Category Archives for "My Kitchen"

2

Sourdough English Muffins from Scratch

It occurred to me the other day that I haven’t done near as much creating since we started living Tiny. I used to be a hard core DIYer and tried my hand at everything I could think of. There’s something very satisfying about making something yourself instead of buying it at the store, especially if it ends up saving you money. But with no workspace to leave my projects out, I’ve pretty much quit creating altogether. With the exception of cooking! I would definitely have to say I’ve improved my cooking and baking skills quite a bit since we started living tiny. My current kitchen is one of the nicest kitchens I’ve ever had!! Custom built to my cooking style by my husband.

Where I got my sourdough starter

While we were in Utah, my gardening friend and co-worker gave me a jar of her sourdough starter! This being my second try to keep a sourdough alive, I was determined! (The last sourdough starter I had was given to me by my brother and it died/spilled in transit between Oregon and Arizona.) I added sourdough feeding to my plant baby care routine. LOL! I figured that since I always remember to check on and care for my plants, this would help me keep a close eye on my starter. 

Learning to bake the things we already buy

I’ve tried a few common things with my sourdough starter (bread, cinnamon rolls, and pancakes) and they’ve all turned out amazing!! So I thought it was time to bake something we actually use and buy regularly – English Muffins!! My husband loves these for breakfast, it’s definitely a go-to breakfast for us. But sometimes, depending on the stores available at our current location, we can’t even find a healthy English Muffin option in the stores! We are very careful to avoid GMO’s and the generic English Muffin brands definitely have GMO and other garbage ingredients. 

Choosing a recipe

After reviewing a few recipes on the internet, I decided to go with the one from Food.com because it allowed an overnight rise and I was ready to mix my dough around 7pm. 12 – 16 hours of rise time would put me to cooking these bad boys about the time I finished my morning routine the next day. So I mixed up my dough and put it in a warm place to rest all night.

The next day I just kneaded a few ingredients like salt and baking soda into my dough and then rolled it out, cut the biscuits out with a drinking glass, and sprinkled them with cornmeal. I have no idea what the cornmeal does, but I know there’s always cornmeal on store bought English Muffins so I went with it! LOL! 

The hardest part

The hardest part was definitely cooking these things. How in the world to get them to cook all the way through to the center! To my surprise, I learned that you do NOT bake English Muffins at all!! They are pan fried bread. So I heated the electric skillet and decided to try a few in my cast iron skillet over the gas stove as well. They cook for 3 – 5 minutes on each side. It took me a lot of testing to figure out what worked without burning their bottoms. The recipe said I should smash them down after flipping them over too but I found that not to work so great. What I concluded was that they cooked best on high heat on the electric skillet, covered with an airtight lid, and I did not smash them down after flipping them over.

Keep them fresh by freezing

One other thing that surprised me is that the recipe said they would only keep on the counter for one day. So I put two full bags of these away in the freezer…and we’ve already been grabbing them for snacks because they really are quite tasty. I’m not sold on the taste yet though; they taste good, but they don’t have that distinct English Muffin taste. I definitely plan on trying a few more recipes before I decide on my go to favorite.

Preparing for the Ultimate Reset Cleanse

Back in December, I did a full body reset cleanse called The Ultimate Reset. My husband and I have done a handful of cleanses over the years and this was by far the gentlest, and least disgusting (LOL), cleanse I have experienced. Jonathan just recently decided to try out The Ultimate Reset as well so I thought I’d share how I prepared for him to do this cleanse.

Meal Planning for The Ultimate Reset

No matter what you are trying to incorporate into your eating habits, I think meal planning is key. The Ultimate Reset comes with a meal plan all laid out for you, shopping lists to go along with each of the 3 phases, and recipes as well. I sat down with the guide book and customized my plan based on foods we already had on hand, meals we already know we like, and recipes that looked interesting to try. I also took mental note of the general concepts so that I could swap food items around a bit if I found good deals at the store.

My favorite tool for meal planning (and ALL other types of planning) is Trello. I literally organize my life with Trello! If you’re a sticky note person, this free tool is for you. You can create checklists, to – do lists, schedule tasks, add attachments, collaborate with other people…all in one place. I seriously recommend checking it out!

