Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sixteen Menu Ideas for a Vegan Easter ( Pascha ) (12 GF)

Kali Anastasi! Good Resurrection! (Icon from Kykkos Monastery)
Here are some ideas for what to serve at your upcoming Pascha meal - whether you're serving an all-Vegan feast, or serving a traditional Omnivore feast with some Vegan dishes for variety (or for guests).  

I don't know who all of my readers are, but I know of at least two groups: 1) dedicated full time Vegans and 2) Orthodox Christians who are looking for "fasting" recipes for Lenten Seasons, such as Great Lent, Advent, and Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the year, but when the big Christian Feast days hit, are not looking at my blog!

This post is for the first group, who may be looking for festive dishes to serve for their upcoming Pascha Feast ("Pascha" is the Orthodox Christian word for Easter) 

To the second group, I simply say "Kali Anastasi!" "Christos Anesti" - enjoy your (
very non Vegan ; ) Feast!

French Crepes  (GF)
 These are great if you like to serve a Pascha Brunch 



Grilled Mushroom Kabobs ( Manitarakia ) 
Serve with Pita & a Traditional Salad Dressed with Lemon Juice



 Greek Tahini Dip





Stuffed Eggplant




Zucchini Mock Crab Cakes







Rosemary Roast Potatoes ( Slow Cooker )





 Simply Asparagus








Veggies Vinaigrette



Carrot Raisin Salad without Mayonnaise





Fattoush




Lentil & Rice Salad



Orange Beet Salad




Samali








Russian Teacakes


 

Pineapple Upside Down Cake




Crispy Rice Cupcakes






This post was featured on
Plant Based Potluck Party

Share the Food & Fun at the Plant Based Potluck Party Link Up #8


 This is being Shared on:
Inspire Us Thursday
Home Acre Hop
Think Tank Thursday
Plant Based Potluck Party
Fabulously Frugal Thursday
Simple Lives Thursday
Real Food Fridays
Gluten Free Fridays
Healthy Vegan Fridays
Inspire Me Monday
Making Your Home Sing Monday
Clever Chicks
Motivation Monday
Marriage, Motherhood & Missions 
Modest Monday 
Healthy, Happy, Green & Natural 
Anti Procrastination Tuesday 
Real Food, Allergy Free




Monday, April 7, 2014

Raising Kids Who Aren't Picky

A kid's meal at our house is a regular meal on a kid's plate.
Most of the kids in our family love all varieties of healthy food - in a "truth is stranger than fiction" sort of way. Even we don't believe some of the things we hear sometimes!


 Here are actual events from our extended family:
*****
Toddler who makes a habit of crawling to the fridge, opening the door, pulling out the crisper drawer, and selecting a cucumber or bell pepper to snack on.
*****
Mom to child: "You cannot have any more seaweed until you've finished your pasta!"
*****
Child: "Can I have some lettuce for breakfast?"
Daddy, looking through the fridge and pulling out some Iceberg, "Sure, here you go."
Child (crying) "That's not lettuce!"
*****
Child: "Can I have a special treat before I go to bed? Like, maybe, some . . . broccoli?"
*****
Child: "Can I have some more of that nice Kale?"
*****
Mom: "All our kids just LOVE lentil soup!"
*****
Grown kids (fondly): "Do you still make that Tofu Tamale Pie we grew up eating?"
*****
Four year old, "Dad, can I have capers for a snack?"
*****
And, I could go on. But, I won't - because there are a whole bunch of people who will read this and already think I'm lying ; )

So, I thought I'd share a few non-picky kid tips:

Let me FIRST say, a certain part of pickiness is genetic and completely outside of a parent's control. So, if your kid is picky, that is not a cause for you to be ashamed. But, on the other hand, the quotes above are from several different gene pools. Even though were all family, we're not all blood relatives.

But, my Mom was picky, and she raised a bunch of non-picky kids and grandkids (and one very picky grandkid, too - but he was one of those kids she started with when he was older), and I have found her advice on this issue to be very helpful, and I followed it myself (and added a little) and, I do think that whatever a child's genetic pickiness situation, Mom's tips can help, even if they can't fix everything.

A very important note: the earlier you start these things - the better they work. "Fixing" a picky 10 year old is much harder than helping a kid like everything from day one. If you've adopted, or are helping to raise your Grandkids, these things can get more complicated! But, some of these tips have worked on older children, too (obviously, the baby food tips didn't work on older kids).

1) Dislikes are contagious. If Mom and Dad don't like a food, they shouldn't expect kids to like that food. If Brother says, "I don't like this!" today - tomorrow expect Sister to say, "I don't like this!" Your kids adore YOU (and their siblings) - whether you realize it or not - and will strive to adopt the same dislikes you have so they can identify with you. Because of this, we had a strict policy that we were never allowed to discuss food dislikes. We were to try a tiny bit (Mom's rule was three bites) of a food each time it was served, or at least occasionally, then we needn't eat any more - and there would be no discussion of it. The assumption was that perhaps a person just wasn't hungry for that food on that day. As a result of this policy, I was in my twenties before I realized that my Mom was the ultimate picky eater! But, because she had good food policies, she raised kids who were not picky like she was : )

2) Labels are damaging. "Susie hates peas," soon becomes part of Susie's identity. Never label your kid with their food dislikes, or proclaim them, "Picky" - instead, teach them to expect their tastes to change in the course of their life. Explain how your tastes have changed over time. My Daughter loves to hear how I didn't like cucumbers (her favorite vegetable) when I was her age, but I DO like them now!

3) Expect dislikes to improve in time, and new tastes to require exposure. Teach your child that liking new foods is part of growing up. That tastes mature and horizons broaden, and they should expect that to happen just as surely as they expect to be taller next year, or to ride the big roller-coaster next year. Teach them to continue trying new foods expecting their tastes to broaden.  A few times, my daughter has proclaimed "I don't like this!" and I'll reply, "Maybe you're not hungry for it today, but maybe you'll like it tomorrow - or next year." And, that has happened in most cases.

