What’s in the Crockpot? Vegetable Soup

My favorite recipes these days are those that require very little prep and use minimal amounts of dishes (One-pot recipes are the best! I have a few I will type up for y’all soon!).  I have two children under 5 (and they don’t always nap…), so I don’t have a lot of time for prepping food and washing dishes.  Being able to make one of these types of meals in the crockpot (set it and forget it!) makes it even better.  Here’s one of my favorite “easy” recipes.  It is healthy in the fact that it has lots of vegetables, but it is not super high on my healthy list because I use store-bought beef broth, canned tomato sauce, frozen veggies, and I do include corn even though we don’t eat corn at all in any other meal or as a side.  This could be improved easily by using vegetables from your garden (even if they are frozen), your own homemade beef broth and/or tomato sauce, and leaving out the corn.

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Here’s what you’ll need to make my veggie soup:

(3) steaks, cubed and browned (I usually use the petite sirloin when it goes on sale at our local grocery store)
(1) 32 oz container of beef broth
(2) 15 oz cans of tomato sauce
(1) can of water (use the empty tomato sauce can)
(3) 12 oz packs of frozen mixed vegetables
(1) 12 oz pack of frozen corn
Salt, Pepper, and Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning (as needed)

1.) Season the steaks with salt, pepper, and Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning (or your favorite general purpose seasoning).  Cut them into cubes and brown them over medium heat.

browned-cubed-steak

2.) Transfer the browned steaks into the crockpot and then add the rest of the ingredients.

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3.) Cover and cook on high for 3 hours, or on low for longer.  Since I add the vegetables in frozen, they do not get soggy or mushy.

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I usually serve the soup for supper that evening, serve enough for leftovers for the next day, and then freeze the rest in individual serving sized containers.  This gives me a quick and easy (and rather healthy) meal to take out on a day when I just did not have enough time to cook.  All I have to do is take however many containers I need out of the freezer, pop them into the fridge the night before (or even the morning of, if I forgot – mommy brain is real! haha), and have them defrosted by the evening.  If you want to make the meal more substantial, buy a loaf of French bread to serve on the side, enjoy it with a salad, or you could serve the soup with grilled cheese sandwiches (my family’s favorite side for this dish).  Enjoy!

–Brandi

 

 

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What’s in the Garden? Bell Peppers

2 basket of blessings bell peppersWith my garden blessings basket in hand, I headed to the garden to harvest bell peppers.  The round bell peppers are growing on plants that I started from seed in February of this year, while the long peppers are growing on plants that I bought last year at the local farmer’s market.  I heard that if you can keep your pepper plant alive during the winter, it will produce even better the second year.  I decided to leave a few plants in the ground during the winter and since we didn’t have a very cold winter last year, they survived.  I trimmed the top and side branches in the spring and before long they were full of flowers and small fruit.  By the time the round bell peppers that I had planted were making flowers, I was already harvesting from my two year plants.  What blessings!

The peppers that I harvested today are going into my freezer storage.  First, I washed them and let them dry.  Then I cut them and saved the stem and seeds for the compost.

Next, I used the Vidalia Chopper  (I love this-it is so quick and easy) to cut the tops into small cubes that I freeze for gravies and pizza toppings.

I chopped some peppers into big cubes and added 4 ounces to each of my veggie stir fry bags.  I chopped some into long strips and added 6 ounces to my fajitas bags.  I placed the completed bags into my long term freezer while the incomplete bags I placed in the freezer of my refrigerator until my next harvest of peppers.

Since half of the prepping for fajitas is now done, I am going to put some meat defrosting and in my next post, I’ll share my recipe for quick and easy Fajitas.

