DOUBLE BATCH BANANA BREAD

I woke up today and noticed gnats in our fruit corner, and that normally means it’s time to bake something. I use my trusty 25 year old Better Homes and Gardens cookbook for pretty much everything. While the kids were busy doing their morning schoolwork, I threw together a double batch of banana bread for our mid-morning snack. The only tip I can add to a basic banana bread recipe is to double the batch, so you can share a loaf with a neighbor!

Double Batch Banana Bread

3 cups flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 eggs

2 cups mashed bananas (5-6 bananas)

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup cooking oil

Grease loaf pan of choice on sides and bottom.

Mix dry ingredients.

Mix eggs, bananas, sugar, and oil in a separate bowl.

Add banana mixture to dry ingredients; stir and pour into pan/pans.

Bake 35-50 minutes at 350° (more time if you made 1 deep loaf, less time if you divided batter into 2-3 loaves. I used 3 small loaf pans today, and they were done in 35 minutes.)

BARBECUE TOFU


I’m blocking out the sounds of the television as I write because we managed to have such a productive day, the kids are getting to enjoy a show while I take a few moments at my desk. The toddler is napping, my tofu is pressing for dinner, and I’m sipping some afternoon tea in this nice, quiet moment after a full day of learning, reading, playing, and an outing to the library. I made it to my scheduled writing time without even scribbling a tiny note on a scrap of paper today; the productivity of today feels noteworthy!

And, just like that, after 10 minutes of writing, I was distracted for 3 hours playing Stratego with Jude (his 4 year old version), finishing dinner, and cleaning up dinner.  However, that’s okay because now I can talk about the tofu that I nonchalantly mentioned above.  In reality, this is the first time I’ve tried cooking it.  And truthfully, I’ve been scared to attempt it.  I decided, however, I needed to try something new for protein after eating an on-again off-again vegetarian diet for about 7 years and never once using tofu.  I’ve eaten a lot of tofu prepared by restaurants that has left me more than unsatisfied, and I think I’ve assumed if they can’t cook it in a way that I like, why would I ever be able to do any better?  I found a few recipes I want to try eventually, but I finally settled on this recipe from ohmyveggies.com entitled Baked Barbecue Tofu (Tofu for Tofu Haters).  This seemed like a good place to start, when barbecue is loved in our home and tofu is new.

To begin, I research research RESEARCH everything to the extreme, and cooking tofu was no exception. I learned from a vegan cookbook from the library that firm tofu cooks best, and all tofu has to be pressed to remove the excess water from it so the blandness of the tofu can be replaced with whatever flavored sauce you choose to cook it in. I followed the tofu prep directions from the cookbook and the recipe closely, and I think I can say it was a hit! Kids weren’t clamoring for more, but we all ate what was on our plates and only the two year old wouldn’t eat his. For dinner tonight I paired it with roasted potatoes and a simple oven-roasted asparagus recipe (one of our favorite’s) from the pioneer woman.  I’m still unsure of the texture; I think that’s the number one reason I’ve been disappointed with tofu before.  However, as far as a meat replacement, it took the place of chicken in a way black beans never can.  I’ll be trying this recipe again but not before I try crumbling tofu in vegetarian tacos first.  I’m hoping crumbling it will hide the texture…?  I’ll let you know when I try it!

What about you? Are you a tofu lover or tofu hater? Do you have a favorite tofu recipe? I would love to hear your favorite way to eat it!

WHAT OUR KIDS EAT ON A PLANT-BASED DIET

I have a secret that I never tell people in person: one of the reasons we homeschool is so that we can feed our children healthy food.  The amount of processed food going into kids these days by the hand of caregivers is ridiculous, and there’s no way to justify it.  When the ingredients aren’t even real food, it shouldn’t take the place of food no matter how cheap or easy it is to prepare.  We can’t give up and grow unhealthy kids for the sake of convenience!

Children are just like adults, and they won’t learn lasting healthy habits if we focus on what we shouldn’t be feeding them.  If our kids think foods high in sugar and fat are good–even in moderation–they will think we are depriving them of good food when we ask them to eat healthy foods.  Because they don’t know any different, they will eat unhealthy foods until they are sick.  It’s our job to regulate what goes into their bodies and teach them about how our bodies work!  They WANT to eat healthy food when they understand that the food they eat grows the cells in their bodies and each cell creates more cells until that group of cells becomes them. 

