Archive | June, 2008

June at Our Home

June has come to an end already but what beautiful weather we have been experiencing here in the Northwest over the last few weeks! I have so many things to be thankful for looking back over this month. The wonderful weather has sure been kicking in the allergies! Thanks to the allergy tonic recipe, I have been surviving pretty well (twice a day!). We re-financed our house this month, and were able to get a bit of money in the process, which is going into savings for a new car (well…new to us that is!). If you have read this, you know of some of the crazy things that have happened with this car! Being able to refinance was a blessing in itself because our mortgage was going up significantly.

Playing pica boo!

Another blessing was Aaron having a wonderful time at the technology in missions conference earlier this month. He feels confirmed that that is the direction God would have us go…now the question and prayer is…when and how? Should we do it full-time or part-time? Should he work on the side to support us or should we raise support? Lots of fun questions…but we serve a faithful God who graciously leads us in the direction He would have us go. Appreciate your continued prayers.

Ahh! I found you!

Karis has taken 6 steps several times now! I am wondering when she will get inspired to walk…but it sure is fun seeing her become a little girl. She loves exploring everything!

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Healthy Snack Ideas

Kristen asked: I have a question about snacks. Do you plan those in as well? Does your family snack? We are are big snackers here so I am always interested in finding healthier options for us!

Currently, we are actually not big snack eaters. It may be just the season we are in, Karis’ age, and the like. When I am pregnant it is definitely a different story (living off toasted English muffins with peanut butter- yum -12 grams of protein!), and as Karis gets older I am sure they will be increasing at our home! I believe it is important to definitely serve quality snacks, avoiding the abundance of pre-packaged snacks available at the grocery store, where the majority have very little nutrition and are expensive too!

Healthy Snacks

I would encourage you to focus primarily on eating fruits and vegetables in the majority for a snack in various forms (fresh, smoothie, dried, fruit leather, popsicle, etc). Don’t buy special snacks or foods specifically for snacking, as it will be more nutritious and frugal to use things that are already on the grocery list for the most part (more staple items, that is). Strive for a balance of carbohydrates, fat, protein and fiber. This will ensure you maintain a stable blood sugar level, which is good for everyone involved. Good examples of this are celery with peanut butter, cheese and crackers, or tortilla chips and bean dip.

For Baby:

Homemade Crackers – a good quality and simple cracker recipe for everyone actually! If you cook them ashorter amount of time, they are soft and pliable and easily dissolve in an infants mouth. My only suggestion, if you plan to soak, don’t use yogurt! It yields a very sour cracker from my experience. Serve with cheese, hummus or bean dip for older ones.
Homemade Teething Cookies
- A good recipe for the little one!
Cheerios –
Obviously not the best choice, but when you got to keep the mess down – in the car or at church – a good organic whole grain cheerio is a lifesaver! They stretch a long way too.
Applesauce - this is our main choice right now for Karis!

Toddler & Up:

Cheese & Apples -Fruit and protein all the way!
Trail Mix
- I love to munch on a quality trail mix, including pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, almonds, cashews and the like. Excellent protein and yummy!
Apples & Peanut butter
- once again a good balance of fruit and protein!
Homemade bread
– Karis loves little bits of homemade bread if she gets hungry. I have also saved pancakes from and kept them in the frig throughout the week to tear up for her. She loves it!
Crackers/Tortilla Chips/Pita Bread with Hummus
-Vegetables can be served with dips like hummus, or bean dip. I am a huge fan of hummus – so that is another favorite treat with some quality chips.
Applesauce Bread or homemade muffin - another fun healthy treat!
Popcorn – a good snack for the evening, if you buy it whole popcorn rather than the packaged/microwave kind.

Stick to healthy drinks – water! Store bought drinks are normally loaded with an overabundance of sugar. I encourage avoiding the temptation if all possible! Make some homemade lemonade (use stevia or honey in replacement of sugar for a healthy treat!) if the temptation is too great for something different! ;)

Further Resources:

Simple & Nutritious Snacks for Kids - thanks to Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home for other ideas! She includes smoothies and using smoothies for popsicles – a wonderful idea! If you have a dyhdrator, her fruit leather recipe looks wonderful as well.

