My Diet & Me

I realized this morning that I don’t think I ever officially “came out” on my blog here.

I am now “one of THOSE PEOPLE” on a crazy food diet.

Yep. Hello. That’s me over there in the gluten free section at the health food store, scouring ingredient labels for any type of sugar or sweetener. And while I have not quite cut out dairy (I just don’t know if I can do it, because I just don’t know if it would make a difference that would actually make the sacrifice worth it for me at this point in my story), I have spent the last nine weeks diligently watching what food goes into my body.

No gluten. Which is super duper easy these days because it’s such a stinkin fad that there are gluten free replacement options for pretty much anything you could possibly desire to make or eat.

No sugar. And by “sugar” I mean any type of sweetener that is not inherently in whole fruits and vegetables that I’m consuming.
My one cheat on this is a teaspoon of natural maple syrup in my morning coffee. And even that, I’m thinking I may need to cut.

The rest of my family is not on the food restrictions that I am. This, of course, has pros and cons associated with it. Main pro being that I can still cook whatever I want to for them, and I don’t have to deal with fussy little people missing amazing things like graham crackers, brown sugar on oatmeal, lemonade, or Sabbath ice cream. Main con being that I still have to see and smell and serve some pretty enticing things, and I can’t so much as nibble a tiny taste of them.

The gluten and sugar are the two main contingents that I have been focused on eliminating, but to the best of my ability, I have been aiming for a diet that holds to the anti inflammatory diet. And if you know me, you know I am soooooooo not a diet person. This is NOT MY GIG! 🙂
But my immune system is askew. I have immunological problems lurking beneath the surface that are not responding to treatments. My body is suffering. My heart is breaking. My family is effected. My future dreams are on hold, at the very least.

So while I have yet, nine weeks into this thing, to see or feel or notice any difference whatsoever… on bloodwork, on how I feel, on how I look… I am praying that God would use this small offering to bring blessing, relief, progress, healing, fruitfulness.
Would you pray for God to bless this offering with me?

And while I mostly rely on my own creativity to pull together foods and snacks from what I find in my fridge and pantry, and enjoy browsing Deliciously Ella and Wholefood Simply for additional ideas, if anyone else glances around here with bright ideas, I would love more recipes and ideas. Comment or link away!

Frozen

I think it has been a month now since I have really cooked a truly proper dinner from scratch. I’ve done cop-out type simple dinners like eggs and toast, but mostly I have been using my reserve of freezer meals. And it makes me so sad to use them up. I filled up the freezer last summer & fall during the months that we spent trying to conceive ~ I knew that I would need them either when dealing with morning sickness or in the case of a miscarriage. I knew that, one way or the other, I would not be up for cooking real meals for a while. So I’m using them according to the purpose for which they were made ~ according to one of the two possible purposes anyway.

And it just makes me sad that I’m using them for this reason. That I have to rely on freezer meals because my grief is so encompassing that I can’t cope with cooking, rather than because my body is so busy tending to my little daughter’s nurture and protection that I don’t have the energy to stand for that long.

 

I long for spring. The spring of life that follows winter’s death. I need resurrection.

New Recipes

I am now cultivating a new habit in the kitchen! Due to the alarming rate at which my family consumes yogurt, I am now making our own yogurt! I can make 4 quarts + 1 pint for $3. Nothing wrong with that, especially when it is so easy to do!! I am so thankful that I can do this, in order to bless my family and be wise with what God has given us. I have habitually spent around $1.50 per day on yogurt, and while that meant it came in handy little serving-sized-packages where we had access to as many as six flavors in the fridge at a time, that just really adds up quickly and somehow when I figured out it doesn’t have to be that expensive, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t tried this before! We like to just stir a little spoonful of homemade jam into our fresh yogurt; right now I only have strawberry and peach jams (just didn’t get around to making any other kinds this last summer), but I’ve found that applesauce or honey also make good yogurt flavoring additions.

