Living Simply

If you haven't started menu planning, I encourage you to try it this year.  It has made my life TONS easier!  My husband likes me to make meals that we know we like -- he is not into much experimentaion and doesn't mind repetition so our menu plan might look a bit boring to your family, but it works great for us!  The daily themes give me some creative room if need be, then I can try something new but still in the same theme.  I can also switch themes from one day to another during the week if I need to because of schedule or supplies on hand.

Breakfasts -- Oatmeal (sometimes I make baked oatmeal)
Lunches -- sandwiches and/or leftovers
Suppers -- Monday (Beef); Tuesday (Beans or Lentils); Wednesday (Chicken or Turkey); Thursday (Eggs); Friday (Pizza); Saturday (Pancakes or Waffles); Sunday (Eggs) 

To download our actual menu click here.

Remember, we don't eat nightshade (tomatoes, peppers, potatoes), so if you do then you have lots of other things you can add to your menu!                                 
Cooking from scratch is easy, quick and inexpensive with a bit of advance planning and the right recipies.  I marvel at all the magazines that boast "5 Easy Weeknight Meals in 30 Minutes or Less."  I look at these recipies and agree that they may take less than 30 minutes to make, but they require expensive pre-made "convenience" foods, are unhealthy, require things I don't keep stocked in my kitchen, or are something my husband will not eat, not to mention my toddler.  

I also desire that my family eats as healthy as possible.  This means I make most things from scratch because then I know what is in it -- avoiding processed foods and preservatives.  I only use whole wheat flour, brown rice and oatmeal (I'm working on incorporating a variety of other whole grains).  I buy whole milk from cows not given hormones, real butter, coconut oil, etc.

The key to cooking from scratch is to plan ahead.  Some things take very little hands on time but require longer cooking times or require soaking (dried beans) before they can be cooked.  I try to do as much of my supper prep as possible in the mornings -- my toddler is happiest then and this reduces a stressed and rushed dinner time.  I also like to make bigger batches and freeze the extras for another meal -- this takes basically the same amount of time and you made two meals at once!

Check out the Recipies section for some great and easy "Real Food" recipies!
This is my favorite banana bread recipe -- nice and moist but not "mushy" like some I've tried.
Alas, I rarely get to make it because we eat SO MANY bananas at our house that we rarely ever have any "past their prime" to use for bread!  I'll have to start buying "old" ones just for bread!

Mix together:
3 mashed bananas
1 egg
3/4 c. sucanat (or brown sugar)
1/4 c. melted coconut oil
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. salt

Mix well. Pour into one loaf pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes.
This recipe easily doubles to make two loaves.  Loaves also freeze well for later use!
Since going nightshade-free I've been looking for new recipies to replace old favorites. 
So, this is our new "spaghetti recipie".

Saute 1/2 c. chopped onion with 1/4 c. butter (you could probably use coconut oil too)
Add: 1 1b beef (or venison) -- stew meat or ground
Salt to taste
Cook on low until meat is cooked (or you can use pre-cooked meat and then skip this step)
Add: 2 Tbsp arrowroot powder (1 Tbsp cornstarch or 2 Tbsp whole wheat flour)
Stir and heat until it begins to thicken
Boil whole wheat pasta according to package directions, drain and toss with olive oil (to prevent it from sticking together)
Stir 3/4 c. sour cream or yogurt into meat mixture, heat until hot.
Add: 1-2 cloves minced garlic right before you serve (to preserve the benefits of raw garlic)

Serve meat mixture over pasta.  It is great sprinkled with parmasean cheese!
These are so good!  We eat them at least once a week!

Put in a large mixing bowl:
4 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp.  baking powder
Mix well and add:
1/4 c. oil (extra virgin olive oil, melted butter or melted coconut oil)
Mix well and add:
1 1/4 c. water
Mix well and continue to mix/knead with hands unil all the flour is mixed in and you have a nice dough.  Let dough rest for at least 15 minutes (cover with a towel if letting sit longer)
Divide dough into "large golf ball sized balls" and roll thin -- the thinner the better.
Cook on a hot skillet on the stove top about 1 minute on each side.

Makes about sixteen 10-12 inch tortillas.

These freeze well for future use!
Check out the Whole Foods for the Holidays progressive dinner -- Breads -- this week at A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa for more great bread recipies!

