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Health, Home, and Happiness: May 2010

Monday, May 31, 2010

A Use For Extra Hamburger Toppings

After we have burgers for ourselves or for a crowd, there inevitably are leftover sliced onions, tomatoes and cheese.  We used spinach dip as a spread/dip as well this time.  A easy way for me to use these up before they disappear into the depths of the fridge is the next morning in scrambled eggs the next morning.

Sauté in melted butter or coconut oil, and then add your slightly beaten eggs and scramble as usual.

They'd also work well in quiche, it's surprising how well eggs adapt to different additions isn't it?

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Cheese Soufflé in Coffee Mugs




Kim at The Nourishing Cook made the cheese soufflé from Nourishing Traditions last month. It looked fun and different and exciting, so I thought I'd try it too.  She's right, it's not that hard.  You know I'm not that great with detailed directions- Kim is, and she outlined what she did perfectly so I'll just send you over there for that and leave you with a few tips and pictures.  

I had purchased heavy whipping cream, and was checking out thrift stores for soufflé dishes that weekend. I was sure I'd find one, but nope I didn't. So I read online and anything with smooth straight sides can be used for soufflés. Coffee mugs and one mason jar worked for me!  Sometimes I feel like a red neck real food blogger ~grin~

I too used a different cheese than Nourishing Traditions calls for, I used cheddar.  First you make a cream sauce with whipping cream, add in egg yolks, and then cheese.  

At the same time I had my egg whites and a pinch of salt whipping in the mixer.  They're supposed to be whipped until stiff but not dry- I'm not sure if I crossed over to dry or not, I read that in Joy of Cooking after my souffle was already in the oven.  I love Joy of Cooking for it's detailed foolproof directions for any basic food- Nourishing Traditions outlines recipes really well, but Joy of Cooking had a couple pages dedicated to the hows, whys, and history of soufflé that I found interesting.

Folding the whites into the cheese.  I was afraid I didn't do this enough, but it turned out fine. I didn't want to deflate the eggs!

Spooned the mixture into buttered mugs and a mason jar.  Afterwards I read (in Joy of Cooking again) that you're supposed to fill it to just under the top, and then if you want to be extra fancy you can run your finger around the lip of the container, and it'll create a 'finished' look.  I wasn't sure how full to fill, so I gave plenty of room for it to rise. I dislike cleaning the bottom of my oven and/or setting off the smoke detectors.

I checked for doneness after half an hour.  I guess it's important for the first half to leave the oven door closed, but as it approaches the end time it's okay to check.  It's ready to take out of the oven when it's firm and 'has a slight wobble' in the center.

The verdict: We thought they tasted like cheesy scrambled eggs. I don't know that I'll be making this again, but it was fun to see it puff up and know that I can successfully make a soufflé, should the need ever arise!  And since it has butter, cream, and cheese, it is pretty nutrient dense and filling! We ate it as our main dish.

What's your soufflé experience? Do you make them regularly? Something you'd want to try?

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Soaked Wheat Nourishing Traditions Style Challah

I adapted Monica's challah recipe to be more 'Nourishing Traditions style' and have the whole grain flours soaked in an acid medium. We 'soak' our whole grains as a way to breakdown anti-nutrients and allow them to be better digested.  See more about that in my Soaked Wheat Bread post.  And read more about Monica's Sabbath traditions including how she makes challah in this post.  We love this braided bread; the egg makes the texture moist, all the honey makes it extra sweet.

My recipe, adapted to soak and be dairy free if needed (the pictured one is dairy free):

2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
2 Cups Spelt Flour
1/4 Cup melted coconut oil (or butter)
1 Cup water plus 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (or yogurt or whey)
1/2 Cup honey
2 Eggs, separate one and set aside a yolk for later
1 Cup (or less) unbleached white flour
2 Teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 Teaspoon salt

Mix the whole wheat flour, spelt flour, coconut oil, water with ACV, and honey.  Allow to rest overnight, covered with a damp towel.

The next day, mix in the whole egg + other egg white, yeast, and salt.  If it's too wet, add in unbleached white flour (the white flour doesn't need to be soaked since the phytates are found in the part that's removed during the refining process). I had to add in a little less than a cup.  You want the dough to be stiff enough to hold the braid- I tested it by rolling a 'snake' and seeing if it held together or not.

