Category Archives: Homemade Household

Why I Don’t Feed My Kids Mac and Cheese

Okay, I am not writing this post to offend anyone or get anyone defensive at all. I would like this to be more of an educational and thought provoking piece.

Firstly, let me preface this by saying that my kids, by NO means, eat perfectly. I don’t keep them away from any food group at all but when it comes to their regular, daily diet, I like to keep it clean and be aware of what I give them.

I want you to think back to your childhood. What are some foods your parents gave you regularly? Foods that you ate for lunch or breakfast more than once a week. Cereal, hot dogs, box mac and cheese, whatever. Now, as an adult do you ever fall back on those when you need comfort food or something easy to grab? I know I do. You ever wonder why that happens? It’s because cravings start as a toddler. Whatever you ate regularly in your most formative years (0-6years) is what you will always fall back on as far as cravings. Some of mine are very healthy. For example, my mom always had us make ‘balanced’ meals (we all pitched in on making meals in our house). So if we were going to have spaghetti for lunch there had to be a salad or carrots or something as a side that we all were required to have at least a little bit of. I crave carrots constantly as an adult. They’re one of my favorite vegetables!

When I read a few studies defining the relationship between brain development and food cravings from the toddler years til mid childhood. I was floored and realized that it was very true for me. I picked up a lot of my love of food research from my mom. I remember from a very young age (this is BEFORE the internet, people) her changing our diets depending on what she found out. I have a clear memory of her discovering that real butter was healthier than margarine and we made the switch. But guess what? I STILL love the smell of margarine…isn’t the funny? As a mother of seven kids and in the perpetual state of pregnancy and breastfeeding she relied on a few standby lunches. We ate hot dogs, mac and cheese, bean burritos (granted they were made with home refried beans and we even used whole wheat tortillas), and chips and salsa on a regular basis. So whenever I feel stressed, sick (especially during pregnancy) or lazy I automatically want to eat those foods. It’s the same with breakfast cereal. Of course, my mom never bought the sweet stuff but it’s the ones that I grew up with that I crave like cheerios, corn flakes and raisin bran. All the healthier stuff but definitely not nutritious in a way that breakfast should be.

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Do my kids ever eat hot dogs? Yes, they split one every single time we go to Costco. Do they ever have ice cream? Sure! In the summer I make them ice cream cones occasionally. When we’re at parties I don’t ever forbid them cake or cookies. The point is, those are treats and special occasions. I want them to enjoy special foods as a treat, not a daily thing because daily things because habits and unhealthy habits create unhealthy bodies.

So, what do my kids eat every day? Well, we start out each day with either oatmeal (that I fortify with eggs whipped in, cinnamon and vanilla) topped with local honey or plain yogurt with raw oats mixed in and honey on top. Lunches are generally roasted veggies and leftovers from dinner the night before. Eli and Avery like very different things so I do sometimes prepare their lunches differently. For dinner they eat whatever Shane and I have. Tacos, meatballs and roasted veggies, pasta, pizza, etc.  I make all our food from scratch so there’s quality control there.

My goal here is that when my boys are grown or teens, they won’t crave an unhealthy meal when they want a comfort food. They’ll fall back on foods they ate every day as a child. Maybe Eli will want warm chili beans and roasted green beans and Avery might want a plate of cantaloupe and sharp cheddar.

I have a unique foundation because of how proactive my mom was. We never drank soda and so I never acquired a taste for it. We didn’t have fried food and so I don’t crave it. She instilled in me a love for homemade pizza, and also allowed me freedoms to learn how to experiment in the kitchen. Our family cooked together often which makes me excited for when my boys can do more with me. I loved the treats we had like on Sunday nights when my dad would make an amazing batch of buttered popcorn and Orange Julius. In the summer we sometimes had root beer floats. There are so many good things that I instilled in my brain and the few things I consider to be unhealthy habits I have been able to break from being regular (like the box mac and cheese).

I’m hoping with my boys that they will be spared the cravings for things that can only be created by regular exposure as a young child so that they can start their lives with a good foundation of health and build on that with their own likes and dislikes. Also having a clear understanding of what ‘treats’ are and what daily food should be. I don’t care that Avery loves donuts. He gets them on his birthday and occasionally on Sundays as a special treat. I don’t care that Eli loves French fries. He gets them as a treat when grandma comes over and sometimes when we eat out as a family.

