A Day in the Life of a Busy Kitchen

I have a confession to make … my kitchen in normally, everyday, mostly in a state of disarray of one kind or another. Stuff on the counters, stuff in the sink, floor needs sweeping or mopping, or the dishwasher to be loaded or unloaded. Sound familiar? If you cook at all I’m sure you can totally identify!

But, you might say, The Granny Plan step number three says it’s important to clean as you go. And I do.

So, what’s going on here?

An Active Kitchen is Always in a State of Becoming the Next Meal

Take a look at these three stunning kitchens and what do you notice?

 

Zero cleanup, zero meal prep … all is perfect!

Of course we all know these are model kitchens, but I still think it has an effect on us that we see oh so many of these picture perfect kitchens on TV shows, in advertisements, online, on cooking shows, and on and on ad nauseum. On cooking shows all is clean, ingredients are pre-measured and in cute little bowls and totally ready to cook.

But, in your own home there are dishes from the last meal in the sink, a full dishwasher to be unloaded, appliances and other tools you use daily on the counters, some needing cleaning themselves, a floor that needs sweeping or mopping, a dirty range top. All of these are true of my kitchen in this picture:

This is my kitchen just after a fairly big family breakfast. Everyday my husband makes breakfast for the four of us, then after we eat I cleanup the kitchen. He cleans as he goes, but let’s just say, not as much as I do 😉 .

The dishes in the foreground just came out of my overly tiny dishwasher ( it’s weirdly small ) , way in the background you’ll note a stack of baking dishes and bowls drying on the counter, a couple of pans soaking overnight from dinner. The sink has breakfast dishes in it and the counters need to be wiped down along with the range. The floor needs sweeping and mopping. There is a percolator that needs cleaning out, and we keep quite a few everyday things on the counter like silverware, cutting boards and utensils, for a lack of drawer space.

This is a kitchen in the process of cleaning up one meal, and prepping for the next! Just after this photo was taken all the dishes went in the cabinets or the dishwasher, pots and pans were scrubbed, then lunch was made for my Mom by my husband, my son made his lunch then he made a batch of brownies for later. Late in the afternoon I cleaned the kitchen once again before I made dinner, then again after dinner. And so begins another day.

There was no point in the day when my kitchen looked even remotely like the ones in the pictures. Okay, well maybe about 5 minutes! All day there were dishes clean or dirty on the counters, ingredients being prepped, things drying, and of course floors in various stages of clean/dirty.

 

Clean tidy kitchens are an ideal, a much longed for Kitchen Utopia like the ones in the model home pictures that will just never arrive no matter what you do. Of course, unless …

I think this is exactly how many sparkling home kitchens come about, lol!

Our working home kitchens should more closely resemble a commercial kitchen with tons of activity, things in process, and a mix of clean and dirty utensils about, all of which are on there way to the stove, the table, or the dishwasher.

Clean as you Go Can Look Different Depending on your Situation

If you live alone your kitchen probably does look pretty tidy most of the time. Or if you live like me with several adults, most of which cook, then well, things will probably always be in a state of flux.

And if you live with several little kids, well, all bets are off 😉

Clean as You Go means do whatever cleaning you can as you are cooking and prevent as much in-between meal work as you are able. But try as you might, cooking still leaves evidence that will have to be handled in between cooking. But keeping it to a minimum is a huge contribution to keeping your kitchen cooking ready.

So relax, drop the perfectionism …

Life is messy, and food is life in a way 🙂 . Enjoy your kitchen in all it’s glorious chaos … just try to keep it in check enough to be ready to make the next meal!

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Making the Most of Granny’s Free Meal Plan

Last week I released my first meal plan as a free download for anyone signing up for my mailing list. The meal plan has a page devoted to getting started with the plan but that is necessarily brief, so I wanted to share a few more thoughts with everyone on how best to work the plan.

