When It’s Cold Outside Get Crafty Inside

I’ll be honest.  I’m not a fan of cold weather.  I’ve lived in Michigan my entire life.  But I still don’t like the cold.

I do believe it’s healthy to get outside as much as you can…so we do.  But it’s also nice sometimes to stay inside.  So as soon as the weather gets cooler I’m looking for fun indoor activities.

Around here that means it’s time to get crafty.  Here are some easy fall crafts and activities to do with your kids or by yourself!

  1. Paint with fruits and vegetables – Slice any fruit or vegetable to use as a stamp.  You get all different shapes and sizes.  Plus you can use up produce that is getting old.
  2. Make placemats with wax paper – Use leaves or color a picture and place them between two pieces of wax paper.  Iron the paper until both sides stick together.  Trim the edges.
  3. Make all of your fall/Thanksgiving decorations from nature – Go on a scavenger hunt in your yard or a local park to find sticks, pine-cones, leaves, rocks, etc.  Then get creative making decorations with them.
  4. Make Christmas cards and gifts – It may be early for some, but if you start making cards and gifts now you’ll be less stressed when Christmas approaches.  Plus you’ll have unique, heartfelt, homemade gifts for your friends and family.  Homemade baked goods and spice blends make great presents, as do crafts that you and your children create.
  5. Paint pottery – Find a local paint-your-own pottery studio (like Naked Plates) and create your own masterpiece.  This is a great thing to do with your kids.  Make a serving dish together and use it at all of your holiday gatherings.  Your kids will be so proud.
  6. Make Halloween costumes – There’s still time!  Instead of spending a lot of money to buy a costume, let your kids help make their own.  See how creative you can be using what you have at home.  Is that a fairy princess chef I see?
  7. Recreate the first Thanksgiving – Have your kids help make pilgrim and Indian costumes.  Read about the first Thanksgiving and put on a play.  You can even make a mini feast of what they may have eaten.
  8. Make a countdown chain – Make paper chains to count down to Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Then let your kids cut one ring off each day.
  9. Make art with food…and eat it! – Provide an assortment of sliced fruits, vegetables, nuts, crackers and dips (nut butters, pesto, hummus, etc.) and let your child get creative.  Make a picture on a plate (maybe a face or an animal or even something abstract).  Then eat it!  You can take a picture to capture their creation.
  10. Write a book – Help your child write their own book.  Fold blank paper.  Let them create a story.  If they are young you can write the story as they tell it.  If they are older they can write it themselves.  Then they can illustrate it.  After the book is finished read it together…over and over.  It’s a great way to help them be creative.

Fall is a wonderful time to be outside, breathe the crisp air and see the beauty of nature.  But it’s also a great time to be creative with your kids inside.  It doesn’t have to cost a lot or take a lot of time to stir their imagination and spend quality time together.  Plus you can get some of your holiday preparation done in advance.

What sort of fun activities do you do indoors once the weather becomes cooler?

Mary Voogt is a follower of Christ, a wife, and a mother of two. After 6 years as an electrical engineer she now stays home full time. She is passionate about real food and enjoys spending lots of time in the kitchen cooking and baking from scratch. She blogs at Homemade Dutch Apple Pie on a variety of topics including digestive issues, OCD, anxiety, infertility, natural parenting and healthy food.

Back to School…Back to Broth

It’s September.  The weather is starting to get cooler, fall produce is at the market and school has started.  This means lots of fun and excitement.  But it also means the start of colds, the flu and lots of germs.

There are many precautions you can take to stay healthy of course, and one of the best ways is to nourish your body with bone broth.

bone broth and immune support

Bone broth is full of vitamins and minerals, it helps with digestion and promotes healing in the gut, and it is one of the most nourishing foods you can eat.

It is best to get broth in your diet daily, but that can sometimes be a challenge – especially when it comes to kids.  But it can be done, even without eating soup seven days a week, although you could.  It makes a great quick prep breakfast, lunch or dinner!

Eight easy and delicious ways to incorporate broth into your meals every day.

