Preparations for the Week

Sundays are always busy days for us, but whenever we have a moment of unscheduled time, we prepare for the week ahead.

There are three of us in this house that do not eat any grains. That means that the usual breakfast foods, such as cereals or breads, are not an option. So we buy lots of pastured eggs, bacon, and pastured pork sausage to have on hand, as well as spinach, kale, and chard for frittatas. We always have fruit in some form, either fresh or frozen - with berries being our favorite choice. But several things have to be made - some sort of grain free breakfast bread, yogurt, and what we call nut-ola (instead of granola).

I have found some great sources for grain free recipes. I love Danielle Walker's Against All Grain blog, her recipes are always fabulous. I use her grain free Vanilla Granola recipe, with a few tweaks. Instead of hazelnuts, I use macadamias. I soak all the sunflower seeds at once, to save bowls and time. I add the raisins in before baking. I spread it out on an oiled cookie sheet and bake it in a 200 degree oven for several hours, turning once. This yields enough nut-ola for us to have for the week, sprinkled on berries and yogurt, or by itself as a snack, or even in whole milk.

Today I made The Civilized Caveman's delicious Banana bread, but I added some honey (from Dad's hive) and chocolate chips. I try not to eat this very often, as it is definitely a trigger food for me (baked goods, yum), but the rest of the family loves it, along with a bowl of berries, for breakfast or snack.

Yogurt is easy to make, but fiddly. You will need several pots, a heating pad, and a food thermometer. You'll also need milk (whole, organic - it can be pasteurized, but not ultra-pasteurized, and raw and/or grass fed would be best) and some yogurt for your starter (whole, plain organic yogurt - very important to read the label and make sure there are live cultures in the yogurt). You may also want flavorings.

I make a double boiler out of our large pasta pot and a smaller pot. Water goes in the bottom pot, milk (1/2 gallon or more) goes in the top pot. As you boil the water, it will heat the milk gently, and you won't have to worry about it burning.

Keep taking the temp of the milk. You want to heat it to 180 degrees. Stir the milk every so often, as it's heating.

Once it reaches 180 degrees, plunge the top pot into an ice water bath.

Keep stirring and taking the temperature of the milk, until it is down to 110 degrees. (I love the smell of hot milk. This is my favorite part.)

Once it reaches 110 degrees, take the pot out of the ice water bath and stir in the yogurt, about 1/4 C of it. At this point, I like to add some vanilla extract (especially nice is homemade extract! we have enjoyed this batch from Tom's brother!) and some liquid stevia.

Then, set a lid on the pot, and put the pot on a heating pad set to the medium setting. Leave it there for at least eight hours or overnight.

In the morning, the yogurt will have thick curds, which you will stir to break up. Then ladle into jars, put it into the coldest part of your fridge, and you're all set!

Sometimes we mix this with jam, but more often we have it plain with berries and nut-ola, or in smoothies. Don't forget to save some for your starter next time. I store it in 1/4 cup amounts in the freezer, and thaw it when I need it.

Today, Tom and Kate went to a local farm stand, and bought a ton of strawberries, blueberries, and cherries. We have been freezing batches of berries all day. We use these in smoothies throughout the week.

Tom also marinated and grilled two pounds of chicken, two pounds of beef ribs, and a couple of steaks. The steaks were for dinner, but the rest of the meat will be used in lunches for the rest of the week in salads, or eaten plain.

I also make homemade chocolate milk and lemonade for the kids' lunches. Adam likes Vitamin Water Zero, but I don't like the artificial sweeteners in it. And Kate likes to have a chocolate milk at lunchtime, but I don't like the ultra-pasturized milk in those boxes, and I like having more control of the sugar content. For the lemonade, I mix 6 cups cold water with 1 cup lemon juice (which is usually the juice from six lemons), and one generous teaspoon of liquid stevia. For the chocolate milk, I most often heat 6 cups of milk, and add 1 scant cup (or less) of Ghiradelli hot cocoa powder. It has sugar added already. I need to start experimenting with unsweetened cocoa and stevia, but I haven't gotten around to it yet.

These are made and put into pitchers in the fridge for the week.

I also try to plan my dinners for the week and make out shopping lists. I take in to account what's ripe in the garden and can be used that week, or what is in season.

All of this makes Sunday an even busier day, but it provides so much peace of mind and such an organized feeling, that it's well worth it.