Life has left behind the sweeping minimalism of the prairie and taken on the character of the rain forest: complex, dense, varied, full.
We needed to cultivate simplicity somewhere. We’ve chosen to focus on food. With 4 hungry, active people, a limited budget, and a passionate commitment to healthy life, food plays a big role in my day. We tend to graze – eating what amounts to 6 small meals per day although we call three of them snacks. And since we don’t eat processed food, lots of eating means lots of prepping.
I was getting overwhelmed as we added triathlon training and soccer to our round of activities. It was that kind of overwhelmed where I start monologuing to myself. You know what I mean. The kind of inner talk where you start out with zingers like “I realize I’m the only person who knows how to change the toilet paper rolls…It’s so nice to be needed…” and then you end up with 5 minutes of monologue about the epic drama that is your state of overwork.
I’ve learned to pay attention to life when I start monologuing. It means I am out of balance.
Something had to become simpler.
We made a weekly menu and shopping list and are just cycling through it. Again and again. I’ve tried this idea before, but always tossed it out quickly since I hated the regimentation. I don’t use many recipes and love combining, inventing, using bits and bobs. I liked more creativity in the kitchen.
That was then. Now, I have no brain space left for thinking about food. I still spend a lot of time cooking, just no time wondering what to make. Things were also different since Rainer has hired a nutritionist to help him straddle the balance of all the training he does with his weight-loss goals. From her we got pretty detailed plans about what building blocks she should eat when. It meant we needed to think things through more thoroughly.
In addition to the planning, we also bought a tiny slow cooker. It’s 2 litres. We bought it expressly to make porridge on the evenings before we go swimming. I was arriving home after an early swim so hungry and impatient. Now we’ve got this little shiny helper. We’re experimenting with steel cut oats (also called Scotch Oats). The flavour is a little sharper than our regular porridge. I think it might be the germ? I’m starting to think of other ways this small pot can help me. Do you have any ideas?
Breathe deep. Think one thought at a time. Do the next thing. Simplify.
7 thoughts on “Simplify”
I wonder if you could use the crock pot to make brown rice or hot drinks?
What is the recipe you use for the steel cut oats? My rice cooker will actually make them, but not enough for the whole family. I COULD use my crock pot, though!
I make steel cut oats in my slow cooker all the time! I found that they tend to burn to the sides if I mix it straight into the pot, so I mix everything in a glass bowl slightly smaller than the crock and pour water around the bowl. The water bath makes the cooking much gentler and even.
Beans! My friend told me about her wonderful, easy bean recipe–she puts a bag of (kidney, I think) beans, rinsed, into her slow cooker. On top of that she puts an onion, skinned & cut in half, and a whole anaheim pepper. Then she fills it to the top with water, and cooks all day. When she comes home, she has beans, which she usually layers in a bowl with rice & cheese & salsa for a bowl of pretty healthy yum. I hope you enjoy your new kitchen helper!
This is the week I’ve been having. My middle daughter has a number of medical problems that have left her with a feeding tube. After five years of formula I got fed up last week and began the switch to food through her tube. That means two meals per day, balanced for fat/protein/carbs/fiber/calories, prepared, documented and fed at intervals. It is as if I live in the kitchen. It is also the kick in the pants we all need around here.
We’re pretty good eaters, vegan/no processed foods/few conveniences but we do cut corners like anyone else and this new approach to my daughters food has brought them to light. Hopefully in a couple of weeks I’ll be where you are, finally finding my groove.
Every Saturday when I have the time a make a batch of hummus or another bean dip, cut of veggies and boil eggs for quick go-to snacks.
Check 101cookbooks.com or recipezaar for slow cooker recipes. I like to make lots of different bean soups. Chili is always good. And whatever you do, make lots! Portion the leftovers in the freezer for a quick meal on a busy night.
You can also freeze brown rice. You boil the rice for 20-25 minutes. Strain. Let rest covered 5 minutes and then freeze in freezer bags. To thaw, run under hot water. I don’t have a microwave so I reheat rice (thawed) in a steamer basket.
I also wash all of my lettuce/spinach as soon as I bring it home from the store. Wash, spin and put in a large Rubbermaid container wrapped in paper towel and it will last all week – nice, crispy and clean for instant salad. (I keep a jar of homemade vinagrette in the refrigerator).
Try cooking the oats with dried fruit, sprinkling with ground flaxseed–both go over very well here. Too many ways to use that cooker to list here! I couldn’t live without mine.
What is your food budget? Many of the blogs I read are either American (cheaper food?) and/or just have little children. I’m curious about other Canadians’ food budgets – those with older kids, in particular.