4) Try non-sweet foods before sweet. This was a biggie for us. For some reason, when introducing solid foods, all the books suggest giving babies fruit before vegetables, and sweet vegetables before unsweet vegetables. This sets kids up to always be disappointed by the next food not being as sweet as the last one they tasted. But, Mom recommended the opposite and I took her advice. We tried zucchini, cauliflower and broccoli before sweet potatoes, and carrots. And after all the veggies, THEN we moved on to fruit. It seemed to be a big help. On a similar note, no older kid (or adult, for that matter) is likely to want a nice big plate of vegetables for dinner after an after-school snack of toaster pastries, cookies, or snack cakes.

5) If you want your kid to try a new food, put it on your own plate and not on theirs. I read this advice somewhere years ago, and I've found it to be super-effective. I often fix my own plate and don't offer what I'm eating to my Daughter. I wait for my Daughter to request what is on it - which she nearly always does. And, if she doesn't, I don't sweat it.

6) Try new foods when they're hungry. A few times, when we were first trying solid foods, my little one would have a picky day. The next day, I would serve lunch a half hour later. Worked like magic. Hunger is the best seasoning, as they say.

7) Never have a contest of the wills over food. Statements like, "You WILL eat this, and you will LIKE it!" or "You will not leave this table until every bite of this food is GONE!" or "I will serve this to you every meal, every day until you eat it!" have - to my knowledge - never worked for anyone. (By contests of the will, I mean forcing a kid to eat something - not forbidding eating the wrong things at the wrong time) Generally, they produce a child who loathes the food in question until they're 90. Choking down a food that makes you want to gag will NOT increase your fondness for it! If you want a picky eater, just have a contest of wills. Works every time.

8) Don't be afraid to forbid vegetables. For some reason, parents act like their kid is doing them a favor to eat vegetables. And they are doing their kid a favor to give them candy. This produces all the wrong emotional responses to food. Treat both categories approximately the same way. "No, you may not have any carrots - dinner is in ten minutes & you'll ruin your appetite!" and "Everyone is eating cookies, are you SURE you won't have one?" are both very appropriate things to say. We do serve sweets at the end of meals, not at the beginning, but otherwise, we treat them as just as virtuous as the spinach. Similarly, when we bring home a "treat" from the grocery, it might be some nice seasonal Strawberries or a Melon, or a can of Baby Corn, not always chocolate (although, often enough it's chocolate too!). (On a similar note, Mom used to say "If you don't clean your room, I won't let you go to school tomorrow!" - and guess what? ALL of her kids (8!) would go clean their room for the privilege of going to school.)

9) Steal food from your kid's plate. Really. Do it! "You don't want your Kale? That's great! I was hungry for more!" And grab it and eat it. And watch (half the time) them change their mind about whether they wanted it or not. (Never say, "Yummy, Yummy!" - they'll pick up on the sales pitch. Instead, act like an older sibling would when they got the bigger piece of cake ; )  Even if it doesn't work the first time (or the tenth time), it lets the kid know that refusal of a food takes away their freedom to eat it, rather than making you miserable.

10) Don't worry about your kid eating enough! Children will not starve themselves, unless there is a serious medical problem (I have been told that children on the Autism spectrum are an exception, but I've never raised a kid who was, or researched the matter, so I cannot speak to that). If your doctor says your child's weight is acceptable, there's no need to worry about them starving. My Mom was widowed when I was an infant. She said she was in a daze, and simply put the food on my highchair tray, and picked it up at the end of the meal - she never tried to encourage me to eat and never paid attention to how much or how well I ate. It worked great. I'm not in a daze, but I act similarly toward my daughter - if we're home together for lunch, I put the food in front of her, and pick up what is left a while later. I don't count or monitor much. She's growing just fine, and asks for Nori for a snack, so I'm guessing it's all good.

11) Don't be a restaurant, but do offer freedom within parameters. Imagine your least favorite food. Then imagine being told you would eat it or you would go hungry. Yuck. I try not to put anyone in that position. I offer several healthy foods on the table each meal, with the intention that at least one or two of them will be eaten. It's fine if she eats only Rice one day, and only Spinach the next - it all balances out over time. And, I don't care which one is and which one isn't eaten (though I do draw the line at making a meal of olives or pickles while the entrée goes uneaten). On the other hand, imagine a food you like pretty well, but you're told that you have your choice between eating it and having your favorite dessert or treat. Most of us would choose the treat (at least, if our conscience wasn't watching), but we expect kids to do the "right thing." I knew a Mom who couldn't figure out why her kids were so picky- but at every meal she told them if they didn't want the dinner she made they could have some Super-Sweet Breakfast Cereal instead! I usually let my daughter choose her own breakfast & lunch - within my parameters- but then at dinner, we all expect to eat together and only choose from what is on the table.

12) Expose to a wide variety of foods early - and keep exposing. I have read studies that say that children develop tastes for foods even in utero (from their Mother's diet). Other studies propose that most tastes are well-set by the age of three. I don't know how true all that is, but I do know that a kid who has lived on Chicken Nuggets & Mac N Cheese until the age of 5 is unlikely to suddenly develop a craving for Tofu and Sprouts. For most humans, the food we know is the food we like. Expose kids early and often to lots of healthy foods.

13) Don't engage in food dishonesty - no "sneaking" vegetables like they're something to be ashamed of. This is perhaps more about the parent's attitude than the kids. Deception is not a relationship builder. Kids don't know that they aren't supposed to like spinach or squash until you reveal it to them. Besides that, many "sneaky" recipes provide miniscule portions of healthy food disguised by tons of junk. And, sneaky recipes don't help your child learn to like new foods, so that they will seek these foods out on their own in adulthood. In our house, we might put a fruit or veggie in an unusual place (I like Carrot Cake, Zucchini Bread & Banana Based Ice Cream) - but we're always up front about it.

14) Limit junk food & small kids will balance their own diet - no worrying about enough of certain foods. My Mom read a study to this effect many years ago, and relied on it. It worked. Little kids naturally might eat all beets one day and all potatoes the next. That's okay. Put toaster pastries & chips in the mix, though, and they can no longer balance their own diet as effectively.

