Feeding our Families

Spring1 Emma-and-her-tomato Spring2 Emma-Jeanne-and-the-tomato Spring3

I have been having an amazing conversation in my head lately about the role that food is playing in our lives. I have always loved food, and my relationship with it has been pretty positive through the years. I grew up in a foodie family, where we ate together every night, took trips around food, spent many hours discussing wines, spices, pairings, and cheese. My food journey began on the back bay of Boston, continued into the streets of Chicago, and took shape in the amazing culinary playground that is California. I suppose that back then there wasn’t a concept of being a foodie, per se. There was no intention behind our love of a good meal, cooking or experiencing, we just simply did. While my parents were health conscious, and there was not a lot of processed food in our lives, I wouldn’t say that the idea of food as medicine, as a way of promoting health was ever discussed. We liked food for the sake of eating, for the pure joy of it. We were more live to eat, rather than eat to live.

After a long bout with an undiagnosed illness in my college years, I found the practice of yoga. I love yoga for so many reasons, but the way it helps you tune in to your body has to rank among the top. All of a sudden, many of the foods that I enjoyed through my life I could sense were making me ill. Years later, my oldest son was diagnosed with celiac disease, and then his brother, and then his other brother, and then my husband and I were tested, etc. In a matter of a decade I had moved from loving food to truly despising it. I was fearful in the grocery aisles, confused about what to feed us, what was good, what we were possibly allergic to, etc. As the years moved on and I tried to transform so many of the meals that we had once enjoyed into something we could eat, I could still sense that it wasn’t enough.

I realized that finding a love of food again was going to mean a radical transformation in the way that I looked at it. Food and I were going to have to get to know one another again, but on a totally different level. I was going to have to see the power to use food as a way to heal ourselves, rather than just as something to enjoy and share. There is an abundant amount of information out there about what we should eat, and what we shouldn’t. We are constantly bombarded by the newest food trend, and told that if we eat one thing we will be magically transformed into a goddess of well being, but if we dare to touch something forbidden, our lives will surely go into ruin. I doubt that anything is quite that black and white, and I have come to realize that I have to pay attention to my body at all times, and I have to teach my children to do the same. Our journey into a world of less sugar, more whole foods, and an abundant awareness of how what we eat affects us has been slow, and full of research and discovery. For instance, I know that my oldest son simply can not touch dairy in the summer months, once the pesticides have begun to be sprayed all over our town. For some reason the combination of dairy and other chemicals creates seizure like symptoms in him. Give him a bit of yogurt in February and he is just fine, but come May, no way. There are many such combinations in our family, and it takes diligence in each one of us to look at the way that something affects us as individuals, rather than as a group.

Helping my children to be able to recognize the way that food affects them is a challenge, mainly because they have clearly inherited my love of a good meal. They know what tastes good, and sometimes that gets in the way of what is good for them. It is also a challenge because listening to ourselves as individuals means that we have to stay conscious and present in what is happening to our bodies right now, rather than what has happened in the past, or what may happen in the future. It creates an added level of responsibility on young children to be able to express how they feel, or to pay attention to how their behavior and sense of well being may be impacted.

I have come to realize that the earlier we begin to get our children involved in the process of eating well, the better in tune they are. I know that it begins with me, with the food choices that I make for us as a family, what I choose to put on the table and educate them about. It also takes confidence in the fact that even at 10, 8 and 3 (Emma Jeanne isn’t quite there yet), they are capable of understanding what is good for them, and what they can tolerate. As in every other aspect of parenting, there is give and take.

Perhaps most important, there is still a need to cultivate the joy of eating itself. Whole food, healthy living does not mean giving up the love of great food. It may require a change in palette, a different set of tools to create something wonderful, but it can be done, and it is essential to get there. We have so many memories that are wrapped up in what we have eaten. Food connects us to our families, to our communities, and to our heritage. It gives us a sense of self and a history, all rolled into one.

My oldest son and I have had many conversations about family recipes, and his desire to put them onto paper. He knows that one day he will make something for his kids that I made for him, and he will tell them his own stories, and share his own memories. There will be flour of on the floor, and eggs cracked, and spices strewn about, and he will share a piece of his life. I want to make sure that as I pass these things down, I am honoring the body’s ability to use food to heal, as well as a joy of the experience of eating the food itself. If I can do that, I think that both body and spirit will be satiated.

Strawbery-cream

In my own food journey I have had a few resources that have been invaluable. Renee of Fimby has certainly been one of them. Renee has a wonderful way of discussing food and health, and her recipes are staples on our table.

One of the first recipes that I ever used of Renee’s was her cashew cream. We enjoy it year round, and with everything from scones and granola, to a simple topping of fruit. For Mother’s Day this past weekend I wanted to kick it up a bit, and I added in strawberries, basil, and apple balsamic vinegar. I dare say that now I may be on a flavored cashew cream kick. This pairs wonderfully with simple biscuits, and was delicious in our morning oatmeal. Of course, the boys also just ate it with a spoon, so there is always that too.