Allow to rise until doubled in bulk (a couple hours for me, less in warmer weather, more when it's cool).

To braid, I followed the directions in A Family Guide to Biblical Holidays- I made a bigger braid and a smaller one.  I greased the cookie sheet (I used butter, coconut oil would work) before braiding so they didn't stick.  I've been avoiding showing you my well-used cookie sheets, but I decided to give up on that ;) I think my dad threatens to take a wire wheel brush to them every time he visits.  :)


Squished the longer one a bit so they're nearly the same size, then put the smaller one on top. Watered down the egg yolk that we saved with a tablespoon of water, and brushed the yolk mixture onto the dough. This gives it the pretty shine.

Allowed to rise again. I think I didn't let it rise quite enough and that's why part of the bread split during baking (does anyone know about that? It's just speculation for me). I let it rise for a couple hours. Whole grain bread takes longer to rise than bread made with refined flour. It's worth the wait.

And baked, on the greased cookie sheet, at 350 degrees for half an hour, when it was nicely browned. For my whole grain bread (like this one) I have learned to leave it in the oven with the door closed to cool down- since I've been doing that I haven't had any doughy centers to my breads.



Sliced. See how the braids all combine together on the inside?

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Moment of Materialism

It makes me feel like a complete consumerist but I love buying my children little things, and do so often enough that we have a spot in our Dave Ramsey inspired montly budget for it. The picture is a gathering of things I've purchased them in the past couple weeks; a little mechanical toy car that goes on it's own when you push it, plastic bracelets from the thrift store, a $1 pin wheel from Walmart, a pot holder loom from our local yarn store.  They didn't need any of it in the least, we have lots of stuff at home.  I don't do it all the time, and if it doesn't fit in our budget that month for whatever reason I have no problem stopping.  But it makes me smile to see my little one interested in the bracelets at the thrift store, and so I pull a couple off the peg and present them to her right then.  My expressive love language must be gifts, and for my receptive love language, I like to receive words of affirmation. More on the 5 Love Languages here.
Not at all food related, but it's a regular part of our little family that tickles me so I thought I'd share.

Other things to buy this week- mostly food related and more necessary than another plastic car





  • Not something to buy- but I just started with Paperback Swap and I'm addicted!  My mother-in-law had told me about it months ago, but I hadn't signed up because I really don't like standing in line at the post office. But  I found out that based on the book, they know how much it weighs and you can just print postage right from their program and mail from home.  That is easy! I'm sure I'm not the only one who has accumulated books that I don't need or want any more.  Just trade them out for books you do want, like these that I recommend about food :)    Sign up here



  • And I'm running low on coconut oil again and this week it's down below $40/gallon (my target price, though a couple times a year it goes below $30/gallon) for expeller pressed (buy here).  They're also having a 2-for-$19.99 16 ounce raw extra virgin organic coconut oil (here), which is what I use in smoothies and for oil pulling. And use referral code 5682145 for a free book on the benefits of coconut oil if you're a first time customer!



*these are all affiliate/referral links, but I think they're good deals anyway and wanted to share

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Traditional Food in Real Lives- Reflections of Working Around the Work Schedule

How does it work to confine meal preparation and cleanup to outside of working hours?  The rest of the posts in this series:



Traditional Food in Real Lives- How can this be done around the work schedule?
Grocery Shopping and Menu Planning
Weekend Meal Prep
Monday
Tuesday and Wednesday
Thursday and Friday- the home stretch
Reflections on this week and how it impacts me as a stay at home mom, and adjustments I'd make if I did work outside the home


Some things I loved! I loved that spending a few minutes at the beginning of the week to plan yielded much more efficiency all week long. I liked having my kitchen clean all day. I liked the forced impulse control- too often I'll start playing in my kitchen, which is fun and tasty but not always the most efficient use of my time. I like having the limits of only pre-designated snacks.

Some things I didn't like so much.  I think if I worked outside the home, I would increase my food budget to include more pre-made foods.  Like my tortillas that weren't great- I might opt to buy those instead (I might do that anyway).  Our local health food store sells lactofermented sauerkraut and pickles, which would be time savers for working families, not that lactofermented veggies take much time, but they're one more thing on the long to-do list.