15) Serve healthy food that tastes good. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I've never met an adult who can even bear the smell of commercial baby food. I watched a friend's child once, and fed her the packaged "toddler meal" her Mom had provided - it was all I could do not to gag while feeding to her - just from the smell! Yet, parents feed it to their kids, and are disappointed when their kids turn up their noses. Then, when they're a little older, they serve them chicken nuggets in a sweet sauce next to rather smelly peas dumped from a can. When the kid goes for the deep-fried-dipped-in-sugar over the peas, the parents take that as proof that "kids just naturally don't like vegetables" - well, who would like vegetables in such circumstances? Put your time and energy into the healthy foods - make them attractive.

16) Don't be your kid's "dealer!"  If you deem a food inappropriate for your child, do not make it available to them - maybe not even once. So many times I've heard a parent say, "My child will only eat chicken nuggets and mac & cheese." I find myself thinking, "What, and they'll only drink Budweiser?" or "They drive themselves to McDonalds?" (pardon my bitey sense of humour - it just slips out now and then). Your kid can't "only" eat what they've never tried, or what you don't make available to them. And, even if a relative gives it to them, or they try it at a restaurant, amusement park, or birthday party, a simple "We don't serve that at home." will do it - if you stick to it.

17)Don't allow after-meal snacks that you wouldn't allow for dinner. Many children have caught on that if they wait it out during a meal, they can "trade up" to junk food. If they ignore the entrée, they can have chips, a drink of their choice, or a sweet snack in just a little while. Be especially wary of cow's milk as it has 1 Tablespoon of naturally occurring sugar per cup, and some kids will go for this as an after dinner sugar high. I have known many super-picky kids who lived on excessive consumption of cow's milk. (Excessive cow's milk consumption can produce health problems, and inhibits absorption of Iron).  My daughter's mealtime attention span is still short - she can't sit and eat as long as I can, so she gets hungry shortly after meals - that's okay. I generally offer her choice of anything that was on the table at the previous meal. We do have fruit - and occasionally sweets - for dessert, but this is not what I'm talking about here. I'm talking about the after dinner grazing for more calories than the meal would have been that so many kids engage in.

18) St. Theophan the Reluse recommends that children be required to ask permission before eating. If started early on, this helps make eating be a little less about asserting one's own will, and more part of a measured and balanced life.

19) Perhaps most importantly, tone down the excitement! If you think every meal has to be a trip to a culinary amusement park, with lots of rich, fancy foods, don't expect anyone in your family to come to love ordinary, everyday food. A while back, BBC had a story on the academic benefits of boredom - boredom is good for your palate, too! We all notice that when it's Lent, basic foods taste so much better than they do when we're indulging in rich foods. Learn to embrace the ordinary, and watch your kids' tastes broaden.

20) Oh, one final note: This isn't going to "work!" Parenting methods don't produce results that you can see in the short term, as a rule, any more than exercise produces great health results with three trips to the gym. Although some of these tips may produce quick results for some people, generally they're going to be a long-term lifestyle change rather than an instant fix. We can only very gently guide children's growth - and that growth takes years, and sometimes decades to manifest. If you look for "results," you'll give up too soon.

This is being shared on
Motivation Monday
Making Your Home Sing Monday
Inspire Me Monday
Living Proverbs 31
Marriage, Motherhood & Missions
What'd You Do This Weekend
Teaching What is Good 
Anti Procrastination Tuesday
MaMade 
Mom's Library
Cottage Link Up
Healthy, Happy, Green & Natural 
Wise Woman 
Chicken Chick

Monday, March 31, 2014

Easy Hot & Sour Soup (Vegan, GF)

Vegan Hot & Sour Soup
This is an amazingly delicious, fairly light soup. Simple and satisfying. My little girl just loves it. It is perfect served as an appetizer course, or for a very light meal. You may well want to double it if your family are big soup eaters.

It is both Vegan & Gluten Free, assuming that you use all ingredients (especially Soy Sauce & Bouillon) that fit that description.

This recipe is adapted from one in Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson.

Hot & Sour Soup
Drain, Cube & Saute in a lightly oiled non-stick skillet, then set aside

1# Firm Tofu Cubes*

In a large pot or Dutch Oven,
Saute
1 teaspoon oil
2 teaspoons fresh minced garlic
3/4 teaspoon ginger powder
add and simmer 5 minutes or so
6 Cups Water
3 large cubes Vegetable Bouillon (I use Knorr brand - where each cube makes 2 cups broth)
2 small cans (8oz total) Mushrooms (your choice of variety) or equivalent fresh
3 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
3 Tablespoons Rice Vinegar
3/4 teaspoons Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Sriracha, or to taste (or your favorite East Asian hot sauce)**
2 Tablespoons Tapioca Starch, dissolved in a little cold water (you can add more for thicker soup)
1 handful Greens (such as Spinach or Bok Choy)
OR a handful of Green Vegetables such as Snow Peas
2 or 3 cans (any size) of the following Asian Vegetables, according to what you have or prefer:
Baby Corn
Sliced Water Chestnuts
Sliced Bamboo Shoots
Tofu Cubes (from above)
Pepper to taste
Add at end of cooking
1 1/2 Tablespoons Dark Sesame Oil

Enjoy!

*Silken tofu that is cubed and not sauteed is traditional here. I like a little more substantial texture, so I use "Chinese style"(firm, non-silken) tofu, and saute it first

**I keep Sriracha to a minimum in cooking, then serve more as a condiment at table, so that my little girl doesn't find it too hot.

This is being shared at
Inspire Me Monday
Clever Chicks
Motivation Monday
Making My Home Sing Monday
In & Out of the Kitchen
MaMade 
Healthy, Happy, Green & Natural
Real Food, Allergy Free
Fabulously Frugal Thursday 
Gluten Free Fridays

Monday, March 24, 2014

Ten MYO Vegan Seasonings, Spices & Sauces

It's so easy to make your own seasonings!
Most of us like the convenience of having a ready-made salad dressing, spice mix, or sauce on hand.