–Penny

How to Use My Favorite Coupon Savings Apps

In a previous blog post (you can read it here), I mentioned that I use various websites and apps to help me save money at the grocery store each week.  In today’s post, I’ll go into more detail about how to sign up for and use these apps.

stack-of-coupons

Swagbucks (for coupons)

Instead of clipping coupons from a Sunday newspaper (I don’t even have a subscription anymore), I print coupons from my computer at Swagbucks.com.  There are other sites where you can print coupons (like coupons.com), but swagbucks is the only one that I know of that you also earn bucks back when that coupon is redeemed.  Here’s how you can print coupons from swagbucks.com on your computer too:

  1. Sign in to your swagbucks account. No account? Sign up for one here.
  2. Click on “shop” in the left hand side menu
  3. Click on “grocery coupons” in the left hand side menu
  4. Install the coupon printer (link near the top of the page)
  5. Find coupons you will use by either clicking on the drop-down menu under “categories,” choosing your category and then searching, or simply clicking through all coupons.
  6. To clip a coupon, hover over it and when “clip coupon” shows up, click on it. Accidentally clicked on a coupon you don’t want to print? Hover over it and click on “unclip.”
  7. Once you have clipped all the coupons you’d like to print, scroll back up to the top of the page and click on the red button at the top that says “print coupons.” It will also have a number there. That’s the number of coupons you have clipped. My printer prints them three to a page.
  8. Most coupons can be printed twice per computer, but you’ll have to print the first one and then re-clip the coupon to print it a second time.
  9. Here’s the best part! When you use your coupon at the store, once it has been processed, you’ll earn 10 swagbucks per coupon redeemed! So not only are you saving money on the item you use the coupon on, you’ll also earn money back in swagbucks that you can turn in to earn giftcards!  Amazon giftcards are my favorite to turn in swagbucks for, but there are so many other options too!

phone-with-money-save-money

Ibotta (earn cash back and bonuses)

Ibotta is a cash-back app that has produce options almost every week.  It is organized by store type, and then by store, and you must “unlock” each rebate before you can claim it.  I tend to shop first and then search through the stores I frequented for the items that I purchased.  Once you earn $20.00, you can withdraw your cash either through Paypal (my choice), venmo, or featured gift cards.

Right now, Ibotta is offering $10 to new users if they redeem their first rebate using the app before the expiration date (dates vary by users, so check your app to make sure you don’t miss out on an easy $10!).   

  1. Sign up for an account here, and download the app.(Feel free to use my referral code: lxn2wa ).
  2. Log in to your app and click on the type of store you visited (grocery, pharmacy, etc.)
  3. Click on the particular store you visited (Walmart, CVS, Home Depot, etc.).
  4. Search through the rebate options for items you purchased, or plan to purchase, and click on each one to unlock it.  (Usually you must view a recipe, watch a short video, or answer a survey question to unlock an item).
  5. Once you have unlocked all the items you want, and have completed your shopping trip, click on “Verify Purchases” at the bottom.  (green button with a camera on it).
  6. You may be asked for permission to access your phones camera (allow it).
  7. Click on “Scan product barcodes.” You’ll see a list of the rebates you unlocked.  Click on each item to scan each barcode (items like bananas will not be required to scan, but you still have to click on them here to redeem the rebate).
  8. The next step is to send your receipt.  This will vary from store to store.  For example, if you shopped at Walmart, you will need to scan the QR code on your receipt, but if you shopped at Albertsons, you’ll need to take pictures of the entire receipt (one piece at a time until you have photographed the whole receipt).
  9. Submit your receipt and wait for your cash to be added to your account.
  10. Once you have accrued $20.00, you can withdraw your cash through Paypal (my choice), venom, or featured gift cards.  Enjoy your earnings!

Note: You can earn even more with individual and team bonuses as well as referring friends to ibotta once you’ve created an account, so check it out!

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 Walmart Savings Catcher App (get money on a Walmart egift card)

If you shop at Walmart regularly, this app is for you!  Walmart has been known for matching competitors’ prices if they’re advertised in a sales flyer, but who has time to look through all the flyers and then bring them into the store to show the cashier the lower price for each item when this app will do it for you?