  • Smoothies – Add some unflavored broth into your favorite smoothie.
  • Gravy – Simmer vegetables and/or meat in broth until it reduces and thickens.
  • Sweet and sour sauce – Make meatballs or stir fry by simmering your meat/vegetables in a combination of broth and honey until it reduces.
  • Rice/Noodles/Grains – Cook rice or whole wheat noodles or other grains (quinoa, couscous, etc.) in broth instead of water.  The grains will absorb the broth.
  • Beverage – Simply put warm, seasoned broth in a cup and drink it.  Kids will enjoy this if they get to use a straw.  It makes a great replacement for a cup of tea or coffee once in a while.  Or drink it at the start of your meal to aid in digestion.
  • Scrambled eggs – Use broth instead of milk when making scrambled eggs.
  • Vegetable puree – Puree vegetables like squash, pumpkin or peas with broth for a nutritious side dish, sauce or baby food.
  • Soups/stews – Use lots of bone broth for homemade soups and stews.  Simply add whatever meat and/or vegetables you like and simmer.  You can puree the soup to make a thick stew.

Making broth is quite simple.  Just simmer bones (with or without meat) on the stove or slow cooker for about 24 hours.  You can add vegetables and seasoning as well.  Then strain the liquid out.

You are left with beautiful broth full of gelatin, vitamins and minerals.  For extra nutrients be sure to use a variety of parts of the animal, including things like feet, necks, etc.

Store broth in the refrigerator for up to a week or keep it in the freezer.

While it may be convenient to buy pre-made stock, it’s not equivalent to homemade stock.  It does not have the same nourishing properties.  And most of the store-bought stocks contain MSG and other chemicals and fillers.

You can also use good quality gelatin to get some of the same benefits as stock or broth.

Don’t let the start of school and fall activities be the end of your family’s health.  Start consuming broth at least a few times a week to make sure you’re getting the nutrients and protection you need.

Do you regularly make broth? If so, what are your favorite ways of using it?

Mary Voogt is a follower of Christ, a wife, and a mother of two. After 6 years as an electrical engineer she now stays home full time. She is passionate about real food and enjoys spending lots of time in the kitchen cooking and baking from scratch. She blogs at Homemade Dutch Apple Pie on a variety of topics including digestive issues, OCD, anxiety, infertility, natural parenting and healthy food.

How To Start Planning For Next Year’s Preservation

Fresh produce is available all summer long.  Many hours are spent in the kitchen chopping, cooking, freezing, canning and drying to preserve the bounty for the rest of the year.  The fall will still bring a few fresh foods like squash, pumpkin, apples and pears.  But now that summer is winding down, prime season for a lot of produce is over.

It is tempting to sit back, take a deep breath and consider your summer produce preservation task over.  But before you do there is one more thing to consider.  Taking inventory and planning for next year!

It may seem early to start planning for next summer, but a little work now will really pay off for years to come.  Here are a few simple steps to make each season of preservation a success.

  1. Keep a record.  Make a spreadsheet and keep track of what produce you buy throughout the summer.  Be sure to note the quantity, cost and date of purchase.  Next summer you’ll know about when to expect and prepare for each type of produce and roughly how much it will cost.
  2. Make a list of your favorite recipes and pantry staples.  Do you make a lot of smoothies with frozen fruit?  Do you use a lot of jam?  Do you eat a lot of salsa?  Figure out what you’ll want available all year in your pantry and freezer.  Then you won’t forget anything.  And with a record of when all of the produce is available you’ll know exactly when you need to be ready to make it.
  3. Check your stock from last year.  Did you clear your freezer stock of fruits and vegetables last year?  Are your pantry shelves still overflowing with canned goods?  Assess how much you used to get an idea for how much you’ll want to make next year.  It’s easy to check your freezer stock if you keep a good record all year.
  4. Take inventory of this year.  Before using any of your freshly preserved foods take inventory of everything you have just preserved and made.
  5. Take inventory again next summer.  At the beginning of next summer take inventory again and see what’s left.  Did you make way too many pickles?  Did you run out of corn half way through winter?  The start of the next preservation season is a great time to assess.

Combine all of these steps to come up with a summer preservation plan.  The first year or two will take some work.  But after that you’ll have a running list of how much you need to preserve, when the produce will be ready, about how much it will cost and any necessary recipes and equipment (jars, lids, freezer bags or containers, etc.).

