Monday, January 30, 2012

Nibble Trays ~ A Kids-do-the-Work Lunch

Here's a lunch idea that's usually pulled out the day before grocery shopping when the food selection is... interesting.  We call them nibble trays; an idea adapted from Dr. Sears where he suggests filling ice cube trays with different foods for toddlers to snack on all day.  My kids are a bit too big for the ice cube tray concept, so we've graduated to a serving platter and a "sauce palette."  With this lunch, the kids are the food artists.  Their empty plates, a blank canvas.  For their lunch creations, they choose from the nibble tray that contains, well, whatever is around the house to eat, really.  The sky is the limit.  Here are some ideas:
  • Fruit & veggie slices
  • Meat slices
  • Cheese slices
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Nuts & seeds
The sauce palette is where they choose their favorite dips.  We use whatever we have on hand that day:

Like the hummus flower,  nibble trays are something the older children can assemble and everyone can help with the clean-up.  This is another lunch that brings peace to our table and fills bellies with all things nourishing, no matter what.

As we continue to prepare our home for baby number five, I am really on the look-out for simplifying meals.  What are some of the meals your family enjoys that require little to no work on the mama's part?

I'm sharing this at Monday Mania, Real Food Wednesday.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Weekly Menu Plan #15 ~ Simplifying Before Baby

We are counting down until baby number five changes our lives forever.  I feel myself winding down and at the same time feeling the need to nest.  Part of nesting for me is pruning trees and bushes and planting bare roots, as well as preparing lesson plans ahead of time, stocking the freezer with meals,  teaching the kids some new foods to prepare on their own, and, of course, cleaningcleaningcleaning.  Something's gotta give, you know?  So these meal plans will become more and more simple over the next five weeks, and then they'll probably disappear for a couple months as we eat up all the frozen meals and bond with the babe.

To do: Soak sourdough English muffins & German pancakes, thaw chicken stock
Snack: kefir smoothies
Lunch:  Taco bar: Taco meat, salad, cheese, creme fraiche, salsa, olives
Snack:  Raw cheese & apple slices
Dinner: Spinach & cheese oven omelet (recipe coming soon)

To do: Make sourdough English muffins, thaw ground beef
Breakfast:  Soaked German pancakes
Snack:  Strawberry cacao kefir smoothies
Lunch:  English muffin sandwiches
Snack: Olive fig tapenade with grain-free crackers & veggie slices
Dinner:  Slow cooker beef & root stew

To do: 
Breakfast:  Grain-Free Blueberry Banana Bars
Snack:  Apple pie kefir smoothies
Lunch:  Hummus Flowers
Snack:  Pomegranate seeds
Dinner:  Butternut squash soup & sourdough English muffins

To do: soak porridge, thaw cube steaks
Breakfast:  Scrambled eggs & pastured bacon
Snack:  blueberry kefir smoothies
Lunch:  Nibble trays
Snack: leftover nibble tray
Dinner:  Bunless burgers over salad, potato wedges

To do:  soak sourdough pancakes
Breakfast:  Porridge & eggs
Snack:  kefir smoothies
Lunch:  Chips & guacamole, cheese & fruit slices
Snacks: leftovers from lunch
Dinner: Out with friends

Breakfast:  Pancake bar
Snack:  Orange julius (using kefir instead of milk)
Lunch:  Pancake sandwiches
Snack:  Perfectly frothy raw hot cocoa
Dinner:  Chicken fried steak (using almond flour instead of wheat flour), salad, & grain-free coconut pineapple upside down cake

To do:  Menu plan & soak coffee cake
Breakfast:  Green eggs (puréed spinach scrambled with cheese & eggs) & ham
Snack:  Almonds
Lunch:  Leftovers
Dinner:  Leftovers
(Sundays are my day off)

I'm sharing this at Monday Mania, Menu Plan Monday, Real Food 101, Real Food Wednesday, Simple Lives Thursday, Pennywise Platter, Fresh Bites Friday, Fight Back Friday.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Raw Apple Pie Kefir Smoothie ~ A Recipe

Here we go, folks.  Kefir smoothie recipe number two, and a great in-season option for the colder days.