Manufacturers know that - and make a lot of money off of it!

But, maybe you need to control a certain allergen. Maybe you want to eat all organic, and find that you have trouble finding these things in organic forms. Maybe you're frugal and don't want to waste money. May you'd LIKE to waste money- but just can't right now. Maybe you'd rather have the freedom of not running to the store so often. Or, maybe you're a strict Vegan, and want to be sure that you're avoiding all animal products. 

Whatever the reason, it's easy to whip up your own sauces & seasonings. And, spending a wee bit of time making these things when it is convenient for you can save you a lot of time, health & money in the long run.

Many of these recipes - Worcestershire Sauce, Taco Seasoning, and Curry Powder - you probably already have favorite uses for.

Others are more specialized.

Here are ten of my favorites - and how to use each one:




Curry Powder, No Heat
       Curried Chickpeas over Rice



Sausage Seasoning Mix
        Vegan Sausage Patties



Taco or Chili Seasoning
      Black Bean Enchiladas
       Chili Cornbread Casserole
       Chili-Topped Potatoes
       Fill Your Own Tortilla Night



Simply Greek Dressing (Traditional or Fat Free)

      Black-Eyed Pea Salad
      Fattoush
      Fruited Black-Eyed Pea Salad
      Mediterranean Green Bean & Potato Salad
      Mushroom Kabobs, Grilled ( Manitarakia )
      Tabouli
      White Bean Salad




Slaw Dressing
      Better than Coleslaw
      Carrot Raisin Salad without Mayonnaise
      Dinosaur Salad! ( Kale Salad )



Tofu Scramble Pantry Mix

      Breakfast Burritos
      Scrambled Tofu



Vat O' Spaghetti Sauce
     Eggplant Stew
      Pasta & Sauce
      Pizza
      Stuffed Manicotti
      Minestrone



Veggies Vinaigrette Dressing
      Green Beans Vinaigrette
      Cauliflower & Broccoli Vinaigrette



Worcestershire Sauce, Vegan
       Tofu Creole



Yachni Sauce - Double Batch
      Bulgur Pilaf ( Pourgouri )
      Greek Bean Soup ( Fasolia Yachni )
      Greek Chickpea Stew ( Revythia )
      Greek Giant Beans ( Gigantes )
      Greek Green Beans ( Fasolakia Yachni )
      Greek Okra & Tomato Stew ( Bamies Yachni )
      Greek Peas & Artichokes Yachni
      Greek Stuffed Veggies ( Gemista )
      Indian Chickpeas in Ginger Sauce over Rice
      Indian Spiced Blackeye Peas over Rice
      Red Lentil Soup - Moroccan or Sephardic Styles
      Stuffed Eggplant
      Tofu Creole



This post was featured on:

Live it Up at the Healthy, Happy, Green  & Natural Party Blog Hop #19

This is being shared on
Making Your Home Sing Monday
Proverbs 31
What'd You Do This Weekend
In & Out of the Kitchen
Anti-Procrastination Tuesday
Healthy, Happy, Green & Natural 
MaMade 
Teaching What is Good
Penny Pinching Party
Wise Woman
Real Food, Allergy Free 
Fabulously Frugal Thursday
Inspire Us Thursday

Monday, March 17, 2014

MYO Wrinkle Remover Spray & Anti Static Spray

Wrinkle Remover Spray with a before & after pair of trousers
When I was young, I spent an entire year ironing for a living. I'm good at ironing, and I really don't mind the physical task of ironing. But, I do see it as one of the most futile parts of housekeeping, and for that reason, I seldom do it. No one really enjoys pointless work.

I recently discovered a way to even further reduce the time I spend ironing.

As you can see in the picture - this really produces amazing results!

But, besides saving time, this method is also better for the environment, for your budget, & can be better for allergies. In addition to removing wrinkles from clothes, you can selectively treat certain garments for static- rather than adding Fabric Softener to every load of laundry. If you have one family member who is allergic, and cannot have fabric softener on the skin - it doesn't have to go on their clothes. Besides which, quite frequently only 1 or 2 items in a load of laundry even need fabric softener!

This is also a great method to reduce your ironing after you hang laundry to dry instead of using the dryer - another environmental bonus!

I found this many years ago in one of the volumes of Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyzyn. 

This is what you do:

MYO Wrinkle Remover & Anti Static Spray

Find a Standard Spray Bottle (1 pint size)
Put in 1 ounce Liquid Fabric Softener (I use a "Free and Clear" Variety)
Fill up to the 20 ounce mark with Water

That's it! : )

When you have a wrinkled garment, hang it on a hanger. Lightly spray it all over (till slightly damp) with the Wrinkle Remover Spray. Stretch and smooth with your hands. Allow to air dry.

Do not use this on polished Silk or other very delicate fabric which might be harmed by water spots.

Additional tip (from a former co-worker) : If you are a lady who still wears nylon stockings (I realize they're out of fashion with some), and find that your skirt gets static-y - carry a tube of hand lotion in your purse. When you have a static attack away from home, smooth a little lotion  on the outside of your stockings, and the problem will disappear! 

This post was featured at











Inspire Us Thursday Link Party

 Inspire Us at Organized 31

This post was also featured at



Fabulously Frugal Thursday

 Fabulously Frugal Thursday 

This is being shared at
Inspire Me Monday
Clever Chicks
Making Your Home Sing Monday
Modest Monday
What'd You Do This Weekend
Marriage, Motherhood & Missions 
In & Out of the Kitchen 
Anti Procrastination Tuesday 
Healthy, Happy, Green & Natural 
MaMade 
Mom's Library
Get Inspired!
Penny Pinching Party
Wise Woman
Fabulously Frugal Thursday
Inspire Us at Organized 31
Home Acre Hop 
Think Tank Thursday
Hearts for Home
Frugal Home Friday

Monday, March 10, 2014

My Amazing Mother's Kid Tips

Mom with Me - about 10 weeks before being Widowed


Three years ago this week, my Mother entered Heaven. I miss her, but mostly I am filled with joy when I think of her.