Rosemary Bread (for the bread machine, sort of)
Add to the bread machine in this order:
1 3/4 c. water
5 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
3 tsp. sucanat (sugar)
2 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. dried rosemary
4 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
4 tsp. vital wheat gluton (optional)
2 tsp. yeast

Use the "dough" setting on your bread machine to mix up the dough (or mix up the dough however you usually mix up bread dough).  Divide dough into two loaves and place in greased loaf pans to rise.  Let rise until doubled in size.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

So easy, so good, a bit special for the holidays!
I'm always looking for great tasting, frugal meatless meal ideas.  Here is one that I use often and we really enjoy!

2 c. prepared black beans (soaked and cooked or use one 15oz can black beans)
Use a potato masher or your food processor to make "bean paste"
Spread bean paste onto tortilas (homemade whole wheat tortillas are great!)
Sprinkle with shredded cheese (we like colby jack)
Place another tortilla on top
Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted
Cut into quarters and serve!
We top with Ranch dressing and spinach (also really good with salsa if your not nighshade free)
The holidays are fast approaching and I'm beginning to see bags of cranberries for sale in the grocery store!  I love making this cranberry relish recipie throughout the holidays -- it always reminds me of wonderful meals of celebration with family and friends.  And it's SO easy, especially if you use a food processor!

1 pound fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
   - put the cranberries in the freezer until frozen, they will be easier to chop.
1 large apple, coarsely chopped
    - I like using Granny Smith apples because of the tart taste and the green peel looks great!
1 large orange, coarsley chopped,  including half the peel
    - Peel the orange and chop it, then chop half the peel (you can use more peel if you want,  
      some people think using the whole peel is too bitter)
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
Mix it all together.  Add 1/2 - 1 cup sugar (sucanat) to taste.
Can be served immediately but tastes even better the second day!
This is one onf my favoirte recipies, especially to take somewhere.  It's easy and delicious!

Chocolate Applesauce Cake
Mix together by hand or using an electric mixer:
1/2 c. coconut oil, melted
1 1/4 c. sucanat (sugar)
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. sour milk, buttermilk, or yogurt
1 1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce
Add in and mix well:
2 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/3 c. cocoa powder (the dark chocolate is my favorite!)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
Pour into 9x13 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes.
Cool and top with Never Fail Chocolate Frosting!

Never Fail Chocolate Frosting
Melt together in a small/medium sauce pan over medium-low heat:
3 Tbsp. milk
3 Tbsp. butter (or coconut oil)
3/4 c. sucanat (sugar)
Bring to a rolling boil for 30 seconds.
Remove from heat and stir in 3/4 c. chocolate chips.
Mix/Beat until creamy.
Spread immediately on cooled cake -- frosting hardens as it cools.
Covers one cake in a 9x13 pan.
Recipe can be doubled for extra thick frosting or for a layer cake.
There are so many kitchen gadgets, bowls, pots and pan, cookers, etc. out there a kitchen can quickly become a cluttered mess filled with rarely used specialty items.  The key to an uncluttered and easy to use kitchen is to determine what you really need and will use often.  I have a small kitchen and feel like I have plenty of space to store these items.

This is what I use often:
Pots, Pans and Baking Dishes
Small Sauce Pan (1 qt.)  with lid
Medium Sauce Pan (2 qt.) with lid
Large Sauce Pan (3 qt.) with lid
Large Stock Pot (I don't use this as often, it usually stores my daughter's toy food and pots and pans)
Muffin Pans (enough to make 24 muffins)
Stove Top Griddle
Bread Pans (2)
Cookie Sheets (2)
Bar Pan (cookie sheet with sides) (1)
15 inch skillet
12 inch skillet
5 inch skillet
9 x 13 cake pans (3) with lids
9 x 9 cake pans (2) with lids
2 qt. baking dishes (2) with lids
1 qt. baking dish (1) with lid
Kichen Appliances
Toaster Oven
Waffle Iron
Food Processor
Bread Machine
Crock Pot
Small Hand-held mixer
Kitchen Gadgets and Misc.
Large Mixing Bowl
Medium Mixing Bowl
Measuring Cups/Spoons
Can Opener
Vegetable Peeler
Wooden Spoons
Rubber Spatula (2 sizes)
Knives -- 2 paring, 2 other, 1 bread knife
Small Metal Spatula
Wire Wisk
Rolling pin
Cutting Boards (1 large, 1 small)

One thing I hope to add soon is a tortilla press.  I know you can make tortillas with a rolling pin, but I often don't because of the time it takes (especially with young children around), so this would be worth it to me.

I stick to stainless steal, stoneware, glass and cast iron for my pots/pans/baking dishes/etc. to avoid unwanted aluminum and other chemicals leaching into our foods.

What is in your kitchen that you use all the time and wouldn't be caught without?