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The other thing I recently tried (for Steven’s birthday, which happened to fall on Thanksgiving this year) was a layered sweet potato cheesecake. Completely delicious, and worth adding to the books to do again sometime. The only alteration I made (if I remember correctly) was that instead of a completely graham cracker crust, I did half pretzels and half graham crackers. Oh wait, one more addition: I added some cinnamon and nutmeg to the sour cream topping to spice it up. 🙂

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UPDATE on Domestic Endeavors

This is the first of multiple upcoming updates for you all, so stay tuned over the next few days. I’m planning on having them rise in excitement each day… we’ll see if I can manage to pull that off.

COOKING and BAKING:
This is an area where I have enjoyed thriving lately (although, ironically, I haven’t actually planned tonight’s dinner yet, haha). For a few months this spring, it certainly wasn’t an area in which I could thrive (thankfully my stash of freezer meals and my very loving, kitchen-savvy hubby thrived in my stead), but in recent weeks I have loved getting back in the kitchen. I have replenished my freezer with Chicken Divan, Stroganoff, Meatballs, Muffins, Whole Grain Bread, Cookies, Grilled Pizza Crusts, Taco Meat, and more.
This morning I was able to host my weekly ladies’ group, and made some Brown Sugar Muffins for it. They turned out well enough to share the recipe, which was my combining of a couple.
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a mixing bowl, cream shortening and brown sugar; mix in egg, milk and vanilla. Add flour, soda, and salt, mixing until combined. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups 2/3 full. Mix together 4 Tblsp. butter (room temperature), 1 cup brown sugar, and 1-2 Tblsp. cinnamon in a small dish; sprinkle generously over tops of the muffins. Bake for 16-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack. (I got 14 muffins out of this recipe.)

I’m trying to think of recent meals we’ve had or are soon to have (in case you’re ever in a cooking funk and want someone else’s ideas). Here are just a few:
Broiled salmon topped with balsamic vinegar & peach jam, then sprinkled with finely chopped pecans & panko breadcrumbs; served with rice and green beans
Baked salmon topped with crushed garlic, lemon slices, lemon pepper, dill, olive oil, and soy sauce; served with roasted carrots & beets
Fried chicken, buttermilk biscuits, roasted potatoes, and green salad
Taco salad
Grilled chicken caesar salad
Asian chicken salad
Chicken piccata; served with roasted asparagus and quinoa
Stromboli; served with fruit salad
Grilled pizza
Meatball subs
Pasta casserole (farfalle and chicken tossed in marinara; topped with mozzarella, topped with pesto); served with baguette and green salad
Steamed tilapia topped with lemon pepper; served with steamed broccoli and quinoa
Chicken and apple sausages; served with sauerkraut, fruit salad, and a veggie plate
Baked potatoes topped with chicken, broccoli, and a cheddar cheese béchamel sauce
Shrimp & veggie kabobs; served with pasta salad

KEEPING HOUSE and DECORATING:
I have to say that I have been doing a good job of keeping house lately (thanks, Lord!), and I am thankful. My little boy loves to help me clean, which makes it easy to incorporate into time I spend with him. He loves to vacuum with me, he loves to mop my kitchen floor (although his arm strength doesn’t make a big dent, so I do it myself after he’s done), and he really thinks there’s nothing better than washing windows & cleaning bathrooms. Who knew?!  I don’t do a big house-cleaning on a certain day of the week; I do it as things need it. I’d say we vacuum roughly every other day; sometimes more often when we go in and out a lot, which tracks in dirt from outside. I think we do a good solid cleaning of bathrooms once a week, and a second quicker “wipe down” also once a week (and just prior to whenever we’re expecting company: there’s not much worse than being a guest in a stinky, grimy bathroom). Mopping and windows and dusting? I do those on a less frequent, as-needed basis. Washing curtains and light fixtures and the like? Even less frequently, but still on an as-I-deem-it-necessary basis.
I will openly, even gladly, admit that I have not been going out of my way lately to update any decorating. We’ve added a large framed picture of the three of us (thanks to the photo shoot my brother did last month for us), but that’s about it since redecorating Gabriel’s room a few months ago. My decorating schemes & designs are, however, being recorded in a little notebook for room-by-room inspiration for our new house. So I have been clipping things from magazines and catalogues I run across, writing down websites with nifty ideas, and figuring out ways to describe with pen & paper what in the world I’m envisioning for each room in my head. Some of it will involve sewing, crafting, and repurposing; some of it will involve utilizing my father’s woodworking skills; some of it will involve thrifting and garage saleing and searching on Craig’s List for things I really really want.  But while I am not putting energy, time, or money into our current home’s decorations, I am able to hone some of that domestic creativity and start working on the planning and preliminaries for our new home. And that’s a blessing, because it certainly won’t happen overnight.

