Category Archives: Feeding Our Families

Feeding Our Families ~ Summer

Breakfast sausages made with garlic scapes, mint, basil, cilantro and red pepper flakes, served with steamed greens and roasted onions.

Two months worth of a belated post!  Right now I’m trying to eat from the garden as much as possible.  Simple is best – steamed broccoli topped with garlic scapes sauteed in ghee.  Proponents of the kitchen garden always like to go on and on about the ease of eating fresh picked.  But the fact is, it’s just a big old lie!  Is it tastier?  No doubt about it.  More nutritious?  Absolutely.  Easier then cracking open a plastic bin of triple wash spinach?  ennnt. nope. sorry.    I’ve been trying to make lunches almost exclusively from the garden.  It’s a balancing act.  I want to make the most of it, but I also can’t devote what sometimes turns into hours for a single meal, every day.

If I’m being perfectly honest there have been times when growing a garden has actually caused us to eat worse.  Busy times where it was just too much trouble to harvest, wash and prep.  Instead we would end up eating whatever was available inside, which obviously wouldn’t be fresh produce, because why would I buy fresh produce when there was so much already growing outside?  So far this year we’ve managed to avoid that.

Cobb Salad

A summer slaw; finely sliced collard greens, tender young broccoli shoots, fresh mint, basil and cilantro, with a sweet and tangy lime dressing.

I’ve started season specific pinterest boards to help with meal planning inspiration: Summer Meal Planning, Autumn Meal Planning and Winter Meal Planning – spring is still far enough off that I’m not really thinking about it yet.  Because clearly the 5 different food specific boards I already had: Putting Food By, Sweet Stuff, For Baking Day, the Whole30 Compliant Recipes board I was invited to join and just plain Food, not to mention my food heavy travel board: On the Road Again, were not enough.  On these boards I’m gathering ideas that I’d like to use for our seasonal dinner meal plan, but also season specific treats and recipes for special events occurring in that season.  Party food, birthday food, holiday food, everyday food, recipes for anticipated garden surplus…anything that I come across and think I might need is right there.

Pesto sweet potato noddles with chicken and broccoli from the garden, eaten on the porch.  Pure summer.


Feeding Our Families ~ Economics

We recently embarked on a whole family homeschooling project.  It was a little bit practical math, a little home ec. and a lot of honing of critical thinking skills.  The premise was really very simple, it’s easy to figure out how much we spend on groceries in a given week or month, our goal here was to figure out where exactly that money goes.

For two weeks, we calculated the cost of each and every meal we ate.  We kept all of the receipts in an envelope, on a clipboard, along with our lists.  When we sat down to a meal or snack someone would grab the clip board and a calculator and off we would go.  We included every ingredient that it was reasonably possible to figure out a monetary sum for.  Where we would normally “drizzle” something or add a “splash”, we started measuring that drizzle or splash and then figuring out exactly how much said drizzle of olive oil cost.  We added in the cost of a teaspoon of vanilla and a tablespoon of lemon juice.

There were a few things that were really beyond our ability to figure out, at least without driving ourselves crazy.  I drew the line at trying to calculate the cost of salt per meal, as monitoring and measuring each individual’s salt usage seemed a bit much.  I also have no way of knowing how much it cost to make a jar of peach jam last year.  Nor do I have much of a chance at figuring out the cost of bananas, bought by the case months ago and frozen.  Without knowing exactly how many bananas were in the case, it’s hard to say what the three we added into our smoothie amounted to.  But we were able to figure out mostly everything else.  We came up with a grand total for each meal and then divided it by the number of people eating to get a price per person.  At the end of the day we did a full day total.  If a by product of the food got used again, we went back and marked the original entry with an X, allowing us to really see what gave us the most bang for our buck, if you will.  So the roast chicken from Monday gets an X when I make hash on Tuesday and another when I make stock on Wednesday and so forth.   The results were surprising!