Haven't ordered those kefir grains yet?  What're ya waitin' fer?  Find kefr grains, complementary how-to videos, and even a free 30-page kefir recipe e-book right here.

Raw Apple Pie Kefir Smoothie
Serves 4-5
  • 3 apples, cored and quartered
  • 2 cups milk kefir
  • 1/4 cup raw honey or 1/2 cup pitted dated
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1/2 vanilla bean (I use the ones from making vanilla extract after the extract has been used up)
  • 2 cups ice
Put all ingredients in the order listed in blender.  Blend on high for 45-60 seconds, or until smooth.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Deal Alert! Tropical Traditions BOGO & More

If you've never heard of Tropical Traditions, I'd like to introduce you to one of my favorite companies.  I've been a happy customer for over six years.  They are a Christian owned company that pays native Filipinos a fair price to harvest and process coconuts the way they have been doing it for centuries.  I love that they preserve the native heritage as well as paying locals a fair price for their labor.  Not only are they fair business folks, their product is top of the line.  I feel that it's money well spent.

TODAY ONLY, you can give their premium coconut oil a try with a buy one, get one free deal!  We use this oil in smoothies, raw desserts, and a number of other recipes found here on the ol' bloggeroo.

Special Price! - 2 pints - Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil 16 oz. - Buy 1 get 1 FREE!

Now until Sunday, you can try their super healthy green drink for 35% off.
Special Price! Antioxidant Omega 3 Greens - Mint Flavor - 389 grams

Avoiding fluoride?  Good!  This teeth cleaner has nothing to do with it, either.  It comes in classic, cinnamon, and mint flavors.  Be sure to read what customers have said about it by clicking on the link below.  Now until Sunday, you can try it for 31% off.

Special Price! - Mint - Teeth Cleaner - 4 oz. - All Natural

I love me a good sale, especially when I know my money is going to an upstanding company and I'm getting the best possible quality out there for clean products that will only help my family's health.  Happy shopping!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Big Red Barn

By the big red barn in the great green field,
there was a pink pig who was learning to squeal.
There was a great big horse and a very little horse,
and on every barn is a weather vein, of course -- a golden flying horse.
~  The Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown

When we first laid eyed on this little farm a year and a half ago (how time does fly), the first thing we all said was the barns must be red.  I mean... blue?  Really?  And no exes on the doors?  Come now.  We're going for storybook here, people.

At last, we took advantage of these abnormally sunny days before the first storm and painted.  We needed a big red barn.

And, as you can see, we ran out of white paint just a little too soon, leaving part of the trim (that I try not to fixate on) and the hitching posts to the right, that old blue.  It'll have to stay that way until after the rains, I'm afraid.  But oh what a happy sight to behold a mostly red barn!

And a little red chicken coop...

And a red horse barn (that will need another coat).

Red, red, red.

There might not be a big pink pig or a great big horse or a very little horse (yet), but we are getting there.  We have red barns now, and somehow it makes us feel like more established farmers.  It's amazing what a color change can do to a place and how it effects our sentiments, you know?

I'm sharing this at Farm Girl Friday, Barn Hop, Gratituesday.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Raw Strawberry Cacao Kefir Smoothies ~ A Recipe

I keep mentioning different kefir smoothies in our weekly menus, but have failed to provide the recipes.  So here we go: the first of seven kefir smoothie recipes to hit Riddlelove.

If you've never heard of or made kefir, find out all about it and get yer kefir grains here.  And just why do I use kefir instead of yogurt?  I'll tell you.  It's a lot faster and easier to make than yogurt and contains more beneficial strains of bacteria than found in yogurt.  There you have it.