Kids don’t want to be tricked; they know we have more power than them and that we could manipulate or deceive them.  They’re naturally cautious of our motives and will rebel if they don’t think our reasons are for their benefit.  If we aren’t letting them in on the great secrets of how cells divide and grow our bodies, they won’t ever see the importance of eating healthy foods.  Because processed foods taste good and are often easy and fun, they’ll only eat veggies if they understand the importance of real food. 

Kids are also brutal bullies, and food is a seemingly innocent thing that kids bully each other over.  As adults, we often miss kids bullying each other over food, or we miss its power.  If we place our kids in a setting where it’s cool to have the newest processed food and uncool to bring their healthy lunch, they’ll ignore our pleas that they eat healthy, and we’ll lose the food battle (a battle that is actually for their health.)    

After all that, I feel like I should have a great master menu of what the meals and foods are that I give our kids, but really I just try to shove as much fruit and vegetables into them as possible!  Nothing is packaged or processed.  Breakfast gets loaded down with fruit, lunch is fruits and vegetables, and we have at least 2-3 different vegetables at dinner.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard about eating a plant-based diet is to eat some form of protein at every meal.  This is especially important with kids.  Whether it’s just a handful of nuts, nut butter, seeds, beans, or eggs, protein keeps them full and satisfied.   

It’s a glimmer of hope when one of the kids voluntarily asks if a food is healthy or not.  I hope they internalize the why behind healthy eating and continue to make healthy choices for themselves as they get older.  For now I think it’s our responsibility to teach our kids that food from the earth is good and anything else should be avoided or eaten cautiously in moderation.  

Do you struggle with getting your kids to eat healthy foods?  Do you have any tips that I didn’t talk about that help get kids to choose healthy foods on their own?  Let me know!  I’d love to hear how you teach your kids about eating healthy!


 

PLANT-BASED

A couple months ago I was feeling foggy, sluggish, and depressed and couldn’t figure out why or what to do about it. I kind of just blamed it on winter and waited for it to pass. Then, one day I was reading my workout journal, and I realized how much our diet had changed over the previous months. I realized I had fallen into the habit of focusing on avoiding unhealthy food and controlling portions instead of focusing on what food I was eating. It may not sound like a big difference, but it is EVERYTHING!

About 6 years ago, as I was attempting to discover some food/gut issues, I went through a pretty rigorous elimination diet. I was able to discover some root causes for lifelong symptoms (I have an unusual food sensitivity to yeast). As I was eating the most basic foods allowed on an elimination diet, I wondered why we ever add anything else! These foods were allowed because they have no reason to ever make anybody sick. That was when we first began to eat a plant-based diet. I was very strict in the beginning, but I hate the food conversation; it can get so awkward, especially if other people are serving us food, so we tend to slack off when we’re around others. I think the fear of that conversation even reached into the online world, and I wasn’t even interested in writing about it here. However, since I’ve recently struggled with this again and was reminded how much better I can feel, I finally want to write about it. If eating a certain way keeps me feeling energetic and sane, it’s worth sharing!

Eating plant-based is a lifestyle diet, not a temporary way to lose weight.
It’s not about counting calories or even trying to lose weight (because you can easily find plant-based foods to overeat.) It’s about feeling better. We simply plan all our meals around plants instead of treating fruits and vegetables as side dishes. Fruits and vegetables become the main courses. For instance, instead of sprinkling a few blueberries on top of oatmeal for breakfast, I will sprinkle a few raw oats on top of frozen blueberries with coconut milk. Or spaghetti squash instead of pasta noodles and plant based proteins instead of meat. It doesn’t have to be complicated to be healthy! We avoid meat and animal products on a regular basis, but I think the only way for us to make eating plant-based sustainable is to be okay with eating these things when we’re with friends and family. This is especially true with the kids; when they’re at home they eat what we eat and don’t know any different, but we can’t control everything they eat when we’re away from home, and it’s never worth the struggle!

When the focus is on what good we can/should be eating, we’re suddenly packing ourselves full of vitamins and nutrients that make the cells in our bodies thrive and feel alive! If we follow a “healthy” diet but don’t replace the things we’ve removed from our diets with fresh, raw alternatives, we still won’t feel better. We really are what we eat! This shift in focus also keeps us from feeling deprived. A huge part of our relationship with food is in our heads. When it’s a mental battle of wills, our stomachs almost always win. We have to give ourselves better options and good reasons why we’re not eating the delicious unhealthy foods, otherwise it just becomes a failed diet.


