Monday, April 29, 2013

Monday Randomness

As I told my facebook readers Saturday morning, I had a few hours to get some meals prepped for the freezer while two of our girls were at bowling league. I had planned to make a 5 lb. bag of potatoes into twice baked potatoes, a triple batch of Green Chile Pork Tacos and one batch of Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork (except this time I used root beer instead of cola).

The four bags of pork literally took me about 15 minutes to put together, they were super easy. The potatoes had to bake for a good hour or so but then didn't take long to mix up the filling. All in all I probably spent a good two hours preparing everything. I now have 4 meals between the pulled pork and tacos and 22 twice baked potatoes, which will be enough for at least 4 meals for us.

Twice Baked Potatoes

5 lbs. potatoes
1 stick butter
16 oz. sour cream
1/2 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
Lawry's and black pepper to taste
Chopped green onions
Grated/Shredded cheddar cheese

Wash and scrub potatoes, place on a large baking sheet and bake in oven for at least one hour at 400 degrees. Once potatoes are tender, cut in half and scoop potatoes out with a spoon into a large bowl. Add butter, sour cream, crumbled bacon, seasonings and chopped green onions to the potatoes. Mix together well with a potato masher. Scoop filling into potato skins and top with grated or shredded cheddar cheese. Place back on baking sheet and stick in the freezer for a good hour or two. Wrap each potato individually with saran wrap and stick in freezer bag. When ready to bake, remove from freezer and heat in oven until heated through.

I found a great recipe for pork tacos in my Picky Palate cookbook. We've made in once before during the winter months and I figured it would be great to throw everything together in a freezer bag so it's ready to dump in the slow cooker. These are full of great Mexican flavor and our family really enjoys them!

Slow-Cooked Green Chile Pork Tacos

2 lb. pork butt
Sprinkling of salt, black pepper and garlic powder
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
16 oz. jar Tomatillo salsa

Season both sides of pork with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Place in freezer bag. Add Worcestershire sauce and tomatillo salsa to bag. Remove air from bag and seal shut. Label and stick in freezer. When ready to cook, remove from freezer and let thaw overnight. Dump into slow cooker and cook on low for at least 8 hours (If you think pork is getting dried out, you can add 1/4-1/2 c of water) Shred pork when done and return to juices. Serve on tortillas with desired toppings.

I also worked on a new way of menu planning this weekend. Spring and summer are always so busy for us, with softball games for the girls during the week, my own hubby's softball schedule and I'll be back at the farmers' market this year on Saturday mornings selling baked goods. I try to keep our freezer stocked with meals and that really helps but even so we still find nights where we leave the house at 4:30 and won't return until late at night. Which means supper has to be on the go and in the cooler.

I made a list of easy meals perfect for this time of year. Meals that won't require much thinking or planning on my part. Meals that I'm sure you often rely on for your own families.

I simply started filling in days with simple meals, also leaving about 2 days blank each way so I can still try out new recipes. This way though I won't be overwhelmed with the idea of menu planning for our busy months but yet I can still have room for trying new dishes....hey I still have to blog about something right?

We'll see how this idea goes, maybe it will be helpful and work out for the best.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Peanut Butter-Banana Whoopie Pies

Peanut butter and banana, one of my most favorite flavor combinations. I love it just as much as chocolate and peanut butter. I spotted these in an old Taste of Home magazine and good thing I had a friend in mind to share these with.

These are so easy to make and I love that the recipe only yields 12-14, plenty for our family to sample and share with others. Of course I'm sure they would freeze well if you'd like to save a treat for a rainy day.

Peanut Butter-Banana Whoopie Pies

1 stick butter, softened
3/4 c granulated sugar
1/4 c brown sugar
1 egg
1 medium-large banana, mashed
1/2 c buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
2 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder

1 stick butter, softened
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 c creamy peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
3 c powdered sugar
splash of milk

In a large bowl, cream together butter and both sugars. Add in egg, banana, buttermilk and vanilla, mix well. Add dry ingredients to bowl and mix until incorporated. Using a medium cookie scoop, drop onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake at 350 for 12 mins or until set. Cool on pan before removing to wire racks.

