Monday, September 28, 2015

Build-Your-Own Week of Meals

Build-Your-Own meals are perfect. They're easy for the cook - they can accommodate the Vegan & Omnivore at the same table. They can also provide a satisfying meal for a variety of special diets - not to mention picky palates.

If you're hosting a potluck, you can provide the "base" (pasta, potatoes, bread, - you choose white, whole wheat or Gluten Free  - this recipe will be the one in the title link) and ask your guests to each bring a topping. 

These are also a great way to dress up leftovers, simply add the leftover items, whether they're veggies, sauces, or meats, to your Build-Your-Own Bar.  Or use those little jars of sauces and dressings in the door of the fridge. I'm giving several ideas for toppings, with the idea that you'll choose those that appeal to you & your guests.

I took inspiration for this post from the menu of our local public high school. They repeat the same Build-Your-Own Meals every week, all year!

Of course, if you don't want to have these meals every day all in the same week, you can work them into your Vertical Meal Plan.


Fill Your Own Tortillas (see link for lots of ideas for this one)

Stuff Your Own Potatoes

In addition to Slow-Cooker Baked Potatoes,
Topping Ideas:
Chili con Carne
Vegan Chili
Shredded Cheddar
Sour Cream
Vegan Buttery Spread
Vegan Bacon-y Bits
Ranch Dressing
Vegan Cheeze Sauce
Guilt Free Spinach Artichoke Dip (a favorite of mine : )

Build Your Own Rice Bowl

There are SOO many variations on rice, that you might want to also have an ethnic theme to simplify things a bit (Chinese, Indian, Mexican, etc).

A while back, I had a family of children at the house, and although they had a reputation for being "picky" they made & devoured more than one serving of this. (I found that having fruit and fun veggies - like baby corn - increased their interest). You can really tailor the toppings to your audience here.

Topping ideas:
Asian Peanut Sauce
Spaghetti Sauce
Baby Corn
Raw Carrots
Diced Apple
Diced Chicken
Shredded Cheese
Any sort of saucy cooked bean dish
Chopped Salted Peanuts
Shredded Napa Cabbage

Pasta Bar

Pasta (a choice of shapes can add fun)
Spaghetti Sauce
Alfredo Sauce
Vegan Cheezy Sauce
Asian Peanut Sauce
Greek Tahini Sauce
Sliced Almonds
Parmesan (Dairy or Vegan)
Red Bell Peppers
Loose-Cooked Hamburger or Sausage
Vegan Burger Crumbles
Copycat Skyline Black Beans & Rice
Lentil Soup

Build Your Own Burger

Black Bean Burgers
Oven Fries
Vegan Burgers
Zippy Sweet Potato Baked Fries
Potato Chips
Bread or Buns of your choice
Mayo (of your choice)

Personal Pizza Night

(sometimes I do this one on my homemade Naan that I keep in the freezer- you can use white or whole wheat)

Provide personal-sized discs of dough, and let diners top their own before baking (above link is traditional, scroll down for gluten free)

Gluten-Free Crusts
Bell Peppers
Cheese (Shredded Mozzarella, Feta, Vegan, etc according to your family's taste)
Pizza Sauce
Refried Beans (if offering Refried beans, you might want to offer other Mexican food inspired toppings, like Salsa, Cheddar (Dairy or Vegan) Shredded Lettuce & Tomato)
Pickled Pepper Slices

Sandwich Bar



Homemade Yeast Bread
Pita Bread
Gluten Free Bread if needed
Baba Ganoush
Red Pepper Walnut Dip
Olive Spread or Tapenade
Bell Peppers
Cold Cuts
Sliced Cheeses

This is being shared on
Menu Plan Monday
What'd You Do This Weekend
The Art of Homemaking Mondays 
Motivation Mondays 
Good Morning Mondays
Turn it Up Tuesdays 
Try a New Recipe Tuesdays 
Anti-Procrastination Tuesdays
Tuesdays with a Twist 
Healthy, Happy, Green & Natural 
Wake Up Wednesdays
Teaching What is Good 
Penny Pinching Party 
Mom's Library 
Coffee & Conversation
Tell it to Me Tuesdays
Healthy Living Link Party
Think Tank Thursday 
Thoughtful Spot 
This is How We Roll 
Plant Based Potluck 
Gluten Free Fridays 
Home Matters 
Frugal Mommas Friday 

Monday, September 21, 2015

How Much Do You Know About Weston Price?

Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Dr. Weston Price
There is much talk on the internet and in society about Weston Price and his teachings. A while back, a friend told me about Dr. Price and I checked out a book from the library that cited his work repeatedly. From that book, and from what I read on blogs, I got a certain mental image of what Dr. Weston Price taught. But, I wanted to see for myself. I did an internet search for his book (it is old enough to be public domain and therefore free online Nutrition and Physical Degeneration) and read extensively the actual writings of this man. Here are some questions to see how well you know this important figure:

Please answer the following True or False:

1. Dr. Price did studies on traditional people groups to determine the overall health effects of their diets on their health.

2. Dr. Price found that the groups he studied had in common that they consumed bone broth.

3. Dr. Price discovered that the groups he studied had in common that they ate fermented food.

4. Dr. Price discovered that the groups he studied had in common that they soaked their grains.

5. Dr. Price advocated the consumption of animal foods such as organ meats.

6. Dr. Price researched and discovered that the women in the cultures he studied had few fertility problems.

7. Dr. Price discovered that people with traditional diets enjoyed greater longevity.

8. Dr. Price compared vegetarian diets with animal food based diets.

Ready to check your answers?











ALL of the above answers are False. Surprised?

1. False. Dr. Price was a dentist. The only health issue he studied in detail was dental health. He also took a long look at tuberculosis transmission rates between those living in crowded urban settings and those living in open air with lots of sunshine. He did not do a comprehensive study of health in general, although he occasionally would make a tourist-type observation about general health, for instance, that he noted that he saw a woman in her sixties that seemed very strong.

Dr. Price's Research Focused on Dental Health

2. False. Many of the groups in his book did not consume bone broth. In fact, some of them did not consume the food of animals that had bones, but lived only on vegetables and shellfish.

3. False. Many of the groups in his book did not eat fermented food.

4. False. Many of the groups in his book did not soak their grains, in fact, some of them did not even have regular access to grains - others consumed lots of grains.

5. False. Dr. Price actually advocated an Ovo-Lacto Vegetarian diet in a letter to his own nieces & nephews. He observed many traditional groups and recorded their diets, but did not advocate eating exactly as they ate. For instance, the Masai of Africa consumed a substantial amount of fresh blood from living cattle. Dr. Price recorded this, and recorded the good dental health of the Masai who consumed this diet, but did not advocate or denounce it. (unfortunately, the actual letter in which Dr. Price advocated vegetarianism  is at this site, The Price Pottenger Foundation, but requires a "membership" for access. There are many summaries and excerpts of the letter available at other sites, such as this one written from a vegetarian perspective, Or this one, written from another perspective . Unfortunately, I cannot find a copy of the letter alone without editorial comment for free)

6. False. Dr. Price did not study fertility rates. He did occasionally make an anecdotal observation. For instance, he spoke with one doctor who treated one tribe. That doctor offered the undocumented and unresearched offhand opinion that fertility issues seemed to have been better before his arrival. But, Dr. Price only offered these third party observations anecdotally, he did not do studies on fertility.

7. False. Dr. Price did not do his research on longevity rates.

8. False. Dr. Price's work involved examining the teeth of those on traditional tribal diets with those on a "modern" diet high in refined grains and sugars. Some of the traditional tribal diets has lots of animal food, and some contained a very high percentage of vegetarian foods. The traditional diets were all whole foods diets, and the modern diets were all high in refined foods.

Dr. Price Focused on Dental Health - Comparing Whole Foods & Refined Food Diets
I would encourage everyone to read the actual work of Dr. Price - it IS fascinating! But, whenever a third party cites the work of anyone - especially without the endorsement of the person being referenced - I would encourage readers to check the original author's work.

The Art of Homemaking Mondays
Mom 2 Mom Mondays
What'd You Do This Weekend?
Literacy Musing Mondays
Anti-Procrastination Tuesday  
Good Tips Tuesday
Healthy, Happy, Green & Natural 
Wake Up Wednesday
Coffee & Conversation 
Our Simple Homestead

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Perfect Homeschool Organizer

The Perfect Homeschool Organizer
The Homeschool Organization System that Stays Organized - and is Portable, Too!

Please tell me that I'm not the only homeschooler out there who is like this:

1. Not naturally tidy.
2. Teaches from the same table where family dinners are eaten.
3. Has been known to slide messy school materials to one end of the table at the end of the day so that dinner can be eaten.

I can't be the only one!

I've tried a couple of organizing methods that haven't worked very well:

1.  The School Cabinet or shelves a few feet away, where the days materials can be pulled out, then put away at then end of the day. They're beautiful at the beginning of the year. I love the pics posted by those picture-perfect homeschoolers. And, they work great for those folks who naturally put everything away when they're done with it. For us less-tidy folks, this method meant that things seldom got put away, and when they did, they were usually shoved randomly onto increasing untidy shelves. Because, if you're a not-so-tidy person, you need to be able to put things away right where you naturally drop them! (Learn more on this concept from The House that Cleans Itself)

2. The dump-it-all-in-a-box-and-hide-the-box-when-people-come-visit method. It didn't take long until I couldn't find anything in the box, important lessons got filtered to the bottom and forgotten, and I even forgot to hide the box when people came!

