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A new beginning… its all about what we eat.

A while ago a friend on facebook gave me an idea… we are all becoming much more aware of eating healthier, in my family we have some health issues that need to be addressed and I am a firm believer in, we are what we eat, so its time to address those issues and get healthy again… so back to that idea, it was an idea to inspire others with a menu plan for each week, basically what we eat, we are vegetarian, we are plant based, we eat meat eaters, we are pre-diabetic and we are a clean healthy eating family… so here we go, my guide to eating healthily with a few tips here and there on other things, like reducing our waste, getting a huge bang for our buck with our groceries, becoming more eco friendly and how we can get our children not only excited by food but cooking too.

Welcome to my kitchen, I definitely am not a trained chef, I am not a nutritionist, I am an experienced Mom of 8 children, some grown up, some still in school and some still very small, we homeschool, we bake fresh bread and baked goods and we most definitely cook from scratch, fresh produce is a priority, and as much organic food as we can buy and we can afford is always number one on my list.

I have a family of very picky eaters, many years ago when my older children were much younger, I became proficient in adding in veggies into everything I made, I secretly cooked and blended a variety of healthy produce, then added them into my meals, although these days there has been many a cook book about how to do this, I was most definitely all about this many years ago… and still to this day, even though many of my children are older I still from time to time sneak the odd veggie or legume into a dish… I am all about nutrition and if I have to, I will lie, steal or sneak the vitamins and minerals into any dish.

I have gone from meal planning for 7 day increments to 3 days, with 10 people to cook for, 3 days is more manageable, not only to plan for, but to shop for.  The main priority is getting a balanced healthy diet, at all times.  I am a big Jamie Oliver fan, always have been, and always will be, after a few years break from watching his shows since moving to the US, I have recently been catching up on his newer shows, internet tv makes streaming his shows so much easier these days, he is so passionate about what he does, and his love for food is crazy, I am totally inspired to begin my own journey with health all over again.

I have three things in life that I am truly passionate about, number one is my family always, and joint second place is photography, I have taught myself how to take my camera off of auto mode and also how to use photoshop over the last 3 years, no mean feat believe me,  also, something many people may not really know is my passion for all things food, and this is my joint second place, cooking and eating healthily, the nutrition, what we need to fuel our bodies in the best way possible, I am so passionate about it, it has been suggested by several of my family members that I should train to be a nutritionist, I read so much all the time on the subject I am starting to wonder if they are right.

So lets begin now you know a little bit about me… this week is all about the soups for me, Winter is upon us, comfort foods to the max, having a warm nutritious soup on hand is always good for lunches, and even dinner, and I am all about the sides and what can I dip in that bowl of goodness.  I am all about reducing the fat these days, lowering our carbs and also bringing down the sugar content, once upon a time I would not have worried too much about adding sugar, these days I am always thinking of ways to reduce or add a natural sugar that is low on the glycemic index.  I have read several articles recently about how our bodies use the nutrition we put into them, what I was totally surprised about was how quickly some carbohydrates that we eat are turned into sugar in our bodies, making not all carbs equal, and the same for sugars, it appears that not all sugars are equal either.

Sometimes I love to experiment with recipes, but when I have a time crunch I am all for tried and tested recipes, although I have been known to mess around with a recipe from time to time, change ingredients, add in this and that… cooking is most definitely all about fun.

Soup number 1 for this week… an old favorite, very simple to make and very healthy… carrot and coriander soup.  I took the recipe and made it in my instant pot, a recent favorite purchase of mine, it makes cooking soup a breeze, you can start by sautéing your veggies then switch to pressure cooking, I loaded all the ingredients except the dairy and cilantro into the bowl, sealed it and set it to pressure cook for 3 minutes, you can then get on with other things whilst this wondrous machine does its thing… once it was finished I added in some oat milk, my favorite non dairy milk and the fresh cilantro, oh and let’s not forget at this point we need to season to taste, I then got my stick blender and in no time at all we had a delicious bowl of nutrition.

One cup of chopped carrots…

  • 52 calories
  • 12.26 grams (g) of carbohydrate
  • 3 g of sugars
  • 1.19 g of protein
  • 0.31 g of fat
  • 3.6 g of fiber
  • 1069 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin A
  • 7.6 vitamin C
  • 42 mg of calcium
  • 0.38 mg of iron
  • 15 mg of magnesium
  • 45 mg of phosphorus
  • 410 mg of potassium
  • 88 mg of sodium
  • 0.31 mg of zinc
  • 24 mcg of folate
  • 16.9 mcg of vitamin K

Making them a power house of super charged nutrition.

