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Get Real :: Making Dinner

Get Real :: Making Dinner

March 26, 2013

I am sneaking back into blog land in a quiet way this morning. It has been so long since I was last here, and there is so much to update you all on. Today I am joining a group of women who I admire and respect for an ongoing series called Get Real. A look into how our lives really work in some of the most basic moments.

Today we are discussing the topic of making dinner. For anyone who has been with me over the years, you know that the kitchen and I have a very close relationship, as I am pretty sure that I am in it at least 50% of the day. Having 3 children (and a 4th on the way), means that there are always hungry tummies, and having the need to make almost all of our meals and snacks ensures that we have to plan well, and space out our days to allow the time needed to create the food that we crave, love and need.

Dinner is not an easy time for most of us. Kids running around, coming in from work, feeling fatigued, chaos everywhere, and so many activities can leave this meal as our least favorite, and most easily passed by. Over the past few years, as Jacob and Elwood have grown into two home schooled boys whose afternoons are filled with flute lessons, soccer practices, rock climbing and friends, and little Landon who is perhaps the most challenging and demanding of our children so far (but in an adorable kind of way) is growing into a toddler, the need to know exactly what we are doing for each meal, and to create a smooth flow to our dinner making has becoming a must.

The title of this series is Get Real, and when Tonya and Adrie created it, their vision was for us to talk about the entire aspect of the topics they put forth. I want to honor that desire by being as real here as possible when it comes to what our days look like. I love to cook, and I love to make a great meal for my family, but I have also grown into someone that embraces simplicity. As I mentioned, I am pregnant with our fourth babe, and for the first 20 weeks of this pregnancy I could not even really look at food without wanting to be ill. It is a challenge that I have faced with each pregnancy, and my family has had to make do the best that we can. We have also been battling a very tough illness with our oldest child that has ensured that eating out, or grabbing take out was simply not an option.

That is life though, isn’t it? There are moments that we can dedicate to being amazing cooks, to reading books on health and nutrition and new ways of eating, and then there are moments that we have to dig in and just do it the best that we know how. We have to hold true to what we take seriously when it comes to how our family eats, but we have to also be realistic with what our limitations are.

Dinner in this stage of my life is, as I said, simple. I plan like you can not believe. I have a feeling that my children look at me everyday like I just breeze into the kitchen and come up with what we eat just off the top of my head, but the truth is that I have every moment of our meal planning down to the minute. How else could I realistically survive? Each meal is planned from beginning to end on Fridays, and when my husband arrives from work that evening, I feed us an early dinner, kiss him goodbye and head to the store. It is always late that I arrive back home, and such an odd time to be doing my shopping, but I choose to never ever bring my kids to the grocery store if I don’t have to. It is a sanity saver, and I need it.

From Saturday to Friday every snack has been chosen, and every morning when we wake we prepare the snack for the day, and any extra food prep for lunch or dinner that will be needed. It is a great way for my boys to be involved, and as much as can be done beforehand, the better.

To be honest, I don’t have many go to meals that I cook with consistency for dinner. I love to try new things, and my family really loves for us to try new things as well. With the dawn of Pinterest, lets face facts, all of us have so much more at our fingertips than ever before in terms of recipes available. I love Pinterest, and while I know that it can be a time suck, a good 20 minutes a day can yield some great recipes to keep things fresh.

We eat a high protein diet, and we are moving to add so much more plant based love to our meals, but we do not have a set way of eating (except being gluten free for the past 6+ years). What I make for dinner is what I make for dinner. This is a rule that I have held onto since the day I had Jacob, and I have never wavered. I have one crazy picky eater, but Elwood knows how his meals work, and he makes his choices about what he eats and how he eats accordingly. We don’t push him, and we make sure that he has plenty of high calorie, high protein nibbles throughout the day to fill his calorie count up in case dinner becomes a flop.

The one thing that I am most dedicated to is making sure that my freezer is stocked with soups and other dishes that can be frozen for those emergency moments where I am too tired, or too late from an activity to get a healthy dinner on the table. Like I said, take out is just not an option for us. My oldest son has celiac and he is so sensitive that even a little bit of contamination can do harm. Therefore, our freezer has to become our take out place. When we first had Jacob, Joel bought me a cheap second fridge for the garage. I remember thinking that it was the oddest Christmas gift for people who had one babe (at the time), but today I am pretty sure that his forethought is utterly amazing. That small investment has yielded big results, and we simply could not do without it. The fridge holds nuts, seeds, almond milks, sauces,etc. that we need for daily living with a large family, and the freezer is full of simple meals that we can cook up in a pinch. At least once a week I find myself grabbing for something, and as this babe graces our world, I am sure it will be more.

