While my husband and I are moving (and are without internet), a woman I know proudly accepted the feat of “guest blogger” on CollectiveDisclosure.

I’m pleased to introduce this wonderful woman and guest blogger, Erica Harris. Erica is a proud stay at home mom to Bradley (7 months) and her two dogs, Chewie and Minnie. She is a former yoga instructor and newly early-education enthusiast. She enjoys all things food, traveling to eat food, taking photographs of food, learning about sustainability, recycling, gardening, nutrition and saving money (by making home-made foods). Find her blog at Modern Montessori Mommy on WordPress, or click here!

I am fascinated lately by home-made food (okay this isn’t something new). I recently watched a documentary (as I often do cuing the husband to find another activity for the next 2 hours as I domain the TV) called “How to Cook your Life“. In this film a Zen priest in San Francisco uses Zen Buddhism and cooking to relate to every day life. Although I am not Buddhist, I find the concepts fascinating. Such dedication, such simplicity, and respect. I believe we can learn a lot from other religions and cultures to infuse in our own spirituality. Specifically, especially Americans, do not take time to meditate. The idea is simply foreign to them (us). We live a fast-paced lifestyle: fast food, lattes, high-speed internet (okay maybe we ‘need’ this one. Otherwise how would you gain information from fantastic blogs like this one?) I started experimenting with meditation in my former career as a yoga instructor. I found it to be a great opportunity to pray or to “just be still”, or Zen. It is easier said than done. My first encounter of meditation will have to be for a different time, because alas we are focusing on none-other than food.

Although, as a new parent (I can still be ‘new’ if my baby is 7 months right?) I hope to encourage a form of stillness with my son. Can it be done? I think so. I can speak from experience when I taught kids yoga workshops. All of these kids would come into class jumping around wondering what the heck ‘yoga’ was. We would crawl around on the floor, hop like frogs (this was more of a workout for me), releasing al of that bottled energy. At the end of class I would ask them to all lie down, eyes closed and we would take a short journey together (I emphasize short because come on, they are just kids). Sure, there was always one kid that would have their eyes open and grinning at a butterfly flying overhead (really? Have to love the simple nature of children). But for moment those kids were still. The parents (mouth’s open, jaws dropped. Okay maybe not that dramatic) would ask “Can you teach us how you did that?” I think kids need stillness. They need to shut off the TV, stop the constant snacking on the couch, floor, car seat, and stroller. Encourage stationary eating in one place. Although my son is young now and is limited, I find it so refreshing to take him outdoors (weather permitting) and let him practice crawling on the grass. This is a place that he can be still, look at trees, feel the different texture of the grass and dirt, listen to other children playing, dogs barking, birds chirping. The phone isn’t ringing, annoying squeaking children’s television programs aren’t blaring, and we are just enjoying each other’s company. Don’t misunderstand: I am fortunate enough to be a stay at home mom. Many mom’s have a career so they rise early and get home in time to feed their kids, bath them, and tuck them into bed. To theses women I say they are the “super mom’s”. But to those mom’s I think its especially important: when there is no work, no childcare; to just be. Teaching your children to enjoy nature through a hike or color a picture while listening to classical geniuses like Wolfgang Mozart.

How does this all relate to being a Montessori Mommy? This type of mom (even if you’re not a mommy this concept can work for you too) values teaching their children practical life skills. In the film the Zen priest blended the two concepts of meditation and practical life together. For example, making your own bread. Its easy. It takes very few ingredients (flour, yeast, warm water). Its been done in household’s for centuries but yet every week we go out and buy Wonder Bread in a bag. Such tasteless and flat bread in comparison to home-made. How can making bread teach practical life to your child? They are learning mathematical skills through measuring, cause and effect of the chemistry of ingredients, and a sense of high self-esteem and accomplishment when the final product is done (and eaten!). Bread can even be meditative. They way your hands fold over the dough in almost methodic movements. As the Zen Priest and master chef pointed out: when making bread, just make bread. Wow, what a concept you say! But really, how many times are we making bread (or cleaning dishes or one of your other every day tasks) do we think about EVERYTHING else but ‘making bread’. Did I call the office back to make an appointment? I need to pay the cable bill. Did I turn off the curling iron? Perhaps this is why I’ve absentmindedly burnt perfectly delicious dinner or over-measured.

