Monday, January 31, 2011

Our Cute Kid

So, Joshua will be three months old this Thursday! I cannot even believe it. And, with the fact that I have barely had time to post menu plans, I only just realized the other day that I have not even posted any pictures here. So, just a few pictures from the last three months...

This picture is while we were still in the hospital. Though we started out laboring at home, we ended up having to transport to the hospital and having a C-Section, so we were in the hospital for a total of three days. He never stayed swaddled like this for very long, Joshua has very strong arms that thwarted even expert swaddlers, haha. He was born weighing 9 lbs and 3 oz, at 22 inches long.

The adoring Dad :)

Our first day back at home. He seemed so big to me then, and now, he looks so tiny in this picture.

He was smiling from day 1, which was completely unbelievable. These two pictures are actually from between 3-4 weeks old. My little man definitely smiles with his whole face.

This picture was taken at 11 weeks old. Love love LOVE his blue eyes!

So that's my baby boy...Our lives have changed so much with this little addition. There are times when he just looks up at me and smiles and it is so amazing it brings tears to my eyes. I know we still have a lot to learn, but we are so excited about the journey ahead of us :)

Menu Plan for Jan 31-Feb 6

Last week was a little crazy, but good. A few meals left us with more leftovers than we expected, so we did leftovers in place of a few other meals (which was good, because there were a few days when I totally forgot my prep work until it was too late!). It just goes to show that there is a reason I do menu planning (because organization is NOT my strong suit)!

I already had a meal plan worked out for this week, and we are already making changes. Still, it was very good to at least have a blueprint for this week, it made figuring out what needed to change a simpler process.

Monday - Whole Wheat pasta with homemade tomato sauce, garlic bread (whole wheat)

Tuesday - Dinner out

Wednesday - Taco Night

Thursday - Pork Chops, Sweet Potato Fries, Veggies sauteed in butter (mmmmmm)

Friday - Fried Chicken, Fried Okra, Soaked Rice Going all out southern here...but we only fry in healthy oils (read: NOT vegetable oils or other polyunsaturated oils. We prefer lard but if we cannot get a good saturated frying oil, we will go for monounsaturated oils), and we use whole wheat flour to dredge the chicken and the okra

Saturday - We will be driving all day so it means dinner on the road. (This is actually very exciting...we will get to see the property where we can raise some fantastic pastured meats...So next year both our grocery budget and our diet will see even more improvement!)

Sunday - Baked Fish Nicosia (I was not thinking of the Superbowl when I originally planned this, so it may be subject to change. It is only a 30 minute meal, either way, so it may not).

This post is linked to Menu Plan Monday - visit I'm an Organizing Junkie for more great menus!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - Week of Jan 24

We had a great week last week; trying out some new recipes, including the opportunity to add more Chinese food to our repertoire (my allergy to MSG means we cannot eat Chinese out, so we have to make any Chinese food we eat here with very carefully selected ingredients).

The homemade egg roll wrappers turned out really well, although next time I may use my crepe-making skillet, just to keep things easier. The egg rolls tasted great and the wrappers were strong enough to hold the contents well. The halibut with remoulade sauce was really good, too! I am excited about starting to build a good index of fish recipes that I like.

We skipped good ol' spaghetti night to have dinner with some friends. We had a blast, and ate some delicious food!

This week's menu looks pretty fun, and I am quite excited about it!

Monday - Steak kabobs and soaked brown rice. Of course we are using Tamari instead of "regular" soy sauce; and - while it's not perfect - we are using the new Sierra Mist Natural for our "lemon-lime carbonated beverage" in the marinade.

Sunday night - marinate beef. Monday AM - Soak Rice

Tuesday - Roast Chicken (With Onions, Carrots, Celery, and Potatoes).  This will be one of our first Chickens in a while that is from our back yard. We went through those other birds pretty quickly, and now we have a few more this time around (We will be ordering the new batch of chicks, shortly).

Wednesday - Roast Pork, Sweet Potatoes, Steamed Veggies.  This is some of that great pastured pork we got at Whole Foods. I love Sweet Potatoes better with pork than with any other meat, I think.

Thursday - White Chili - This will be with leftover chicken from Tuesday's Roast.

Thursday AM - start soaking black beans for Friday's dinner

Friday - Tilapia with Quinoa and Black beans

Friday AM - Soak Quinoa / Late Morning - begin to prepare beans.

Saturday - Breakfast for Dinner (Eggs, Bacon, and Stone-ground grits)

Saturday Afternoon - Soak dough for french bread.