I didn't make yogurt this week because I had some in the fridge already, but that might be another thing I'd buy pre-made.  Buying Stretch Island Fruit leathers rather than making dried fruit at home are a shortcut I use anyway!  I like drying fruit, especially if I find a great deal on it, but I would want to have some outside play time with the family too.

I also found that I don't want to do much more cooking than a basic dinner and putting together lunch for the next day. I thought I'd make some date nut balls sometime during the week, and it's not that they take long to make...just that I didn't want to wash any more dishes ~wink~

What I've Learned


But overall I've learned that cooking whole traditional foods from scratch doesn't need to be an all day long event.  A short burst of intense prep and planning on the weekend, and organization can make time stretch out much further.  Setting realistic goals, such as having a protein, veggie, fat, and carb at each meal is easier to fulfill than a goal of having a different protein at each meal, 5 servings of different fruit and veggies, and a different meal for each person in the family.

On Variety:
I know that we want to serve a variety of foods to our families, but I think it's just fine to, for example, have eggs for breakfast and then again for dinner- especially since everyone here likes eggs.   And if I know my kids won't eat much of the veggies that are served with a meal (peas in this house), I don't feel the need to fix a separate veggie (or main dish!) for each person for each meal.  Overall they eat a good variety of foods, so I don't feel the need to be  a short order cook just because I am home; this would be essential to preparing foods around the work schedule as well, or around afternoon activities if your kids do those.

Making chicken salad rather than getting out all the sandwich fixings is another time saver that I already used for hubby's lunches before.  Re-serving dishes like the rice (as in taco salad first, then stir fry the next day) I do too- but it's even more important when you're crunched for time.

Take Aways

I'm glad to know that I have the ability to easily condense my cooking time into a few hours a week.  But I still want to do our bread during the week (soaking on Sunday or Monday, baking on Monday or Tuesday), doing mid-week grocery shopping when the stores are less crowded (though it's a trade off whether I want my husband's help!) and then starting a batch of yogurt or lactofermented veggies after coming home mid-day.    I will continue to do my weekend meal prep, though, and will be having more 'kitchen is closed' days this summer to focus on playing outside and doing other things besides just cooking.

I really enjoyed having a clear clean kitchen all day too- since I wasn't messing it up!  I think having a deadline (the dishes have to be done before 7:30 a.m. or they'll sit all day) is a good motivator for me to actually do them right away and not get distracted thinking that I'll have time to get to them later.

I'm glad to have tried this series. How about you? Have you decided to condense your cooking schedule for this summer?

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Real Food in Real Lives Thursday and Friday

Part of the Working Around the Work Schedule Series
Past Posts in this series
Menu Planning for the Work Schedule
Weekend Food Prep
Monday
Tuesday and Wednesday

Thursday

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with spinach, garlic, and grassfed cheese (yum) 15 minutes to make, 10 minutes to clean up.
Lunches: Packed as on Monday. We bought fruit leathers on Wednesday and had a couple for snacks.

Dinner: Breakfast for dinner- soaked wheat biscuits (made on Sunday and kept in a covered glass baking dish in the fridge until ready to bake- and they were really good!), eggs again, and cooked cabbage. I know, my kids won't eat peas but they love cooked cabbage. I realize we had scrambled eggs twice today- that doesn't really bother me.  Eggs are easy, inexpensive, nutritious, and everyone likes them.

Tomorrow's prep: I'm running out of chicken salad so I make egg salad- 25 minutes and for 15 of that the eggs are boiling/cooling. Put together lunches (other than the sandwiches) while boiling the eggs.

Put my 7-grain whole grain cereal mix (it looks like oats, but it's different grains) in a pan with a dab of yogurt and water to soak overnight. ~one minute


Thaw 2 lbs of beef from the freezer.

Soaked wheat/spelt for challah (soaked recipe coming soon ) just right in the kitchenaid mixer bowl

Cleanup again was about 20 minutes.

*And I know I'm supposed to be out of the kitchen as described in this post, but I couldn't contain myself any longer and I made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies during the afternoon.  They were made with the whole grain cereal I talked about above, and with honey rather than sugar- I'll have to do them again and measure while I do them so I can post the recipe, they turned out really good!