Soup number 2 for this week… another favorite, usually around Thanksgiving or Christmas time, using up the ham hock for flavor, these days the ham hock has been replaced with liquid smoke or sweet smoked paprika to replace that taste, but still as delicious and most definitely as nutritious… spit pea soup, vegetarian style.  I have made split pea soup for many years now, it is my husbands favorite over the years especially around Christmas time when we have had a ham, we use the bone with some of the meat still attached and cook it within the soup, these days my husband is a vegetarian so I needed to replace that smokey ham taste with something, and Smokey paprika is my favorite replacement. Split Peas will provide you with 21 grams of fiber and 28 grams of protein, among loads of other nutritional goodness, making it a fantastic winter comfort food soup.

Both soups are full of goodness, very budget friendly and you will be eating it for days to come, we just change up the sides, sometimes a roasted veggie sandwich with sourdough bread toasted, sometimes crackers and cheese, sometimes roasted squash or sweet potato wedges, today we had a quinoa salad with nuts, berries and roasted squash on the side, now I cannot claim to have made this one, but I know this guy called Trader Joe that can make life a little simpler sometimes.

‘[‘Tomorrow we are heading out for brunch, a great place we know, all made from scratch and all farm to table, my favorite.  I will be putting a lentil bolognese in the slow cooker for when we get home, some of us will have this with pasta and ground sausage, the rest of us will have it with roasted butternut squash wedges and a green salad.

Well that is what we are eating for the next few days, low carb, low sugar, but always healthy and nutritious, I try to incorporate seasonal fruits and veggies, so right now we are eating lots of squashes, pomegranates, apples and pears, all full of flavor and packed with lots of nutrition… (just a little hint, keep all those veggie scraps, do not throw anything away including the seeds from the butternut squash, freeze them ready for an awesome homemade, ultra budget friendly, almost free broth made in your slow cooker or instant pot, recipe to follow soon) Be happy and stay warm… and remember eat the rainbow. 🌈

 

 

 

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Do we really need a label for the way choose our diet?

Food and nutrition are a very important part of my life… I was a vegetarian in my teens, but then slipped into eating meat again as I had a family to cook for… in all honesty though I really don’t love meat and it is so easy for me to not eat it at all, being a vegetarian is easy for me but I can’t fully commit as I love fish, I don’t eat a lot but I totally still have it sometimes… I guess if we have to label it, I am a pescatarian, but as I hate labels I’m not going to go there with that one.

We have just returned from a trip back to England to visit family and friends, my husbands family seem to have all become Vegans, well not all of them but two of his siblings and their families… the thing I observed about Vegans is that it really is a trend at the moment, and new Vegans, not saying all new Vegans of course, seem to have to announce to everyone that they are Vegan and talk constantly about being a Vegan, I was wondering why that is, but it also had me intrigued, I have issues with dairy myself, I’ve replaced most dairy products in my diet and have found more comfort in my digestive system, but I do eat cheese occasionally and eggs most days… so being the researcher I am I decided to see if I could replace these things from my diet completely without missing them too much.

What I have found is very interesting… it seems on first glance that most vegan recipes are nutritionally balanced, the seasoning and flavors are enhanced to give delicious flavors and my favorite beans and lentils feature heavily. Eggs are replaced with a garbanzo bean flour batter and tofu scramble, cheese flavor is replaced with nutritional yeast, totally a healthy additive to use in your cooking. Egg replacements, like flax or chia seed egg are used in baking… so I’m set to change the way I cook and bake… no label for me though as this healthy eating Mama still loves her fish occasionally.

My first day back with jet lag still looming I made two vegan soups, one for lunch and one in the evening to go with grilled sandwiches… my lunch soup was delicious, Sweet potato and rice noodle soup with broccoli and white beans success, it was delicious and my husband had no idea it was Vegan, in the afternoon I set the broccoli, 2 cups of vegan broth, 2 cups of water and raw sunflower seeds in my slow cooker, I set it to cook for 3 hours on high, the Easiest cream of broccoli and cauliflower soup recipe really was, I finished the soup by blending the ingredients for 3 minutes in my blender, replacing it into the slow cooker and adding the remaining ingredients to warm through again… it was the best broccoli soup I’ve ever made, minus the cauliflower as I couldn’t get any organic cauliflower from the grocery store. For grilled sandwiches everyone except me had warm chicken and cheese, I decided to try vegan provolone cheese slices with my gluten free bread… after I melted the cheese and toasted the bread I really couldn’t tell a lot of difference with the cheese… again another success and I have leftovers for my lunch today, another win for me.