Raw Strawberry Cacao Kefir Smoothie
Serves 4-5
Place all ingredients in blender and blend on high for 30-60 seconds, or until there are no big pieces found in the smoothie.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Weekly Menu #14 ~ Eating Up Those Greens

When I open that massive produce box and find an overflowing amount of spinach in it for the sixth week in a row, I'll be honest with ya.  I whimper a little.  Not that spinach is hard for me to eat.  I'll throw it in whatever I'm eating: eggs, soups, stir fries...  It's just one of those foods that presents conflict at the table with the littles and it's draining, you know?  Sometimes it's hard to Keep Calm and Carry On instead of exasperatingly resorting to becoming Nazi Spinach-Pushing Mother.  Eat it or STARVE!  Okay.  It doesn't get that bad.  For the most part.  I never knew a produce box would yield such an opportunity for personal growth.  So, as I look to see what's going to be in this week's produce box and see Popeye's favorite food listed (again), I take a deep breath and start strategizing.  In it's defense, spinach is one of the few local, in-season foods right now (and I should be happy I even have some local, in-season produce this time of year), so here's me learning to actually embrace an in-season diet.  Presenting this week's scheme:

To do: Soak Sourdough Flatbread & German Pancakes, thaw 2 quarts chicken stock
Breakfast: Soaked Cinnamon Vanilla Baked Oatmeal & eggs
Snack: Pear, Cranberry, Walnut kefir smoothies
Lunch: Leftover Butternut Squash Soup
Snack: Raw Cheese & Apple Slices
Dinner: Grated raw cheese over sausage, braised spinach, & Potato Wedges, & Green Salad with Ranch Dressing

To do: Make Sourdough Flatbread & Muhamarra
Breakfast: Soaked German Pancakes & eggs
Snack: Strawberry Cacao kefir smoothies
Lunch: Sourdough Flatbread Sandwiches
Snack: Muhamarra & Carrot & Celery Slices
Dinner: Honey Mustard Chicken with Soaked Rice & California Cold Weather Salad

Breakfast: Grain Free Banana Blueberry Bars
Snack: Blueberry kefir smoothies
Lunch: Hummus Flowers
Snack: Pear Slices & Crispy Walnuts
Dinner: Root Soup & Sourdough Flatbread

To do: Soak Porridge & Rice
Breakfast: Spinach & Onion Strata
Snack: Apple Pie kefir smoothies
Lunch: Grain-Free Pigs in a Blanket
Snack: Raw Egg(less) Nog
Dinner: Stir Fry with Eggs, Rice, Greens, & leftover chicken from Monday night

To do: Soak Sourdough Pancakes
Breakfast: Porridge & Eggs
Snack: Orange Julius (using kefir instead of milk)
Lunch: Leftovers
Snack: Fried Mush
Dinner: Slow Cooker Chuck Roast Supreme over a Green Salad & Enchilada Salad Dressing, Grain-Free Maple Pecan Cupcakes

Breakfast: Pancake Bar
Snack: kefir smoothies
Lunch: Pancake Sandwiches
Snack: Raw Cheese & Apple Slices
Dinner: Cheeseburger Salad (sans croutons) & Apple Spice Cake

To do: Menu plan, soak baked oatmeal
Breakfast: Green Eggs (puréed spinach scrambled in eggs with cheese) & ham
Snack: Crispy Almonds
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Leftovers
(Sunday is my day off)

Have a lovely week, friends!

I'm sharing this at Monday ManiaMenu Plan Monday, Real Food 101, Real Food Wednesday, Simple Lives Thursday, Pennywise Platter, Fresh Bites Friday, Fight Back Friday.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Muhammara ~ A Walnut, Bell Pepper Dip Recipe

Here is a variation of a favorite dip/spread/sauce of ours that we've been enjoying for a couple years now.  Muhammara is a wonderful dip for veggies, sauce for meat, pizzas, and sandwiches, and spread for toasts.  I'm surprised it hasn't caught on as much as hummus has; it's soverytasty and easy to make (not to mention incredibly nourishing).

