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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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First Harvest

Salad Bowl

As the sun is just beginning to warm the earth, the subject of gardening is one that I have been loving daydreaming about. 

I think that I have mentioned before that I live in a fun environment where suburbia and farming mix. My neighborhood is surrounded by a raw dairy and a horse farm, but still has quick access to the joys of our rapidly growing town.

When we first bought this home ten years ago, I am pretty sure that we never thought that we would stay here this long. It was a quick purchase, as we tried to make new jobs and a new baby work while having no idea of what we wanted long term in a home or a life on land. Since we signed those papers, there have been moments of joy and moments of sadness as we tried to fit our desires for our children into our back yard.

Homesteading has become perhaps one of the hottest topics around, and with such subjects as genetically modified foods and pesticide contamination coming into the forefront of social discussions, returning to growing our own food is taking on a resurgence.

Getting Ready to Grow

Gardening is something that I love to do, and homesteading is something that both my husband and I dream of. The idea of raising bees for real honey, chicken for fresh eggs, and perhaps a goat or two for milk is part of a conversation that occassionally we allow ourselves to have. The reality, however, is that our small backyard garden is as much as we will be taking on in the near future.

Two raised beds, one small plot and a 60×10 plot just a few miles away in our local community garden has served our family well, abundantly actually, and has allowed us to teach our kids about the joys of gardening, experiment with growing our own food, and feed our family what we love and need. The garden was the first home repair we ever did, and it was perhaps the best “addition” we could have made.

Would I like to raise my kids on a small farm, or at least a larger piece of land? I would. There is no denying that as I look around the internet at all of the wonderful homesteading blogs, or at friends who are taking on the challenge and moving to small homesteads themselves, I certainly feel a pull to connect my family even deeper to the land we all inhabit. There is something special about taking on the task and diving deep into just how sustainable one can be. It would be a beautiful thing to see my kids get up each morning, and with bucket in hand milk a cow or tend a flock of sheep, but in this present moment, that is not where or who we are.

In this moment, however, we are able to tend our soil each spring, to teach our kids just how important good soil and nutrients are to the food that they grow. In this moment, we are able to peruse seed catalogs, each picking something new to grow in our own back yard. In this moment, we are able to turn the soil, plant those early spring crops, and visit with local farmers to learn what grows best where we live. In this moment, my boys can anxiously run outside each morning and see if any of those spring crops are beginning to push through the still damp and cool soil. In this moment, we can be content with the one bee hive we are able to take on, and learn everything we can about the bees we will be living in harmony with. In this moment we can look at the back yard we are blessed with, and figure out how to grow just a little bit more each season with what we have.

There are always big dreams of doing more, and a small bit of envy for those who do just that, but it is important for me to teach my kids that dreams take time, and that loving what you have in the moment that you are in is a key to living a happy life.

This post is part of the series Get Real, which was created by Adrie of Fields and Fire and Tonya and of Plain and Joyful Living. It is a series that looks at the real ways in which we each deal with the lives we have created. I hope that you will visit each of the participants, and enjoy their perspectives each week. 

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

 

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