From Chaos to Order in the Pantry

You know when you get home from the grocery store and you’re filled with dread because now you need to put all of those groceries away? There are some things that I just don’t like about keeping house: putting away clean dishes that have air dried (also emptying the dishwasher, but we don’t have one in our current house), mopping the floor, and putting the groceries away… I don’t know what it is about those tasks, maybe I just need to embrace them somehow. I used to have a huge aversion to folding laundry but I have since conquered that one, and I quite like taking care of the laundry now! Perhaps I will feel this way about the groceries one day, but for now I just like to do it as quickly and painlessly as possible. The problem is, sometimes I take one shortcut too many and after a few weeks my pantry was looking like this:
pantry before

Thankfully after emptying out the pantry and using a couple of shelf dividers and a basket, order has been returned rather painlessly.

pantry after

I must say, there is so much satisfaction in order. Such a simple thing, but something that can really bring a peace and a calmness when applied throughout the home. I have been trying to have a “do it now” attitude when it comes to taking care of the house, and I will try to do this when putting away groceries (properly). Anyone else have a messy and unorganized pantry? If it’s well organized, what are your secrets to keeping it that way?

Be inspired,

Karen

Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25 4 & 5

Some Grain-Free Baking Going On!

With my 30 day food challenge underway, my girls and I have been experimenting in the kitchen. We’ve had some very cold days here, and what better thing to do than heat up the kitchen with some baking right? I received the cookbook Against All Grain, by Danielle Walker for Christmas, and it has some delicious recipes in it. They are all grain free, gluten free, dairy free, and sugar free – but they are yummy! If you’re looking for a healthy baking alternative (and not just baking, great recipes all around!), check out Danielle’s blog to try some recipes for yourself. Pictured here are some of the cookies that we have made:

grain free baking
grain free nut butter cookies

The 30 day food challenge is going really well. I feel as though my bad food habits are being broken, and that I am making mindful choices about the food that I am consuming. Instead of putting junk into my body when I feel hungry for a snack, I am choosing fruits, veggies, plain yogurt, a piece of cheese, or some nuts. These snacks are much more satisfying, and don’t cause me to crave more that what I need. I have not felt hungry or unsatisfied since starting this challenge, and have eaten very well. My energy level has been high, and I have felt very clear headed. As an unanticipated bonus, my pants which became slightly snug over Christmas, have gone back to fitting perfectly!

This area of discipline has spilled over into greater spiritual discipline and spending more time with the Lord. Praise God! He continues to work in my life and to refine me, as He desires to do with you as well. If you are reading this and want to know more about how the Lord Jesus has changed my life, please ask me! I would love to share my story with you.

For those of you who sent me a message and are doing this challenge with me, keep up the good work one healthy choice at a time!

Thanks for reading,

Karen

Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25 4 & 5

 

Back to the Basics with School Lunches!

Packing a healthy school lunch for your child can be tricky. It gets even trickier when food allergies or intolerances are involved! I still remember the thought and worry that went into packing the first school lunch for my eldest daughter’s first day of kindergarten. I panicked that I didn’t have enough the evening before the first day of school, and drove out to a local vegetable stand to buy just one more thing that I could add to complete that lunch! We’re in a great routine with school lunches now – we know how many snacks our girls will eat in a day, and we know what their individual preferences are.

Some Guidelines:

  1. Keep it simple. Apples and bananas are great snacks! Don’t fool yourself into thinking that snacks have to be fancy looking.
  2. Avoid any prepackaged or processed snacks. Not only are they often full of sugar, preservatives, and artificial colours, but they are also very expensive, and create more garbage waste.
  3. Include a rainbow of colours. This will ensure that they are getting a wide variety of nutrients and vitamins from their food.
  4. Introduce one new snack at a time. A complete overhaul all at once would be a shock to anyone’s system. Take it slow.
  5. If including a juice box, ensure that it is labelled 100% juice. Most juice boxes are laden with sugar, added flavour, and food colouring.
  6. Educate your kids about how healthy their lunch is, and why this is important for their growing bodies and learning minds. They do understand!