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until smooth (little lumps are fine).  Allowing it to chill for a couple hours helps bring the flavors out.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Hummus Flowers ~ A Simple, Kid-Friendly Lunch

In an attempt to involve my kids more in the kitchen and for them to become more independent when it comes to meals (especially before this fifth lil' sweet thang is born), we've been focusing on new, simple, and fun lunch ideas.  Today, I give you the hummus flower.  If you're on the GAPS diet, simply use a different dip (might I suggest baba ghanoush?).  I made the first one (pictured above) to set the stage of possibilities and my kids were raring to give it a try.  I set out all the components (all in-season, nutrient-dense choices that complement each other), so anything they chose for their flower was going to benefit them.  Along with the hummus middle (so they get some protein no matter what), there were fruit, veggie, dairy, and meat choices (along with olives).  A fun, grain-free meal that my kids actually enjoy?  Miraculous.  Here are a few flowers my kids came up with:

The great thing about the kids assembling their own lunches is watching how surprisingly good they are at determining their portion sizes.  Clearing their plates has always been an issue.  Today, they cheerfully gobbled up every bit of their flowers.  The nice thing about these?  If they don't end up finishing them, simply cover it, stick it in the fridge, and they won't complain about eating the leftovers for snack because they made it.  With instruction of what to pull out of the fridge and chop up, my older children can do all the prep work, and they can all help with the clean up.  Need a kid-friendly meal to go?  Assemble these in a container that has a lid.  Seal that lid, stick it in the ice chest or lunch bag and you're kids will squeal to find a most intriguing surprise.  We now have a new, 100% mom-free, whine-free meal, ready to be pulled out of the hat whenever needed.  Hooray!  

And that, my friends, is how this mama nests.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Soaked German {Dutch Baby} Pancakes ~ A Recipe

To help my son's digestion and mood, we've been off gluten for a year now.  We started eating mostly raw and no grains (not even soured, which absorbs the gluten).  As our 7-year-old stopped complaining of a hurting tummy, we re-introduced sourdough with no bad side-effects.  Testing the waters further, soaked grain dishes were slowly and rarely brought back to the table.  Still no upset tummies!  So now, once or twice a week, I serve a soaked flour recipe like these German pancakes.

I've been using the Dutch baby pancake recipe from Nourishing Traditions off and on for years, but there are some gaps in it (like a cook time) that needed to be filled.  After some playing around in the kitchen, here's my soaked Dutch Baby Pancake recipe (cooking time & tips-learned-the-hard-way included).  One thing: when I soak the flour, I haven't been able to get the pancakes to have their traditional puffiness.  Although they still taste divine and have that nice crispness on the edges, there is not much puff.

Dutch Baby Pancakes
Serves 4-6
  • 1 cup spelt or kamut (I'm using kamut this time around)
  • 1 cup buttermilk or other cultured dairy
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1/2 vanilla bean)
  • 1 cup filtered water
  • 1 pinch nutmeg (optional)
  • slices of butter (optional garnish)
  • lemon slices (optional garnish)
  • raw honey, maple syrup, or rapadura (optional garnish)
  1. 12-24 hours before baking, soak flour and cultured dairy mixed together in a covered container overnight.  
  2. The morning of, place 2 tablespoons butter in 2 large cast iron pans or two 9x13 glass pans and place in oven.  Set oven to 350ºF.
  3. Place all ingredients (except garnishes) in a blender and blend 45-60 seconds.  Once the oven is at 350º and the butter has completely melted in the pan, remove pans from the oven and pour half the batter in each pan.  Return to oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until the sides have curled up and browned and the center is slightly cracked and not liquidy.
  4. Serve with lemon wedges to squeeze over the pancakes and drizzle honey or maple syrup over it, or sprinkle some rapadura on top.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Weekly Menu Plan #13 ~ Keeping Warm & Comfy

It feels good to get these menu plans back up after a break to soak up Christmastime (and beyond).  I definitely ate more goodies than I should have (how could I not, visiting my parent's house?!) and I am rearin' to get back on that nourishing track.