Finish up any foods that aren’t on the plan or get them out of the house

The day before I did the reset, I baked an entire batch of Cinnamon Rolls! Maybe not the best decision in the world, but I wanted one more splurge before going on such a strict diet for 3 weeks. What this meant? I got to watch Jonathan indulge on those rolls every single day until they were gone! This time around, Jonathan wasn’t as dramatic. He didn’t ask for any special treats. We just picked a start day for him and then finished up whatever we had around the house that wouldn’t be on the cleanse.

Biggest challenge is going to be snacking; find healthy options

This is not a starvation cleanse. However, as your body adjusts to a new way of eating, you will feel hungry and you will want to snack. The meals are laid out for you pretty well, and they provide snacking suggestions as well, but I still found snack time to be the most challenging. Make sure you have nuts, a little dried fruit, hummas dip with veggies, and other healthy options ready to go! You don’t want to end up hungry and find that the only easy to grab items are not cleanse approved.

Decide you’re going to do it and don’t decide again

Honestly, if you’re going to invest in a cleanse like The Ultimate Reset, you really don’t want to throw that investment away for the sake of a few tasty bites of food. About a year ago I read “Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives” by Gretchen Rubin. The best thing I learned from this book? The hardest part of creating a habit is the decision. Deciding over and over again to do the right thing is EXHAUSTING! So, decide not to decide…..and don’t decide again. Just do it. Do it for you.

Ready to Reset?
2

Asian Spin on Chicken Noodle Soup

Every time we move, our schedules, routines, responsibilities…just our pace of life gets all switched up. It takes us a few weeks to settle in to our new normal. During the transition, it’s harder to get adequate sleep, make healthy food choices, and just stay healthy. We both noticed some symptoms of getting sick a few days ago. Of course, this cold weather that has greeted us up here in the mountains isn’t helping in that regard. So I decided it was time for some Chicken Noodle Soup. BUT, this time I decided to try putting an asian spin on it because I had some bok choy in the fridge that needed using.

A quick search on google brought up Ginger Garlic Noodle Soup with Bok Choy Perfect! We love ginger and as I skimmed this recipe, I knew it would be great. I’ve pretty much decided that if you want to make something taste asian, you need sesame oil or ginger. I used both in this recipe! Since I didn’t have any sesame seeds, as called for, I substituted sesame oil for for the olive oil to achieve the same flavor benefits.

I also added carrots to this recipe and used Bragg Liquid Aminos instead of Soy Sauce. For the broth, I just boiled a chicken with all the veggies and spices like I normally would to make the base of chicken noodle soup.

2

Decisions are hard; decide once and move on

Do you keep your word to yourself?

We’re coming up on the time of all the New Year’s resolutions!! Don’t make commitments to yourself that you can’t follow through with. Don’t break down the trust you have in yourself with an unrealistic New Year’s resolution. Meet yourself where you are, you know yourself! You know what you can follow through with and what you can’t. Keep your word to yourself in the little things and build from there.

I wanted to share a few thoughts with you from week 1 of this 21 day cleanse I am doing. In a way, it gets harder and harder to follow the plan as the cleanse progresses. But here’s the thing, I need this cleanse! My body needs some help and I’m convinced this cleanse will provide that help. So I decided to stick to this program as best I could…and then I decided not to decide again! The decision is the hardest part…make it once and leave it be! Don’t bring it into question again…that’s exhausting!

During week one I cut out coffee, sugar and white flour, avoided red meat (which I already do) and slowly weaned myself off of meat entirely. I avoided processed foods as much as possible too. I also have supplements that I take as part of the cleanse; 2 pills before each meal to optimize digestion, and one powder packet of greens each day. The powdered greens are SO GROSS and definitely a challenge for me.

I didn’t really notice much change the 1st week, just appreciated the process of slowly transitioning my body into an elimination diet so as not to shock my system. I admit it was difficult to continue cooking meals for my husband, then not being able to eat them and having to fix something far less tasty for myself. But honestly, what I miss most is my warm cup of coffee each morning! What do you think would be hardest for you? Tell me in the comments below.

Remedies for a head cold

I missed my workout Sunday because I was 100% down with a cold! I wanted to kill it off ASAP so I dove right into my bag of tricks! I’m telling you what I used in this post, but I’d love to add your cold remedy tricks to my bag, so please share! What do you do when you get down with a cold?

I felt the cold coming on the evening before, and it was coming fast. I drank all the water I could stand and rubbed doTerra’s On Guard oil on my feet before bed. (Basically an Orange Oil blend.)