School Lunch Inspiration – what to include:

1 main item such as:

  • Hummus with corn chips or whole grain crackers to dip (they also love to dip their veggies in hummus).
  • Guacamole with corn chips or whole grain crackers to dip.
  • Leftovers kept warm in a thermos such as: stew, soup, pasta, casserole
  • A sandwich – egg salad, tuna salad, sunflower seed butter & jam etc.

As well as 3 snacks which can include:

  • 1 piece of fruit such as: An apple (sliced with an apple slicer, held together with a rubber band and put into a reusable plastic bag), a banana, a clementine orange (or slices of a navel orange), grapes, melons, or berries.
  • 1 veggie such as: Cucumber slices, carrot sticks or baby carrots, grape or cherry tomatoes, sweet pepper slices, or celery sticks.
  • 1 “fun” snack such as: Homemade granola bars (nut , dairy and gluten free), homemade muffins (sweetened with honey), trail mix (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, gluten free cereal, raisins), or homemade cookies (sweetened with honey). With the exception of the trail mix, I make these snacks ahead in large batches and freeze them so that when we’re packing lunches in the morning we just pull them out and they are ready to go!

school lunch

I hope these ideas inspire you as you strive to provide your kids with nutritious, simple lunches that they will enjoy! (Don’t forget to click on the links in the text above for the yummy recipes that I’ve shared in earlier posts.)

What are some healthy school lunch ideas that your kids love? Please share with us!

Karen

Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25 4 & 5

 

3 Simple Steps to a Good Day

Sometimes mornings are terrible. Like the day when you forgot to set your alarm and you woke up late, or the day where you were so tired that you turned your alarm off in your sleep. On these days you wake up and the pace is frantic and can sometimes set the tone for the day. Most of the time, the morning goes pretty much the same (whatever same means with children…). You get up at the same time, go through the same routine, and start your day. I have discovered three things that help my entire day to go better when I do them, and I will share those with you.

#1 Make the bed

When I take the two minutes it takes to straighten the covers and make the bed, it’s a good way to start the day. Have you ever noticed that if the bed is made, the bedroom looks clean, and if the bed is unmade the room looks messy and chaotic? What a simple way to tidy up the room and bring some order into the bedroom. I love coming up to bed at night to a tidy bedroom; that bit of order and calm helps me to unwind at the end of the day. And come on, who likes having their covers all messed up before the night has even begun? What’s interesting about the simple act of making the bed in the morning is that this is an action that effects the very ending to the day.

make the bed

#2 Have a cup of tea

Something as small as having a cup of tea makes my morning more productive by slowing me down (this could be coffee for you). It means that I’ll sit down to drink my tea, and this helps me to think about my tasks for the day and to prioritize. if I skip my cup of tea, sometimes I go through nearly an entire morning without sitting at all. A cup of tea is also comforting and it makes me feel good because I’m doing something good for my body (I choose herbal tea which nourishes my body).

#3 Pray

Prayer in the morning starts my day off right. If I forget to acknowledge my Creator and to submit myself to Him for the day, my day starts off on the wrong foot. Sometimes I pray before I get out of bed, sometimes I pray in the shower, sometimes I pray while I’m sipping my tea, and sometimes I get down on my knees and pray. However it is done, it is intentional, and it makes a huge difference. When I acknowledge that it is not by my strength that I’m able to do anything on this day, but only by His, I am taking a huge weight off of my shoulders. I am relying on the Lord’s strength and not mine. Not only does it lighten my load, but it orients my heart toward the things of the Lord. I begin to think differently. I begin to listen for the Lord’s nudging and prompting throughout the day, as I choose to follow Him.

Sometimes it is the simplest things that make the most profound difference in our lives. These three things are so easy to do, yet can change the course of a day. I challenge you to try them! If I do these things does that mean that I will have an easy day full of lovely things? Absolutely not. But they do point my day in a positive direction, in which I am making intentional choices and submitting my day to the Lord.