  1. Sign up here, or download the Walmart app to your phone.
  2. Once you’ve shopped at Walmart, log in to the savings catcher website or app.
  3. If using the app, click on “savings catcher” (has a green pig), then on the orange button that says, “Add a Walmart Receipt.”  It may ask for permission to access your camera (allow it), and then scan the QR code at the bottom of your receipt.  Sometimes it doesn’t recognize the code for some reason (or maybe your receipt doesn’t have one?).  If that happens, it will ask you to manually enter the information for your receipt.
  4. If using the website, enter the receipt number TC# and then the date of purchase and click “go.”
  5. Walmart will compare your purchases to items in the sales flyers in your area and if a lower price is found advertised, you will earn back the difference.
  6. Once you’re happy with the amount of money you’ve earned, you can cash it in for a Walmart e-gift card which can be used online or at the register the next time you shop at Walmart. No more bringing in the flyer to price match your items! The app (or website) does it for you!

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Checkout 51 (earn cash back, even on produce!)

Checkout 51 is another cash-back app that has produce options every week!  Each week a new list of rebates is offered, so don’t wait to enter your receipt lest you miss the deadline for that week.  Checkout 51 also allows you to enter a drawing for $500 every week if you have a receipt for a grocery trip over $60.  Once you earn $20.00, you can request a check to be mailed to you.

  1. Sign up at checkout51.com or sign up after downloading the app to your phone. (you can sign up by facebook or email).
  2. Once logged in, you will see a list of offers for you (this list updates weekly on Thursdays, so make sure you take advantage of any deals you see before they expire!).  My favorite is the “Pick Your Own Offer” because it is fresh, whole food!  It is so rare that you can find coupons for this category, so I try to earn that $0.25 each week.  You must decide on your offer under “Pick Your Own Offer” before you try to scan your receipt.
  3. Some offers have limits, so make sure to read carefully.  Some offers have bonuses (redeem a certain amount of one kind of offer, and the app will give you an extra cash back amount).  This changes from offer to offer, so again, read carefully.
  4. When you have purchased your items and are ready to redeem your chosen offers, click “Upload Receipt.”  If the app asks for permission to access your phone’s camera,  allow it.  Line up the top part of your receipt in the lines on the screen and click “Take Photo.”  If not all of your receipt fits in the screen, no worries, just move the camera down the receipt to the next section and click “Add Section.”  Once you’ve photographed the entire receipt, click on Finish.
  5. Now you’ll see a new screen that says “Which offers are on your receipt?”  If you starred any offers on the opening screen, they’ll show up first.  Simply click the empty box on the right of each offer that you purchased on this receipt.  (Don’t forget to click on the “Win $500” offer at the bottom if your receipt has a total over $60!).  When you’ve clicked all the offers you’ve purchased, click the blue “Claim It” button at the bottom.  You’re done!  Now sit back and wait for the cash back to roll in!
  6. Once you’ve earned a balance of $20.00 or more, you can request a check to be mailed to you with your balance.  Yes, it is legit.  I’ve been mailed two checks so far and, if you follow us on facebook, you know that I’ve just earned my 3rd! 🙂

So put down the scissors and forget about flipping through the coupon inserts in the paper.  Save yourself some time (and money!) by using these websites and apps instead!

Swagbucks

Ibotta

Walmart Savings Catcher

Checkout 51

-Brandi

Some links may be affiliate links.

 

My September Young Living Essential Reward (ER) Order

Want to see what I ordered in my September Young Living Essential Rewards (ER) order? Watch below to view my You Tube unboxing video. I even give a few uses for some of the items I ordered, so don’t miss out.

In case you are not able to watch the video, here’s what I ordered this month:

(1) Palmarosa Essential Oil – 15 ml
(1) Purification Essential Oil – 15 ml
(1) Deep Relief Roll On – 10 ml
(1) Stress Away Essential Oil – 15 ml
(1) Thieves Hard Lozenges – 30 count
(1) Thieves Foaming Hand Soap – 3 pack
(1) KidScents Bath Gel – 8 fl oz
(1) KidScents Shampoo – 214 ml
(1) KidScents Slique Toothpaste – 4 oz
(1) Satin Facial Scrub Mint – 2 oz
(1) AromaGuard Meadow Mist Deoderant – 1.5 oz
(1) Lip Balm – Lavender

Since I met a certain PV amount, I also got these oils FREE!!!:

(1) Wintergreen Essential Oil – 15 ml
(1) PanAway Essential Oil – 5 ml

Finally, since I met a certain PV amount AND my order was an essential rewards order, I also got this oil FREE!!:

(1) Oregano Essential Oil – 15 ml

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Can you tell that I’m excited to get free oils?!? I discuss why I ordered each product in the video.  If you are interested in essential oils or more natural products for your home (like the KidScents products or the Thieves hand soaps!), feel free to click here, email me, or comment below and I’ll give you more information about getting your own Young Living products.