Today we started our day with waffles, gluten free, dairy free, egg free and Vegan, I took my favorite basic waffle mix and changed it slighly…

Serves 4 people

Each serving 2 waffles 188 calories

1/4 cup almond flour

3/4 cup gluten free all purpose flour

1/2 cup cashew nut milk (use whatever dairy free milk you have in)

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon of agave

2 teaspoons of GF baking powder

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon of vegan egg substitute and 2 tablespoons of water mixed together

1 tablespoon of milled flax seed

Blend all ingredients together until your batter is smooth… place 1/4 cup into your heated and oiled waffle make, close the lid and wait… when they are risen and golden serve with whatever you desire… as we just got back from vacation we had very little in our house, so I served ours with almond butter, cinnamon sunflower seeds and coconut toasted flakes… delicious and super nutritious.

I am now totally converted after making a vegan omelette with garbanzo bean flour, the chickpea and onion omelette is now a firm replacement for using eggs, I added nutritional yeast for a little cheese flavor and served it with toasted gluten free bread, a healthy protein packed breakfast all under 200 calories… the options are endless on this one!

It will be an interesting experiment, let’s see if anyone notices a change in the menus… I will still cook a meat protein to go with the meals, but I will be curious to see if anyone notices the very slight change… of course sushi days will still happen for me and I will still eat some gorgeous fish too, but I’m looking forward to eliminating dairy completely just for a while 🤞

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Late Summer fun…

I love to get out and about, see new places, experience new things, it’s difficult trying to juggle house renovations and getting out whilst this weather is so beautiful.  I don’t know about you but I think life’s too short not to be out there experiencing the world around us, even if it’s just local there are always new things to do and see.

Now that the busy summer season is over and Labor Day is behind us, it’s time to get out there and visit some local places with relative quietness around us, I am not one for crowds so I love this time of year.  We decided to start homeschooling this week leaving last week and the fantastic weather for a little bit of late summer fun at the lake.  We are lucky to have several beautiful lakes in our town, the beaches at the lakes are safe, clean and very picturesque… A magical way to spend a sunny, warm September afternoon.

The forecast for this last weekend was good, we had plans to go to the shore, sometimes having teenage children with their commitments can change those plans though… As was the case this past weekend, oh well those changed plans meant we got to experience the beauty that is High Point State Park.  We have never been to High Point but this past Summer saw a couple of friends visiting it, it looked stunning so we thought we would see for ourselves.  The beach was closed, but you could still use it, there just was no lifeguard on duty, but that was fine we just walked on the sand, played in the park and then drove up to the monument, 1803 feet above sea level, this elevation has fantastic views all the way round as far as you can see, just amazing on a clear day.  It was extremely windy, but this was the best part of the afternoon for my little ones, they ran around the monument, hair, dresses and t-shirts lifting up in the gusty wind, they loved it so much they didn’t want to leave.

Back to homeschooling began yesterday with a field trip, original planned for later in the week, but again having older children changed my plans, I needed to collect something for my son and it was in the direction of the farm and some apple picking fun.  Our Theme at the moment is Frozen the movie, our letter of the week is Aa and our numbers are 1 to 5. Apple picking was a perfect way to kick off our week looking at the letter Aa in more detail.  We rode the hay wagon, picked some juicy apples, of course you have to try them first before you pick them, we picked some huge furry soft peaches and visited with the animals, it was hot dusty but oh so much fun.


This coming weekend looks beautiful again… Plans are already in the making for one day in the house catching up on chores and the other day, who knows where we will be?

