Some mornings I’m too tired to think about breakfast. OK, truth be told MOST mornings I’m too tired to think about breakfast. A lot of times everyone gets breakfast on their own, but when we have a little more leisure time (like on weekends), I like to make something we can all sit down to that warms little tummies. However, even then, I really don’t want to have to think very hard about what I’m making.
Enter Dutch Babies or Oven Pancakes!
I was first introduced to Dutch Babies by another large family. I had never even heard of them. Imagine my surprise when I poured the eggy mixture into a casserole dish and out of the oven popped a crazy yummy breakfast that nearly jumps out of the pan!
Top them with just about anything you can think of (we like maple syrup or powdered sugar or fruit). They are wonderful served up with a side of fruit or some bacon. And cold leftovers are tasty too!
Here’s the recipe:
2 c. milk
2 c. flour
1/2 c. butter
Preheat oven to 400º. Put 1/4 c. of butter into each of two 9×13″ casserole dishes. Put the pans into the oven to melt the butter as the oven preheats.
Mix together eggs, milk, and flour in a medium mixing bowl.
Once butter is melted, pull the pans out of the oven and tip pans to allow butter to coat the entire surface.
Pour 1/2 of the egg mixture into each of the pans and bake 15-20 minutes. Mixture will brown and puff up as it bakes. Cut the oven pancake into squares. Serve with maple syrup, powdered sugar, or fruit.
Once a week for many years, we’ve had what we call an Amish Lunch or Finger Food Lunch. This meal, which consists of, you guessed it – finger foods – was a concept we were first introduced to while reading The Amish Cook syndicated column in a local newspaper. The Amish Cook would talk about her daily activities as well as the meals they were having, and often, one of those meals was this very simple, yet delicious finger food concept – thus, the reason we have always called it an “Amish Lunch”. This type of meal always sounded so yummy and easy, so I began to brainstorm how we could incorporate it into our homeschool lunch menu.
Lunch for the Busy Homeschool Mom
Homeschool moms have a lot on their hands – especially around lunch time. It is VERY difficult to break away from studies and make time to eat, let alone make time to cook. Most homeschool moms I know choose to make very easy lunch meals or use up leftovers. The Amish concept of a finger food lunch fits in perfectly with these!
While you can certainly plan to buy specific foods to have for your Finger Food Lunch, you can also simply use up foods in your refrigerator and pantry that meet the finger food criteria. Serve them on plates and platters and let everyone dig in. You could even get fancy and give them toothpicks to choose their foods – but then again, toothpicks might end up being used as swords…or is that just my household?
Ideas for Finger Food Lunches
Meats – deli, summer sausage, hamburger patties, pepperonis, Canadian bacon, etc.
Cheeses – cheese wedges, string cheese, cheese slices or cubes, etc.
Drinks – water is easy, but we like to do homemade lemonade because I have a daughter who really enjoys making it for the family!
Megan’s Famous Homemade Lemonade
2 cups of sugar (or comparable sweetener)
2 cups of lemon juice
1 gallon of water
Mix all ingredients well in a gallon pitcher. Watch it disappear!
I have a friend who calls this type of meal Snack Lunch; however, one complaint she has about it is that it does not seem to stick with her kids, and they are soon hungry again. I have a couple of suggestions to remedy this:
1. Be sure you have put enough food and enough caloric density on the platter. You may want to add popcorn, denser breads, and plenty of meat and cheese to your platter. Maybe you have a great roasted garbanzo bean recipe or you’ve made some savory oyster crackers – throw those in the mix!
2. Have your Finger Food Lunch on a day when you are able to have a heavier snack or an early dinner. Finger Foods may not be a good choice if you are going to be out all day shopping with the kids. It all depends on #1. If you can’t pull together a more caloric dense lunch, then save those lunches for days when you are home and snack time will be some homemade yummy or when dinner time will be early.
So, what would you put on your Finger Food Lunch platter?
This year, we were blessed with abundant produce that was free or nearly free to us. We had a small garden and very generous landlords.
I’ve admitted in the past that I am not a gardener. I like to blame it on my sensory issues – there is nothing about playing in the dirt that intrigues me. However, I REALLY like having fresh produce that WE grew. So fun! This year, we grew peas, onions, tomatoes, green peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, corn, green beans, and there are cantaloupe on the vine as we speak.
