In the Kitchen | Let's talk about...

Let's talk about FOOD! I love food. I mean, I really LOVE food! I love cooking it and eating it and I even love reading books about food. Food. Is. Awesome. As you may know, these last few months have been insane in the most amazing of ways, but with the busyness of our lives, it's super easy to decide not to cook and just pick up take-out or eat something from a box a wee bit more than we should. I'm happy to report that has not been the case... thanks to Real Plans!

Real Plans is a subscription online meal planner offering a variety of options for dietary needs/restrictions that I discovered through one of my favorite foodies, Michelle Tam of Nom Nom Paleo and I've been using it ever since. I was instantly in love, but I wanted to see if the love wore off over time. It's been more than 3 months now and I love Real Plans even more today!

"REAL PLANS IS A MEAL PLANNER WITH SUPER POWERS."

TRUE! I'm now spending a fraction of my previous planning time getting organized and cooking so much more for our family! Over the last 2+ years, cooking at home has become even more important for me with my celiac disease diagnosis, because in addition to it being rather difficult (and expensive) to dine out, we're also limited in options. I have yet to be bored with Real Plans and my 'to cook' list is growing weekly.

I've always loved cooking. My mom is a wonderful cook and shared the joy of the kitchen with me at an early age. I honestly can't even remember how young I was, but I do remember feeling right at home in the kitchen and it's the same to this day. I love the flavors, colors and smells of fresh food and making something delicious from scratch is one of my favorite past times. I enjoy it so much, that many times I'm at a crossroads of knitting or cooking and cooking can win that contest. I love cooking THAT much!

I also adore my cookbook collection (really, I'm a total sucker for pretty pictures of food and flipping through pages and putting on post-it notes), but getting organized for the week was time consuming and was expensive (really, I wanted everything) and I would much rather spend my available time actually cooking. But... I found that if I didn't spend the time planning, I'd toss whatever into the cart at the grocery store and so much of the food would go to waste over the next week because I lacked a plan. 

Now I spend about an hour each week planning things out and we're saving $ at the grocery store. Real Plans has paid for itself (and then some) with what we're saving. Wanna see how it works?

So... now I feel like this is an infomercial, but seriously, this has changed my life and I'd only share if I believed in it and I wholeheartedly do - I believe in it so much that I'm an affiliate now. I'm also asked frequently about how I plan food out and I've been so happy with Real Plans that I HAVE to share the joy! In addition to a HUGE library of recipes that are built in, there are some amazing additions that are really reasonably priced, including: Nom Nom Paleo, Whole 30, Well Fed, Cookie & Kate and more! AND... (yes, this is where I say... "wait, there's more!") you can modify the existing recipes (ingredients, portion size...) and you can add your own recipes. The latter is very important to me because I find so many delicious recipes online and it's as simple as adding a url to the recipe box or clicking on the Real Plans Chrome extension to add it. It's so easy and quite fun. 

That's all the words I have for you today. I'm passionate about cooking at home and healthy eating and I hope I've inspired you to get organized and into your kitchen. Questions or comments? I'd love to hear from you, so please leave a comment below.

CHEERS! 

 

Leisure Time | Kraut Day

It might be hard to believe, but my family has an annual Kraut Day. What is Kraut Day, you ask? It's the day that we get together with Mr. Yarnista's family and make sauerkraut. It's a really awesome thing. There was some debate at this year's gathering about what year this was and (thanks to my ridiculous skills for keeping track of things), 2016 marked the 6th Annual Kraut Day!

 
 Mr. Yarnista shows off his coordinated  Port Huron Brewery  attire and beer, while holding a 10lb head of cabbage (and this was one of the smaller ones).

Mr. Yarnista shows off his coordinated Port Huron Brewery attire and beer, while holding a 10lb head of cabbage (and this was one of the smaller ones).

 

 It's a day that we very much look forward to and, either others were simply curious or we made it sound like loads of fun, because this year, we had 18 family members attend! The OKT (Original Kraut Team) formed in 2012 with 5 members and has grown a bit each year, but the 18 attendees this year, made it clear that this really is a thing (or maybe we're just really popular). 