Friday:

Breakfast: When oats or similar cereal has been soaked overnight, it's so fast to cook in the morning- you virtually just have to heat it up (15 minutes).  Served with butter and a drizzle of maple syrup if you'd like.  The butter is what makes you feel full so you're not hungry again in an hour like with cold cereal.  Heated up beef sausage for my grain free little one.

Lunch:  Egg salad sandwiches as talked about above- just egg salad for the little ones.  Apples, fruit leather and a peanut butter Lara bar as snacks :)

Dinner: Burgers (no buns), chips and dip. I made the artichoke spinach parmesan dip, but without artichokes because I didn't have any. Added in lots of spinach- yum! Someone's double dipping his chip here ~grin~ Burgers take a little longer to cook (we did them on the barbecue), but cooking on the barbecue means less kitchen cleanup! Yay!  And a nice way to end the week.

More:
Summer Learning: Jenny's online cooking class to teach you, your family, or a group of friends how to prepare traditional food with videos, printable information, and an online discussion forum.
My fancy salad with homemade ranch


Edited to add all parts of this series: Continue below
Traditional Food in Real Lives- How can this be done around the work schedule?
Grocery Shopping and Menu Planning
Weekend Meal Prep
Monday
Tuesday and Wednesday
Thursday and Friday- the home stretch
Reflections on this week and how it impacts me as a stay at home mom, and adjustments I'd make if I did work outside the home

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Traditional Food in Real Lives- Tuesday and Wednesday

*This is a part of our Working Around the Work Schedule series*


Tuesday:
Breakfast: Smoothie! Quick and easy, easy cleanup.  5 minutes to blend, 5 to clean up, about 15-20 to eat (my kids are slow eaters)

Put a 1-pound bag of brown rice in the crock pot with 5 cups of chicken stock; I hope this is the right proportion!  Going to have chicken (from the crock pot on Monday) and rice taco salad for dinner. We'll use the salad we made on Sunday as the 'green stuff', some grated cheese, avocados that may or may not become guacamole.  If we had beans done, I would have added them but I didn't have them done. Those are easy to do in the crock pot too.

Lunch: Lunch was packed, as before.  I only ended up eating half a sandwich, so I saved the other half for the next day.

Dinner: Mixed up the chicken, veggies, and rice as salad in a big bowl, we didn't use chips but just ate it with a fork.  Guacamole thinned with some yogurt was the dressing.  The rice was a little gummy from being in the crock pot so long- I wonder if I put it on 'keep warm' rather than the 'low' setting that would work better.  Any rice tips for people who are out of the house all day? 
Dinner put together time: 10 minutes
Clean up: 15 minutes
Lunch packing for the next day: 10 minutes


Wednesday: 


Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with lots of cheese and garlic.

Lunch: Chicken Salad that we made on Monday.  Included in it is chicken (protein), mayonnaise (fat), sauerkraut (vegetable, probiotics), some chopped crispy almonds and chopped onion- a meal all in one dish, plus it saves having to get all those individual containers out each day to make sandwiches.  

Dinner: Chicken Fried Rice- I chopped an onion, kale, cabbage, and used the peeler to make thin carrot  strips. Sautéed in butter. Added chicken.  Hubby really likes eggs in fried rice, so I added 4 eggs, just moving the veggie/chicken mixture to the side of the skillet while scrambling the eggs on the other side. Then added leftover rice from Tuesday's dinner, mixed, and covered to heat it through faster.

Time: Dinner took 45 minutes to get on the table- it took a while for the rice to heat through from the fridge.
Cleanup again was pretty simple- I love one-dish meals!



What one-dish meals are favorites in your house?  

Edited to add all parts of this series: Continue below
Traditional Food in Real Lives- How can this be done around the work schedule?
Grocery Shopping and Menu Planning
Weekend Meal Prep
Monday
Tuesday and Wednesday
Thursday and Friday- the home stretch
Reflections on this week and how it impacts me as a stay at home mom, and adjustments I'd make if I did work outside the home

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Traditional Food in Real Lives- Monday


This is still part of our Traditional Foods in Real Lives: Working Around the Work Schedule series
Breakfast- sliced apples and eggs cooked in coconut oil.  Up at 6:00 (this is when my little ones get up anyway), started heating the pan for eggs, cooked apples.  Everyone ate, everything cleaned up at 5 minutes to 7:00.  I ate at the table with the kids at first, but then I got up to clean up, get dressed, etc after 10 minutes or so.

