Friday, January 8, 2010

Bulk Cooking and Busy Testing Recipes

     Today I spent my entire day cooking and baking with Lord of the Rings playing on my little kitchen tv.  I made a bulk batch of spaghetti sauce, peanut butter cups, chocolate strawberry cups, a banana cake (look at my Revised Banana Cake post for the recipe), ziti (GF, of course), and hamburger buns.  Needless to say, between the cooking and clean-up I have been a very busy mama today!  My husband helped keep the kids on track with their school while I spent my day in the kitchen.  He also came out to help me with the peanut butter cups for awhile.  I always like it when he joins me in the kitchen.  It's so much fun!  (Thank you, honey.)
     Years ago, I used to do freezer cooking or bulk cooking.  I had 3 small children at the time.  It was such a help having healthy meals already made in the freezer.  All I had to do was thaw and bake or reheat.   Some of them could be taken right from the freezer to the oven.  Over the years, I just stopped doing it.  I had another baby.  I was homeschooling all my children, and they were getting involved in more and more extra-curricular activities.  Trying to remember to take something out of the freezer to thaw and reheat seemed like too much for me.  My mind was so foggy.  I would just forget about meals until my kids were hungry and wanting to eat.  It became so much easier, and much more unhealthy, for us to stop at a fast food restaurant on the way to scouts, sports, or youth group.  Though I felt guilty, I just couldn't fathom adding anything else to my plate;anything else to organize or think about. 
     We have been eating gluten free for 5 months, now, and my mind is clear.  I am no longer overwhelmed by the homeschooling and activities.  I no longer feel the need to lay on the couch or in bed during the times when we are at home.  I want to do things.  I am not sluggish anymore, and I want to be busy.  I have a lot of time to make up for! 
     I have been spending a ton of time on the internet researching gluten free cooking and ingredients.  I have studied about nutrition, learning so much fascinating information!  I have come to realize just how amazing God created our bodies and the foods He provided for us.  Our bodies can be completely healthy and repair damage largely by eating the right foods and staying away from the wrong ones.  I have been spending some time in my kitchen playing around with different recipes that I have found here and there, but it's time for me to be more serious about the food we are eating.  I also want my children to know and understand why we need to eat right and exercise. 
     Amidst all the knowledge I have been acquiring and my desire to create healthy and satisfying meals, I realize that I need to be realistic.  I cannot do everything.  I still homeschool, and my children are involved in A LOT right now.  I don't want to make them give up those things that they enjoy.  I am a strong believer in children having many experiences to help them decide what path they want to follow with their lives down the road.  I want to help them as much as I can, so they will be confident in what they are called to do.  So, I can't spend all my time in my kitchen. 
     I also can't stop at fast food restaurants.  We can't eat like that anymore--literally.  We can't.  We all have various food allergies/intolerances that prevent us from eating the way that we used to.  Actually, we have always had them.  We just didn't know why we were feeling bad.  Thus, my desire to go back to bulk cooking.
     Now, I know that we should eat a large amount of raw fruits and vegetables, and we do.  My children get plenty of raw organic fruit and veggies for in between snacks and salads.  They are always snacking on apples, bananas, oranges (except Nathan who is allergic to oranges), raw nuts and seeds, carrots, and celery sticks.  They get dehydrated fruits with their breakfasts and granola-type snack mixes that I make up.  However, we do like to have nice hot meals for our dinners and some lunches. 
     When I was first learning about eating gluten free, we ate a lot of rice cakes with peanut butter (or, in my case, almond butter since peanuts don't agree with me) and sliced bananas with a little honey for lunches, snacks, and dinners on the go.  We have gotten tired of that and want more variety. 
     I have decided to start bulk cooking again, giving us more variety and the ability to have healthy, hot dinners, even when we are busy.  I think it will help in other ways, too.  Some of us cannot have dairy while some can.  We have a friend who is willing to give us raw, organic milk (the only form of milk I can tolerate, though my son cannot tolerate any dairy whatsoever).  I have been avoiding all meals that contain cheese or dairy since Nathan cannot have it, and I don't have the time to cook 2 different meals every night.  If I cook and freeze food, then I can make some versions with and without dairy and freeze in single-sized portions.  Nathan and I cannot have soy while the other members of our family can.  I have avoided all Chinese foods, though we all absolutely love Chinese.  I can at least make some Chinese stir fry for those who can have it.  Those of us who can't have it will be able to take something else out of the freezer for those dinners. 
     Thus, my cooking and baking endeavors today.  I made a large batch of spaghetti sauce, developing a tasty recipe that we can all have.  My husband is Italian, so we have always eaten a lot of pasta.  I do like the Tinkyada rice pastas a lot.  Up until now, we have just thrown some basil, garlic, and oregano in a pan with a can of crushed tomatoes, heated it up and called it spaghetti sauce.  It didn't really compare to the sauces we were used to, but they all had high fructose corn syrup or other things we can no longer have.  I took the time today to come up with my own recipe.  It was very good, but I want to test it a little more before I share it.  I need to freeze some for awhile, thaw, and reheat to make sure it tastes just as good.  Some herbs get stronger through the freezing process, while others get weaker. 
     I have been craving chocolate so much lately.  Since I can't have HFCS, soy, and dairy, chocolate candies have been off of my list of allowable foods.  I cannot afford the truly good stuff, so I have just avoided it all.  I cheated a couple of times and really paid for it.  I made peanut butter cups for me and Nathan today that were dairy, soy, and HFCS free (though I can only indulge in 1 or 2 if I don't want to get sick).  Delicious!  I love Enjoy Life chocolate chips!  I also have Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips that are dairy free, not soy free, that I used to make more cups for the rest of the family--much cheaper than the Enjoy Life chips since I got a bunch on sale during the Christmas baking season.  We each had a couple of pieces, then I bagged, labeled, and froze the rest.  I usually don't use refined sugar, but I did use a little confectionary sugar in the peanut butter.  These will be used for once-in-a-while splurges of decadence!  I will be trying to improve on my recipe, making it healthier without the sugar.  Until then, they are quite good.  The strawberry cups need some more work, though they were tasty. 
     I made the banana cake for a party we are going to tomorrow evening.  Some of our friends that will be at the party can be hard to please when it comes to food, so I feel that if they like my cake, I will know that it is truly a great recipe and worthy of sharing with the world!  I will be making some other food to take tomorrow, as well, though I am still deciding on what to make.
    My sister and her family have food allergies and must eat gluten, dairy, and egg free.  She shared a recipe for hamburger buns with me that I decided to try tonight.  She said they would make nice dinner rolls.  I wanted to see if they would be acceptable to take to the party tomorrow night, but they still need some work before I share.  I had a hard time with them.  My children loved them, though.  They did taste a lot like gluten rolls.  I will try to make them again tomorrow morning, making a few adjustments, first.
     Well, that was my day.  This has turned into a long post!  I didn't know I would have so much fun sharing all these details with everyone, but it's quite liberating!  Write in and tell me what your recent experiences have been with trying new recipes and expanding your food horizons.  How do you fit your special dietary needs in with your busy life?

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