When we moved to the farm, my first goal was to get chickens. And let me tell you, I didn’t wait long. The first full weekend after moving to the farm (yes, after 8 days) we marched off to the feed store and picked up our girls and necessary supplies. Seven baby chicks, all laying hens, came home with us, deeming our plot of land a true farm.
Truth is, I had no idea how to raise chickens, so I employed my “fake it, til I make it” approach and with the help of Google and a Backyard Chicken Facebook group, I marched on like a boss. Six months later, we are getting eggs every day and the girls are loving their free range days on the farm. We have curbed the puppy’s tendency to chase chickens and have settled into a happy rhythm. I knew I wanted chickens, but I wasn’t prepared for how much I love having chickens.
Chickens are funny – endlessly entertaining to me. They run to me everytime I come outside, they follow me around like a little pack of fans and they just want to be close. They are loyal and forgiving. Relational and stick together. They are hard working and explorers. They get scared, fuss and flap for a second and then move on without memory. They can be counted on. Seems we have a lot to learn from a chicken.
I am so blessed to have a band of girls on our farm. ❤❤❤ If you are ever feeling low, come visit, the girls will be happy to cheer you up.
Sweet potatoes have basically been relegated to a Thanksgiving cameo once a year….and I never am the one who makes them or puts them on my plate. Convinced I didn’t like them, or maybe it was the marshmallow smother (gag), I have lived a happy, sweet potatoe free life. Until now.
My daughter, who lived in Mexico for a couple of years, taught me redemptive grace for the oh-so-good-for-you-vegetable. Packed with vitamin A, potassium and fiber, they are a great, low-fat partner in health. In fact, I’m going to plant them in my garden next year – now that is full vegetable salvation!
This recipe is simple (10 mins to prep), delicious as a side dish to chicken or pork, or as a meal in itself. It is gluten-free, sugar-free, can be made vegan, and would also be great for toddlers and kids. Let’s hear it for a vegetable win … and a little swagger on the GF/vegan status too!
Sweet Potatoes and Apples
This recipe makes about 4 medium servings but can be scaled up or down easily.
2 sweet potatoes (peeled) and 2 apples (not peeled) cut into cubes (I do about 1/2 inch bites). Firm varieties of apples work best like honeycrisp or pinks, but any kind can work. The softer apples will just be a bit mushy, but still taste amazing. Also, on apples, the sour types like granny smiths might be a little tart since there is no sugar, but make it your way, you can always add a little honey to sweeten if that is the apples you have.
Mix in 1/2 c of dried cranberries
Sprinkle with cinnamon (about 1 T) and mix
Place all in a greased casserole pan or a lined baking sheet. I use a little butter to grease, but coconut oil works too for you vegans or really conscientious – extra points for less fat! I’m not all Paula Deen level, but I do love me some butter.
Dot the mixture with 2 T butter* cut into small cubes. *See note above about butter and swap out with coconut oil if you prefer.
Sprinkle top with 1/2 cup nuts. I like pistachios or pumpkin seeds, but use what you have on hand. It adds a nice texture and crunch, plus some bonus protein.
Bake at 375 until potatoes are soft when poked with a fork, about 30-40 minutes.
You can make a big batch and use the extras for leftovers. They are great for lunch, transport well, reheat well and last a week or so in the refrigerator. I cook it year round but it has all the fall feels for sure. A Thanksgiving party in your mouth, minus the marshmallows!
Pears are new to me. We have a small hybrid tree with Bartlett and two different types of Asian pears on our farm, so I’m especially in learning mode.
I’ll be honest to say the gritty texture has always had me coming in with a “fine” score for pears. But, pears right off the tree are much more tasty. And the frugal side of me that hates to waste was determined to find a way to use them!
I made a homemade pizza with sliced pears, feta and a balsamic reduction, which was really yummy, but used only a couple. So today I got serious and found a recipe on Ball’s website for Honey Cinnamon Pears. (These were amazing on a salad with feta, toasted pine nuts and the pears with a viniagrette dressing – yummy!) I added extra cinnamon to the recipe, which is no surprise, if you know me. There’s always room for more cinnamon.
Also from the Ball website, I made my own version of salted caramel pear butter. The modifications I made was to make a salted caramel sauce first and then just added a little of it into the final reduction of pears to make a sweet and tasty pear butter to spread on a Turkey sandwich or pancakes. This version used much less sugar and I could control how much caramel went in so it did not completely take over the pear taste.
Late spring and early summer, I was so excited to plant a sunflower row – part of a romantic vision of happy flowers on the farm. This lovely picture is not.my.flowers.
Truth is, I did plant more than 200 sunflowers (and I threw in Shasta daisy and hollyhock seed from my previous garden) across the 300 feet of front fence line of my farm. Two grew. Two….and they only got about 10 inches high, so, there’s that.
I would love to feign shock and alarm, but truth is, although we did some hard work, I didn’t adequately prepare the soil for flowers. I got it dug up enough (by hand mind you) to get seeds in, but figured they would take off from there. Nope lazy farmer. It doesn’t work that way.
So my lesson? There is no shortcut or easy way. If I want a beautiful crop or garden or (fill in the blank)….I have to do the preparation and hard work …for months. Ok, so, there’s next year and mark my words….I will have adorable sunflowers to wave hello at anyone who passes by!
I like a good cookie, but my sweet husband…he loves, no, he needs cookies, and there is no one else I’d rather bake for than him. Today, since it was a slightly cooler day and I may have put a few fall decorations out, I’m feeling the delicious warm hug of this white chocolate, cranberry, oatmeal cookie….just enough cinnamon to give me all the fall feels.
This recipe is slightly adapted from cookies that used to be served at Shriners Hospital in Spokane where I worked for years supporting that great mission.