To make filling: Cream together butter, cream cheese and peanut butter until smooth in a medium-large bowl. Mix in vanilla. Gradually add in powdered sugar, mix well. Add a splash of milk to thin filling to desired consistency.

Spread filling on bottoms of half the cookies, top with remaining cookies. Dust with additional powdered sugar if desired. Makes 12-14. Store in the fridge.


Well we're off to enjoy a nice sun-shiny day with our youngest kiddos. Our kindergartner, Gracie is off from school today due to kindergarten round-up. Has she seriously already completed a year of school?!

I'm hoping to get our patio table and chairs out of storage and get some yard work done. I'd like to even squeeze in a few things for the freezer: twice baked potatoes, green chile pork tacos and try out a new recipe for cream of celery soup. I'll keep you updated. Enjoy your Friday!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Spicy Chicken Wraps

I think spring has finally arrived in Iowa, I am so excited for our weather the remainder of the week. The poor kids have been cooped up way too much lately because of the rain and chilly temps. We went for a nice long stroller ride this morning and tonight our oldest daughter starts softball practice. Bring on the crazy busy nights!

Speaking of warm weather and busy schedules, I often rely on simple meals like these wraps for nights when we barely have time to get dinner on the table. I like that I can even make these up ahead of time and we can eat them on the go.

These do have some heat to them, but not too much. I discarded the seeds from the chipotle pepper, you can add a few if you want even more spice. Change it up to suite your own taste, that's what's great about recipes like this.

Spicy Chicken Wraps

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and diced
1 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves
2 tsp mild chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 whole pepper from a can of chipotles in adobo, discard seeds if desired and dice finely
1 tbsp adobo sauce (from chipotle can)
15 oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp water
1 c white or brown rice, cooked according to package instructions
Tortilla shells
Diced bell peppers
Ranch dressing

In a large skillet heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add in garlic, chili powder, cumin, chipotle pepper and adobo sauce, cook for about 1 minute. Add in pinto beans and water, let cook for about 8-10 mins. Add in diced chicken and cooked rice, stir to combine. Remove from heat.

Spoon mixture onto tortilla shells, top with desired toppings. Roll up tortillas and enjoy.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Bang Bang Chicken

Bang Bang Chicken, I know my family laughed at the name too. But let me assure you, this was seriously good stuff, especially the sauce to go along with. I really think I've found a favorite new way to prepare little chicken bites like these.

I've been cooking with panko crumbs for a long time now and I love how crispy my chicken will turn out, but I really love this batter underneath. It makes this chicken taste fantastic.

Oh and this sauce; this sauce is amazing! It's sort of sweet and tangy but with a little spice too. It's still mild enough for the kiddos though, next time I think we'll add just a bit more of the hot sauce for us adults. It was also great on my parmesan sweet potato fries as well. Delish! 

Make sure to add this to your menu soon; I'm serious, you must make these!

Bang Bang Chicken

2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small chunks
1 c buttermilk
3/4 c flour
1/2 c cornstarch
1 egg
1 tbsp garlic powder
1-1/2 tsp paprika
1-2 tbsp hot sauce
dash of salt and pepper
2 c panko crumbs
olive oil for frying

1/2 c mayonnaise
1/4 c sweet chili sauce
2 tbsp hot sauce
1-2 tbsp honey

In a medium sized bowl, mix flour, cornstarch, garlic powder, paprika, salt and pepper. Add in hot sauce, egg and buttermilk. Whisk until smooth. Add chicken pieces to bowl and toss with batter to make sure pieces are well coated, set aside.

Add panko crumbs to another bowl. Mix all of sauce ingredients together in a separate bowl and let chill in fridge. 

Add oil to a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Coat each piece of chicken with panko crumbs. Place coated chicken in skillet and fry on both sides for about 4-5 mins. or until cooked through. Place chicken on a plate lined with paper towels to soak up some of the oil. Repeat with remaining chicken pieces. 

When ready to eat, serve sauce over chicken or enjoy with your own favorite dipping sauces. 

