Putting Food By 2016

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My biggest gardening adventure this year was to be able to can enough tomatoes to get us through to next years harvest.  I was able to harvest 136 lbs of tomatoes, and the majority of those were processed into tomato sauce and canned into jars.  I did give some away and we ate some of them but mostly I spent A LOT of time in the kitchen processing the tomatoes.  In the picture above you can see the second shelf is full of jars of tomatoes, and we have already used more than 10 jars of tomatoes, that’s a lot of jars!

We chose to only can tomato sauce for a couple of reasons.  First is that it’s just plain easier than blanching and peeling 136 lbs of tomatoes and then dicing them up and packing them in jars.  Second because we aren’t too fussed about the texture of the tomatoes we cook with. With that decision made I experimented with three slightly different ways of making the sauce.

  1. Mill them raw then cook them down.  I did this with probably over half of the tomatoes, and it works well but it wasn’t my favourite.
  2. Cut them up throw them in a pot to cook a bit and soften to make it easier to mill them.  Then mill them and cook it down a bit more.  This was the worst way ever, mainly because I burnt them and now have 7 jars of smoky tomato sauce.  It works well in chilli but otherwise I don’t enjoy the smokiness.
  3. My favourite way is to cut them in half lay them skin side up on cookie sheets and roast them in the oven until the skins are charred.  Next mill them into a sauce, depending on your preference and the types of tomatoes you use you may not need to cook the sauce down at all.  I found this to make a nice, rich, thick tomato sauce and it was the easiest way I found.

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I did some other canning this year as well.  Every year Heritage Park here in Calgary, AB has a Harvest Sale with 100% of the proceeds being donated to the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation.  The produce is often marked down and so it’s a great affordable way to put food by for the winter months and I really love that all my money goes towards charity.  I bought a box of apples and pears that were made into Apple Pear Sauce that my toddler takes in his lunches daily and loves.  I also bought a box of peaches, they weren’t great peaches, in fact I couldn’t eat them as is but I did find an amazing recipe for Honey Peaches on the Food In Jars blog.  The best part is that they don’t need to be peeled (are you sensing a laziness theme here?) and honestly, I am devouring them! I eat them almost daily with plain yogurt and granola.  I also did a few jars of peaches packed in fruit juice but haven’t tried those yet.  The last thing I canned this year (not pictured) are three large jars of pickled beets which I’m excited to dive into.

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It’s been a lot of work to put food into our pantry for the year, but honestly the feeling of providing for my family in this way is amazing.  The tomatoes are obviously my pride and joy and I get happy just looking at that shelf of jars.

Did you do any canning this year? I’d love to hear some new recipes, and if you ever want to try your hand at canning next year I highly recommend that peach recipe!

My Meal Prep

It’s Saturday! Which means it’s my food prep day! I’ve only done this for two weeks now.  The first week was amazing, and I spoke briefly about how life changing it was here.  This week was a bit different as I’ve been sick so I haven’t been eating very well at all, however, the amount of time I saved each night was still just as helpful! I thought today that I would walk you through last weeks food prep and comment a bit about what was good and what I could improve on based on how my week went.

So let’s dive in.

I usually sit down on Thursday and brainstorm what types of foods I’ll make for the next week.  My general rules are: it has to be relatively quick to prepare and it needs to be healthy and nutritious.  I do try to have some variety and the trickiest part is preparing food for my son because he can be super picky while at the dayhome, in the end I pack him generally the same breakfast and snacks each day that I know he really loves and I pack a variety of lunches which are always hit and miss.  To be honest, usually my husbands food wins over mine when it comes to what Ezekiel will eat.  After preparing a list of what I’ll make I then create a shopping list.  I do my Superstore run on Friday evening after work for any dairy or packaged food (cereals, crackers mostly) and my Market run on Saturday morning with Ezekiel for all my produce.

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This is the size of my kitchen, not overly large and everything is pretty accessible and close.  I do try to clean as I go so it’s not so overwhelming at the end of my prep time.  Last week I set my timer to see how long it would take and it was about 2 hours and 15 minutes.

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For anything that needs to be heated I use glass containers, for anything else I’m ok with using plastic.  It’s a bit tricky strategizing what food will go in what container, by the end I have almost run out of containers.
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It really helps to be organized with your containers, I never have to search for lids or containers which speeds up the process considerably.

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Last week I used maple syrup.  I put the entire container of yogurt in a bowl and mixed in about 2.5 Tbsp maple syrup.