My Mother was nothing short of amazing! In the course of her life she raised 8 kids -4 Boys, 4 Girls - some Adopted, some Foster, some Birth, some Grandkids. Sure, lots of people have done that! (including many bloggers I read). But, Mom was different. She was different from most other Moms of large families because she was suddenly widowed in her prime - when she had several young children at home (including a newborn, me). She also had profound health problems. But, she managed, with God's help, to raise a bunch of us!

She was a living testimony to 2 Corinthians 12:9: God's strength IS made perfect in weakness!

Mom never kept a house that looked like a set on Martha Stewart, but she DID get the important things done.

Mom would have told you that her biggest priority was teaching her Children to be good Christians, and she spent countless hours obeying Deuteronomy 6:6-7, which she quoted frequently enough:

And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

As a devout Presbyterian, she also loved to quote the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism:
Q: What is the chief end of man?
A: Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
 
I doubt a day passed that she didn't read us some great passage she had found - frequently from the Bible, or a Christian reading of some kind. And, she sprinkled all her conversation with Spiritual insights. In addition to that, she was always willing to help others in need. She frequently would treat someone else to a dinner out (I suspect that often the "poor" she helped were better off than we were!), collected money for the disabled, or assisted someone in some way they needed.

It was before the days of homeschooling, but Mom had been a professional teacher, and many, many times took it upon herself to educate us in some way the schools did not. Truancy laws weren't as strict back then, and I remember her taking her kids from classes frequently to do things like: watching a court trial, helping a sick relative, hearing a presidential candidate's speech, or watching the elephants put up the tents when the circus came to town! 

Needless to say, this post doesn't cover all of Mom's amazing-ness, but a few of the many memories that come to mind are here. 

She also had a few everyday methods that made it possible to run a household without a spouse there to help:


Asking for help from the kids   

When Mom was first widowed, she called my older sisters together and asked them for their help in raising me. I was a newborn at that time. They all did - and did to a remarkable extent. I've always said that if there were two pieces of cake, any of my sisters would have given me the bigger piece! THANKS, SISTERS! : )

She trained us to help with many practical things that had to be done: laundry, vacuuming, food prep work, installing sump pumps, inflating tires on the car, scraping frost in winter, bringing in wood for the fire, taking out the trash, etc. Not only did that help her - it helped US! 

Packing for trips   

Mom very seldom planned a trip, she often spontaneously went on the same day she decided to go! Most of our trips were to visit our Grandparents, who lived a few hours away (and in times of illness sometimes needed us to get there quickly), but some of our trips were more exotic. This is how Mom did it: She gave each of us a carry-on sized suitcase, and told us to open it on our beds. Then, she would go open her suitcase on her bed. Her policy was that four outfits should go on a trip - period. No matter where we were going, or for how long - it was four outfits! One Church outfit, three everyday outfits. She told us to pack our clothes whether they were dirty or clean (with a preference for clean, of course!) - and if needed we'd do laundry at our destination. Then, as she packed her suitcase, she would call out to us to put the same items in our suitcases. "Everyone, put three everyday shirts in your suitcases!" "Put in one Church shirt" "Put in your Church shoes!" "Okay, now pack your toothbrush!" and so on. When everyone was done, she'd do a walk around and inspect, then we'd zip up and go! Not only did she save herself a lot of work that way, but she also apprenticed us to be good grown-ups. 

Color coding

Mom color-coded some of the things in our house. In the kitchen and in the bathroom, there was a row of drinking glasses, and we each had our own color. Any time we wanted a glass of water, we could help ourselves, then return the glass to its spot in the row. She also color coded things like photo albums - we each had our own. She didn't color-code towels, as she felt that was less efficient. In every color-coded system, we always had the same color. I was purple. 

The Dot System

I've heard two ideas for laundry identification repeatedly: 1) Write the size inside the item - which is fine as long as you have the constantly changing chart of everyone's sizes memorized. and 2) Write the name of the owner in the item - which is fine till you have a hand-me-down. What do you do then, cross out one name, and write in another? Then, the third time the same thing is passed down, what do you do? Mom's system was much better. She used a system of dots written on with a laundry marker pen. Each family member was assigned a number in order of age - oldest to youngest. Mom was 1, Oldest child was 2, Second child was 3, etc. Then, you could expect to find a configuration of dots inside each clothing item, by the tag (or on the sole of socks). As the item was passed down each time, one more dot was added. I was 6 - my configuration of dots looked like the "6" on dominoes :::

The Towel System

Mom didn't color-code our towels, instead, she installed enough towel bars that we each had an official, labeled spot for our towel. She also installed bedroom towel rods, so that we could wrap up in our bath towel and walk to our room to dress, hanging our towel in our room. (We had one bathroom for a moderately large family - dressing in the bathroom was not practical. Also, for many years we were an all-girl household, so modesty inside the house was less of an issue than it might have otherwise been) 

The Voting System

Mom cared about our opinions! She let each one of us vote, and have our say frequently on things like what restaurant to go to when we went out, or what T.V. show to watch (we had to agree on 2 hours total screen time per week when I was little!) But, she always had the majority vote (rather like a majority stock holder in a corporation). We could all vote first - we each got one vote - and she'd see what our preference was - then she'd cast her VOTES - all of them - and determine the outcome. That way, she knew what we felt and took it into consideration - but she wasn't ruled by it.

Hairbrushing Chain  

When you're raising 4 little girls - that's a lot of hair to get done to leave the house! Mom would put us in a line, oldest to youngest, and have us each do the hair of the person in front of us. In the time she could do my oldest sister's hair, we were all done. She said she had read the trick in a book somewhere : ) (I don't think this works with teen girls, only younger ones)

She DIDN'T "Choose her Battles" 

Mom believed that the parents should lead the family. If she said it, it was law. She thought that anarchy was a dangerous slippery slope with children - and that failing to enforce her own rules would weaken her authority, making it even more difficult to manage children by herself. There was never a "Well, it's not important if you're disobedient, as long as the rule I made isn't that important to me." (how does a kid figure that out - except by breaking all the rules?) Obedience was important, and not negotiable. But, she was also amazingly permissive about some things - she often quoted a friend who said, "You should always say "yes" to your children unless there's some good reason to say no." So, our freedom came in not having as many frivolous rules to obey, rather than in being allowed to disobey on "small battles."