As a homeschooling mom, I feel lucky that cooking is part of my kids daily activities. I take it as seriously as I take their math, science, or literature, and my hope is that as they embark on lives of their own someday, they are just as well prepared to cook for themselves and their families as they are to begin a career. Our health and well being starts while our kiddos are in our bellies, but it really takes shape as we introduce solid foods to them. Who they become, and how their health is determined is directly involved with what they ingest. I am pretty sure that if I don’t teach them young, they really will never get it. Having said that, I certainly don’t believe that you have to home school your children for them to learn to cook and eat well. There is always time for a child to be in the kitchen with their parents, and to learn how to prepare a meal not only for themselves, but for everyone they love.

I have always been a believer on starting my little ones in the kitchen young, and Landon is no exception. The above photo is actually him cutting a banana with a knife, and he is able to, with very close eyes, do just that. However, what the photo missed is that his brother is right next to him, helping to guide the knife along when needed. Young is good, cutting a finger off, not so much. Kids can do so many things in the kitchen, from such a young age. Giving them small tasks early can give great help to making each meal. Some days I am not so sure what I would do if Jacob was not there to chop veggies, or Elwood to stir a pot. It is a great time to catch-up with the boys, to joke and laugh, and to create an environment that says that meal making should be fun and loving.

Of course, there are days when I just simply want to go to bed and forget that I have 4 other people to cook for, or that dinner is even an essential need that we all have. On those days, I do not let the guilt take over, but rather I cook up some pancakes, grab a jar of hummus and crackers, or pop a bowl of popcorn and smile. Those are, as you can imagine, my kids favorite days. Something simple, and fun and totally non-mama like makes them happy, and it lets me know that they are more than fine when we need to throw in the towel and just let life pass us by for a moment.

Our meals never look perfect, nor does our table or our counters, but it works for us, and that is what it feels so good. As long as they are well fed, and I know that they get in the nutrients that they need, I know that we will be just fine. As I am getting a little older, and my kids are growing up, I realize that the only way to make this work is to embrace the simplicity, never judge myself by what others are able to do, and always go with my gut. As long as that occurs, dinner is feasible, and sometimes, even fun.

I look forward to catching up with all of you over the coming weeks, and I hope that you will join me here every Tuesday as Get Real progresses. Please join the other amazing women who are writing in this series, and thank you to Adrie and Tonya for putting this together.

Tonya at Plain and Joyful Living
Adrie at Fields and Fire
Lisa at Hullabaloo Homestead
Melanie at Mama Ash Grove
Kyce at Old Recipe for a New World
Aubrey at This Blessed Life

 

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Anna March 26, 2013 at 8:20 am

It’s so nice to see you back in this space Heather! The photos of your meals look beautiful, and that pasta dish looks amazing! I work hard to make home made meals as well, but I confess that I do have the luxury of pre-made snacks. I admire your organizational skills to pull off your meal/snack prep.

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Heather March 26, 2013 at 7:06 pm

Thank you Anna, it is really nice to be back. I can totally understand the joys of pre-made snacks. If my kids could perhaps not eat so much, I would indulge. It just kills me some days to watch a full bag of pretzels disappear in an instant :).

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Tonya March 26, 2013 at 8:25 am

Heather,
Thank you for sharing. It is so refreshing to affirm our deepest desires to care and nourish our families while still realizing that it is ok not to have an amazing meal prepared each night. But is is great to learn from others to get some new ideas as well. I am a lot like you – random in my meal choices – I love preparing new things! Eating seasonally also makes this a natural flow as well.
Take good care of that little one and yourself!! When is that new babe due to make its appearance?
Love,Tonya

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Heather March 26, 2013 at 7:07 pm

Tonya, thank you for having me. It is a joy to be back writing again, and on a subject I love so much.

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Julie March 26, 2013 at 9:58 am

I love the idea of having a freezer as the takout option. We are not so restricted with our food, but we are restricted with our budget, so takeout is not easy for us. Thanks for sharing your thoughts in such a lovely way…I’m still learning and I love to hear other moms’ ideas, especially when they come from an honest and forthright place.

