Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Menu Plan, February 27-March 4

I mostly stuck to the menu plan last week, though there was one night when I just couldn't eat the meal I had made--so my sweet sister-in-law brought me some of what she had fixed for dinner at the farm. I have continued to have some funky aversions and may or may not have had a 2-day-long craving for greasy, Italian restaurant pizza that I indulged last week. ;)

Ben is also still on the elimination diet (which seems to be helping his asthma, thankfully!), but we are not all following it.

Here's what I have on the menu for this week. What are y'all fixing?

Leftover cupcakes
Potato, chicken sausage skillet (with eggs for the children and I)
Baked oatmeal


Pizza and game/movie night with the family
Slow cooker Chinese orange chicken, brown rice, steamed veggies
"Burrito bowls" with brown rice, beans, shredded beef, and taco fixings
Leftovers (x2)
Dinner with Ben's family at their farm

If you need menu planning inspiration, be sure to head over to OrgJunkie's Menu Plan Monday!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lessons from the Fir Tree

Katie and I have been reading through a book of Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales that was mine when I was a little girl. Today we read The Fir Tree.

Photo credit
 For those who aren't familiar with this story, it follows a little fir tree through his life. During each season of his life, he is discontent and unhappy with his circumstances. When he's a young sapling in the forest, he wants to be a big tree. When he sees other trees being harvested to be made into Christmas trees, he is unhappy because he wants to go with them. When he finally becomes a Christmas tree, he is unhappy and wants to return to his forest. When his decorations are stripped and he is stuck in the basement, he is unhappy and wishes he could go back and enjoy being a Christmas tree again. And, when he is finally being burned as firewood, he looks back over his life remembering various happy moments. The story closes with,

"But soon it was all over, and his story had come to an end, as all stories must."

I couldn't help but be struck with the practical application of such a story. In each season of life, it is so easy to wallow in discontentment waiting for what's next. When we're single, we want to be married. Once we are married, we want a baby. Once we're pregnant, we want to be done with the first trimester. And the whole pregnancy. Once our baby is born, we want him to go ahead and start sleeping through the night. Then we want him to crawl and walk. Then we want another baby. 

No matter how lovely our current season is, we're prone to think,"What if this, that and the other thing were different? My life would be so much better." We fail to see the beauty and, like the cows which are always escaping from their fields in my little part of the world, we can't help but think the grass will be greener on the other side. We fail to find the beauty in the circumstances God has given us right now

Pregnancy can be rough (and I know I have it much easier than so many women!), but how awesome it is to grow new life within our bodies! The newborn days are exhausting to be sure, but what is more precious than the sweetness of snuggling your newborn babe, taking in all their sweet features. The toddler years are definitely trying--but watching your child's personality develop and their understanding increase is amazing. Each season of life is truly brimming with things to be thankful for, gifts from a loving Creator--we just have to find them and give thanks.

Time passes at ridiculous speeds. Because of the fall, each of our (earthly) stories must come to an end--soon. When it's my story ending, I don't want to regret failure to thoroughly embrace each season for all the beauty and incredible blessings it holds.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Menu Plan, February 20-26 {The morning sickness edition}

I woke up this morning feeling quite nauseous and had to think long and hard about what I could eat that wouldn't make me sick, and I've continued to have bouts of nausea throughout the day today. So, I guess morning all-day sickness has officially begun. That said, this is what I have planned, but it will almost undoubtedly change a lot throughout the week. It's too hard to know what will sound good from one day to the next!

Potato, sausage, and spinach skillet (x2)
Baked oatmeal with apples and cranberries (x2)
Double Chocolate Chips Scones (these are sooooo good--AND quite healthy)
Cold cereal (just in case I have one of those mornings)
Oatmeal pancakes with homemade apple topping


Slow cooker Chinese orange chicken, brown rice, fruit salad
Spaghetti, steamed veggie
Mojo chicken, green beans, potatoes
White chili (made with leftover chicken and bone broth)
Shredded BBQ beef over mashed potatoes, fruit salad, veggie

What are y'all cooking this week? For lots of menu planning inspiration, check out OrgJunkie's Menu Plan Monday!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Healthier Homemaking: How to adapt a recipe for maximum nutrition, pt. 1

Thankfully, eating nourishing foods does not require only cooking recipes from strange, obscure, "crunch" cookbooks. Believe it or not, I get most of my recipes from normal cookbooks, blogs, and websites--not from specifically "real food" sources (though I do really enjoy finding yummy recipes that are already healthified for me!).