The Lord's Day

My Grandparents had always strictly observed the Lord's Day. Not only did they not work on that day, but they would not engage in business that required others to work (except for acts of necessity or mercy). They did not go to restaurants, listen to the radio, shop, or get the newspaper on the Lord's Day. Mom was not as strict as her parents had been, but she still rested and insisted that we all rest on Sunday. After Church and lunch, we all lay down on Sunday afternoons to rest. Mom slept, and those of us who could sleep would also nap. If we were unable to sleep, we were to stay in our beds doing some sort of Christian reading. During the rest of the day, we were forbidden to use the day inappropriately. That meant no homework on Sunday evenings! We had to learn to plan our work do be done during the week, and not procrastinate till Sunday night. No sports in any organization that played or practiced on Sunday. No playing outdoors or doing yardwork on Sundays, either. I really think that this weekly habit of rest, in obedience to the 4th Commandment, is what saved my Mother's health & sanity when she had such a huge burden on her shoulders - and it was tremendously beneficial for us kids, too. When you have to "do it all yourself" it is SO easy to think that you have to work 24/7. But, she believed that Scriptures mandated rest as an act of Faith - that God WOULD help us if we didn't insist on being the powerful one and acting as if the world was on our shoulders. She rested in her demonstration of her dependence upon God.


May Her Memory Be Eternal!

 

This post was featured on 

Pioneer Momma

  What'd You Do this Weekend

This is being shared on
Making Your Home Sing Monday
The Chicken Chick
Motivation Monday
Living Proverbs 31 
Grow as a Christian Family
What'd You Do this Weekend
Anything Goes 
Anti Procrastination Tuesdays
MaMade
Healthy, Happy, Green & Natural
Mom's Library 
Get Inspired!
Wise Woman
Inspire Us Thursday 
Home Acre Hop 
Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways
Think Tank Thursday
Simple Lives Thursday 
Faith Filled Friday

 



  















Monday, March 3, 2014

How to Design Your Own Freezer Cooking Plan

Custom Freezer Meals - made by you - ready to go!
It was many years ago when I was a pretty new cook that I first heard about the convenience of freezer cooking and making your own mixes. I was first inspired by the Make-A-Mix Cookbook, and later books like Once A Month Cooking. I loved their ideas, and used them to cook for family. But, those books were based on the Standard American Diet, and when I went Vegetarian and later Vegan, they could only provide me with inspiration, not with actual cooking plans & recipes that matched the way I ate. 

Over the years, I did research, looking for plans that fit my diet & lifestyle, but there just weren't any that were right for me. Some were Omnivore inspired recipes - you know, take 2 pounds of fake hamburger and top it with fake cheese and make a cheeseburger casserole.

Nope.



Or, Vegetarian meals that were all cheese-and-egg based, and not very healthy. Or, things that for other reasons just didn't appeal to me.

Eventually, I decided that if I wanted something done, I better do it myself. So, I started writing my own plans.

Which brings us to a recent evening, when we decided what would be on the menu for a weekend with company, and I walked out to the kitchen and prepared 5 freezer meals from things on hand - without giving it much thought. That way, I could relax and enjoy our company without having to stress over meal preparation : )

Over the years, I've learned to create freezer plans on my own that work for me - and really - it's pretty easy once you know the ropes!

Maybe you're Vegan like me, or maybe you have to cook for an allergy or food sensitivity. Or, maybe you have a picky eater to cook for who doesn't like the other recipes you've found. Perhaps you keep Kosher or follow some other Religious diet. Whatever the reason - if the plans out there don't work for you - you can make your own!

Here's what I do when I create a plan - it's ready to customize to your family's own favorite recipes, or to your own way of eating.

If you keep a record of what you do once, such as a list of recipes & shopping list & order of preparation, you can use the same plan over & over (it will get easier & more efficient each time you use it)

If you're fairly new to this, I provide beginner tips throughout this post - check them out : )

If you're fond of technology, you can do all the "beginner" prep work on your computer screen - I do. If you prefer a more artistic traditional method, you can make a binder with page protectors & make it pretty - you can even print custom labels for your freezer & pantry dishes if you're so minded : )

Select the Recipes YOU like to use!


1. Recipe Selection: The recipes that work well for a freezer cooking plan are recipes that your family loves, that are fairly quick to cook, and that freeze well and reheat well. Generally recipes with white potatoes don't work well (they tend to turn black in the freezer and get a watery texture). Similarly, for Omnivores, gravies, white sauces & boiled eggs can be problematic in the freezer.

A huge number of recipes involve Sauteing one ingredient, then adding additional ingredients and simmering. Overlapping the simmering time of several recipes makes your time in the kitchen much more efficient.

If at all possible, it often helps to "theme" your recipes. Choosing recipes that share a similarity - such as a central ingredient or a common ethnic origin greatly increases the number of steps that can be streamlined. For instance, you might have several Mexican recipes that all use Refried Beans and Rice- making a big batch of Refried Beans and a huge pot of Rice for all of them would be an easy step. Or, maybe you have several Italian Recipes that all use a basic Spaghetti Sauce - a huge batch of sauce can go into all of them. Omnivores have traditionally used a single meat to theme their meals around - if like me, you don't eat meat, you can theme around another ingredient, such as chickpeas, or seasoning.

Think about when & how you will be serving these meals. Perhaps you'd be happy to make several Indian meals, and have Indian every Wednesday. Or, perhaps you'd prefer to cook one straight week, with a variety -so that you can have a certain week (finals week, Church conference week, or tournament week) with no cooking at all.