–Brandi

Missed my August Young Living ER Order? Click here to check it out.

 

What’s Cooking? Cauliflower Fried Rice

Although this recipe is called cauliflower fried rice, it does not contain any rice.  After tasting my “fried rice”, many of my friends and family have been shocked to find out it is cauliflower.  This recipe is an easy and delicious way to eat more veggies.

First, I gather my ingredients:
1 head of cauliflower
½ pound of carrots
2 small links of sausage (or a half a pound of meat of your choice, pork, chicken, shrimp etc.)
4 eggs
liquid aminos or soy sauce
sesame oil

Step One:  Prepare Meat (you can skip this step if you prefer only veggies)
Chop meat of choice into small cubes.  Salt and pepper lightly, since the liquid aminos or soy sauce are salty.  Since sausage is already seasoned, you will not need to add seasoning.
cauliflower rice sausage chopped

Step Two:  Prepare Veggies
Wash cauliflower and cut into pieces.  Add these pieces to a food processor and pulse 5 to 7 times until the cauliflower is about the size of  the grains of  cooked rice.
Repeat the above with the carrots.

Step Three:  Cooking
Heat skillet on high and add 1 tablespoon of sesame oil.  Add meat and brown until cooked.  Remove meat and place on a plate.

cauliflower rice sausage

Add one tablespoon of sesame oil and 4 eggs.  Scramble until cooked.  Remove from the skillet and add to the plate with the cooked meat.

Add 1 tablespoon of sesame oil and the cauliflower and carrots.  Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often.  Stir in the cooked eggs and meat.

cauliflower rice and meat

Season to taste with liquid aminos or soy sauce.

cauliflower rice liquid aminos
Remove from heat when cooked.  Every stove and pot cooks differently.  You will know your dish is complete when the texture of the cauliflower is soft like cooked rice.  Do not overcook or it will get mushy.

cauliflower rice cooked

You can serve this dish as a complete meal or add some spicy veggie stir fry on the side as I do.  Hope you enjoy!


With my basket in hand, I am off to the garden to gather my blessings.  I will share with you what I found in my next post.

–Penny

How I Save Money at the Grocery Store

One of the ways I stick to our budget, even as a one-income household, is to use coupons and money-saving apps on my iphone.  I know, you may be thinking “Who has time to look through and cut out coupons?” or “Is it worth my time to save just a few dollars (or sometimes cents!)”?  I used to buy the Sunday newspaper every week and cut coupons from the inserts, but sometimes the money I saved was about the same as the money I was spending on the newspaper.  If you buy lots of processed foods and name brand beauty products, there are lots of coupons available and the Sunday paper inserts may be worth your time.  However, over the past 5 -6 years, I’ve been trying to move towards more whole, fresh food purchases and more organic, fewer-ingredient, natural beauty products and cleaners.  Unfortunately, there are very few coupons for those types of items.  I do still use coupons from time to time, I just print them online now instead of buying the Sunday newspaper.  I also use a variety of apps on my iphone that simply require you to take a picture of your receipt as proof of your purchase, or to scan the barcode of the items you purchased, and they include savings on fresh produce!  Here’s my current “couponing” routine:

1.)  During the week as we notice something is running low, or if we use the last of an item, we write it down on a dry erase board that I have on the side of my fridge.  I like that it is out of sight, magnetic, and dry erase, so it can be reused every week, as needed.