LAUNDRY and IRONING and MENDING:
I tend to do laundry on Tuesdays and ironing on Wednesdays. Not always, but it’s my general rule of thumb. If only so it reminds me to get it done, as we’re not the type who wait until we’ve run out of underwear or until the hampers are overflowing into our rooms. But we’re also a small enough clan at this point that I am able to easily accomplish the whole week’s laundry in one day (as long as I am home for the majority of the day). I’m so thankful for my servants (i.e. my washing machine and dryer), even though they are admittedly a bit rough, old, and rickety! These servants do make my jobs so much easier. And I love ironing. Is that odd? I like to chat with my mom on the phone or stream something on Netflix (usually something from the BBC) while I do it, and I generally don’t have that much ironing to do each week, so one naptime is enough to get it done. Plus my iron is just splendid and makes ironing a breeze. Having decent domestic tools really is a plus, an aid, a blessing. Mending… well, mending I definitely try to do on an as-needed basis. But, um, I’ll be brutally honest here and tell you that I’ve had a pair of my hubby’s cargo pants folded up downstairs waiting for a button for quite a few months… I think I even have the button somewhere. Typing this out reminds me that I need to get that fixed. Today. Procrastination has no place in my realm of domesticity. I will say that the last time I noticed a hole in one of Steven’s shirts, I patched it within three minutes of locating the hole! But that is not the norm. I need some work there.

CRAFTING and RE-PURPOSING:
This is an area where I have sadly been inactive. I would love to get crafting again, but it seems to be more of a winter pursuit for me, I guess. I would like to think that I could stay on top of sewing, crafting, gift-making, and re-purposing of all sorts all year round. I need to work on this, get inspired, think of projects, and jump in. I have stayed on top of our family photo albums (I try to update them 3-4 times a year to keep them current, and to keep it a manageable project). My stash of homemade baby gifts is dwindling, and will soon need replenished. I have some ideas in my head of what to do next, so within a couple months I may be busily crafting once again! I will not be doing “a homemade Christmas” this year, so that takes a little pressure off the crafting and sewing world and puts it more heavily in my next category!

FRUGALITY and SHOPPING:
I have been thankful this year for my love of penny-pinching. I am far from perfect with it—I do occasionally do impulse buys or end up deciding that I really do need that latte (which makes me thankful for gift cards we’ve been blessed with!) or the larger pack of lightbulbs—but for the most part, I stick with my lists, I use what we’ve got, and we make do with what we can or we simply do without. I am already thinking about Christmas gifts, mostly because I know I need to be as frugal as I can with them this year especially (and because we’ll be busy with some other things during Christmas shopping season, so I need to be done before most people get started), so I want to keep my eyes peeled for good deals, clearance sections, coupons, and overstocks (in stores and online). A new place I am currently learning to balance frugality (and prayerfully seek wisdom) is in the realm of shopping for things for our new home. There are wide ranges of quality (and therefore price) for everything: windows, doors, siding, cement, appliances, paint, light fixtures, drawer pulls, countertops, toilets… everything. We are praying for wisdom with where to cut corners, where to invest a bit more, and how to get the best bang for our buck in every area of our home. It’s a huge responsibility, a bit of stress, and a good challenge that Steven and I are working on meeting straight in the eye.

