Lately, we’ve been getting ready for our little guy’s arrival. He won’t be here until the middle of June but I am trying to get as much done while I am still feeling good. Somehow, I convinced my husband to redo two pieces of furniture for his room and I couldn’t be more excited about it. I wanted to use a long dresser for the changing table and I didn’t want it to match exactly with the crib. I wanted a piece with a little bit of character. We looked and looked and looked for a piece that was high enough to use as a changing table, and long enough that it had plenty of drawers for storage. Everything was either way over our budget or it wasn’t what I was looking for. When my mother-in-law told us that she was getting rid of some old furniture, I jumped at it! We went to look at the furniture and it was exactly what we were looking for. Solid wood, plenty of drawers and the right height! This is our first official DIY project (even though my husband is doing most of the work). He has been busy sanding, priming and painting our baby’s changing table and matching nightstand. We finished everything about a week ago and I am so excited about the finished product!
I have been busy doing other “nesting” type things too. Since I am a teacher, I am lucky to have a week off for spring break. I took advantage of this time to cook a few freezer friendly meals for us to eat during the first few weeks/months after the baby’s arrival. I can only imagine how crazy and exhausting this time will be and I wanted to prepare ahead of time to make sure that we are still eating as ‘naturally southern’ as possible. One of the meals I made was chicken tortilla soup. I absolutely love this recipe and my favorite part is topping off the soup with diced avocado, shredded cheese, and even fresh pico de gallo. I’m hoping these freezer meals will make things a little easier during those first few weeks with our little bambino. I definitely recommend making a double batch of this recipe and freezing some for busy nights.
Is anyone else making lots of meals in advance and freezing them? I would love to hear what you guys are making. I plan on making some shrimp and corn bisque soon too.
**I used leeks when making this recipe because I like to occasionally substitute leeks for onions. Leeks are a great source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and iron. Plus, they contain fiber, B vitamins, iron and other minerals. If you have trouble finding leeks at your local grocery, just substitute onions. When preparing leeks, cut off the green tops and the base (the very bottom part with the roots). Slice the stem in half. Then, rinse it thoroughly to wash out any hidden grit or dirt. Now, simply chop the leek and add it to your recipe.
*You can also find the recipe for homemade chicken stock here.
|Chicken Tortilla Soup||
Hi there, sorry I haven’t been around lately. A special thanks to Kasie for keeping the blog up in my absence! Love you Kas!
We have had a very hectic spring! While we have been running around like little spring chickens, we haven’t always been eating real food. Luckily, there are a few things I’ve learned that help us stay on a semi-straight path. I thought I’d pass them along
1- I can often get my kids (and myself) away from sweets with a handful of green grapes. They are so good!! Or strawberries- I think my kids would do just about anything for some strawberries!
2- If I set out a plate of cut up veggies at about 5 it will be gone before dinner. And added bonus, don’t have to worry about the kids eating veggies at dinner! Our favorites are carrots and bell peppers.
3- I have been trying to avoid food coloring, but I’ve learned that there is food coloring is EVERYTHING! Ok, well just about everything. The most surprising for me is pickles and Life cereal (my kids and I love it- or we used to!). Make sure you read the labels!!!
4- Popcorn is a whole grain. And a great snack! I have an air popper like this one. I pop the popcorn, and add a little melted butter and salt. Its usually gone in a few minutes. I have been sending this as a snack for my daughter’s class when its her turn. Its a great alternative to the prepackaged snacks they normally get! If you don’t want to get an air popper- try this trick.
5- White whole wheat flour is pretty good. I usually substitute this for regular all purpose flour with no one even noticing! I promise!
What are some of the tricks you’ve learned on your real food journey?Read More
When compiling recipes for our family cookbook, I asked each of my Aunts and Uncles to give me a few memories or stories that they had pertaining to cooking with MawMaw and Papa, a particular recipe, or just general memories of their childhood. I received so many interesting stories and now they are preserved in our family cookbook. One of the stories was about ‘Pain Perdu’ or French Toast. My aunt said, “This was one of our favorite breakfasts growing up. It was definitely a special treat to have ‘Pain Perdu.’ I learned how to make this while watching Mom do it. The actual amounts are a mystery. I just add as much of each until it looks right. How’s that for instructions?” I have learned how to make several of my grandmother’s recipes by watching her do it. Isn’t that the best way to learn how to cook? And my Aunt is exactly right. Like any good southern cook, my grandmother insists that she doesn’t have any recipes. She cooks just like my Aunt does. She adds until it tastes and looks right. She has learned her measurements through trial and error.