The healthfulness of the meals you prepare is ultimately in the ingredients you use. Fats, sweeteners, and grains are the main things I consider when adapting a recipe to suit our nutritional preferences.

We talked about healthy fats a couple weeks ago. When I am making a recipe, I always substitute coconut oil, butter, palm shortening, or olive oil depending on the recipe. For most baked goods, I use melted coconut oil, though for savory recipes I do occasionally use extra virgin olive oil. In recipes that call for shortening, I just use palm shortening. And of course, if a recipe calls for margarine, I use butter. In my opinion, using high quality fats vastly improves the taste of most any recipes. And, good fats can make a recipe go from one that damages your body to one that adds a fabulous nutritional boost to your day.

Most recipes call for sugar. While I haven't gone into our reasons for trying to completely avoid white sugar, this article has 25 reasons to avoid sugar to get you thinking along those lines! I usually replace white sugar with sucanat and no one is the wiser. Sucanat is just sugar cane juice that has been dehydrated. It contains vitamins and minerals and is actually healthy in moderation! I have a local source for buying it bulk that is very affordable. We also use local raw honey and organic grade b maple syrup when appropriate.

Most recipes for breads and cookies call for all-purpose flour. I typically just substitute 100% whole wheat flour (preferably organic to avoid GMO's) and we all think they're delicious. For quickbreads, I love using soft white wheat instead of normal hard wheat. It lends a lovely, soft texture very similar to white flour while still providing the nourishing properties of whole grains.

Changing just one of these to a healthier version  in a recipe can make it so much more nourishing. If your family isn't used to these ingredients, you can take it slowly. Try substituting 1/3 whole wheat flour instead of doing 100% all at once and work your way up. My husband, who used to balk at using whole grains in baked goods, now prefers them (score!).

Next week we'll talk about some great homemade substitutes for common some not-so-healthy pre-packaged ingredients!

This post is linked to Works for Me Wednesday.

Friday, February 10, 2012

In which Ben and I are outnumbered

I had suspected it for a week or so.

Two pink lines in the wee hours of Sunday morning confirmed it.

You may have picked up hints in my posts this week (needing more protein, a pregnancy tea recipe, and being a little more tired than usual).

I'm pregnant!

The details:
::Baby is due October 10 (which also happens to be my parents' 25th anniversary!), meaning I am 5 weeks and 2 days along--and Baby is somewhere around the size of a sesame seed. {awwww}
::Baby is due 18 days before Benjamin turns 22 months, and Katie will be four months shy of turning 4. Benjamin was due 5 days before Katie turned 22 months. I'm amazed at how similar the spacing is!
::I'm really tired, a little nauseous occasionally, and eating and drinking a ton. If any of y'all have been both pregnant and nursing, I'm sure you can relate! Most days, I feel like a bottomless pit. ;)
::We are planning to do another home birth with the same midwife we used last time.

We are so thankful that the Lord has seen fit to bless us with another little one and appreciate your prayers as we look forward to welcoming this sweet new person into our family in eight months! Any advice from those of you with more children in your house than parents would be much appreciated as well! :)

This post is linked to Finer Things Friday.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Homemade herbal pregnancy tea

32I've never been great about drinking pregnancy tea. I think I just don't like Red Rasberry leaf. But, I know how beneficial herbs can be in addressing specific health concerns during pregnancy and otherwise. When I recently had to design an herbal pregnancy tea for an assignment in my natural health course, I was excited to try to come up with one with nourishing herbs to address pregnancy complaints and tasted good.

