Friday, July 25, 2008

Eating Down the Pantry

I walked into the kitchen to this sight recently.

One of my sons had pushed a chair up to the cabinet to do something or another and then left the chair right there. Does that sound familiar in your house?

Well, Chase saw his opportunity and grabbed it with gusto! I walk into the kitchen to my Little Climber bravely making his way up onto the countertop and pulling himself to his full height to take full advantage of whatever treasures he may find in the pantry. He is so resourceful, right?

Well, I squelch a screech and decide to watch him carefully as I run backwards to grab the camera. This was just too cute not to capture. And after four boys, these things just don't freak me out anymore. Women in the grocery store keep gasping and running to set my children back on their bottoms in the cart. They are so sweet.

No, Mom-- please don't stop me!

I was looking over the fun photos when a thought struck me. We do something around our house that I take so for granted, but others may never have heard of or tried.

I call it "eating down the pantry." It fosters creativity, reduces wastefulness, teaches self-discipline and is real healthy on the budget.

It basically works like this: you eat for as long as you possibly can on what you have in your freezer, fridge and pantry before going to the grocery store.It almost becomes a rush to see how long you can go.

When I first married, I thought every meal had to be unique and elaborate for me to be a good wife. To do so, we put groceries on the credit card --often-- *CRINGE*. {Those were my pre-Larry Burkett and Dave Ramsey days--I have since repented.} Then tough times hit. Hard.

There honestly were times that I was not able to go to the grocery store and the only choice we had was to eat down the pantry. But in the midst of those frightening times, I discovered a peaceful truth.

God provides WELL.
He can literally making something from nothing.

Out of only two or three ingredients, He and I can create a delicious meal together. He provides the inspiration and I provide the hands.

Looking at these pictures of my pantry, I had another thought. How fun would it be to make a list of what I could make right now for meals from what's in there {and in my freezer and fridge}.


* whole grain vermicelli with homemade tomato sauce (frozen whole tomatoes, onion, garlic and Italian spices)
* taco beef or bean enchiladas topped with a canned enchilada sauce and little parmesan cheese
* baked potatoes with BBQ beef --easy homemade sauce that uses bell peppers, tomatoes, etc.
* scalloped (dairy-free) potatoes with green peas and some baked chicken from the freezer
* oatmeal for breakfast, oatmeal muffins, oatmeal cookies
* a big dark chocolate chip-peppermint cookie
* chicken salad sandwiches and carrot sticks
* chicken and rice
* chicken spaghetti
* hamburgers with baked potato fries
* cinnamon raisin biscuits
* biscuits and gravy
* mashed potatoes and gravy
* pancakes, waffles or french toast topped with a little frozen fruit from the freezer and yummy maple syrup
* brown rice (or white rice) with butter and honey drizzled over the top

And the list of possible meals can go on. . .

Do you get the point with me? God is infinitely creative and can help us eat down our pantry, saving us money, time spent shopping and frustration over rising gas prices.

So, there it is.
If you choose to try this Grand Experiment, let us all know what feasts came out of your pantry.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

You are What You Eat. . . and More

This is so true!

Food-artist Joshua gets creative with chickpeas and baby carrots.

I believe that watching what we put into our mouths at our house has been one of the greatest factors in us being able to stay out of the doctors' offices.

For a few years, I went vegan. A vegan is someone who chooses not to eat any animal products (I didn't even eat eggs for awhile--that made it very challenging to bake!). So, the Fagalas ate a lot of tofu dishes and veggie dishes and delicious exotic grains like couscous and kamut. I lost weight that I didn't want and a little more. My skin glowed and I had tons of energy. I felt wonderful and always revert to this diet during times that illness does strike.

After a couple of years, though, the Lord led me to re-introduce organic meat into our diet. But I learned a lot about healthy eating during those vegan years that has stuck with me.

Make even one of these "simple" changes I learned during my vegan years and you should see improvements in your family's health right away:

* Cut out the dairy!
It is the prime culprit of sinus infections and ear infections and congestion. If you can't forsake the cheese, choose aged cheeses, like real parmesan or romano, or give goat milk-based feta a try.

*Replace cow milk with soy or rice milk.
I hear studies are linking soy with estrogen issues, so rice may be a safer option for many women. My favorite milk brands are Rice Dream Vanilla, Very Vanilla Silk and 8th Continent Vanilla. Soy milk is better for baking and gravies.

* Say no to sugar!!
This one is my hardest one. I have a mega-sweet tooth inherited from my daddy. Thanks, Daddy! :-) If this is hard for you, too, save your sweet treat for after dinner only and keep it small. I would say eat a piece of fruit when you're craving chocolate, but that never worked for me. Dessert is very emotional.

* Eat organic meat and eggs
I belong to a meat co-op where we order reasonably-priced chicken and turkey and beef every two months. Many stores are carrying healthier meats like Nolan Ryan's beef if you don't live near someone who coordinates a co-op.

* Supplements
We have a constant stash of vitamins, minerals and supplements (like BarleyLife) on hand at all times. We daily turn to our supplement cabinet the way many turn to their medicine cabinet.

Exercise and Good Rest
I just started exercising. This does not come easy for me, so I work out on our Total Gym (a hand-me-down from my parents--Thanks Mama and Daddy!) before I ever leave my room in the morning. Good rest is easy--go to bed at a decent hour, especially if you have young children or have to get up early to go to work. People used to go to bed when the sun went down. I like to go to bed by 9 pm, and I feel so much better when I do.

Ok, that's enough for now. That's plenty to work on. But remember, try just one thing at a time until it is a habit, then work on another one.

Now, as for me. . . it's past my bedtime!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Chocolate Ice Cream Smoothie

Sound naughty? It's not.
My kids love this smoothie for breakfast. . . and so do I!

Smoothies are quick, delicious AND nutritious. With a quality blender and some frozen fruit and a little creativity, you can have a new favorite breakfast at your fingertips! My dad is a Smoothie Master and often whips them up for supper at their house--that's how easy it is.

Before I give you the recipe, I must give credit where credit is due. My pre-teen daughter, Amberlyn, created this masterpiece and we love her for it:

The Chocolate Ice Cream Smoothie

7 frozen bananas (for 1 mom and 5 kids)
4 tablespoons of peanut butter
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 - 1 cup soy or rice milk to help the bananas blend smoother and quicker

Add ingredients in this order. Blend til creamy, creamy, creamy. Use a spoon to dislodge any chunks from the blades and continue blending.

Note One: If you don't have any bananas frozen when you get ready to make this, you can put your bananas in the bottom of your blender and the rest of your ingredients on top, then fill the remainder of your blender with ice. This makes it more of a drink than ice cream, but it's still really good.

Note Two: We discovered quite by accident that Great Value soy nut butter makes a most excellent substitute for the peanut butter. I prefered the taste, to be honest, and I didn't think I would.

Note Three: Feel free to increase or decrease the amounts to your heart's content. I don't like a heavy banana taste, so I adjust accordingly. I also like it thick like ice cream, so I make sure to use frozen bananas and no ice.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Fun Fiber Fact

So, you don't like prunes? Don't despair. . . eat a small pear. Consumer Reports says that a small pear has 4.3 grams of fiber--that's 9% more fiber than five prunes! Yeah for pears. They make great, inexpensive snacks for kids and are so easy to smash with a fork to make homemade baby food.