Sunday, September 30, 2012

Weekly Menu Plan #46

Pad Thai!  Not homemade but so pretty.
We are entering week two of Jeremy being gone.  I've gotta say that last week's "simple" menu worked me over.  This week?  It's pure survival.  I'm letting the children choose most of the meals in hopes of making it as least bumpy as possible to get thru these next seven days.   Have you noticed my new favorite trick?  Sundays are always a race to church, so we have breakfast for dinner on Saturday nights (a favorite!) and eat the leftovers the following morning!  This really saves time Sunday mornings.  It's the simple things...

To do:
Lunch:  Turkey, Raw Cheese Slices, Hummus, Carrot Sticks, Almonds

To do: soak porridge
Lunch:  Apples, Raw Cheese Slices, Nut Butter & Berry Wraps
Dinner:  Quesorritos 

To do:
Breakfast:  Porridge
Lunch:  Pears, Walnuts, Sourdough Turkey & Raw Cheese Sandwich

To do: make 
Lunch:  Leftover Scones, Apples, Raw Cheddar, Cherry Tomatoes

To do:
Breakfast:  GF German Pancakes
Lunch:  Jog-a-thon!  Lunch provided
Snack:  Applesauce
Dinner:  Spaghetti using rice noodles, Garlic Bread

To do:
Breakfast:  Cinnamon Rolls
Lunch:  Chicken Nuggets, Carrots, Hummus

To do:
Breakfast:  Leftovers from Yesterday's Dinner
Lunch:  Leftovers
Dinner:  Leftovers
(Sunday is my day off)

Friday, September 28, 2012

Why I Don't Buy Canned Coconut Milk Anymore

Vanilla Coconut Cream Candy
Coconut milk is a non-dairy-eater's dream.  Even those of us who can tolerate dairy still enjoy it's creamy, sweet flavor.  The thing is: coconut milk comes in cans.  Even if you buy it in BPA-free cans, some metal can still leach into the milk and it has to be processed to be stable enough in the can.  So what do I use instead of coconut milk now?  Unrefined Coconut milk!  In concentrated form.  Actually, it's coconut cream concentrate, or coconut butter.

How is coconut butter turned into coconut milk?  Simply stir one teaspoon into a glass of water and viola!  If you are looking for a new, healthy non-dairy creamer, stir a spoonful of this into a mug of coffee or tea.  It will change your life.  What else can you do with coconut butter?  Find amazing recipes like no-bake quick lemon coconut candy, coconut ice cream, and better than candy nut crunchies, found at the bottom of this link.

This new method of making my coconut milk saves so much space in my pantry and fridge.  Since coconut butter is shelf-stable, it takes up no fridge space like dairy products.  And because it's concentrated, I can make 192 cups of coconut milk out of one, one-quart jar of coconut butter!  This is an amazing solution for my teeny tiny lil kitchen.  This is a massive savings as well!  A can of coconut milk is $1.98.  Making a glass of coconut milk with coconut butter ends up costing 20 cents per cup!

If your jar is shipped with the oil liquified at the top like mine was, the easiest way to get it ready to use is to dump all the jars contents in a blender.  Blend on high for about ten seconds, and pour it back into the jar.  It's then ready to use!  While you have it out and some of it in the blender, why not make a batch of one of the many recipes listed at the bottom of this link?

What do you like to make with coconut milk/cream/butter?  I'd love more ideas to try out and plug in to my weekly menu plans.

I'm sharing this at Monday Mania, Real Food Wednesday, Simple Lives Thursday, Pennywise Platter.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Choosing Media That Nourishes Our Family's Spirits & Minds

Six years and two kids ago when our children were four, two, and one, I made the decision to purge our DVD collection to contain only media that was educational and/or in alignment with our beliefs.  Especially when children are young, they soak up and try to apply everything they are exposed to: words, reactions, style, preferences, and even the feeling or agenda that a song or movie carries.  They are so much more savvy than we give them credit for.