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I measured out the yogurt into individual portions – 6 for me and 5 for Ezekiel.  For Ezekiel I added some blueberries.
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This was my loot from the market last week.  It was an incredible deal and I couldn’t resist it.  I ended up making a bunch of fruit salad and then freezing the rest.  I should have frozen the majority of it.  The problem was that the fruit was ripe on the verge of overripe so when I made the salad it ended up going bad by Wednesday.

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I watch Netflix as I do this to keep me company. IMG_9034
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The biggest problem was that I added the fruit salad to my yogurt which means I wasted far too much food.  Lesson learned.  The frozen fruit has been really great for smoothies each morning, Ezekiel and I have been loving them.
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One of Ezekiel’s favourite snacks is cheese and crackers.
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I also send cereal each day.  This is my favourite brand for Ezekiel, it’s got great ingredients and is far more nutritious than regular cheerios.

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Cut up veggies has been amazing for lunches and to snack on at home.   Even Ezekiel loves snacking on veggies.  I pack a big container (on the right) and then I can eat as much as I want, I just keep bringing the same container each day and I bring a dip as well.  I have wasted far less veggies doing this because I don’t get lazy and they are ready to eat so no more prep needed!
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Boiled eggs are easy and fast to grab and go, and super healthy!
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This is how I prepared the fruit to freeze, then when they were completely frozen I put them into ziplock bags.  When you do it this way they won’t stick together in the bags.

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That’s it! 2 hours of work that saved me at least 1 hour each night! I don’t think I’ll ever go back.

Do you have any meal prep tips? I’m always looking for easier more efficient ways to do things.

Game Changer

IMG_8847This past week I’ve made what could possibly be one of the biggest life game changers for me.  I’m actually astounded at what a huge difference this little change has made to my life.  The crazy thing is it’s not a new concept, it’s not something I haven’t tried before, but this last time of trying it has been exactly what I needed.

I started doing food prep.

That’s it! I know, not earth shattering for most people.  If you’ve been here for a while you’ll recall when I started doing some food prep before going back to work after maternity leave.  Well I went back into shift work and for the last 7 months I haven’t been doing shift work, I’ve been doing Monday – Friday 8-430 and then Sunday’s 7-7.

I thought being home every evening would give me plenty of time to prep food each night for Ezekiel and my lunches.  What actually ended up playing out is that I would get home, try and prepare supper with an incredibly “hangry” toddler at my feet.  After finally getting some food into him I would march him upstairs we’d play for a few minutes while he bathed and then he was off to bed.  I’d come downstairs, run the diapers through a rinse cycle, clean up supper, and then prepare lunches.  After the lunches were prepared I’d do any little extra tasks that were needing to be done – water the garden, mow the grass, sweep the floor, clean a bathroom etc.  When all was said and done I was falling into bed at 930 never having a moment to sit and relax, it was always go go go go go, and I was so exhausted all the time.

So last Saturday I spent Ezekiel’s nap prepping and dividing food for our lunches.  Everything was placed into individual containers, literally all I have to do is grab the containers and put them in our lunch bags each morning. I’ve also decided I would plan 3 easy one pot and/or crockpot meals for our suppers each week and then just eat leftovers the other nights.  My husband will cook Friday-Sunday normally anyways.

WHAT??!!

That’s it! It’s been an absolutely life altering change to my routine and I’ll never go back.

This week has been a dream! Every night this week Ezekiel and I have had over an hour of playtime together not including bath time and supper time.  We’ve walked the neighbourhoods, we’ve read books and cuddled, we’ve put together puzzles, we’ve wandered outside and watered the garden (one of his favourite tasks).  Having the one on one time with him where I’m not distracted by trying to finish up all my tasks has been amazing.  Not only that but every evening this week I’ve had time to myself.  I’ve been able to do whatever I feel like from 730 – 930 each night.  I’ve read, I’ve browsed, I’ve watched and I’ve loved it.  The last major thing it has changed is my energy every day.  I’ve been asleep by 930 every night this week and up around 515 in the morning and I’m not struggling through my days.  I’m awake and able to focus, I don’t feel like I’m on the verge of sickness every day and that is incredible.

So this is me advocating that every person start food prep! It has completely changed my life, and I really think it would be a game changer for most people.   I’ll document my process this Saturday and take you through step by step how I do it next week.

Ciao friends!

Back to Priority

Last year I was so fortunate to have had a great break through in my life in regards to food and nutrition.  You can read more about that here. However, since going back to work I’ve been struggling far more than I expected.  All the things I mentioned I was learning about? Ya, those are all still being learned and definitely reinforced.