Dry Erase Shopping List

2.) On either Monday or Tuesday of each week, I check in on Swagbucks under the Shop section (click Grocery Coupons on the left) to find printable coupons that I could use during my weekly grocery shopping trip. Swagbucks is a great way to earn bucks towards giftcards just from searching the web, printing and using coupons, shopping online, answering surveys, and much more. You are not required to do all of those, just pick what you enjoy and watch the bucks add up. I always turn in my swagbucks for Amazon gift cards. I tend to earn bucks mostly from searching, shopping online (you earn a percentage back on what you purchase at most sites!), and from redemption of coupons I’ve printed off of Swagbucks. To earn your own swagbucks, sign up here.

3.) The sale flyers for our area show up in my mailbox on Tuesday afternoon, and the sales start on Wednesday.  I can usually also find the sale flyers online at the store’s website (or on their app if they have one), just in case flyers do not get delivered where you live. So most Tuesday afternoons, I sit down during the kids’ nap time and go through the flyer looking for stock-up sales or sales that match the coupons I printed from Swagbucks or that match the list I have on the side of the fridge. This is when I make my final list for each store I plan to go to.  (I also usually put the list in order of the store aisles so that I can get through each shopping trip rather quickly with my two kids).

Shopping List App

4.) On Wednesday (my weekly shopping day), the kids and I leave the house pretty early in the morning with the list and coupons that I put together on Tuesday. I find my kids are happier in the morning, we’ve all just eaten breakfast, so we aren’t hungry, and there are less people that shop at that time, so the lines are shorter and the parking spots are better. Set yourself up for success! (When I worked outside of the home, I would leave my son with my husband and go shopping early on Saturday mornings to avoid the crowds). When we get home from our shopping trip, I scan my items into my National Consumer Panel app as I unload them and save them. I earn points that I can exchange for Amazon gift cards on this app. If I have time later in the day, I also scan my receipts into the Walmart Savings Catcher app, Checkout 51, and ibotta (feel free to use my referral code: lxn2wa ). You can sign up for any of these by clicking on each app name. I will go into more detail with each of these in my next post.

shopping carts

5.) About once every other month I also make a trip out to a club store like Sams Club or Costco for items that I buy in bulk.

This is the weekly routine that has been working for me at the stage of life I’m in with two little ones at home with me.  I find it helps to do one little step each day as I have time.  I’m sure it will need to be adapted again once my children start attending school. Check back for my next few posts on these apps in more detail, as well as tips on how I stock up on healthy foods without having them expire before I use them.

–Brandi

Swagbucks

ibotta (referral code: lxn2wa)

Walmart Savings Catcher

Checkout51

Some links are affiliate links

 

What’s Cooking? Sweet and Spicy Veggie Stir Fry

Although this Sweet and Spicy “Veggie” Stir Fry could be cooked with only veggies, I always add some type of meat to this recipe.  I have labeled it “Veggie” Stir Fry because I use different types of meat such as chicken, pork, or venison.  This week I used shrimp.

I began by adding one tablespoon of Sesame Oil to a large skillet on high heat.  Then I added one pound of shrimp that I seasoned with 1 teaspoon Himalayan salt, 1 teaspoon garlic and ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper.  When the shrimp were cooked, I removed them from the  pan and placed  them into a bowl.

Next, I added another tablespoon of Sesame Oil to the skillet along with one pound of sliced carrots that I had harvested and frozen earlier this year.  I cooked them for 10 minutes and then added a bagful of frozen peppers and onions from my freezer storage.  You can always use fresh veggies instead of frozen, just make sure you prep them before you start.

After the veggies cooked for another 5 minutes, I added ¼ teaspoon of pepper, ½ teaspoon garlic, ½ teaspoon of Himalayan salt, ½ teaspoon of ginger, ½ cup of honey and 2 tablespoons of liquid aminos.   Personally, I found this recipe only mildly spicy, but tried to take into consideration those whose taste buds are more sensitive.  I can always add more spice to my plate.

Lastly, I returned the cooked shrimp to the skillet and cooked for a final 5 minutes.

cooking in pot

This dish can be served as a meal or the way I served it – as a side to cauliflower fried rice.  I will share that recipe on my next post.

