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This past year I realized we have fallen down a hole of eating not so healthy foods more often then we should. We totally fell off the bandwagon of both eating well and keeping our grocery costs down. The pandemic has really split our routine […]
Since being laid off I have been trying to spend time with family and friends. My Dad is nearing retirement and has some free time as well so I have been trying to get the kids out to see him on the family property out on Whidbey Island. A better part of my childhood was spent out there walking in the woods with my Grandpa learning the names of the trees, looking for frogs and clearing trails. It is one of my favorite places and I am really grateful that we are able to pass on the tradition with our kids. Many of the trails we made as kids are still there but need some major work.
My grandparents were uber frugal before it was a fancy way to reach Financial Independence. When I was little they built a house on inherited land and set it up as their home base while they traveled all over the country. They bought every thing on sale, used items until they were very broken and heated their home with the wood they chopped outside in the yard. The grandkids would stay out there periodically and we played outside all day long making forts, wandering around in the woods and hitting golf balls into the woods (which we still find today). We had so much fun and learned a lot about how to be out in the woods safely. My Dad and my Grandpa taught us which plants to avoid, which ones we could eat and we helped out keeping the property clear and the trails open.
We went for a walk the last time we were out there and it was awesome to see my Dad interacting with the kids the same way he had with us when we were little. My kids have a set of fresh eyes when walking in the woods. We have not been out to Whidbey as much as I would have liked in the last year because of ongoing sickness and a crazy schedule but being out there recently reminded me of how much I would love to have a wooded retreat of our own to take the kids out to on the weekends. Mr. Oscoey and I have talked about someday buying property with woods and streams and such but “someday” has always been too far out to be tangible.
There is something to be said for spending time walking the same woods over the course of many seasons or even years. The surroundings change as the seasons move forward and plants you may have seen in April will have withered away by August. I remember when my Grandpa and Grandma cleared this path 30 or so years ago. It took many months and lots of help from the relatives but everyone worked together to get the project done. When my oldest daughter was about five I remember seeing a litter of baby coyotes play in the clearing which is one of my all time favorite memories.
One of the best parts of walking in the woods is learning to be more aware of your surroundings. We came across some deer tracks on our walk and the kids loved hearing about how you could tell the age of the track and where the deer went afterwards. We also spent quite a bit of time experimenting with stepping on branches to see if we could get them to snap and make a loud noise. This kind of random fun experiment is one of the best ways to get kids engaged with science without making it seem like a chore. We talked about which branches were better for snapping (drier ones) and how the larger ones required more weight to snap and everyone took turns snapping and helping each other snap branches. The kids had a lot of fun trying it out and they were very tired after our long walk!
We had a great time walking out in the woods and the kids learned quite a bit about their surroundings while spending quality time with Grandpa. I am hoping to get back out there once a month or so now that our schedule has cleared a little bit. We are not afraid of the weather so we will be out in all sorts of conditions! I also want to make more time to spend outside at our house but our kids go to bed so early these days it is hard to find the time.
How do you spend your outdoor time?
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One of the easiest, cheapest and healthiest snacks I make my kids is dried banana chips. My son absolutely loves them! We buy a couple of bunches of bananas at Costco for $1.39, slice them up and put them into the dehydrator and at the end of the day we have enough snack food for a couple of months. They are great to store a sandwich bag of in your purse for those days when your kids are starving but you somehow have used up all of the snacks you have stashed in your car. This may happen to me on occasion. My kids are always hungry! I love keeping them in my purse instead of granola bars because dried bananas weigh a lot less and it helps keep my purse from getting too heavy.
Gather all of your ingredients. Just two ingredients here! Try not to look at the sad bunch of bananas on the right missing a few of it’s mates. We may have gotten a little impatient waiting for our bananas to ripen and eaten a few. Make sure your bananas are not overripe. The drying process intensifies the flavor and if you have any sort of blemishes when you are drying the bananas it can cause your dried fruit to go bad faster. I do not dry my bananas all the way to crispy since my son likes them a little chewy. I would not feel comfortable storing our chewy bananas long term so we eat them within three months. For long term storage they will need to be dried until crispy and kept away from moisture, heat and light during storage. If they go bad and you do end up throwing a few into the compost bin remember, the whole bunch of bananas cost $1.39 so you are not breaking the bank tossing questionable food out. Always err on the side of caution!
First things first, squeeze your lemon into a strainer that has been placed over your large bowl. This will catch any seeds or large chunks of pulp. I used a hand held juicer to get every last bit of lemon juice out of the lemons since they are a little on the older side.
Next add your cold water. I filled the bowl most of the way and left room for my bananas.
Lay out your trays and bowl in a way that optimizes speed. I like to have my bowl right next to the tray that I am working on so that I can quickly place my banana slices onto the tray. Not pictured here is my compost bag which I forgot to get out until after I had sliced my first banana.
I put a towel under my tray so that the extra liquid doesn’t spill everywhere. Lemon juice can stain towels so it is best to use an older one. I rinsed my towel in some water as soon as I was done to minimize any acid spots.
Slicing in progress! I put my banana peels directly into the compost bag for easy cleanup. My banana slices were a little thick this time but if that happens it is ok. They will just need to be dried for longer.