I’ve always felt guilty about making my cashew yogurt.  Cashews are expensive after-all.  But it turns out that a container of cashews being the basis for an entire meal made for one of our lowest cost per-person meals.  One of our highest?  Brussels sprouts!  This never would have occurred to me, as I always think of eating more vegetables as being cost effective.  Granted on this occasion we did add in bacon, which didn’t help the cost.  Because they are priced by the pound, we had been just scooping them into a bag, until we had a meals worth, without realizing we had packed away like $16 worth of sprouts!  All of which disappeared in a single sitting easily, without so much as a leftover to redeem itself by.  Now Brussels are out of season in our area at the moment and we normally wouldn’t be buying them at all at this time of year, but there was a special request and we obliged.  It’s like when a house guest came to me concerned because a 1/2 lb of spinach had been left out on the table and the kids kept coming by and taking huge fistfuls.  Seriously, what am I going to do, stop my kids from eating spinach?  I think not.  Like wise, they ask for Brussels sprouts as a special treat (really, I’m not making this up) and I wouldn’t think twice about putting them on the list, at least that is, until now.

It turns out that we don’t save nearly as much as I had hoped growing all of our greens for six months of the year.  Not that I have any intention of stopping, but that was a disheartening discovery.

What to do with all of this information?  Well it’s helping us to better define what we should enjoy occasionally as a treat and what we should focus on as everyday foods.  It seems that a couple of our regular meals were huge money drains.  It has also helped to shape our garden plans.  Hint: we’re growing a lot of Brussels sprouts.  I think that knowing exactly how much a teaspoon of vanilla extract costs is just the kick in the pants I needed to finally, finally start making my own, after years of just talking about it.  The whole thing was a really empowering and educational experience and I strongly recommend it to others.          

Just because I feel like I should have some actual food represented in my Feeding Our Families post, here we have a Blackened Salmon Bowl (served on a plate!).  In theory this should be an expensive meal.  However, by cutting out some of the more expensive ingredients, i.e. no truffle oil, using salmon that was purchased in season during a sale, playing up the veggies and serving it alongside asparagus from our garden, it was actually quite reasonable and very enjoyable.

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Feeding Our Families: Planning, Planning, Planning

Swiss chard and leeks

Thumbprint Cookies- we used this recipe.  The recipe is only so-so, but it’s fun for each of the kids to be able to mix up their own batch.  We topped them with some of our mixed berry jam before baking and served them with home-made cashew milk.

This month I’m mostly trying to get back on track here; in the kitchen and in life, stepping out of that newborn haze and back into real hands-on, nitty-gritty Life.  I seem to have convinced myself that if I plan everything out just so and am meticulously organized, then everything will go smoothly at all times.  Ha!  As if meeting the physical, emotional, educational, nutritional, social, spiritual needs of 7 people on a daily basis, year in and year out, could possibly be effortless!  But there you have it.  This is the way my brain works sometimes.  The fact remains that it certainly can’t hurt to be a little more organized.  With that goal in mind, over the last couple of weeks I’ve been slowly (very slowly, I do everything slowly these days, hence my usual Monday post appearing mid-day on Thursday…) working on creating a master grocery list.  This is a document that I’m typing up of any and all items that we might buy on a semi-regular basis at various food stores.  The idea being that every week I can print a new one out, post it on the fridge and check off things as we run out.  Also having everything right in front of me will hopefully help with my constantly forgetting little odds and ends, resulting in extra shopping trips.  I will see all the possibilities right in front of me, and therefore (hopefully! fingers crossed!) be reminded.  And as a side benefit, poor Steve won’t have to try to interpret my hand writing, which isn’t the best to begin with and these days is mostly done on a book, balanced on my knee, while trying to contort around a nursing babe….a situation that is not likely to improve it’s quality.

My other project is to get back to meal planning.  Somehow I fell out of this habit and we were really so much better off when I was keeping up with a seasonal meal plan.  You can read more about my meal planning process here.  I’m also looking to update our breakfast menu for the season, but feeling rather uninspired on that front, so suggestions are welcome!  Thus far we’ve switched out our hot cereal for a lighter and cooler grain-free granola.