–Penny

Homemade Pico de Gallo with a Twist

When we make chicken or steak fajitas, we love to make a large batch of Pico de Gallo to enjoy with it.  You can add it to your fajitas or eat it as a dip with some tortilla chips.  My husband learned this recipe from a former coworker many years ago and we’ve adapted it to our family’s taste over the years (and depending on what produce is available in my fridge at the time!).  I gave a sneak peek of this recipe on my personal Instagram a few days ago, so by request, here’s the recipe.  (You can follow us on Instagram @ourlittlewaysblog).

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Here’s what you need:

1-2 Avocados
1 Bellpepper
1 Onion
1-2 Tomatoes
1 Lime (or lime juice) *I used 2 drops of Young Living Lime Essential Oil instead*
Fresh Cilantro
Salt
Pepper

I always use a large Pyrex bowl with a matching cover to make Pico de Gallo so that I can make it ahead of time, cover it, and pop it in the fridge until we are ready to eat.  This “recipe” is fairly easy because all you have to do is chop everything up, season, and mix!

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1.) Chop avocados, bell pepper, onion, and tomatoes into small pieces.  Cut up a handful of cilantro.  Add all to the bowl.

2.) Add the juice of one lime (you can also add the pulp), or you can simply use a few squirts of lime juice, or you can do what I did and use only 2 drops of Young Living Lime Essential Oil (so fresh and yummy!).

3.) Salt and Pepper to taste and then mix everything together!!

4.) Enjoy on your favorite Mexican dish or with a bowl full of tortilla chips!

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As with any recipe, you can make changes according to your taste.  For instance, I love avocados, but not tomatoes, so I usually put less tomato and more avocado.  I also don’t like spicy foods, so I don’t add jalapenos, but I know plenty of people that love a chopped up jalapeno in their Pico de Gallo.

So did you try it? How was it? Did you make any changes to customize the recipe for yourself? Let me know in the comments.

–Brandi

What’s in the Garden? Banana Peppers

This morning I harvested a basket of sweet banana peppers.  No, they don’t taste like bananas,  They only have a similar color and shape. They are a member of the chili pepper family and have a slightly sweet and spicy flavor.  I did not have plans to cook these peppers today.  Instead, I was preparing them for the freezer to be used in future recipes.

First, I washed the peppers in cool water and then placed them on a clean towel to dry.  I cut the cap or top of the pepper off.  I didn’t throw these tops away.  I had plans for them.  I always try to be as frugal as I can.  Next, I sliced the pepper in half lengthwise and removed the seeds.  I repeated this with all the peppers.

I chopped the banana peppers so that they were prepped and ready to be used in two of my favorite recipes.  The first recipe is for sweet and spicy veggie stir fry.  For this recipe, I use 4 ounces of banana peppers, 4 ounces of bell peppers, and 8 ounces of onions cut into cubes.  You can place the cut peppers on a cookie sheet and place them into the freezer to freeze individually and then place into a freezer bag.  This usually keeps them from sticking to each other.  I however, just placed 4 ounces of banana peppers straight into a labeled freezer bag, sealed the bag and put it into the freezer of my refrigerator.     When I harvest bell peppers, I will add 4 ounces of them to this bag.  Since I did not produce many onions this year I will chop up 8 ounces of organic onions that I bought at the store and add it to the bag to make it complete.  Then I will move the bag or bags to the upright freezer.

The second recipe that I use banana peppers for is my fajitas. This recipe uses 6 ounces of banana peppers and 6 ounces of bell peppers cut into long slices.  Once again it is up to you if you want to freeze them on the cookie tray first.   I added 6 ounces of banana peppers to some bags that already had 6 ounces of bell peppers in them.  These completed bags will also be added to my freezer storage.
banana peppers sliced in ziploc

Now, back to the tops of the peppers.  Holding the stem in hand and using a little downward pressure, I removed the remaining peppers from the stems.  I saved the stems for the compost and diced the tops of the peppers.  I placed the diced peppers into a freezer bag to use in gumbo, gravy, sauces or on top of pizza.  I keep this bag in the freezer section of my refrigerator and add to it each time I  harvest banana peppers.  When the bag is full,  I move it to the upright freezer.