In general, I’m not a big fan of meal plans. I have friends who have made business’s out of creating them, making software so you can create your own, or providing somewhat flexible plans for people eating real food. I think all this is a sizable improvement of traditional static plans. Still, meal plans, even when you customize your’s completely, are very rigid by design. The rigidity is the very structure that is meant to discipline you into buying food, cooking and eating in a way that is fully defined in advance. I’ve lived 50 years on this earth and I can tell you I’ve not known a soul who really actually eats in this disciplined pre-planned way. At least not for very long.

Meal plans are a lot like diet plans. Same structure, same discipline in shopping and eating, all planned out well in advance. No one can stick to this for very long.

If I feel this way then why did I write a meal plan?

Funny you should ask ;-). I do think meal plans have their place in the transitioning from one kind of diet to another. They are a kind of training wheels for the beginner.

With that in mind, I’d like to make a few points on the use of the meal plan.

It’s a Guide not a Rulebook

The meal plan is a very simple old-timey restaurant style menu. Everyone in the house has their choice for breakfast or lunch, more or less, though some breakfast items you might want to make for all. Generally, old fashioned restaurants served just one thing for dinner and guests ate just that. This menu is no different.

But you can mix those dinners up and serve on different days, or take one out and serve an old favorite if you’d like. Just keep in mind you’ll need to adjust the grocery list too.

As you see, the meal plan is a simple guide, not to be rigidly followed. If you like the structure and feel you’re benefitting then absolutely stick with it! You can repeat this menu as often as you like. But if it’s starting to chafe, well, that means you are outgrowing it and that’s a good thing 🙂 .

Developing a Sense of Proportion in Your Grocery Spending

The main thing the meal plan is designed to do is give you a sense of proportion in your food budget. The grocery list has three columns of prices, one labeled “Okay”, one for “Good”, and one for “Best”. These roughly match up with the quality ranking I use in my Wholesome Ingredients posts. While all ingredients aren’t covered here, I hope to cover everything on the meal plan with these guides in the very near future.

So, how to use these three columns to balance your food budget?

Basically, if you have the grocery budget for “Okay” then probably you can’t afford too much from the “Best” column right now. For example, if you have the “Okay” budget and buy pastured chicken at $21.00 each you will have to cut down on quality for something else, perhaps even below “Okay”. If that’s all you have to spend then maybe you should pass on the pastured chicken so you won’t have to lower quality below what is acceptable for something else.

This is really the 80/20 plan broken down into real world terms. 80/20 isn’t just about eating restaurant food sometimes, or eating something you know you should stay far from just every now and then, while eating well most of the time. Nope, it’s also about balancing quality. So maybe you have a “Good” budget but feel very strongly about having high quality raw local milk. If that’s the case you may need to lower your standards just a bit for something else. Possibly, you may need to lower even below “Okay” for a small number of items to get that raw milk. That’s the 80/20 rule in action.

I hope you find the grocery chart in the meal plan helpful in thinking thru what you must have at the highest quality, and what you feel you can compromise on.

Using “The Granny Plan” to Expand on the Meal Plan

In “The Granny Plan” one of the steps is about developing a pantry of food so that you are ready to make most anything at anytime. Granny would have had such a pantry along with a very rough plan for meals that she kept in her head mostly. She could vary it easily as situations demanded, like maybe an extra guest or two or ten 😉 . Or if something might go bad if it wasn’t cooked soon, she would bump her plans to make it closer. So, while there was a plan of sorts, it was pretty loosey-goosey.

Newcomers to real foods are inundated with tons of choices, so much so that I think many succumb to decision fatigue and give up of real food for the time being. I know I surely felt overwhelmed at the beginning by some many things I could learn to deciding about the quality of ingredients at the store. What could I afford? What worked into my budget?

If you’re following the meal plan here then many of these very early choices are made for you. None of these recipes require special skills like fermenting or keeping a starter for sourdough or anything tricky to learn at all. And none of the foods are unfamiliar to the average family. At first you should be about the business of learning good quality from bad and what that means to your budget. Next, learning very basic kitchen skills. The fun but tricky stuff can wait!

