For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!
Thursday, February 28, 2013
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Processed food is easy. After all, most of the cooking is done for you. All you have to do is add liquid or heat or some combination of the two. There's a downside, though - there's not very much control over the ingredients, and they are often high in sugar and salt. Sugar's not bad in small amounts, and salt is an essential nutrient. But we get lots of naturally occurring sugar in fruits and other foods, so we don't really need to add it to everything we eat. Same with salt - it definitely makes food taste better and we need to eat some of it, but we don't need to add it to everything we eat. The recent obesity epidemic coincides with a steep increase in the consumption of processed foods with lots of sugar, salt, and corn, and there's no denying that people are gaining away despite an abundance of so-called health foods.
The most complicated aspect of this is scheduling. I love the idea of having the time to cook meals for the family, everyone making time for three meals a day, and always having the ingredients on hand to make a good meal. The reality has always been that I can make the meal, as long as I can rely on a handful of packaged ingredients. For example, I made fajitas last night, but I had to use taco seasoning since I don't have all the spices in my spice rack to make my own. I have more luck when I use older recipes, because they tend to call for fewer packaged ingredients, but there are some new recipes that have great real food ingredients.
I think I may have found a compromise. On the blog "100 Days of Real Food", the author, Lisa, has a 10 day challenge. Ten days sounds doable. I've made an effort to eat better at certain times in my life, so I know I will feel better when I'm trying to eat healthier food. Swearing off processed food 100 percent might not be possible, so I'll give myself a little wiggle room, but I'll try to make it as small as possible. When exactly this will happen is a little bit harder. I don't want to start something like this without a good plan, so it might be a few weeks - it might even be after Easter. I am going to try and start eating better right away, but we will probably eat through the food we do have for the most part before we make any drastic changes. If any of you have ever taken the real food challenge, though, I'd love to hear how it went! What did you eat? What did you miss most (so I can eat lots of it now - only sort of kidding) and what did you not end up missing? Do you have a favorite real food cookbook?
Monday, February 25, 2013
|It was a little bright outside, but such a gorgeous day! Hard to believe we had over an inch of rain on Saturday...|
Thursday, February 21, 2013
|Erin loved the sticker. She pulled it off and played with it for at least an hour after I got done snapping pictures!|
|Baby phone and baby remote - big girl toys!|
Thursday, February 14, 2013
Have a great weekend, everyone!
In case you missed it, I've decided to spend Lent filling bags. With this in mind, today I'm thankful for the abundance we've been blessed with. Sometimes, when we're thinking about a new car or a new house, or even something smaller like a new pair of jeans, it's hard to remember all of the things we already do have.
Here's the list of places I'll be decluttering (our house is small, so several places show up more than once because I know there's more than one bag's worth in there). If you'd like to join in, let me know! I didn't come up with this idea on my own, so here's the link to the original post with the idea (her blog is super cute!)
As always, this is a linkup, so tell us what you're thankful for! Link your post below or share in the comments!
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
In case you didn't click through to the link above (the rest of this will make more sense if you do!) the challenge is to pick 40 spaces in your home and come up with 40 bags of stuff you don't need. The author gives a few places two days' credit in her list, figuring there's more than one bag of unneeded stuff in there. I'll probably have to give some places three or four bags, but I'm sure we can come up with 40 bags one way or another! I love the idea of going through a space at a time and committing to pass a bag of things on to someone who can use them.
As far as how this relates to Lent (other than it being a 40 day challenge): I think since we have been abundantly blessed, this allows us to bless others as well by giving them things they need. It's not always easy to give things away, especially if they have strong memories attached to them, but there's a finite amount of space at the end of the day. Plus, the focus can be less on things and more on Jesus - which is the whole idea of Lent in the first place. Who's with me?
Stay tuned tomorrow for my list!
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
The key to all of these is a little long term planning: make sure you always have black beans, brown rice, tortillas, cheese, salsa, tortilla chips, tomato sauce, tomato paste, spaghetti, bagged salad, canned breadsticks, canned chicken, canned green chiles, and cream of chicken soup on hand, and you will have these three meals at your fingertips! You might go weeks without needing them (the salad won't last that long) but when you do need them, they'll be there. Try them and let me know what you think!
|If you have a variety of food on hand, there are lots of quick and easy meals you can make - besides mac and cheese!|
1. Tex-Mex Casserole. I posted this recipe (see link for brownie recipe) once before as a great meal to make for a family with a new baby (or babies!) or to freeze for a really busy day:
Tex-Mex Casserole (right) with Frosted Brownies (left). An easy and uplifting meal!
Tex-Mex Casserole (serves four, or two very hungry adults)
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed (or you can cook your own dried beans, you'll need about 2 1/2-3 cups)
4 cups cooked brown rice (you can use microwavable frozen rice, 1 package)
at least 3 tablespoons taco seasoning (add this much and then taste, I use about 5-6)
1 regular-size jar red salsa, whichever brand and spiciness you prefer
1 1/2-2 cups grated cheese. Plain cheddar is fine, or you can buy Mexican-style grated cheese in an 8 oz package and use this (that's what I usually do)
sour cream for topping
tortilla chips (our favorite are Juanita's)
Optional, but recommended:
Directions: Heat oven to 400 degrees. In 9x9 casserole dish, combine rice and taco seasoning. Taste and add additional taco seasoning as desired. Add beans; stir to combine evenly. Rinsing the beans is important because canned beans are very salty, and you want them to taste spicy, not just salty. If you'd like to jazz up the beans a bit further, you can add 1-2 tbsp. onion flakes and 1 tsp. garlic powder before mixing with the rice. You can microwave the beans and spices for 30-60 seconds to help the flavor take hold.