You can tweak the plan every year to meet the needs of your growing (or shrinking) family, the state of the crops (there probably won’t be as much peach, pear and apple canning this year!) and your schedule (a long summer vacation could mean you miss out on a particular fruit or vegetable).  Then enjoy a perfectly stocked freezer and pantry all year long.

Mary Voogt is a follower of Christ, a wife, and a mother of two. After 6 years as an electrical engineer she now stays home full time. She is passionate about real food and enjoys spending lots of time in the kitchen cooking and baking from scratch. She blogs at Homemade Dutch Apple Pie on a variety of topics including digestive issues, OCD, anxiety, infertility, natural parenting and healthy food.

Four healthy homemade frozen treats

It is HOT here in West Michigan, and nothing cools you better on a hot day than a frozen treat.

Here are some recipes for quick, easy, healthy cold snacks that the whole family will love.  You can make them in traditional popsicle molds (be sure they are BPA free) or just use cups or small mason jars and popsicle sticks.

1. Vanilla Ice Cream Bars

What’s better than ice cream?  Ice cream on a stick!  This simple recipe comes together in minutes.  Stir in fruit or chocolate chips for an extra special treat.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Method of Preparation

Blend all ingredients and pour into molds or cups.  Freeze until solid.

Optional: Fold chopped fresh fruit or mini chocolate chips into the mix before pouring into molds.

2. Frozen Cheesecake Pops

This easy recipe gives you the flavor of cheesecake in frozen form. Plus it’s full of probiotics. You can use any fruit you like and blend it in or keep it whole. To make these really healthy use homemade yogurt and graham crackers!

Ingredients

1 cup plain full fat yogurt
1/4 cup full fat sour cream
1/4 cup cream or whole milk (optional)
3 Tbsp. maple syrup
2 Tbsp. honey
3/4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (or any fruit you like)
3/4 cups crushed graham crackers (preferably homemade…even better use soaked)

Method of Preparation

1. Crush graham crackers into pea size pieces (you can do this easily by pulsing them in the food processor a few times or do it by hand).

2. Combine yogurt, sour cream, syrup and honey. To make a blended pop, place this mixture in a food processor or blender with the fruit and blend. If keeping the fruit whole, simply mix it all by hand.

3. Pour yogurt/fruit mixture over graham crackers and mix.

4. Pour the mixture into popsicle molds or cups with popsicle sticks and freeze until solid.

 

3. Pudding Pops

Turn your favorite pudding into a frozen treat.  Simply prepare the pudding, let it cool and freeze it.  I use this great recipe for homemade pudding from Heavenly Homemakers.  (you can use your favorite recipe)  Try vanilla, chocolate or butterscotch.

Better yet, mix a couple flavors for a swirled pudding pop!

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup rapadura or 1/2 cup real maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 4 Tbsp. arrowroot powder (or organic cornstarch)
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Method of Preparation

1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together milk, egg yolks, rapadura or maple syrup, cocoa, arrowroot powder and salt.

2. Cook over medium heat, stirring CONSTANTLY until pudding begins to thicken.

3. Remove immediately from the heat, and continue to stir until pudding is creamy.

4. Add butter and vanilla and continue to stir until mixed.

5. Let the pudding cool for about 30 minutes and pour into popsicle molds or cups (insert sticks).  Freeze until solid.
 

4. Fresh Fruit Popsicles

homemade popsiclesBlend your favorite fruit for a nutritious snack.

  • In season fruit – Strawberries, watermelon, peaches, blueberries, raspberries (or any combination)
  • Honey to taste (if fruit is not very sweet)

Method of Preparation

1. Puree fruit in a blender until smooth.

2. Strain seeds for berry popsicles if desired.

3. Mix in honey if fruit is not sweet enough.

4. Pour into popsicle molds or cups with popsicle sticks.

5. Freeze until solid.

 

Try one (or all!) of these frozen treats to beat the heat!

What are your favorite ways to prepare homemade popsicles?


Mary Voogt is a follower of Christ, a wife, and a mother of two. After 6 years as an electrical engineer she now stays home full time. She is passionate about real food and enjoys spending lots of time in the kitchen cooking and baking from scratch. She blogs at Homemade Dutch Apple Pie on a variety of topics including digestive issues, OCD, anxiety, infertility, natural parenting and healthy food.