 

READING and WRITING and MUSIC:

I continue with my weekday typist job for Olive Tree Bible Software, and although I feel like it does eat up hours that I would love to use elsewhere, it’s only for a season, and I am thankful for the opportunity to serve my family, serve this company and its customers, and it also has the added perk of giving me some great resources to read while I am typing! I am also continuing to be actively moderating & fellowshipping at Hannah’s Prayer and actively writing for Grieve Out Loud. These endeavors also occupy a lot of time, but it is a blessing for me to have this opportunity to reach out, bless others, bear burdens together, pray for ministries and individuals, and use my childrens’ lives and legacies to impact the Church and her people.

While I have not done as much reading this year as I have in some others, I am reading through Scripture (currently, Jeremiah and Revelation), Streams In The Desert, Prayers Of An Excellent Wife, and Brave New Family. I have a few other books I’m itching to read, but am determined not to bite off more than I can chew (or more than I can read!) at this point.

With music, alas, it has been on a back burner. It would be wonderful to have half an hour every day to play harp and piano, to sing, to compose. But this isn’t a season of life where it is very practical. I accompany at church (and occasionally sing there), and very rarely will play here at home for my own pleasure or because Gabriel will ask me to. But yes, it is rare. I would like to change that someday, probably in some other season of life. Perhaps once I am teaching (family members) again, I will have more of an excuse to play more myself.

 

So that’s a little bit of an update in my domestic realm (although there’s certainly more areas I could have added)… and just for fun, I’m saving the domestic realm of GARDENING for tomorrow’s update…

What’s for dinner?

I love hearing what’s on the menu for different families ~ so what’s for dinner in your home tonight? 🙂

Tonight, my family will be having Reuben Sandwiches and a big green salad on the side (with lots of vinegar dressing). Yum.
I’ve never made Reubens before, but I love sauerkraut, I love corned beef, and I love fresh bread. And I’m pretty good at making all of the components, so surely the combination will be mouth-watering. 🙂

So this is the bread that’s baking in the oven right now, I have leftover sauerkraut from a cookout on Sunday (two jars of kraut [one drained, one not] with some brown sugar, a chopped onion, and 2 peeled & chopped apples ~ all simmered in the crockpot for hours!), and my corned beef is tenderizing in the crockpot with some spices today. When I get home from my ladies’ group, I will mix up some quick Russian Dressing, and we’ll be good to go.

Enjoy serving your family tonight: no matter what you serve up on the plates, enjoy serving your family.

Pita Pizza

I made Greek chicken pitas for dinner last week and wanted to make the pitas from scratch this time. I was hoping they would puff up and be pocket-pita types… but only one turned out that way. Not quite sure why. But they really were great for being the fold-over-pita type. And I made too many. So I wanted to figure out something fun to do with the leftovers.

Thus, last night we had pita pizza for dinner! It was an amazingly quick and simple meal. I happened to have shredded mozzarella, a little turkey pepperoni, and a gallon bag of garden basil leaves in the freezer. I also had a couple slices of salami and a huge bowl of garden fresh tomatoes in the fridge. Add a little parmesan, a couple garlic cloves, some olive oil, salt & pepper ~ I had everything I needed to throw together a quick and amazing dinner.

This was an excellent meal for letting Gabriel really truly help, too! It was so much fun! I love letting him enter my world and do what I do. And so does he!

Brushing his own pita with olive oil

Spreading on some fresh tomato-parmesan-garlic sauce, after he mixed it for me

Toppings are so much fun, and he was so proud of himself

My finished product

Gabriel’s finished product… while he constantly snitched cheese

After they had been transferred to the pizza stone in the 400 degree oven for just a few minutes, dinner was ready! While they heated up, Gabriel set the table, I made garden salads, and Daddy poured some wine leftover from the Sabbath.

Now I am planning on making pitas again and keeping a stack of them in the freezer (along with some cheese and turkey pepperoni) to have on hand for days when a quick dinner would be a blessing.

