Healthy snacks – Apple crisps

Yes, we all know that if you snack, it’s probably better to eat fruit or crackers than cookies or chocolate. But that’s just so tempting! I really enjoy apples and feel like I’m very healthy when I eat an apple, but chocolate… Hey, I’m a woman, we all love chocolate!  Yet, eating apples instead of candy bars has huge benefits. Lower calories, lower fat, higher water and fibre content… It’s not that apples contain that many more nutrients, but that they contain less ‘bad stuff’. Which is why “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”, especially if you eat it instead of snacks rich in saturated fat and sugar.

Sometimes, however, you’ll want something else. A plain apple doesn’t always feel like a snack when you’re watching television. A bowl of sugar-coated popcorn or crisps, those are snacks you enjoy in front of the TV. They taste nice and it’s something you can keep grabbing, mindlessly, often. Cutting an apple into pieces might solve part of this by making it grabbable (that’s probably not a word…), but I found a recipe on Beginspiration, a Dutch cooking blog, that has even more potential as an evening snack. Healthy and extremely simple to make, though you have to wait a while before they’re done: apple crisps! Small, crispy apple slices, spiced with cinnamon and lemon. They taste great (though you need to find a good balance in lemon juice and cinnamon), and make your home smell winter-y. Plus point: it’s a snack children can easily help making. So let me present you with this extremely simple recipe for lovely apple crisps!

Preheat the oven to 100 degrees centigrade and line a plate with a sheet of baking paper. Take as many rinsed apples as you like (with 2 decent-sized apples you can fill the plate), a spoonful of lemon juice per apple and as much cinnamon as you like. Take out the apple core and cut the apples into round or semi-circled slices (you can use a simple knife, then semi-circles are probably safer, a mandolin or other aid you might have). Toss round the apples with the lemon juice and the cinnamon, making sure all slices have at least some cinnamon on them. Then put them in the oven until they are crisp (about 2 – 2.5 hours). If you cool them and put them in an airtight container, you can keep them for about 3 days, then they go soft.

It really is that easy! I tried them a few days ago and ate the last crisps yesterday afternoon (my container apparently wasn’t completely airtight, so they had gone a bit soft 😦 ). Admittedly, it tasted a bit weird at first, perhaps because I had put in a bit too much cinnamon and lemon juice. But I found that despite that, I kept taking new ones… Fairly addictive, comparable to salted crisps or other snacks, but way healthier, so definitely something you should try! Thanks for the wonderful recipe, Ianna!

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Finger-knitted scarf

Hand-made gifts are the best gifts there are. Years ago, you’d create your own gifts merely because it was less expensive. Now… well, I like the fact that it costs less, but hand-made gifts really show how much you appreciate someone. You put in time and effort to make something that people will like. Quite different than walking into the first store you see and getting a gift card, or even easier: money in an envelope. I’m as guilty of that as anyone, because it’s so easy. And you know for sure the receiver can get something he or she likes. But trying to actually give something is more fun. Even when I’ve asked for money for my birthday, I love it when people come up with gifts that suit me. It means much more to me. So I’m trying to practice, find out how to make simple but fun things that I can give as presents.

At my dad’s home, we have a book about crafting everything… yes, EVERYTHING. Bags, musical instruments, toys of all shapes and sizes. I still have to go get it some time, cause the book gives endless possibilities. What I liked best as a child, though, was yarn. I tried crocheting, finger weaving, knitting (though my grandmother had to set up for me) and knotting. Mainly as experiments or for bracelets. Loved it as pastime. Looking into Waldorf education, where hand-working is promoted and even taught, I found a precursor to knitting: finger knitting!

I’d never heard of it before, so I looked at how it works and it’s incredibly simple. I understand they teach this to children for fine motor skills. You basically weave the yarn between your fingers and pull the bottom loop over the top loop all the time.  Here’s a video that explains it.

It’s a bit like spool knitting, but using your fingers instead of the spool. You can quickly knit a long piece. And I did! Just knitting whilst watching TinTin, I made a thin scarf. Probably I won’t wear it myself, cause I’m not a scarf person, but it looks real nice and I might be able to make someone else happy with it. Perhaps I’ll work a bit further, making a shorter but slightly thicker scarf, but I’m not quite sure yet. Anyway, a great technique to make a simple scarf fairly fast.
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Apart from finger weaving, crocheting and the other techniques I mentioned, there are still many more ways to work with yarn. I’m planning on trying arm knitting next, making a big scarf. What would you like to give a try?