Active, Educational Summer Activities For Kids of All Ages

It’s summer. All of the regular activities are done and school is out. So now what?

Here are a five fun activities to keep the kids busy, healthy and learning this summer.

Farmers Market

photo credit: 86805724@N00

1. Farmer’s Market

Taking weekly trips to the local farmer’s market is a great way to get outside, and teach your kids about real food. And letting your kids help pick out fresh produce is also a way to get them to eat more fruits and vegetables.

Eating seasonal, local fare will really give you and your kids a taste of summer – fruits and vegetables at their peak can’t be beat.

There are quite a few farmer’s markets in the area (you can search for one close to you at Local Harvest) and every Tuesday my kids hop in the wagon, and we walk to the Grandville market.

We love our little walk, and we stock up on fresh produce so we can preserve it for the rest of the year. My daughter even likes to help me pick out what we buy and enjoys trying new things.

And visiting the market is also a great way to meet local farmers and learn more about your community.

2. John Ball Zoo

The zoo is a fun place to get fresh air and exercise and learn about animals.

John Ball Zoo is great because it’s small enough that it doesn’t take a whole day to see all of the animals and yet there is still so much to see:

  • you can feed some of the animals and take camel rides
  • there is a zip line and rope course
  • there is a petting zoo and play train
  • and new this year is a funicular

John Ball Zoo is great for a quick outing or an afternoon of picnicking and fun. Memberships are also very affordable so you can enjoy it all year-long.

childrens literature

photo credit: terwilliger911

3. Library

Looking for a rainy day activity? Check out your local library!

The library is a wonderful place to learn and play. There are toys, computers and of course….books. Our local libraries also offer summer reading programs with incentives for the kids to keep reading through the summer. Visiting the library is a great activity for kids of all ages.

And the best part? You get to bring the fun home.

Check out a few (or a lot) of books and keep learning all summer long. Reading with your children is one of the best things you can do for them.

4. Grand Rapids Children’s Museum

Another great place for learning and never-ending fun is the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum. It has many hands on activities for a wide range of ages. The GRCM has activities all summer long (view the event list).

The theme for June is Fur, Fins and Feathers.

You can even get a membership to GRCM as well to enjoy it the whole year-long. The museum is even open in the evenings on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

After church fun. <3 summer!

photo credit: donielle

5. Parks

What’s summer without a trip to the park?

West Michigan has a great selection of parks, so make sure you find one near you. And a walk to the park is a great way to get exercise and soak up some Vitamin D.

It is also a great place to meet with other families for socializing, so pack everyone up and enjoy company and fellowship.

Summer is a great time for learning, fresh foods and lots of fun. Get out (or in!) and enjoy it.

How do you stay active (and learn) during the summer with your kids?

 

Mary Voogt is a follower of Christ, a wife, and a mother of two. After 6 years as an electrical engineer she now stays home full time. She is passionate about real food and enjoys spending lots of time in the kitchen cooking and baking from scratch. She blogs at Homemade Dutch Apple Pie on a variety of topics including digestive issues, OCD, anxiety, infertility, natural parenting and healthy food.

My first experience with yoga

a guest post by Mary.

I am not super flexible.

I am not meditative.

I am not an easy-going person.

I’ve been playing soccer since junior high, through college and into adulthood. I love to run, be active and stay busy. But I am also a worn out mother of two that needs some rest and rejuvenation. Many days lately exercise feels more like a chore than a joy and that it could actually be doing more harm than good.

So recently I decided I need a change.

I need to challenge my mind and body in a new way instead of doing the same routine day after day. I need a new approach to fitness and taking care of myself.

Coincidentally a few weeks ago I heard of a new yoga studio (PeaceLabYoga) opening just down the road in Grandville. I’ve always been curious about yoga. But being such an “athlete” I always wondered how doing a few stretches could keep you in shape, so I never tried it.

grandville mi yoga

I really know nothing about yoga, except that it seems like everyone that practices loves it. So apprehensions aside I decided to go for it.

