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The Beautiful Bounty Of Fall

By Sylvia Britton

Crisp autumn days bring along hearty appetites, so be ready for the change of pace with some delicious time-conscious recipes and ideas.

Autumn!
That word brings thoughts of shopping for pencils and notebooks, the wonderful smell of a new pack of crayons, ordering the new curriculum and hungry children right in the middle of the day when you are at your very busiest! There is no reason to miss out on these fun-filled, gorgeous days because you're busy preparing something healthy to eat. However, it does take some planning on your part to have more variety, more nutrition and less stress at lunch time. After home schooling for 10 years you'd think I'd have all the answers about busy day lunches. Well just when I think I have them all, situations change and I have to start all over in my planning. Your situation may be like that too. The addition of a family member, move to a new house, starting to home school or other big happening in your family can really change how you plan and prepare meals during the week. So, if you are ready for some new ideas and recipes for those busy fall days, read on...

 

 
Menus
It is quite helpful to make a weekly menu for all your family's meals. You will need a calendar, pencil and paper and all your recipe books and cards. Count the number of breakfast, lunch and dinner meals you will need for the week and make a note of that on your paper. Next, decide if any of these meals are special occasion meals and note that as well. Finally, search your recipes and find those recipes that your family really enjoys. Mark those recipes and note the book name and page number on your paper. Write down the day of the week and the meals that you want to prepare on that day. Do this for each day of the week and using this information, make your grocery list. Copy the menu and post it where you can see it readily every day. Check your list every morning and evening. You will be able to see what foods you need to start early in the day and what foods you may need to remove from the freezer or place in the crockpot. You will also be able to see what snacks your family needs and be able to prepare more healthy snacks instead of reaching for the potato chip bag when they are hungry in the middle of the day. Some Moms prefer to write a different menu on each of 8 or 10 index cards. Then they choose which menus to use that week and grocery shop accordingly. The index card menus are placed in a conspicuous spot so that Mom and everyone else can see what's on the menu for that week.

 

Start the Day Right
Let's take a moment to think about breakfast. You've often heard it said that a BIG breakfast is what you need to get your body going and be at your best all day. It makes more sense to have a GOOD breakfast -- not necessarily a huge amount of food but healthy foods that give our bodies energy. I have found that a hearty breakfast means that the children aren't hungry before lunch time and we're not diverted from school by snack time so often. I like to make breakfast a warm, inviting time. We eat on the covered porch of our home at breakfast time when the temperature permits. Baskets of fruit and whole grain muffins, jars of home canned preserves and plenty of butter and sorghum makes our mornings satisfying. We enjoy Baked Oatmeal for breakfast when the weather gets cooler, as well as fruit cups and toasts, an occasional omelet and now and then biscuits and sausage. But you don't have to be a traditional breakfast foods lover to eat a good breakfast. A very healthy, energy filled breakfast is toast with nut butter. Either almond, cashew, or peanut butter is delicious on toast and most children appreciate it very much. Another good toast spread for the a.m. is honey, or honey-butter. Honey butter can be easily made in a blender or food processor. Use 1 cup honey and add butter till creamy and smooth. I usually end up adding 5 or 6 tablespoons of butter. Try my Baked Oatmeal for a very hearty, very fast breakfast:

Baked Oatmeal
1/2 c butter melted
1 c brown sugar
2 eggs beaten
3 c quick oats
2 t baking powder
1 c milk
1 t salt

Cream together the first 3 ingredients.
Add the rest of the ingredients, stir well.
Lightly grease a 9x13" baking dish.
Turn the mixture into the dish and bake
at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. This can be prepared
the night before and baked the next morning.
Serve with milk and fruit if desired.
Serves about 6.

I have found that I can make homemade biscuits and sausage and freeze them for mornings when we are running behind or taking a trip and need a fast breakfast. I put the biscuits and sausage together, wrap with plastic wrap, then with foil and freeze. To thaw, take off the foil and place in the microwave for 1 minute. This time may vary with your own microwave. Pancakes and waffles can be frozen successfully too. I was skeptical about this until I actually tried it. I made up stacks of pancakes, cooled them, wrapped them in plastic and then in foil and froze them. To use them, take off the foil, remove the plastic and replace them in the foil. Add 1 teaspoon water to the foil packet and seal it. Place in a warm oven (250 degrees) for about 30 minutes or until the pancakes are hot and soft. Eat as usual. Frozen waffles are prepared the same way. Breakfast Burritos are a great way to serve a good breakfast. You can prepare all the components for the dish except for the egg any time during the week and then put them together at breakfast time. Cook up sausage and crumble it, sautee chopped green peppers and onions and shred cheese. Store in covered containers in the refrigerator until you are ready to make the burritos. Either make or purchase corn or flour tortillas. Prepare some scrambled eggs on the morning you are having the burritos. Each child can prepare his own burrito by layering some of the prepared ingredients on a tortilla, rolling it up and heating it in the microwave till warm. We like to heat salsa and pour over our breakfast burritos, too.