Source: Jo Cooks

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Spaghetti Squash

Last week we tried spaghetti squash for the first time. I'll try just about anything when it comes to food, I happened to love it! The girls didn't get a chance to try any, I served it up with meat sauce just like regular spaghetti but made sure to make some pasta for them just in case they didn't like it. The squash took a little longer to cook than I had planned so by the time Josh and I got to eat, they were already done.

Josh thought it was okay, the strands were not quite as soft as pasta but he said other than that, he couldn't really tell a difference. I loved it, I could eat spaghetti this way all the time. In fact we're going to incorporate this into our menu more often.

Now I would've used some of my freezer spaghetti sauce but it has a little sugar in it and that's not Whole30 approved. After searching the shelves high and low I finally found a jar of pasta sauce that only had a handful of ingredients in it and no sugar. I had a cake to decorate the night we had this on the menu and knew it would just be easier if I didn't have to make my own sauce. I actually found this jar at Wal-Mart of all places and it was amazing! I don't know if I want to spend $3.48 all the time for it, but it really had restaurant quality flavor.

After baking the squash in the oven for an hour I sliced it open and was able to literally take a fork to it and start shredding. It was pretty cool.  You could also combine the sauce with the spaghetti strands and put that back into the "boats" for a fun way of serving this up. Our squash was huge, like 6 pounds huge so that would've been quite the dinner for us!

Spaghetti Squash

1 small-med spaghetti squash
Your choice of pasta/meat sauce

Preheat oven to 375, place whole squash on baking sheet and bake for 45-60 mins. Depending on the size of your squash you may have to bake longer, ours was huge so it took awhile. With a sharp knife cut squash in half, scoop out seeds and pulp. You should then be able to take a fork and start shredding the strands, they'll look just like pasta noodles.

You can then plate your spaghetti squash and serve with desired sauce. This also reheats well and tastes just as good the next day. Store leftovers in fridge.


I'll leave you with a recent pic of our youngest girls, Gracie and Mackenzie. This was taken at my parent's house one Sunday evening not too long ago. They always make me smile! Enjoy the rest of your day!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Peanut Butter Cookies {Three Ways}

With the hubby out of town this weekend I found myself in the baking mode. I've had these in mind gosh for a long time now, I grabbed a bag of cookies n' cream kisses back in February and am just now getting around to using them. We have this cute little specialty food store in town that I love to visit every so often. I always buy my baking vanilla from there as well as many of the sprinkles I use for cakes, cupcakes and cookies. I grabbed a one-pound container of their freshly ground natural peanut butter Friday afternoon while I was there and immediately knew I had to make some cookies with it.

We still have some candy sitting around from Easter, the kids aren't really interested in it any more so it was the perfect opportunity to use some of it. I took my basic peanut butter cookie recipe and wrapped the dough around miniature Snickers bars. I also made some with the cookies n' cream kisses in the middle instead of regular chocolate stars or kisses, these were really good!

I also had the jar of Nutella on the counter so I thought, "what the heck?".  I made sort of a thumbprint cookie with Nutella in the middle. Mackenzie, our youngest really liked these. I had to put a stop to her though, she was only eating the chocolate out of the middle and leaving the cookie on the table. Silly girl!

I ended up with a nice assortment of cookies and only had to use one kind of dough. Of course, we don't need all of these cookies in our house at one time so I froze a lot of cookie dough balls, that way I can grab a few whenever we feel like fresh baked cookies.

Peanut Butter Cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 c peanut butter
1 c sugar
1 c brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3-1/2 c flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda

In a large bowl cream together butter and peanut butter. Add in both sugars and mix together well. Add in eggs and vanilla, mix until fully incorporated. Gradually add in salt, baking soda and flour and mix well.

For plain cookies: Roll dough into balls, dip into bowl of granulated sugar. Place onto prepared cookie sheet, make crisscross design with fork. Bake at 350 for 9 mins.

For peanut butter-Snicker cookies: Wrap about 1 tbsp of dough around a mini Snickers bar and roll into a ball. Place onto prepared cookie sheet and bake for 9-10 mins at 350.