As for our generous landlords – they are an older couple who plant WAY more than they could ever eat (as in 60 tomato plants!). They have sent tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, and green beans our way in bucket-fulls! And I am sure not going to waste it!
And then, to top it off, this has been a stellar year for the sandhill (or wild) plum! These little beauties grow roadside and are usually free for the picking by whomever makes it there first!
As promised last week in my Pregnancy Update, here are the recipes we’ve been using this canning season.
Sandhill Plum Jelly - Apparently, I’m one of the few sites out there with this recipe because this time of year, I get a lot of hits on this post.
I mention in my plum jelly post how I was running my pulp through mesh with a spoon. Well, thankfully, I found my sieve! This isn’t the cleanest job in the world, but that tart jelly is oh so worth it!
Freezer Green Beans – Early on, we froze our green beans. This is a nice, simple process that yields beautiful, bags full of bright green veggies!
1. Wash your beans.
2. Trim the stems off your beans and cut them in half.
3. Blanch the beans in boiling water for 1 minute.
4. Dunk in ice water for 1 minute.
5. Pat dry (we used paper towels).
6. Bag in “meal sized” freezer bags. For our family, this means full 1 gallon bags, but that may be too much for your family. Adjust accordingly.
Pickled Green Beans – As the season wore on, and the landlords had more and more and more green beans, my kids begged for pickled green beans instead of freezing them. Now for some of you, the idea of pickled green beans seems pretty “out there”, but you really ought to try it!
You can use any pickle recipe, but this one is very similar to what we use for our pickled okra (when we have it) and has been a favorite for a very long time. It includes dill, garlic and red pepper flakes, and ends up quite yummy. By the way, if you ever want to hear my “angry okra” story, fell free to read all about it HERE.
Cucumber Pickles – We didn’t end up with very many cucumbers, so what we did end up with became pickles that went straight into our refrigerator. When you do this, you really need to let them set in the refrigerator unopened for about a week (more would be ideal) to get the full flavor. It was all we could do to wait a week, and they were gobbled up all in one setting! The recipe we used came from Sheri Graham.
Salsa – When the tomatoes first started rolling in, we did up huge batches of our favorite salsa.
This is a very chunky salsa with some surprising ingredients like balsamic vinegar and soy sauce! The acid content in the salsa was plenty high enough to be able to water bath it (the only kind of canning I do), so we ended up doing about 3 gallons.
Later, we moved on to a less chunky salsa that we found HERE. However, I don’t think either salsa is really going to be hot enough. I need to put more heat in them next time.
Spaghetti Sauce – I had never canned spaghetti sauce, and frankly, we don’t use the stuff. For years, we have simply used tomato sauce with spices in it. That’s it. However, I thought it would be nice to have some real homemade sauce for our italian meals, so I dug around for a recipe and came up with THIS ONE.
It was VERY tasty, but by the time we had done up a dozen quarts (plus the salsa we had already done), my kids (and myself) were sick of tomatoes. I happened to mention on Facebook how we were all tired of peeling and seeding tomatoes, and my Facebook blew up with people chiming in saying they didn’t peel or de-seed their tomatoes and I shouldn’t either! I was astounded. I was under the impression this was a RULE. So, when the landlords called and asked if I wanted yet another round of tomatoes, I exasperated my children by saying Yes…because I really wanted to try this little experiment!
Well, the truth is, I will be trying this little experiment later today. HERE is the recipe I’m going to use. Now, I know the woman in the post freezes hers, but I will be adding some tomato paste (to thicken) and lemon juice (to up the acid content) and water bath them for 20 minutes. I will also probably run them through the Vita-Mix…just in case people are pulling my leg about having the skins and seeds in there being ok.
Once I’m through the last of the tomatoes and the sandhill plums, we will be finished until apple season…which also looks like a bumper crop. We buy seconds at a local orchard and turn them into all sorts of yummy treats! We’ll be freezing slices for pie, making applesauce to can, making apple butter (probably in the crock pot), and maybe even some apple pie filling!
Until then, the rest of the tomatoes on the vine will be picked green and fried.
When I wrote about my bulk taco seasoning recipe, I mentioned we only use 2 pounds of ground beef for our family of 9, and that I only started using the second pound about 2 children ago. Several of you were shocked and wanted to know how this was possible, so I thought I’d write a little bit more about how we manage this.