Sunday - Bean Soup, Soaked French Bread (Whole Wheat), Salad

This is part of Menu Plan Monday - Visit I'm an Organizing Junkie for more great menus :)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Day Late (But No Fewer Dollars to Show For It)

We did do our menu plan yesterday, but I did not get around to blogging it.  Oops!  As for last week, the fish tacos were definitely a hit! I am neither a fish fan nor a cabbage fan, most of the time. I have to be in just the right mood and it has to be just the right recipe. Jeff and I both thoroughly enjoyed them, so I'd say this recipe was a hit. We had a great deal of cabbage left over, so this week we are going to have homemade egg rolls and pork fried rice on the menu.

The french onion soup was even easier than I expected it to be, and it turned out quite well. I was going to just shred some mozzarella onto the bread instead of Gruyere, (because Gruyere is stinking expensive!!!), but we took a field trip down to the Atlanta area to visit Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, and I found TJs Gruyere for much cheaper. It was delicious, too! We also found some raw milk cheddar, which is great because I cannot find inexpensive raw milk cheeses around here. We can get some cheese from the same dairy we go to for milk, but we cannot always afford it (but we do prefer to give him the business when we can). The trip was very profitable in other ways, too. We found some good beef shank from a local farmer. Not only are his cattle grass fed and finished, but he does the butchering on his own, and is certified as a "humane kill" facility (which apparently means that the flavor of the meat is preserved because hormones that are released when an animal is frightened are not released in this process). We were also able to find some good pastured pork, as well.

Last week, we did not end up eating burgers with the french onion soup (we ate the stew beef left over from our stock-making process, instead), and we did not do the pulled pork (because of our long day trip to WF and TJs). So those make a reappearance this week.

Monday - Jeff's burgers with buns (Whole wheat, of course), & broccoli
Tuesday - Pulled Pork with Sweet Potatoes and Steamed Spinach
Wednesday - Halibut with Remoulade Sauce
Thursday - Egg Rolls with Pork Fried Rice & Veggies (homemade whole wheat egg roll wrappers)
Friday - Spaghetti, Whole Wheat (soaked) Garlic Bread, Steamed Veggies
Saturday - Beef Stroganoff and Steamed Broccoli
Sunday - Leftovers

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Menu Plan for Jan 10-16 (And review of new recipes from last week).

As usual, some of last week's meals got switched around from day to day, but overall we stuck to the plan and I think our week was simpler for it. I tried a few new recipes last week, so I wanted to review those here.

Quinoa Veggie Stirfry - We are not vegetarians, so we added some chicken to this for extra protein (even though quinoa is a complete protein by itself.). We also improvised on the veggies some (to use what we had on hand), and used Tamari (naturally fermented soy sauce) instead of the Bragg's Liquid Aminos; since the Tamari is fermented soy and truly is MSG-Free, and the Bragg's is just no-MSG-added. If you are going to eat soy, it should definitely be naturally fermented, because otherwise it really does not digest well, and the good things in it are not as easily absorbed (bio-availability). However, we kept the spices exactly the same. The flavor was great, the meal was very filling, and it was not that difficult. Soaking the Quinoa in water for a fifteen minutes ahead of time both helps it cook up more quickly and makes it easier to rinse. You must rinse the quinoa, because its outer shell is covered with a waxy substance (saponin) that leads to a very bitter taste (and is not good for you).  (Because quinoa is technically a nut and not a grain, it does not contain as much phytic acids as grains, but if you are soaking for those reasons it only needs to be soaked for 2-4 hours).  Since we were only feeding two with this recipe, we had enough left over for lunches for a few days.  Jeff definitely asked that we keep this recipe in the rotation, so I consider it a smashing success (He also decided we should sprout some of what I have on hand, and plant it in a month or so).

Easy Quinoa Veggie Burgers - Again, because we are not vegan, instead of using an egg substitute I used an egg. Also, once again, I used Tamari instead of Bragg's. Otherwise, I followed the recipe exactly. The patties tasted great, and they went well with the pumpkin soup we had them with. The recipe says you can fix them up like a regular burger, and I can see how that might work; however (especially with the chickpeas) they really tasted more like falafel, and since we were eating them without the buns, we just dipped them in the pumpkin soup. Again, Jeff said I could make this again. Two successful new recipes in one week!  (If you do not have a food processor, though, you may want to hold off on this one - unless you have an amazing blender - I felt like I nearly killed my blender trying to process the mixture.)

On to this week. A little less budget-limited and a little more determined to -- not only keep our grains whole, as we usually do -- use only soaked grains as often as possible, I think our plan for this week is pretty awesome. We only have one meal where the grains are not soaked, and that is on Monday, because I do not make my own tortillas yet and I am trying to limit my new experiments until we have more of a routine down. To help me out with my planning, I am going back to blogging the preparatory steps I need to remember (they day or days before the meal).