Do you have a simple thing that you do to start your day off on the right foot? I would love to hear about it!

Karen

Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25 4 & 5

The Best & Easiest Gluten Free Pizza Crust Ever

Yes, that’s right! This is the best pizza crust we’ve ever tried making (and we’ve tried quite a few recipes). Not only is it gluten free, but it’s also dairy free and egg free (without the optional egg). This is a yeast crust, and unlike other recipes where you have to let the yeast work in a separate bowl before combining, this is a one bowl crust, with no separate processes! There isn’t even any rise time, and it turns out amazing. We LOVE to eat pizza, so for us this pizza crust discovery has been the bomb – I honestly can’t taste a difference between a regular crust and this one. This menu item is found on Week One of The Three Week Menu Plan (that could save your marriage).

best gf pizza EVER

Note: I did find this recipe online over a year ago. We have since made changes, but I have done a search now to find my source and can’t find the recipe that we started out with. Here is our version:

The Best & Easiest Gluten Free Pizza Crust Ever (makes 1 pizza crust)

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp quick rise instant yeast
2/3 cup white rice flour
2/3 cup tapioca starch
3 Tbsp ground flax seeds
2 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp gelatin
1 tsp seasoning of your choice (I like to use dried onion flakes, or basil and garlic)
2/3 cup warm water (not too hot)
1/2 tsp honey
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 egg OR a bit of extra water

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

2. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Using dough hooks, beat on high for 3 minutes.

3. Put mixture on ungreased pizza stone, or lightly greased baking pan.

4. Sprinkle rice flour on dough, and press out in pan. (This is important – if you don’t use enough flour, the dough will just stick to your hand and you won’t be able to press it out).

5. Bake for 10 minutes.

6. Top with your favourite toppings, and bake for another 15 minutes.

Enjoy!

On the pizza pictured above, we enjoyed a barbeque sauce base, with (leftover) pulled chicken, green pepper, mushrooms, tomatoes, and goats cheese. Mmmmm.

Thanks for reading,

Karen

Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25 4 & 5

Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup

This week’s mouth watering slow cooker recipe has been adapted from 125 best Vegetarian Slow Cooker recipes by Judith Finlayson. I also found an almost identical recipe here with bacon added, for all of you bacon lovers. This Black Bean Soup is a hearty and delicious soup that is quick to prep and is good for the budget. It’s also gluten free, dairy free (without optional dairy toppings added), and could even be vegan depending on broth type used. This recipe comes from Week one of my 3 week menu plan (that could save your marriage).

Black Bean Soup

Serves 4-6 as a main course

Ingredients:

1 tbsp coconut oil
2 onions, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried thyme leaves
2 Tbsp cumin seeds
1 Tbsp dried oregano leaves
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 small can tomato paste
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained (each 14 to 19 oz), or 2 cups dried black beans, cooked and drained
1 freshly squeezed lime (approx 1/3 cup)
Finely chopped cilantro
Sour cream (optional)
Cheddar cheese (optional)
Nacho chips (optional)

I normally skip the step where you precook things a little in a skillet before adding them to the slow cooker, but with this soup I make an exception since I really wanted to boost the flavor of the cumin seeds which make this soup so mouth watering.

1. Saute veggies in a skillet for about 5 minutes, when they are softened add the seasonings and cook for 1 more minute. Transfer to slow cooker, and add the tomato paste, chicken or vegetable stock, and black beans. Stir to combine.

Sauteed veggies

2. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours, or on high for 4 to 6 hours.

Soup, before pureeing

3. Before serving, puree to desired consistency (I use an immersion blender) and stir in lime juice.

4. Garnish with your choice of toppings. Enjoy!

black bean soup

We like to eat this soup with nacho chips for dipping, and it’s also very yummy on nachos the next day! The lime juice stirred in at the end gives this soup great depth of flavor.