First thing in the morning I opted for tea (which I basically hate) instead of coffee and added honey. I had 4 cups of honey peppermint tea.

I knew I was going down hard, so I ran to the store quick and grabbed the missing ingredients for Chicken Noodle Soup and got that going on the stove. Lots of extra onions, garlic, and herbs.

Seeing as I can’t sit still and knowing I needed to rest, I picked from my favorite relaxing activities that I enjoy. I decided to bake a pumpkin pie. I know, I know, why am I baking an unhealthy and sugary dessert while I’m trying to fight off a cold!? Well, I guess because sometimes a happy indulgence is just what the body needs. And, my pumpkin pie is extremely low sugar, and the crust is made with coconut oil which has antibiotic properties.

I took my time baking and cooking all day. It was discouraging to me that this was all the more energy I could muster, but I knew that I could kick this cold and get it on retreat by the next day if I did the things I know.

After enjoying a generous amount of soup for dinner, topped off by some pie, I was already feeling my body getting to work. I layed low after dinner and watch a couple movies on the couch, with Kitty curled up in my legs. I think my fever roasted her out because she bailed after a couple hours.

That fever fought my cold most of the night! I couldn’t believe it. Of course I couldn’t sleep very well, but I’d given my body the nutrients it needed to fight and fight it did! I finally got some sleep late morning and woke up feeling great!! Sure, the sniffle and cough hang around for a bit, but my strength and energy were back and I knew I was on top of my game again.

So here are my top 10 things to try when you get a cold.

  • Drink tons of water
  • Drink tea with honey
  • Rub OnGuard or similar essential oil on your feet
  • Do something relaxing that you enjoy
  • Make a batch of Chicken Noodle Soup
  • Use lots of Garlic
  • Snuggle with your kitty
  • Watch movies
  • Get some rest!
  • Last resort: blend grapefruit with garlic and gulp it down!

What is your go to cold remedy? Comment and let me know!

1 Canning Lemon Strawberry Jam, all about the process!

Lemon Strawberry Jam

Growing up, strawberry jam was always my very favorite. Mom made it in little batches, several times each season. Though she never canned her jam, she usually put a jar or two in the freezer from each batch. We ate the rest within a day or two! My mom’s strawberry jam was one of my favorite things she made.

The summer before I got married, I realized I wasn’t going to be able to pull a jar of mom’s strawberry jam from her freezer…it was going to have to be MY strawberry jam! So that summer I picked my own berries, and made my own batch of jam. Of course, I didn’t own a freezer yet, so I went ahead and canned my jam and kept it in my bedroom until time to move into my first home of my own.

Canning Lemon Strawberry Jam, all about the process!

Since then, I have made jam every summer, using several different methods and multiple recipes. I went through a stage where I tried to cut as much sugar as possible out of our diet. This included the strawberry jam. After several batches of trial and error, some hard earned jars of jam getting tossed in the compost, and a whole lot of phone calls to Mom and hubby’s Mom, I have finally settled on my favorite way to make strawberry jam.

Cleaning the Kitchen

Anytime I’m going to do a project in the kitchen, the first step is to clean everything up. My husband and I joke about this often. As soon as one of us finishes doing the dishes we say “okay, it’s all ready for you to make it messy again!” And believe me, making jam is a take over the house kind of project for me.

It’s important to have clean surfaces to work on since you’re going to be canning the jam. Everything needs to be sanitary. You don’t want any bacteria going into the jars with your delicious fruit. I also work better in a clean space.

Gather Supplies/Equipment

Here is a list of the items you need for this canning project.

Canning Lemon Strawberry Jam, all about the process!

Preparing the Berries

 

Cut the stems off your strawberries and toss them in the compost bin for the chickens. (You have chickens, right!?) Then rinse the strawberries well under cold water and place in a colander to drip dry.

There’s no need to slice your berries. I just mash them with a potato masher, just enough to accurately measure 8 cups of smashed berries.

The Ingredients

  • Canning Lemon Strawberry Jam, all about the process!Fresh Strawberries
  • Sugar
  • Butter
  • Lemon Juice

Tips & Tricks

Canning Lemon Strawberry Jam, all about the process!

Why am I putting butter in my Strawberry Jam!? This is something I learned from my mom. The butter keeps the jam from foaming up so much and boiling over!