For peanut butter kiss cookies:  Using a small cookie scoop, take dough and roll into a ball. Dip into bowl of granulated sugar and place onto prepared cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 9 mins., immediately place chocolate kiss in the middle.

For Nutella thumbprint cookies: Using a small cookie scoop, take dough and roll into a ball. Dip into bowl of granulated sugar, place onto prepared cookie sheet. Using a wooden spoon, make an indent in the middle with the handle. Fill the middle with Nutella and bake at 350 for 9 mins.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Whole30 Day 4 & 5

Yesterday got a little busy and I ran out of time to post my day 4 meals so I'm combining both days. After daycare was over I had to start on a cake order as well as our usual nightly tasks.

Breakfast- I scrambled two eggs with diced peppers, sausage and some kale, as well as some orange slices on the side. Having some sausage was like a treat, I'm glad I bought some.

Lunch- I had just a little bit of leftover taco meat and sausage so I threw that on top of some salad greens and shredded a carrot and called it good.

Dinner- I was pretty excited about trying spaghetti squash this week as I've never made it before. It was amazing! I felt like I was enjoying regular ol' pasta. We'll definitely be incorporating this into our menu more often. I served it with some meat sauce, I found a jar of pasta sauce at the store that actually was made of real ingredients and with no sugar either. I'm not sure if it's worth paying $3.48 for but it saved me some time from making my own. This was by far the best meal I've had yet on my little journey.

Breakfast- So I tried a little experiment this morning, unfortunately it didn't work out well and tasted gross. I seen someone post about making a pumpkin porridge and how good it was, I've been missing my oatmeal and getting tired of only eggs for breakfast. This smelled so good but definitely needed something to sweeten it up more. I ate close to half of it and quit, I just couldn't stomach any more.

Lunch- Today was leftover spaghetti squash and it was just as good as last night. I was getting pretty hungry so this totally hit the spot.

Dinner- Tonight I made up some sort of chili concoction. I had about 1/2 lb. of leftover ground beef, threw in a can of diced tomatoes, diced peppers, kale, chili powder, pepper, basil and cumin. It's delicious and satisfying.  One of our girls does not like beans at all, she really liked it too.


Five days completed and I feel pretty good, I don't feel as tired in the afternoon and I think I really am sleeping a little better at night. My sugar cravings have gone down tremendously. I weighed myself this morning and I'm also down 6 lbs.

With that being said I'm ending my "journey" here.  I knew come Monday I didn't want to continue any further eating strictly only paleo, it's not for our family right now. I have really enjoyed incorporating more veggies into our diet this week and finding new ways to prepare them and other things but I just know I can't live this way forever. Whether you think that's right or wrong, it's what's right for us in this moment. During this week I've been able to see what changes I can and should make to our diets in order for us to be healthier and feel better overall. I like how I feel but at the same time I'm just tired of obsessing about my food. I'm feel like I'm constantly thinking about it, what I can't have, etc. I don't want to live like that. I really believe all foods can be enjoyed in moderation.

So for now that's what's going to happen. I'm ready to get back to regular blogging, I'm ready to get back in the kitchen and prepare some wonderful recipes to share with you. My hubby is going to be gone all weekend at a bowling tournament, I'm ready to enjoy my weekend with my girls; do something fun with them, maybe even get in the kitchen and bake. Thank you for all of your encouraging words and support throughout this week, I appreciate each and every one of you!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Whole30 Day 3

Breakfast- Scrambled eggs with spinach and peppers, green smoothie made with coconut milk (banana, strawberries, pineapple and spinach). The smoothie really helped me this morning, I'm starting to get tired of eggs. I like them but I miss my oatmeal.

Lunch- Salad with diced pears, almonds and drizzled with balsamic vinegar. Leftover taco meat on the side. I'm starting to not enjoy salads as much, especially at lunch time but they are easy. Especially since after I get the kiddos fed and down for naps I don't feel like cooking much for myself.