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The point is, it’s not regular. The point is, it’s not a habit. The point is, most of what they eat is nourishing, filled with variety and fun to eat. I love that I have this control over their development and I try not to take it lightly. I am honored to shape their future health and I want to do my best.

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I hope that this post makes you think twice about giving your baby rice cereal as a first food, or fruit snacks and gold fish regularly (as a treat, I think it could be special!) and I hope this is not offensive in any way. I encourage research and want you to look up how eating habits affect a young and developing brain. It’s fascinating and revealing for our culture.

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On Food Prep

About a month ago I started doing a meal plan and sticking to it. For real. I write out the plan before going grocery shopping and then I do the food prep. Obviously meal planning seems like something I would be an expert at since I am the person who makes all the meals in our home but no, I’m terrible at meal planning.

I’ve always done food prep after grocery shopping but now it’s very intentional, and it’s actually planned for the first time ever haha.

One thing I’m doing every week is making three large pizzas. I put two in the freezer for those nights that I’m behind or dealing with crazy kids and then I cook up one as a reward the night of food prep for doing all the food prep. It rules.

I use my standard bread recipe to make the dough.

SAM_0738-2I let it rest in the fridge for an hour or two before rolling it out into the crusts. I’ve been making pizzas for a long time and my process is really simple. Once the dough is rolled I pour tomato sauce on it.

SAM_0741-2For seasoning the sauce I just sprinkle dried oregano and salt before adding the toppings.

This week I made one veggie, one pepperoni with olives and on bbq with chorizo sausage.

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Once the toppings are on I sprinkle mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese and then drizzle it with olive oil very lightly. The olive oil helps the cheese brown better. Then I sprinkle some herbs and salt on top to finish it.

SAM_0746-2I cover them and plop them in the freezer….and bake one at 500 degrees for 12min or so.

SAM_0750-2Mmmm, it turned out good. I wasn’t sure since I used bbq sauce (Gates Original) for a sauce instead of tomatoes. It worked out just fine.

Next I like to prep a few breakfasts and lunches for Shane. I don’t prep all of them since some need to be made closer to the day for freshness. But I do make a bunch of breakfast sandwiches.

SAM_0731-2And also a couple yogurt bowls that I make with my jams.

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SAM_0735-2This way he doesn’t have to have the same thing every day for breakfast.

The only lunches I prepped ahead this week were a bunch of homemade hot pockets.

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They had tomatoes, onions, spinach, ham and cheese. I made a big batch to freeze. Some will go to a lunch this week and next week but it’ll last longer than this grocery cycle which is nice.

Other lunches I have on the meal plan for him are salads, sandwiches, and one leftover.

It saves a LOT of money to make his breakfasts and lunches. He sometimes leaves before the boys and I get up so having them ready to go is really important.

The one other thing I prepped on Saturday was a batch of beans.

SAM_0732-2Eli and I love beans. Shane and Avery aren’t big fans. However, having a quick addition of protein in our meals is nice. I mostly just have Eli eat them at lunch and I put them on my salads. I don’t put them in dinners unless I quickly make them into refried beans for tacos or something. No need to make them eat something they don’t like.

I also made granola…but I guess I forgot to photograph it!  It was just a typical batch (coconut oil, maple syrup, nuts, dried fruits, oats, cinnamon, etc) but I added vanilla this time and it was SOOOOOOO good. I need to do that every time!

My meal prep time was brought to you by a long nap and the one time ever that Avery and Eli played together with the toy cars.

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Avery is possessive of his cars and Eli is wild with them so they never play together with toys. However, this was a rare and beautiful moment.

Meal planning is hard but it’s really worth it. As for food prep, I have always loved it and setting aside that block of time on a slow Saturday is reeeeeallly nice. Who needs therapy when you can just cook all day?! Okay, I know it’s not everybody’s favorite thing but cooking has always been something I enjoy.

Do you meal plan or food prep?

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Have One Pot

I guess it’s more of a sauce pan. But that’s it, just one. Other than that I have a cast iron skillet and a cast iron dutch oven.