To do: Thaw 3 cups chicken stock, soak sourdough English muffin & German pancake doughs
Snack: Pear walnut cranberry kefir smoothies
Snack: Apple & raw cheese slices
Dinner: Seasoned, grass-fed ground beef with brazed rainbow chard over roasted garlic mashed cauliflower, green salad with probiotic-rich ranch dressing.

To do: Make sourdough English muffins
Breakfast: German pancakes & eggs
Snack: Strawberry almond kefir smoothies
Lunch: Sourdough English Muffin Sandwiches
Snack:  Pear slices & crispy walnuts
Dinner: Taco Salad

To do: Juice apple cider for butternut squash soup, thaw 1# ground beef
Breakfast: Grain-free cinnamon apple muffins & eggs with pastured bacon
Snack: Blueberry kefir smoothies
Lunch: Sourdough English muffin sandwiches
Dinner: Butternut squash soup, sourdough English muffins, salad

To do: Soak porridge, thaw 1# ground beef & pumpkin purée
Snack:  Apple pie kefir smoothies
Lunch: Nibble trays
Snack: Raw hot cocoa & leftover grain-free muffins
Dinner: Winter veggie melt & sausage

To do: Soak sourdough pancakes
Breakfast: Porridge & eggs
Snack: Pomegranate kefir smoothies
Lunch: Leftovers
Snack: apple & raw cheese slices

Breakfast: Pancake bar
Lunch: Pancake sandwiches
Dinner: Rice noodle spaghetti & meatballs (using almond meal instead of breadcrumbs) & pumpkin pie

To do: Menu plan, soak baked oatmeal
Breakfast: Spinach cheddar omelettes
Snack: Grain-free garlic rosemary crackers
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Leftovers

Friday, January 13, 2012

Bulk Cooking: 20-Minute Enchilada Sauce ~ A Recipe

With this babe of mine due in eight short weeks, I find myself wanting to squirrel away as much food as possible to fall back on during that season in Infantland.  Buying enchilada sauce has been one of the last store-bought sauces found in our pantry, and I just couldn't bear buying another jar.  This recipe is quick, rich, and freezes really well.  I'm freezing mine in pint-sized mason jars; the perfect amount for a pan o' enchiladas (a very good freezer meal, while we're on the subject) and there may be some some to spare to make dressing for a tasty enchilada salad.

20-Minute Enchilada Sauce
Makes 6 cups
  1. In a large pot, heat fat of choice over medium-high heat until melted.  Meanwhile, whisk arrowroot powder in water until smooth.  Add to fat.  Add chili powder & stir for about half a minute.  The arrowroot will get really gelatinous.  Don't let it scare you.
  2. Whisk in all remaining ingredients except the salt in the pot.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.  Stir in salt.  Pour in prepared 1/2-pint or 1-pint mason jars & allow to cool.  Fasten the lids and freeze until you're ready to use.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Simple Taco Salad ~ A Recipe

We chatted about the different components to crafting the perfect salad earlier this week.  Here's another example of a meal salad, one of my favorites.  Instead of using fresh tomatoes since they aren't in season, I used some organic salsa.  

Taking pleasing pictures of a salad is hard for me.  I tried my best.  I might need to read up on this subject a bit.  However it may look, I heart taco salad.  Here's our quick version:

Simple Taco Salad
Serves 6-8
  • 1 pound grass-fed ground beef, seasoned like this (or leftover shredded beef)
  • 1 large head lettuce, washed & shredded
  • 1 cup soaked & cooked beans, optional (black, pinto, or kidney work well)
  • 1 avocado, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 1/2 jar olives, sliced
  • 1 cup corn (if you've put some up for the cold season or if they're organic and in-season when you make this)
  • 2 green onions or chives, sliced
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup grated cheddar or jack cheese
  • salsa to taste
  • creme fraiche as an optional garnish
  1. Brown & season the beef.  Wash & shred (or chop) the lettuce.  Place lettuce in large salad bowl.  Layer avocados, olives, onions, carrots, and sunflower seeds.  
  2. Just before serving, add cheese and beef on top of the salad.  Place jars of salsa and creme fraiche on the table for each individual to spoon on top of their salad to taste.  The salsa can be used as the dressing, or ranch dressing is also a good addition if you like your salad more wet (at least that's what my family likes to do).