Dinner- I threw a whole chicken in the crock pot today with some spices and let that cook all day. It was really good! We roasted some asparagus with garlic and coconut oil in the oven, baked some sweet potato slices w/coconut oil and had some fruit on the side. It's getting close to bed time and I'm not even feeling the urge for a snack.

Random Thoughts:
I'm getting tired of plain water, maybe I'll have my coconut water tomorrow.
I really should be drinking even more water than I already am.
Sugar is seriously in everything! I can't find any bacon without sugar.
Bless my husband's heart, he's trying to follow along but he's cheating ha ha, he gave up pop but is still drinking Gatorade. He also ate half of the girls' ice cream sandwich tonight.
I'm amazed by my own willpower, I haven't cheated once!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Whole30 Day 2

I slept really good last night, despite being woke up a couple times by the kids. I did grab a small handful of pistachios before bed, we ate at 5:00 last night so by the time I went to bed I was feeling a little hungry, even after drinking some water.

Breakfast- I made myself two scrambled eggs mixed with just a splash of coconut milk. Have you tried this yet? I'm not sure what to think, I really think it tastes similar to water. I added in some diced peppers and broccoli. I knew I'd want some fruit so I grabbed a small handful of grapes and two sliced strawberries for my plate. It was delish! I felt really full and satisfied.

Lunch-  My stomach wasn't feeling the greatest after breakfast, it literally just hurt for awhile so I wasn't too hungry for lunch. I heated up a small amount of leftover fajita mixture from last night, sliced up one carrot and added some pineapple. I cut up a sweet potato for the kiddos today and baked it in the oven with some coconut oil, they tasted so good! I'm loving this coconut oil for sure.

I did start feeling a little hungry around 3 when I was getting all the kids a snack. I made them a green smoothie with almond milk, since I've never tried almond milk I wanted to see how it tasted. I had maybe 1/4 cup of the smoothie, it was so good and totally hit the spot. Technically I cheated by having a little snack but that's okay, at least it was something really healthy.

Dinner- We decided on taco salads tonight, the kids got to have regular tacos. I added some diced pepper, a little bit of tomato and diced avocado to mine. Oh and some fresh salsa too. I also had an orange but one particular little girl stole part of it.

I'm feeling really good today! I don't really feel deprived at all and I can't believe how easy this really is turning out to be. Yesterday I constantly thought about food, today not as much.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Whole30 Day 1

I mentioned on facebook that I've convinced my hubby to give the Whole30 a try. He agreed to complete one full week, I might possibly aim to complete a full 30 days just to see how I really feel afterwards.

Without going into a lot of detail, the program is a strict Paleo meal plan. We're focusing on eating only meat, seafood, veggies, fruits and healthy fats like avocados and nuts. So that means no grains, legumes, dairy or sugar....not even natural sweeteners like honey. You can read more about the program here.

So why have I decided to do this? I'm not one to typically go on "diets", I really don't think I've ever been on one. Well it's not really a diet but rather a healthier way of eating and I'm really interested in the science behind it. If you think about it, the thoughts behind this make sense. I have a major sweet tooth, I love to bake and heck one of my jobs is as a cake decorator so I'm constantly around baked goods. I've got to break this, there is no reason I need to have a daily sweet treat even it's only a piece of chocolate. I want to break this.

I don't know that this plan is right for our family but I'm excited to see what we can learn from it. We've already been taking some major steps to improving our health. I've started purchasing farm fresh eggs from our local co-op and I don't think we'll ever go back, you can really taste the difference. Last week we signed up to receive a CSA produce box every week from June-October. It will contain mostly veggies, many we've never tried or don't eat regularly. This will force us to incorporate them more into our diets and I can't wait! I'm honestly not sure I could give up any of this forever, but maybe with moderation we can find a healthy balance. I've always thought that's key.

I won't be forcing our children to partake in our experiment this week but I also won't be making two separate meals when it comes to dinner. Tonight for example, I made up a chicken fajita mixture, I let them have theirs on a tortilla and we ate our portions on salad greens. They already love fruit but I'll be trying to get them to eat even more veggies than normal. I'm also trying to think of more healthy snacks for them that don't center on grains. They eat a lot of fresh fruit for snacks so we're doing a pretty good job there.