Recipe and directions:
Cream together until fluffy:
1 c. butter (room temperature)
3/4 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. white sugar
2 t. pure vanilla
Add two eggs and mix well.
Combine together in a bowl, then slowly add to the creamed mixture:
1-1/2 c. flour
2 t. cinnamon (you can cut this in half, but really? why would you?)
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
Stir in, just until combined:
2 c. oatmeal (old fashioned, not quick cook)
1 package white chocolate chips (2 cups)
2 c. dried cranberries (or raisins if you prefer)
Scoop dough onto parchment lined cooking sheets. Bake at 350 for 12-14 minutes, let cool slightly on pan before transferring to a cooling rack.
Chopping veggies, particularly onions, is not my favorite cooking chore. I have tried every trick in the book to keep from crying and the closest thing I’ve found is working near an open flame (gas stove or a candle – per Martha Stewart) and it seems to help. But this post is about making it really count when you do need to cut or chop onions and veggies…and ultimately to save you time during the week.
For me, when I look at my meal plan for the week, I consider all the meals that need onions or veggies and chop them all at once. Not revelational, I get it, but my real hack is how to store it. Since I rarely use an entire onion in a meal, I used to try to triple bag the remainder in zippered baggies, but inevitably my fridge would smell and everything in it tasted like onions.
Now, when I slice or chop onions, peppers and other veggies, I put them in a glass quart canning jar and tightly close the lid before putting them in the refrigerator. It doesn’t make the fridge or anything else in it smell or taste like onion and they stay fresh and crisp for about a week. You can either have just one for onions to portion out or you can prep a jar for each meal. Fajitas or tacos? One with peppers and onions in it. Chicken and Dumplings? One with mirepioux (carrots, celery and onion). Stir fry veggies? Celery, carrots, peppers, onions….well, you get it. It makes meal prep so fast and the jars can go right into the dishwasher for clean up.
The added benefits of less plastic bag use and only needing to clean onion off the cutting boards once a week are a nice perk as well. Happy cooking!
I’d love to hear your tips or tricks for making meal prep easier.
I love to cook from scratch with fresh ingredients and it’s important to me to prepare good food for our family. I do it all the time. So why then, do the words, “what’s for dinner?” seem to reduce me to an incompetent mush that can not, for the life of me, recall a single recipe or meal? Anybody relate?
I work full time outside the home, with a near 3 hour commute a day, so to get home and then figure out what is for dinner is very at risk of looking like cereal or nachos every night. But here’s the deal, I hatemeal planning.
At it’s root, I gristle against meal planning, feeling it far too constraining or inflexible. I mean what if I get to Tuesday and don’t feel like spaghetti? Perhaps it is some deep seeded rebellion in me that doesn’t want anything else in life to boss me around. “Take that meal plan!” I declare as we eat nachos on hump day. I only partly jest here.
But, I think I have finally found an approach that works for us. I have downloaded every kind of tool, planner, and hack, but found just a list works best. This one is from the $1 bin at Target.
Here are five steps to planning meals that have worked for me:
1. Start with your calendar. Be realistic on what you can do based on life commitments, events, etc. I know that we have guests on Saturday and one of them is a vegetarian, so I’ve planned a quinoa and veggie dish that night. We are at a concert Friday so I get a vacation day. Common sense, don’t try to prepare a high touch meal on soccer practice night, that’s a good night for crock pot. Put the cape away, save your super hero for another opportunity.
2. Give yourself a break. A healthy meal doesn’t have to be four courses and gourmet every night. Let’s be real, how many of our families really like that anyway? Quick story, when we were first married, I found and made this recipe for porcupine meatballs….yeah it tastes like what you are thinking. My husband of 2 months, in his sweetest voice says, “um, can you never make this again?” That is still a good laugh years later, but truth is, those meatballs were a pain in the back end to make, set dinner back to like 8pm and tasted awful. He would have been waaaaay happier with just plain ol spaghetti and meatballs. So bottom line is, plan what your family will eat. Be realistic. I save my complex or new recipes for the weekends when I have more time.
3. Shop for the weeks ingredients all at once. This step was forced by our move to acreage in the country, but saves us a lot of money and time. After I decide what I want to make, I get a list for the “stuff” needed to create them, then head to the store. This also is where flexibility is introduced. If I get to Wednesday and have steak salad planned but we had a client lunch out today with beef, I can make Thursday’s meal because I have everything I need on hand. It sounds so simple but it’s these little shifts and changes that make it workable for me.
4. Cut veggies once for all meals. I have discovered a great way to prep onions and veggies for the week so I’m not crying every day over my meal prep (literally). If you’re anything like me, just the thought of prep time can be enough of a climb when I am tired after work to have me dialing for delivery. Check out my onion and veggie hack that saves me so much time (coming in next post). With this prep out of the way, I can get most meals on the table quickly.
5. Have a few standbys….just in case. There will be days when you just aren’t feeling it and that’s ok. The goal of nutrition should be looked at globally. I plan a week at a time and consider the full week of nutrition, not one meal at a time….because, well that could make you crazy, but sometimes all the kids will eat is macaroni and cheese. So, again, I live by a gospel of grace in the meal planning world. An egg frittata (read a baked egg casserole that tastes like a quiche) which is filled with leftover veggies and cheese is still a very good meal with lots of health benefits. And it’s not cheating that it takes 15 minutes to make and 30 mins to bake. That’s brilliant and we need a few “emergency exit” options on the dinner planning.
I’ll share some of my emergency options for 30 minute dinners in another post. I hope these steps help you with meal planning. I know that for the first time, I am really making it work and knowing there is an idea ready is very helpful to success!