Super Baby Food has a whole appendix in the back of healthy snack recipes as well! Check it out at your local library!

Any other healthy snack ideas to share?

It’s Kitchen Tip Tuesday!
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Weekend Happenings & Menu Plan

We had such a fun weekend as a family touring the Vancouver, WA farmer’s market! What a beautiful weekend it was and everyone was out getting fresh fruit and vegetables.

Daddy & Karis playing in the water! Don’t you just love naked babies in their cloth diapers!

We also enjoyed the recycled product event that was taking place as well. There were multiple booths filled with creative reusing and recycling of products. Here are a few of our favorites:

A recycled washer machine bin attached to a old chair base – transformed into a camp stove/grill!

Make your own re-usable shopping bag! Grab an old tank top and sew the bottom up! Ta da!

Now on to the menu plan for the week!

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Frugal & Fun Wedding Gift Baskets

It’s wedding season, and we had several to attend this year! What a joy and delight to rejoice with others in the celebration of their union, especially when it is Christ centered. We attended a wedding this past weekend, and have another in a few weeks time. My sister-in-law, Larissa, has the gift of creativity and she is inspiring me in that direction! This is a testimony to that…as all these ideas for the most part are coming from her! Here is my frugal and creative wedding baskets for the bride & groom: a romantic dinner for two!

In the basket I included two cloth napkins and holders (depending upon their kitchen colors), a candle or two, two champagne glasses, a few candies, and a menu for a romantic dinner for two. I included recipes for our favorite dinner that I served on Valentine’s Day of this year. This basket cost under $10 dollars…just with a little thought put into it! Baskets will simple goodies can look so elegant and be creative and fun at the same time!

This basket included several of the same items above, plus two placemats and a red colander!

Any other fun ideas to include in such a basket?

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Chicken Curry over Rice

I absolutely love curry! Every time I make it I think back to many a lunch with my piano teacher at the Indian restaraunt close to her home. During those long extended practice seasons leading up to big performances or examinations, she would delight in taking us to this Indian cuisine for a break. So many wonderful memories…which has inspired my family to love Indian food!

I think I will always be perfecting this recipe, but here it goes for your enjoyment as promised! This dish can be made very easily with very little meat and have lots of flavor still! The key: fresh ginger & garlic, and lots of it! Serve over brown rice or alongside Indian naan (Indian flat bread). Naan can be made at home or is available at Middle Eastern stores or Trader Joes.

Chicken Curry

Makes 6-8 servings

This recipe extends for several meals at our home! It is very freezable as well! Serve a smaller portion, balanced with vegis and rice and/or naan and it will stretch quite a bit!

2-4 Chicken thighs, cut into chunks (depending on how much meat you would like!)
2 Tbsp whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp curry powder
4 Tbsp ginger, fresh and finely chopped
4-6 garlic cloves, fresh and finely chopped (start with four and add more as needed)
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 green apple, chopped
3 Tbsp curry powder
6 or more Tbsp whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp sea salt (lower this amount to 1-2 tsp if you are using canned chicken broth)
1 Tbsp rapadura or other natural sweetener
2 1/2 cups (or approx. 1 1/2 -15 oz cans) chicken broth
2 1/2 cans (14 oz) coconut milk

Optional additions: sweet potato, zucchini, carrots (I usually add one of each of these to our curry with delicious results!)

Combine chicken, 2 Tbsp of flour & 1 Tbsp of curry powder in a Ziploc or bowl to coat. Fry lightly in oil (preferably coconut oil) in a frying pan for just a few minutes until cooked. Set aside.

Combine fresh garlic, ginger, onion, apple, curry powder, flour, sweetener and salt in frying pan (add optional veggies at this time as well). Allow to fry under medium heat to mold the ingredients together (around 10 minutes), until onions are transparent, heated completely through. Add liquids – chicken broth & coconut milk, and stir frequently until heated through and thickened. Add more flour to thicken as needed. Add breaded chicken.