If you're a beginner, I would encourage you to print out your selected recipes & lay them all out on a table for your first planning session, or perhaps put them in plastic sheet protectors in a binder. Beginners should probably do three to five recipes in their first session. (I can do more, but I find my comfort zone without being stressed and without having a huge block of time is usually three to five, or at most seven.)

Here are my go-to Freezer Recipes

2. Cooking equipment: When you plan your freezer plan, take into consideration what equipment you have. For instance, I have Two Crock Pots, Two Stock Pots, One 10" Saute pan, and One Paella Pan (among other things). So, when I make my plan, I choose Two recipes to fill the Crock Pots, Two recipes to fill the Stock Pots, One or Two recipes for the Saute Pan (sauteing is usually quick) and One recipe to fill the Paella Pan.

Freezer cooking seems much less daunting when you look at it this way: Just fill up each of your cooking vessels & simmer them : )

If I cook each night separately, the lion's share of my time is taken with waiting for dishes to simmer. Simmering several dishes at once is much more efficient.

If you're a beginner, write at the top of each recipe you have chosen what type of vessel it is cooked in, and make sure that the needed vessels match what you have (crock pot, saute pan, etc).

3. Freezer Space & Equipment:  It's a good idea to clean out your freezer the day before you cook and make sure that you have room for the dishes that will fill it. If I make three to five dishes, I really only need to use less than 1/2 my over the fridge freezer for freezer meals - I don't have to have a bare-to-the-walls freezer to start cooking! If you need space, finish the Ice Cream (tough job, but somebody has to do it! ; ) Throw the freezer-burned bread to the birds. Tidy up. Then, choose your containers. A lot of people like to use zippered gallon freezer bags - they cool down quickly, can be frozen flat, and actually can be stored on edge (rather like books on a shelf) after they are frozen. They're VERY economical with space. But, I'm not a very tidy person, and I've had the zipper bags slide out of the freezer onto my toe and break open more times than I can count. SO, my personal favorite is a 10 cup capacity plastic box that is nearly cube-shaped. I got them for $1. each at Deals. They stack well, they don't slide, and my just-over-the-fridge-normal-sized-freezer can hold 14 of them! Which means it is possible for me to prepare two full weeks of family meals, and fit them ALL in my small freezer. (I don't have a chest freezer) Pick what works for you.
This is my favorite Freezer Container. It holds an entire Slow-Cooker
Full of food (10 Cups), yet seems remarkably small. I can pack 14 of these into my small
Above the Fridge Freezer! When it comes time to reheat, the cube of food
is proportioned in such a way that it fits tidily into my Dutch oven.


If you're a beginner, I would encourage you to start with a box of sturdy, zippered gallon freezer bags for your first session. As you find out how well freezer cooking works for you, you can plan equipment upgrades into the budget, rather than having to make a big investment for your first session.

To fill your bags, set them down in a large coffee can or #10 can, and fold the top edge down outside the coffee can for easy filling.



4. Shopping Lists - Look at each of the recipes you will use on cooking day. Make a list of all of the ingredients on all of the recipes. Make at least two lists: perishables & staples - this makes your kitchen inventory more efficient, and it also makes your shopping more efficient. Of course, you can further separate the list into such categories as "Frozen Foods," "Produce," and "Spices," if you like. Look through your kitchen and inventory what you already have in stock, lining through the items you don't need to buy on your list. You will probably want your list to be reusable for future sessions, so either make a copy before your inventory, or slide the list into a plastic sheet protector, and keep it in place with a little tape before you do your inventory. If you're doing this on the computer, copy & paste the whole list, then delete each un-needed ingredient. Or, simply use the old-fashioned pen-and-ink grocery list method.

Be especially aware of larger quantities needed, and make sure you have enough of everything on hand. (Early in my cooking experience, I looked and saw that I "had rice already" when I had only one pound, but needed three pounds!)

If you're a beginner, highlight each ingredient on each recipe that you need to purchase. Cross out anything you already have in stock.

5. Consolidating Steps - This is one place where freezer cooking can really save time (in addition to overlapping simmering times). If you have three recipes that each call for an onion to be chopped & sauteed, plan to chop & saute three onions all at once. If you have three recipes that use Taco Seasoning, make a big batch. If you have three recipes that use cooked beans, cook a big pot instead of three little pots on different days.



Simply waiting for several pots to simmer at once, rather than waiting for each pot to simmer on a different day is a huge time-saver and efficiency booster.

If you're a beginner, make a list on a separate paper of each consolidation you will make (Saute three chopped Onions, Cook 3 pounds of Black Beans, etc)

6. Designing the Order of Cooking.

You will generally want to do things in this order:

If you're a beginner, make a list of every step you will do, and the order you will do the steps in.

Cold/advance preparation - this can be done in advance of your cooking day, or first thing on cooking day (depending on your recipes). This may include things like making a sauce like Spaghetti Sauce, blending a seasoning mix like Taco Seasoning, making a pantry mix such as Cornbread mix that will be used in several recipes, making a bread dough, or cooking beans in a slow cooker to use the next day in recipes.



Chopping/purchasing - Most recipes will call for chopped aromatics (onion, garlic, celery, carrots, peppers) in some combination. If you have a limited budget, or garden your own veggies, start chopping! If you have less time & a wee bit more money, you can often purchase these veggies pre-chopped & frozen in the grocer's freezer section (in winter, this can actually be cheaper than buying fresh and chopping by hand!). I usually buy Frozen Chopped Onions, Jarred Minced Garlic, Frozen Three Pepper & Onion Mix & Frozen Mirepoix Mix (Carrot, Celery & Onion Blend). If you want the best of both worlds, prepare & chop the veggies in your food processor, and keep them in the freezer to use when you need them.

This is a bag of Three Pepper & Onion Mix from the freezer sautéing
No chopping required!


