Do you need a new menu for dinner that isn’t super difficult but the whole family will love? I make tuna casserole for my daycare kids and they can’t get enough of it. I love it too. I have a formula for making my own homemade hamburger helper type meals that save me time and money on food, but are made without all the harmful chemicals that come in processed food. This tuna casserole is a spin on that idea.
Tag Archive for real food
Do you hate getting home and needing something for dinner fast? Using the slow cooker can save you time and money. Having dinner ready when you get home from work is awesome. Not having to stand over a skillet or pan is a great time saver. When dinner is already ready, there is much less temptation to eat unhealthy fast food and blow your family’s budget.
Making traditional foods like bone broth is good for your family, good for your health, and good for your wallet. All you need is a little know how to easily provide the most nourishing diet for your family. It’s so worth taking the time to make real food from whole, unprocessed ingredients so you know what you are putting in your bodies and you can have the most nutritious diet possible on the budget you have.
Processed foods are full of chemicals that not only do not nourish you, they can make you sick. Anything you purchase for your family to eat should have as few ingredients as possible for optimal health. If you can’t pronounce what’s in your food, you probably shouldn’t be eating it.
Bone broth is teeming with benefits and it’s super simple to make. If you are cooking with store bought stock, you are missing out on a ton of flavor, and the opportunity to cook with a lot more nutrients. Not only that, the store bought stock is full of salt and artificial flavorings that don’t provide health for those you love.
Bone broth is one of my favorite traditional foods because you can make it for just about free. You just take bones you would have otherwise thrown away, and extract all the delicious nutrients contained inside them. You can also use scraps from other cooking to enhance the flavor and nutrition of your stock.
Bone broth has innumerable health benefits. It’s full of anti-inflammatory properties and body healing and building benefits. Click here and here to read about the amazing things traditional bone broth has to offer.
A great time to make stock is after a holiday meal when you have a carcass of a turkey or a big ham bone available. If you can’t cook it up right away, just wrap it up and toss it in the freezer for a time when you can.
A great stock making tip is to save the ends of your onions, carrots, and garlic, or the peels and ends of other foods in a zip lock bag in the freezer. Every time you prepare a meal, put your trimmings in the bag until you have a full bag, then you can make vegetable stock, or add in bones and make bone stock. If you boil or steam veggies on the stove, you can put your leftovers in the stock bag and even the liquid. Cooking liquid is full of nutrition from those veggies. It will add flavor and nutrients to your homemade stocks.
Stock can be used to make soups and stews, but it’s also a great ingredient for casseroles, pot pies and dressing. You can cook your pasta or rice in it to add amazing flavor or you can even cook your mashed potatoes in it for an amazing punch of flavor. You can use it for the cooking water to steam your veggies or even add it to stir fries and other dishes. It’s super versatile.
Bone broth is so nutritious, you’ll want to find as many ways as possible to get it into your diet. When you’re sick, broth is a great healer, just heat some up in a mug and sip away. You’ll be feeling better in no time. It’s also very comforting.
When you cook your bone broth, you just throw everything in a big stock pot and fill your pot with water. Turn it on high and put the lid on. Using the lid helps steam the bones and extract more nutrients, but it also saves water and energy by making the liquid heat up faster. Once the water is boiling, you’ll want to turn the heat as low as it will go. If you get distracted by a child needing help snapping their pants in the bathroom, the juice will boil over all over the top of your stove. I’m not saying that’s happened, I’m just saying it can.
Once the stock is boiling, you’ll want to continue to let it boil for at least 4 hours and up to 48. You can also add a teaspoon or two of vinegar to help the bones release their nutrients. Don’t use any salt or pepper when you’re boiling the stock, you can add that at the end to taste if you wish. If you add it in the beginning, it will concentrate as it cooks and become too salty.
Let the broth cool and strain out all the solids and pack in containers to store in the freezer. I use quart size containers and even mason jars will work if you don’t like using plastic. I never remember to thaw them out to use them, so I like the open top containers that the giant block of stock ice can plop out of. Remember for any container to leave an inch of space at the top so the liquid has room to expand.
Gravy is super simple to make and costs very little, but it gives wonderful flavor and texture to your meal. In the south, gravy is a staple food. There are brown gravies and white gravies. White gravy is made with fat and flour along with milk. Brown gravy is made with meat drippings and corn starch. Gravy from the turkey drippings is brown, generally speaking.
Besides saving money, it’s a great idea to make your own gravy because then you know exactly what’s in it. Store bought mixes and gravies are filled with flavor enhancers, artificial flavors, preservatives, and other chemicals that may not be the most healthy to put in your body. I have multiple chemical sensitivities and many of these additives can give me migraines, diarrhea or other unpleasant symptoms. Even if you don’t have chemical sensitivities, additives have many health concerns. Know what’s in your food.
Another great reason to make your gravy from scratch is flavor. Nothing equals the pure taste of homemade food. Store bought is not even in the same universe as homemade. Do yourself a favor, and learn this skill.