Also on my mind this month is getting the garden off to a good start.  The couple of photos above are from syrup making this year, because really that’s our very first harvest of the growing season.  It wasn’t the best year, between the strange weather and the timing.  We sugared off once at the very end of my pregnancy.  Seraphina’s first trip outside was to sit fireside during the day long process of evaporation.  Followed by one more somewhat disastrous attempt right before Easter.

The garden is coming along.  Largely thanks to the efforts of the older children.  Though something ate many of our starts, while they were still inside (!).  That was a completely new one for me.  I still have no idea what got to them.

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Feeding Our Families- Postpartum Meal Planning Part 2

postpartum vignette: knitting, book, food, baby

Some of the meals I ended up making and freezing:

Shepheard’s Pie

Pork and Apple Bake (2)

Lemon-Olive Chicken with broccoli

Beef Bolognese (5 quarts)

Carrot-Ginger-Coconut Muffins (2 batches)

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins (2 batches)

Creamed Spinach (modified with safe for us ingredients)

Honey Sesame Chicken and Broccoli

Chicken Apple Curry* (2)

Peach Chicken*

Apple Pie (2)

I also made a list of the food that we still had available from the harvest this year; apple sauce, jams, chutney, roasted tomatoes and a bag of zucchini muffins that turned up when we rearranged things in the freezer.

I had plans to make more but a couple of friends were talking about maybe dropping off a few freezer meals and I wanted to be sure we still had room for them.  That didn’t actually happen, but two dear friends did drop us off some lovely fresh food, which provided us with salads and soups to pad out our meals.  Also the most wonderful nut and fruit bars that turned out to be the perfect solution for those middle of the night, suddenly ravenous, nursing mama moments.  I really must get the recipe for those!

*I’ll try to post recipes for these at some point.

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Feeding Our Families ~ Postpartum Meal Planning

When Iain was born there was just the two of us to feed and absolutely zero thought was given to planning food for the postpartum period.  Steve would come home with plastic cups full of prepared fresh fruit salad from the grocery store and we’d eat baked potatoes and pasta in bed and I don’t believe it felt like a strain at all.

By the time Elijah came along I had made some serious dietary changes.  Our kitchen life wasn’t quite so easy anymore.  We had just moved and the situation over-all wasn’t ideal.  It was really Steve’s first time caring for Iain alone and I think that was kind of over-whelming.  It’s not that he wasn’t an involved father before, he’s always been that.  It’s just there was no real need for him to be involved in the day to day caring aspects.  He would come home from work and everything would be under control.  There might be a couple of dishes to do, but otherwise he was free to devote his time to playing with and reading to our little guy.  This time around things felt stressful.  We ate a lot of prepared food the first couple of days, that did not do well by our bellies and I really felt pressured (not at all by Steve, just by the situation) to be back to “normal” much sooner then was reasonable and I seriously paid for it health-wise.

I was ill for much of my pregnancy with Galen and very worried about being able to care for everyone after.  With the memory of our last experience in mind I went manic- Type A and prepared a binder full of several weeks worth of food schedules.  Every possible detail was in there, right on down to how to prepare the herbal baths and infusions from the blends I had made during my pregnancy.

With Màiri our life circumstances were such that I couldn’t have possibly done anything in advance to prepare.  Every day was full to overflowing with just the tasks that needed to be accomplished to survive that day.  Luckily we had a wonderful community around us that organized around 3 weeks worth of home-cooked dinners for us, for which I will be forever grateful.

And here we are again, with more dietary restrictions then ever and more mouths to feed.  We have no real community nearby to speak of at them moment.  From the beginning I’ve felt that I would need to be really thoroughly prepared if things are to run smoothly after the baby comes.  And I thought the timing of this post would be just perfect because by the beginning of March, surely I would have just about everything in order.  While I’m not truly expecting this baby anytime soon (I tend to have very long pregnancies), the fact is we’re at the point where any time is fair game.

And so, as of yesterday this is what I had to share with you….

Pictures of snowmen.  Do I get any kind of credit for the snowmen having carrot noses?  These ones were supposed to be our family, in snowman form, on an unfortunately melt-y day.  Some of us didn’t make out too well.

