sure to loosen the lids and “burp” the jars periodically during fermentation to prevent leaking (tighten lid back when you’re finished).

Transfer the Salsa to cold storage.

Taco Seasoning

Taco Seasoning

This is so easy to make, and it keeps well too.  I use this seasoning not only on ground beef, but on beans as well.  I mix beans with the ground beef to make the meal “go a bit farther” and to save money (meat is SO expensive!).


6 Tb. Chili Powder

3 Tb. Cumin

1 1/2 tsp. Garlic Powder

1 1/2 tsp. Onion Powder

3/4 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

1 1/2 tsp. Oregano

1 Tb. Paprika

2 Tb. Salt

1 Tb. Black Pepper


Place all the ingredients in a jar and SHAKE!

Use approximately 2 Tb. of seasoning per pound of meat.

Remaining seasoning can be kept in an airtight container in the pantry.