Monday - Fish Tacos. No previous day prep required on this one. Instead of beer batter-ing the cod, we are going with sauteed, instead. And I'm going to use most of the spices in the skillet with the cod, and keep the dip a little more bland. We got red cabbage as well, because when I had them I remember both being used, and I thought it would keep things a little more colorful and appealing.

Prep for Tuesday: Monday AM soak biscuit dough for Tuesday AM. Move Chicken stock to Fridge to thaw. Move Chicken to fridge to thaw.

Tuesday - Crockpot Chicken Pot Pie

Prep for Wednesday: Tuesday AM move venison sausage to fridge to thaw.

Wednesday - Cozy Quinoa Casserole.  We use venison sausage instead of the ground turkey (ground turkey often has "natural flavors," which are anything but natural and can mean MSG). Also we use sweet potato instead of the Acorn Squash. Acorn Squash is impossible to cut when raw, and Sweet potato tastes almost identical as far as I am concerned (yup, I am choosing sweet potatoes out of sheer laziness. And because we still have plenty stored from our garden).

Prep for Thursday - Wednesday PM Soak Pizza Crust

Thursday - Pizza (With soaked whole wheat crust) - Spinach and Mushroom :)

Prep for Friday - Thurs PM start pork backbone in the crockpot

Friday - Pulled Pork, Sweet Potatoes, & Steamed Spinach

Prep for Saturday - Friday AM start making beef stock, and soak dough for french bread.

Saturday - Jeff's "Famous" Burgers & French Onion Soup

Sunday - Leftovers

Breakfasts throughout the week will be eggs fried in raw butter (grass-finished), and soaked oatmeal or breakfast quinoa. Snacks will be celery & peanut butter, hard boiled eggs, and/or carrot sticks with the amazing truly-MSG-Free ranch dressing I found.

This post is part of Menu Plan Monday. Visit I'm an Organizing Junkie for more great menus.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

To Exercise, or Not to Exercise, That is a good question...

Kelly the Kitchen Kop is hosting a Weight Loss & Wellness Challenge over at her blog. Since I'm nursing (and therefore advised on all fronts not to focus on weight loss), we are focusing more on the wellness end, but exercise definitely still fits into that picture. And even though I am not focusing on weight loss via diet, I do know that getting up and moving around will help the process of fitting in my pre-prego clothes along. Another great reason I have to focus on making sure I get more exercise in, is that it really helps me in dealing with ADD...more focus is never a bad thing!

At her Exercise & Weight Loss Questions post, Kelly is also giving away a gallon of Olive Oil from Chaffin Family Orchards! Also, there is a list of questions you can choose to comment with, so I thought I would answer them here at my blog, too. :)

  • Does exercise help you lose weight, or is it more about what you’re eating?
    • I have always found that I needed to focus both on what I am eating and exercise together to achieve any weight loss results. It can be tricky, though, when weight loss is your goal; because increased activity means you are burning more calories, and your body automatically tells you to eat more. I found the easiest way to bypass that is to have plenty of high protein snacks around. Hard boiled eggs, cheese sticks (or just cheese), homemade (for lack of preservatives & MSG) jerky.
  • What is your favorite way to exercise?
    • While I had an office gymnasium at my disposal for free, I became addicted to the elliptical machine. I also grew quite fond of the treadmill while I was using a treadmill desk at work. Now I am staying at home and taking care of my adorable, wonderful, amazing son, though; so I am opting for taking walks in the sunshine with my handsome little man, and doing stretching and toning exercises a few times a week.
  • What is your favorite excuse NOT to exercise and how do you push past it?
    • It was waking up early to squeeze in a workout before my work day, and for that I had friends meet me at the gym for extra get-out-of-bed incentive. Now, though, it tends to be finding the time. My best way to push past it, though, is remembering how I feel when I do not take the time.
  • What is your best way to motivate yourself to DO IT?
    • Again - knowing how I feel when I am not exercising. I had to spent several weeks post C-Section trying not to do very much, and if there is anything I have discovered it is that laying low breeds lethargy and sluggishness. I also remember how amazing I felt post-workout, before even drinking my coffee.
  • What do you listen to while your exercise?  (If anything.)
    • If I am doing a faster-paced work out (like being on the elliptical) I tend to listen to Skillet, faster Switchfoot songs, and even some of the faster-tempo Nichole Nordeman (I have pretty eclectic taste). Anything with a good rhythm that will help me to keep moving.
  • What are your 2011 exercise goals?  (As I said in a previous post, it’s good to get these into writing!)
    • I want to take daily walks with Joshua (getting a little more sun with my son, too...great for that Vitamin D synthesis), and spend time doing stretching and toning exercises 2-3 times a week.
Whatever the reason, I hope you will take time to get a little more active this year. Exercise is not only good for losing weight. Studies show that people who sit down for most of their day have more health problems and a shorter lifespan. We were not meant to be so still, so inactive. So get moving!  And get on over to Kelly the Kitchen Kop to win some high quality olive oil from a fantastic family farm.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Giveaway at Kelly the Kitchen Kop - Fermented Veggie Sampler from Cultures for Health