 
 

So, how do you make kraut, you ask? First you need a 5 gallon bucket, then you need cabbage, pickling salt, and a food processor. Oh, and beer. Kraut cannot be made without a beer in the hand. Optional items are: rubber gloves, carpet square (for the knees), and knee pads.

 
 

Once you have all your supplies, you'll shred cabbage and begin layering cabbage and salt in your (super fancy) bucket. With each layer, you'll do a bit of smushing so the cabbage releases water. You'll continue repeating this layering process until your bucket is full'ish and then top it off with a bag of water to seal things up while the fermentation is in process. Kraut Day is early in October and the kraut should be ready for canning or freezing at the end of the year. It's SO good!

 
 See, it's all very fancy and scientific. 

See, it's all very fancy and scientific. 

 

If you want to try making your own sauerkraut, thekitchn.com has a recipe for a smaller batch in a mason jar - I realized that not everyone is crazy about kraut and "needs" a 5 gallon bucket of it. I love fermenting in small batches and currently have a jar of homemade kimchi in process - I tried a new recipe this time and I'll share that once I can test it out for taste. 

Do you ferment? If so, what's your favorite to make?

This year's Kraut Day was October 1st and it was cool enough for me to wear a new sweater. The light rain gave way to a beautifully sunny afternoon, so I'll have FO pics of my new sweater to share with you next time...

CHEERS!

Summer Vacation

Hubby and I have been enjoying our annual summer vacation and this year we decided to leave our schedule wide open so we could do whatever. Or nothing. We've been doing both... we enjoyed a day with family in northern Wisconsin, a few leisure days at home with the kiddos, we tended to some much neglected work around the house, took a day trip to Appleton, and visited the Horicon Marsh twice. 

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Our trip to the marsh on Friday was highlighted with absolutely beautiful weather that was reminiscent of my hike in the Colorado mountains a few weeks back. We commented during our marsh hike, that even though Wisconsin is very different than Colorado, the landscape is equally stunning - especially on a day with perfectly blue skies. I'll be sorting through my Colorado pictures soon, so you can see what you think.  

We made another trip out early this morning. After the crazy commotion of getting the boys into the car for the 20 minute drive, everyone had a great time! With Logan now at 13+ years and Rollo a mere 5, we have to go at different paces since Rollo and can run circles around his older brother (and us, for that matter). When Logan decided it was time to enjoy a bowl of water (laying down), Hubby stayed with him, while Rollo and I went off on our own for a few miles where we saw turtles, frogs, and lots of birds, including these geese. It was beautiful again today, but the skies weren't nearly as beautiful as a couple days ago. Both boys are currently napping off their exciting excursion. 

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I've also done a fair amount of cooking during our time off and hope to do more today yet. The best part of cooking during time off is not having any time restrictions - I could start something and tend to it throughout the day. I made us a fresh batch of Roasted Tomatillo Salsa from Against All Grain's Meals Made Simple, but I grilled everything this time and it added so much depth to the flavor of the finished salsa! I also made an extra large batch, so we have plenty in the freezer - it freezes REALLY well. And... I also made gyros - from scratch... 

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I've been gluten free for 2 years and the benefits have been tremendous for me, but there are many things I miss, including gyros. So, on Friday I made homemade gyro meat using this recipe by The Domestic Man with this tzatziki recipe and some delicious Mybread gluten-free pitas. These pitas were SO soft and SO chewy that I could have mistaken them for the real thing (from what I can remember). I'm skeptical of the GF substitutions/recreations, but I was introduced to these pitas at our local heath food store, The Natural Way, a few weeks back and they were just as good as I remembered. YUM!!! We have leftovers and I can't wait to dig in again!

Of course, I've been knitting. I have a new finished sweater (it's been too hot to get outdoor photos of it) and I'm close to finishing a couple other projects, so hope to have details to share soon. I've been pretty focused on working through my current WIPs and I've been doing pretty well, so far. I did get a wee bit distracted because I have to finish up the next knit along project for Firefly Fibers, but it will all come together. Right

I'm off to knit a bit before we record this week's podcast episode and make supper. I hope you're enjoying summer and finding time to do what you enjoy!

CHEERS!