First of all, THIS is what 2 pounds of ground beef/hamburger looks like (plus some onions from our garden…more on that in a moment):
The skillet is a 15″ cast iron skillet from Lodge. As the meat cooks, we season it and often throw in onions and/or peppers to add flavor. From here, the possibilities are endless!
Let’s say you are doing something with a Mexican flair…
Add tomatoes, beans, rice, and some type of sauce (tomato sauce is the most often used one here).
More garden veggies, noodles, and sauce.
Oatmeal, veggies, beans, lentils, and yes…sauce!
And don’t forget CHEESE! We use a lot of cheese, sour cream, and veggies to add to our meat to create a heartier meal.
You can easily double the amount of pasta or rice you put into a dish and still keep the ground beef amounts the same. Casseroles and stove-top meals (like the Unstuffed Cabbage Roll recipe below) are the easiest to stretch. We rarely do something like meatloaf or a meat by itself (unless we are cooking up steaks, pork chops, or homemade brats). Meatloaf can be bulked up with oats or rice, but not many in my family are fans of meatloaf, so I don’t even bother.
We often make quesadillas for a quick lunch (<—take a look at that post – it’s from when I was pregnant with Baby #7 and there’s a sonogram picture!) We will start with the 2 pounds of hamburger meat, but when that runs out, we finish off with cheese-only quesadillas. And again, we encourage the kids to add sour cream, lettuce, and salsa to bulk up calories.
Another thing we do is set out bowls of “sides” that add an element of fun to the meal. It is not uncommon for there to be pickles, black olives, or a bowl of cut up cucumbers on the table to serve as finger foods to supplement the meal. Sometimes I serve a traditional side (mainly for the evening meal when Daddy is home), but usually for lunch, the main dish is supplemented only by the extra finger foods.
And in case you are wondering, yes, I do serve snacks. Around 3 o’clock is snack time and it helps to carry everyone through to suppertime.
Now let me give you a real life example from a meal we had a couple of nights ago…
I set out to make the Trim Healthy Mama Stuffed Cabbage Rolls from the book, but realized too late they were supposed to be in the crock pot for 7-9 hours! (Please tell me I’m not the only one who does stuff like this!) So, I went with an unstuffed version from a recipe online. Of course, there’s no way an online recipe is going to contain the right amounts for our family (unless of course, it’s from my own stash of Large Family Recipes), so I set out to tweak it.
The first thing I noticed was that it had 1.5 – 2 pounds of meat listed to serve 5-6 people; however, the cabbage was supposed to be a small head with the addition of only one small can of tomato sauce. That’s where I grabbed my bulk. The cabbage I used was large, and I used 2 cans of sauce, but could have used more if I wanted a soupier mixture (which works really well when putting it over something like rice or noodles!). I could have added other veggies too like zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant or peppers.
Because this was going to be a THM-friendly dish, I had my son cook a large pot of rice as a side for the children. If you aren’t watching your carb intake, then cook the rice and add it right into the dish itself. You could even turn this into a soup by adding more tomato sauce and some water or broth.
And that was our meal. Everyone tanked up and there was only a tiny bit of leftovers that Baby Creed will eat for lunch tomorrow.
Here’s my large family (with only 2# of ground beef) version of Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls:
Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls
2 pounds ground beef
1 large onion, diced
2 cans diced tomatoes (or fresh)
2 cans (8 oz each) tomato sauce
1 cabbage, coarsely chopped
seasonings to taste
In a large skillet, brown ground beef with onion and season to taste with salt, pepper, garlic, or other favorite seasonings. Add in the diced tomatoes and the tomato sauce and mix. Next, add the chopped cabbage and rest a lid on top of the pile of cabbage to encourage it to steam and cook down. (I promise, it WILL cook down and fit in your 15″ skillet. If you don’t have a large skillet, transfer the meat to a large pot before adding the cabbage.) Once the cabbage cooks down a bit, stir to mix the meat and sauce in with the cabbage. Continue to cook down until cabbage is tender.
Now, it’s your turn! How do you stretch your meat? What sorts of things do you add for bulk and calories? And don’t forget to mention how many you are feeding!
We eat a lot of Mexican food here. It’s often an easy meal that requires few ingredients. I’ve never been one for using those little packets of Taco Seasoning you buy in the store, but I do like to add some sort of seasoning to the ground beef we use to make our Mexican dishes. This usually consists of chili powder and cumin, salt and pepper, but I was never satisfied with the taste (especially when the kids did the cooking/seasoning!).