And this one appeared outside my window to cheer me up on a day when I wasn’t feeling well…

Complements of Iain and Elijah, dear sweet souls.

In other words I was pretty much no where.  I believe I had two meals in the basement freezer.  Which is enough to get us through all of 2/3 of a day, provided nobody needs a snack.

I started off well.  In autumn when we were putting up the bounty of our garden, I did a lot of baking to preserve food with this time in mind; zucchini bread, chocolate zucchini bread, roasted pumpkin muffins.  One day I got well into making a large batch of apple sauce, only to discover I was out of canning lids, and so I made batch after batch of applesauce muffins instead.  The problem was that between then and now there have been more then enough occasions where we’ve just needed to grab something quick when running out the door or I was in need of an easy middle of the night snack, that, well every single last one of those things is long gone.

Trying to get back on track now, yesterday I spent the entire afternoon making Beef Bolognese.  I used the recipe found at the bottom of this page, times six, switching out coconut milk for the cream.

Currently there is a double batch of Carrot-Ginger-Coconut Muffins cooling on the counter and headed for the freezer.

I’m making lists.  I’m a great one for making lists you know.  I can plan and plan until the sun comes down, it’s the follow through that is sometimes lacking.  I have a list going of easy to prepare foods.  A list of food the kids don’t mind cooking and a list of foods to try to freeze.  I’m measuring out all the ingredients for our Wednesday morning hot cereal and storing it in jars with cooking instructions, making sauces and freezing chicken in them so that it can marinate and be ready to cook as it thaws.  We’ll have baking day twice this week, eating just a bit and freezing the rest.  And whenever I can I’ll be doubling the meals I make and freezing half.

I would love to hear other people’s experiences with postpartum meal planning.  What worked for you?  What didn’t?  Any fabulous meal suggestions?

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Feeding Our Families: the art of breakfast

I am not a morning person.  This may well be the understatement of the year.  I used to think it was because I was lazy or unmotivated.  In recent years I’ve discovered that it’s not a heinous personality flaw, that there is in fact a valid, well documented, physical cause for my issues.  While I will spare you the details, the gist of it is that my body has a great deal of trouble transitioning from a waking state to a sleeping one and vice versa.  Given the current circumstances, for the time being, that means that I am the last person out of bed in my house every single morning, which is in no way my ideal.  The children actually prefer it this way since they get some time to play, read or do as they please before we start in with school work and chores.

When it comes to parenting, there are certain areas where I’m rather old-fashioned and grandmotherly.  I’m a big believer in family dinners, early bedtimes, woolen hats, children being children in general and starting off the day with a hearty breakfast.  Accomplishing that last one can be quite tricky, considering the above.  I’ve devoted a lot of time to developing a system that works for us.  We have a set rotation of seven breakfasts that we eat every week.  This completely saves the step of having to think about what to make on any given day and that is a great relief.  The selection does shift a bit with the seasons.  As the weather warms we’ll be switching out some of the hot warming meals for lighter, fresher fair.

The kids all know they can help themselves to a piece of fruit upon waking and that breakfast will be served shortly after.  And there are always leftovers about if they need something more to tide them over.  I have three main strategies that help us all to start the day off right.

The first is the crockpot.  Why the crockpot?  When I first wake up I need some very specific things….I need to pee (I do have an entire person on my bladder), to be able to move slowly, not to be spoken to and especially not to be asked questions, not to be touched, to be surrounded by complete quiet and calm and to have prepared food appear in front of me as if by magic.  With the crockpot, two of those things at least are a possibility.  If you are an oatmeal eater, try it in the crockpot overnight; it turns out amazingly rich, thick and creamy.

My second strategy is help.  I get more help with breakfast then any other meal.  More on that below.

And third I try to keep anything that’s not taken care of by one and two as quick and easy as possible.