Their cultural buckets that I wanted to fill with all things wholesome and beneficial were being tainted with what seemed innocent enough.  They were watching movies and shows that were geared toward young children.  That should make them safe, right?  Besides, all their little friends had these movies and shows memorized and their parents were very responsible and loving.  But my kids were not only being exposed to lifestyles we disagreed with, they were picking up attitudes that were obviously learned from these shows.

We got rid of dozens of DVDs and disconnected from cable -- and even network TV.  This change felt really, really good.  The home's atmosphere even changed for the better.  There was a lot less time in front of a screen and toys were played with a lot more.  There are times (and even seasons), however, when the TV is a lifesaver: during the throws of pregnancy, on a long car ride, after a sleepless night with a baby or sick child, or even when mommy just needs some quiet time for twenty minutes.  Being equipped with media that uplifts and educates the children makes it a win-win for everyone involved.

We stumbled upon a DVD series last year that I wanted to share with you about.  What's In The Bible?  is one of those shows that the kids engage in and I chuckle at when I hear a witty line or two in passing.  My heart brims with happiness when the kids tell me what they learned after watching it.  What's extremely rare and wonderful about this series is all four oldest children (ranging from ages four to ten) enjoy watching it together!

I wanted to share a 20% off coupon they have going on right now in case you were interested.  Now is a great time to stock up on new DVDs before long drives for holiday trips, during the cold and flu season, or even to prepare ahead and get Christmas presents!  You can also get free shipping on orders of $15 or more.  They have a fun section on their website for kids to play games and watch videos as well.

Now that some of our kids are older, our media restrictions have loosened (for the older kids), and we talk through anything we don't agree with (so it ends up being an educational experience after all!).  Every family's standards are different, and over the years, I've realized, that's okay!  My only responsibility is my choice about what I expose my kids to.  Finding peace in what we release in our home's atmosphere is an amazing feeling.

Other DVDs found in our family movie collection:

What other movies does your family enjoy?  We are always on the look-out for a new gift idea.

I'm sharing this at Simple Lives Thursday.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Raw Chocolate Breakfast Shake ~ with GAPS, Paleo, Dairy-Free Options

Some of us aren't wired to eat a hearty breakfast right as our feet hit the ground.  As much as we love sitting around the table to enjoy a peaceful meal, some mornings don't play out that way.  This creamy, protein-packed breakfast shake has saved the day several mornings.  It takes only a few minutes to blend and serve, and even if it needs to be sipped on the go, rest assured your body is being nourished while your taste buds dance with joy.  Pour any leftovers into popsicle molds to enjoy later.

Chocolate Monkey Breakfast Shake
Prep time: 3 minutes; yields 5 cups
  • 3 frozen bananas, chopped in fourths (if you didn't get around to freezing the bananas, you can use fresh ones; the shake just won't be icy-cold)
  • 3 cups milk of choice (cow, goat, coconut, nut...)
  • 1/3 cup nut butter of choice (peanut, almond, cashew, sunflower...)
  • 1/4 cup raw honey
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean
  • 1/4 cup raw cacao or carob powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
Purée all ingredients in a blender until smooth (the best results will com from a high-speed blender).  Enjoy!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Weekly Menu Plan #45 Commence Comfort Foods!

Autumn salad: arugula, figs, avo, tomatoes, olives, feta, sunny seeds with bleu cheese dressing
We are entering a rough couple weeks here at the Riddle homestead.  Jeremy leaves for a two-week trip to South Africa.  As excited I am to hear all that happens while he's there, my heart aches and a lump swells in my throat when I think about the kids and I being without him for that long.  It never gets easy.  It's at times like these where I am so incredibly thankful to have a community who surrounds and supports one another with such love.  Grace and comfort is being worked into the menu this week; filled with simple dishes the children enjoy.

