(the ultimate) Healthy Homemaker Series ~ in the kitchen

This week I'm writing about what healthy-living looks like in our home and bringing you the best of the Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle. An amazing resource packed with 86 ebooks, an online conference, and bonus products to help you in your healthy living journey.

Family life is always changing and we are in a completely different stage of life than when I wrote this post about spending all my time in the kitchen.

I work now. It's been a slow evolution and my work will always shift around family life, but the truth is that I spend less time in the kitchen because I spend more time writing. And I love that.

My kids are big. They are competent in the kitchen. They can plan, find recipes, cook and clean up.

Damien is home. All day, every day. Except when he makes runs to town to buy the groceries and chauffeur the kids to Tae Kwon Do and pick up the cashews I forgot to buy at the health food store.

As it is now, I don't want to be in the kitchen all the time.

Something shifted in me in recent years. Maybe it's the knowledge that I don't have to be the only one working in the kitchen any longer, since so much more of our work is shared these days. After years of being responsible for almost all the cooking, I'm tired of kitchen work and since more hands are now available to help, I am thrilled to share the load. Thrilled.

Life is busy with kids this age, a good and bustling energy busy. When the kids were little I didn't know there could be good busy.

Busy was bad, at least it was bad for me because I couldn't run the show at home and be a whole foods cook and be a chauffeur for a myriad of activities.

But at this stage, with Damien at home and helping to drive, and kids that can cook (insert: the hallelujah chorus), busy does not mean un-healthy.

To kick off my week of healthy homemaker posts I'm sharing some tips from what works in our kitchen these days. What works for getting healthy plant-based meals and regular snacks on the table, or ready for the car (as is often the case during the week).

Tip One: Follow a Pattern

When the kids were little I used to menu plan with specific recipes but in recent years I've switched to a pattern and then I just fill in recipes as I go through the week.

This works well because after years of eating this way I have built a large mental repertoire of recipes so even if I don't plan for specific recipe in advance I can pull something off pretty easily.

Here's our current menu plan pattern.


  • Monday - Whatever strikes my fancy. Usually is something that takes a bit more effort, since this is the one weekday I have the time for that.
  • Tuesday - Chili
  • Wednesday - A potato, quinoa or rice base with veggies, and beans or tofu topping or sauce.
  • Thursday - Celine cooks. She often makes an Asian inspired rice or pasta dish but can also pull off a hearty stew.
  • Friday - Potatoes, kale & tofu.
  • Saturday - Pizza or hospitality.
  • Sunday - Leftovers or Damien's Asian noodle soup.

You can find more menu planning inspiration and ideas in this post.

(Just as a reminder for new readers, I am a one pot wonder cook. I make one main dish for the meal, which we usually eat in a bowl.)

Tip Two: Repeat Recipes

Two meals are an absolute given each week:

Tuesday night chili and Friday night roasted potatoes, kale and tofu.

Tuesday chili - I use this recipe from Good & Easy Eats. Same recipe every week. Often I make cornbread or corn muffins with this recipe. Again same recipe every time. (I'm experimenting with substituting almond flour for the whole wheat flour to make them more nutritionally dense.)

Friday potato, kale & tofu melangé - Friday night is youth group and half our family eats in the car on the hour long drive to church. I want to make something portable and easy for me to cook. I don't like fussing in the kitchen on Fridays.

Here's my "recipe":

  • Roast 2 pans of cubed potatoes in the oven with a splash of oil, salt and pepper.
  • SautĂ©e marinated or seasoned tofu in a skillet. This is where I use convenience foods, buying tofu burgers that are already marinated.
  • Wilt/steam a bunch of kale in large saucepan with garlic, just enough water and lemon juice to taste. I will switch to broccoli soon as our farm share (and steady kale source) is done :(
  • Mix it all up when everything is cooked.

Laurent told me this week a light vinaigrette sauce would be good with this. I told him, "yes, feel free to make one!"

Lunch


Lunch is always a repeat recipe. Damien and the kids are responsible for lunch and the default is salad.

If everyone is tired of salad Damien will make his signature cruciferous veggie skillet rice dish. (You'll have to ask him for the recipe). Only he makes this, when I try it just doesn't taste as good. The third option is leftovers, which is a once a week option, at most, since my kids are hearty supper eaters.

Something new this season is a standard Saturday lunch also.

Heather's last Whole Food Kitchen course had some amazing dips and sauces recipes that are now a part of my regular repertoire. Her nacho sauce is one of my most requested recipes.

Saturdays I make two or three dips for lunch (usually bean, cashew or tofu based) and serve with whole food crackers. I make the same thing every Saturday, unless Damien cooks lunch because I'm cooking a hospitality supper for friends.