Buckwheat pancakes, banana pancakes and bacon:

Sometimes we have orange juice as well.  Several years ago Iain and Elijah got inspired to make us breakfast and somehow the habit stuck.  Sunday mornings are their day.  The littles help out where they can and set the table.  Recently Galen was eager to learn how to flip pancakes and now he mans a pan as well.

We usually use whole grain buckwheat, the pancakes pictured above look a bit different then our norm because they were made using light buckwheat leftover from holiday baking.

Buckwheat Pancakes

3 C of buckwheat flour

3 C milk of your choice (we usually use the kind of coconut milk that comes in a carton)

6 eggs

1 T cream of tartar mixed with 1 T baking soda or 2 T baking powder

1 T lemon juice

2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

In a medium bowl, mix the lemon juice and vanilla into the milk and set aside.  In a large bowl mix together all of the dry ingredients.  Beat the eggs and add them to the liquids.  Thoroughly mix the wet ingredients into the dry, stirring as little as possible.  Let the batter sit for 5 minutes.  It should bubble a bit.  Fry pancakes in the cooking fat of your choice.   

I find I do much better with little to no grains or pseudo-grains, so in recent years they’ve added banana pancakes to the mix as well.  Everyone can pick and choose as they please.

Banana Pancakes

1 egg

1 banana

1 tsp. cinnamon

splash of vanilla (optional)

Obviously this is just the proportions and you can make as many batches as you please.  Blend all of the ingredients in a blender until smooth.  Cook as you would regular pancakes.  These are trickier to flip and keep together.  Smaller “silver dollar” style pancakes work best.


Breakfast sausages, yams and fermented sauerkraut:

This may sounds strange, but it’s a fabulous flavor combination.

Have you ever made yams in the crockpot before?  It’s super simple.  Just rinse the yams and put them in the crockpot still damp.  Turn it on low over night and serve perfectly cooked yams in the morning.  A very filling and hearty breakfast and all I have to do is put the sausages in to cook while I set everything out on the table.

Sometimes we treat ourselves to molasses tea with this meal.  To make molasses tea, mix a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses into a mug full of hot water.  Blackstrap molasses is rich in iron, calcium and potassium.


German Pancake recipe here:

Elijah has declared himself the greatest German pancake maker in the world.  Which means that he always insists on making them himself.  And who am I to argue?  Generally he gets to work when he hears me start stirring.  The others help with gathering supplies and such.  Waking up to food being made?  Quite possibly the most awesome thing in the world.  Many a time I will literally sigh with relief when I wake and realize what day it is, then I come down and kiss him on the top of the head all over until he gets sick of me.


Hot “Cereal” from the book Paleo Cooking from Elana’s Pantry: Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, Dairy-Free Recipes.  You can check out the book for details.  It’s basically a concoction of nuts, seeds, dried coconut and cinnamon.  It’s kind of a little bit like Cream of Wheat, but not really.  That’s just the closest thing I can think of.  I freely substitute the various nuts and seeds based on what I have and more budget friendly options.  I add in vanilla and chopped fresh apples or pears, raisins or any other dried fruit I have about.  With it I set out ghee, so people can add a pat to their bowl if they like.  And honey or syrup to be drizzled on top if desired.


Pork and Apple Bake:

Since posting about this I’ve started adding all sorts of things to it.  Pretty much whatever happened to be ripe in the garden at the time; peas, green beans, garlic scapes, green onions, chopped up radishes, parsley, spinach, kale.  We are especially fond of mixing in kale. yum.


Scalloped yams and breaded fish:

More yam-y fodder for the crockpot!  Peel and slice 5 yams, top with a couple of pats of ghee/butter/coconut oil, 1 can of coconut milk, a sprinkle of powdered kelp and lots of sage…much, much more sage then you think it will need.  Again, cook on low over night.  Sometimes in the morning I’ll turn it up to high and take the lid off to let the sauce thicken a bit, but it’s generally not needed.  Add salt and pepper to taste before serving.