I was actually surprised that breakfast took this long - I thought a simple breakfast like this would go faster.

Put the chicken in the crockpot on low to go all day 'while out of the house'.

Lunch: It was really nice to have lunch already made when the kids were hungry!  I think I'll be incorporating a lot more make-ahead food into our schedule from now on.  Hannah didn't eat as much as I thought she would. Sam 'shared' my sandwich by picking some of the chicken out, eating a bite of pickle, and some apples.

Salmon patties for dinner. To be 'authentic' I thought I'd wait to start dinner when my husband got home from work.  Fifteen minutes later we were eating, then out the door again to look at a house.  We had salad that I had made on Sunday again.  Back home, got the kids to bed, and cleaned up.

Took the chicken off the bones from the crock pot (I turned it off when I was preparing dinner a couple hours earlier) and put some aside for tomorrow's tacos, made the rest into chicken salad for lunches.

Total hands on time this evening:
2 minutes for dinner and clean up
another 20 minutes to pull the chicken off, wash crockpot, and make chicken salad+ lunches.

Edited to add all parts of this series: Continue below
Traditional Food in Real Lives- How can this be done around the work schedule?
Grocery Shopping and Menu Planning
Weekend Meal Prep
Monday
Tuesday and Wednesday
Thursday and Friday- the home stretch
Reflections on this week and how it impacts me as a stay at home mom, and adjustments I'd make if I did work outside the home

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Summer Learning: An Online Traditional Food Cooking Class


Have you been wanting to get into traditional foods, but feel like you need a mentor to show you the way?

Do you want the whole family to know how to cook nourishing meals?

Jenny from Nourished Kitchen is offering an e-course starting this June to show you how to choose fresh local wholesome foods that fit within your budget,and prepare them with the traditional methods that are so nutritious and tasty!

Why take Nourished Kitchen's e-course this summer?


  • Pre-done lessons are a great way to learn without distractions- sit down and do one lesson a week and quickly learn all you need to know about preparing nourishing staples such as homemade sourdough bread, pickles, and yogurt!  
  • Video tutorials give you the confidence to try it yourself since you can see and hear each step of the process.
  • A wonderful way to introduce real foods into your family. Hubby and I enjoy learning things together, I know that when either of us wants to make a change in our family, it helps if we are learning the same thing at the same time.
  • Homeschoolers! Here's a great traditional foods unit for you.
  • Public/Private/Charter Schoolers! Have you been feeling that your school's health education and home ec are sadly lacking? Taking this class together as a family this summer is a great way to fill in those gaps.
  • Learn when you can- I know that I'd love to take lots of classes about all sorts of things, but as a mom with young children it's just not feasible for me to regularly attend a class.  This class is prefect not only for families, but for anyone who has a busy schedule because it's done when and where you want!
  • Learn what you need to learn! Since Jenny has a great reputation for publishing awesome traditional food content, you know you're learning from the best and learning about what's important to you. Check out the schedule (scroll down here) before you sign up- see? Isn't it just what you were looking for?
  • It's affordable! At $10 a class you learn and get the motivation you need to make lasting wholesome changes in your family's meals.


How it works:
Since the class is hosted online, you can download the materials and video tutorials anytime that works for you.  You can even attend in your pajamas!  Each [of the 12 lessons] is posted once a week – every Tuesday, beginning June 1st – and you can open them up, start the video tutorials and download the printable materials when it works for you.  This class is designed to meet your needs.  Plus, if you miss a class or don’t have time to watch the video tutorial on the scheduled week, don’t worry you’ll have 6 weeks of full access to the class even after it ends! And if you’re not sure that you’ll absolutely love the class, don’t worry – we offer a 14-day, no-questions-asked refund policy. 
Go sign up here now! Hurry! It starts June 1st

Photos from Jenny at Nourished Kitchen, aren't they beautiful?


Thank you for signing up through my link! I receive a small commission for each sale, but as with everything, I wouldn't promote things that I don't believe to be great values!

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Traditional Food in Real Lives- Sunday Food Prep

A couple hours on Sunday prepping food for the next week can make the week go so much easier!
*This is a part of my Traditional Food in Real Lives- Working Around the Work Schedule series

I have been making a big salad on Sunday nights lately, eating that with fried chicken for dinner, adding more lettuce or cabbage to fill the bowl back up, then the big bowl lasts for 'side' salads through most of the week.