French toast is also a treat in our house. My husband makes the french toast on Saturday or Sunday mornings. Last Saturday morning, our french toast was taken up a notch due to an invaluable farmer’s market find! While my husband was still waking up, I quietly slipped away to the farmer’s market. I was picking up some kale and Meyer lemons when I heard the man at the adjacent booth talking about his breads for the day. He was from the Winfield Farm Bakery and I had seen them at the market several times but I had never asked about their bread. After asking a few questions, I found out that he had a whole wheat bread made with local honey (instead of sugar) and flax seeds. I could smell the freshly baked bread my entire ride home. After eating, one slice completely plain, my husband suggested that we use the bread to make french toast. And it was amazing! The recipe we used isn’t much different than my grandmother’s traditional ‘Pain Perdu’ recipe. The main difference is the addition of local whole wheat bread and we omitted any added sugar. I know it is not always possible to make your own bread or find locally made bread at a farmer’s market. When shopping for bread, just remember to look at the ingredients. You want the least amount of ingredients, no added sugars, and only WHOLE wheat flour (no white flour, or wheat flour). We serve our french toast with warm pure maple syrup and fresh fruit. What do you like to eat on yours?
|Redo: Pain Perdu or French Toast||
As I mentioned in this post, I’ve been all about greek yogurt while pregnant. I always buy plain greek yogurt and flavor it myself at home. I have yet to find a flavored yogurt with only simple real ingredients (strawberries, honey, etc). The “honey” yogurt is usually sweetened with both sugar and honey. And when buying fruit flavored yogurt, it is an uphill battle trying to find yogurt without fruit concentrates, artificial colors and/or added sugars. The other night, I was experimenting with different flavors in my yogurt and I tried a little bit of peanut butter in the yogurt. Now, I’m talking about REAL peanut butter–the only ingredient listed on my peanut butter is peanuts. The peanut butter was the perfect variation on my nightly snack and it made an even better fruit dip. I’ve decided that I’m going to add this fruit dip to my menu for our Easter party on Sunday. For our last few parties, I’ve had a fruit tray with strawberries, blackberries, grapes and pineapple and the fruit is always one of the first things to go! Hopefully this new fruit dip will be a hit, as well!
I also keep seeing on pinterest where people have dipped blueberries in plain greek yogurt and then frozen the berries. I’ve been dying to try this. I decided to try blueberries dipped in the fruit dip instead of plain yogurt. They were amazing! Great snack! It will be perfect for these really hot days that I know are coming soon.
What do you like to add to your yogurt? I would love to hear everyone’s ideas because I’m always looking for different variations.
Deviled eggs are always on the menu at our Easter celebrations in the South. Last year, my husband and I started a new tradition of hosting an Easter lunch for his family at our house. Last year, we had about 30 people at our house and we are expecting about the same this year. When we bought our home, we were super excited about the extra-large covered patio that is attached to the house. We take FULL advantage of the “4″ beautiful days a year that we are able to spend outside on our patio. (We were actually able to eat breakfast outside last Sunday morning. Which was amazing!) Last Easter was one of these beautiful days. We spent hours outside–barbecuing, eating lunch, and catching up with everyone. We are hoping for great weather again this year.
I have to give the credit to my mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law for this recipe! Last year, when I was planning the menu for the party, they both mentioned that they do not use mayo in their deviled eggs. See, they both absolutely hate mayonnaise and avoid any dish that has even a drop of mayo in it. I was completely intrigued with the idea of deviled eggs without mayonnaise because I had just begun my real food journey and a real food version of mayonnaise does not exist. Plus, I was very excited about using this deviled egg tray that we had received for our wedding. Quite frankly, any dinner party at our house is just one big excuse for me to pull out all of the beautiful trays and serving pieces we have. The deviled eggs ended up being a huge hit and I am definitely planning on making them again this year!