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Pumpkins, boots and a touch of homeschooling…

I have to say I love everything about Fall, pumpkin flavored everything, cooler but not cold weather, wearing cardigans and sweaters old and new, and soups, hot and creamy… But, you knew there had to be a but, BUT I hate the thought of cold, cold winter on its way… The solution… Move to a warmer climate all year round! Easier said than done, but I’m working on it…

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I would love to live near the beach, hot summers and cooler winters are perfect by the beach… I see myself in an old house with my family living happily with the ocean not too far away, but for now we have to live and dream on… I would just like life to slow down a little bit, the last few back to school weeks seem to have been crazy, all ideas of routine and organization have flown out of the window… But I need to get back on track!

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Yesterday I had a very interesting conversation with a lovely lady at Mabel’s soccer game… It was so weird usually when you tell people how many children you have they are aghast, but this lady lives on Long Island and has many friends with large families, 9, 10, 11 and even 12 children… Obviously I need to live there! We started our long conversation about people’s attitudes to breastfeeding and extended breastfeeding, how everyone feels they have the right to have an opinion on whether you should or should not breastfeed and especially on the subject of extended breastfeeding, most people make it very clear that extended breastfeeding is not the norm and as such should not be done… But I like to be my own person and do things my own way! She then started to tell me that she home schools her four children, well actually her eldest daughter is now married, she got her masters degree by the age of 18, and she was home schooled… Very interesting to me, because I have been researching homeschooling my two babies, but again this is a subject where because it is not the norm of society most people frown and do not agree… Like my older children, it has been a subject for discussion in my house for many weeks now… Now I’m not sure if the negative attitudes are jealousy because they would have liked this option or just because they think I would be an awful teacher, as it has been said several times recently!

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Now before all the haters of home schooling start shouting, I am only thinking of this option, looking into the logistics and weighing up my beliefs and reasons for wanting to do this… Believe me I could change my mind, but events in the past have started me thinking maybe this would be a good option going forward… We will see, but for now I have started a little home schooling with Florrie… Reading, writing, the letter A for Apple is this weeks letter of the week… and just lots of fun!

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Fall to me means time to crochet, knit and sew… Cooking warm comfort foods and baking scrumptious goodies… In the coming weeks I am hoping to slow life down a notch or two, get back to basics and enjoy some time reconnecting with my sewing machine, hooks and needles… I have some gorgeous soft cotton yarn that is crying out to be made into hats for my babies!

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Menu plan for this week…

Lots of fruit smoothies, brownies, muffins, oatcakes and cookies!

Saturday
pork goulash

Sunday
Beef pot roast

Monday
Sausage and pasta pumpkin soup

Tuesday
potato and bacon soup served with garlic breadsticks

Wednesday
Home made pork flatbreads with roasted veggies

Thursday
Chicken dumpling stew

Friday
Home made pizzas

Everything I make these days, and I mean everything has added nutrition in the form of flax seed, chia seed and wheat germ… I use gluten free oats to add thickness to my casserole sauces, it cooks and thickens without anyone knowing I’ve added all this goodness! My other shout out is coconut water, I use it in as many dishes as I can, stews, casseroles, soups and smoothies, this is a wonderful ingredient, almost tasteless when it’s added, but oh so full of good nutrition and fantastic for your digestive system!

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… And just like that, it was over!

As summer draws to a close I am reflecting over these past few months… We started out in a very unorganized way, we have had very little BBQ’s this year… Really not like us, we haven’t sat out all evening drinking a chatting, again very unlike us, and I personally have just felt tired and drained… Now I can’t even blame Tate for lack of sleep as he is such a good baby… I just really feel there is something lacking about this summer… And now it’s almost Fall!

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I think my lack of energy is because I need to find a direction and. stick to it, I feel like sometimes, I just wander aimlessly around, but these past few years have been tough for our family, due to a series of events, life just seems hard in every direction… So I’m trying to find some positive vibes in each and every day, because despite everything we are a close, loving family and that means everything in life… Well that and a glass of wine, of course!

The one thing I will remember this summer for, is our pool days with our very kind friends, this year there have been a lot of fun wet days spent in their pool, and for that I am truly grateful to them… Florence’s confidence in the water has improved so much, her love for swimming has increased so much over the summer months, each pool day has seen her grow into a happy diver, swimmer, racer and her smile each time she jumps into that water is magical!

This was Tate’s first summer pool experience, although he was dubious at first I think his confidence has grown too… We even got a couple of smiles from him as he kicked his little legs, splashing away!

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This is also the summer we discovered that Florrie loves sand, the Cake Boss shop, movies in the park and Twix Bites… Now we are all totally addicted! Mabel has become a very competent swimmer and Blu has actually left his Xbox and his room and sat with us for long periods of time… We even got him to chat a little… Now that is crazy!