Today I finished up the bread products that were set to soak yesterday, since I'm not cooking during the day this week (see how I'm experimenting with the limited time schedule available to working people).

List for Sunday Food Prep:

  • Finish all bready things- 4 loaves of bread first since they take the longest, tortillas next and start frying them in the pan, while the tortillas are cooking I put together the biscuits, covered and kept in the fridge until baking later this week.
  • Make lots of salad- only add dressing to what we're eating that night.
  • Three pounds of beef sausage (made into patties) should be plenty for the week.  I'll use that to crumble on pizza as well.  
  • Fry chicken thighs - in coconut flour for my little one, unbleached white for us.  Slice to use to top salad, set some aside for tomorrow's lunch.
  • Put a chicken in the crock pot to thaw for lunch meat, turn that on tomorrow morning .  
  • Make lunches: We'll have fried chicken sandwiches tomorrow.  In doing this I realized I have no idea how much my children actually eat. I didn't bag up (because we're not actually leaving) but have a bunch of grapes and dehydrated almonds for snacks.  The 17-month-old usually just takes bites off of whatever I'm eating - this is for me (sandwich, apples) and my 3-year-old (dates, apples, grassfed cheese, chicken fried with coconut flour), and then Dad's that he takes to work.  Lactofermented pickles I found at the health food store on sale- yum!
Lunches:

Notes: I wasn't impressed with my attempt at homemade soaked wheat tortillas. I might just buy sprouted corn tortillas from now on. We don't use them that often.

Time: Started at about 2:30, dinner done and everything cleaned up, lunches in the fridge, at 5:30 (we ate a little early).

Dad kept the kids busy, which helps everything to go faster. Having a plan keeps me efficient as well.  I wrote out what I wanted to do so I didn't have the computer on and get sucked into Facebook updates and email ;)


Edited to add all parts of this series: Continue below
Traditional Food in Real Lives- How can this be done around the work schedule?
Grocery Shopping and Menu Planning
Weekend Meal Prep
Monday
Tuesday and Wednesday
Thursday and Friday- the home stretch
Reflections on this week and how it impacts me as a stay at home mom, and adjustments I'd make if I did work outside the home

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Traditional Food in Real Lives- Menu Plan

If I'm avoiding preparing foods during 'working hours'(more about that here) I need to have meals that build on each other so I'm not cooking an entire meal every night, while also changing the leftovers enough so that they're not boring.  Because I don't love washing dishes (our dishwasher isn't very effective) I'm keeping that in mind too!


Time
Meal planning and grocery list with 'help' and interruptions: 30 minutes (Tip: I just think of what makes up protein/carb/fat/fruit or veggie)
Grocery shopping with kids, doing other errands as well: 2.5 hours
Soaking wheat for tomorrow's bread/biscuits: 20 minutes including clean up time.


Breakfasts:
Smoothies (great for on the run meals!)
Eggs
Biscuits with eggs
Soaked oats or 7-grain cereal
Sausage with fruit


Lunches: 
Chicken Salad
Egg Salad
Squash with meat
Sandwiches
Crispy Almonds
Date Nut Balls
Salad
Fruit


Dinners:
Fried Chicken on Salad, homemade ranch
Salmon Patties with Peas
Waffles, eggs, and fruit spread
Pizza topped with homemade sausage, salad
Tacos
Stir Fried Rice with beef
Burgers (with company), salad, Lemon mousse from Nourishing Traditions 


Saturday Meal Prep: 
Look at what wheat needs to be soaked- two loaves of bread for sandwiches (and two loaves for a friend), biscuits, soaked tortillas.  



Part of Menu Plan Monday and Real Food Wednesday

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Traditional Food in Real Lives- Working Around the Work Schedule

When talking about traditional slow real food, an issue that comes up often is, 'How does this work with working families?'.

I know that I end up doing most of my cooking in the morning. If I forget something at the grocery store it's not a big deal to pack up the kids and go pick it up.  I have the time to let bread rise for a couple hours during the day if it takes that long, to allow the yogurt to come to the correct temperature before putting in jars to culture, and I can let my chicken stock simmer all day.

