Barbecue Tofu

I made tofu for the first time today. I decided barbecue tofu was a safe place to begin since I love barbecue anything. For years I’ve been scared to attempt cooking tofu. However, I wanted to try something new for protein after eating an on-again off-again vegetarian diet for about 7 years and never once making tofu.  I’ve eaten tofu prepared by restaurants that has left me more than unsatisfied, and I have assumed if they can’t cook to my liking, 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 entitled Baked Barbecue Tofu (Tofu for Tofu Haters).  This seemed like a good place to start.

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. As the tofu pressed for dinner, I sipped my afternoon tea. I followed the tofu prep directions from the cookbook and the recipe closely, and the flavor turned out delicious. 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 in the past. However, as far as a meat replacement, it worked. I’ll be trying this recipe again but not before I try crumbling tofu in vegetarian tacos. I’m hoping crumbling it will hide the texture….

Healthy Meals With Kids

I have a secret that I never tell people in person: one of the reasons we home school 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 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.  When 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 that make up their bodies. 

Kids don’t want to be tricked; they know we have more power than them and that we can manipulate and 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 an 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.)    

The main thing I try to do is get as much fruit and vegetables into them as possible and avoid all packaged and processed foods.  Breakfast gets loaded down with fruit, lunch has fruits and vegetables, and we have at least 2-3 different vegetables at dinner.

Protein is also really important for kids. Whether it’s just a handful of nuts or seeds between meals and beans, eggs, or meat with dinner, 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 and always 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 Spring

A couple months ago I was feeling foggy, sluggish, and depressed and couldn’t figure out why or what to do about it. I 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 an unusual food sensitivity to yeast had been causing symptoms for years. As I was eating the most basic foods allowed on an elimination diet, I wondered why we ever add anything else! These foods are allowed on an elimination diet because they never make anybody sick. We began eating a plant-based diet. I was very strict in the beginning, but I hate the food conversation. It can be very awkward, especially if other people are serving us food, so we tend to slack off when we’re around others. It’s also very limiting for kids, and I don’t like doing anything 100%, so we continued to slack until we were eating normal, unhealthy meals again.

Eating mostly plant-based has always helped me physically and mentally, though. It 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. When we’re eating plant-based, we simply plan 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 substituting plant-based proteins for meat at least a few dinners each week. It doesn’t have to be complicated to be healthy! I think the only way for us to make eating plant-based sustainable is to be okay with eating animal products on occasion, especially 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 (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 a more plant-based diet 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. I’d love to hear your results if you do eat a plant-based diet or if you ever choose to try it out!

On Reading

I woke up this morning to thunder and opened the door to feel the temperature had dropped almost 30 degrees since yesterday. It finally feels a little like fall today! I know it will probably heat back up again before it’s truly cooler here in Arkansas, but for now I’m going to enjoy it.

One of my favorite things about the weather getting cooler is spending some time out in the crisp air and then coming back inside with a fresh perspective and curling up in a chair with a good book.  I’m working on finishing up all my books I started over the summer so I can pick some new ones to read over the next couple months, but I also must confess, I am sometimes bad about beginning books and never finishing them.  I love getting new books at the library, and I sometimes get a little too ambitious about how many I choose to take home.

I have a few books right now I’m wanting to read–a few I’ve seen at the library, and a few sitting on my shelf at home. It’s my turn to pick what we read next in a little book club I do with my sisters, and it’s such a fun decision to make. I’ve been scanning my bookcase for either an old favorite or something I’ve been wanting to read for awhile; I don’t want to let everyone down with something new that I’ve never read before just in case it’s not good, so I finally narrowed down my choice to a couple favorites I haven’t read in a long time.

Something I’ve been mulling over a lot lately is how I’m spending my time.  It’s so easy to label anything on the internet or social media as distracting, but I’m also considering other things that distract me from living in the moment each day. There have always been distractions, even before we the internet and smartphones; reading a book sounds healthy compared to staring at a screen, but if it’s still keeping me from being present, is it really any better? I tend to give my full attention to something when I am interested in it, which means once I start a book, I tend to neglect everything and everyone else until I finish it. It’s not something I have an answer to, I’m just processing it and realizing even healthy hobbies need to be enjoyed in moderation.

Sometimes it’s a challenge for me to balance my time between what I want to do and what I need to do. But, I think that’s why wrapping up in a cozy blanket with a book is the most delightful after a hard day’s work; it feels well-deserved and like icing on a cake. Icing is not completely necessary to make the cake, but actually pretty necessary to enjoy the cake. Likewise, those well placed moments of doing something we enjoy aren’t completely necessary to live our life, but they’re actually pretty necessary to enjoy life. The trick is learning to balance our icing to cake ratio: too much of the icing would make the cake inedible in the same way spending too much time on what we want to do makes us feel wasteful and regretful.

I’m now going to work on being present in my day today, and possibly bake a cake with homemade icing because that suddenly sounds good–that’s a good use of time, right?!

Slow Progress


It’s a beautiful morning today! I’m not naturally a morning person, but I love being awake in the dark, quiet house and watching the sun slowly come in the windows. I am exhausted, though. I’ve been up late at night and early in the mornings the last few days, and my body feels drained. It’s so easy to fall into bad sleep habits and then begin skipping exercise. Something I’ve tried to do ever since I was pregnant the first time 8 years ago is to do some form of exercise every day. I started doing this when I realized I was going to have to be intentional with being active because I didn’t feel like it most days in pregnancy and after the baby was born I was never able to get enough hours of sleep at night to give me any energy. I definitely haven’t kept up every single day all these years, but having that goal in mind has usually kept me from going too many days without doing something. Some days it’s just a quick 20-30 minute walk and other days I have enough energy to go on a run. Some days I can do a full body strength routine, and other days I just do a few sets of push-ups or squats. It might sound sporadic and I will never get a six-pack, but I feel stable, strong, and capable, and I’m not having to obsess over exercise every single day, and isn’t that the goal for most of us? To feel strong enough to lift and carry our children, do our jobs without back or shoulder pain, and to feel capable of taking care of ourselves and the business that needs to be taken care of without struggling physically?

This morning I knew I had to exercise early because I was already exhausted before the day began. New energy wasn’t going to magically appear later in the day to make a workout any easier, so I squeezed in a quick lower body workout on the deck. A few sets of weighted squats and lunges were enough to feel accomplished. I like to do anywhere from 2-8 total sets of squats while holding dumbbells, each set including at least 20 squats and then I like to vary the type of squat each set. For instance, 20 regular squats, 20 sumo squats, 20 right lunges, 20 left lunges, repeat. This morning I did three sets of 25 squats while holding 10 pounds weights, and then one of the kids needed me, and I had to quit. There are days like today that I have to remind myself that something is always better than nothing.

I think it’s important to set realistic goals that won’t leave us disappointed.  Instead, try to find a level of fitness that is sustainable long term. Quick fix workouts are helpful to jump start a fitness regime, but the level of intensity involved probably won’t be sustainable. I like to remind myself that slow progress is better than no progress, and my worth is not based on my fitness ability or appearance. The goal should always be to feel strong and healthy, and that can be accomplished with small daily amounts of work. It really is a balance to remember to work on our fitness without spending all our energy and spare time working out or thinking about working out.