Each day I'm hoping to blog a little bit about my personal experience with this plan. I'll be posting my three meals for the day and any thoughts I have. Make sure you're following me on facebook as well for more updates.

Breakfast- 1 egg seasoned with black pepper and a small bowl of sliced strawberries, banana, coconut and almonds. I'm not usually one to have this big of a breakfast. I run an in-home daycare so my days can get hectic. After I got everyone off to school, the little ones fed and such I finally was able to make myself something to eat. I was honestly really full after this, it was satisfying and I could see myself eating something like this everyday.

Lunch- I think this was the largest salad I've ever had! While I didn't quite finish it all, it was very good. I combined some salad greens with spinach, topped it with green onion, sliced bell peppers, avocado and chicken. I did add a few dashes of Frank's Red Hot sauce for my chosen dressing. However it wasn't really satisfying me so I did grab a small handful of pistachios and that seemed to do the trick.

Dinner- We made chicken fajitas tonight so I served mine on top of salad greens. I also added some fresh salsa and diced avocado to go along. I knew I would be wanting something sweet so I also enjoyed an organic orange as well. It was delicious! We have dance class on Monday nights so we always need to eat earlier than normal. I'm feeling pretty good so far, I thought maybe I would be tempted to grab a snack when we got home.

Overall I feel really good about my first day. So much of this is a mind game, I keep thinking I'm hungry but I'm really not. I've been drinking lots of water and trying not to think about sweets. We just had our last Easter yesterday with my husband's family so these Easter baskets sitting around here aren't helping. The kids could care less about the candy so I think it's time to hide them.  I'm hoping for a good night's sleep and ready to start again in the morning!

April Freezer Swap

This is what two friends and I did with our Saturday afternoon this weekend! That's about 50 meals setting on that counter. It was our biggest freezer swap yet and so much fun.

This was my third swap I've set up, it's always hard to find a date that works for everyone so we only had three of us this time around. We were all in agreement to make it worth our while and each prepared 5 different dishes. We are lucky enough to have a large church kitchen to rent out, they only require a $25 donation and we have tons of counter space for us to spread out as well as 2 full sized fridges/freezers, 2 sinks and 2 stoves. All in all we spent around 5 hours of actually cooking and preparing the meals plus a good hour or more of cleaning up, not bad timing at all!

We each spent just a little over $100 and came home with 16 dishes to stock our freezers with.10 main dishes and 6 breakfast or side items. Interested in starting your own freezer swap? Check out this post!

Now here's what each of us brought home:

Parmesan Garlic Knots
Fiesta Chili Mac
Blueberry Muffins
Slow Cooker Spare Ribs
Slow Cooker Teriyaki Chicken
Burger Patties w/grated cheese and bbq sauce
Pesto-Chicken Penne Pasta
Slow Cooker Rootbeer Pulled Pork
Twice Baked Potatoes
Cajun Chicken Pasta
Chicken Fajitas
Seasoned Potatoes
Pizza Kits -I stuck homemade pizza dough in a bag along with toppings and cheese for 2 pizzas per family. They each also took a jar of pizza sauce with them. So when it's time to eat all they have to do is thaw out, roll out the dough, top with their toppings and cheese and bake. I really wanted to try these homemade frozen pizzas but for transportation reasons I decided they might not work so well. 

So there you have it, lots of delicious meals to help us out as we get into our busy spring schedules. I love all of our variety too, we sure did good ladies!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

March Reads

For the month of March I really took my time reading the few books I crossed off my list. I thoroughly enjoyed each one and learned a lot from them. I really do love anything that has to do with food, especially when it comes to books. I'm sorry if these might bore you and aren't something you would be interested in reading on your own, but they were certainly very intriguing stories to me!