Karen

Show me Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day. Psalm 25:4&5

Crayons and Princesses

This is how my day began:

We all got up at 7am, had the older girls off to the bus stop at 8, went downstairs to do some laundry and this is what I found when I emptied out the dryer:

Crayon in the laundry!

An entire load of laundry, covered in blotches of blue, red, and yellow crayon wax. SO. NOT. COOL. I did manage to stay remarkably calm however, since I have previous experience dealing with such an event as this. I mean, things in pockets happen right? The last time this happened, I vowed that I would start to check pockets more faithfully; but see that little silver sweater in the picture with the little pocket with the sparkly button? Yup, that’s the culprit! That little crayon box was still tucked in there for me to find. I had to cut myself some slack when I discovered this since I probably still would never think to check that little pocket…

The last time this happened the crayons were Crayola. I put them back into the washing machine in hot water with some Oxy Clean, which I only use in this type of situation (as opposed to my homemade laundry soap which I normally use), and VOILA! Clean again. Well, as many of you know, Crayola really knows what they are doing, and yes, their products really are washable. These crayons, however, are not. Bummer. Well, I’ve spent some time today scrubbing laundry in an attempt to save it (some articles of clothing proving more successful than others), and so I did not have time to post a recipe. I will post another on Saturday.

On another more lovely note, after finishing the dishes the other day after lunch, this is what I found:

my reading princess

My littlest princess “reading” a novel in the sunlight contently. I love this girl.

From crayons to princesses, life remains interesting!

Thanks for reading,

Karen

Show me Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day.” Psalm 25:4&5

 

My Repurposed Kitchen Island

When we purchased our home 6 1/2 years ago, we didn’t realize how little counter space it had in the kitchen! It wasn’t until I began to cook in that kitchen that I realized how 3 1/2 feet doesn’t go very far when you make just about everything from scratch, with your kids help! There is no room for a table in our kitchen, so we began to realize that a small island would be just the thing. We didn’t want just any island though, we wanted a really nice island for a very small amount of money… We started looking around and quickly came to the conclusion that this wasn’t going to happen. That’s when I decided to think outside of the box.

A friend and I went to go check out an old warehouse full of salvaged materials from buildings that had been demoed, and I found an old rusty metal cart that really caught my eye. I took some measurements, and then went home and taped off the amount of space that it would take up in the kitchen. We pondered this for a few days and decided that it would work in the space, so I went and picked it up for $50. I painted it with rust paint that I had tinted a couple of shades lighter than the walls, and adhered red wallpaper onto the shelves, which I then coated in a couple of coats of water based varethane.

When it came to the counter top for it, we considered several options, but finally decided that we would take the top off our television cabinet that was in our basement rec room; and we routered, sanded, and stained the back edge of it to match the rest of the finish. We then adhered it to the metal cart with a number of small metal brackets and screws. Voila! The cool thing is that we were able to cut the sides down on the television cabinet, sand them, and use the same stain to finish the tops as well. Now we have a great looking island counter top, and a good looking television shelf in the basement. You’ve gotta love when you can repurpose what you already have right?

Here is the finished product:

repurposed kitchen island

kitchen island, repurposed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are enjoying all of this newfound space in the kitchen! Gone are the days of trays of cookies falling into the sink because there was no where else to rest them. Now we can bake up a storm, and my kids have a great spot to sit and help out, or just visit as I do my thing in the kitchen. We have essentially doubled our counter space and are loving this repurposed kitchen island.

Thanks for reading,

Karen

Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25: 4 & 5

Mouth Watering Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

These mouth watering pulled chicken sandwiches are a great slow cooker recipe from  The Three Week Menu Plan (that could save your marriage), found in week 3. They are super easy to make, gluten & dairy free, and mouth watering! This recipe could have a slightly higher sugar content depending on the type of barbeque sauce used – so choose wisely (or make your own using maple syrup or honey as the sweetener). As an added bonus, this recipe utilizes some (hidden) pureed veggies in the sauce to boost the nutritional content. I love to use Jessica Seinfeld’s method (which you can learn more about in her cookbook Deceptively Delicious ) of making large batches of pureed veggies and freezing them in 1/2 cup portions in labeled ziploc baggies in the freezer.