Keep those meals from scratch, and get those sweet little hands busy in the kitchen!

Freezer Meals

When you hear the term “freezer meal,” just what do you think of? Pretty quickly I see images of lasagna, enchiladas, and chicken-broccoli-casserole popping into my head. But really, I have been discovering that “freezer meals” can be just about anything! Over the last year, I have made it a point to keep some frozen things on hand that I can just defrost and heat through, especially on days when medical treatments have laid me low, when I am in the midst of burying another baby, when I am too emotionally overwhelmed to even think straight about cooking, or perhaps when time has simply gotten away from me and I know I won’t have time to spend cooking a good dinner for my family. Another aspect of freezer meals that I love, is that I always have something handy to give away, should a friend of mine suddenly be in need of a home-cooked meal. And thanks to the gift of a stand-up freezer my parents gave me for my 26th birthday, I have even more space for such things.

So anyway… yesterday was a day that I dedicated to stocking my freezer up again with freezer meals. I realize that I still did have some meals in there (turkey chili; coconut chicken and rice; ravioli; cranberry-catalina chicken; etc), but now I have over a dozen meals ready and waiting for my need of them. I am about to give a couple away already to help stock some friends’ freezers too. I’m thankful to be able to help serve others in this way.

Yesterday I made multiple batches of four main dishes: Tonno e Limono Pasta; Pulled Pork Enchiladas; Chicken Curry with Rice; Beef Burgundy (except I actually used our favorite cab-sav instead of burgundy).

All four dishes really turned out well (I taste-tested them all, of course), and I expect them all to freeze & heat well too. I used the crock pot to cook the pulled pork while I made the pasta dish and the curry dish, and prepped the beef dish. Then while I assembled the enchiladas (and put other finished dishes into ziplocs and other containers; and washed up all the dishes; and, well you know, other things…), the beef did its three hours of simmering in the crock pot. This particular combination of meals that I chose worked really well with overlapping use of dishes and appliances. It made it relatively easy to make a dozen meals in just a few hours, even with a two-year-old helping me out. 🙂

What are some dishes that you have frozen? Have you found things that do not freeze well? Do you ever spend a day making a dozen meals simply to stock your freezer? Or someone else’s freezer?

Dressing Up Leftovers

I love leftovers. For dinner, for lunch, for some of each–it’s like having my own instant food, but healthy & from scratch. Sometimes, though, it is nice to have a twist on the previous meal. Like making stew out of leftover chicken & sauce from a crock pot meal; chopping up leftover meat, adding rice and cheese, and wrapping it in a pita or tortilla; making a creative pizza; or tossing a bunch of leftovers in lettuce and calling it Salad Extraordinaire.

What are some of your favorite ways to put a new twist on typical leftovers???

One I just tried… I really love! So I decided I had to share the inspiration with you.

I made Philly Cheesesteaks a couple nights ago, and then last night I made crepes with a chicken-herb-mozzarella filling.

My lunch today?
A crepe filled with Philly Cheesesteak filling. It’s a new hit. 😀

Grilled Pizza

My husband and I have enjoyed many styles of pizza from many places, including Italy and Chicago with their famous deliciousness. 🙂 But I realized recently that I had never made grilled pizza for him! Gasp. So I fixed that.

Grilling the pizzas was so fun! Love it. (and it brought back memories of doing this with Family Fellowship – anyone remember that?) 🙂

We topped them with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil from my garden, garlic oil, kalamata olives, turkey pepperoni, and feta. That is how you spell delicious.

Saturday May 8, 2010

So tonight’s dinner is cozy: I’ve got my big ol’ crockpot simmering away full of ground turkey, onions, beans, corn, tomatoes, and lots of spices — it’s going to be cozy & comforting chili. Yum.

But last night I did a fancy dinner.
Homemade French onion soup (a first for me & so worth it) and French chicken roulade — with a side of green beans leftover from last summer’s garden.
So delicious!! I got to use thyme and chives from my herb planters too, which made it really feel like spring.