~ Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life ~
Another week and more food has been served to the natives, keeping them happy and healthy and strong. Mission: accomplished.
~Pretty Veggie-Filled Breakfasts ~
Vegetables at breakfast seems to be a good idea, a way to get more nutrition into my day and start the day off strong. Here are a few of my attempts thus far.
~ Happy Children Bakers ~
What better summer break afternoon activity than making chocolate chip cookies? They followed the recipe for Mystie’s Best Chocolate Chip Cookies straight from the blog post and did it all completely themselves while I was up in my room folding laundry.
~ Funny Approach ~
I make skillet chicken (included in Simplified Dinners) often. I was making it this week and couldn’t decide what kind of sauce to mix together and even mixing a sauce at all seemed like too much for that evening.
So I tossed in a block of cream cheese.
It was a good choice.
~ Real Kitchen ~
It turns out that making food makes a mess. Monday I made granola and yogurt, the kids made chocolate chip cookies, and there was breakfast and lunch and dinner as well.
I’m so thankful my husband does all the dishes after dinner! I washed the counters and swept the floor and we were still able to end the day in decent order. Whew.
In November I bought 3 turkeys when they were super cheap. I finally cooked the last one last week and so bone broth has been constantly simmering. I simply put the bones in the crockpot and cook it on low overnight or all day long, and have found that a turkey carcass can make excellent broth for 4 or more batches!
Homemade bone broth is like homegrown vine-ripened tomatoes, whereas canned or boxed broth is the equivalent of winter hydroponic tomatoes picked green and sent to sit on the grocery shelves too soon. The difference in flavor between the two types is so stark it makes you wonder if they should really be called by the same name.
~ Funny Beverage ~
It’s kinda crazy, but my afternoon refreshment drink is a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar “with the mother” in ice water.
Knocks out viruses and, chugged down quickly, seems to clear out my head of brain-fog rather nicely.
~ Real Self-Help ~
It’s granola season! I have my super-simple homemade granola recipe, and I also make our yogurt. We go through 24-32 ounces of yogurt each morning, and that gets pricey with the store-bought stuff! Plus, I read that homemade yogurt has more probiotics anyway. Sometime I’ll post my process.
But for now, I thought I’d share what happens when you let the young ones get their own food. It fosters independence – and more messes. But more messes means more practice cleaning up after themselves.
So, someday they’ll be able to clean up after themselves without prompting, right? Please tell me I’m right. Someday.
~ Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life ~
Getting dinner on the table to feed your family after a long day can sometimes feel like an overwhelming impossibility. But a healthy, wholesome meal doesn’t have to take a lot of time or even a lot of planning ahead.
Here are some of the meals I’ve served up recently for our homeschooling family of 7.
~Pretty Fresh Vegetables ~
As the weather gets warmer, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that soup season is over. Instead of pulling out a standard soup for dinner, I pulled out a summer meal I hadn’t made in many months: veggie pasta salad with poached chicken.
I love a colorful dinner: whole wheat spaghetti, peppers, zucchini, carrots, and broccoli made it into this one, because that’s what I had on hand. I used an asian-style dressing on this version, but my family prefers the Italian herb version.
~ Happy Simplicity ~
Costco sometimes has cold chicken leg quarters for sale from the previous day’s rotisserie leftovers. I’ve done the weighing and calculations and figured out it really is the cheapest price-per-pound of chicken if you’re weighing cooked and deboned meat. So, I always pick up a tray when I’m there and they have it.
This time I pulled off all the meat, then poured over a homemade teriyaki sauce (soy, chicken broth, brown sugar, cornstarch) and stuck it in the oven with the rice to warm up. It was delicious, quick, and simple!
The bones, of course, went into the crockpot with water overnight and made up a broth for the next day’s soup. Chicken leg pieces don’t make quite the same robust broth as a whole chicken carcass, but they still get the job done.
~ Funny Efficiency ~
I was able to cook all three parts to one dinner in a 375-degree oven the other night. Roasted frozen broccoli, boneless chicken pieces brushed with barbecue sauce, and brown rice. The rice went in first (it cooks for an hour), then the chicken (it cooked for 40 minutes), then the broccoli (which took 25 minutes).
What’s funny is the supreme satisfaction I felt in maximizing my oven use.
It took hardly any hands-on time, and the clean-up was a snap because I used parchment paper on the pans. I love parchment paper!
~ Real Quick ~
I’ve been trying to improvise some new fast dinners that rely on a protein I don’t have to (remember to) defrost first.
I bought canned shrimp and made this quick veggie-shrimp-pasta medley. I simply sautéed onion, pepper, and zucchini in butter, then tossed in the shrimp to warm it up and tossed that together with the pasta and another pat of butter.
It was a decent dinner, but I might try it with flash frozen shrimp next time.
What have you cooked up to feed your family lately?
