Sunday, May 30, 2010

My not-so-sinful "Mrs. Fields-eque" chocolate-chip cookie recipe

It has taken me YEARS to figure out the secret to soft, chewy, non-gummy, and non-burnt cookies.  Amazingly, this discovery also coincided with learning to use redeeming substitutes to decrease the caloric content while increasing the nutritional value of what would otherwise be "empty junk-food."  Bear in mind you may not have all the substitutes I use (some are expensive sugar and wheat alternatives, but I've attempted to make accommodations for what you have in your pantry).

Note: you will need either a food processor or at least a blender to complete this recipe.

In large bowl, cream together:

1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet cream butter (room temp or melted)
1/2 cup white sugar (I use Xyletol)
1/2 cup brown sugar (I use Coconut Palm Sugar)

Combine in medium bowl:

2/3 cup honey or agave nectar
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce or two 4-oz jars strained baby carrots
2 eggs, lightly beaten (or three egg whites)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

In a (3rd) large bowl, mix together:

2 cups all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour (or gluten-free flour blend)
2 1/2 cups whole oats, ground to a fine powder (I used 2 cups oats and 1/2 cup oat bran)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp xanthum or guar gum if using gluten-free flour blend

Preheat oven to 300 degrees (this is the key to those soft cookies!  Lower temp, longer bake-time!) Lightly grease cookie sheet (I use extra-light olive oil).

Add liquid ingredients to creamed butter/sugar mixture and beat on high for 30 seconds.  Then add dry ingredients and stir on low speed just until blended.  Add 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips.  Stir on low speed to distribute.  Do not overblend--cookies will be tough!!

Drop by rounded tablespoons (ok, I use soup spoons) in balls about 2" apart.  Bake on center rack for 18 minutes.  Remove immediately and cool on wire racks.  Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

For the record, I have no idea what the nutritional value here is.  However, I do know that my ingredients make for about 1/3 the glycemic index of traditional ingredients (even if you use the traditional ones, you're still at about half); while the bean-flour based gluten-free blend ups the protein.  Meanwhile, those strained carrots sneak some veggies into your cooking ... not a bad trade-out!

Happy baking!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Edits to come

I know I've been out of the loop ... between potty-training my son and trying to find an appropriate therapy program for him, I haven't had much time to write (never mine my daughter's teething and the demands of my garden).

That said, after reviewing my posts I realize that they are perhaps a bit redundant and stale.  So, shortly I will be eliminating some or perhaps replacing them with reviews of the diapers I've tried.  I also intend to veer a bit away from blogging on CD'ing.  I have some books to review (including The Einstein Syndrome, which bears some starting resemblances to my son), recipes to share, and other novelties I've learned ranging from potty-training to healthy diet changes to square-foot gardening.  Fun fun ...

So, I apologize to any readers I may have neglected ... more posts to follow, but no guarantee of more than one a week.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Cloth Diapering-For the Love of Air and Money

OK, so back when I said that AIO's were the most expensive system you could go with ... apparently, I lied.  Or, at least, for my part I've found a pricier option in the effort to get control of my daughter's horrendous diaper eczema.  The poor baby's skin desperately needed to breathe (amongst other things--synthetic fabrics are out, too); which means minimal usage of PUL.  On with the organic cotton and wool!

Problem is, wool (of course) is the most expensive cover out there, with prices starting at $25 and moving upwards of $50 (average appears to be about $35).  Multiply that by 5-6 for full-time use (jersey knit wraps for the day and heavyweight "shortie covers" for nighttime), and you've spent nearly as much as on a dozen AIO's!

Now, I realize most thrifty moms counterbalance this cost by sticking to prefolds or flats under their covers.  They're cheap and versitile; however, they also take a master's degree in origami in order to fold them with enough precision to contain excremental explosions.  Between "supernova son" and the rest of my life, I have neither the patience nor the time!  So, my answer is fitteds (which, incidentally, are far trimmer under clothing anyways, so less "compression leakage" to contend with).

I did find both the perfect fitted and wool cover for my daughter's odd pear shape, which (after many a trial-and-error) was very exciting.  Unfortunately ... you know that old adage that the minute you find something that works, they "change the formula?"  Well, my daughter must be an odd body-type, because the manufacturer has discontinued both products on account of them being the "lowest-selling" items in their line.  This forced my hand to "stock up" rather than spread out my prefold replacements.

Also irritating is that the manufacturer apparently never bothered to tell their retailers that they had discontinued the product, so one retailer apologetically had to refund my order ... and I'm paying full price at another (you would think discontinued items would have a markdown!)  I also find it ironic that the manufacturer marketed the soaker inserts separately.  I suppose that the benefit is being able to tailor your soaker, but when you can't find the coordinating soakers anywhere and have to have them custom made, it's a little irritating.

Bottom line (or dollar, in this case) is what it will cost to CD my sensitive-skinned baby from now until potty training (not counting the trial-and-error phase with resale):
18 cotton velour pocket fitteds (12 M and 6 L--to accommodate nighttime soakers):  $270
12 regular inserts: $44
6 nighttime inserts: $44
1/2 dozen premium organic prefolds: $20
3 lightweight wool jersey wraps: $84
2 nighttime wool knit shortie cover: $60
1 midweight wool jersey one-size adjustable wrap: $28 (although I got this at a discount-it's regularly $42)
12 AIO's for diaper bag and outings: $228
24 wipes = $36

OUCH!  Total = $814

Granted, given that we potty-train her at 24 months, then she'd be in disposables for 18 more months.  Let's compare:
24 packs of Kirkland signature dipes (given we go through an average of 1.25/month): $1200
6 warehouse club sized packs of  Huggies wipes (given we go through a pack every 3 months): $160
Difference in garbage costs: $100

Total: $1460 ... so I'm saving about 45% ... not counting the difference in garbage bags versus PUL pail liners; slight increase in energy costs (we're on well and septic, so no water/sewer costs); very expensive diaper rash creams (which are unnecessary with a good CD system); and benefit of reuse with another baby or potential for resale (anywhere from 30-50% after full-time diapering).
Granted, I have purchased more than I need (?), but more diapers cycling (along with the fabric/materials I've chosen) means less wear-and-tear on each, which in turn increases the likelihood of each diaper surviving 2-3 babies or retaining a higher resale value.

You may be wondering since I bought everything at a size that goes from about 6 months to PT how much more I'll have to invest with baby #3.  Well, I've estimated that, too!

24 one-size contour diapers: $240
6 one-size semi-fitted nighttime diapers: $108
4 small wool pants: $100
9 small AIO's: $171
... and I'm planning on making wool "soaker" sleep sacks to double as night covers, so I have no hard numbers yet, but I'm estimating $25-50 in raw materials.
Total: $644-69, which is about $200 more than I would spend on disposables ... if I have the availability of a warehouse club in the future (as my husband is candidating to be a military chaplain, this is no guarantee!)  Again, this does not factor in other babies or variables such as inflation, resale, or garbage vs laundering costs.

My thought is that the savings over disposables on this child and the next would be a total of $1730, and given a 4th child, an additional savings of about $2000 ... of course, this doesn't count inflation and potential replacement costs, but still!  This also assumes my children will potty-train at 2 years, and since the firstborn is 3 1/2 and still not potty-trained, there's no guarantee.  I'm using 24 months as a baseline for savings.

Besides ... isn't it worth it not to have your little one's bum bleed or be walking out a miserable, itchy, inconsolable baby night after night ...?  For that, I'd be willing to break even ... or even lose money!

So ... there you have some "real world" figures for the financial cost of what a TRULY expensive diapering system!!  And yet, worth every penny ... Happy diapering!