Monday, January 9, 2012

How to Craft the Perfect In-Seaon Salad

Ever been in a salad rut?  I've so been there, until I realized how quick and easy it is to change things up in that bowl.  First off, everything in my salad must be in-season.  If I want to get the most out of my food, it must be fresh.  Also, the produce provided in each season are designed to nourish us in exactly the area we need for that particular time of year.  Having a garden or CSA box makes this choice a no-brainer.  Now on to the part where we play.

A good salad doesn't have to take years to assemble.  We just need to know what makes a salad pleasing to the palate and eyes.  In my opinion, there are four components (five for a meal salad) to accomplish this: sweet, salty, crunchy, and soft.  For a meal salad, add "meaty" to that list.  Use this rule of thumb and pair it with what you have to work with for the season and you've got yourself one beautiful, tasty, nutrient-dence treat.

For the sweet factor, I usually go with some in-season fruit.  During cold seasons, pear, apple, orange, persimmon, or pomegranate seeds are my fruits of choice.  To combine sweet and crunchy, try tossing some honey-caramelized nuts into the mix.  Warm weather fruit options are endless: peaches, melons, apricots, cherries, berries...

My two go-to salty additions are usually olives (we adore olives of any kind) and/or cheese (which also  offers that soft texture).  Choose your cheese to complement your salad theme.  Making a Greek-like salad?  Use feta.  Italian?  Parmesan is the way to go.  Grated cheddar is always a fabulous default.  Cheese and olives also bring a good source of fat to the salad which will help your body absorb the nutrients your salad has to offer.  Also, everything is just better with cheese, you know?

Ya gotta love the crunch.  We usually use nuts and seeds, including pomegranate seeds.  Pecans, walnuts, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, slivered almonds...  They're such an easy toss-in that adds a pleasing texture for both the eyes and palate, not to mention the lovely nutrients they bring to the mix.

This brings a great balance to the crunch factor.  My go-tos are avocado slices and/or cheese.  Oh, how I love avocados and what they do to salads.  Beans are also a good throw-in to up the protein level, and if you're making a taco salad of sorts.  Let's not forget slices (or crumbles) of hard boiled eggs.  Delicious.

Want your salad to be a meal?  Add meat.  Taco meat, pastured bacon bits, shredded chicken, leftover slices of steak or roast... Use whatever you have in the fridge.  Pretty plain and simple.

A Word on Greens
There is pretty much always a leafy green in season, so it's not a problem for your leafies to change with the seasons.  Currently in this wintery time of year, we can barely keep up with the lettuce, spinach, chard, and collards.  Because of oxalic acid, I try to wilt spinach, chard, and collards before using them in the salad, but every now and then we'll just go ahead and eat that spinach raw.

It's taken me years to work up to making my own dressing, but it's completely worth it.  Dressings are usually the secret culprit that takes a perfectly healthy salad to new lows with all their preservatives and MSG.  "But the salad dressings I buy are organic," you say?  Well check the label.  Does it have "natural flavors?"  That's code for MSG.  Sadness, I know.

I have a few salad and dressing recipes (listed below) and will continue to add more this month.  But now that you know what makes a salad great, why not head to the kitchen and play around to see what you can come up with?  Have fun!

Riddlelove Salads & Dressings to Date:

Creamy, Probiotic-Rich Ranch Dressing ~ I'm not allowed to let us run out of this stuff. ;)

Simple Taco Salad ~ Hearty and full of flavor!

Roasted Poblano Dressing ~ Great with taco meat or anything south-oth-the-boarder-esque.

California Cold Weather Salad ~ A gorgeous salad to bring to a big get-together.

Chicken Enchilada Salad ~ A great way to use up leftover chicken from making stock.


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