This was my frugal & nutritious meal for the week!

For the Freezer:

This recipe freezes remarkably well. You have two options.

1. Layer a greased pan with cooked brown rice and then top with the cooked curry sauce. Cover and freeze. When ready to serve, thaw, and reheat at a low temperature.

2. Wait to prepare your brown rice till the day you desire to serve this and simply freeze the curry sauce in a container. Glass canning jars work very well. Give plenty of expanding room and make sure it is completely cooled before freezing. When ready to serve, thaw the sauce, and then prepare your rice and reheat your sauce.

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Mineral Makeup: My Facial Routine

To tell you the truth…I first bought my own complete basic set of makeup last fall for my birthday! Previously, I had a mixed and match set of this and that, without very much knowledge as to how to apply it in the first place. My younger sister, far more knowledgeable in this area than myself (maybe due to her stronger incline to fashion), has taught me most of what I know. With the purchase of my own set, I was simply thrilled!

With my desire to pursue more natural routines in our home, I looked into mineral makeup. Beware that not all mineral makeup is worthy of your use. My research has proved two companies to be readily available:

BareMinerals & Everyday Minerals

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Developing A Monthly Menu Plan

Welcome back for the continuation on our series discussing the importance and how-to’s of simplifying your life. So far we have talked about the reason for it all, living simply in order to give generously of our time and resources, simplifying by communing, planning, slowing down and finally simplifying the schedule.

I have found that menu planning on a monthly basis is an excellent way to simplifying menu planning!

Benefits include:

- Less trips to the store -saving gas and time (which is especially important during this time in our economy)!
- Less time in preparing weekly menus

I find it most effective for our family to compile a monthly list of meal ideas (read more about this here & here). I choice 4 weeks of ideas around dinner themes. I purchase the ingredients (meat & pantry items) for all these recipes once a month.  Most of my pantry items are purchased through Azure Standard (a wonderful resource for natural food products!), but I get some dairy products (butter, sour cream) and pantry items (maple syrup, peanut butter, hot dogs, etc) from my local Trader Joe’s. I compile a monthly grocery shopping list of all the items needed for those dinners that goes with me to the store (printed nicely on the computer), or to which I refer when placing my order with Azure, noting which items I am low on.

When I sit down for my weekly menu planning on Sunday evening, I refer to my monthly list of dinner ideas and select which ones will work for the week (evaluating what I have on hand -sometimes they just run out before hand, or depending upon what seasonal produce I might get that week). For example, Monday is main dish salad night, so I have three options on my list: Taco Salad, Southwest Chicken Salad, Chicken Caesar Salad, which means one will be served twice during the month. Other dinner themes I have four different options, so it is only prepared once a month. Or if it is a hubby favorite, like pizza, it will be repeated twice a month. Vegetable side dishes are prepared depending upon what produce is in season, but I will write either fresh, stemmed, or baked as most appropriate for the main dish.

I normally take a second trip to the farmer’s market or local produce stand for a few extra produce/fruit items half way through the month (as these items don’t last four whole weeks!), but the first of the month is my main stocking up shopping day.

I love monthly planning – it takes the stress out of planning and shopping week by week. As we are striving to eat as nutritionally as possible, we don’t have as much access to sales, so weekly shopping according to sales does not work for us (and also can be more time consuming, but can be very effective for some). Buying locally provides us with the cheapest price on quality products because it doesn’t have to travel so far. I normally stick to a winter monthly menu and a spring monthly menu (which I have yet to post ;( ), so I only have to sit down and make a master list twice a year! There definitely is some flexibility as I like to try new things every once in a while, but still working around my themes. If I try an good recipe, then I add it to the monthly list and rotate something else! For example, I recently tried a lentil dish that we really enjoyed, so it was added to the monthly routine!

