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Friday, September 27, 2013

Big Family Cooking - Part 2 - Let's Talk Snacking

Filling up hungry bellies is essential. Children were not meant to feel extended hunger. As long as your children have a healthful, outdoor lifestyle to burn up those calories--keep 'em coming! We have to be careful not to let the looming specter of obesity that is in the headlines keep us from allowing our children to be filled with the energy needed for their active, growing bodies.  Unless your children are suffering from a severe allergy, please make sure you are giving them a complete and balanced diet of ALL food groups and in sufficient quantities.

So how can you fill them up with good things and not break the bank or resort to buying processed junk? Make serious snacks. A packet of Scooby Snacks is fun, but your kids will be begging for more food faster than they can crumple that foil wrapper and toss it on the floor. So for the sake of your sanity, get ready to bake! Buying staples is essential here: flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, oats, honey, etc.  We can talk more specifics in pantry supplies in a later post, along with how to do it affordably when you are short on space.


                                         Sometimes we bake naked, because that's just how we roll.


(1) Homemade bread is not that hard to make--it's even simpler with a bread machine. Slabs of bread slathered with jelly or hazelnut spread or honey or served with cheese slices are just the thing to fill up hungry boys.

(2) Or muffins! Jules is the Muffin Queen, and has some really great healthful recipes that she will share.

(3) Find a good granola bar recipe, like this one. Perfect for bringing to soccer. And affordable because it uses oats and Krispies instead of expensive granola.

(4) Yogurt. I found a super simple recipe online for homemade crockpot yogurt. Rave reviews.

(5) Fresh fruit is an obvious choice, while it lasts. I usually try to limit the kids' fresh fruit intake a bit , so they don't finish off the apples or bananas in a couple hours. I always have canned or frozen fruit on hand to supplement for when the fresh is devoured before the next shopping trip.

(6) Veggies and Dip--Another opportunity to use up the on-sale vegetables that week. Carrots are a fave around here. Along with Ranch dressing, of course.

(7) Tortilla Chips (homemade)--I always buy flour tortillas because at my store you can get 10/.99 regularly. The kids enjoy baking their own chips, especially if we make the cinnamon sugar variety.


The Easy Rule for today is

#121: Bake. The life you save may be your own.


Jules Here---

Just wanted to add a few of OUR favorite snacks to this awesome list:

1) Cereal-- If you look at the cost per pound of generic compared to the snacks, they are much cheaper.  So, buy generic Cheerios, Chex, Life, or other cereals and have them create their own "trail mix" when you throw in some raisins, mini pretzels, etc.  Most of those cereals are fortified with vitamins/minerals, so even if you add a couple of chocolate chips, it still is a healthful snack that kids love!

2) Frozen fruit-- Ems mentioned fresh & canned, but my kids LOVE sucking on frozen blueberries & strawberries, especially in the summer. Cost per pound can be much cheaper in the winter too.

3) Frozen Yogurt bites: We found these on pinterest a couple of years ago and my kids are HUGE fans during the summer.  It makes the yogurt last a lot longer too!

4) Anything with protein: Protein & fiber fill tummies up, so I often get whole wheat English muffins (generic) and put peanut butter on them for the kids for a filling little snack. Once I cut them up for all three, it doesn't ruin their appetite for lunch/dinner later.

5) Our favorite fall snack right now is apple chips. They are DELICIOUS and the children devour them.  They do take awhile, but they are worth the wait and super easy if you have a mandolin (you don't even have to skin or core the apple).

6) Popcorn: We do not buy microwave popcorn; we use our air popper or the brown bag technique so we don't get any harsh chemicals/additives. We add our own butter/salt and sometimes we splurge with the popcorn cheese they sell in the refrigerated section of the grocery store--Yum!

Easy Rule #122: Think about seasonal snacks-- use fruits in season and think of different temperatures: hot or cold to make the snacks unique!





Thursday, September 26, 2013

Big Family Cooking - Part 1

Cooking for a large family can be tricky. Making everyone happy is virtually impossible. However, it is possible to make a filling, delicious, and affordable meal that most children (or husbands) will not spit into their napkins or faux gag--aim high, Mothers!

First, affordability. I will write several entries on this topic, but the long and short of it is to limit the ingredients as much as possible to your staples. Meal costs spike dramatically when you decide impulsively to try out this "amazingly easy" recipe that requires 5 different kinds of fresh herbs, shallots, puff pastry, and swordfish. When it comes right down to it, the majority of meals are variations on the same theme--chicken, beef, turkey, pasta, pork, fish. So select what's on sale or that you can get consistently at a good price and work from there, sticking as close to items in your pantry or fridge as possible. This includes fruit and vegetables. Eating seasonally and sale-fully (yes, I made that up as far as I know) is what saves you money.

Instead of viewing this approach as limiting creativity, it can instead lend an element of Iron Chef to your kitchen that might otherwise be stifled by such over-played "wisdom" of meal planning. Just how many ways can you disguise chicken so your family doesn't realize they are having it for the 3rd time this week?

Quick example:

Mushrooms were on sale this week @ .89/box. I got two boxes, knowing that most of my kids and my husband are big 'shroom fans, but not sure exactly how they'd be used.  I ended up using them in 4 different ways throughout the week!  (1) Added a few to the overnight crockpot chicken stock for flavor; (2) Turned the stock into chicken noodle soup and added some mushrooms as a vegetable; (3) Spaghetti with meat sauce-and mushrooms!; (4) Baked seasoned chicken quarters with mushroom gravy (this was SO delicious, hubby was over-the-moon)

I know not everyone likes mushrooms--they can be a very divisive vegetable--but my point is that you can stretch the heck out of a sale item...and concoct a few distinctive and creative meals while doing so!

So, the Easy Rules for today are

Rule #232: Shop the sales and staples and THEN plan the meals
Rule #584: Remember that Ina Garten doesn't live here. Unfortunately.




Monday, September 23, 2013

Where to Begin?

Ems, here-

I'm the (ever so slightly) older sister, not necessarily the wiser, and the mother of seven children. Five are boys.  I live in Ohio and my sister, Jules, and I are planning on giving this blog thing a shot. Mostly because we realize that we have a lot of stuff bouncing around in our combined heads, and maybe our daily phone calls with each other should be recorded for posterity..we will probably produce a lot of posterity....

Your turn, Jules!



Jules here--

I am the (slightly) younger sister who will also be sharing my experiences of raising three children (5 and under), homeschooling, cooking, and even working (very) part-time. My friends have often asked me how I juggle everything, and though I sometimes crumble under daily pressure, I do manage to keep my children fed, educated, and --for the most part- happy! 

As this is our first online blogging experience, bear with us as we endeavor to make this user-friendly, informative, and hopefully very entertaining.

Thanks for reading!