Feed Me

This post is part of a series, sharing my favourite products and discoveries from this last year. (You can find the first post here.) If you have any favourite ideas to contribute, please feel free to comment. Anyone who comments during this series over the next two weeks will have their name entered in a draw for an Amazon gift card. Let us know what you’re loving!

Other years, I’ve always included new foods in my list of favourites, but I don’t know if I tried a lot of new things this year. My food favourites this time around have more to do with how I get the food on the table, instead of what the food actually is!

Have a Plan

As I shared in January, I took an online course called “Grocery Budget Bootcamp“, which I loved, and it was super useful for getting me to be more intentional about what we were buying, as well as planning our meals. Taking the course made me realize how much stress can flair up in our home when I don’t have a plan for what we’re eating. I was consistent with planning suppers, but breakfast and lunch were more up in the air, and every single morning, around 11am, Anika (who LOVES to know what the plan is) would ask, “What’s for lunch?” And every day at 11:01am, I would get really grumpy. That may seem ridiculous, but she asked the same (legitimate) question every single day, always in the middle of our homeschooling morning, when I didn’t want to be thinking about food, and it stressed me out. Then she’d get stressed out, because there was no plan, and then everybody was grumpy. By the time we were finished with school for the morning and I had the head space to think about lunch, it was late, and everybody was even more grumpy because they were also hungry at that point. It was a disaster every time, until I finally figured out that all our problems were solved by simply coming up with a weekly menu which included breakfast and lunch. Our mornings went smoother, everyone was happier and less stressed, and we are eating better meals with more variety.

Prep Ahead

The other wonderful thing that happened this last year was that I started making smoothie packs to stick in the freezer. I usually have two green smoothies a day, so every morning and every afternoon, I was cutting and peeling vegetables. It was time consuming, and our cutting boards, knives, and peelers were always dirty. I’d seen the idea of smoothie packs on Pinterest, but I didn’t think it would work for my smoothies, because of the type of vegetables I was using – I’d never heard of freezing cucumbers! Well, it turns out you can! And freezing spinach is SUPER easy – we just buy the huge bags at Costco and put them straight in the freezer. Freezing avocados also works really well, so I was set.

A few major benefits have come out of this – my smoothie can be prepared so much faster now that my freezer is full of smoothie packs, the kitchen doesn’t get as messy, and we can buy all those vegetables at the lowest price. The Grocery Budget Bootcamp taught me the importance of grocery sale patterns – fresh produce doesn’t go on sale super often, but every few months, there will be a sale on cucumbers, peppers, or avocados. When one of those things is on sale, we buy enough to last for one or two months’ worth of smoothies. It’s ended up saving us a ton of money to do it this way, and all it took was a little bit of research to find out which vegetables work well to freeze.

I’ve never explored freezer meals, but this makes me think it’s something I need to look into…

Alright, I want to hear all your tips – what are your best tricks for getting fed in the easiest, fastest way possible? Do you like to have a plan? Prep ahead of time? Give me all the food advice!!

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Eating Gluten-Free With Kids

I’m often asked about what our family eats, because most people who know us are aware of the issues we’ve had with food intolerance. (All of our kids have the same digestive issues with gluten and dairy – I did my part in passing on that gift…)

I love it when people ask about how to survive eating gluten-free with kids, because I’m happy to share any helpful tidbits we’ve learned over the years, and I’m pretty passionate about finding great food to eat even when we haven’t been able to enjoy gluten or dairy. Fortunately, our kids are able to eat more than they were in the past, because a lot of their digestive issues have cleared up, but I clearly remember how overwhelming it was in the beginning when we first found out that we’d need to make some serious changes in our eating habits, and if there’s anything I can do to help others with that learning curve, I’m glad to do it.

Because of the questions I’m asked, I’ve decided to make one massive food post. If you are one of those lucky people who can eat whatever you want, skip this post and go eat a bunch of gluten-y chocolate chip cookies for the rest of us.

But if you find yourself in the same boat as our family, we welcome you aboard, and want to assure you: life can still be awesome with dietary restrictions.

Obviously, you’ll need to find your own way of making this work for your particular situation, but here’s a look at our weekly menu and our favourite recipes to get you started:

Monday: Oatmeal, usually with Cinnamon + apples or strawberries mixed in (depending on your level of sensitivity, you might need to get oatmeal that’s specified as being gluten-free)

Tuesday: Lazy Apple Crisp – slice up some apples and mix with vanilla + lemon juice; mix oatmeal with oil + cinnamon, and layer over apples; bake for about 30 minutes.