Pour salsa over rice and bean mixture, using a spatula to spread evenly. Top with cheese. Here is your chance to be artistic! You can put the cheese in the middle only, leaving some of the salsa exposed, or you can cover the casserole completely, whichever you'd like. You can cover the casserole dish and refrigerate at this point for several hours until you are ready to bake it, or you can put it in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a heap of tortilla chips. Enjoy! Leftovers, if you happen to have any, can be covered and refrigerated and reheated in the microwave the next day.
Part of the beauty of this recipe is that you can adapt the ingredients to fit what you have on hand and what you like. I made it yesterday with kidney beans and black beans mixed because I had one can of each, and it was just as good. I've used different blends of cheese, different kinds of salsa, made my own taco seasoning, added vegetables (peppers, onions, corn, tomatoes) and experimented with the level of spiciness. The above version would be suitable for a family with young kids; if you'd like it spicier, you can always increase the amount of seasoning. If your family is very sensitive to spicy foods, you can start with less, taste, and add more as desired.
2. White Chicken Enchiladas
We received these as a dinner when Emily and Erin were a few weeks old, and they were amazing. I make them about once a week now. We usually have leftovers, but they reheat really well for lunch the next day. Check out their other recipes while you're there - there is a whole series of great dinners!
3. Spaghetti with Salad and Garlic Breadsticks
This really isn't a "recipe", but it's still one of my fave easy meals. The first thing I do is bake some garlic breadsticks (plain canned breadsticks with some melted butter, garlic powder, and parsley flakes sprinkled on top). I take a medium can of tomato sauce, a small can of tomato paste, 3-4 servings of whole wheat spaghetti (depending on how hungry we are) and add my own spices to the sauce. Play around with combinations of the following:
garlic powder dried basil dried oregano dried thyme dried parsley onion flakes ground black pepper
Mix the tomato sauce and tomato paste in a small saucepan over low heat. Start with a teaspoon of each and increase after tasting if desired. Make sure to cover the saucepan when you're done seasoning, or you and your kitchen will be covered in small red splatters! While your sauce is heating, cook your spaghetti. It only needs to cook about 7 minutes to be done, unless you like mushy spaghetti! Add a bag of salad and some dressing and you have dinner ready in literally less than 20 minutes. It takes a little longer the first time, but once you've made your sauce once, you'll know how much of everything to put in, and it won't take as long. And hey - if you're really in a rush, just use a jar of spaghetti sauce!
In addition to these, I always try to have a frozen pizza on hand, and we've had cereal for dinner a few times too. Sometimes you just need an instant meal! But with a little bit of pantry stocking, you can get dinner on the table after even the craziest of days.
Thursday, February 7, 2013
|It's a lot easier to cook now that I organized our "pantry"!|
Dan and I didn't get to bed very early last night, so waking up early wouldn't have been my first choice, but it was actually nice to be up before he started work. Making breakfast was fun too! I haven't made pancakes for quite a while, and I always forget how easy they are. Emily and Erin aren't quite old enough to try them, but they will be soon! I bet they'll love having homemade pancakes for breakfast. I'm not sure I can pull this getting up early off every day (well, other than Saturdays, when I get up at 4 for work) but I'm certainly thankful that it happened today!
Monday, February 4, 2013
Maybe it doesn't feel exciting. Maybe you're not very good at it (right here!) or you don't enjoy it as much as you feel like you should. Maybe it always seems like there's something you can change or should change. Maybe you're in the midst of a really difficult situation. Either way, day after day, life goes on.
I struggle with discontentment, big-time. I like to think that's because I'm an optimistic person - I try to see the positive side of everything. That translates to seeing the possibility for perfection in everything, however. I find myself constantly repeating something to the effect of "if we just had this/did this/changed this, it would be perfect!" Becoming a mom tempered my discontentment a good bit, because I am frequently too tired to do anything about something that's not to my liking. I settle for "good enough" a lot more than I used to. That's a step in the right direction, I figure. See? "Good enough", right there!
That sense of "good enough" could stand to creep into my definition of life. I find myself constantly looking ahead to the next step, thinking about how we'll barbecue in the backyard this summer, or how we'll celebrate Emily and Erin's first birthday. I find myself ignoring the next day or two in favor of making plans for a few weeks or months from now. Hmmm..."life is what happens while you're busy planning it", anyone?
Over the last few weeks, I've made a point of stopping and really thinking about each day, and trying to consider it from beginning to end. I don't just want life to happen to us, I want us to do the happening. We may be living in a season where life "lives" us a bit more than would be ideal, but it doesn't mean I can't take off my perfection goggles for a moment and start seeing the positive in our life right now.
Friday, February 1, 2013
Beth Anne has an awesome money-saving blog that I plan to check out today - any other great sites for a beginning couponing mama?
|Emily and Erin - 7 1/2 months old already! I can't get over how cute little baby jeans look on them!|