Strawberry Basil Cashew Cream
Adapted from Fimby

1 cup of cashews (soaked overnight)
1 cup of dates
1 1/2 cups of almond milk (could use any dairy free alternative)
2 cups frozen strawberries
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp apple balsamic vinegar (could be plain or other flavors as well)

In a blender, process the almond milk, dates, and cashews until smooth. Add the strawberries and blend. Add in the remaining ingredients, and taste. You can always add in more basil or balsamic vinegar to your liking.  Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Pasta

Spring Garden Pasta

On Mother’s Day we saw snow. I really don’t want to discuss just how  much there was, or the fact that it arrived after a week in the high 80’s, but let’s just say that it is an experience I hope we do not repeat anytime soon. In the days leading up to the storm we were picking greens as fast as we could eat them. This recipe is inspired by the abundance that we had, but really it is a recipe that could be played with to a countless number of combinations. The foundation of this pasta is the broth. We use a large amont of olive oil, sweat the garlic, and then use the juice of the tomatoes and the pasta water to finish it off. From there it is just what we have in the garden that makes it so good. Season well, and lunch is served.

1 lb of pasta (we use GF pasta with lots of olive oil in the cooking water)
1/4-1/2 cup good quality olive oil
3 cloves of garlic minced
2 cups of white beans
3 tomatoes diced, with their juices
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
The zest of one lemon
1 tbsp freshly chopped basil
A few handfuls of arugula
1 ladle of pasta water
Herbamare (or salt) and pepper to taste

Cook your pasta according to package directions, reserving one ladle of water. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil on low and add your garlic. Allow the garlic to infuse the oil without browning. Add in the white beans and tomatoes, and cook on low until the tomatoes have released their juices. Add in the red pepper, lemon juice and zest, and basil. Add your pasta and toss with salt and pepper to taste. With the heat turned off, add in your arugula and toss gently. Serve the pasta in bowls with the broth over top. Add a touch of Parmesan or nutritional yeast for added flavor. 

Enjoy!

Joining other amazing families in their own journey. 

Melanie from Our Ash Grove
Jules from A Little Crafty Nest
Melody from Bespoke
Sarah from Our Island Home
Tonya from Joyful Living
Taisa from Small Wonders
Lisa from Hullabaloo Homestead
Renee from Heirloom Seasons

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Feeding our Famlies Feeding-our-families Feeding-Our-Families Feeding-our-families Feeding-Our-Families-I am joining a group of amazing women over the course of this year to discuss a subject that is so important in our family; food! I have a very powerful relationship with what we eat, and I am pretty sure that if you calculated how much time I spent researching, learning, and thinking about the topic, it would consume a good part of my day.

As I have mentioned many times in the course of my writing here, all of my children have celiac disease. While our way of eating did have to radically shift when our oldest was diagnosed seven years ago, it still continues to evolve as new research comes our way. I was raised in a family where processed food was never allowed (my brother has some great stories about sneaking Doritos), and our family valued not only good but healthy food. I always felt as though I had a great start when it came to feeding my own family, but as the years have gone on I have realized that I not only had to keep pushing the boundaries of what was considered healthy, but I also had to look at what worked for each individual person I was feeding.

Perhaps the biggest challenge has been having a large family with special dietary needs, and maintaining a system that feeds us not only well, but efficiently. The more kiddos I have been blessed with, the more I realize that eating well takes prep work. Gone are the days of just cooking on the fly, or running in and out of the grocery store. Now meal planning is the way that all of our weeks are organized, and washing, chopping, freezing, and storing become a big part of Sunday’s activities.

For this first post, I thought that I would share a few things that we do every week to keep ourselves eating well, eating the way we need to, and cooking with the most minimal amount of stress.

The Basics

:: I don’t use any type of formal system for putting my meal plans together. I have a pin board on Pinterest that I use for recipes for the coming week, and I love having them stored in one handy area. Once I get to my meal planning day, I look at everything on that board, decide what I for sure am planning to cook, open each recipe, and then put my list together. I normally also have recipes from books, magazines, etc. that I want to work with, so once I know how many other days I need to fill in, I start looking through those. I use Anylist (thank you Bernadette) on my phone for putting together my lists, and I send myself an email once a week with our meal plan (that way I can’t lose it).

:: I am a big believer in pantry cooking. I go through my pantry, including spices, every week to see where to start. My husband and I have been calculating lately that this one move saves us a nice amount on our grocery bill, certainly helps to ensure we are are not ever wasting food, and keeps the space where we are storing dry goods a little less crowded. Sometimes it can create more work in finding recipes that will fit, but if I am ever stuck on what to cook with, I will normally head to Allrecipes, search by ingredient, and see what comes up.