To do: thaw enchilada sauce, hard boil eggs
Lunch: Turkey, Raw Cheese, Hummus, Carrot Sticks, Leftover Coffee Cake
Dinner:  Creamy Tomato Bisque (double batch, freeze one), Sourdough Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Salad (pictured above)

To do: make tortillas (double batch)
Lunch:  Sourdough Turkey Sandwiches, Pear Slices, Hard Boiled Eggs
Dinner: Sour Cream Noodle Bake (using rice noodles)

To do:  make cookie dough bites
Breakfast: GF German Pancakes
Lunch: Nut Butter & Raw Honey Wraps with Homemade Tortillas, Apple & Cheese Slices

Breakfast:  GF Granola
Lunch:  Cookie Dough Balls,  Yogurt, Granola, Grapes
Dinner:  Cornbread Casserole using fresh tomatoes, carrots, & bell peppers

Breakfast:  2-Minute Raw Egg(less) Nog & Fried Eggs (oh, the irony)
Lunch:  Sourdough Peanut Butter & Jam Sandwiches, Apple & Raw Cheese Slices, cookies
Snack:  Applesauce

Breakfast: Cinnamon Rolls
Lunch:  Irish Nachos

Breakfast: Leftover Dinner from Saturday
Lunch:  Leftovers
Dinner:  Leftovers 
(Sunday is my day off)

I'm sharing this at Simple Lives Thursday.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Cleansing Grape & Fig Smoothie

A season changes and offers new treats to delight palates and nourish bodies with exactly what we need, when we need it.  We say goodbye to summer and welcome autumn in all it's colorful glory.  To celebrate, I raise my smoothie glass to the flavors of fall.

Grapes and figs are not only a delightfully tasty pairing, they also help detox our bodies, strengthening our systems to ward off the cold and flu season.  A touch of cinnamon rounds off this beverage nicely, also adding and extra anti-bacterial punch.  Cultured dairy keeps our beneficial inside flora in alignment and ensures proper digestive function.  Like we do with all leftover smoothies around here, these make lovely popsicles.

Grape & Fig Smoothie
Prep time: 5 minutes; makes 5 cups
Blend all ingredients in a blender set to high until smooth.  Enjoy!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Weekly Menu Plan #44 ~ Here Comes Autumn!

This is the week!  The first day of autumn is this Saturday!  For a cold-weather-loving girl living in a sizzling valley in the summer time, this is very happy news.  It might have been in the upper nineties last week, but the kids and I welcomed fall to our dinner table and we all dreamed of hot cocoa and sweaters.  Coziness, soups, hot drinks, wood stove fires, and pumpkins: I eagerly await you all!

Last week I started stocking my freezer with meals to pull from for the upcoming holiday season (read about this plan here).  A double batch of nourishing potato cheddar soup was made for dinner that night and the rest went to the freezer.  When I'm ready to use it, I pull it from the freezer a day or two ahead of time and let it thaw in the fridge, then it goes into the pot for warming and viola!  Homemade dinner in five minutes.  Can you spot what I'm double batching and freezing from the list this week?

To do: thaw chuck roast for Wednesday night, make paleo granola & yogurt (double batch)
Breakfast:  GF Chocolate Chip Scones (thawed from last week)
Lunch:  Sourdough Almond Butter & Homemade Jam Sandwiches, Cookie Dough Bites (from last week), Fresh Grapes, Pepitas
Dinner:  Italian Chicken Soup (sans noodles, with fresh tomatoes, using chicken from chicken stock)

To do:  make hummus (double batch)
Breakfast:  Paleo Granola
Lunch:  Sourdough Turkey Sandwiches, Yogurt, Granola from Breakfast, Black Licorice Pieces

To do:
Breakfast:  Eggs with Tomatoes & Avocados
Lunch:  Hummus, Almonds, and Carrot, Apple, & Raw Cheese Slices, 
Snack:  Fig & Grape Smoothies (the recipe really is coming)
Dinner:  Slow Cooker Chuck Roast Supreme (double batch), Salad