2015 has not had an easy start when it comes to health for me.  I’ve had strep throat twice, a couple colds and the stomach flu.   On top of all of those things, I’ve just not been feeling great.  Definitely not feeling anything like I felt last year at the peak of my nutrition breakthrough.  I’m frequently feeling sluggish and a bit nauseous.  I am far more liberal with my treats and exceptions.  I eat way too much gluten and refined sugar, and drink far too many cups of coffee in a day.  Generally I think I eat a diet that is closer to healthy than unhealthy.  I still eat ample amounts of fresh produce, I still eat meat that is grass fed and finished and antibiotic free but my body has hit a point that’s telling me strict is better.

As I sit and type this out I’m feeling exceptionally unwell and it’s a wake up call for me to stop being so liberal and get back to being more conservative with what I put in my mouth.  It doesn’t help that it’s winter and I’m working full time so I’m not able to get out for a daily walk like I used to.   Side-note: working momma’s who also find time to hit the gym or even just work out at home – you are my heroes!

So it’s back to less treats and more fruit.  It’s back to tracking my food and feeling well.  It’s back to the simplicity of pure nutrition from real food.  Less process and more nature.  It’s back to making this a priority.

Back to Work Food Prep

Wow! I have been away for a while and I’ve missed you!  It’s been a busy week, and I’ve successfully completed my first day away from Ezekiel.

In short, we all had a good day – I’ll expand on my thoughts/feelings/stresses later on. For now let’s focus on how I prepared last week.

Last week my parents came to visit before their departure to the US for the winter.  It was so so so fantastic to have them here, and Ezekiel was over the moon.  He is smitten with them and that makes my heart so happy.  It goes without saying that they are equally or even more so smitten with him.  So with them being here it was easy for me to keep my promise to myself.  I did very minimal things (but I did learn how to hem pants thanks to my mom!), but the day they left I went into full fledged preparation/stress mode.

Honestly, preparing and organizing three people is like a full time job in itself! I spent the weekend doing laundry, cleaning the house, organizing meals, prepping Ezekiel’s food (in another post I’ll explain this), getting bottles ready, preparing my work bag and Ezekiel’s dayhome bag.  I thought I’d share the food portion of my organizing.

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I’ve been using my Erin Condren Life Planner to plan our suppers (this week looks like a huge mess!) we are just finishing up our last bulk order of meat so it’s been hard to plan original meals! Anyways on the days I’m working I’ve planned to use our freezer meals.

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After planning our suppers I decided I needed to plan mine and Ezekiel’s full days of meals, that way I don’t have to think about food on the days I’m working.  Since I work 12 hour days I have to plan every meal from breakfast to supper.  We’ve had to start pureeing Ezekiel’s food again so I’ve left his blank for this week as I get used to it.  For my dinners I’ll just eat what I’ve already planned for suppers at home.  Snacks at work are essential to save me money and calories, otherwise I’ll be wandering to the coffee shop on my breaks and spending too much money on unnecessary things.

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Although I didn’t plan specifics for Ezekiel’s meals I did spend Saturday morning prepping all this food for him.  I mix and match for his lunches and suppers.  So far he’s enjoyed each of my concoctions. It’s been great to be able to just grab the containers, and throw some stuff into the blender.

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I reorganized our fridge to help with the planning.  The top left shelf is all of Ezekiel’s food.  the top right is beverages and dairy.  The middle left is yogurt and fruit.  Middle right is leftovers and miscellaneous.  The bottom shelf I’ve placed our planned food.

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The left is a bin for my lunches. All previously frozen into individual portions, I just pull them out of the freezer and put them in the bin.  The middle is a bin for snacks I’ve prepared and frozen (granola bars/scones etc.) again I just have to pull them out of the freezer and place them in the bin.  On the right is the meats I’ll be using for the week when I’m not working.  I take them out of the freezer and put them in the bowl to thaw.

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Behind the bowl I put the freezer meals that Carlos can grab and heat for suppers when I’m working.

I’ve only been back to work for a day but so far I’m loving this planning and prepping.  It’s taken a lot of stress off of going back to work.

My Food Journey

Tea and Peaches

I thought I’d write a bit about food and my evolving philosophy and relationship with it.

I love food.  Always have. Always will.

I grew up in a meat and potatoes household.  Being the daughter of a farmer and a nurse I always had good food on the table.  We never had many treats in the house, and always had our fill of fresh food.  As I got older and when I graduated and was responsible for feeding myself it was clear I still had a lot to learn.  At my heaviest I was around 220 lbs and I knew that I needed to change something so I began tracking everything I was eating and making sure that I wasn’t exceeding my calorie goal but that was the extent of it. I didn’t focus on nutrition, just on calories.  It was a few years of trying and failing, and then right before I got pregnant I got serious about it, I lost about 40 lbs.