To address the issue that working families, couples, and singles face I thought I'd try an experiment- I'm going to see if I can not do anything food-related during 'regular working hours' from7:30-5:00 (my husband works construction from 8:00 to 4:30... so our 'family clock' is likely shifted an hour earlier than most people).

I'm going to have lunches prepared and ready to go, all my grocery shopping done, and see if I can still get a wholesome dinner on the table by 6:00 p.m.- half an hour to prepare. I'll post the results of what we ate, and how realistic this was in our family.

I asked about this on Facebook  (do you 'like' my page on Facebook? Click here to get to my facebook page) and got some great insight from working people who do this every week:

"Working parents can cook real food we just have to make it simple. I work full time and am able to feed my family well. If you prepare even 2 meals on Sunday it will last 4 dinners. One pastured chicken can go a LONG way (fried rice, quesadillas, soup). I go to the grocery only Sundays and shop for the week. I pack my kids lunches every morning. I get my veggies once a week (after work) from a CSA (consumer supported agriculture). Once a month we get our raw milk & butter. I get my grass fed meats from another co-op bi-monthly. If we all take baby steps finding nutrient dense sources for food, little by little, you will find a way that works for you and doesn't become overwhelming. Just a little bit of planning on the weekend will make the week much easier :)" Linda

"Small blocks of time --3-5 hours -- on the weekend. You can make a soup, home made yogurt or slow-cook oatmeal, hard-boil eggs and prep veggies for the week. I don't get home until 9pm on the weekdays, yet I eat a home-cooked, nutrient-dense meal every night by 9:20pm" Kate

Inspiring, isn't it?

Logistics for making this work for our family:
  • Menu planning and grocery shopping on Saturday morning. 
  • Food prep on Sunday afternoon. I enjoy my time in the kitchen while dad watches the kids on Sunday afternoons, I usually do some meal prep then anyway.
  • Prepare the next day's lunch the night before, easy breakfasts in the mornings.
  • Keeping dishes down to a minimum too!
I'm looking forward to this week! 
:)  I think it will be a nice change of pace- we'll enjoy the new warmer weather, maybe craft a little bit, visit parks and friends, and spend 9 hours a day not cooking :) I enjoy cooking too, but sometimes it's fun to change things up a bit.  Maybe my laundry will even get caught up!

Next up: My grocery list and menu plan!
I'll be posting this week what I got done, what we ate, and any random reflections.



Do you do traditional food while you work full time outside the home? What are some hangups you come across balancing healthy meals and a real family schedule? 

Edited to add all parts of this series: Continue below
*Traditional Food in Real Lives- How can this be done around the work schedule?
Grocery Shopping and Menu Planning
Weekend Meal Prep
Monday
Tuesday and Wednesday
Thursday and Friday- the home stretch
Reflections on this week and how it impacts me as a stay at home mom, and adjustments I'd make if I did work outside the home

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Fried Chicken- Homemade and Kid Friendly



I thought I had a fried chicken post! I've been working on homemade fried chicken since we first were married- I think I've got it down now. Here's what we do:

I like to use boneless skinless chicken thighs if they're available for my fried chicken- they cook evenly, are moist, and tasty!  I either leave in the whole thigh size- if I'm going to be slicing up for salad or putting in sandwiches, cut into bite sized pieces for 'popcorn' chicken, in half for 'nuggets' or in strips for 'fingers'.

Put your chicken in a bowl, add a couple eggs, and mix it all around (I use my hands) to throughly coat the chicken in egg.  I add a little seasoning to this too- lately fresh ground pepper, sea salt, and sage for flavor.

Put about a cup of flour in a gallon plastic bag (I use unbleached white flour for this still, or coconut flour) and take a handful of chicken pieces out of the egg, allowing them to drip the egg off well.  Too much egg and the flour will just make a pasty mess inside the bag.

Keep the air trapped inside, and I just twist up top to seal.  Shake around to coat the chicken with flour, then repeat with the remaining chicken.

Place on a plate or pan when coated.  Allow to sit for at least half an hour, I usually let it sit in the fridge for a couple hours.  This is the key to have the breading not fall off the chicken when you start frying it.  Add a little more flour to the inside of the pan to prevent the breading from sticking when you remove the chicken after sitting (got all that? :) ) I used shredded coconut here, but flour or bread crumbs are fine too.