Two weeks ago I took my first yoga class at PeaceLab Yoga with the amazing instructor Melanie McQuown.

Before the first class I was very nervous. I had no idea what I was doing so the beginner class was perfect for me. Melanie explains things very well and is very patient. Her assistant Kirsten is excellent as well.

There is no pressure and you don’t need any experience. By the second class (just a few days later) I was hooked. Yoga is a new experience for me.

It is challenging my body in new ways and I love how I feel during and afterwards. Although it is physically challenging it is also very calming. I found myself actually getting sleepy a few times! I guess that will happen when an overtired mother of young children gets a few minutes of quiet and relaxation.

I have only taken a few classes so far, but I love it!

grandville mi yoga

I am excited to see how practicing yoga will impact my physical health, my fitness and my overall well being over time.

When it comes to staying healthy and fit it is important to do a variety of activities to work all parts of your body. If you’ve never tried yoga I strongly encourage you to do so. I was skeptical for years. But after just a few classes I can already see how beneficial this will be for me. I am excited to strengthen my core and improve my posture. As someone that has struggled with anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder for years I am hoping it will also have a positive impact on my mental health as well.

If you live in the West Michigan area I recommend visiting PeaceLab Yoga. Melanie McQuown, the owner, is a wonderful woman with a gentle spirit and a heart for building community. I felt very welcomed and at ease from the moment I stepped into the studio. I don’t know how often I will be able to take classes, but I will look forward to it each time I can.

A little escape from the chaos of daily life, a time to refocus and balance, a chance to take a little time for myself, an opportunity to get in shape and challenge my body in new ways – that is my first experience with yoga.

I hope that it will be a life long journey to continue this process and learn what more yoga has to offer.

 

Do you enjoy yoga?

 

Mary Voogt is a follower of Christ, a wife, and a mother of two. After 6 years as an electrical engineer she now stays home full time. She is passionate about real food and enjoys spending lots of time in the kitchen cooking and baking from scratch. She blogs at Homemade Dutch Apple Pie on a variety of topics including digestive issues, OCD, anxiety, infertility, natural parenting and healthy food.

Simple Spring Supper…Soufflé

It’s spring and the weather is getting warmer.

What does this mean? It means I start spending less time (or at least that is my hope) in the kitchen making dinner and more time outside playing with my kids. It also means that summer will be here soon with all of its wonderful produce. So now is the perfect time to clean out the freezer to use up what we preserved last year and make room for what’s to come…which may be sooner than usual this year with all of the warm weather. We’ve already got asparagus popping up in our yard!

Today I’m sharing a versatile recipe for soufflé. The idea actually came from my (just turned) four-year old daughter. She often likes to dream up food ideas when she’s play cooking or when I ask her what she likes to eat. The other day she said she wanted pea soufflé. I thought for a moment and then said “I guess we can. I don’t see why not. Let’s try it.”

souffle

Then I thought if it works with peas, it’ll probably work with just about any vegetable you like. This recipe is great for using up the little containers of leftover vegetables in the fridge. It’s also great for using those last few vegetables from the freezer.

Want a simple and cheap dinner? Make this with just eggs and vegetables. Want to add a little more bulk and protein to it? Mix in some cooked chicken, ham or bacon (I usually have at least  one of those in my freezer). Do you like more texture? Add some diced, cooked vegetables.

Do some spring cleaning in your kitchen. Raid your fridge and your freezer for a nourishing and simple meal that the whole family will love. Try some variations to see what combinations your family likes best. And make room for the summer produce that will be here before we know it! You can prepare the pureed vegetables ahead of time so all you have to do is mix, pour and bake when you’re ready to make dinner. Stick it in the oven (or the toaster oven if you don’t want to heat your house) and go play for another hour. Pair it with some fresh fruit, and homemade bread or a simple salad and dinner is served. Pressed for time? Pour the batter into muffin cups and reduce baking time to 30 minutes for mini soufflés. One other great thing about this recipe is that you can serve it for breakfast, lunch or dinner! Leftovers are easily reheated for a quick, healthy breakfast.