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Heather March 26, 2013 at 7:08 pm

It is amazing how much can be saved by not eating out. It can be a luxury, but the true joy is just being able to grab something quick and nourishing for our family. Thank you for your kind words.

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Adrie March 26, 2013 at 10:12 am

Beautiful as always Heather, and I’m so delighted that you’ve joined us! And wow, congrats on your pregnancy!!! What a blessing.
With love,
Adrie

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Heather March 26, 2013 at 7:08 pm

Thank you friend, it is lovely to be in the company of such amazing women.

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Melanie~Mama Ash Grove March 26, 2013 at 11:44 am

Hi Heather, this is wonderful, thank you for sharing! I appreciate the idea of “freezer take out!” Congratulations on the baby, how wonderful!

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Heather March 26, 2013 at 8:38 pm

Thank you Melanie, it is so nice to share space with you :).

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Amy Senecal March 26, 2013 at 11:54 am

So happy to see you post again! Loved your words here. And your heart. Thanks for sharing.

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Heather March 26, 2013 at 8:38 pm

Well that just made my day. Thank you Amy.

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Kyce March 26, 2013 at 12:45 pm

It is lovely to hear your voice here again and to hear the news of another babe coming into your family. You have been a great inspiration to me over the years when it comes to creating a healing kitchen, and I thank you for sharing your journey with us here.

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Heather March 26, 2013 at 8:39 pm

Kyce, I loved your post, truly. Your honesty and the way you approach your family meals was great to read. Thank you for the kind words.

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Lisa March 26, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Welcome back Heather, it is so nice to see you back in this space. Congratulations on the new babe – very exciting news! Looking forward to hearing more in the months to come!

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Heather March 26, 2013 at 8:39 pm

Thank you Lisa, I am so glad to be back!

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rachel March 26, 2013 at 10:18 pm

I feel like you read my mind (so very eloquently) with this post. I rejoiced tonight when I took dinner ready from the freezer after making double a couple of weeks ago. I’ve finally got back into a kitchen-willing place after passing the second week mark of this pregnancy. Smoothies and popcorn happen for lunch or dinner usually once a week. But feeding my family, even on the days when I feel like I’m done with it, is so good.
Congratulations on number four! Happy to see you writing here again!

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Hullabaloo Homestead March 27, 2013 at 6:40 am

It is so funny how much we all have in common…which could be applied from our life doings through to the struggles. I guess that’s the silver lining…in seeing that our struggles are very similar to many other people’s out there. Even though we feel it sometimes…we can never ever be truly alone. I could have written your post;)

:)Lisa

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Teri March 27, 2013 at 10:11 am

What a sweet thing to open my inbox and find your post. I enjoy your words so much and have missed them!

I really admire your planning. As much as I have an idea that I *should* meal plan, the days just get away and we always end up at 5:30pm looking around wondering what we’ll eat! Thankfully, I try to only keep whole foods in the kitchen so resulting meals, while pieced together, are usually healthy.

Congratulations on baby #4!
Teri

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renee~heirloomseasons March 27, 2013 at 9:32 pm

Oh, I LOVE! the idea of preparing the snack as part of our morning activities. I am going to start putting a lot of thought into that and try to start doing it soon. I so want to be as completely organized as you, seeing as how I too probably spend about 50% of my day in the kitchen.
One of the things that I am grateful for when I look back on the 17 years that we were vegan is that it brought us so into life in our kitchen. We had to learn to cook for ourselves, bake our own desserts, I guess it taught and gave me a lot of confidence in the kitchen (I was such a good vegan baker!)
As you know, it has been several years since we have stopped being vegan, but we are very particular when it comes to eating only organic foods (lots of home grown veggies!), all homemade, we never eat out, we wouldn’t even want to. (And believe me, we feed our family in this organic way on a very small food budget…)
I LOVE! cooking for and feeding my family.
That doesn’t mean we do lots of fancy meals or anything, we mostly keep it simple too, it’s not always super easy. But I do always feel good about it!
Funny thing too, about pinterest, really I hardly ever visit, but once in a while I do and sometimes look through your food page, I show Jason the pics and recipes sometimes too (I have showed him your beautiful food posts in the past)..
Oh, and baby! I am so happy for you! And happy for you too if you are now feeling better enough to feel good about food again. I sympathize, having been pregnant and puking most of last year.
Sorry so long! But it has just been too long, happy to catch up, hope to maybe write more/email soon…
Happy spring days to you! Love, Renee

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