So in “The Granny Plan” continue to work on building up a pantry, babystep by babystep. Use the meal plan as a kind of pit stop on the way to your destination of mastery of Granny skills. Make it your first goal to have on hand everything on the grocery list and make all the meals listed there, in so far as your family likes them. Use “The Granny Plan” to babystep your way to this early goal. Easy-Peasy 🙂 .

Get Your Copy of Granny’s Kickstarter Meal Plan Now

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Three Spice Snickerdoodles

This funny sounding cookie is believed to have originated in New England in the 1800’s. So not only did your grandma likely eat these cookies, but your great-great-great grandma may have had them too! Supposedly the older recipes used cream of tartar and  to make the cookies rise, while the newer recipes just use baking powder. In keeping with tradition, these cookies use cream of tartar.

Typically snickerdoodles are made with cinnamon, but this recipe also has ginger and nutmeg for an additional kick of fall spices. They’re soft and cakelike with a slight, buttery tang. These are perfect with a glass of cold milk. They also taste amazing dunked in milk!

Three Spice Snickerdoodles

Yield

4-6 Servings

 

Cooking Time

30 Minutes

Difficulty

Easy

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 Cup Cane Sugar
  • 1 Cup Butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 2 3/4 Cup Unbleached White Flour
  • 1 tsp Cream of Tartar
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 3 Tbsp Cane Sugar
  • 2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Ground Ginger
  • 1/8 tsp Ground Nutmeg

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 325. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper if desired. This makes for a much easier clean up!
  • Combine sugar, butter and vanilla and mix until smooth, about 1 minute.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients, except the flour and mix until well incorporated.
  • Add the flour in two or three batches to prevent a huge flour cloud as you mix.
  • Combine the sugar and spices together in a small bowl for the coating.
  • Using your hands, roll the cookie dough into golf size balls, then roll in the coating mixture.
  • These cookies don’t spread very much, so they can be placed fairly close together on the cookie sheets.
  • Use a fork to flatten the tops of the cookies.
  • Bake for 7-9 minutes. The less time in the oven, the chewier they’ll be.
  • Remove from tray immediately and cool on a wire rack. These are delicious warm, but also after they’ve sat for a few days and dunked in a glass of milk.

Recipe courtesy of Jamie Larrison – Jamie teaches elementary art to the family she is nanny for. She has an adorable little boy and a wonderful husband. She attended Grace College for education and journalism and is currently working on a Master Herbalist certification. The Herbal Spoon

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Two Meat Crockpot Chili

This set-it-and-forget-it crockpot meal is sure to please the guys in particular this fall. But then who doesn’t enjoy a hot steaming bowl of comforting chili on a cool night! In a nutshell all you do here is brown the meat on the stove, add the remaining ingredients and pour into your slow cooker. Then turn it on and when you get back home you’ll have a hot meal at the ready. Just make a buttered veggie and add rice or a good bread on side and you’re done!

Two Meat Crockpot Chili

Yield

4-6 Servings

Prep Time

20 Minutes

Cooking Time

5-6 Hours

Difficulty

Easy

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Ground Beef
  • 1 lb Ground Pork
  • 2 tbsp Chili Powder
  • 1 tbsp Paprika Powder (Hot Hungarian is best)
  • 1 tbsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 tsp Ground Ginger
  • 1 tbsp Flax Seed Meal ((optional))
  • 1 tbsp Chia Seeds ((optional))
  • 1 tbsp Butter (Coconut Oil is fine too)
  • 1 Large Onion (Chopped coarsely)
  • 1 Medium Green Bell Pepper
  • 1-2 Small Hot Red Peppers ((optional))
  • 1 15oz Can Tomato Sauce
  • 1 28oz Can Diced Tomatoes
  • 2 Cups Chopped Carrots

 

  • Brown the ground meats in a large cast iron skillet, over medium heat, in the oil, butter or ghee.
  • Once browned, drain off any excess fat, and add in all of the spices and flax meal.
  • Mix together, and add in the diced tomatoes and fresh vegetables, thoroughly incorporate all ingredients.
  • Pour the contents of the cast iron skillet into your large crock pot.
  • Add in the tomato sauce and chia seeds, and thoroughly mix together.
  • Cook in the crock pot on low for 5-6 hours

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Crockpot Baked Apples

Nothing says fall than the smell of apples and cinnamon. It makes the entire house smell warm and comforting.

