The Simplest Things

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Eat well, get plenty of rest and regular exercise. How many times have I heard this? Enough that it sounds like the adults speaking in a Charlie Brown movie. I don’t believe I’ve followed that advice in the past. I spent too many years eating chips and soda and not a meal. Exercise was no fun. Who wants to get all sweaty and stinky anyway? Sleep is a fantasy with four children.  As my mind continues to clear I can see how simple the answer. I can eat well, get plenty of rest and regular exercise. These are now my priorities. It may seem selfish to focus on myself. It would be easier for me to give up. Getting better is hard, but my loved ones deserve to have me healthy and productive. I’m there for them. Everything else will fall into place. I will keep trying every day to improve my health. I will get there by doing the simplest things.

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Purple Pickled Eggs

purple eggs

Last Summer our chickens were busy laying so many eggs I wondered what to do with all of them.  I gave some away, make tons of hard-boiled eggs and egg salad sandwiches but we still had too many.  I had to find something to do with them.

I enjoy preserving food.  It feels so old-fashioned, something  “old people” did when I was a child.  I remember helping my mom and a neighbor harvest plums to make preserves.  The smell of those plums cooking is still stuck in my mind.  The whole process was fascinating to me. I wish I had plum trees but instead I had too many fresh eggs.

Then it hit me.  I could make pickled eggs.  I love pickles and I love hard-boiled eggs.  I searched many recipes and landed one from AllRecipes.com.   I’m not fond of canned beets, but I wanted the eggs to have that beautiful purple color.

I pickled 3 dozen eggs.  When my oldest daughter saw them in my refrigerator she said that was such an “old person” thing to do.  I reminded her that I am technically an older person, compared to her!  She and her husband both loved them. I think they taste like a cross between a pickle and deviled egg.  Such a treat.

I don’t as many eggs this Summer but I may still make a small batch.

My Daughter Loves to Cook

jade loves to cook

It happened suddenly this Summer.  I showed her how to cook brownies and we took off from there.  She’s made so many brownies, cakes, fruit breads, muffins, biscuits and pizza dough.  She loves to cook and can’t wait to learn more.

It all started with the brownies.  We had a box of brownie mix and she asked me to make some.  I just wasn’t feeling like baking that day.  I offered to show her how to make them. She caught on very quickly and had fun.  After many delicious batches she made on her own, she is the official brownie maker in our home.  Everyone agrees hers are the best!

We experiment with the different boxed mixes but she likes to cook from scratch. Now she is starting to teach her friends to cook when they come over to visit. She searches recipe websites and collects recipes she wants to make.  I enjoy spending time with her in the kitchen and its something valuable for her to learn.  It makes me wish I spent more time cooking with my mom.

This morning I woke up hungry for biscuits and gravy.  I taught her how to make them.  She’s never tried the gravy until today.  She loved it.  Someday I hope to wake up to her cooking biscuits and gravy.  Knowing her, they will be better than mine.  I can’t wait!

Weekly Family Meal Prep

weekly family meal prep

Weekly meal prepping is a daunting task when you are just starting like I am.  To help me out, I’m keeping it simple and starting with just Dinner.  Once I master this I’ll move on to prepping other meals. I’m using my basic, theme-based meal plan.  Monday we have breakfast for dinner. Tuesday is for tacos.  Wednesdays is a pasta but not spaghetti.  Thursday is roast something.  Homemade pizza on Fridays.  Something on the grill Saturday and spaghetti Sunday.  Dinner meals for this week:

Monday – Bacon & Waffles

Tuesday – Beef Tacos

Wednesday – Peanut Butter Noodles

Thursday – Roast Chicken

Friday – Hamburger & Onion Pizza

Saturday – Hot Dogs

Sunday – Spaghetti

I start by frying all the hamburger I’ll need for the week and then portion it out for Tuesdays tacos, Friday’s pizza and Sunday’s spaghetti.  I find I spend more time than I’d like to thawing frozen raw hamburger.  Cooked hamburger thaws faster and can even be added to the pan still frozen.  It thaws and breaks up quickly in the pan.

Next, I prep the roast chicken.  I like to marinade it with some soy sauce, vinegar, olive oil and garlic salt.  I put everything in a large zip lock bag and inside a bowl or pan large enough to catch and leaking.  Makes the chicken juicy and tender. During the heat of Summer I use the crock pot more often than the oven.

Finally, I make sure I have baking mix for the waffles.  I found a great home-made recipe  that I also use for pancakes.  I make enough for 5-6 meals, so I only need to mix a new batch every six weeks or so. Comes in very handy.  I’d love to make the bacon in advance & just warm it up but I don’t think it would make it until dinner.  We love bacon around here!

Everything else I’ll cook at meal time.  I could go ahead and make the taco filling, spaghetti sauce and peanut butter noodle sauce.  If my week is really busy, I will.  Most of the time, I’ll make it fresh.  I enjoy making the house smell good before dinner.  Somehow it makes us all more hungry and the food taste even better.

In the future, I plan to double one or two recipes like spaghetti sauce and a roast chicken then put them in the freezer.  I’d like to have two back up meals ready in the freezer all the time.  I always make sure I have a few quick easy meals at hand.  My preference is these meals be home-made.  For now, they are frozen dinners from the store.  This is a process for me & I’ll get there eventually.  I’m just happy to have dinners planned for the week and some of the prep already finished.

Bacon Spaghetti

I had a great idea for dinner tonight.  We usually have pasta on Wednesday’s so I was thinking along those lines when bacon entered my mind.  I don’t think I’ve ever had bacon I didn’t like.  Someday I’m going to try chocolate covered bacon – but that is another story.  Tonight we try Bacon Spaghetti for the first time.