Well, rather serendipitously, I found the solution to my problem recently when I was thrifting.  It was $2.99, used : )

View from the top, with zippered compartment open: big & small books, DVD cases, Manipulatives, Pens, etc all fit!

It's stunningly simple, and works great!

There's a place for everything, big books, small books, pens, pencils, crayons, CDs, DVDs, manipulatives, etc. (I use cups for pencils and such, as the sections are not sewn at the bottom in my brand). Because it has well-organized compartments, the crayons get put in the right place - where they can easily be found. And the books get put in their nice spot. I'm pretty sure I could find what I need blindfolded on any given day!

I carry it to the dining table at the beginning of the day, and pull out each item as I need it - then the organizer is right there - so it's very easy to put everything away, right where it goes. Right where I would naturally drop it if it weren't there! If we need to take school on the road for some reason, all we have to do is carry the organizer to the car. It holds everything we need for a day's work, and since everything is visible and has its own spot, there's no danger of losing important things at the bottom of the box.  At the end of the school day, it gets put back on the other side of the room. We still have a "school cabinet" to store items not currently in use, but our everyday items are all tidily in one place.

It's a Car Office Organizer (note: that's not an affiliate link - just a link). These are often used by folks like visiting nurses or traveling salesmen (mine had been previously owned by a nurse - I could tell by the medical company logo embossed on the front). I bought a "Case Logic" model, but many other models are out there that also look good. Even though I bought my organizer cheap, I like it so much that I think I'd be willing to pay full price to replace it.

This is being shared on
The Art of Homemaking Mondays 
Trivium Tuesdays
Mom's Library
Literacy Musings Mondays

Monday, September 7, 2015

St. Euphrosynos, the Patron Saint of Cooks

St. Euphrosynos, Patron Saint of Cooks
A favorite family read-aloud in our house is The Boy, A Kitchen, and His Cave by Catherine K. Contopoulos.

The book imaginatively tells the story of the 9th Century Saint, Euphrosynos (Ehf-ROH-see-nohs). It tells of a boy who is not academically gifted, or artistic, or even street-smart - in fact - the casual observer might have assumed that St. Euphrosynos had no gifts at all to serve God with. As a boy, St. Euphrosynos is ridiculed by others for being "stupid." As a man, St. Euphrosynos gives away his few possessions and becomes the humble assistant cook in a monastery - but even in the monastery he is looked down upon for being simple and lacking in impressive skills or gifts. He's not an Iconographer or a Theologian, he simply peels the vegetables, stirs the soup, and scrubs the kitchen floor!

But, St. Euphrosynos, it is discovered, DOES have gifts - a pure heart, humility, and a gift for being thankful in any situation.

Finally, the Monks discover through a miracle that the simple cook in their midst is a Holy man. Being humble, St. Euphrosynos cannot bear the adulation that follows their discovery.

This book, much like its namesake, humbly and gently challenges our preconceived ideas that only the great and accomplished can serve God. Many times those who cook - whether for families or for the public - feel like the gift they offer is less valued by God than the flashier gifts - but the story of St. Euphrosynos reassures us that those gifts we offer in thanksgiving, with a pure and humble heart are treasured by God. And the child reader is similarly reassured that his gifts to God are not judged by God as humans tend to judge.

The book also gently deals with the topic of a Godly response to bullying - whether the reader is at risk of being picked on, or of picking on others.

The Boy, A Kitchen, and His Cave
The Boy, A Kitchen, and His Cave   is a charming book that is suitable for all ages. It carries a message that is just as compelling for adults, teens and older children as for young children. The board-type binding might lead one to believe at first glance that it is a book only for young children, but the complexity of the text & vocabulary make it best suited for reading to the entire family. And, the illustrations are simply beautiful.

The Feast Day of St. Euphrosynos is September 11.

This post is being shared on
The Art of Homemaking Mondays
What'd You Do This Weekend
Modest Mondays
Motivation Mondays 
Good Tips Tuesdays 
Anti-Procrastination Tuesday 
Coffee & Conversation
Wake Up Wednesdays
Mom's Library
This is How We Roll
Hearts for Home  
Home Matters
From the Farm
Booknificent Thursday 
Faith Filled Friday
Literacy Musings Mondays