Tip Three: Kitchen "work sessions"

Last spring I shifted the parent directed portion of our homeschool routine to the afternoons. This means our afternoons are quite focused and there isn't time for snack prep and kitchen work to interrupt these lessons.

So lunch time is a kitchen work session. It is focused and intense. Damien is in charge since I'm working during this time. The family makes lunch, the kids prepare an afternoon snack (they have a rotation), and everyone cleans up.

Then we eat lunch, have some personal downtime, and "hit the books" so to speak.

Tuesday and Thursday evenings is Tae Kwon Do, right at our usual suppertime. So on Tuesdays, I make the chili during our kitchen work session and get it in the crockpot for an early supper. Five of us, in the kitchen at one time is intense and bit chaotic but we make it work.

On Thursdays, Celine makes supper during the kitchen work session. This way, supper is ready by 5:30 and she still has a full afternoon for her studies.

The point is we concentrate for a set period of time on working hard to get food ready for the rest of the day. Food that will keep us healthy and sustain our physical and mental activity.


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The Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle has some great recipe and menu planning resources for keeping a healthy kitchen.

Here's the complete shelf of cookbooks and menu planning resources:

And here are the allergy and special diet specific books:

And the real and whole food education resources:

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My own ebook, Eat This: Meal Salads & Whole Food Dressings is included in this bundle.

I've chosen to highlight mostly plant-based and allergen friendly ebooks in the Five FIMBY Favorites. However, I know most FIMBY readers are not plant-based eaters.

I can say, with confidence, that the rest of the recipe books in this bundle, (which I've skimmed through) will appeal to your kitchens. The recipes in these ebooks feature real foods, are family-friendly, with budget and time constraints in mind.

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A Bundle Tip & Bonus

Part of this bundle includes free access to 12 weeks of Coffee Table Conversations.

I am a featured author for week 9: Eating Well on a Tight Budget. (I'm also hoping this doesn't conflict with our trail departure but we'll work that our when the time comes.)

This online conference will be sold separately, at a later date, but if you buy the bundle now (this week only) you get it for free.

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When I heard about this part of the bundle I jumped at the chance to participate. This is what I love to do!

A special bonus for you if you buy the bundle through my website:

You probably are familiar enough with bundles to know that the sites you purchase through (ie: my blog or someone else's) get a cut of that sale. This is called affiliate marketing. For this reason, I would be super pleased if you are considering purchasing this bundle that you do so through the links on my blog.

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After you purchase the bundle just send me an e-mail and I'll send you the ebook.

Click here to get the low-down on the complete bundle.

Renee Tougas participates in affiliate marketing, including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. Whenever you buy something on Amazon from a link you clicked here, I get a (very) small percentage of that sale. See disclosure for further explanation.

  • Kelly

    Kelly on Nov. 4, 2013, 2 p.m.

    "Busy was bad, at least it was bad for me because I couldn't run the show at home and be a whole foods cook and be a chauffeur for a myriad of activities." This sums up why I just left full time teaching to be home and write and breathe! Love your tips and think about the videos you've posted and ideas you've shared over the years often. Thank you!

    reply

    • renee

      renee on Nov. 4, 2013, 4:32 p.m.

      Kelly, I'm so happy that you've made a change that brings more health and wellbeing into your life and your family's - that's fabulous! To be at home and write and breathe - I get it!!

      reply

  • Sandi

    Sandi on Nov. 4, 2013, 9:22 p.m.

    Love reading how your food world turns. I am at a point where our food prep and home life needs to be more of a team effort. my kids are far apart in age so I still have a 5 year old but he is a baking machine:) We eat grain free for various reasons which is just overall more $  but it has been a God send for my health issues. I love the idea of having a work time in the kitchen together to prep food for the day......you have gotten my thoughts turning on this. Though I am committed to healty eating I do not love cooking or being in kitchen.

    I am just coming off hanging acl surgery and just now getting back into cooking which makes it the perfect time to make some changes.

    reply

  • Ariana

    Ariana on Nov. 5, 2013, 2:06 a.m.

    Renee,

    Would you mind asking Damien if he'd like to share his veggie skillet rice dish, as well as his Asian noodle soup recipe? Both sound fantastic!

    reply

  • Leslie

    Leslie on Nov. 5, 2013, 8:29 p.m.

    Would you be willing to elaborate on how much you soak/sprout/ferment? I am familiar with the supposed benefits and have done some of that (I always soak beans, sometimes oats, etc.) but have personally noticed little to no difference. Also, how were the kids' dental appointments? There is so much info online these days about nourishing traditions-like diets being necessary for people's dental health that I would love to hear of people who have a very different diet and strong teeth! I'm not a fan of bone broth . . .  Thanks!

    reply

    • renee

      renee on Nov. 5, 2013, 9:43 p.m.