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Summer also saw Mabel hanging out with her friends more, movie dates, swim dates and of course shopping trips to the Mall, this was also the summer that she became a teenager and went to her first concert, which she absolutely loved!

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We have been to the beach a total of three times this summer, and I have decided that beach days out of season are the best… The long drive sat in traffic, the high costs to park your car and then the charges to get onto a extremely busy beach in the height of summer are far outweighed by our after Labor Day beach trip… The drive was easy, parking was not only easy but very cheap, 4 hours on the beach plus one hour having ice cream equalled $5 prime position parking versus $15 for a dusty long walk parking place in the height of summer. The weather was fabulous yesterday 93f, the beach was free and much quieter than it was a few weeks ago… My thoughts are summer may be almost over but I can see a few Fall beach days in our future… Maybe!

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Well school has already started for my older children, universities/colleges are back, but tomorrow truly signifies the end of summer for me… Blu heads back to High School as a Sophomore and Mabel starts her final year in the Middle School as a newly fledged teenager, I’m starting this semester with a new project, homeschooling a three year old… But that’s a story for another day!

Good luck to everyone for this new school year and to all us parents with the love and support each of our children need!

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BLOGTOBER… A day in my life!

There is just something magical about that first day you shake off the dust from that well hidden box in your closet and open it to discover your beloved pair of boots that have been hidden away for many months… Those boots they just go with everything, your skirts, your leggings, your jeans and your dresses, well you get the picture, after many, many months of the long hot summer and wearing your flip flops, boots just make your clothes look cuter… Well that is how I started my morning anyway!

Today we were on tornado watch from 9am this morning, the winds were blowing, rain was threatening, so today I felt like my 12 year old daughter waiting to wear my new dress because I could pull on my long gray socks and cute tan boots…

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After what seems like a lifetime, I finally managed to gather the energy to take Florrie to the library for story stop, when we arrived in the wet and windy parking lot, she cried ‘yes, me’ making me feel oh so guilty for keeping away for so long, we arrived just on time for the story then the highlight of our trip making the elephant and being a big girl using scissors… There were some new things at the library, a wall mounted iPad, which Florence was not impressed with, there was no Disney app, just a monkey and shapes, she loved the new Legos table and the large chalk board… Overall the library was a good morning out!

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The rest of our day was kind of boring, I became my usual Monday taxi service with the addition of running Farrel to his girlfriend’s house, then onto get Blu as he finished school, dropped him home then headed to the Mall for a pit stop at Target before heading to pick Paul up from work… Something to add at this point is, that I was invited to Montclair for an Indian lunch with Lewis, I had to decline as Blu cannot get on the school bus with his crutches, but Montclair on this windy wet day would have been a a very welcome Monday pick me up!

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20131007-203413.jpgThis evening has consisted of finishing the laundry, eating pizza… And wondering why I ever believed wearing my boots after a long summer of flip flops was ever magical… My feet are aching from being trapped in my boots all day, on the positive side at least my feet were warm and dry all day… Happy Fall everyone, today I could honestly believe Winter will be here before we know it!

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Is it Fall already?

I am definitely a fan of Spring and Summer… I would go so far as to say they are my favorite seasons… But there is definitely something to be said for Fall… I love the flavors of Fall, pumpkin spice, warm apple cider and the array of beautiful soups served with crusty bread that can be created, I love the slightly cool breeze and the warm sunshine mixed together, but most of all I love the silence as the children go back to school after a wild and crazy summer of madness! Now if we only had Fall to contend with and not the harsh temperatures of Winter to follow, I would be very happy, I could very easily live in a warmer climate all year round and be very happy!

Back to school is looming, one more day with no alarms and one more day to get organized, I think this year I am the least organized I have ever been… Still no shoes for Mabel, no school binders and no haircuts, I am running out of time! I love that first day they are back at school… On one hand I miss my children’s craziness in the house, but on the other hand the calmness is wonderful, no lunches to make, no fighting over the programs on the tv and no arguments for a few short hours… Peace and quiet reigns!

An easy recipe to start of this Fall, or should I say soup season from my favorite chef, Jamie Oliver … store cupboard lentil soup

Happy Back to School to everyone… Lets hope this school year is a good one!

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