Sauteing - Saute things like onions and/or peppers that you need in more than one recipe (see "Consolidating Steps" above)

Simmering and Baking - start the dishes that take longest first, and the ones that cook most quickly last. This is where you fill up all your pots and get them started. I start one at a time and as it begins heating, I turn to the next one. (A person with a very clear head might be able to put Onions in all the pots that need Onions, then Oregano in all the pots that need Oregano, etc. - but I find that method too confusing, and a good way to end up with a cup of Sugar accidentally added to the Chili. Not to say that has actually happened to me, or anything ; )



Adding Finishing Touches - Many dishes require a finishing touch - some vanilla, lemon juice, spice blend (Tadke for Indian cooking), or wine added near the end of cooking time. Be sure not to forget those touches.

Cooling, Packaging & Freezing - As each dish finishes cooking, you will need to cool it, package it, label it, and store it. This is the place in cooking where it is most crucial take steps to avoid food poisoning. Letting dishes cool at room temperature for too long can keep them at the perfect temperature to grow bacteria & can result in illness. This is not just true for freezer cooking, but all cooking. Dishes should be cooled as rapidly as reasonable if not being served immediately, and packaged for freezing. Some people like to keep a sink of ice water to set pots down in to cool, stirring the dish now and then to cool it to the center. I often stagger containers throughout the freezer & fridge, where lots of cold air can circulate around them. If several hot containers of food are packed closely together in the freezer, it is possible for the outside of the containers to freeze, while the inside stays hot and grows dangerous bacteria in the center. Make sure that air can circulate, and that the dish can quickly cool all the way through.

As you finish each dish, label it with its name & date (you can add reheating instructions, too, if it's not obvious). I use a strip of freezer tape (usually in the canning section at the grocery or hardware store) and a permanent marker (such as "Sharpie" brand).



I let the dishes cool in staggered positions overnight, then the next morning I move things into a neat & tidy position in the freezer.

Beginners will want to write down the order of the above steps and what to do when.

That's it! You've done it! Kick back with a little refreshment of your choice, and prepare to enjoy the fruits of your labor!

(Some people like to go out to dinner on the batch cooking evening to celebrate & relax)

Here are a few other planning tips.

Plan for your Personality Type. If you're a Type-A personality, you might enjoy  Marathon cooking session for Six Months' Meals. For an Omnivore plan of this type, check out MegaCooking by Jill Bond. You may also want to plan when you will eat every meal you prepared, and keep a freezer inventory on the side of your deep-freeze.

A Type-B personality (like me) might want to just informally cook a bunch of stuff while you surf the net. Grab it out of the freezer to eat when you feel like it.

If you're a Type A making your plan, you probably want to make a Month of Meals at a time. To do that, you will need large cooking vessels, and probably a larger freezer than the one I have (some claim to put a month of meals in an over-the-fridge freezer - but I can't do it in mine and still have filling meals). Select 14 Recipes. Double each recipe you make, so that it serves your family twice. Plan a 3 to 4 hour morning session in which 7 family meals are each doubled to make 14 meals total. These Meals will be eaten in Week 1 and Week 3 of a month. Have a one hour lunch break (you will probably need the rest!), then make a different set of 7 doubled meals in the afternoon, for 14 more meals. These Meals will be eaten in Week 2 and Week 4 of your month. At the end of a full day, you'll have 28 family meals, and only repeat a meal every 14 days.

If you're a Type B, you'll probably be more content making 5 to 7 regular meals in your average session.

Some caveats about pre-packaged freezer plans floating around out there:

One ingredient does not a meal make. I was looking over a bulk cooking plan one day, and the expert promised an unbelievably huge number of meals in record time. Turns out a bunch of her "meals" involved shaping ground beef into patties and calling that a meal.Other freezer cooking folk put raw chicken in a bag with Italian salad dressing and call that a "meal." If you see a plan marketed that promises too many meals in too short a time, you can expect some of the "meals" to be of this sort. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

Plan variety! A one-person serving does not a meal make. So many current freezer plans say "100 meals in 5 hours" - but they mean 100 servings, not 100 meals for your whole family. And, then, you find out that you're making a 4 recipes that each serve 25, and you're going to be eating the same thing day, after day.

Military dining halls have a million ways to shape meatloaf and re-name it and pretend you're having something different. Meatloaf, Salisbury Steak, Swiss Steak, Meatballs, Swedish Meatballs, Porcupine Meatballs, Polynesian Meatballs are just a few of the different names for re-shaped meatloaf. Don't have a military-style barracks menu for your family -unless you really enjoy that sort of thing! Make sure your month plan has contrasting textures, flavours, colours, spices & ingredients. (Just for the record, when an Omnivore who eats the above "variety" of meat asks if a Vegan diet is repetitive & boring, I never cease to be amazed!)

Reserve Time. I allow about 1/2 hour per recipe. I'm a slow, laid back kind of cook. Some go slower and some go faster. If you're rushed against a deadline, though, you're much less likely to enjoy the cooking process - so give yourself space.


These posts might help
Vertical or Horizontal Meal Planning

For Themed Meal Plans:
Greek for a Week  
Indian for a Week
Make Sauce Tonight, Have Easy Meals for a Week

For Variety Meal Plans:
World Tour One
World Tour Two

Another great Method - compliments of Holly at My Plant Based Family
Once a Week Cooking

ENJOY!

This post was featured at

http://urbannaturale.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/PicMonkey-Collage-300bHealthy-Hop.jpg
and at

New Nostalgia

This is being shared at
Making Your Home Sing Monday
Clever Chicks
What'd You Do This Weekend
Motivation Monday
Menu Plan Monday 
Modest Monday
Anti-Procrastination Tuesday 
In & Out of the Kitchen 
MaMade 
Women Helping Women
Healthy, Happy, Green & Natural 
Get Inspired!
Cottage Link Up
Wise Woman
Penny Pinching Party
Real Food, Allergy Free
Fabulously Frugal Thursday
Home Acre Hop
Inspire Us Thursday
Simple Lives Thursday 
Think Tank Thursday
Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways 
Gluten Free Fridays 
Thrive at Home Thursdays 
Real Food Fridays 
Healthy Vegan Fridays 




Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...