These ‘baked’ apples are simple, throw it all in the crock pot and have a fresh warm dessert ready at dinnertime. Served with vanilla ice cream, it’s like apple pie with out the crust. This recipe from Jessica at Simply Healthy Home show how just how simple and easy real food can be!

Jessica’s family also loves these apples mixed into a bowl of oatmeal for a warm breakfast.

Crockpot Baked Apples

Yield

4-6 Servings

Prep Time

5 minutes

Cooking Time

4 Hours

Difficulty

Easy

Ingredients

  • 6 Apples (Peeled, cored and cut in half)
  • 1 tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 4 tbsp Sugar
  • 2 tsp Cinnamon

Directions

  • Add all ingredients in the crock pot and cook on low for four hours. Serve warm.

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Creamy Potato Soup

I love potato soup! Potato soup is always greeted with excitement in our house by one and all. Usually when I make potato soup I use a mix of broth and heavy whipping cream instead of milk, but I buy a ton of cream for cooking. You might not want to do that, or then again maybe you would ;-). Milk is more affordable than cream in general making this recipe more practical for more families.

Creamy Potato Soup

Yield

4-6 Servings

 

 

Easy

Ingredients

  • 8-10 Potatoes (medium)
  • 1 Whole Onion (chopped)
  • 3 Carrots (chopped)
  • 2 stalks Celery (chopped)
  • 6 cloves Garlic (minced)
  • 1/2 stick Butter
  • 1/4 cup Potato Starch
  • 2 quarts Milk

directions

  • Wash and chop potatoes into uniform sized pieces (leave the skins on for added nutrition)
  • Place potatoes in about an inch of water and salt and pepper generously (The key to good potato soup is here, getting the potatoes salted well!)
  • Bring water to a boil then back down to a simmer and leave the lid on to cook potatoes until tender (10-15 minutes)
  • While potatoes are simmering, add the better and chopped vegetables into a pan and sautee until the onions are golden (This will help give your soup a sweeter flavor)
  • When potatoes are done, add the sautéed vegetables to the potatoes and water.
  • Add milk (leaving one cup to mix the starch in) and bring to a light simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  • Mix the starch with the reserved cup of milk while you bring the soup to a boil.
  • Add the starch while stirring constantly for two minutes.
  • Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with cheese and bacon (Optional but yummy!)

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Nourishing Broth: a Review

There is a myth of the elixir of life. If you could find it and drink it you’d be granted eternal life and youth. This myth has been handed down since antiquity throughout many different cultures. A magic potion that cures all ills and aging along with eliminating the certainty of eventual death. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?

Well, real traditional broth isn’t exactly like that ;-). But it comes about as close as food gets! It won’t eliminate aging but it’ll make a substantial contribution to slowing it. It won’t cure all the ills of man but it can produce amazing reversals of illness. In folklore it has the reputation of “raising the dead”. 

In their new book “Nourishing Broth” Sally Fallon Morell and Kaayla Daniel, PhD go into great detail in support of the science of why broth is so very good for you. And well they did. I know I get plenty of questions on the topic myself and the reasons why are so broad and diverse I find it hard to formulate an answer. Now it’s as easy as checking this book! It’s an encyclopedia of knowledge on how the nutrients found in abundance in broth are used by the body and how this knowledge might be applied by those afflicted with specific illnesses to help support their healing. There are many testimonials from people whose conditions improved when broth was added to their diet.