|Deviled Eggs without Mayo||
Is anyone else planning an Easter get together with their family? What dishes are on your menu?Read More
My husband and I are expecting our first child in June. Soon enough, we will have a little boy to play and cuddle with and we can not wait!! As I’m writing this post, I’m indulging in one of my favorite cravings during this pregnancy, plain greek yogurt mixed with honey. I can’t seem to get enough of this stuff and I pretty much wait all day to enjoy a
big bowl before bed. I am 26 weeks and in the “honeymoon” stage of pregnancy. Well, at least that’s what they call the second trimester and I can’t seem to disagree with whoever “they” are. Luckily, I am feeling great! I am still able to workout a few times a week, clean my house and do pretty much everything I did before my pregnancy (except put on my socks without it becoming a huge ordeal). I am kind of scared of the third trimester that is looming only a few weeks away. As I’ve heard, all of the exhaustion that I experienced during the first trimester will most likely come creeping back. We’ll see….
Well, as any pregnant woman will tell you, there is a lot more than alcohol that you have to give up while pregnant. I have had a million experienced mothers tell me, “I ate _______ while pregnant and my baby came out just fine!” But here’s the way I look at it, if my doctor advised me not to eat or do something while pregnant, I am going to listen to her. I’m sure these women would’ve done the same thing if their doctor had advised them so. Why should I eat something and take the risk that it may harm my baby? Living in the south, one of the hardest things has been the seafood. My doctor has advised me to only eat seafood once a week to avoid the mercury. High levels of mercury can harm the baby. It seems like every restaurant we go to is filled with seafood options and both of our families love seafood and seem to be cooking it even more now that I can’t have it! But another hard one has been the caffeine!!! Before I was pregnant, I would make a pot of coffee before work and drink 2 -3 cups easily. Then, it wasn’t unusual for me to stop for a coffee after work. My doctor advised me to limit my consumption of caffeine to one caffeinated beverage a day. I obviously do not drink soda so coffee was the only thing I needed to cut back on. I actually decided to switch to decaffeinated coffee completely so I wouldn’t have to worry about counting my cups in the morning. I was shocked to learn that most decaffeinated coffee is decaffeinated through a process that involves soaking the beans in a solution of dichloromethane or ethyl acetate for up to 10 hours. Dichloromethane is also used as paint stripper and degreaser while ethyl acetate is also used in nail polish remover, glue and cigarettes!!
As a southern girl, I grew up drinking Community Coffee and I even had it shipped to me when I was living in Saint Louis. At the beginning of my pregnancy, I emailed community coffee and asked about their decaffeination process. In their response, they indicated that they use the indirect contact method for decaffeination. This method involves the use of dichloromethane which is prepared specifically for food processing. However, the final product contains minimal amounts of the residual solvent. I simply refuse to consume paint stripper and degreaser with my morning cup of joe. Especially when there is a different, less harmful way to decaffeinate coffee. The Swiss Water Process does not use any harmful products and I did not have any trouble finding decaffeinated coffee that is decaffeinated through this process at my local grocery store.
I would love to hear what kind of coffee your guys drink every morning! Is anyone else pregnant and experiencing cravings or caffeine withdrawals?
The other day, I was cooking some white beans and rice and I really wanted some cornbread to eat with it. There is just nothing like a nice slice of buttered cornbread with your hot white beans. First, I looked at my cornmeal but it was expired and unfortunately had a rancid smell. Then, I spotted a little blue box of corn muffin mix hiding at the top of my pantry. Now, if you are from the south, you know exactly what box I am talking about. I decided to check the ingredients. I thought, this stuff can’t have too many bad ingredients. Wow! Was I wrong?!? Of the 13 ingredients listed on the label, I was uncomfortable consuming 90% of them. First, the cornmeal had been de-germinated and therefore was missing all of the nutritional parts of the grain (more on that here). Then, this little box also contained sugar, animal shortening (What animals did this lard come from?), and 5 different unpronounceable ingredients that you probably couldn’t find in anyone’s kitchen (sodium acid pyrophosphate, monocalcum phosphate, niacin, thiamine mononitrate, and riboflavin). We love cornbread and I knew we didn’t have to give it up just because we didn’t feel comfortable eating these ingredients anymore. The first step was to buy WHOLE GRAIN cornmeal and to experiment in my kitchen. I quickly learned that my new recipe only took about 5 more minutes than the spiffy blue box and satisfied our craving for cornbread. And since I was making SOUTHERN cornbread, I added 5 tablespoons of honey to make the cornbread sweet. You can add more/less honey to your taste. I hope you enjoy as much as we did!
|Redo: Southern Cornbread||