I don’t always make the fish.  I can’t say that it’s the healthiest thing to grace my table, but this dish is absolutely adored by three of my four children.  It starts with some form of mild tasting fish; catfish, tilapia, flounder, anything along those lines.  Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.  Prepare a cookie sheet with a thin coat of oil.  Chop the fish into small pieces.  Dredge each piece in arrowroot powder seasoned with salt and pepper.  Lay them out in a single layer on your oiled cookie sheet and bake until brown and crispy, flipping at least once.  Some sort of green as a side dish rounds out this breakfast nicely, but I honestly don’t often get to that.


Cashew yogurt:

Shown above topped with some honey sweetened peach jam that we put up over the summer.  I’ve made several kinds of nut milk yogurts over the years.  This one is by far the quickest and the easiest.  It also happens to be incredibly delicious.

Cashew Yogurt




flavoring (optional)

This one works best in a high powered blender, a Vitamix or the like.  For a regular blender you might want to try soaking the cashews first.  Pour your cashews into the blender.  Break a probiotic capsule over top.  I use one that has around 7 billion bacteria for 9 oz. of cashews.  Add water until everything is just covered.  Blend until it’s all extremely smooth.  Add more water until desired consistency.  It will thicken overnight so make it a little runnier then you ultimately want.  I pour mine into a half gallon mason jar, drape a flour sack towel over the top and screw a lid ring on it.  This way it can breath, but nothing can really get in.  Set it out some place warm overnight.  This would be by the wood stove in our house.  I sometimes experiment with adding in sunflower seeds of shredded coconut.  But straight cashew is our favorite.

Two more breakfast ideas:

Stuffed squash:

Another great crockpot option.  The kids love this one, truth be told I think it’s only so-so.  Cut your squash in half and scoop out the seeds.  For the stuffing combine any combination of chopped apples, pears, nuts, seeds and/or dried fruit.  You can add a splash of lemon or orange juice, spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc) and/or sweetener.  Fill the squash.  Balance and stack them upright so that the stuffing doesn’t fall out. Cook on low overnight.

Simpler option: fill the cups with a pat of some buttery substance, a drizzle of syrup and a sprinkle of nutmeg. This is a lovely way to pad out a meal.

Sausage patties and steamed or braised greens:

Though not in rotation at the moment, this has been a regular favorite in the past.  The patties are seasoned ground meat.  You can use beef, but I prefer pork or poultry.  For beef or pork you can just put it directly in the pan.  With turkey or chicken you’ll need to use a bit of oil to keep it from sticking.  They can be cooked under a broiler or fried on the stove top.

A couple of flavor combinations:

chopped onions, sage and a pinch of clove

curry and cinnamon, a bit of cardamom is nice too

maple syrup, cinnamon, clove

Italian seasoning, garlic, red pepper flakes and fennel

Always include a good bit of sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.  Mix well, form into small patties and cook.  Sauteed onions are wonderful with this.

And one other totally random food related thing: add leeks to your roasted Brussel sprouts. You won’t regret it.

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Feeding Our Families

Lunch one day over the weekend; roasted veggies and fried eggs.  The veggies: carrots, turnips, beets, red cabbage, green cabbage, onions, brussel sprouts, heirloom sweet thyme.  I always used to restrict the contents of my roasting pan to root veggies, but the cabbage and sprouts roast up beautifully and add a nice flavor dimension to the dish.  The turnips, cabbages and beets were the last of the veg from our garden, they held up well all this time!  Thankfully there is still lots more of that thyme.  I love that thyme.  There are huge snow covered patches of it in my garden and a small pot on my windowsill, along with many jars of dried herb in my pantry.  I think a pot of it, in tea form, might be in order on this damp and dreary day.

I made the veggies late the night before.  Steve fried me 2 eggs while they heated up, which was just what I needed and I ate them on the futon with my feet up and under blankets.  Such a long week we have had!

In this new year, I’ve been invited to join some talented bloggers on a new series called, “Feeding Our Families”, spearheaded by the lovely Renee of Heirloom Seasons.  We’ll be posting once a month, covering all sorts of related topics, with each writer bringing her own personal experience and views to the topic.  I can’t wait to see what comes out of this collaboration.  Inspiration is sure to abound.

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