:: Once I get home from the store, I plan to spend the day cooking with my two older boys. This is a good time to provide a cooking lesson, spend some quiet time together, and build a family love of food. It also helps to give the two of them a foundation in what it takes to keep a kitchen running well. This day is devoted to washing produce that needs it, chopping up vegetables for upcoming meals (freezing if needed), cooking stock and beans (soaked that night or the night before if possible), making soups that can be stored in the fridge or freezer for the coming week, and making baked goods.

:: I always keep a hearty selection of salads, meats, and sauces on hand in the fridge. Once or twice a week I will make up the ingredients, sometimes without lettuce, for many different kinds of salads. This past week was chopped apples, hemp and pumpkin seeds, as well as Kale, carrots, onions, and celery. I grill and roast salmon and chicken, cook rice and grains, and prepare 1-2 favorite simmer sauces to add to any of the above. This makes lunch filling, super quick, and always at my disposal, no matter where we are going or what the day might look like. I have no idea why, but I always struggled with lunch. This one move of prep really helps me to make sure everyone is fed.

:: We keep cooked and prepped staples in the fridge or freezer for easy use. Cooked beans are frozen if not used, in easy to measure amounts. Cashew cream, herbed cashew cheese, and hummus is always on hand for quick snacks, or to enhance breakfast. We always have raw almonds, walnuts, carrots, and dried fruit for snacks for the kids to eat. It is a great way to add a zap of nutrients, and to try and teach them to not look at snacks as empty eating.

:: When we make something, we make extras. Having small amounts of food, either in the fridge or the freezer, that can be grabbed and eaten when needed has saved me on so many occasions. When we make smoothies, I always freeze 1-2 servings in a ball freezer jam container for future use. If the kids have a homeschooling class, hike, or outing, I just tuck it into their lunch box first thing in the morning, and it is ready to eat by lunch (it also keeps their food cold, so bonus!). Whatever leftovers we have, we decide how it could best be eaten, and how to save it. Last week we took about 3/4 cup of taco meat that was left from dinner, froze it, and then made crustless quiche a few days later when company arrived. Kids eat a lot, or at least my kids do, so having extra food on hand is always helpful. Some days it means we all eat something different for one meal, but it helps us stretch the budget, while still eating very well.

:: If I use a pre-made sauce,  such as a simmer sauce, I always add stock or coconut milk to make it go further. I also add in my own grains, beans, or meat to ensure that it fills my family up.

:: I make teas and flavored waters to reduce juice and sugar consumption. There seems to always be pitchers of mint or berry tea in my fridge, and flavoring water has become sport in my family,with the latest being a cucumber, mint and kiwi concoction from Elwood.

:: We make our own stock and bone broth. I love making stock. I love making soups, so making stock is just a fun way to begin the process. We use bone broth as a remedy for colds and flues, but we do not do a continuous cook method. We make our stock on the stove, and our bone broth in the crock pot, and then both are frozen for future use. We always save our broth making for the end of the week, and use the veggies that are wilted or not suitable for other recipes, but still perfectly fresh and yummy.

:: I always keep 1-2 homemade baked good in the freezer. Scones, muffins, etc. are made ahead of time, and are frozen so that I never get caught without a dessert or gluten free treat for birthday parties, play dates, etc. I have really strict rules on sugar consumption, and baked goods are certainly where my kids would be most at risk of gluten cross contamination, so this one is just a necessity. It also means that if I am having a craving, I can grab something healthy in a jiff, without going looking for something that I just shouldn’t have. I use gluten free, grain free recipes for most of my baking, and I try and bake with coconut oil and honey instead of oils or sugar.

:: While we are on the subject of sweets, I keep a dark chocolate bar on hand for dessert at night. That one piece of chocolate is always looked forward to by all of us, and it is a good way to give my family something yummy, and something semi-good for us.

These are only a few of our basics, but I have found that going back to the beginning is always good when I am struggling. With the addition of Emma Jeanne, life got crazier than I was anticipating, and over the past few months I have had to really put a rhythm and routine to our kitchen time. It has helped to not only make cooking and feeding easier, but also really helps our budget.

I do believe that eating well is not something that has to break the bank, or our time. It takes some basic prep work, organization, and pantry care, but it is so worth it in the end.

Feeding our Families is an on going discussion with a group of blogging women over the course of this year. I hope that you will enjoy each of their posts, and join in the conversation as well. The comments in each of our posts are a great place to continue this topic. So tell us, what are the basics in your kitchen?

Feeding our Families

Melanie from Our Ash Grove
Jules from A Little Crafty Nest
Melody from Bespoke
Sarah from Our Island Home
Tonya from Joyful Living
Taisa from Small Wonders
Lisa from Hullabaloo Homestead
Renee from Heirloom Seasons

 

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