This recipe also works as a dessert. Use up some homemade applesauce you’ve got stored in your pantry or freezer for a healthy, slightly sweet treat.

souffle

Simple Spring Soufflé

Ingredients
3 cups cooked vegetable(s) (any combination you like)
1 cup milk
1 cup crushed homemade or organic whole wheat cracker OR ½ cup wheat flour OR ½ cup coconut flour
¾ cups shredded cheese (if you are dairy free you can leave this out)
¼ cup minced onion (optional)
2 Tbsp. butter (or coconut oil), softened
3 eggs
Cooked, diced chicken, turkey, ham or bacon (optional)
Diced, cooked vegetables (optional, if you like some texture)
Seasoning to taste (salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika)

Method of Preparation
1. Cook vegetables until tender.

2. Puree cooked veggies with a small amount of water or broth in a blender or with an immersion blender. Transfer to a bowl (at this point you can refrigerate the vegetables until you are ready to make the soufflé. Bring the vegetables to room temp before adding the remaining ingredients).

3. Slowly whisk the milk into the vegetables.

4. Add crumbs/flour, cheese, onion, butter and seasoning. Mix well.

5. Beat eggs and add to vegetable mixture.

6. Add meat and diced vegetables if desired.

7. Pour into a greased 2 qt. casserole. Bake at 350 for 1 hour, until set in the middle. Let sit a couple of minutes before serving.

Sample variations

  • Peas (with ham)
  • Butternut squash and broccoli (with chicken)
  • Carrot and cauliflower
  • Sweet potato and corn (with bacon)
  • Spinach, beans and carrot (with bacon and diced mushrooms)

Dessert Soufflé

Ingredients
2 cups unsweetened applesauce or pearsauce
½ cup milk
½ cup crushed organic or homemade graham crackers OR ½ cup coconut flour
2 Tbsp. butter (or coconut oil), softened
2 eggs
Spices to taste (cinnamon, nutmeg)
Dried fruit or nuts (optional)
Honey or maple syrup to taste (optional)
Method of Preparation
1. Whisk the milk into the applesauce.

2. Add crumbs/flour and spices, mix well.

3. Beat eggs and add to mixture.

4. Add dried fruit, nuts and/or sweetener if desired.

5. Pour into a greased 1 ½ qt. casserole. Bake at 350 for 45 min. – 1hour, until set in the middle. Let sit a couple of minutes before serving.

 

Do you enjoy making a soufflé? What are your favorite ‘flavors’?

 

Mary Voogt is a follower of Christ, a wife, and a mother of two. After 6 years as an electrical engineer she now stays home full time. She is passionate about real food and enjoys spending lots of time in the kitchen cooking and baking from scratch. She blogs at Homemade Dutch Apple Pie on a variety of topics including digestive issues, OCD, anxiety, infertility, natural parenting and healthy food.

Using a Freezer to Save Money and Stay Healthy

I love my freezers.

I have an upright freezer, a chest freezer and a small freezer attached to my refrigerator. And they are all full most of the time.

There are even some days I wish I had another one.

Why do I love my freezers so much? A freezer can save you time and money, and it can keep you and your family eating healthier.
freezer_1

Freezers Make Life Simpler and Healthier

I love to cook and I love to bake.

But with two small children I don’t have time to cook elaborate meals or make a new batch of baked goods every day. So when I do have the time I make large batches of food and then freeze them for the days I need something quick.

This also ensures that I feed my family healthy food.

On days that I’m in a rush I don’t have to grab something processed, or packaged. I can just grab something from my freezer that is homemade, and this helps me the most when it comes to breakfast.

I keep things like homemade muffins, bread, bagels, granola bars, breakfast cookies and granola in my freezer at all times. Then I can just pull something out the night before and pair it with some fresh fruit or yogurt for breakfast in the morning. Simple, healthy, and  breakfast is ready whenever you need it.

It is also very convenient to have some dinners in the freezer. Stocking things like cooked ground beef, cooked shredded chicken, sloppy joes, casseroles and homemade broth in the freezer allows for quick and easy dinners. The next time you’re making lasagna for dinner, make two. You’ll be glad to have it on hand for a busy day when you don’t have time to cook, but want a nice meal.