After some trial and error and help from my wonderful sister-in-law, this is what we came up with:

Peppermint (2 parts)
::Pleasant flavor
::Helps with nausea

Red Rasberry Leaf (1 part)
Red Rasberry Leaf is a wonder herb for pregnant women.
::Contains calcium and iron (both very important during pregnancy and birth)
::Is said to reduce risk of miscarriage and postpartum hemmorhage
::Strengthens the uterine muscle.
::Some clinical studies show that regular use during pregnancy can decrease the length of labor.
::Eases morning sickness

Nettle Leaf (1 part)
::Helps with leg cramps
::Contains iron, chlorophyll, and Vit. C
::High in calcium
::Helps prevent fluid retention
::Helps with hemorrhoids postpartum
::Encourages healthy milk supply

Alfalfa Leaf (1 part)
::Increases Vit. K, helping prevent hemmorhage
::Increases available hemoglobin
::Encourages healthy milk supply
::Eases morning sickness
::Can help prevent tooth decay

Dandelion Leaf (1 part)
::Increases mineral absorption
::Helps with constipation, loss of appetite, and upset stomach

Chamomile Flower (1 part)
::Helps with upset stomach
::Calming effect (can help with insomnia)

Milk Thistle (1/4 part)
::One of the best herbs for easing morning sickness

To enjoy, use one tablespoon of loose leaf tea to every cup of water throughout pregnancy.

Do y'all drink pregnancy tea? Do you make your own, or buy pre-made tea bags?

Disclosure: I am not a medical professional. It is recommended that you speak with a healthcare professional before consuming herbs if you are pregnant.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Menu Plan, February 6-12

We are continuing on the elimination diet we started for Ben's asthma a week and a half ago. Thankfully, he has noticed some progress! The children and I are not sticking to it perfectly, though the bulk of our meals are elimination diet friendly--I just don't have time to cook two sets of meals! I'm also in a season of life in which I need some extra protein, so I'm going to be adding a side of eggs to most of the breakfast options.

With that in mind, here is what we have on the menu this week:

Potato skillet with sausage and spinach
Baked oatmeal (made with almond milk and flaxmeal egg substitute)
Double chocolate chip scones (these are SO good!)


Brown rice and lentil casserole (minus the cheese), pineapple
White bean and chicken soup, pumpkin bread
Potato soup (with cooked ground venison added), salad
Salmon noodle casserole, salad
Red Beans, Rice, and Adouille Sausage, salad, fruit
Dinner with Ben's family at the farm

What are y'all fixing this week? Do any of your families have to eat "special" diets for health reasons?

For lots of menu planning inspiration, head over to OrgJunkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Healthy fats giveaway from Tropical Traditions

On the heals of yesterday's post about healthy fats, I'm really excited to bring you a great giveaway from Tropical Traditions.

Tropical Traditions has partnered with me for giveaways in the past, and they are a great company to work with. They offer a large line of very high quality organic foods (including a variety of pantry staples and even pastured meats and eggs) and household products and their customer service is excellent.

The prices of their exceptional products are higher than you'll see at the grocery store (because, so is the quality), but they have weekly sales (often items are even Buy One Get One Free or 50% off) and they frequently offer free shipping or 10% off coupons on Mondays that offset the costs considerably.

Today they are giving away two products here at Covenant Homemaking!

Organic Palm Shortening

Tropical Traditions' Organic Palm Oil shortening is one of my favorite fats in my kitchen. Made from the saturated fats in palm oil, the shortening is non-hydrogenated. It is also odorless and tasteless, so it doesn't add a flavor to foods like coconut or olive oils. I use it in biscuits, pie crusts, cookies and for frying things (like potatoes) on the stove top. It is versatile, makes delicious food, and unlike most of the shortening you can buy, it is healthy.

They were kind enough to send me a gallon of the shortening for review purposes and are going to give one of y'all some as well!

Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil

Tropical Traditions' Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil is one of their premier products. Rather than being mass-produced, their coconut oil is made on small family farms from coconuts harvested just 24-48 hours before the oil is extracted from them. Their coconut oil is not only fabulously healthy, but it tastes really good. It is excellent for cooking and baking, both because it does very well at high temperatures (due to the stable nature of the fat structure) and because it adds so much nutrition and a light, pleasant coconut flavor.

Here is a video interview with Brian Shilhalvy, Tropical Traditions CEO, about how they discovered coconut oil:

I have used this coconut oil and been very please with it. Tropical Traditions is going to be giving a 32oz. jar of their Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil to one of you all as well.

The giveaway will be open through next Wednesday, February 8. Two winners will be chosen, and each one will receive one of the products. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this post.

For bonus entries, subscribe to the Tropical Traditions newsletter, and/or subscribe to the Covenant Homemaking RSS Feed. Also feel free to promote this giveaway on facebook or twitter. Please remember to leave a separate comment for each entry.