I searched for Bacon Spaghetti recipes and found most were for Spaghetti Carbonara. Basically, its bacon, spaghetti, parmesan and egg.  I wanted something a little lighter and more kid-proof.  I have an 8-year old who is very picky about what goes on her pasta. I wanted her to enjoy this meal too.

Usually, I need a recipe to feel confident about cooking, but lately I’ve been a little more creative.  I realized the meals we all enjoy, and that I cook consistently are those I learned to make years ago with no recipe. I’ve been making tacos, spaghetti, chili, and krautburgers since I was a teen. My mom taught me how to cook these & I’ve made some changes along the way. I think Bacon Spaghetti could another favorite.

This recipe is very simple.  Chop 6 pieces of bacon and fry in a skillet until crisp. Reserve at least 2 T of bacon grease in the skillet.  Meanwhile, cook 1 package of spaghetti noodles.  Add 1 clove chopped garlic to the bacon and stir for about 1 minute. Drain spaghetti and add to the bacon mixture. Stir. Serve warm.

The kids loved this & I loved how simple it was. We will definitely be trying this again.

bacon spaghetti

Simple Family Meal Plan

Meal planning is new to me.  When I worked outside the home we often ate out or had fast food which was convenient but not healthy for us and expensive.  Now that I work at home, I feel like I have more time to focus on our meals.  We seem to look forward to meals now that we are eating at home almost exclusively.  On top of that, we just don’t have the extra money to spend on eating out.  I made a simple meal plan that could easily be modified to have several variations.

First, I made a list of our favorite meals.  There are three children in my home, so these are very kid friendly.  Eggs, cereal, soup, sandwiches, tacos, pasta, roast, pizza and spaghetti are among the favorites. They are also meals that are easy to add variation to.  Boil, poached or bake the eggs. Cereal from a box, homemade granola or cooked oatmeal are other options.  Think of all the different soups and sandwiches you like.  Tacos, pasta, roast, need I say more?

Breakfast are very simple.  Eggs or cereal for breakfast. Scrambled eggs are most popular in our house, but sometimes we have hard-boiled too.  Boxed cereal is the favorite, most expensive and least nutritious.  I balance it out by offering hot cereal and homemade granola too. I like to have a few options for those mornings when we need to run out the door.  Granola bars, muffins and breakfast burritos made ahead, packaged and or frozen for use when needed.

Soup or sandwich for lunch. So many different options here.  I keep canned chicken noodle and tomato soup on hand, but I’d like to experiment more with making my own soups too.  I make a mean potato soup but I find most recipes make so much soup we just don’t eat it all.  I enjoy a good peanut butter sandwich, egg salad, tuna salad, turkey sandwich. Easy to make and paired with a salad, lunch is ready.  These can also be easily packed for lunch on the go.

Dinner is a little more varied but is basically the same each week.  On Monday, we have breakfast for dinner.  Sausage & pancakes or bacon and waffles fit the bill.  Tuesdays are for tacos.  Ground beef is the family favorite, but I’ve also made chicken, fish and shredded beef. Wednesday is for pasta.  Because its in the middle of the week I try to go for something lighter. Although, macaroni and cheese is the all time favorite, we enjoy bacon pasta, Asian-style peanut butter noodles butter noodles with hamburger gravy too.  Thursday is for roast beast, chicken, pork or beef.  Whatever is on sale.  Friday is pizza.  Sometimes we have a frozen one, but the best is home-made.  Our cheese burger pizza is just as good as the hamburger and onion.  We like to grill on Saturday.  Hamburgers, hot dogs, steak, or chicken.  We always have spaghetti with marinara sauce on Sunday.  A family tradition.

This is my first meal plan.  I’m sure it will go thru some changes, but I’d like to keep it generally the same.  The kids and I both like to know what is for dinner, and now they generally do.  Everyone loves taco Tuesday. Spaghetti Sunday is a favorite too.  I plan on making a detailed grocery list and a meal prep day where I can save time by prepping as much food as possible.  When we don’t have a plan we gravitate towards eating out.  I want to keep us at home.  Its better for all of us.

meal plan

In Search of the Best Biscuit Recipe

I’ve been looking a long time.  I may have come across it but didn’t realize because of my inexperience or impatience.  My thoughts have changed.  I still want a recipe that I can easily follow, has ingredients I regularly keep on hand,  and is the perfect mix of moist and crumbly.

I want a simple drop biscuit recipe.  Nothing against rolled and shaped biscuits, but I prefer to dirty as few dishes as possible.  I’m not fond of kneading and rolling either.  My luck with cutting shapes out of dough is definitely lacking. Simple for me means something I’m able to do in 15-20 minutes.  Refrigerating overnight, long rising/resting times, and the need for obscure kitchen appliances is not simple for me.

I have a fairly well stocked pantry.  I’d like to expand it but for now I regularly keep flour, sugar, oil, milk, eggs, baking powder, baking soda and other baking staples on hand. Expensive ingredients, those with a short shelf life and those I’ve never heard of are not typically on hand. Like Grandma’s biscuit recipe with ingredients available to most everyone.

I like a moist, slightly crumbly biscuit.  Something that goes well with jam or sausage gravy.  Something that will last until morning without getting rock hard.  A biscuit for brunch or a quick breakfast in a morning rush.  A biscuit I’d like to teach my kids to make.  Something they can share when they have a family.

I’m still searching for the best biscuit recipe…

biscuit