I usually serve 1-2 meatless dinners per week, and one main dish salad (meat is very limited on this dish, stretching it further, and lots of vegis included) to stretch the budget, but I haven’t mastered it all yet. Here are my dinner themes that simplify the weekly meal planning:

Dinner Themes:

Monday – Stir Fry/Main Dish Salad
Tuesday – Soup
Wednesday – Fish/Lentils
Thursday – Mexican/Chicken/Casserole
Friday – Special Dinner Night (usually Italian at our place!)
Saturday -leftovers

Other themes could include: crockpot, Italian, etc.

I like to keep Breakfasts and lunches the same each week for simplicity sake as follows:


Monday – kefir smoothie, bread (muffin, bagel, or toast)
Tuesday – Oatmeal w/raisins & apples
Wednesday – kefir smoothie, bread (muffin, bagel, or toast)
Thursday – Oatmeal w/raisins & apples
Friday – Kefir smoothie, Eggs or French Toast
Saturday – Pancakes


Lunches are a bit more flexible, as often times we will have leftovers on hand to eat from a previous meal, but if not, I follow these ideas:

Monday – Hot Dogs, baked beans or chili, fruit/vegi
Tuesday – Egg Salad Sandwiches, juiced vegi & fruit
Wednesday – Salmon Melts or Tomato Soup & grilled cheese/ham sandwiches, fruit, salad
Thursday- Quesadillas, burritos, or baked potato bar (chili, cheese, lettuce, misc toppings)
Friday – Peanut Butter & Jelly or regular sandwiches
Saturday – Leftovers

In conclusion:

1. Figure out dinner themes to work from
2. Make a list of 4 ideas for each of those themes
3. Compile a master shopping list for the items needed to make those meals
4. Limit your shopping to one major stocking day, and one small refiller day in a months time!

Obviously this might not work for everyone, but it sure has simplified my menu planning process! Other methods I have may have tried or heard of in the past include haphazardly going to the store and picking items off the shelf, and then getting home and realizing I have forgotten something (wasting time and money), or collecting all the sales flyers and having to start from stratch with just the knowledge of a main ingredient that is on sale, but still having to figure what that main ingredient can be for which recipe, or just laying out tons of cookbooks in front of me and getting stressed over which to make and when.

Personally, these methods added a little too much stress to my life. So my monthly planning works wonderfully for our family!

Other Menu Planning Ideas & Resources:

Weekly Menu Planning – by Crystal Paine
Healthy & Frugal Menu Planning Help
& Part 2- by Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home
Printable Monthly Menu Form

Printable Weekly Menu Form

Menu Planning: Saving Time in the Kitchen
Menu Planning Made Easy

Do you have any helpful tips for simplifying menu planning? Please share, no matter whatmethod you use!

Visit Work’s for Me Wednesday for other tips and tricks!
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Serving vs. Enjoying Our Families

Enjoying my little girl

I was reading the story of Mary & Martha to Karis the other day, when I struck by the fact that Martha was caught up in serving and preparing the evening meal, whereas Mary was simply enjoying the fellowship of Jesus and the other disciples who may have been there. Martha was doing an important task, and likewise we as wives and mothers have the important role of managing our households and serving our families, three meals a day, washing laundry, cleaning house, taking care of needs, etc.

But have we ever considered how we can so easily get too consumed with the serving aspects and lose out on the enjoying side? How often do I think of simply sitting down and enjoying my daughter for a momemt…more frequently I have another thing that needs to be done. How often do I take the time to enjoy my husband in the evening after work instead of getting consumed with making sure my kitchen is perfectly cleaned after dinner?

Look at the Titus 2 order of priorities- love your husbands, love your children, then be workers at home! Carolyn Mahaney says: “The word for love used in Titus 2 is phileo. This word describes the love between very close friends. It is a tender, affectionate, passionate kind of love.  It emphasizes enjoyment and respect in a relationship.” Often times we get so busy serving our husbands and children that we overlook enjoying them! This layout of priorities also emphasizes the importance that our husbands be our first priority! That means Karis is second to the needs of my husband.