Wednesday: Scrambled eggs & ham

Thursday: Soaked Oatmeal

Friday: Honey Cloud Pancake

Saturday & Sunday: Applesauce Pancakes/Waffles (We always triple the recipe and freeze the leftovers for quick snacks throughout the week.)

Lunch

We will usually have leftovers for lunch. If there are none, we’ll make quiche (this recipe, without the crust), soup of some sort, or cubed/roasted potatoes with leftover meat + veggies. I roast a whole chicken regularly so we always have cooked meat in the freezer. I also make huge pots of spaghetti sauce to freeze so we can have a quick meal every once in awhile (Costco gluten-free pasta is the best taste/price we’ve found). I find it very time consuming to bake bread, and often make biscuits instead because they’re faster and easier.

Supper

Monday: Roasted Veggies + Meat (whatever combo I’m hungry for, or have veggies in the fridge that need using up, like potatoes/broccoli/chicken, or carrots/onions/potatoes/chicken, etc. Toss with oil and seasonings like garlic and oregano on a cookie sheet, and roast it for about 45 minutes.)

Tuesday: Casserole of some sort (Shepherd’s Pie, Enchilada Casserole)

Wednesday: Salad with chopped veggies + chicken on top, with smashed potatoes

Thursday: Stir-fry or Broccoli Noodles (I love using the asian noodles Superstore sells, made from pea/bean starch for this meal)

Friday: Taco Salad

Saturday: Loaded Baked Potatoes (Everyone adds their own toppings like tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, black beans, chicken, cheese, etc.)

Sunday: Fish + Chip Potatoes (can be made with potatoes or sweet potatoes) + steamed veggies

*You may have noticed that our family eats a ton of potatoes, which some people think is unhealthy. But there’s also the pro-potato people who feel the potassium in potatoes is so good for us, we should eat two a day. (Anika says she heartily agrees.) So for now, since I can’t eat any grain, potatoes are cheap, and my body seems to respond really well to The Perfect Health Diet, we’ll go strong with potassium.

Snacks

Our kids eat a lot of fruit, nuts, sunflower seeds, rye crackers from Superstore, or sweet potato crackers from Costco. We also make chocolate balls, granola bars, cookies (Apple Spice Cookies or Chewy Coconut-Oat Cookies, subbing honey for any sweetener), rice pudding, Breakfast Bread, and muffins (Gingerbread Muffins).

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So that’s pretty much it for food at our house. I want to clarify something very important:

We did not make these changes overnight.

It is hard and overwhelming to make changes when it comes to what you’re cooking, and what your kids want to eat. I made one change at a time. When we were first encouraged to take gluten out of Anika’s diet, she was eating toast and cereal for breakfast every day. We tried to cut back, and made her scrambled eggs instead of her usual slice of toast. Gluten-free cereal was an easy switch, and that took care of breakfast. Next I tried to change her snacks. Then lunch. I used to make separate meals for our family, but finally Ben said, “Just make everything gluten-free, I don’t mind.”

It made things SO MUCH easier, and Ben actually felt better staying away from gluten, even if he can handle eating it. So it was a long process, and there were lots of times when I felt very lost. Make small changes, and go easy on yourself. One step at a time.

And one day you’ll look back, and think, “It’s really not that big of a deal anymore.” It will be awesome and delicious.

Any favorite gluten-free recipes you have to share?! We’re always up for trying something new!

 

 

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Birthday Favorites Part 4

Today is my food post. I love food. I’m not sure how interesting my food favorites are for anyone else, though, because I have a very basic diet (basic” sounds so much more positive than “restricted”!). I have some issues with food intolerance, but my health as improved a lot in the last few years, and I’m hopeful that as things continue to improve, I’ll be able to add a little more variety to my diet – eggs and Greek yogurt are at the top of my wish list!

The funny thing is, I wouldn’t actually change a lot about my diet, even if I could. In my college days, I ate chocolate ice cream and Fudgee-o’s every single day, and I wouldn’t have believed it was actually possible to survive without chocolate. When my health took a big hit in my 20’s, I had to make some dramatic changes. I quit sugar, dairy, and gluten, which gradually led to a major improvement in how I was feeling. In the beginning it was torture, but with time, I stopped craving junk, and now I completely love eating tons of colorful vegetables, and keeping food simple and unprocessed. That doesn’t mean I never have weak moments – popcorn, chips, and pasta are foods I have trouble eating in moderation, and since all that stuff turns to sugar in the body, I try to stay away from it – usually physical pain is an excellent motivator for healthy eating.;) Anyway, the point is, I eat weird, but this doesn’t bother me, and there are delicious, healthy things to enjoy every day!:)

Here are a few new favorites I discovered this last year:

