Sunday, May 11, 2008

3 Moms ~ 3 Kitchens ~ 31 Days, Day 11 and an Answer to a Question

Eric and I were up until 4 am this morning to finish painting our family room. It turned out great and we were glad to make the sacrifice of staying up because it allowed us to move things around and work unimpeded. We were blessed with quiet children this morning who let us sleep until 9:00 am. That was the perfect Mother's Day gift! However, because we were moving so slowly, we decided to just defrost the last of our breakfast cookies for breakfast. (Can I tell you again how awesome these are? We all LOVE them.)

I was treated to a wonderful lunch from our favorite local restaurant. This does not count against our food budget. Actually, our dining out is covered under a separate area of income because we use trade dollars for dining out. Eric has a sub-account with a trade organization and he has a regular job every week for which he gets paid in trade dollars. Because we are limited in what we can use these trade dollars for (they are only usable at businesses that are also a part of the Trade Organization), they accumulate quickly and we are able to use them for things that would otherwise be left out of our budget. This means we typically eat out at this restaurant once a month without it affecting any of our in-hand income.

I made a double batch of chocolate chip muffins today. One dozen went in the freezer and the others are for breakfast tomorrow. These are a definite 3 Moms favorite!

For dinner tonight I made chicken francese, garlic spaghetti with broccoli, and zucchini, garlic and mushroom saute from the freezer. Chicken francese is a deceptively easy yet delicious dinner. All you have to do is pound some chicken breasts until thin and cut into scallops. Salt and pepper the chicken to taste, dip in some flour, then dip in beaten egg. Place in a hot skillet with olive oil (I add dried rosemary to my olive oil to boost flavor). Cook until chicken is done, being sure to brown both sides. I've seen a lot of recipes that call for a sauce with this dish but I only rarely make that. We really like it just plain so it's not necessary.

The garlic spaghetti I make is really easy too. I mince at least ten cloves of garlic and toss into a warm skillet with olive oil. Today I just used the chicken pan and put the chicken in the oven on warm. Then I add 1/2 lb. frozen broccoli, crushed red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Add 1/2 lb. cooked spaghetti or angel hair noodles. Continue to cook until the noodles begin to get a little crisp. That's it. I could definitely eat this as a whole meal!

On Friday night, during our 3 Moms, 3 Kitchens, 31 Days live community call at Talkshoe, Toni, Joy and I were asked if we felt our children actually ate enough according to dietary guidelines. (Joy just wrote a GREAT post about her family's dietary guidelines. Make sure you check it out!) I think it could be easy to assume that when we eat frugally that we are only eating what is cheapest. Now I can only speak for my family, but I will say that this is just not true. (Although I know that Toni and Joy would both agree 100% also.)

I first began improving our family's diet roughly 3 1/2 years ago. Initially it was solely an effort to eat as frugally as possible. But then I began to research the benefits of whole grains and natural foods. I realized there was a whole other side to eating that I never knew about. I learned to piece meals together in a way that was both healthier and more economical. For example, one of the first things I learned was that the combination of lentils and brown rice makes a complete protein. I used a recipe for the first time I tried a meal with this combination, but after that I began to see the endless possibilities and I have been adding new lentil and brown rice meals to our menu plan since then. I can make a pot of lentil and brown rice "chili," with lots of added veggies, for less than $4. And that makes enough for two meals!

Learning how to cook entirely from scratch, researching whole grains and the benefits of many other foods and cooking processes, and learning food complements and substitutions, has allowed me to feel confident that I am feeding every member of my family healthy and complete meals almost all of the time. And those few times when I do not, that is by choice and not to stay within my budget. I will admit that our winter consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables is not nearly as good as it should be, but I am always on the lookout for ways to improve that. I would really like to freeze some fresh summer fruits and veggies this year to last out through next winter.

According to the USDA guidelines (please note that I am only using these as a point of reference), we are doing a pretty good job. On this website, you can get a customized chart of daily requirements for each member of your family. Here is what I found for our children: (Gracie is not included in this because the site starts from age 2) Olivia (almost 3) - 4 oz. grains, 1.5 cups vegetables, 1 cup fruits, 2 c. dairy, and 3 oz. meat and beans; Alex (almost 4) - 5 oz. grains, 1.5 cups vegetables, 1.5 cups fruits, 2 c. dairy, and 4 oz. meat and beans; Isabelle (8) - 5 oz. grains, 2 cups vegetables, 1.5 cups fruits, 2 cups dairy, and 5 oz. meat and beans. Based on those, we are definitely meeting the grain, dairy, and protein requirements daily. As I already knew, our vegetable and fruit consumption could use a little boosting. I hope to have that remedied soon.

Make sure you also visit Joy and Toni to share in their kitchen adventures this month. This is going to be a great week in both of their kitchens. Toni will be sharing her adventures while on vacation, and Joy is planning more cooking and baking then ever!


A Grammatical Disclaimer

I freely admit to consistently using improper grammar in the following areas:
1. I like run-on sentences.
2. I have a tendency to end sentences with a pronoun. (I really do. I can't help it.)
3. I always seem to use passive voice in my sentences. (See?)

I've been trying to break this habit, unsuccessfully, for years, so now I just accept that as my writing style, and since I'm not writing for grades anymore, I embrace it. (Again, see?)

Hence, I invoke Blogger Artistic License for this blog!

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