As I already said above, I really love to cut sugar back as far as I possible in my recipes. Strawberries are already pretty sweet, so I used to think I could really cut the sugar back. I tried and failed two years in a row. The jam still tastes fine, but it doesn’t hold a good texture, it doesn’t keep good color in the jars, and quite frankly, I was afraid to eat it after being stored for just a few months. When you spend precious money on beautiful berries, a few days of your time canning the preserves, and space in your pantry to store it, you really want to be confident that your jam is still going to taste good when you go to use it. I’ve determined that I am only comfortable cutting the sugar back to 5 cups of sugar to 8 cups of berries. That still seems like a lot of sugar to me, but compared to equal parts sugar and berries, that is a huge improvement!

Canning Lemon Strawberry Jam, all about the process!One last tip I have for you is the gel test. Take a metal spoon and throw it in the freezer as you start cooking down your jam. When you are getting close to the end of the projected processing time, grab that spoon from the freezer and scoop up a spoonful of your tasty jam. If it pours off the spoon, it is not set yet. If you get one line of drip, it still isn’t set. Two lines of dripping off the spoon and you’re in the acceptable margin. For the best jam, you want it to actually come off the spoon in a sheet…so a bit like a waterfall perhaps.

So many times I have gotten scared and went ahead and took my jam off the burner before it had set. We ended up with strawberry syrup instead of jam. Now I am very patient. I just keep licking that spoon, putting it back in the freezer, and trying the gel test again every few minutes until it is just perfect. My mom is amazing, she just eyeballs it every time. Her jam always turns out. Perhaps after years of experience, I will be able to do the same. But for now, I will stick with the gel test, enjoying little spoonfuls of delightful jam as I clean the spoon to put it back in the freezer to test again.

 

Preparing the Jars

While waiting for your jam to cook and set, gather your canning jars together and sterilize them. You can run them through a rinse cycle in the dish washer, set them in the rack of your already boiling canner, or simply hand wash them in very hot tap water (but only if your tap water is truly VERY hot like mine).

After sterilizing the jars, I set them out on a towel (to catch the drips) on the counter. Next you want to bring your lids to a boil in a small pan. Get your funnel, ladle, jar lifter, and any other items ready to go. Get a small clean wash cloth damp and ready to wipe the rims of the jars.

The Canning Process

Canning Lemon Strawberry Jam, all about the process!Ladle your hot jam into the sterilized, and hopefully still hot, jars. Be sure to leave 1/4-1/2 inch of headspace. Next take your damp wash cloth and clean off the rim of each jar. I always think I can’t see that I spilled anything on the rims, but every time as I wipe them off, my cloth shows red strawberries that it cleaned off. If the rims have anything on them, it can mess up the seals of the lids.

Once the rims are clean, use your handy dandy magnetic lid lifter to grab your lids from the pan of hot water. Place on each jar and secure with a clean ring. Screw the rings down firmly, but not too tight.

With your jars ready to go, transfer them carefully to the rack in the canner. If you have empty spaces between jars, fill an empty jar with hot water to fill in the gaps. Don’t leave empty spaces in the canner or your jars of jam may fall over during processing.

Canning Lemon Strawberry Jam, all about the process!

Lastly, carefully lower the rack with the jars down into the boiling water. I really take my time with this! When I first started canning, I broke at least one jar per batch of canning. This got old really fast!! I’ve decided it is worth it to just lower VERY slowly, allowing the jars to adjust to the temperature gradually. I would rather take an entire minute to lower my jars, than to constantly risk breaking jars. Since adopting this practice, I can hardly remember breaking a canning jar. Yes, there is already hot jam in your jars, so technically they are hot…but I’ve just broken too many jars and I’m not about to let a jar of delicious strawberry jam spill wastefully into my canner. Better safe than sorry!!!

Final Steps

Once the water reaches a gently rolling boil, process the jars for 15 minutes. When the timer rings, lift the jar rack and rest it on the edges of the canner while you prepare a place to set the jars. I usually throw a towel on the back of the counter or the back of the table, somewhere out of the way as the jars will need to rest there for 24 hours before you should move them.

Canning Lemon Strawberry Jam, all about the process!

Carefully use your jar lifter to grab each jar of jam and transfer it to the cooling area. You’ll notice that some of the jars will have already sealed (that’s what that popping sound is!) while they were sitting in the rack cooling. Some people like to count the pops as each jar seals, I usually don’t even notice anymore.