To do: make applesauce (tripple batch)
Breakfast:  GF German Pancakes
Lunch:  Sourdough Peanut Butter & Raw Honey Sandwiches, Fresh Grapes, Raw Cheese Slices
Snack:  Pear, Walnut, Raisin Smoothies (recipe coming soon)
Dinner:  Baked Potatoes with Steamed Broccoli, Cheese, & Creme Fraiche

To do: soak sourdough pancakes
Lunch:  Leftover Coffee Cake, Pear Slices with Nut Butter, yogurt
Snack:  Popcorn

Saturday: Autumnal Equinox! 
Breakfast:  Pancake Bar
Lunch:  Pancake Sandwiches
Snack:  Applesauce
Dinner:  Slow Cooker Beef & Lentils (recipe coming soon) & GF Apple Crisp

To do:
Breakfast:  Leftover Apple Crisp
Lunch:  Leftovers
Dinner:  Leftovers
(Sunday is my day off.)

I'm sharing this at Monday Mania, Meal Plan Monday, Real Food WednesdayPennywise Platter.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Fourteen Simple Meals to Freeze Now for the Holidays

photo credit
If you know me, you know I'm one of those Christmas-crazed people.  I try to keep it on the down-low for the most part.  Some folks seem to find it offensive that I think about the holidays in June.  Sure, I privately listen to Christmas music starting in September.  Listen.  It used to start in August.  I've come a long way.  

There are some serious benefits to thinking about the holidays during the dog days of summer.  Planning ahead brings so much peace.  It also really helps the grocery budget stretch and keeps healthy food on the dinner table instead of bags of take-out during the craziest of seasons.  Here's my plan:  starting now, I will be freezing one meal each week until December.  Then there will be fourteen meals in my freezer, ready to pull out at a moment's notice.  The idea is to make a double batch of the meal I'm freezing and serve one the day I make it and freeze the other for December (or Thanksgiving week).  Want to see what I'll be freezing?  Visit Modern Alternative Kitchen to find my list: Freezing Ahead for a Peaceful Holiday Season.  What do ya say?  Wanna fill our freezers together?

I'm sharing this at Monday ManiaSimple Lives Thursday, Pennywise Platter.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Weekly Menu Plan #43

Marinated tomatoes, avocado, feta.  Happy breakfast!
Here I go, playing catch up after a week full of a family wedding, a teething (sleepless) baby, and the usual activity that comes with a family of seven and a 5-acre mini-ranch.  Eek!  Also, I've re-adopted double-batching it with lots of recipes so I can cook once and have enough for two meals: one for now and one for the freezer for later.  You'll see this happening in the menus again:

To do: make double batch of granola
Breakfast:  GF Chocolate Chip Scones (double batch)
Lunch:  English Muffin Sandwiches, leftover scones from breakfast, tortilla chips
Snack:  Blueberry Bliss Smoothies
Dinner:  Leftover Chili from last week, Steamed Green Beans with Butter

To do: soak beans for refried beans, thaw chicken stock for Thursday night
Breakfast:  Granola
Lunch:  Mostly Raw Wraps, yogurt, granola to sprinkle on top

To do: make refried beans
Breakfast:  GF Breakfast Pizza (double batch) with Melon Slices
Lunch:  Apple & Raw Cheese Slices, Nut Butter & Raisin Sandwiches on Sourdough English Muffins
Snack:  Fig & Grape Smoothies (recipe coming soon)

To do: make cookie dough bites (double batch) & baba ghanoush
Breakfast:  Cottage Cheese, Avocado, Tomatoes with Salt & Pepper
Lunch:  Raw Cheese Slices, Turkey Lunch Meat, Grapes, Breakfast Pizza from Yesterday
Dinner:  Nourishing Potato Cheddar SoupAcorn Squash (using rapadura instead of brown sugar)

To do: soak sourdough pancakes
Breakfast:  Bacon & Eggs
Lunch:  Baba Ghanoush, Bell Pepper Slices, Raw Cheese Slices, Cookie Dough Bites
Dinner:  Quesorritos & Grapes