Ornaments for your altar

With the children of one of our best friends at our home today, I found an excuse to become creative and make some ornaments for my altar. The children had fun, and so did I, and the ornaments we made are now in the oven, drying.

It’s so simple! You take 3 parts flour, 1 part salt, 1 part water and a bit of oil to make a salty bread dough. Don’t eat it though, it’ll taste real foul. When you have the dough, you can make it into any shape you want and dry it in the oven. It takes a long time on low heat, but it is very sturdy and you can paint it to complete it.

The girls made mainly hearts and cakes, some of which for their grandfather, others because they liked them. My creations included a curled up snake similar to the Egyptian board game I saw at the museum (but quite a bit smaller), the three faces of the moon and a candle holder. Most of my dough was stolen away by the kids, but I was able to make what I had planned. In winter time, with Yule approaching, I might make some tree ornaments.

Great fun to do with kids, and a nice way to create things for your tradition. Tomorrow I’ll post some pictures of the finished products!

One little mouse

Huismuis

One little mouse came out to play
Gathering crumbs along the way

I think mice are among the cutest animals to look at. When I was younger, my brother and I kept mice as pets. I used to cuddle with them whilst my brother, as boys tend to do, believed his mouse was a circus animal and let him do ‘tricks’. His kind of tricks usually involved letting him dangle from his tail and dropping him to the ground of his cage: “Look, it’s an acrobat!”. Yes, we were very young then… and I wasn’t much better than him. I was sad when my first mouse, with the very innovative name of Grey, died of old age. And I can say I was devastated when my second mouse, Blackie (no, I was not very good at coming up with interesting names), had to be put to sleep after what seems to have been a cerebral hemorrhage. Nothing, however, compares to how I felt when my third and last mouse (Whitey, you’d never have guessed) died.

He/she was still very young, and though the pet store claimed he (?) was old enough to leave his mother, I had my doubts. He refused to use the drink bottle attached to the cage and wouldn’t drink from a bowl either.  To keep him from dehydration, I had to hold him and sort of force him to drink water using a small syringe I kept at his mouth. Perhaps the pet store keeper or my mother wouldn’t have had any trouble doing that. But for an eight-year-old girl with small hands having to keep an even smaller, wriggling mouse still while giving him water, it was a challenge. Whitey didn’t like it at all and kept trying to wriggle himself free. But he had to drink, or he would die, so I held him a bit tighter… and a bit tighter… and a bit tighter… and then he stopped wriggling. He stopped drinking too. And breathing. I remember I screamed, tears starting to flow down my cheeks, running to my mom yelling “He no longer works! He tried to escape, but I tried to keep him still so I could give him some water, but he kept trying to escape, and now he doesn’t breath anymore!”. My mother tried to console me, but I kept sobbing. Without meaning to, I had killed my pet, my mouse, my Whitey.

We kept a funeral for him in the yard, where he joined Grey and Blackie and my brother’s mice and half a frog he had once found near the stream and decided to bury. It was the last pet we ever had.

Now we have a mouse again, my husband and I. Last night he was there all of a sudden, scaring both of us to death as he walked inches from our heads when we we’re sleeping. An hour earlier I thought I had seen something move in the study room. Well, then we were certain. We tried for an hour to chase him away from underneath the closet where he had taken refuge when we put on the light, and managed to capture him. Only to let him escape seconds later. As he is still in our bedroom and we don’t like the thought of that (were not scared of the tiny creature, but letting him walk so close to us while were sleeping is a bit too much), we hired someone to take care of it and to make sure no mice can get through any holes in our house. And I’m ashamed to admit: he’s not getting rid of the mouse humanely. I know it can be done. For a biology project we spent 3 nights catching mice, marking them and releasing them again to estimate the mice population. Easy traps to use with a bit of peanut butter to lure the mice. We’re using peanut butter as well, and the traps are simple too, but the mouse will be no longer working when he’s caught… Poison lure boxes and back-snapping traps. Dharma would hate us! And I don’t like myself either… But we have to get rid of the mouse (or mice, if we’re unlucky). We’ll see how it turns out…

Out came pussycat sleek and fat
No little mice go scampering back…

Kat en muis