My grandmother was a master of gravy. Grandpa wanted gravy at every meal and when Grandpa wants it, Grandma masters it. Her food was oozing with love. She nourished people with her cooking. I love that. I want that. My Mom does that as well and her gravy is just as good as Grandma’s ever was. She’s an amazing cook too. I hope to be as good as them. I have the key ingredient, love. Food nourishes minds, bodies, and souls. It’s important.
From as far back as I can remember, my Grandma served gravy in a turquoise gravy boat. When she passed away, I got to take it home and now I serve gravy from it on special occasions. I love it because it reminds me of her.
Mastering the art of gravy takes a little bit of finesse, but once you get it down, it’s super simple. There are a few key things to remember.
- Stir, stir, stir! No one likes lumpy gravy!
- The longer you cook gravy, the better it tastes. Good things come to those who wait, so be patient with your gravy.
- Tasting is important to adjust your seasoning.
Now let’s focus on the making of brown gravy. First you need the drippings from some meat you’ve cooked. Brown gravy can be made from chicken, beef, pork, whatever type of meat you’re roasting. If you’ve cooked a turkey, lift it out and pour everything from the bottom of the pan into a bowl. Set a strainer over your sauce pan and pour the drippings into your pan, straining out any bits as you pour. Let your juice sit for a while and settle. It might take 30 minutes or so for the fat to rise to the top.
Take a spoon and skim the fat off the top of your liquid and discard it. You just need the juice for brown gravy. Too much fat will make it separate as it sits.
Take a small amount of your liquid and put it in a separate bowl. Put your pan with the remaining liquid on medium heat and bring it to a boil. Make sure to watch it, sometimes it will try to boil over.
Add a few tablespoons of corn starch to your bowl of liquid and whisk it thoroughly with a fork until you don’t see any clumps of corn starch. Depending on how much total liquid you got from your turkey, you should need 2-4 tablespoons. Your liquid should still be somewhat warm, if it’s cold, you need to heat it a little before you add the corn starch so it will incorporate correctly.
Homemade Turkey Gravy is so easy to make yourself!
Put your strainer back over your saucepan when the liquid is at a full rolling boil. Add your corn starch, liquid mixture back into the boiling liquid straining out any small clumps that didn’t get broken up.
Boil gravy, whisking constantly until it thickens and has the desired consistency. Be sure to cool a spoon full of gravy and taste it to see if it needs additional seasoning. Typically with turkey gravy, the seasoning from the meat is perfect for the gravy and it doesn’t need any additions.
What special family traditions do you love?
Are there other basic cooking skills you’d like to learn? Comment here and I’ll write a post about them if it’s something I know how to do.
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Banana bread is a tasty, healthy treat for kids and adults. We have it for snack or breakfast sometimes at Little Sprouts and the kids love it. They love it even more when they get to make it.
Cooking with kids is a great way to teach them about math and science as well as helping them get familiar with ingredients and making them more likely to eat a bigger variety of food. Cooking helps kids develop fine motor skills as well as learn to take turns and be patient. And it’s just plain fun!
My kids LOVE to “pop” or “hatch” the eggs, stir, add ingredients and everything else involved in cooking anything. It builds their self-esteem as well. Learning they CAN do things is great for their development. Team work and social skills are a great product of cooking with kids along with healthy, fresh, clean ingredient snacks.
Before you cook anything with the kids, the first step is ALWAYS to wash their hands. After their hands are washed, for this delicious bread, I let the kids cut the bananas up with a butter knife and add them to the bowl.
Once all the bananas are cut up and added to the bowl, the kids can take turn smashing the bananas until they are fully broken down.
Next, they add the other wet ingredients to the mix. Then there is lots of stirring.
Next, it’s time to add the dry ingredients to the recipe. I have all the ingredients pre measured and prepared at the table before the kids sit down to cook, so they don’t have to wait on me to get everything together. This helps keep problems from arising.
After the rest of the ingredients are added to the bowl, it’s time for a little more stirring. Stirring can be done by all the kids to make sure everyone get plenty of turns to do a job. Everyone wants lots of turns, so break each step into as many turns as possible.
Next, dump the batter into the pan and whisk it off for baking. Then in an hour or so, it’s snack time, the best time!
- 1 C. all purpose flour
- 3/4 C. whole wheat flour
- 2/3 C. raw sugar
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 3 medium bananas, mashed
- 1/3 c. coconut oil
- 2 T. coconut milk
- 2 eggs
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Mash banana and add coconut oil, and milk.
- Mix very well.
- In a separate bowl mix all purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Add to banana mixture and mix very well.
- Add eggs and whole wheat flour.
- Mix until JUST combined.
- Pour into greased loaf pan and bake at 350 for 55-60 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
When people use the terms whole foods, clean eating, or real food, what are they talking about? To me, those things mean eating pure foods the way our great grandparents ate. Before Betty Crocker rolled onto the scene, before additives and chemicals were put in most grocery store products, foods were much closer to how God made them to nourish us.