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Here’s the thing, although it’s not ALWAYS ideal to use just one pot, it’s incredibly convenient. I don’t have a billion dishes to wash and during prep I don’t end up with a counter filled with clutter.

I find that making dinner using one pot is really nice because you can make it work with your general progression of food prep. Here’s an example.

Last night I made Shepherd’s Pie. A simple, rustic, dish that requires the ingredients to be cooked before being baked. No biggie.

First, I had to brown the meat. While the meat was browning I chopped up potatoes. Once I put the meat into the baking dish I filled the sauce pan with water to boil and finished chopping up the potatoes.

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While the potatoes were boiling I chopped up my veggie (this time I did just cabbage though I think generally it’s a mix). Once the potatoes were cooked I plopped them in the mixer so I could whip them up while the cabbage cooked.

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See where I’m going with this? While each thing cooks I prep the other thing.

SAM_0688-2Anyway, once all the parts were put into the pan I topped them with some Parmesan over top and popped it in the oven to bake until a little browned.

SAM_0692-2I’m obviously Irish with all the cabbage and potatoes.

The point is, I had one pot to wash after all that and since I wasn’t making everything at once I could relax and do each prep as I went.

SAM_0694-2The times when I feel the need for another pot is when I’m cooking something like pasta or potatoes simply because my sauce pan is small. I don’t have teenagers yet so it’s not really a big issue. I’m on the lookout for a good bigger pot, stainless steel, to add to my collection. But for now, I’m content with my one little pot.

Shepherd’s Pie

  • 1lb ground beef
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 onion
  • 1 head of cabbage roughly chopped
  • 4-5 large potatoes (cubed)
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup milk (ish, you can add as much as you need to get the right texture)
  • Parmesan Cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown the beef with garlic, onion, Worcestershire sauce, and salt until fully cooked. Spread in baking pan. Boil the cubed potatoes until tender and then mash or whip with butter, milk, and salt. While potatoes are being mashed or whipped put chopped up cabbage into the sauce pan with a little water to steam. Salt slightly.

Layer cabbage over beef and potatoes over the cabbage. Sprinkle with Parmesan if you like and put in the oven to bake until browned on top.

 

 

 

 

A Natural Lifestyle

Okay, I’m going to let you into the embarrassingly unstylin’ parts of my house right now. Fortunately, it’s for a good cause so you can hopefully forgive me.

What I want to talk about today is a chemical free home. It’s been about five years since I made a conscious effort to back away from chemicals in my life. The improvement was very drastic and because of that, I’d like to share a few tips on the subject in case you’ve been wanting to go in that direction but don’t know what it will look like for your life.

My very first movement away from chemicals was when I stopped buying shampoo and started using baking soda on my hair. I’ve written about that a couple times here and here. It’s easy, unbelievably cheap and very effective. Baking soda is also a practical alternative to shampoo because it can be used in about fifty billion other ways. Which is why, instead of a cabinet filled with bathroom cleaners and a shower full of hair products I have this in my bathroom.

SAM_0641A mason jar filled with baking soda. I use it as a toilet bowl cleaner, sink cleaner, tub cleaner, floor cleaner, shampoo and occasional facial scrub. And those are just the bathroom needs! Don’t think I don’t keep a jar in the kitchen for baking and cleaning too:)

The next step in my journey was just after when I took a step back from make-up. It wasn’t so much a step towards finding natural alternatives as it was just stepping away from make-up in general. I discovered what  sort of make up I like to use regularly and just used less. It took me FOREVER to use up the things I had and when it finally came time to find something new I looked first into my favorite handmade market, Etsy. I found a shop that sold make-up that I love, which is hand made and also natural with none of those chemicals or laundry list of ingredients you find in the drug store brands. It also works very well since that’s obviously what I look for in a product. I keep them in my side of the bathroom mirror along with peroxide (which, like baking soda, I use for a myriad of applications), some locally made balms/oils and a baby powder bottle I filled with corn starch that I use occasionally on my hair if I want to put off a shower for another day…hehe. Lastly, there’s some packets of nasal rinse for our neti pot. On the lower shelf I keep my brushes for the makeup as well as my tooth brush.

SAM_0642On my other shelf I keep my hair clips, natural bristle hair brush and body brush as well as a bottle of vinegar water which I use for both cleaning and hair conditioning.

