Thursday, December 18, 2014

December on the Homestead



Remember when-ing and unendingly dreaming.  Cringing a little at all the mistakes (also note-keeping so they hopefully don't repeat) and tearing up at the precious moments.  Heartbreaking changes, beautiful redemptions.  A hard garden season past, hopeful these rains bring life to our land in seasons to come.  December is a month of remembrance and aspiration.  A mental account of the year's days play in my head and I desperately try to snag moments to ponder and jot them down.  A whole new year ahead of us!  What will it bring?  How will we spend it?  Longing for intentionality in every possible way, yet making space for the unforeseen.


All this pondering within plays out in the physical this month.  We look ahead with hope as the seed order goes in and decide which kind of chicks to buy in a couple months.  December is rich with memory-making as traditional cookies are made while familiar carols play in the background.

The kids were so eager for Christmas vacation to come that we doubled up on school for a week and have since been on holiday for almost a week already.  I'm not sure who's happier about that; the kids or I?  It's a wonder to me how the days melt away before daily goals are met.  A slowing down of sorts is to blame.  I often find myself stopping and savoring the season's beauty with my loved ones enveloped in it.


Winter is brief here (sometimes it feels too brief) and I am thankful for the respite from most things outdoors.  Most of the year's reading is done in December and January, then its back to starting seeds and preparing beds for them, cleaning the chicken coop for the next batch, and preparing the brooder and barn for baby animals ushered in early spring.  In the meantime, it's cozy to stay indoors, cooking and baking more, tending to the wood stove for warmth, filling simmer pots and breathing in their ambient aroma, and snuggling under blankets with the family after the day's chores are done.

December holds a special place in my heart.  It seems to fade so quickly; especially when business stealthily spins me in it's flurry and I can't tell up from down.  It's a good problem, finding the balance of just enough festivities to say yes to and leaving space for rest and intimacy; but it can be a problem nonetheless.  May we all find the balance this half of December and enjoy loud, jolly gatherings and quiet, reflective evenings before the advent of the New Year.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Simple Winter Garnishes for Christmas Dinners & Gatherings




There is much feasting this time of year.  Potlucks, parties, get-togethers, open houses...  The main attraction is togetherness and food.  Here are a few ideas to quickly and simply add a little extra Christmas cheer to dishes served for the eyes to also feast upon.  Little touches like these contribute to the festive feel of a party.  Instead of just bringing a side dish because your last name begins with A-L, adding a little something can communicate gratitude to guests and a sense of "This gathering is special to me."  Here's to having fun playing with food during this happy season.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

10 Healthy, Simple, & Festive Snacks, Lunches, & Treats for Wintertime


    



Fun food traditions don't have to be laden with toxic refined sugars and flours.  The kids and I are starting new wintertime culinary rituals that are fun and full of memory-making potential.  They've already made me promise that we do all of the following for winters to come.  Several of these were Pinterest finds, so I'll provide the link to each of those and a little note of how our experience turned out.





 My mom introduced us to these black olive penguins a couple years ago and have become a  wintertime staple ever since. My older kids (ages 10 and 12) help cut the carrots and our 6 and 9-year-olds can do the rest.  The 2-year-old more than happily helps eat them.  We give him a couple cream cheese balls and olives to play around with while the rest of us assemble them.

 We even roast chestnuts on a, well, closed oven.  We found a bag at Trader Joe's and have received them in our produce box before we started growing our own veggies.  We loved how they looked like little presents after roasting them.  Simply preheat your oven to 350ยบ, cut a big "x" on the flat side of each one (I highly suggest adults do this part; it's tricky), and roast for 35-40 minutes.  Unwrap the chestnut presents while still very warm, but not too hot to burn little hands, and enjoy a warming, buttery treat.  Martha has some pretty yummy recipes for them if you have any leftover.




 This simple grape-and-cheese Christmas tree with a celery trunk (and little sprigs of thyme as pretty little dividers) was an easy and tasty snack that the kids put together themselves.

 We used our old hummus flower idea to make a Christmas star with hummus (here's a simple recipe) and heirloom carrots of different colors.  If you haven't grown your own, Trader Joe's has bags of them available.

 The most challenging snack were these snowmen.  The one I made with our 6-year-old fell apart, but our crafty 9-year-old pretty much mastered it.  There might have been some tears shed from disappointed little eyes after snowmen cracked and crumbled, but I think we might try them again next year.

 Homemade hot (or warm) chocolate is too simple not to make!  It's taste is far superior than powdered mixes, not to mention it's way healthier.  We rotate between Perfectly Frothy Raw Hot Cocoa and this Mexican Hot Chocolate.  When I'm really in a need for extreme chocolate, we pull out the Dairy-Free Sipping Chocolate Recipe.

 Need a little something more than chocolate to sip?  Indulge in this super-quick Egg(less) Nog.  It's a favorite.

 These Grain-Free Coconut Lace Cookies don't last long around here.  Buttery+thin+crispy= cantstopwontstop.

 Originally, I was shooting for a Paleo Peppermint Patty kinda thing, but I actually prefer these Paleo Bon Bons without the peppermint.

    I love recipes that are naturally grain-free without having to tweak anything.  These Gluten-Free Chocolate Cloud Cakes are a real show-stopper and simply delicious.

Happy festive, healthy kitchens, friends! xo

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