Processing foods to death removes most of the nutrients. Take cereal for example. Whole grains, containing the perfect combination of nutrients are processed to remove the bran and the germ which contain vital vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin E and Magnesium our bodies need. The newly whitened flour is then bleached to make it look even whiter, further removing valuable nutrients and adding more chemicals. Now the flour is no longer healthy. They need to add nutrients back, so they take synthetic vitamins which are not usable by our bodies and put them into the flour, calling it enriched. Next they take the enriched flour and add shelf stabilizers, preservatives, and other chemicals to make it last for a year in the box. Many of these additives cause a myriad of health problems and diseases. Then they add copious amounts of salt and sugar to make the little chemical bomb taste appealing. Too much salt and sugar cause health problems as well. They add so much salt and sugar in fact, that after eating cereal, natural foods no longer taste good because our palates are trained to find salty and sugary foods. The poor nutritional value of the cereal leaves us with the feeling of hunger, when really, our body is just craving real nutrients and we aren’t really hungry at all. So we overeat the cereal looking for the satiety that comes from being properly nourished.
Our food supply is full of convenience foods like cereal, TV dinners, processed hamburger patties, cake mixes, breads, cookies, canned fruit, fruit juice, canned vegetables, frozen fries and chicken nuggets, corn dogs, processed cheese foods, margarine, sodas, and the list goes on and on. But these foods are far from how food was created to be eaten. God gave us the perfect diet, fruits, vegetables, meats, grains, and dairy. These foods give us everything we need to thrive if we work at keeping the nutrients they originally contained.
Merriam-Webster defines a whole food as a food that is considered healthy because it is grown naturally, has not been processed, and contains no artificial ingredients. Since I started changing our diet for myself, my family, and my daycare kids, I have noticed exponentially we have more energy, better behavior, clearer thinking, less colds and allergies, and just a general feeling of wellness I didn’t feel in myself before.
We do not eat perfectly, but I strive every year to clean up more things in our diet to improve our overall health. We can always do better, but the difference in our diets 15 years ago, and our diets today is astounding. The more I learn the better I can do.
The main key is do something. Start with one small change and work your way to a different lifestyle. Maybe you could start by adding some shredded veggies to your spaghetti sauce or adding a vegetable to your breakfast each day. The important thing is you start somewhere and keep moving forward. Getting families to come along on your journey can be challenging so don’t try to go cold turkey.
What are some ways you can clean up your diet?
- Add more fruits and vegetables. When filling your plate, you should have half fruits and vegetables before adding your grains, meat, and dairy. Once you are used to eating more produce, look for fresh over canned and frozen, more variety of colors and different preparations, and more organics, or even better learn to grow your own!
- Limit processed foods. Anything with ingredients you can’t pronounce is probably not good for you. Shoot for a goal of at least 80% whole foods and 20% processed foods.
- Choose foods with fewer ingredients. If you are choosing tortilla chips for instance, read the label, there are chips that just have corn, lime, and salt. That’s a better choice than one with 20 ingredients including some that are not recognizable.
- Start with plain protein. When choosing your protein source, choose dry beans you cook fresh over canned, hamburger meat over pre-seasoned patties, chicken over breaded precooked chicken nuggets, fish instead of fish sticks, etc. The fresher the better and free range meats from a farmer are much better than store bought inhumanely raised, hormone and chemical filled meats.
- Make your own breads. Cookies, rolls, crackers, cereals, cakes, bread, muffins, and every other bread product available are full of preservatives and chemicals your body does not need. You can also make bread quite a bit cheaper than buying it, so learn how to make a few bread products yourself and work your way to more and more homemade foods. I make my breads in multiple batches and freeze the rest for future days. This saves me a lot of time as I am feeding 10 people here. Choose whole grains over processed grains. See the cereal example above.
- Eat more plants. Vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and beans are packed with nutrients your body needs.
- Cut out fast food. Just don’t eat it. There are so many reasons….
- Choose natural sugars. Instead of using white sugar, try substituting raw sugar, real maple syrup, or raw honey in your cooking. And try to limit sweets because sugar is the number one destroyer of our health.
- Choose healthy fats. Not all fats are created equal. Butter is better than margarine. Olive and coconut oils are better than vegetable oils. Try to take all of the unhealthy trans fats out of your diet.
- DRINK MORE WATER! Avoid soda and have a clean glass of water instead. It takes some practice, but I went from a 2 liter of Dr. Pepper a day to no soda. It was hard at first, but I’ve been soda free for over 15 years and I save so much money and so many empty calories it’s unreal. Let’s figure it up. If I drank my 2 liter of soda or 8 cups per day for 15 years, I would have consumed 800 empty calories daily for a total of 4,380,000 calories over 15 years. Just sugar and chemicals, zero nutrition! And my local homeland has some 2 liter bottles of soda on sale this week for a dollar. If I got them all on sale, which I know I wouldn’t, but it’s easy to calculate with a dollar, I would have spent an additional $5,475 on soda over the past 15 years. Just think if you pay $1.85 for a restaurant soda and you get two sodas with your meal per week, you would spend $2,886 on your meals. That’s a lot of money I could think of a lot better things to do with. There’s more than one reason to go soda free.
Cooking your own foods from scratch will drastically change your health. I challenge you to change your eating habits this New Year and I promise you it will change your life!