Over the last few months (and talking to other moms) I am amazed of how many things I could be making myself instead of buying. Usually making your own-whatever is cheaper, easier (saving a trip to the store), and tastes better or works better. The first thing I tried was making my own laundry detergent. I am more comfortable knowing exactly what I am washing my clothes in and its saves me the extra $8-14 for detergent-and we wash a lot of clothes being that we do some cloth diapers! (I do cloth diapers at home and disposable inserts while I’m out using the Gdiapers). If you would like to make your own see my tested recipe here.

I was also astonished to know, I in fact, didn’t have to buy store-bought pesto. Even the best commercial pesto sauce is processed. By making your own you are eating a raw food, thus increasing maximum nutrients absorbed in the body. The basil leaf, which is used in pesto and gives it its green color, is high in beta-carotene, vitamin A, and can aid in the aging process as well as preventative and treatment of disease. Yes, food can and will heal.

Pesto quick recipe: 2 cups organic basil, 1 granny smith apple, 1/24 cup walnuts, 1/2 parmesan cheese (shredded), salt, pepper, and olive oil (add enough to achieve desired consistency).

 

Which leads me to my latest discovery. I was kind of embarrassed I really didn’t know the difference between steel cut oats, rolled oats, and instant oats. Basically, steel cut oats are awesome. There, aren’t you glad you read this entire entry now? I think I have had them before when I stayed at a Yoga Ashram in the Catskill mountains in NY. The head cook made the most nutritious and tasty food I have ever eaten-and I have eaten everywhere (even France). *Found out she mostly cooked from the Moosewood Restaurant cookbook, also native to Ithaca, NY where I used to frequent the restaurant and various farmer’s markets. The oats were nutty, warm, and stuck to your lungs kind of meal (in a good comforting way). So why spend the extra time to make steel cut oats? Make that a lot of extra time…Rolled oats (that have been processed a bit and then flatten into their flat oat shape) take about 10 minutes. Steel-cut is in the pure grain form and takes about 20-25 minutes. And, of course instant , what the majority buys, take about 80 seconds in the microwave.

Steel cut oats are already in their purest form: think raw. Whole grain oats contain seven B vitamins, vitamin E, and nine minerals, including iron and calcium. The quality and quantity of the protein in oats is far more to that of wheat and most other grains. One ounce of oats has TWICE the protein of wheat or good old corn flakes. But probably the most beneficial reasons to eat oats are for the fiber and folic acid (both things in which most American’s and pregnant women lack). Why do we need fiber? Well, it makes you go (sorry, hope you were ready for that). If you have a healthy trip to the bathroom on a routine basis you are preventing colon cancer and promoting a happy digestive system.

After reading the directions on my Bob’s Red Mill Steel Cut Oats, I see that it takes 25 minutes. UGH. Bradley has been teething lately so he really doesn’t like a whole lot of alone time on his tummy. I can’t imagine towering over a hot, boiling pan every morning (stirring frequently) and trying to bat his little hands away from the hot steam. So I did what any mommy would do (and does often) pulled out the rice cooker! (you thought I was going to say crock pot. Yes, I have heard you can use a crock pot method but I just use my rice cooker for everything). My suggestion is making large batches of this oatmeal because you and your little ones will want seconds! My rice cooker has an auto warm feature once it is done cooking. So I can make my oats at night and have warm-yummy-goodness by morning. My 7-month old likes his with cinnamon and bananas. Avoid putting things like brown sugar (especially for the little ones). This is just adding refined sugar when you could be using natural sugar like fruits. If I must, I will use a little agave nectar in mine.

As a small tangent (as if I would ever do any of those here) I have recently discovered that commercial baby cereals add extra iron calling it “iron fortified”. If you are breastfeeding this is over-redundent and unnecessary and can cause constipation if you’re not careful. We found out the hard way (sorry about all the puns!) and you can read about it here.

So, without further delay…steel oats!

 

1 cup Steel Cut Oats + 3 cups filtered water

1/4 tsp salt. I love Celtic Sea Salt. It has natural minerals such as potassium and magnesium (regular table salt does not).

Start cooking whichever method suits you: stovetop, crock pot, or rice cooker. Don’t forget to stir at least once!

And there you have it. Steel cut oats with cinnamon and banana.

I think I might be on to something with my new oatmeal kick. I’m thinking raw oatmeal cookies (yes, you heard me) and home-made granola. Stay tuned.

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