The good news for me was that it didn’t take long to feel better. Within a week of eating plant-based I had more energy, and within 2-3 weeks I felt better mentally and emotionally. These are my results, not necessarily the results everybody will see. Although I’d love to hear your results if you do eat a plant-based diet or if you ever choose to try it out!

MINIMAL WEEKLY MENU

 

 

We’re reaching the end of our summer schedule, and I’m slowly beginning to prep for the fall semester.  Between random barbecues, picnics, and visiting friends, we’ve had a very spontaneous schedule that makes pre-planning and eating healthy a little complicated, so I’m looking forward to getting back into a more regular routine.  Thankfully it has helped to have a very minimal menu that we use every week that helps keep things simple no matter the time of year.  I love cooking and baking, so the most difficult part of dinner for me always seems to be deciding what to make.  If I don’t have a menu, I tend to wander around the kitchen sifting through cookbooks as the time ticks closer to dinner with food yet to be made.

Because young children inevitably make meal time a little chaotic (at least at our house), I like to try to do anything I can in my power to make our evening meal time more peaceful.  One thing that helps keep things calm is to create a meal plan each week.  I always come back to this same basic week of meals after trying other things and wonder why I ever strayed.  I find the repetition simplistic and freeing, and it really works for us.  Obviously, there are some nights that I choose an alternative meal, and soup and bread night could mean any kind of soup or bread, but for the most part this is the schedule of what we eat every night of the week.  It also keeps our meals healthy because we avoid impulsively purchasing processed food.

Sunday: Soup & Bread

Whether it’s tomato, potato, lentil, stew, or wild rice soup, this is an easy meal for Sunday evening when we need a gentle end to the weekend.  The bread may be baguette, biscuits, or cornbread, but it’s always buttered and toasted.  Most of our Sunday evenings lately have ended with tomato soup, a baguette, and roasted carrots.

Monday: Potatoes & Onions

Cubed potatoes and chopped onions baked in the oven with at least one other chopped veggie covered in olive oil, salt and pepper is the base for our Monday evening dinners.  We sometimes add a meat or bread, but even if we don’t, it’s still a delicious mixture of vegetables.

Tuesday: Chicken & Rice

So many things can be done with a large pot of rice.  As long as I know Tuesdays are rice day, I can choose chicken and pre-mixed frozen stir fry vegetables, or I will sauté onions, garlic, and any loose vegetables floating around in the veggie basket or refrigerator, and pile it all together on top of the rice.

Wednesday: Tacos/ Burritos/Enchiladas/Quesadillas

Depending on if I want to cook meat or not, and which kind of meat I want to cook, makes the decision on Wednesdays.  Homemade tortillas can make simple ingredients like beans and bell peppers more filling, and they are much more delicious, in my opinion.  I normally make tacos and burritos with homemade tortillas and enchiladas and quesadillas with store bought tortillas.  My current favorite variation on burritos that I have been making lately is a mixture of black beans, bell peppers, onions, and jalapeño peppers sautéed and wrapped with cheddar cheese in a tortilla.  Warmed in the oven until the cheese is melted, these are delicious for dinner and as leftovers for Thursday’s lunch.

Thursday: Out

Thursday nights are spent with our community group where we simply contribute a side or a dessert.  Simple and breezy, this is practically a day off.

Friday: Homemade Pizza

This meal varies, but it almost always includes spaghetti sauce.  Sometimes on homemade pizza crust, sometimes on spaghetti noodles or spaghetti squash, or sometimes simply on the side for dipping homemade garlic bread.  The homemade crust and garlic breads I make are yeast-free because of a yeast intolerance that has forced me to learn a lot of bread alternatives.  We still do a lot of other yeast breads throughout the week for everyone else in the family.

Saturday: Waffles

This is probably the most often substituted meal of the week.  I love waffles, but I don’t always like them for dinner; I normally lean towards less sugary meals at the end of the day.  However, I enjoy making waffles from scratch, and that takes a more time than I normally have at breakfast time.  Quite the quandary.  So, while we do occasionally enjoy them for breakfast, we often end our Saturdays with a giant stack of waffles.

This is our most basic list of meals we’ve been rotating each week, and I love that it is so healthy and simple to keep up.  Currently the smell of onions and potatoes are filling my kitchen, and it’s only 4pm, so I think I can say it’s a successful menu for now.