I ran across a taco seasoning recipe on Pinterest that was just about right, but as always the portions were WAY too small. I don’t want to mix up seasoning EVERY time I cook!
After a few tweaks, Ty has declared this DELICIOUS – so, here’s our adapted recipe in bulk form!
Bulk Taco Seasoning
4 Tablespoons chili powder 9 Tablespoons paprika 3 Tablespoons cumin 2 tablespoon onion powder 2 tablespoon salt (we REALLY like RealSalt) 5 teaspoons garlic powder 1/2 teaspoon cayenne or ground red pepper
Mix well and store in a sealed container. I just use an old seasoning container with a “new” handwritten label.
I like to just shake it on the meat and eyeball it, but if you want to be super scientific, use about 4 tsp per 1 pound of ground beef.
Quick Note: I try to only use 2 lbs of hamburger for our family of 9 no matter what the dish is, and I only made the transition from 1 lb to 2 lbs a couple of children ago. This is just one way to save money when you are cooking for a large family.
Having kids sort of sucked the joy out of mealtime for me. It meant no longer focusing on myself and my own food. I now had the full time job of cutting up meat, cleaning up spills, and trying to have an adult conversation over the din of childish chatter. The thought of having a leisurely meal was laughable, and rather discouraging to boot.
But several years ago, I was blessed to learn from another family what taking leisurely meals with a lot of little ones actually looked like. It was like a ray of sunshine in my day! I realized I really could have a wonderful mealtime with my family, but it would mean letting go of a few preconceived notions and a whole lot of anxiety.
A glimpse of Heaven…
When we sit down to fellowship over food with our family, we need to keep in mind that this is a foretaste of our fellowship in Heaven. Things are not perfect here, but they can still give us an idea of what we can expect when we are truly Home.
Start the meal calmly…
It is so easy to start a meal with chaos. It happens all the time here. If we don’t all sit down together, take a deep breath, and thank the Lord for His provisions, we end up resembling pigs at a feed trough! Don’t expect a meal to be leisurely if you don’t begin it that way. And if it does begin in chaos, it is never too late (unless someone has left the table) to start over. Have everyone put their forks down, take a deep breath, and begin anew.
Be aware of your surroundings…
Sometimes we forget to even look up from our food, let alone take the time to notice and engage the other people at the table. When you eat with adults, conversation typically naturally flows, but it isn’t the norm at a table full of hungry little people and tired parents. You have to make the effort to look up from your food and smile at everyone seated with you. Start with the littlest one and work your way up. Ask each child a question or simply smile at them. This is the start to healthy dinner conversations.
Because this is not a perfect world, we need to expect mishaps and be as prepared for them as we can be. Have a towel handy for cleaning up spills, and try to take the attitude that the little mishaps in life are not something to dwell on and fuss over. Remember, a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver (Proverbs 25:11) – in other words, speaking calmly and kindly when mishaps occur is a thing of priceless beauty. Don’t let your words be ugly over something as minor as spilled drinks, dropped forks, and the like.
Learn to be still…
This isn’t just for wiggly little boys, this is for wiggly mamas who jump up and head off to the next thing on her list after wolfing down the last bite on her plate. Train yourself to stay seated after you are finished, or better yet, slow down your eating altogether. Give your brain a moment to relax. Put your fork down, take a deep breath, and wait. You might even want to bring a book to the table that you can use as a read-aloud at the end of the meal to help everyone stay in their seats and learn to be still during mealtime.
Feast & fellowship…
We don’t often think of eating with our family as a time of feasting and fellowship, but it truly is! It is a time to reconnect after everyone has been about their own business during the day. It is a time for you to share and for you to listen as others share about their day. It should be fun! It should be a celebration!
That’s where my free gift to you comes in…
Our family has compiled 33 Family Dinner Games that don’t require a ton of forethought and preparation. You can print out the list and instructions, and keep it handy in your dining room. These 33 Family Dinner Games are FREE to subscribers of Raising Arrows and will be delivered to your inbox shortly after signing up so you can begin to enjoy your family mealtime tonight!
Each game spans multiple ages and encourages an open and festive atmosphere for your meals!
Now, go and give those babies a big hug and kiss, do the same with your husband, and welcome them all to family mealtime tonight!
(Already a Raising Arrows subscriber? You’ll find the 33 Family Dinner Games on the Subscriber Freebie page!)