      Leslie, I'm happy to elaborate - I don't (mostly) do any of those things. I don't ferment, I don't soak our nuts (except for making almond milk) I don't do long soaking and sprouting of beans (I usually soak overnight to cook the next day). 

      At one time I was interested in pursuing this, thinking it might help Damien with gut issues. Thinking maybe all the probiotics (or whatever I'm sure quite sure of the science) of fermented foods would allow D. to eat gluten regularly. But D's not really keen on that route and really, I don't want an excuse to re-introduce wheat into our regular family diet. I'm so used to this way of cooking now that g-free is not a problem (I've seen the argument that sprouted, fermented foods would allow g-sensitive people to eat gluten, or something like that). 

      I think if I was a foodie, someone who loved cooking, I'd go this route more just for the fun of it. My mom loves making stuff in the kitchen and she always has something "bubbling" at her house. 

      The kids' dental appts are next week but I can report what we have experienced so far in our history. Our kids are 14, 12 and almost 11. They have no cavities. See update and questions here. Or maybe B. had a small one as a young child but I honestly can't remember exactly. When we lived in Maine and had dental coverage (a perk of a job with benefits) we took the kids sporadically for teeth cleaning and a clean bill of health. The dentist told us we were "boring patients" He meant it nicely and I took it as a compliment. The dentist also gave sealants & fluoride treatment. I know some people think fluoride is evil, I never did enough research to have a firm opinion about it, so I went along with it, once every couple years. 

      That's been the extent of our dental experience with children. Damien and I also have strong teeth but I have issues with overbrushing around my gums, leading to sensitivity. Argh..

      I hear you on the bone broth (smile). We make bone broth once a year, after a Christmas turkey and we use that broth to make a turkey soup. I like the tradition of it. But you'd think bone broth was the cure-all for everything according to the nourishing traditions folks. And there is a strong belief in those crowds, founded on Weston Price's work, that a nourishing traditions diet is the answer to dental health. However, there are many other modern-day physicians who research, practice medicine and write about nutrition who differ from that philosophy. I align myself more with these doctors/scientists and their nutrition recommendations:

      Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine Dr. Fuhrman Dr. McDougall Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn

      etc...

      reply

      • Karen from CT

        Karen from CT on Nov. 13, 2013, 1:29 a.m.

        My dentist told me that it has been his experience that his vegetarian patients seem to generate less placque than the meat eaters do. Yea veggies!  I do eat sweet treats on occaison, but do not drink any soda and rarely have fruit juice (wine does not count!) and I have not had a cavity in over 20 years. I used to chew gum and did get a cavity because of it and have not chewed gum since then. My children were raised with no soda or gum, candy at holidays only and when they were small  and they had no cavities. Once they became adults and started drinking sport and energy drinks they got cavities.

        reply

        • renee

          renee on Nov. 14, 2013, 6:53 p.m.

          The dental update & a question (or two).

          I just took the kids to the dentist and unfortunately there are some cavities. Our kids have really deeply pitted teeth. I knew this but I had forgotten. For this reason we had sealants done when we lived in Maine and had good health insurance (so took the kids semi-regularly to the dentist). Well... like I said in this post they haven't been for over two years and during that time some of their oldest molars should have been sealed. They weren't because I was reluctant about the cost of visiting the dentist (during a financially volatile time of life) and the dentists in our town were booking 1 year out (I finally went to a dentist about 1 hr away). Short story - sealants would have done the job but now a filling is required. What a bummer. Classic, "if I could things differently I would have..."

          Interestingly, the hygienist says this isn't a hygiene problem because you can't actually brush into pits or cracks that deep. 

          So.. here's my question. Is there a nutritional protocol for this kind of thing? The kids have had virtually no teeth problems till now (and Brienne still doesn't, we're sealing her deeply pitted molars and the rest of her teeth are in excellent condition, according to the dentist.)

          I know there are re-mineralization strategies out there but I've never looked into them since it's never been an issue. Any recommends from anyone? These deep pits are a problem but otherwise the kids teeth are great. Can deep pit dental caries (it's small) be addressed with tooth re-mineralization strategies? Of course the dentist doesn't discuss this. Does anyone know?

          reply

  • leah

    leah on Nov. 9, 2013, 12:11 p.m.

    I loved this post...we have loosely followed a traditional/Weston A. Price diet for a number of years and are in the process of transitioning into more of a plant-based diet. With five kids, simplicity is a necessity...love your suggestions!

    reply

    • renee

      renee on Nov. 9, 2013, 2:25 p.m.

      Leah, I'm not sure if you're considering the bundle or not. If so, you should know there are some plant-based eating resources in this bundle, but more along the desserts and sweets. The majority of the food ebooks seem in the Weston Price/traditional vein.

      reply

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