Then I got pregnant and gained that 40 lbs back.  After having Ezekiel I dropped 30 lbs in the first 6 weeks, and then Ezekiel was having some digestive issues and in a desperate attempt to fix it, I began the elimination diet.  Basically I eliminated anything that could possibly be causing him problems, which left me with very, very few options for food.  For 2 weeks I basically ate vegetables, fruit, and chicken.  Slowly I reintroduced each item I had eliminated to see if I could figure out what was bothering Ezekiel.  It ended up being gluten, so I went gluten free and at this point I was still tracking calories.  Ironically I was tracking the calories to make sure that I was eating enough to sustain myself and Ezekiel.  At this point I also became very interested in nutrition and how best to fuel my body and provide good nutrition for Ezekiel.  From January to June the weight just melted off, I wasn’t actively trying to lose weight, but I was actively pursuing the best way to fuel my body.  My goal was to feel good, and eating well was helping me to feel good.  I hit my all time goal weight in June and I’ve held that weight since.

I’ve dabbled a bit in every corner of the nutrition world.  Gluten free, dairy free, vegan, vegetarian, vegan before six, protein powders, raw food – you name it I’ve probably tried it for a couple days or more.  Today I’m more interested in fueling my body with real, unprocessed food than I am with the calories I am consuming.  About 6 weeks ago, right around the time I started this blog, I stopped tracking calories and deleted my calorie counting app to simplify my life a bit more, also to unchain me from my phone.  I began a journey of letting go of the control of counting calories and freeing myself to eat how I wanted.  I also wanted to make sure I was still fueling my body with food that was going to make me feel good.  Once you stop tracking each morsel it can be a dangerous spiral downwards if you are not careful.  It’s easy to stop paying attention to the food you are putting in your mouth if you aren’t writing it all down.

There’s been ups and downs and a lot of learning but I’m still enjoying this process.  I’m learning a lot about what my body needs and wants.  I guess this way of eating is called Intuitive Eating but I didn’t know that was an actual thing until a few days ago.  You can learn more about it here.  For me it’s not only about feeding myself, but feeding my family and it’s definitely a journey that isn’t even close to being done.  We are always tweaking our diets here and there but I’m thankful my husband is pretty open minded.  He takes a while to arrive at a conclusion about certain foods (white sugar is his latest – he’s switched entirely to organic coconut sugar) but once there he believes wholeheartedly and changes his diet.

When it comes down to it we are both passionate about nurturing Ezekiel.  We want our diets to reflect how we want Ezekiel to eat.  We want to teach him how to eat well, and why he should eat well.  We want him to understand why he should choose the banana over the chocolate bar.  We want him to love fruits and vegetables and understand that a treat is a treat and not a daily part of his life.  We want him to eat good wholesome food and so we also want to eat good wholesome food.

Since starting this intuitive eating process I have learned that gluten definitely does not agree with my body, that white sugar wreaks havoc on my body and that one cup of coffee is my limit (but I still drink more).  I’m learning that stress and exhaustion go hand in hand with terrible eating and I’m learning strategies to combat that.  I’m filling my freezer with baking that is gluten free and refine sugar free so that when I’m wanting that bit of comfort I can have it without feeling terrible afterwards.

I’m learning that eating enough fruits and vegetables in a day will make the next day much better.  I’m learning that if I don’t drink water I will have a huge headache the next day.  I’m learning that if I eat brown instead of white (rice/bread/pasta) I won’t feel as sluggish.  I’m learning that I don’t need huge helpings or seconds or thirds.  I’m learning that just because it tastes fantastic does not mean I need to over indulge, I just need to enjoy that moment fully.

This life is a journey, and we are all life long learners.  This is just a small excerpt in my journey but I’m fully enjoying it.

Roasted Tomato Spaghetti Sauce

Roasted Tomato SauceI’m excited to say I finally got to use my garden tomatoes! I was waiting until I had a large amount so that I could try a roasted tomato spaghetti sauce.  Last week I got my wish, and even better we loved the tomato sauce!

It was so simple to make.  All I did was quarter the tomatoes and 2 onions and threw them together with some oil, salt, and a head of garlic cloves.  I put the mixture on two cookie sheets and roasted at 350 for an hour and a half.  When everything was nicely roasted I put it all in my blender and pureed it.

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I browned some beef, then added the tomato sauce with some Oxo and a bit of water.  We ate it with black bean spaghetti from Costco, if you haven’t already you need to try it! So incredibly nutritious and way healthier than regular pasta and it paired very well with this spaghetti sauce.  Add a bit of cheese and you have yourself a super simple yet incredibly delicious and nutritious meal.