One the jars have fully cooled, you can check the seals. I like to check two ways. I remove all the rings and then push my finger down on the center of each lid. If the lids pushes down at all, that jar is not sealed and should either be eaten right away or re processed. The second way I check the seals is by picking each jar up by the edge of the lids.

Canning Lemon Strawberry Jam, all about the process!

If everything is sealed, you’re ready to store your jars away! I leave the rings off for storage and I give them a gentle washing before they go into the cupboard as well. If there is any jam leftovers sitting on the outside of the jars, it will mold and just be gross. I’d rather wipe them down now so I can pull beautiful clean jars out of the cupboard.

Favorite Ways to Enjoy

Canning Lemon Strawberry Jam, all about the process!It doesn’t get much better than homemade white bread fresh out of the oven with homemade strawberry jam slathered all over it!! But, if you’re not in the mood for baking bread, there are several other delicious ways to enjoy your jam. Add a spoonful to plain yogurt, use as a pancake topping, or eat with your favorite biscuits. What’s your favorite way to enjoy strawberry jam? Let me know in the comments! And don’t forget to share this post on social media if you enjoyed.

4 Homemade Strawberry Rhubarb Pie from scratch. Unique ingredients for superb flavor!

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie from Scratch

Making your own strawberry rhubarb pie from scratch is easy! Everyone is always talking about how much they love Strawberry Rhubarb Pie and I had never had it before. Okay, I take that back…I did attempt to make it a couple years ago with some really mature rhubarb someone gave me and it was a total fail! As long as you have good rhubarb (that is not overly mature) and fresh strawberries (I’m sure you could use canned or frozen too!), this strawberry rhubarb pie will not disappoint.

Homemade Strawberry Rhubarb Pie from scratch. Unique ingredients for superb flavor!

strawberry season

Homemade Strawberry Rhubarb Pie from scratch. Unique ingredients for superb flavor!

The pie set up perfectly! The filling wasn’t runny in the least.

I started noticing strawberry posts in my Instagram feed which made me realize it was Strawberry season! Everything has been 1-2 months late this year so I had assumed strawberries were late as well. Apparently not! Instead we had a rather poor season for strawberries, with hot sunny weather and then rain, both of which are hard on strawberries. But I managed to get some lovely, super sweet strawberries from my local co-op for a great price!

First priority was to make jam, which I will blog about in another post soon. Strawberry jam is my absolute favorite (okay, maybe blackberry or boysenberry…) and I finished up my last jar just days before the co-op opened the strawberry buy. I wanted to make sure to replenish my supply for the coming year! Store bought jam just doesn’t compare. Like, at all!!!

strawberry rhubarb jam anyone?

Homemade Strawberry Rhubarb Pie from scratch. Unique ingredients for superb flavor!

Mature rhubarb doesn’t work well for pie. I selected the thinnest pieces of rhubarb in my bundle.

I purchased a bundle of rhubarb to go along with my strawberries with the intention of making Strawberry Rhubarb Pie and also Strawberry Rhubarb Jam. Have you ever had or made strawberry rhubarb jam? I’d love to hear if you have! I’m very eager to try it out, but I ended up with 18 jars of regular strawberry jam so decided to make a pie, and throw the rest of the rhubarb in the freezer. Oh yummy! Another Strawberry Rhubarb pie later on this summer?

When I picked up my rhubarb from the co-op, I was a bit devastated to see that the stalks were rather large and looked very mature. Nooo!!! Not this again! The first time I tried to make strawberry rhubarb pie, the stalks were much too mature and would not cook down, no matter how long I left it in the oven. We ended up with burnt pie, crunchy red celery, and one embarrassed housewife!!! I even served it to company!

 

picking the recipe

Homemade Strawberry Rhubarb Pie from scratch. Unique ingredients for superb flavor!

Chop the rhubarb into 1/4″ to 1/2″ chuncks.

Carefully picking through the stalks, I selected only the smallest stalks and decided to give it my best shot. With my back already aching from making my batches of strawberry jam, I sat down for a few minutes to select the perfect pie recipe from my favorite online hangout, Pinterest. I found a few that looked interesting, but most called for way more sugar than I was willing to use. After comparing about 5 different recipes, I decided to go with this recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction.

