936 Pennies: Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting
Join our adventure and discover inspiration and resources for refusing rush, creating habits of rest, living intentionally, and making the most of this beautiful life!
Grayson, Zeke and I have spent the past 5 weeks with my parents in their “off-grid” home in the magnificent Ozark mountains. A couple of weeks ago I wrote in my first “off-grid” post that dad and mom have been treating us to some great food here in the Ozarks, not only in their own kitchen, but also out and about the mountains and city. One of my (and Zeke’s) favorite stops has been a local bakery that leaves you speechless as you walk in to bright displays of beautiful cakes, cookies, doughnuts, petite fours, cupcakes, and even a great coffee bar! Well, okay–it left me speechless. Zeke, on the other hand, let out a great, loud squeal and ran full-speed toward the display of brightly-iced cookies. The first time we stopped, I asked him to pick out what cookie he would like. I must have mistaken the direction of his finger point, because when I asked the worker behind the display for a chocolate chip, and she began to pull back the tray, he made his frantic displeasure known. I quickly asked instead for one of the bright M&M cookies on the next tray over. This sufficed and made for one happy little boy!
|My choice of birthday cake from the bakery: Raspberry Chocolate Ganache!|
|Zeke’s choice of treat for my birthday|
Before we embarked on this grand adventure, I found myself wondering what exactly cooking would look like without electricity or running water. My mind flashed back to images of growing up, sitting around a camp fire roasting hot dogs, or cooking boxed mac n cheese over our small propane camp stove. Although nostalgic, and fitting for a camp setting, I was a little less than enthusiastic about “camp cooking” for five weeks.
I found that my expectations of my parent’s kitchen were a little low. It took me a couple days of careful observation of how they run the kitchen, but by week two I found myself capable of lending a hand washing dishes and preparing a meal from time to time. It turns out that my parent’s kitchen is fully capable of cooking a meal much like we would at home. Although I have realized that I would most definitely need running water of some sort to continue the standard of cooking to which I’ve set myself. Other than that small detail, cooking “off-the-grid” is not difficult in the least!
One thing I’ve come to respect about my parent’s way of life is their resourcefulness. They have set themselves up a very comfortable and convenient life, proving you can do so without the help of the electrical grid and water line. How this looks in the kitchen can be seen in my mom’s cupboard full of her own canned meats, and the meals she conjures up with what’s on hand. They are a bit of a drive from the nearest grocery store, and quite a drive from the nearest city with, what I could consider, an adequate grocery store. This would be one of my biggest challenges, as the bulk of our groceries at home are fresh produce, which must be bought every few days in order to keep fresh ingredients on hand. My mom has proven herself extremely resourceful in feeding all five of us with what’s already in the house. I will admit that a few of her meals I held some great skepticism over as she set them on the table. However, with the exception of just one meal, I have been quite impressed by both the creativity and taste of what she’s come up with. (we won’t go into the details of the re-hydrated potato, canned ham and cheese powder sauce “potato au’ gratin”…)
My parent’s resourcefulness is one trait that I like to believe has been ingrained into me, by their example, while growing up. Dad and mom always put a great emphasis on problem solving. I can see now how resourcefulness is a vital key in problem solving. Often times in order to solve a problem, you need a certain tool. If you don’t have that tool, you must consider all that you do have on hand, and find a way to use that which you do have to solve your problem. This take creativity and ingenuity, as well as “thinking outside the box”, which is something my dad always taught us and encouraged us to do.
Resourcefulness looks a little different in my kitchen back home. I do have running water, electricity, and several adequate grocery stores (stocked with an array of fresh produce), within 5 miles. When Grayson and I began this journey of wholesome eating last year, one of our goals was to waste less, in other words, to be resourceful with the money we have and the food we buy with it. I was concerned that increasing our intake of fresh produce would also increase our waste. That is, after all, one excuse some people use for not eating fresh produce: they end up throwing so much away! I find this excuse pathetic, to be blunt. If you learn to properly cook vegetables how you and your family enjoy them, you will be eager to fix them up and enjoy them before they spoil. If you set a grocery budget and are conscious of your spending, you’ll use what you buy in order to get the most of your money. Along with that, if you are buying quality produce, you’ll respect the product itself (think Farmer’s Market), and be careful to not let any of those great ingredients end up in the trash can.
I was very surprised by how little we waste with our new way of eating. In fact, we waste even less than before we began a diet rich in fresh produce! This is due mostly to the reasons listed above. We respect the ingredients. We are conscious of our spending and stewardship of money. And, apart from the occasional “flop” meal, we thoroughly enjoy what we are cooking with all of this produce! How have we practically avoided and reduced food waste? For one, we are intentional about what we buy. I usually plan about half of our dinners for the week, so I know what I need when I’m at the store. I only buy what I need for those meals. One trick I have found is to utilize the self-serve salad bars that are popping up in many markets. If I need, for instance, just a handful of cherry tomatoes, I’ll grab them from the salad line, that way I can get exactly the amount we need, and none goes to waste. I’ve actually found I can buy our organic spinach, which we go through a lot of, by weight at the salad bar for half the price than pre-packaged!
Along with meal planning, there must also be room for flexibility and creativity. I only plan half of our dinners because I like to leave room for coming up with meals when inspiration strikes. When at the market, and particularly at the farmers market, if I find something that simply appeals to me on attraction, I’ll usually grab it knowing it will inspire some meal throughout the week. This inevitably leads to “unclaimed” produce in the house which I have the responsibility then of utilizing in a creative, delicious meal. Often times I’ll take stock of what produce I have on hand in the morning, and consult the internet for a recipe, or combination of recipes, to inspire dinner for that evening.
In short, try planning about half your meals and creating a shopping list accordingly. If you only need one tomato, buy only one tomato. It’s not against the rules to break apart those pretty “on-the-vine” tomato clusters! Beyond your planned meals, leave room for some spontaneous meals, and keep staple items (whole grains such as rice, couscous, and barley) on hand. Buy some exciting produce you know you’ll be eager to use along with those on-hand staple items in your pantry.
This orzo skillet with corn, cherry tomatoes, and green onions is one of the first meals I attempted while cooking off-grid. Of course, once I had prepared the meal, I did realize that cooking this meal off-grid, with the exception of unlimited water, is just as easy as cooking it at home. This recipe originally comes from Everyday Food magazine (my favorite culinary magazine). I adjusted the vegetables called for in the recipe. I also swapped out the called-for shrimp for grilled chicken. It’s a very versatile, simple, and delicious side dish to serve on it’s own, or alongside any protein.
2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
(or grape tomatoes, halved)
2 cups frozen corn
1 bunch green onions, chopped and divided in half
sea salt and pepper
3/4 pound dry orzo
3 1/4 cups all-natural or organic chicken broth
Preheat oven to 400 degrees, with rack in top position. In a large broilerproof skillet (I used cast iron), heat olive oil over medium. Add garlic and cook until just beginning to brown, 1 minute. Increase heat to medium-high and add tomatoes and half of green onions; season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are softened, 6 minutes. Add orzo, corn, and broth and bring to a simmer. Cover with tinfoil, transfer to oven, and bake until liquid is mostly absorbed, 10 to 12 minutes. Top with remaining green onions.
|Cookie Crumb Face|
Raising kids stirs something deep in our souls — an innate knowing that our time is finite. Taking my kids outside in creation, I’m discovering how to stretch our time and pack it to the brim with meaning. God’s creativity provides the riches of resources for teaching the next generation who He is and how He loves us. Join our adventure and discover inspiration and resources for refusing rush, creating habits of rest, living intentionally, and making the most of this beautiful life!