 

Saving Money

DSC_3029Eating high quality food can be expensive, but it is cheaper when you buy in bulk. I buy most of my meat in bulk each spring when we buy a large portion of beef that lasts the whole year. I also buy quite a few chickens every year that I cut up and package in individual pieces. This year I also bought a half pig. It is so much cheaper and healthier to buy good quality meat in bulk. Plus it’s nice to never have to worry about not having meat in the house.

It is also a big money saver to buy produce when it is in season.

All summer I stock up on fresh, local produce at the farmer’s market and grow some in my own garden and freeze it. Then we enjoy it all year long. Even in March, we are still enjoying strawberries, blueberries and cherries from last summer! We even have 6 gallons of beans from our garden left. This is the best way to get produce at its cheapest. You don’t have to buy things like frozen fruit or vegetables during the winter and you’ll also be enjoying food that was harvested at its peak all year long.

I try to make as much of our food from scratch as possible, and even things like bread, crackers, baked goods, snacks, broth, soup, etc. can be made in big batches and frozen. This is a great way to save money.

 

Freezer Organization

freezer_4There are so many things to stock your freezer with; produce, meat, grains, homemade baked goods and meals.

By the end of summer my freezers are usually packed, so how do I keep track of what is in them? Simple.

I have a dry erase board on each freezer that lists all of the contents. Every time I put something in or take something out I mark it on the board so I always have a list of exactly what is in my freezer. When I need to figure out what to have for breakfast I can just look at the board and see what breakfast items I have on hand. If I’m trying to plan a dinner I can check what meat we have and if there is anything that needs to be used up. I can also see if I’m running low on any item so I can restock.

 

Spring Cleaning

My freezers usually don’t have as much in them come springtime as  we have used up a lot of our produce and meat. This makes it a good time of the year to go through and use up older items (Hmmm…I made those muffins 6 months ago. I guess that’s what we’re having for breakfast tomorrow).

It’s also a great time to defrost your freezer.

The fewer items you have to keep frozen during the process the better.

Then you’ll be ready to restock when summer comes and fresh, local food is in abundance once more. After you’re done preserving and stocking bulk meat you can fill your freezer with baked goods all winter long.

A large freezer (or two or three) is a wonderful investment that will save you money and keep you healthy. It’s easy to organize and can make your life much simpler.

 

Do you use a freezer to help save money on healthy foods?

 

Mary Voogt is a follower of Christ, a wife, and a mother of two. After 6 years as an electrical engineer she now stays home full time. She is passionate about real food and enjoys spending lots of time in the kitchen cooking and baking from scratch. She blogs at Homemade Dutch Apple Pie on a variety of topics including digestive issues, OCD, anxiety, infertility, natural parenting and healthy food.

Simple, Fun, and Healthy Valentine’s Day Meals

healthy valentine's day

photo crdit: vintagehalloweencollector

Valentine’s Day is all about telling others we love them.  And what better way to show love to your family, especially your children, then with nourishing, delicious, heart healthy food?  Just because it’s a holiday doesn’t mean you have to resort to junk food.  There are many foods that will both treat your family and keep them healthy.

Try celebrating your Valentine’s Day with some of these kid-friendly/husband-friendly meals and desserts.

 

Breakfast

A great way to start the day is with plenty of protein, healthy fat, probiotics and complex carbohydrates. It’ll give you the energy you need to get you through your day without resorting to quick -me-ups like candy and coffee.

Smoothies and heart-shaped pancakes are a great choice for a themed Valentine’s Day breakfast!

Healthy (sweet)heart Smoothie:

  • ½ cup strawberries (frozen, thawed or fresh)
  • ¼ cup cherries (frozen, thawed or fresh)
  • ¼ avocado
  • 2 egg yolks (from pastured chickens only)
  • 1 cup yogurt, kefir and/or sour cream
  • 1-3 Tbsp. honey, to taste (or maple syrup)
  • 1-2 Tbsp. melted coconut oil

 Method of Preparation

Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.
pancakes
Pancakes are easy to make and many varieties can be made with ingredients you already have on hand:

(Strawberry topping for pancakes is easy to make by just mashing strawberries with a little honey until of a syrupy consistency.)

