Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Canning through the seasons

    Canning season is slowly... slowly coming to an end. This year has been a crazy canning year from June till now. When a "blessing becomes a weight" should be the title of this years canning season.... yes I will feel differently this winter when I am enjoying it all. It is hard to say no to free food but it is hard to deal with when it all needs to be eaten or preserved in a short amount of time. Um, especially with a toddler helping! Freezing wasn't an option this year as our freezers are full of the extra chicken we raised. So now on the other side of the canning season I can look back to evaluate how things went and give you my tips and recipes.
    Anytime you are spending time preserving the harvest or preparing larger quantities of food it is best to make a plan. I write a list of supplies, make sure I have a meal in the crock pot and make sure my area/tools are all clean. It is also good to evaluate whether you have enough supplies like jars, lids or freezer bags/containers before you start. Once everything is ready we start the process of turning abundant produce into lovely little treats/meals to enjoy over the winter or to give as gifts.
    As a family that is trying to lessen our dependency on certain items like sugar and thickeners I tend to choose the simplest recipes. Sometimes though we will pick a tried and true recipe that contains a lot of sugar with the knowledge that we will only be eating small amounts of it. It is a balancing act. Example- we make homemade yogurt with no sweetener but then when we eat it we add a little of our fruit preserves to the top for flavor and sweetness. It is also good on unsweetened oatmeal. Trying to be completely sugar free is hard when you preserve items through canning. I found some things like tomato sauce and apple sauce do not need sugar so I never add it. I just make sure I have a mix of different kinds to get a balance of flavor. No matter what; I control what goes into all the things I make homemade so I also control the quality of the ingredients.

A seasonal calendar would be helpful.

Some recipes to inspire you:
Forsythia Dandelion Jelly!
Pickled asparagus
Honey sweetened strawberry limeade
Blueberry Maple Pecan Conserve... our favorite!
Pickled garlic scapes(tops of garlic plants)
Pickled green beans
Candied jalapenos aka cowboy candy
Easy grape juice canning
Banana Foster butter is to die for over yogurt or ice cream
Foraged Autumn Olive made into jam
A healthier apple pie filling
Applesauce blends with other fruits!
Using up those green tomatoes
We canned a lot more then this like tomato sauce, pepper relish, fruits, apple butter, salsas and more. We learned how to pressure can to add carrots, green beans, broths, dried beans and ready made meals.

Best canning shelf I have seen
One of the best canning dvds I have watched with both pressure canning and water bath canning

Next posts I will share stocking the pantry with jar mixes for easier home cooking and ferments through the seasons!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Our Whole 30 Last Two Weeks

    We just started the second half of our Whole 30 journey.
    So far I can say I spent about $200 more for the month for all of us to eat this way. I could have saved some on making my own coconut milk and almond butter but in the big scope of things these were not huge savings.
    Health wise we have lost some weight, experience less stiffness in the morning, more energy and a general feeling of being satisfied. Now remember we had a pretty clean diet before doing the Whole 30. I have read many others experience symptoms the first two weeks as they withdrawal from sugar, grain and dairy. Symptoms like headaches, digestive issues and rashes as the body detoxes from these foods.
    Here are some of the recipes we are using the second half of Whole 30.
meal 1- Power Smoothie(1 can coconut milk, 4 medjul dates soaked in hot water for 15 minutes, 1 frozen banana, 2 T unsweetened almond butter, 2 T cacao powder, a pinch of cinnamon, a dash of vanilla extract, and 1 T powdered greens with bee pollen)
meal 2- antipasti salad(this one is hard because I could only find a natural no sugar pepperoni and pastrami but all salami had sugar)
meal 3- roasted Tuscan chicken with green beans almondine(I skipped the capers and roasted the whole thing in the oven for a few hours, the left overs can be used to make soup)
meal 1-fajita omelet(peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, and onions)
meal 2-Paleo chili
meal 3- pork roast with vegetables
meal 1-monkey salad
meal 2- chicken bacon ranch salad(I mix up my own ranch herbs and then add it to homemade mayo mixed with a little extra oil for dressing)
meal 3-chicken sausage with stir vegetables
meal 1-breakfast burrito 
meal 2-buffalo chicken with carrot and celery sticks
meal 3-Tuscan Chicken Soup made with leftovers
meal 1-hash brown with dip eggs
meal 2-antipasti salad
meal 3-Paleo meatloaf with smashed tatters and peas
meal 1-power smoothie
meal 2-Paleo chili
meal 3-Nicoise salad
meal 1-fajita omelet
meal 2-chicken bacon ranch salad
meal 3-Balsalmic Glazed Steak Rolls 
Then we repeat for the last week. That's it. Good luck and I hope these links are helpful if you decide to give the Whole 30 a try.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Our Whole 30 Journey