Some of the conditions covered are:

I have a personal testimonial too ? Adding both broth and raw milk to my diet has over time helped me greatly reduce my need for asthma medication. But that’s a subject for another post. Enough for now to say that I consider both to be the the cornerstones of good health. 

How Commercial Stock is Made

I used to buy cans of stock at the grocery store. Usually organic which is expensive. (Psst … they share a tip for telling good broth from bad without looking at the label). Had I only known I was mostly getting MSG for my trouble, well I would have been horrified. In the preface Sally and Kaayla share with us how commercially canned and dried stocks came to be available. It’s the story of the isolation of the savory flavor the Japanese call umami. There is no word for it in english. The source of this flavor is MSG. 

No time was wasted, production of MSG for the food industry started almost immediately. MSG could be used to enhance the flavor of foods that were flavorless from processing. Bouillon cubes rolled off the assembly line made with the new MSG. I wonder, is processed food really possible without MSG to give it flavor? Probably not. I doubt anyone would want to eat it.

How Granny Made Her Broth

In contrast traditional broth is a very holistic affair. Our Grandmothers and Great-Grandmothers and so on back as long as memory, kept a stock pot going, first over the fire, then on the stove. In this pot they placed odds and ends of bones, meats, offal and veggie clippings and kept it on a slow simmer. Anyone could ladle some soup out at anytime. The authors point out it was the original fast food! So good broth was pretty much always available and served in some form with most every meal. Gravies, sauces, soups, stews, aspics, etc. You get the picture :-).

An Economy Food

Granny’s broth was economical and knew no class. Everyone ate broth though the detail of what it was made from varied according to economics.

From the Introduction:

For most people in the world, soup serves as a humble economy food crafted from leftover bones, shells, wilted vegetable scraps, and whatever else is available, according to the frugal principle of “waste not, want not.” Wealthier households use whole chickens, fish, and hunks of lamb, beef, or pork to make the very best stock, while the poor often rely on carcasses and scraps from butchering.

In short broth was everywhere served from the humblest kitchen to the King’s castle. Everyone ate large quantities of broth.

Taking Care of Yourself  The Granny Way

In my book “The Granny Plan” early into the plan we start making broth. Broth is essential to good wholesome healthy food so we need to get past any anxiety about making it right off. Don’t worry, it’s really easy. I know I was intimidated the first time I made broth. “Nourishing Broth” will help you dispel any mystery about the whole process. Generally I make mine using the slow cooker method on pg. 155 of “Nourishing Broth“.

Tons of Recipes from the Basic to the Exotic

Those searching to get more broth into their lives will enjoy the large number recipes. Plenty of great ideas waiting for you here! Soups and stews, sauces and gravies, grains and legumes, aspics, tonics and even broth for breakfast.

In short, you’ll love it!

 

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Why it’s OK to Eat Dessert

I don’t know about you but I used to feel HUGELY guilty about having dessert! It wasn’t about calories, back when I was young I didn’t need to lose any weight. It just felt wrong, so wrong! All those empty calories filling me up when I should be eating something healthy like raw carrots or kale maybe.

But you know what? Despite feeling really guilty for years I doubt a day passed when I didn’t have a sweet treat at some point in the day. Okay, maybe in my mid-twenties when I was a wanna-be vegetarian, which, by the way, was the point in my life when I was the least healthy.

Why decide everyday to NOT have sweets and them eat them anyway?

Biology, my dear, that’s why. Sugars both simple and complex are something the body craves for good reason. And these sugars have been a part of mankind’s diet forever. 

People talk about craving sweets like it’s so weird, or unusual that they should want something sweet to eat. I’m here to tell you that everyone wants something sweet to eat, just like everyone wants something salty, or fatty, or sometimes even a little bitter. It’s natural to want all these flavors from time to time. And it’s natural that if your diet is imbalanced in some way that cravings for a particular flavor or type of food might become more intense.