I've had The Feast Nearby on my to-read list for over a year now. I finally filled out a recommendation for our library to purchase it and I was thrilled when they contacted me a week later saying it was being held for me. When the author's husband of twelve years asks her for a divorce and she's laid off from her job at the Chicago Tribune as a food writer all within a week, she has to make some major decisions and fast. Robin relocates to her cottage in Michigan, allowing herself only $40 a week for groceries, eating as local as possible. Robin takes us along her year-long journey, breaking the book down into seasons. Robin shares many of her recipes, all prepared with local and fresh ingredients. Our family already purchases our milk from a local dairy farm and I've been wanting to look into purchasing locally raised meat as well. We actually signed up for our very first CSA share this week, I can't wait to start getting that box of fresh produce each week! After reading this book, I'm even more inspired to find a way for us to support local farmers. Robin also gives great tips on canning and preserving food, which she has to do out of necessity. I'm pretty good about freezing lots of things but one of these days I'm going to dive right into canning and give it a try!

I'd heard this particular book was life changing and I couldn't agree more! Animal, Vegetable, Miracle : A Year of Food Life is just that, a family's year long journey to grow and produce as much of their own food as possible on their Virginia farm. What they couldn't produce themselves, they purchased from nearby farmers or else they learned to live without it. How intriguing! I'll warn you the book is a little longer than most, but I really took my time reading this and truly thinking about each passage. You'll find a little bit of everything in here; you'll giggle when Kingsolver talks about turkey sex and how she literally "set up" her male and female turkeys in order to reproduce. Kingsolver's daughter also includes her own opinions and stories as well as some wonderful looking recipes and menu plans for each season. What's most interesting about their story is how little they actually were able to feed their family for. When the year was over with, she figured they were able to feed their family on about $1 per person for each meal. That's amazing! Now I know we all can't make that possible. It's a lot of work to be able to grow much of your own food, raise chickens and turkeys, etc. But the whole process makes you really think.

The Paleo diet seems to be getting more popular each and every day. There's also been a lot of buzz around the Whole30 program. What does it mean to eat Paleo you might wonder? Well they believe in eating meat, seafood, vegetables, fruits and healthy fats like nuts. Grains, legumes, dairy and sugar are not included in their typical meal plans. I've also been really interested in this and have talked my husband into trying it out for at least one full week, usually when doing the whole30 you would eat a strict paleo diet for thirty days but I'd like to read the book before I would commit to a full month of it. Our library didn't have the particular book on hand that I was looking for but I did find Everyday Paleo. It's part cookbook but Sarah Fragoso does a wonderful job of outlining what the paleo diet is all about and how to go about implementing it in your household. I'm trying to get a very detailed menu plan lined up for next week when we give this a try and I'll be blogging about our experience. There's still a lot more about this particular diet I'm hoping to learn before I would ever commit my family to eating this way for good, Sarah did a wonderful job helping me understand what it means to eat paleo, some benefits as well as some really good looking recipes!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Hearty Bean and Veggie Stew

We're slowly getting into spring like weather here in Iowa, but it's still a little chilly some days. I'm sure you're ready to move away from the warm soups and chili's, I am too but I couldn't resist sticking in one more recipe while I can.

I served this for lunch one day last week for my small daycare group. I was a little scared they might not eat a single bite but surprisingly they gobbled it right down! It's filled with three different kinds of beans plus carrots, celery and onions but it's really good. It reminds me of a chili but without any meat and it's full of good flavor.

We had enough to save for another day so I threw it in a bowl and stuck that in the freezer. I warmed it on the stove today and we enjoyed it for lunch again. It was just as good as the first time, I only wish I would've made a small pan of cornbread to go along with it. I know our family doesn't eat enough meatless meals, it sure would help trim the grocery budget a little. With something so simple and tasty like this though, I'm sure we can work it in more.

Hearty Bean and Veggie Stew

1/2 med onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
15 oz can diced tomatoes
3 large carrots, chopped
3 celery ribs, chopped
2 c beef broth
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
15 oz can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
15 oz can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
6 oz. can tomato paste
2 tbsp chili powder
Black pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, saute onion and garlic in olive oil until tender. Add in tomatoes, carrots, celery, broth and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 mins. Stir in beans, tomato paste, chili powder and pepper. Cover and simmer for an additional 30 mins, stirring occasionally.
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