However, I did NOT pour the liquid off the strawberry/rhubarb/sugar mixture before pouring into my pie pan. My thought was, the sugar pulls the sweetness and juices out of the strawberries…why would I throw that away? Seems to me that’s where the flavor is at! I had put tapioca flour in to thicken things up, so I decided to take my chances. Besides, the liquid would probably help soften my chunks of rhubarb as well.

Homemade Strawberry Rhubarb Pie from scratch. Unique ingredients for superb flavor!

My unique way of making a lattice pie crust! I don’t weave, I just criss cross the pieces.

why did this recipe win?

Homemade Strawberry Rhubarb Pie from scratch. Unique ingredients for superb flavor!

If you don’t like the square look, start criss crossing from one edge instead of starting in the middle like I did.

In my baking, I have learned that it is sometimes the tiny ingredients that make all the difference for mouth watering flavor. Sally’s recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of orange juice. Also, she pairs half brown sugar with half white sugar which I have learned makes a big difference in flavor as well. More rhubarb than strawberries?? Less than a cup of sugar!? Yep, you’ve got my attention. SOLD!

I’m not sure I’ll ever have the courage to try a different recipe, this one turned out so well!

the result? mouth watering pie!

Homemade Strawberry Rhubarb Pie from scratch. Unique ingredients for superb flavor!

It is worth the extra step to paint whisked egg over the crust and then sprinkle with sugar.

Oh my goodness gracious!!! As this pie bubbled away in the oven, I could just smell that it was going to be delicious. Pulling it out of the oven, I was kicking myself because it was 11pm by the time it finished baking and I was going to have to wait until morning to even taste it! At least I had something to look forward to for breakfast.

I did a quick photo shoot the next morning before we sat down to breakfast so I would have pictures to share with you guys. My mouth was watering in anticipation just looking at it, as some of you mentioned on social media as well!

Homemade Strawberry Rhubarb Pie from scratch. Unique ingredients for superb flavor!

As I took my first bite of pie, before my hubby had even sat down to breakfast (sorry! I couldn’t wait any longer!!) he asked, “is that the royal bite?” I nodded. It was perfect! No tough rhubarb, the filling set up nicely, the crust was perfectly flaky (brushing the egg on top was an extra step I’ve never done before but totally worth it!), and the flavor was exquisite! I’m not even kidding! I may have found a new favorite pie. It was amazing…and only survived two short days in our pie loving hands.

Homemade Strawberry Rhubarb Pie from scratch. Unique ingredients for superb flavor!

A perfect breakfast. Mouth watering and delicious!!

4

A Week of Food Prep

Meal planning has always been an issue for me. I usually end up making a plan for the month, posting it on the fridge, and then browsing through the list and picking whichever meal I feel like making or eating at the time. This means I don’t always have the ingredients for what I decided to make, and I still don’t usually get started in time to get dinner on the table before I’m starving hungry. When I’m cooking AND hungry, I usually end up breaking into any baked goods I have around, or some other unhealthy snack to hold me over until the meal is ready.

This week I tried something new. Yay! Trying something new is one of my goals for this year. At the recommendation of a friend, I set out with a pre made meal plan for the week from Eating Clean | Cooking Dirty. She had it all organized with Trello Boards, one of my favorite new tools on the web, into grocery list, step by step prep day, steps to getting the food on the table, etc. So organized! I was impressed.

Grocery shopping with a list of ingredients that I knew I was going to use all of felt good! My usual grocery shopping consists of randomly buying whatever items I’m used to having around. This leaves me in a pickle trying to figure out how to combine these ingredients into meals. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come home from the grocery store, fully stocked the fridge, pantry, and cupboards, and then said “There’s nothing to eat!” Now part of that is just because I need to cook. You can’t eat healthy and have “grab it and eat it now” types of food around. Unless you want to eat fresh fruit and veggies only, which some people do. That’s okay for me sometimes, but not for all my meals.

I’ve never come home with so much produce! This is a good thing as I’ve been trying to eat more veggies. My grocery bill was about the same as usual, but I could tell I had a lot more “real” food that had potential to create full and satisfying meals.

 

The meal plan was designed for a family of four, but assumed that you wouldn’t be eating all of your meals at home. Well, since we work from home, we do eat almost all of our meals at home so I figured maybe the portions would balance out. In the end it worked out fairly well, but we had enough food for two additional days. So next time I think I will pick and choose instead of making the entire plan for four people.