 

Lunch

What’s more fun for lunch than finger foods and milkshakes? Your kids (and you!) will love this red, heart themed lunch on Valentine’s Day. Pair your sandwiches with homemade fruit leather and red pepper slices.

Make a strawberry jam and nut butter sandwich (or any kind your child likes/tolerates). Cut it into a heart shape. Cut the scraps into bite size pieces for snacking, or into really small pieces to use as a topping for yogurt.

For an extra special treat, serve up a healthy milkshake!

Chocolate or Strawberry Milkshakes:

  •  1 cup milk (preferably raw) (kefir, sour cream or coconut milk can be used)
  • ½ cup frozen strawberries OR 2 tsp. organic cocoa powder
  • 1 egg yolk (optional)
  • Honey or maple syrup to taste (you will need a little more for the chocolate shake)

Method of Preparation

Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Adjust sweetness to taste.

 

Dinner

Dinner is a time for the whole family to sit down and share a meal, and these dinner ideas are healthy, tasty and fun.

1. Make whole wheat or sourdough pizza dough, split it into individual portions (before baking), shape them into hearts and add your favorite toppings.

2. Salmon cakes are a fun way to get kids to eat seafood and make sure they are getting plenty of heart healthy omega-3s. Add carrot or sweet potato fries and a vegetable and you’ve got a delicious dinner. (To make these easier for very small children to eat, form them into small balls and cook without flattening them – perfect finger food!)

 3. A classic – tomato soup and grilled cheese. You can even use your crockpot to make a healthy version. Pair it with a heart-shaped grilled cheese for a healthy dinner the whole family will love. Use the sandwich scraps for dipping!

 

Tomato Soup

photo credit: ilovememphis

Dessert

What’s Valentine’s Day without a little treat? These desserts will satisfy without filling your body with junk. You can even make a “dessert” with no added sugars, so you can treat the whole family, even the littlest ones.

1. Peanut butter brownies (grain free) only take minutes to mix. Cut them into little hearts for an extra special treat.

2. Russian custard is one of my personal favorites (recipe below!). It only takes a few minutes to make, is full of nutrients and is slightly sweet. Mix in strawberries or raspberries for a Valentine’s treat. You can turn it into a breakfast, lunch or snack any other time. I mix in dried fruit, nuts, fresh fruit and/or homemade granola. It’s a great way to get picky eaters to eat eggs.

Russian custard:

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 tsp. honey

Method of Preparation

Mix eggs and honey with a hand mixer on high speed about 4-5 minutes, until yolks get thick and turn pale yellow/almost white. Put in 2 dishes and top with fruit, nuts or granola. This can be made in individual servings or in a larger batch for a whole family.

 

This next “dessert” is something I came up with while feeding my 8 month old and trying to get plenty of nourishing food in his diet. I found that it is quite a delicious treat! I add coconut oil, butter and egg yolk to fruit. Sometimes I add a little pureed veggie as well. You could even add probiotics and cod liver oil! So much good stuff, but it still tastes like a treat. The strawberries are a special add-in for Valentine’s Day.

Fruit Custard

  • ¼ cup homemade pearsauce or applesauce
  • 1 -2 tsp. strained strawberry puree (optional)
  • 2 tsp. coconut oil
  • 1 tsp. butter
  • 1 egg yolk

Optional:

  • 3 tsp. pureed pumpkin or squash
  • Probiotic powder
  • Cod liver oil

Method of Preparation

Place sauce, fruit and fat in a small glass dish. Warm in toaster oven just until the fat has melted. Stir to combine. Mix in egg yolk and any extras. Serves one child.

 

As you can see, it’s very easy to eat well and treat your family on a fun holiday like Valentine’s Day! If you’re looking for other recipes for sweet treats try either Kate’s ebook “Treat Yourself ” which contains many grain free recipes or Katie’s ebook “Smart Sweets “.

 

This post is linked to: Real Food Wednesday

Mary Voogt is a follower of Christ, a wife, and a mother of two. After 6 years as an electrical engineer she now stays home full time. She is passionate about real food and enjoys spending lots of time in the kitchen cooking and baking from scratch. She blogs at Homemade Dutch Apple Pie on a variety of topics including digestive issues, OCD, anxiety, infertility, natural parenting and healthy food.