Breakfast:  Pancake Bar
Lunch:  Pancake Sandwiches
Snack:  Apple Sauce

To do: menu plan
Breakfast:  Leftovers from last night's dinner
Lunch:  Leftovers
Dinner:  Leftovers
(Sunday is my day off)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Preserving: Peppers, Chilies & Pesto

Summer is coming to an end, and so is the first season I've put an effort in preserving the harvest.  It's been a learning process and a revelation as to the amount of stamina it takes to really put by enough food for winter.  I didn't even come close to hitting that mark, but now there's a better understanding of what it would take.  My hat is off to our grandparents and all the ancestors before us who danced to the annual rhythm of sowing, growing, and preserving food.  It's truly and art.  And a marathon.

One of the last tastes of summer to tuck away are the peppers and chilies.   To preserve extra bell peppers for later use in dishes like simple chili, refried beans, and spaghetti sauce, I simply chop the tops off, de-seed, cut them into fourths, and give them a whirl in the food processor.

I chopped three peppers this time around, so I'm dividing it into thirds and freezing them in individual containers.  When a recipe calls for a minced bell pepper, I grab one of these guys from the freezer and plop it in the pot, already nicely minced and harvested in-season.

After making several batches of salsa verde, there are still serranos and jalapeños that need to be rescued from going bad, so I followed the first part of the same procedure as the bell peppers.  You can de-seed these smaller guys but you don't have to.  I just chopped the tops off and called it good.

I keep track of how many chilies (or peppers) I'm mincing, then they are divided into however many were just processed, gently pressed down into an ice cube tray, and frozen in one-chili-sized cubes.

Once they are frozen, they're put into an air-tight container (this is what I use and love) and stored in the freezer for whenever I'd like to add a bit of summer's heat to a dish.

I also freeze pesto in ice cube trays and use them for turkey pesto pasta, as pizza sauce, in soups, or anything I want tasting pesto-ish.

Have you done any preserving this year, or tried any new methods?  I'd love to hear about your success stories and save them to pull out for next year.  Happy harvesting and preserving, friends!  Before we know it, we'll be sipping hot tea by the wood stove again.  Bliss!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Menu Plan #42

Doesn't everyone put sauerkraut on their salad?
This week, one of my husband's little brothers is getting married!  We are so excited and happy for them both.  Many of Jeremy's relatives are coming to stay with us, so I'm trying my best to make simple, bulky meals that will stretch enough to feed the clan.

Monday: Labor Day!
To do: soak tripple batch of sourdough English muffins, thaw ground beef for Wednesday
Lunch:  Irish Nachos
Dinner:  Butternut Squash Soup, GF Buttermilk Biscuits, Salad, Asian Pear Crisp

To do: thaw last week's biscuits for tomorrow's breakfast, make sourdough English muffins
Breakfast:  Paleo Breakfast Bread (sans stevia)
Lunch:  Raw Cheese, Tortilla Chips, Olives, Fresh Grapes
Dinner:  Spaghetti Squash, Baba Ghanoush, Bell Pepper Slices

To do: make cookie dough bites & Chicken Stock
Breakfast:  GF Biscuits & Eggs
Dinner:  Simple Chili, Corn Bread, & Salad

To do: make enchilada sauce
Breakfast:  Cheesy Eggs, Tomatoes, Avocado Slices
Lunch:  Turkey & Cheese Wraps, Cookie Dough Bites, Grapes, Tortilla Chips
Snack:  Grape & Fig Smoothies (recipe coming soon)

Lunch:  Turkey & Cheese roll-ups, olives, gapes, chocolate chip scones
Dinner: Rehearsal Dinner!

Breakfast:  Pancake Bar
Lunch:  Quesorritos
Dinner:  Jon & Victoria's Wedding!

Breakfast:  Porridge
Lunch:  Leftovers
Dinner:  Leftovers
(Sunday is my day off)


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