Place your bananas on the tray after swishing them around in your lemon bath. The banana slices should not be touching but they do not need a lot of room in between since they will shrink down quite a bit. Always rinse your hands thoroughly after placing your bananas so that you do not have lemon juice sitting on your hands. The lemon juice can be an irritant plus you do not want to spread it all over your knife and work space.
Once you have slices all of your bananas place them into the dehydrator. My almost two bunches of bananas made two and a half trays but I didn’t really place them optimally since I knew it wouldn’t fill the dehydrator. Make sure you leave empty slots between your trays if you don’t fill the dehydrator so that the air will circulate better.
Easy clean up! I make sure and scrub the counter really well after making anything with lemon juice so it won’t stain our awesome laminate counter top…
I usually check my dehydrator after a few hours and rotate the banana chips as needed. We got about a half of a gallon sized Ziploc bag out of our bananas. We eat them almost every day so they should last 2-3 months. I store them in the dark pantry away from moisture. Every time I open the bag I give it a little sniff and check to see if I smell anything funky. I also look over the bananas pretty frequently to make sure they are not changing color or growing anything obvious but you should be able to smell if they have gone bad pretty quickly. We haven’t had any problems with our bananas but I make sure not to make more than what we can eat in a few months.
If you are going to store your bananas for more than a few months you should dry them until they are crispy and store them in a vacuumed sealed container in a cool, dry place. It is important to get as much moisture out as possible and keep the oxygen out if you are planning on using them for long term storage.
Here are some websites with great tips for using your dehydrator for every day items and long term storage:
What healthy snacks are you making at home?
Dried Banana Chips
Make these super easy banana chips for a healthy snack!
- 2 or more bunches of bananas
- The juice of 1 lemon
- Step 1 Juice your lemon into a strainer held over a large bowl. You can use cheesecloth as well.
- Step 2 Add enough cold water to the bowl to fill it most of the way but leave enough room for your sliced bananas.
- Step 3 Slice 3 or 4 bananas into the bowl and stir. It doesn’t matter how thick you slice them but the thicker they are the longer they will take to dry. It is more important that they are uniform in shape.
- Step 4 Stir your sliced bananas a bit then lay them out on your dehydrator trays. I place a towel under the trays to absorb any extra juice.
- Step 5 Repeat slicing and placing your bananas until you have either filled your trays or used all of your bananas.
- Step 6 Place bananas into the dehydrator at 135 degrees for about 8-12 hours.
- Step 7 Rotate and check the dryness of your bananas every few hours.
- Step 8 Place into a Ziploc bag and enjoy!
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We have had a super busy summer and I was really bummed that we missed the July blueberry picking season. Our bushes are only a couple of years old and don’t produce anywhere near enough berries for us to freeze. They were eagerly eaten every day by the kids with very few to spare. I was super excited to hear from another mom at gymnastics that there was a local U-pick farm that still had blueberries! We cancelled our plans to try an easy hike with the kids and headed out to pick as many blueberries as we could manage.
The farm we went to was super close and I am really glad I found it because the blueberries were delicious! My blueberry hating husband even liked them and actually ate a few. The kids of course ate themselves silly and enjoyed every moment of it!
We grabbed a couple of smaller buckets and one gigantic 5 gallon bucket to consolidate our berries into. It was a pretty hot day and we were worried about the kids overheating so we picked at lightening speed. Luckily blueberries are much easier to pick than raspberries or strawberries because you do not have to be super careful about placing them into your container. I just placed my bucket underneath a large blueberry covered branch and let them fall into the bucket as I massaged them off of the branches. It took us less than an hour to fill our five gallon bucket with over 20 pounds of blueberries!
The biggest issue we had was the fear of losing one or both of the kids. The bushes were overgrown and touching each other in many places so you could not see down the rows at all. We split up with one kid each and made the kids wear their hats for both eye protection and visibility. I highly advise buying your kids neon hats and jackets so you can easily pick them out in a crowd of people or when you are outside with them. It was really easy to keep track of my son’s bright orange Tigger hat even when I couldn’t see the rest of him.
I don’t remember what type of blueberry we picked but they were not organic (which I found out later on). Next time we will try and find an organic blueberry farm to pick from or I will see if the farm we went to has some that are organic. There were tons of them on the bushes though and we did not have to walk very far to pick all that we needed.
We did however come home with two half flats of berries and I am super excited to eat them this winter!
I immediately started freezing our berries in batches on a cookie sheet. We froze about three gallons total and I still have a half flat left. We have made blueberry jam in the past but we typically do not eat enough of it so we decided not to this year. We also have tons of raspberry jam which will be plenty of jam for us!
All week we have been eating blueberries on our cereal and our ice cream and the kids and I absolutely love it! We haven’t decided what to do with the rest of the berries yet and we may try to dry some of them in the dehydrator but I am really hoping my husband will make his famous blueberry peach pie!
Did you pick blueberries this year? What are some of the ways you prepared them?
Hello, Mr. Oscoey here. If you don’t love garlic, you should probably just move on to the next post. If you love garlic as much as my family does, or you have a vampire problem, read on. This site participates in affiliate links and […]