Sweet Potato Breakfast Bowl

Breakfast is hard when trying to avoid eggs and processed carbs. This is my favorite treat, and I’ve been eating it every single morning for a few months now. I mash up a small sweet potato, melt a ton of butter over it (the only dairy I’m okay with eating), and stir in chopped walnuts and a little bit of sea salt.

sweet potato bowl

Roasted Broccoli Chicken Potatoes

I never know what to call this, but it’s my favorite thing to make for meals these days. It is easy, fast, and I love how it tastes. I cut potatoes into chunks, drizzle oil on top, and season with salt, garlic, or oregano. I roast it for 20 minutes at 400, and then add broccoli and cooked chicken (I always keep some in the freezer so recipes like this are much faster to prepare). Roast for about another 20 minutes, and it’s done! Easiest meal we have around here.

potatoes broccoli chicken

Snap Pea Crisps

If I’m going to have a treat, this would be it. I love these things. While it was brilliant for Costco to start selling the snack size bags, I would have to argue with what the portion size should be.;) We broke up during my pregnancy with Everett – it was just one of those foods that made my stomach turn. Happily, I got over that, and this last year, we got back together again!

snap pea crisps

What are your favorites? I am always looking for new recipes!

Anika’s Birthday Favorites 2014

We celebrated Anika’s birthday this week!

Anika

She turned 11 on Wednesday, and was quite disappointed that her birthday happened to fall on a day when we had to be rushing around in the city with appointments and swimming lessons. But she got to choose our meals for the day, which was planned out months in advance, and we’re having a little party for her tomorrow with a small group of friends.

If Anika could plan her birthday in whatever way she truly wanted to, it would be a national holiday. She would invite about 30 girls to our house, we would decorate for about a week straight, and it would be a Huge Event. Someday, she’ll make a fantastic event coordinator…

For this year, we’ve had to have many little talks about keeping things small and simple – birthday party stamina is in short supply for me, so we’ll see how this goes.

In the meantime, we’ve got the tradition list of birthday favorites that I always do for each member of the family.

Breakfast: waffles, breakfast sausage and bacon, Tatortots, Honey Cloud Pancake

Lunch and Supper: sushi, Chip Potatoes, rotisserie chicken, fried potatoes, fish, steamed broccoli, mushrooms

Snacks and Treats: muffins, cupcakes, toast, Popcorn Twists, chocolate

Things to Do: play with Polly Pockets, Lego, read, play with friends, write books

Books: The Golden Compass, The Lord of the Rings, Emily of New Moon, Anne of Green Gables, The Babysitter Club series

Color: blue

What she wants to be when she grows up: author, actress, teacher (but she’ll homeschool her own kids!)

My Favorite Things About Anika:

– Talks at bedtime. This girl cannot go to sleep until we’ve talked through anything and everything that might be on her mind, and I love it. Bedtime is my favorite time with her!

– Her ability to enjoy such a wide range of people and activities. Anika loves babies, little kids, kids her own age, adults, anybody. She is comfortable talking to everybody – hairdressers take a special delight in her, because within about two minutes in the chair, she’s maturely pouring out her thoughts and secrets, and they’re talking like old friends.

She will make anything fun – entertaining kids with toys she has long outgrown, or using her imagination to transform anything into a fun, exciting story. It is no wonder Kaylia can’t wait to spend every moment playing with her sister.:)

– Her love for the dramatic. It is her greatest joy right now to have been given one of the main parts in our church’s Christmas musical. She has waited for this for two years, and when her dream finally came true, it was very difficult to eat or sleep or function normally in any way, for a few days.

Everything is a Big Deal with Anika. At times, it is hard for me to keep up with her energy level, but at the same time, I know that as she grows and matures, this will be a gift that I hope she will use in increasingly positive ways, and that will bring joy and excitement into the lives of people around her.:)

-Her help. I would not have been able to survive this pregnancy without her!! She has done a ton of extra chores around the house, little favours for me, and helped with Kaylia. I’ve been a hormonal grouch, and she’s been so understanding, telling me when she thinks it’s time for me to lie down and take a nap!!

She’s a beautiful, sweet girl, and I keep telling her that next year, when we’re not on the verge of having a baby, we’ll make up for this year’s low-keyed celebration!!

Anika

photos: Morgan Braun

Birthday Favorites: Food

Hey, Friends! It’s that time again – this week is my birthday, and it’s tradition around here to share everything I’m loving right now, and the things that have made this last year enjoyable/delicious/successful/positive in any way.:)

Leave a comment sharing YOUR favorites, and you’ll be entered in a draw for a prize….