I didn’t grow up eating these delicious sandwiches, and was first introduced to them at my sister’s house a few years ago. Since then, they have become a regular favourite in our house, and my kids actually cheer when they learn that this is what’s being served! I have just recently started making them in the slow cooker, and the chicken is so tender that it practically falls apart.

Mouth Watering Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

Serves 5-6 people

Mouth watering pulled chicken sandwiches

Ingredients:

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast, or a combination of breasts and thighs

1/4 cup water

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

1 medium onion

4 cloves garlic

1/2 cup your choice of either pureed butternut squash, sweet potato, or carrot

desired amount of favourite barbeque sauce

buns

Directions:

1. Place chicken, water, onion, garlic, salt and pepper in slow cooker and cook on low for 5-6 hours, or high for 3-4 hours.

2. In the slow cooker stone, pull the chicken apart using two forks.

3. Stir in pureed vegetable of choice, and desired amount of your favourite barbeque sauce until desired yumminess is achieved.

4. Serve on gluten free buns or buns of choice, with a salad or vegetable.

On a side note, if you have any leftover pulled chicken, it is fantastic as a pizza topping, or on loaded nachos, or baked potatoes.

Shown in the picture above are a quick gluten & dairy free bun that only take 20 minutes to your first batch being completely baked! We do prefer a yeast bun, but on a day when time is limited (almost always), these are our go-to buns. I no longer have the source, but I’ve adapted them quite a bit, so here is my version:

Quick and Easy Gluten Free Buns

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Ingredients:

1 cup rice flour (brown or white)

1 cup potato starch flour

1 cup tapioca starch flour

2 Tbsp ground flax seeds

4 tsp baking powder

2 1/2 tsp xanthan gum

1 tsp salt

4 eggs

1/2 cup oil (I like to use melted aroma free organic coconut oil, but any oil works fine)

1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce

1 cup milk of choice (unsweetened almond, coconut or rice)

Directions:

1. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients, and whisk together until fully incorporated

2. Add wet ingredients, and stir well to combine

3. On a baking sheet, place batter in heaping tablespoons 2 inches apart, and flatten slightly

4. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 15 – 17 minutes

5. Allow to cool slightly before slicing

Enjoy!

-Karen

Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25: 4 & 5

 

 

 

 

 

The Three Week Menu Plan (that could save your marriage)

I was encouraged by all of the feedback that I have gotten regarding my post Suppertime Stress – a Solution. I had the hunch that this was a struggle for some other moms out there, and now my suspicions have been confirmed. I have been asked repeatedly to share my menu and my recipes from all you weary moms out there, and so I will be happy to do so. And just to clear the air, my marriage didn’t need saving. But more on that later.

Today I will share my 3 week menu plan, and then I will share the recipes in several mid week posts throughout the next few weeks. Without further ado, here is the menu plan (that could save your marriage):

Monday to Thursday utilize the slow cooker, so that on those busy school nights supper is ready right on time with no last minute stress.

3 week menu plan

There it is! I should mention that all of these recipes are gluten free and dairy free (with some optional dairy toppings). It’s been amazing having a go-to menu plan. I never have to try to come up with something at the last minute anymore which has been so stress free. I also now feel like I have the freedom to try something new if I want to change it up a little, and I’ll most likely end up adding a fourth week for all those other yummy meals that haven’t made the menu yet.

But how can this meal plan save my marriage, you ask? Well, that may be an outlandish claim BUT even so, following this menu plan has led to more harmonious, peaceful, well running days for our family as we go about doing all of the things that we do. There are fewer harsh words spoken; there is calmness where there was often calamity. Could that be enough to save your marriage? Well, it could be… What I do know is that it’s simple, and simple is good.

Go ahead, try it!

Karen

Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25 4 & 5