Prep day was exciting, and turned out to be a little overwhelming by the time I finished! I loved the idea of doing all of my cooking in one day. I’m an all or nothing kind of girl. When I do a project, it’s usually the focus for the entire day. Dirtying the majority of the dishes on the same day, and putting all my cooking behind me for the week was great. Goodbye to “what should we have for dinner this time?” and goodbye to more dishes than I can keep up with!

The first steps of food prep consisted of chopping veggies. Lots of veggies! As I chopped away I kept thinking, I wonder what this is for? I’d set that aside in one bowl, and move on to chop the next set of veggies for a different bowl. I filled my entire kitchen table with bowls of chopped veggies, mixed seasonings, etc. It seemed that the idea was to only be at the cutting board with a knife one time and then move on to a new work station. The recipes were all mixed together with clear directions to utilize your time efficiently. I liked that!

meal prep

At one point I had meat balls baking in the oven, mashed potatoes going on the back burner, soup started on the front burner, a breakfast dish in the toaster oven, and a batch of muffins waiting their turn for the oven while I was mixing together a salad on the counter. With my teeny tiny kitchen, this was incredible! Jonathan came over at one point (always there to taste test!!) and said, “this is like Thanksgiving!” It felt like I was cooking Thanksgiving dinner, that’s for sure!

All finished! Only thing missing is fresh meat to be cooked the day of.

Prep day took me 5 hours from start to finish. Now, I am pretty slow in the kitchen…it’s just one of those things I have to accept about myself. It comes from being a little bit OCD; all my veggies have to be chopped perfectly, I can’t handle sticky fingers making my spoon handles grungy, any spills must be dealt with immediately, etc. But honestly, I’m used to spending close to 2 hours each day in the kitchen to prepare meals. That’s 14 hours a week! To have the vast majority of my cooking behind me in just 5 hours was great! And the new recipes were exciting too! We found two new favorite meals this week.

I had a little trouble finding room for everything in the fridge, but I did!

Throughout the week, I REALLY enjoyed the peace of mind of knowing what was for dinner that night and just how easy it was going to be to get it on the table. Lunch was at my fingertips whenever I had a break and needed to eat. Breakfast was fast, easy, and so simple yet super tasty! Dishes were minimal most days, but I was disappointed to still have quite a few dishes on the days that required some extra meal prep. My dream of not doing dishes wasn’t fulfilled yet. 😉

Breakfast for the week

The stress of wondering what we should eat, wanting to eat healthy but being too tired and hungry to cook a full meal from scratch, wondering if we were going to run out of groceries before then end of the week…..all of that stress was gone. This freed my mind up to focus on other things and helped me feel like I was putting my home and role as a wife first this week.

This meal plan follows the Paleo diet so as an additional bonus, I also cut sugar, bread, and most processed foods out of my diet this week! Great win in my book!

2 Making Dill Pickles with Wife in the Country

Dill Pickle Saturday

I’ve had grape jelly on my canning list for a couple of weeks now. But I can make jelly anytime – the juice is already canned, just waiting for the next step. Pickles on the other hand, they pick the day! I’ve been keeping a close eye on the cucumbers in the garden and Friday night they said “Tomorrow’s the day!”. Kind of them to pick a day when I would be home, with time for such projects.

I’m very glad to see pickle season as we ran out of our favorite pickles a few months ago. Last year I tried a new recipe for spiced pickles and unfortunately, we didn’t like them. So about half of our pickles went to that recipe and are still sitting on the shelf. I’m going to have to give them away.

This is the recipe I came up with for today’s pickles:

We shall see how they turn out. I have heard the vinegar to water ratio should be 1:1, and most of the recipes I looked at called for sugar. Sugar in dill pickles? I don’t want anything to do with a sweet pickle and the Ball Blue Book said I could omit the sugar so I did.

You might notice I put the recipe right at the top of my posts. When I am searching for a recipe, I’m usually in the kitchen trying to cook and just want to compare recipes so I can decide what to do. I get so frustrated having to scroll to the bottom of a blog post to get the recipe. Also, I search for most of my recipes on Pintrest. But I always have to open the pin and click over to the website. It is so much easier if the recipe is just on the pin itself. So this is how I will attempt to present the basic recipe of anything I post.

First step was a trip to the garden to pick the first crop of cucumbers. I didn’t get out there early enough in the year to put up trellises for the cucs so they are a bit messy this year and a lot harder to find the little green treasures. These pickling cucs are prickly littler buggers too! We picked a variety of sizes, anything as big as my thumb or bigger.