Use a deeper stock pot to prevent splattering, or an omelet pan.  I use about 1/2 inch of oil, you can use more if you want.

Heat your oil to medium-high and make sure it's well heated before adding the chicken.  I like to try just one piece- it should become golden brown and bubble, if it just soaks up the oil it's not hot enough and you most likely just need to wait longer.

Fry on one side until golden brown, turn and do the other side. Remove with tongs or a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels, or usually I just put it on a plate to catch the extra oil then serve from there.

Easy, isn't it? The only thing I don't like about frying is that it gets all over the stove, and the smell lingers in the air for a long time. I like baked bread smell, fried food notsomuch :)

Part of Pennywise Platter Thursday- another of the many things that are cheaper to make yourself!

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Review: HOKY Sweeper- Powerless Crumb Picker Upper for Your Home!

I bet most moms are like me- after seeing the little sweeper contraptions zoom around restaurants and quietly and nearly effortlessly pick up under-the-highchair and table messes, we have said that we need to see about getting one.  Our table in this rental is over carpet, and just having little kids seems to mean little bits of lint, scraps of paper, and this and that are everywhere.

I had been dragging out our regular vacuum at least twice a day, so I thought it was time to look into getting one of those 'little restaurant sweeper things'.  The nice people at HOKY sent me one for review, so here it is!

I told them that I mostly wanted it for under the table, on carpet, and they sent me the PR 2400.  You can see more details on their website to see how it works. 

It works really well, even for 'moist' foods that my regular vacuum had trouble with.  Cooked carrots, bits of scrambled egg, ground beef, chopped almond, little shreds of paper from the preschooler who loves to cut, potting soil that had been tracked around, and more.  I love that it fits between the chair legs (I think my chairs are pretty standard) - with my regular vacuum I had to move the chairs to clean.  The kids love using it, it's nice and lightweight and easy for them to handle.

The rug above is what's in front of our sliding glass door (that we use the most) and the dark red shows *everything* but I like the color, so we keep it. The sweeper cleans this off really well too.

Some things I didn't expect:

  • I love how lightweight it is to bring up and clean our second floor!  We won't talk about how often I vacuum upstairs normally  ~grin~. But this is easy to bring up and back down with me, and I don't have to undo an outlet cover to use it. Easier vacuuming means more vacuuming gets done in this house!
  • My husband loves it.  He normally is *not* into my cleaning apparatuses and instead claims that he doesn't think the floor really needs to be vacuumed. But he really likes this sweeper and voluntarily gets it to use while we're doing our after-dinner clean up quite often.  Usually he's a more power kind of guy, but he's used this non-powered sweeper more in the month or so we've had it than he's used the powered vacuum in the 6-1/2 years we've been married.  
  • It does stairs! It does the middles of the stairs really well, which is good for maintenance.  I still use the hose attachment on my regular vacuum to get around the edges since they're such a small surface, the picker-upper part can't get to the entire thing, but it can get the middle well, where it needs to be cleaned most often anyway. 
  • It picks up little things like epsom salt.  We had spilled some in our upstairs bathroom and tracked it into the bedroom, and the sweeper picked it up really well, even with no power suction.
  • It does the edge.  The edges of the sweeper have bristle brushes, which pull crumbs out from next to the baseboard.  

Troubleshooting:

  • If it starts to 'burp up' what you've already picked up- it's full. I empty mine every time after I use it because I don't really want food sticking around in there, and I'm usually picking up some kind of food with it.  It's easy to empty, you just flip these two little doors open and dump into the trash. It's kind of instant gratification to see how much you just picked up too :)
  • On hard floors it works best to do short quick strokes and push down a little harder.  I still use a broom before I mop, but I like this for in between sweeping/mopping.
  • It doesn't entirely replace a vacuum, at least for people with kids.  But it's way easier to use for everyday messes. I've gone from vacuuming twice a day to once or twice a week with the powered vacuum.
  • You'll want to check the different types of sweepers on their website to see which one is best for you with regard to what you're picking up, what surfaces you're using it on, etc.
  • Some things you have to run over a couple times, but it's super quick.  I'm sure you've seen people in restaurants doing the same thing. Zoom zoom zoom. 

Where To Buy:
The HOKY website (here) is a great place to start!  They have free UPS Ground shipping too!


How about you? What do you do to keep under your table clean with little children?

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