Today we’re talking about food! I love talking about food. I love making it, photographing it, studying new recipes for it, and…EATING it!:)

Here are my favorite things to eat right now:

Breakfast: Baked Apple Pancake

I will always and forever love my green smoothie for breakfast – I told Anika this morning that when I’m an old lady in a nursing home, she needs to come bring me green smoothies.

BUT. If I’m going to eat anything else, this baked apple pancake is my new favorite. I kinda made up the recipe. I cut up three apples and fried them in lots of butter and cinnamon, and then dumped them into a 9×13 pan once they were soft. Then I mixed up this pancake batter, and poured it over the apples. I baked it at 350 until it felt firm to the touch, about half an hour.

wpid-wp-1404318561280.jpeg

Lunch: Salads!

I don’t really have recipes for these – I just kind of throw together whatever looks good. I love having tons of fresh vegetables and herbs on hand, and making it a really filling salad with chicken or avocados and cooked eggs. I love experimenting with different oils, seasonings, and dressings.

salad

Supper: Chip Potatoes

This is something I made up this last winter, and everybody in our family loves it, so we keep making it. So simple – just slice up potatoes super thin, cover it with chunks of butter and lots of sea salt.

potatoesBake it at 400 for 30 minutes, or until the potatoes start getting all brown and crispy.

potatoes

Best Restaurant I Ate at This Year: Buccacino’s!

A few weeks ago, I was going out for dinner with a friend, and we couldn’t decide where to eat. I was in the mood for something new and different – the fantastic food on my trip to Ottawa had left me craving something exciting. We quickly googled gluten-free restaurants in Winnipeg, and chose Buccacino’s. It’s so delicious, I can’t wait to go back!

Besides the fact that I’m in Food Heaven whenever I can eat gluten-free pasta, I also was quite impressed with the reasonable prices.

New Recipes:

Because I’m constantly trying new recipes, it’s hard to choose just one favorite, so here are a few that we’ve been enjoying, in case you’re in need of some new ideas!

Best Ever Beef Stew

Veggie and Brown Rice Noodle Bowl

Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Blender Muffins

Energizing Protein Power Salad

Your turn! What are your favorite foods, recipes, and restaurants? I want to hear all about it!:)

Vegetables, Traveling, and a Personal Crisis, in the Best Way Possible…

Notes From a Blue BikeI bought a book last weekend – Tsh Oxenreider’s Notes From a Blue Bike was on sale for a couple of bucks, and I’ve been wanting to read it for awhile. I don’t know if it was the short, easy-reading chapters, or the rainy weather keeping us inside, or the subject matter, but I finished it in a weekend, which is rare for me.

And then I broke down and had a whole life crisis, which concerned Ben a lot. He asked very hesitantly if perhaps I should possibly consider…not reading that book anymore.

I tried to explain to him that the book is about intentional living, and the fact that I was questioning my intentions was a good thing, even if it did lead to a bit of a crisis.

The crisis past fairly quickly, and now I’m looking back to see what’s been left in it’s wake….

Tsh Oxenreider examines five areas of intentional living: food, travel, education, entertainment, and revival. I’m pretty much in agreement with most of her thoughts, but there were a few ideas that threw me for a bit of a loop.

Food

I love what she has to say about “slow food” – cook it from scratch, use whole, natural ingredients, and make it something the whole family enjoys. Because of this book, I just signed us up for a CSA program – it stands for “Community Supported Agriculture”, and it means that for the next 17 weeks, our family will receive a box of organic vegetables grown on a nearby farm. I have been curious about such a program for a long time, but my weekend of reading was what finally gave me the final push to do something about it.

It’s like a food adventure – you never know what you’ll get in the box, so I’m looking forward to a summer of awesome, fresh ingredients, and a whole bunch of new recipes! We got our first box this week, and it contained a ton of lettuce, beets, green onions, rhubarb, and lovage. We didn’t even know what lovage was, so Ben had to google it, and now we can’t stop talking about lovage, because it’s a fun word – “Can you taste the lovage in the soup? You can never have too much lovage!!”

We were feasting on Citrus and Roasted Beet Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing, which was delicious, even though I’ve never liked beets before. And I love having fresh salad ingredients just waiting for me in the fridge, making it easy to throw lunch together. Somehow, everything tastes better when I know we picked it up right at the farm, instead of buying it at Superstore!

salad

Travel

This was one of the uncomfortable topics for me. Tsh Oxenreider is a huge believer in doing international travel with small children. I am a huge believer in keeping young children at home and avoiding jet lag with a four-year-old. Road trips I would consider, but we’ve turned down a few awesome vacation offers from Ben’s parents, because it just seems like there will be a better time for really ambitious travel.