I am so thankful that God has been opening my eyes to the importance of enjoying my husband and child. Karis is growing fast, and this season will be short! Leave the household maintenance stuff to the nap times, and spend time enjoying her during her awake times!

That is what I am thankful for this week! Thankful that God provides the grace necessary to let some things go in order to invest in the most important relationships.

Thank you to Laura for hosting Gratituesday, a simple reminder for me to reflect on what I am thankful for this week!
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Use Less Salt!

The average American eats an overabundance of sodium each day! It is the preservative in all the processed and packaged foods you may purchase at the store. Its nicely hidden in condiments, dressings, prepared meats, canned foods, and the like. Studies have shown that high sodium diets can lead to high blood pressure, heart and kidney diseases, and diabetes.

That being said, Lori Lipinski, a Certified Nutritional Consultant, shares in her article, The Kitchen Transition: “We have been told for years to avoid salt, but following this advice can lead to even more problems. We are all salty on the inside–our blood, sweat, tears, and even our urine–it’s all salty. It’s important to replenish the salt in our body, using the right salt is what makes all the difference in the world

Sally Fallon in her book, Nourishing Traditions, says “A 1930′s study found that salt deficiency led to loss of taste sensations, cramps, weakness, lassitude and severe cardiorespiratory distress on exertion…Salt provides not only sodium but also chloride, needed for the manufacture of hydrochloric acid, proper functioning of the brain and nervous system and for many other processes.”

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Menu Plan – June 23-28

I have been wanting to begin posting my menus again for several weeks now, but have not achieved it yet. It helps keep me accountable to compile and print it out each week. Here we go again! I love getting inspiration from others eating nutritionally on a budget (which has been my pursuit) so therefore, I thought I would return the favor, if it is any help at all!

This week is my final week of the month before my monthly grocery shopping trip, so I am pretty low on most items, and will be using what I have! I am low on all my fruit (so smoothies and applesauce this week!), but I wanted to try an experiment of making my budget stretch even more by not taking another trip to the store. I will sharing more this week on simplifying menu planning in continuation of my simplifying series on Wednesday.

Michele at Frugal Granola inspired me awhile back to start including preparation steps in my menu planning. These have been so helpful to remind me of any soaking that needs to take place, or for any things that need to be taken out of the freezer. Thanks Michele!

Sunday evening prep: soak kidney beans (for taco salad) & navy beans (for baked beans)
Monday morning prep: soak oatmeal & black beans for Tuesday, cook navy beans

Breakfast: Kefir Smoothie, applesauce bread
Lunch:  Leftover Vegi Soup, toast
Dinner: Taco Salad (gr. Turkey, kidney beans, eggs, lettuce, cheese, olives)

Prep: soak rice (for dinner), make baked beans for lunch, thaw chicken for dinner

Breakfast: Oatmeal, raisins, apples
Lunch: Hot Dogs, baked beans, applesauce, celery sticks (peanut butter & raisins)
Dinner: Chicken Curry, Quinoa & Black Beans, Naan, Salad

Prep: thaw lentils for dinner, cook eggs for lunch, soak oatmeal for Thursday

Breakfast: Smoothie, whole wheat cinnamon rolls (a special treat for the hubby!)
Lunch: Egg Salad Sandwiches, oranges
Dinner: Lentil & Rice Casserole, steamed vegi (gr. Beans, peas, corn)

Prep: make refried beans for dinner w/leftover kidneys

Breakfast: Oatmeal, apples, raisins
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Burritos

Prep: soak pancakes for Saturday, thaw buns & gr beef for dinner

Breakfast: Eggs, smoothie
Lunch:  Peanut Butter & Jelly, applesauce, celery sticks
Dinner:  Hamburgers, baked beans, salad


Breakfast: Pancakes -the hubby’s favorite, topped with peanut butter & maple syrup!

I am excited to share my chicken curry dish later on this week…I have been experimenting with it and it is very authentic tasting (thanks to my sister Christa’s inspiration and tips!). It is actually very frugal as well!

Check out Organizing Junkie for more menu plans!
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