Lacto-fermentation. I have to admit, the word sounds pretty disgusting at first listen. You think to yourself, “Are they fermenting these things with milk?” Even realizing that everyday foods for us like yogurt and sour cream are fermented milk, it does not sound even close to appealing.  But, truth be told, lacto-fermentation has nothing to do with milk (brace yourself, this sounds even less appealing), but with lactobacilli – a probiotic bacteria that can help to preserve foods.

Fermented foods are even more nutritious than their raw counterparts. This is because the fermentation process produces digestion-aiding enzymes, and can vastly multiply the vitamin content of food, all while creating a rich flavor.

We have been hoping to include more fermented foods in our diet for some time, now. I acquired a copy of Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz – a book that holds a wealth of information on fermented foods – and scoured the real food blogosphere for tips, tricks, and any recipes I did not already have. I started my experimenting this summer, when I made a batch of lacto-fermented peach salsa. It was absolutely incredible! Not only did it taste great, but it kept very well, and of course was loaded with enzymes and nutrients. Shortly thereafter, though, third trimester exhaustion caught up with me and I was not in the mood for much more experimentation, and of course it is now winter (and I really prefer to work with local, organic produce for these experiments. This spring, however, I plan to let the fermenting fun begin! I even managed to add some additional wide-mouth jars to my collection, so I can do more than a couple different veggies at once.

Between now and then, however, it would be great to get a taste for specific vegetables in their already-fermented state, so I am very excited about Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s latest giveaway: A fermented veggie sampler from Cultures for Health! I have been very pleased with purchases I have made with them; including yogurt cultures, kefir and water kefir grains, and a kombucha SCOBY, as well. Everything has been great quality, and I have gotten some great results with their cultures, so I have no doubt that these veggies will be incredible.

Head on over to Kelly the Kitchen Kop to enter, and sign up for her newsletter, because the winners will only be announced there!

Menu Plan Monday - Getting Out of the Holiday Sweets Frenzy

I am stunned to find that we are already entering the new year, wondering where the time has flown. Babies, it seems, are a time machine of sorts. If anything speeds up time, it is taking care of a baby. One moment we have just woken up, and the next it is time for bed.

While I love Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years -- and all the great food these holidays bring -- I am eager to get us back on track, food-wise. Especially when we consider how lax we had become with food toward the end of my pregnancy and in the beginning weeks with Joshua. We were making healthier choices, but "easier" healthy choices that were not nearly as great as the choices we were striving to make before. So....New year, new opportunity to get things moving in the right direction again.

We are following along with Kelly the Kitchen Kop's three week health/wellness jumpstart, and our focus is mostly going to be reducing (even healthier homemade) sweets, and emphasizing proteins over carbs (Also, I am going to be taking more walks with the baby, trying to get a bit more active). While we are not going to be able to do completely low-carb all that feasibly, we can at least reduce grains and gluten via my favorite non-grain, quinoa; but primarily we're just making sure that all of our grains are whole grains. Quinoa is not actually a grain, but frequently used as one, quinoa is gluten free, a complete protein in and of itself (something no grain can boast), and very high in other important nutrients like iron. So we have two quinoa based meals in the menu this week, and some higher nutrient grains like barley, and other high nutrient foods. We also still have a bit of Christmas money left, so we worked in an eat-out night, mostly because our friend Gaby still has not gotten to meet Joshua. Gaby's is great, particularly because she seasons her food with actual herbs and spices, not any of the cheaper "spice" mixes that contain MSG, so I can eat there headache free.

Monday - Baked Chicken with Apples and Barley
Tuesday - eat at Gaby's (Caribbean & American Cuisine)
Wednesday - Quinoa and Veggie Stirfry
Thursday - Salsa Chicken & Blackbean soup.
Friday - Hummus & homemade Whole Wheat Naan, Veggies
Saturday - Quinoa Burgers (sans buns) and Pumpkin Soup (from homemade pumpkin)
Sunday - Leftovers

This post is a part of Menu Plan Monday. Go to I'm an Organizing Junkie for more great menus.