The quest for a simple breakfast that is filling enough to keep the kids satisfied until lunch is an endless one. Oatmeal is a good stick-to-the-ribs breakfast, but eggs are also so healthy for little growing bodies and brains.
Scrambled eggs are good, but my kids need some additional carb to go alongside it.
What I needed was an all-in-one breakfast that had both protein and carbs, but that didn’t make much mess on the counter and didn’t get too many dishes dirty.
I found the answer in German pancakes, also known as Oven Pancakes and Dutch Babies.
While it does make more dirty dishes than oatmeal, it is easier to clean up and kids don’t drop and slop it all over the counter, floor, and table. Totally worth the 20 minute baking time in my book.
Here’s how I’ve streamlined the process to get breakfast on the table quickly.
Streamlined German Oven Pancakes
Turn the oven on to 400*. Pop in a 9×13 pan with two tablespoons of butter. It will preheat and melt the butter, greasing the pan and getting ready to make that pancake puff.
Pull out milk, 6 eggs, and flour. I whisk this together in a batter bowl that has the measurements marked along the side so I don’t have to get a measuring cup dirty. First pour in one cup of milk, then crack in the six eggs, then dump in 1 cup of flour. I’ve used 1/2 whole wheat and 1/2 white flour or I’ve also used all whole wheat when I have soft white wheat (also known as pastry whole wheat flour). It doesn’t quite fluff up as much with whole wheat, but the extra nutrition makes it worth it.
Whisk vigorously until the batter is well beaten. Let it sit until the oven is done preheating.
Pull the hot pan out of the oven and shake the melted butter to evenly cover the bottom. Pour in the batter quickly then pop it back into the oven. Bake for 20 minutes.
Serve with a sprinkle of powdered sugar over the top.
German pancakes – oven pancakes, dutch babies, or whatever else you want to call them – are also great baked with thinly sliced apples on the batter or topped with fresh berries.
After a satisfying breakfast, the kids are ready to tackle their day with plenty of energy and attention.
When I was 11, my mom had twins. Already interested in cooking, I eagerly took once-a-week dinner duties. I could make spaghetti, macaroni and cheese (from boxes) with tuna and peas, and hamburger helper. My grandma was an extreme couponer before it was a thing, so she kept our pantry stocked with boxes and mixes, and I appreciated being able to grab something, follow the 3 steps, and put dinner on the table by myself – complete with microwaved frozen mixed vegetables.
I think kids that age want to be useful and contribute in real ways to the family, and what is more useful than feeding people?
Actually, this project first began this summer when an extended-family conversation turned to sending my younger brother off to college and how he was renting an apartment off campus. “You’ll have to send him Simplified Dinners,” commented my mom. I pulled my printed copy off the shelf to let him look through and chatted about how easy the dinners were. He stopped me, “So, saute is like cutting them a certain way?”
Oops. Nevermind. Simplified Dinners is not going to work for you. Simplified Dinners presumes kitchen skills; it is written for busy, harried moms like me who just want to get dinner on the table but don’t want to have to think through everything or read a long discursive recipe. It’s dinner shorthand, presuming you know the lingo.
I decided my brother needed a Simplified Simplified Dinners; one that didn’t presume any kitchen experience.
And working on this new version has worked out pretty well for me, too! I plopped a page of my draft in front of my 11 year old and said, “I think you can make dinner all by yourself. Let’s see.” And he did it. And he asked to do it again the next day. So he and his brother tested the clarity of instructions for me, and I refined wording, and our work is nearly complete: Simplified Dinners for New Cooks is nearly ready for publishing.
My 9 & 11 year old boys really are thrilled to be able to be independent in the kitchen, get dinner on the table themselves, and receive all the thanks due to the cook at the table.
At his age, I cooked Hamburger Helper and Macaroni and Cheese from boxes and zapped frozen vegetables in the microwave. It was a start, but not a start I wanted to have to live through at my own dinner table. We’ve grown up a bit in our taste since that time.
But I think we’ve proven that if you can wield a knife, you can get dinner on the table. Not just any dinner, either, but a real food, from-scratch dinner.
They have made pizza from scratch – including the yeast dough, baked bacon with frittata and muffins, salad with homemade salad dressing, creamy chicken pasta, sausage-and-beans, soup, chicken quesadillas, and more. Tonight they are doing homemade pizza again, because that was their favorite.
I am just as excited as my kids. What better way to outsource meals than to the people who need to eat it, too.
They aren’t as excited about outsourcing the mopping or the bathroom-cleaning, but dinner, yes, they’ll take dinner duty anytime.
It’s now available!
This resource is all you need to teach your kids to be independent in the kitchen and take dinner duty off your plate some nights. Or if you aren’t so sure yourself about cooking from scratch, this book will make it simple and easy.
Try it. If you don’t like it or it doesn’t work for you, just let me know and I’ll refund your purchase.