This book has me reconsidering….Maybe now is as good a time as any! And maybe I need to be thinking more about the story we want our family to tell, than about my total comfort and sanity.

“Traveling with children is harder than traveling without them – no argument from me there. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth giving it a shot. I’m so grateful for our trips across oceans and our journeys down the road, navigating adventures together as a family. It’s knit us together in ways hard to replicate anywhere else….

Together, we smell smells and see sights collectively that no one else will at that exact moment – or at least no one who will also drive home to the same house and fall asleep under the same roof. When we travel, no matter how near or far, we share moments that shape our family culture. Each exploration, to the next town over or on the next flight out of the country, is one more chisel notch in our family’s sculpture. If we are each a work of art, then our life’s experiences are the tools. Traveling gives us, as parents, the chance to make those tools effective and sharp.”

With a baby on the way, we won’t be going on an exotic trip anytime very soon, but at the very least, I think we need to do some exploring close to home. And maybe start dreaming about where we’ll go as soon as Baby is old enough…

Education

Here’s where the bulk of my crisis occurred….She tried homeschooling and quit, for reasons I’d never heard before. I had to chew them over for a bit. Once I finished chewing, I was left with the conviction that we are still called to homeschool right now, and the benefits are still outweighing the negatives.

But still – I never want to be so completely sure in what I’m doing that I won’t even stop to question and consider if it’s still the best thing. I think it’s good and right to reassess every once in a while.

And I love what she wrote about parental instincts when it comes to educating our children:

“I want to model learning for the sheer joy of exploration, provide a secure home environment for their creativity, and pray continually for wisdom about the best method to educate them. I want to remember that I will always be their most influential teacher. And I want to then take a step of faith and make choices by trusting my parental instincts – even if that means ignoring the culture that says it knows what’s best. I want to rest in confidence that we’ll make the best decisions for our children because only we know them as intimately as we do.”

Entertainment

While I completed an entertainment fast a few months ago, and learned a ton, I also just came through the first trimester of pregnancy, which pretty much resulted in loads of snacks, and Netflix on the couch every single night. It was all I was capable of doing. It felt disgusting, too. Now that my energy is increasing, it’s definitely time for find some balance in this area, so I appreciated what Oxenreider had to say about enjoying entertainment in small doses, to avoid the feeling of entitlement.

“If entertainment isn’t our right, does this mean our days have to be drudgery? Well, sometimes, yes. Life has never promised us nonstop parties and parades. But our everyday rituals can also become our entertainment, if we let them. When I reduce my screen time, not only is my remaining screen time  more enjoyable, but my eyes better sharpen their focus on the little things in life.”

Revival

Tsh Oxenreider wrapped up this book by talking about how their family has chosen to slow down, how she purposely chooses to take care of herself to avoid burn-out, and what benefits we reap when we live intentionally.

It’s interesting, because much of what she wrote about was learned during the time her family lived overseas, and the culture shock that greeted them when they moved back to the States. It took awhile to figure out how to take what they loved about life in a different culture, and apply it to living in the States, where it wasn’t possible to make life exactly the same, but rather, making the principles apply to the life they are currently living.

It’s how I feel about our transition from living at a Bible camp out in the bush, to living a more “normal” life, back in civilization. Life is a completely different pace, and yet over the past two years, our family has found a way to hold on to the principles we loved most about our life at camp, and fit those into this new life. Go slowly, with intention, and never do something that feels wrong for your family, just because it’s culturally normal. I had no idea that living in the forest for five years would teach me so much about disregarding what’s culturally acceptable, and doing what is truest to our hearts.

Goethe quotesource

It was a lot to take in over one weekend! But since I love a good re-evaluation of life (and a good personal crisis?!), it was a weekend well spent! So many thoughts to chew over.

And now, I wish you a lovely weekend. May you linger over delicious meals, delight in exploring the world around you, find enjoyment in simple pleasures, and be able to discern what matters most to you and those  you love!

Searching for Pretty…

I don’t believe in complaining about the weather. I think it’s a waste of time, and discourages everybody who hears it.

However. I have noticed that I’m not taking many pictures, because I keep waiting for spring to get pretty – fresh new leaves, apple blossoms, and green grass.

So I’ve sat around, thinking there’s not much to take a picture of, but today, I realized that’s having a bad attitude. There is always something pretty or picture-worthy somewhere! I went hunting for it today. Here’s what I found:

Searching.

searching

Hiding.

hidingCollecting.

collectingDreaming.

dreamingCreating.

creatingPreparing. (We have a new soccer player in our house this year!)

preparingEating.

eating

I hope you can find something to enjoy today while you wait for spring!