My dear husband kindly cleaned up the kitchen for me while I got the canning supplies around, and decided on a recipe. With all the jars lined up, and the water bath getting hot on the stove, it was time to begin.

I chopped up all the cucumbers and set them aside in a big bowl. I like to leave the tiny ones whole for snacking, then I make sandwich slices out of the straighter med/big sizes. I make chips with the twisted ones.

img_3895I try to put variety in each jar so I have all the choices available in each jar as I open them and always keep one in the fridge for snacking, sandwiches, etc.

Someone gave me a jar of “medium spicy dill pickles” last year. I love the extra bite from the spice so I did some reading and concluded to add a pinch of red pepper flakes to a few jars to see if that would do the trick. I also increased my garlic from one clove to two. I was running surprisingly low on garlic though so I only put garlic in about 6 jars. Jonathan said he wanted just plain and simple dill pickles, so we have about 8 jars with just brine and dill.

I almost sent Jonathan to the store for more garlic while I was prepping this batch. He reminded me we would be making several more batches of pickles so we probably didn’t need to go to the store for this batch. He was right and I was so glad he reminded me! I get tired of always running to the store for things. I want to learn more and more to just go without, come up with homemade solutions or substitutes. I am getting better about it, but I was thankful this time for Jonathan coming up with the solution. One day we hope to live far enough from town that going to the store for one ingredient won’t be an option. If that’s going to work, I need to incorporate that mentality now. Besides, it saves a lot of money to restrict yourself to weekly or evenly monthly shopping trips. It takes practice, as well as sacrifice at times.


Pictured above we have all the ingredients used in this batch. We ended up with 14 beautiful pints of pickles. Homegrown cucs, garlic, and red pepper. Normally I would have grown the dill as well but mine didn’t come up this year. So I had to buy the dill, salt, and vinegar.

The finished product:

img_3898

Blackberries in July blog post

Blackberries in July

I’d have to say Blackberries are my favorite berry. I’ll admit, this may be partially due to the fact that they are free, in abundance! Blackberry jam, pie, bread, cobbler….all SO yummy! Not to mention purple, my favorite color. 🙂

When my hubby and I went for a walk last week, I was surpised to see the first of the berries were turning in little patches! Blackberry pie season it is!


Since I avoid “working” on the weekends (Yes, it is a challenge for me to stop working on my business!), I asked Jonathan if he’d pick a few berries with me today. I think we were gone from the house for about 20 minutes max. We walked up Jonathan’s nature trail to the bramble patch, with kitty trailing eagerly along. She loves to go out on walks with us! Jonathan kindly clipped the long vines out of our way and we picked away while kitty Macchiato played in the thick of the patch. In no time at all we had a generous 5 cups of berries and headed back down the hill to the house.

Making the pie crust is always the hardest part. I love baking, much more so than cooking. I have found that a good pie crust has to be made from scratch, fresh every time. I have tried freezing dough, prebaking and then freezing…nothing works even halfway as nicely as just going to the trouble to make it from scratch fresh.

I use a lovely crust recipe that my MIL gave me when Jonathan and I were first married. It is full of flaky, melt in your mouth goodness. However, I have had to greatly alter the recipe over the years as our diet choices have changed. The original recipe calls for crisco but I now make it with coconut oil. I have also successfully used butter. My favorite thing about this crust recipe is that you can add a bit extra water and it doesn’t ruin the crust. Other recipes I have used say things like “add water 1 tablespoon at a time”, or “be careful not to add too much water”. This recipe has never failed me. Now I admit, coconut oil is tricky stuff to work with. I have found the ideal tempertaure for it to work well in crust is about 70 degrees or below. Warmer than that, it turns to liquid and doesn’t mix into the dough the same way. You need to be able to mix it with a pastry blender in order for it to work properly. Fractionated coconut oil does not work the same either!

The filling is pretty simple, and I tend to change it a bit with every pie. The recipe I used this time is posted at the top of this post.

Of course the really fun part of baking is having something beautiful when you’re done. I enjoy decorating my top crust in different ways each time I bake a pie. This little LOVE cookie cutter set won this time around. My mom gave it to me as a gift a while back. She loves cookie cutters! And of course I usually have to include a bear!

Blackberry pie