    As we our on this journey of minimalism it has us evaluating all areas of our life. This month we take a look at our whole foods diet to see if we can not only simplify it but to help make it healthier. Lets back up for a moment.... about 10 years or so ago we started eating a whole foods diet. The first change was to start drinking raw milk and the change was profound. I got off meds(allergy and asthma) and spent more days in health rather then sick. More changes followed and we all felt better. Then things leveled out but sometimes we fell back to a few leftover bad habits. The last few years we have experienced Lyme and some hormonal issues(mine after gallbladder surgery).
    The bottom line is we either "eat to live or live to eat." I want to choose to eat to live, and live to its fullest! I  don't know about you but I love having energy, being symptom free, and feeling satisfied when I eat. A few years ago we did a 30 day cleanse and we felt awesome but the diet felt restrictive and just that, a diet. Last year we tried the Paleo lifestyle which really is just a simple whole foods way of eating. But then we found ourselves over doing the natural sweeteners. This year we found we still have a problem with sugar so we are going to do the Whole 30 to reset our bodies. Anyway you look at it most of us take in too much sugar, some of it hidden in our foods. Whole 30 is simple- clean meats, fruit, vegetables, nuts and clean fats, that simple. No shakes, no pills, no processed packets of food, just real whole foods. So if you would like to join me and my family in eating clean to reset your body and to feel better follow us for the next 30 days. I will post once a week to share links to recipes and tips that I find helpful. I am also on Instagram and Pinterest. Remember to check with your doctor before starting a new way of eating.

    I found these downloads very helpful to get me organized to start off our 30 days. This does take planning and a commitment if you do it as a family.

So this is what we did....
-read over the grocery list
-looked over my recipes to see if they fit
-picked some new easy recipe that we would like
-made a menu with 4-5 breakfasts(meal 1), 4 lunches(meal 2) and 7 dinners(meal 3) to rotate through(this way I could buy bulk of certain items and keep cooking simple)
-make sure ALL your recipes are printed out so you are ready to go(I even write down dressings, smoothies, etc.)
-looking over your recipes, write up your grocery list of all the items you need
-be an optimist and highlight all the foods on the list you love and look forward to eating rather then focusing on what you may not be eating during the 30 days
-the goal is for this way of eating to become the habit

This is what our menu looks like the first two weeks(first week is listed because we will repeat this for week 2, then we will change up some of the recipes for the last two weeks):
meal 1-Monkey Salad(could add other fruit to it) and smoothie
meal 2-taco salad in a mason jar
meal 3-Lemon Olive Roasted Chicken (clean rest of meat off bones and make bone broth in crock pot over night)with Prosciutto wrapped asparagus 
meal 1-hash browns topped with dip egg, blueberries
meal 2-grilled chicken salad with homemade Lemon Mustard Tarragon Vinaigrette
meal 3-beef with chimichurri sauce and steamed carrots
meal 1-sausage patties, eggs and spinach, smoothie
meal 2-tuna salad with homemade mayo in butter lettuce cups
meal 3- creamy crock pot lemon chicken kale soup
meal 1-hard boiled eggs and sautéed vegetables, fruit
meal 2-paleo chili made with ground or roast
meal 3-Pork Carnitas with cilantro lime cauliflower 
meal 1-grain-free granola with coconut or almond milk
meal 2-taco salad, fruit
meal 3-Turkey Gravy over roasted potatoes, pineapple whip for dessert
meal 1- monkey salad, smoothie
meal 2- grilled chicken salad
meal 3-chili over roasted sweet potato bites
meal 1-hash browns topped with dip eggs, blueberries
meal 2- tuna salad in lettuce cup or tomato
meal 3- sauteed shrimp(or baked cod or salmon) and roasted vegetables

    To prepare for the first week I will cut up some of my vegetables, pre-make sausage patties to freeze, make my crispy nuts on Saturday so I can mix up the granola on Sunday, defrost my whole chicken, cook up the taco meat and grilled chicken to freeze in 4 person lunch portions, blend up my dressings, make mayo, and make/freeze my chili. Doing this makes the week much easier.
    I find that my kids eat what we eat because there are no other options. They are not huge fans of greens but they prefer swiss chard and kale over cabbage(12 and 16 year olds). They love smoothies even green ones, so they are always a hit.
Our nursing 18 months old eats these things as well but sometimes he defaults to grapes, applesauce, or sweet potatoes. One last tip.... if you don't have it in the house they won't eat it at your home. It is baby steps but we no longer buy packaged products like gold fish crackers, cereals, cakes or cookies... it took years to slowly build habits that replaced this way of eating. Give yourself and your family time to change to a new lifestyle!