Growing, harvesting, prepping and freezing peppers saves me money and turns my meals into easy quick meals since all I have to do is empty the bag or bags into the pot.  In my next post, I’ll share my recipe for quick and easy Sweet and Spicy Veggie Stir Fry.

–Penny

banana pepper all ziplocs

5 Foods I had never tried before having kids…

When my husband and I decided we were ready to expand our family and have our first child, I began to slowly improve my eating habits.  I am not one to change everything drastically, all at once.  I usually tend to make small changes, one at a time, until the changes are just part of my “new normal.”  I find I keep up with things better this way, as they become new habits.

I began to drink less soda (I sometimes drank up to two or three a day at the time, so I started to cut back to one a day instead) and then once I became pregnant, I changed to caffeine free soda.  I also started eating more fruits and vegetables and less junk food.  It was easier to make these transitions knowing that what I ate affected the growing child I was carrying.

However, while I did make better choices when pregnant, I changed my eating habits even more once my son began eating foods himself. He always wanted what was on our plates, even if it was the same as what was on his plate, and that was the beginning of me realizing that my actions spoke louder than my words to my children (I know, I know, everyone tells you this, but some things you have to believe by experiencing them rather than just hearing them).  I decided that even though I was working at the time and bringing lots of work home (teachers have to grade, plan lessons, etc.), I would make my son’s baby food out of fresh produce (organic when possible), instead of buying the pre-made stuff at the store.  (The  more convenient a food is to serve/prepare, the  more processed it usually is, and I was trying to get away from processed food as much as possible).

When I began reading up on what foods are high in vitamins and nutrients for my son (and in what order and at what age I should introduce certain foods), I began to learn about, and buy, foods that I had never tried before.  Here are five “new to us” foods that we’ve incorporated into our regular diet since making baby food for our son 4 years ago:

butternut squash picture

1.) Butternut Squash – This was one of my son’s favorite baby foods.  Didn’t like peas, green beans, etc?  I mixed in some butternut squash with them and he would eat it with no complaints at all.  Now that he’s older, we add butternut squash to our homemade macaroni and cheese to add some nutrients to one of our favorite comfort foods (recipe to come later).  I’ve also had it as an amazing side at a few restaurants I’ve gone to since.  Before making my son’s baby food, I would have never ordered it.

papaya

2.) Papaya – This was another sweet food that my son enjoyed alone or mixed with veggies.  I must be honest, I tried it then, but haven’t since, but I need to put it back on the list.  Maybe if I found a few ways of serving it differently…

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3.) Kale – I LOVE kale!  I mixed it in with smoothies after having my son.  I tried making baby food from it, but the consistency just didn’t seem right (and he did not like it!).  However, one of his favorite snacks was kale chips.  I can buy one bunch of kale for about 99 cents at Walmart most weeks and then make about two batches of chips from that one bunch.  It’s super easy and only takes olive oil, salt, kale, and an oven.  My son and I still enjoy kale chips as a snack from time to time.  My husband and I add chopped-up kale in our salads.

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4.) Pesto – My husband and I have always loved basil (enough that we plant it every year in the garden because buying one plant at the garden store is just as much money as buying the few leaves fresh at the grocery store, but you get so much more basil!!).  We have a few favorite recipes we use it in, but we always felt like we were wasting the leaves leftover on the plant at the end of the summer when the plant began to die each year.  Pesto to the rescue! We make batches of pesto throughout the summer and freeze them in cubes and then we use it to make pesto pasta throughout the year!  Recipe coming soon, but its still a family favorite (my son would eat pesto pasta everyday if I allowed him to, and our daughter loves it just as much).

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5.) Mangos – Another one of my son’s favorites that I had never eaten before I made his baby food.  I don’t buy mangos often these days (I still haven’t quite gotten the hang of peeling and cutting them easily), but when they’re on sale, I usually pick up a few as a quick, healthy snack for the kids and I in the afternoon.  I also blend up mango chunks in smoothies or to make popsicles for the kids.

What new foods have you tried lately? Let me know below in the comments and feel free to share how you like to prepare it or include a recipe.

–Brandi