SAM_0643You can go ahead and ignore how badly my mirror cabinet needs to be painted. I warned you, unstylin’ parts of the house.

In my laundry room I have a pot filled with my homemade laundry soap and a box of generic oxygen bleach (basically baking soda and hydrogen peroxide mixed and dried).

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When you look under my kitchen sink you find some pizza pans/cookie sheets, my cast iron stash and a bottle of biodegradable dish washing liquid.

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Not glamorous…no, but simplified? Practical? Easy to manage? Yes.

Also, it’s cheap. Like, dirt cheap. I don’t know all the things that people use for cleaners…I’ve seen all sorts of things but even if you just used the basics you may be surprised how much you spend on cleaning products alone.

It takes me months to go through my jug of vinegar that costs under $4 and I use it for food, cleaner, and hair conditioner!  Then, obviously baking soda is dirt cheap, and I use it for shampoo, cleaner, and baking.

I try to find things that are multi purpose because then I don’t have to buy as many things. Even with my make up, the shop owner offers refills so you don’t have to get more canisters every time you order. They’re about 40% cheaper than buying it with the canister. What does that tell you about the products? That packaging is almost half of what you’re paying. Can you reuse those bottles of shampoo? What about your window cleaner sprayer? There are so many containers that we have to throw away because reusing would just make more clutter. I have empty shelves in my home and it is possibly one of the most freeing feelings #minimalistemotion (sorry, I think in hashtags sometimes).

Also, don’t forget that water is an effective cleaner as well, despite how marketing would have you think otherwise. I have a glass top coffee table and wipe it down with a damp cloth every day and guess what? All the finger prints, food smears and dust go, leaving it shining and clean. I don’t even need to use vinegar.

 

So that’s how I keep our home chemical free.

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I hope it helps you.

 

Disclaimer: I do have SOME chemical things around. Shane uses conventional toothpaste and also because of eczema uses medicated shampoo/skin treatments. We also have a bottle of hair singeing pipe cleaner stuff for the bathtub drain occasionally. It is stored on a high shelf in a closet where the boys can’t access it.

 

 

 

 

 

A Salad A Day…Helps

So obviously a part of getting fit is eating well and I have more than a few pounds I’d like to lose. So ever since Thanksgiving I have been having a salad loaded with veggies every day. It should be noted that when I started this little habit I struggled a little having ONLY a salad. Because of that I made my salads just as loaded as I needed to in order to feel satisfied with them. By satisfied I don’t mean full, I mean in a sense of taste/texture. I rarely feel real hunger and am generally filled just fine with whatever I eat. My main eating problems are just grazing, munching on what I feed the kids and mindless/stress eating. In order for a salad to satisfy my urge to eat something other than salad I put things that trigger food enjoyment for me. Cheese…obviously.

So at first I used both ranch and cheddar cheese on every salad.

SAM_0523I didn’t skimp. Although I kept a large amount/variety of greens in each one as well. I generally use all spinach at the beginning of the grocery cycle since it goes bad first. As the cycle goes on I move to the lettuce and cabbage…which last longer. Carrots and broccoli are also mainstays.

SAM_0491I add pickled vegetables like sweet peppers, onions, hot peppers and even traditional pickles too. I love anything pickled and since I made a lot of canned goods this past summer and fall I love using them.

SAM_0509Sometimes you just gotta do what you need too to make vegetables palatable day after day. As the month progressed though I found less and less dressing was needed and finally even cut out the cheese because veggies were enough. They were good.

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I like adding hot sauce or spicy bbq sauce to my salads as well.

I also like adding roasted veggies on occasion….but unless they’re left over I find that I don’t feel like waiting around for things to cook.

I’ve lost only five pounds throughout the month of December but with all the holiday treats (which I didn’t try to avoid at all) I’d say that’s not bad. I have a ways to go but I feel I’m definitely going in the right direction.

Along with a salad for lunch I am also eating fruit and nut butter for breakfast with an occasional green juice thrown in. I tend to eat the same dinner I make for the family but those are generally very veggie heavy anyway. I try to keep it light.

Do you like salads? Do you like veggies in general? I’m really into veggies but find that if I’m not mindful they don’t get eaten as often as I need them.

 

 

 

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