It’s All About Calories, just not the way you think …

The times in my life when I craved sweets the most were the times when my diet was the most calorie restricted. I was fairly thin as a girl and young woman and I don’t think I ever consciously restricted my caloric intake. I wasn’t one for dieting. I was all about nutrition. So I would skip meals when nothing good was immediately available to eat. Looking back I think I must have lived on about 1500 calories a day. And I practiced intermittent fasting, though I didn’t know it had a name 

On busy days I would barely eat at all. I’d get food for the kids and skip getting something for myself. Or I’d skip breakfast and lunch, drink coffee all day and have a snack in the evening. Usually something sweet.

I was half crazy for sweets during these times.  I think the cause was a simple lack of calories. Just not enough fuel for the machine to keep me running thru all the things a young mommy must do in a day. So my body was telling me to eat the food with the most immediately available fuel to keep my brain working and my body moving. It wanted something sweet and it wanted it now!

Eating Sweets Isn’t a Black or White Issue

It’s all about quantity. And about quality. And about what else you eat along with the treat.

Let’s think about how people used to handle sweets. What were the commonly accepted rules taught to kids and young moms about the eating of treats?

Get the picture?  Good food that was rich and filling overcame the desire for sweets in quantity. Just a little bit was enough to satisfy. That’s how it worked. It was an automatic way of moderating everyone’s intake of sweets.

So enjoy your dessert!

And don’t worry! If you get enough of the good stuff into you and your kids the desire for sweets will start to die down. And what sweets you do eat will be made with such good ingredients that they actually make a contribution to your health! Hard to believe? Well, that’s a topic for another post 🙂 .

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Which Potato Do You Buy?

Let’s talk potatoes shall we? The lowly dietary staple that everyone and his brother runs down as the unhealthiest thing ever. So simple, so ordinary we use it to describe lazy people ( couch potatoes ) or plain eaters ( meat and potato kinda-guy ). That potato.

Let’s just say straight out of the gate that I adore potatoes in just about any form. And I firmly disagree with any notion that they are unhealthy in any way. That isn’t what I want to talk about today. Nope, not at all. I want to talk about the processing of good healthy food into stuff that isn’t as healthy and costs a mega-truckload more to buy using the lowly potato as an example.

Are You Paying More to Buy Unhealthy Food?

Walk into a health food store and you’ll find a full aisle of potato chips made with various cooking oils, heat sources and flavorings. Most of these chips are little better for you than standard Lay’s Potato Chips. Seriously. They are by and large produced using some polyunsaturated oil all of which we should cut out of our diets as much as we can. (For more info read What Makes a Diet Good? ).

That isn’t my main point here, though. What I’d really like you to notice is how incredibly expensive it is to buy potato chips compared to just a plain, healthy raw potato!

Kettle Chips $.33 p/ounce $5.28 p/lb
Lay’s $.22 p/ounce $3.52 p/lb
Raw Potato $.04 p/ounce $.64 p/lb

By buying potatoes as pre-cooked chips we are now paying 500 to 900% more! For something to eat that is actually a lot less healthy for us. Does this make any sense to you?

So Forget the Coupon Clipping …

The big money in grocery savings comes from cutting out the processed crap.

I know, I know we love this stuff and it’s so convenient. But cutting out chips will make a huge contribution to both your health and having enough money for things like grassfed beef and real dairy.

Let’s grab the low hanging fruit first … cut out any remaining processed food items, slowly as your family adapts to the change. This is one of the steps in The Granny Plan, my book with a detailed plan to help you get real food into your families daily lives.

And I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge the only truly healthy packaged potato chip I’m aware of:  Jackson’s Honest Organic Potato Chips. I have been known to grab a small bag while I’m out shopping and they are oh so good! They are cooked in coconut oil. I can’t afford to do this too much though ;-). If you’re gonna keep buying chips anyway, and I know some of you will, this is the way to go.

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