Don't forget your crockpot... when thinking about hot cereal for breakfast. Oats, millet, and other grains can be prepared in the slow cooker at night, and it's ready to eat in the a.m. Our family enjoys oats cooked with dried fruits and water. Muffins make a wonderful breakfast. There are healthy muffin recipes abounding and I often make a batch and freeze them for breakfasts. To make sure they stay separate while freezing, place the muffins on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer. When they are firm, transfer them to a ziptop freezer bag. To thaw them simply open the bag and microwave till warm. Or, you can place them in the refrigerator overnight, remove them from the bag and warm them in the oven the next morning. You can make a basic bran muffin recipe and add a variety of other ingredients such as dried or canned fruit, chocolate or carob chips, coconut, and even pie fillings. Here is one of our favorite muffin recipes, Pumpkin Chip Muffins. Feel free to add 1/2 cup coconut and 1/2 cup pecans to this recipe and make bars instead of muffins!

Pumpkin Chip Muffins
4 eggs
1 c fructose*
1 can (16 oz pumpkin)
1 1/2 c oil
2 3/4 c plain flour
2 c unsweetened carob chips or chocolate chips
2 t soda
1 t cinnamon
1 t salt

Beat the fructose, eggs, oil and pumpkin till smooth.
Combine soda, flour and salt and add to pumpkin mixture.
Stir well. Fold in chips. Fill paper lined muffin tins 2/3 full. Bake at 400 degrees for 24 minutes.
*To use sugar instead of fructose, use 2 cups sugar and use 1/4 c more flour.
Makes about 12 muffins

Mom...I'm hungry!
Now let's talk about lunches specifically. It's so easy to slap a sandwich together and set out a glass of milk for the children. But I know that you want to make more nutritious meals for your children and that you want to give them some variety. There are ways to get that variety, nutrition, and heartiness in a meal without using up 1 to 3 hours of your day to do it. When you have a weekly lunch menu, and you have grocery shopped for the items you will be needing, half the battle is done! Get the staples in your weekly menu cooked and refrigerated and you are on your way to an easy-cooking week.

Timing is Everything
To help out with streamlining and making your lunch time meals more convenient I recommend cooking all of your weekly staples on one day. Package and refrigerate them and use them as needed throughout the week. The staples include ground beef, chicken pieces, noodles and other pastas, beans, rice, and other grains. After these are cooked, they can be stored in individual meal sized packages or simply stored in a large plastic bowl or bag. You can take out what you need each day. Here are two examples of goods dishes that can be prepared using precooked macaroni and ground beef:

Tomato Soup with Macaroni
1 1/2 cups cooked macaroni
1 Can tomato soup or 1 pint home canned
1 can rich milk, soy milk or cream
1 Tablespoon butter or better butter (optional)
small pinch soda
salt and pepper to taste.
Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan, heat over medium heat. Serve with crackers and fruit.

Beefy Noodles
Combine:
1/2 # cooked ground beef
2 C cooked macaroni
1 small chopped onion
1/2 # cubed Velveeta or other cheese
1 C milk
salt and pepper to taste

Place in a greased casserole. Bake at 350 degrees till bubbly. OR cover with plastic wrap and cook in microwave till bubbly. Serve with bread, cornbread, and a lettuce wedge.

Tea Time
Often in the fall we will have a filling breakfast, a late afternoon "tea", and then a snack of cheese and crackers in the early evening. Our Tea can consist of small sandwiches, soup, fruit, raw vegetables and wholesome cookies. We serve tea, milk and water to drink. Not only is it a delicious, good-for-us meal, it's loads of fun for the children to have a "tea" every day. They enjoy getting out the cups and saucers and setting the table. They try to have good manners and be so polite during their meal. It can be a great teaching tool for homeschoolers. Tea Time can be a good substitute for one meal each day. If you schedule your tea time in the early after noon, it can serve as a late lunch or early dinner. Sometimes we move our tea time outdoors and have lunch with nature. We carry everything on trays and in baskets and enjoy the cool, crisp weather as we eat. One of our favorite Tea Time foods is Homemade Graham Crackers. A cup of warm tea, homemade grahams spread with peanut or cashew butter and an accompaniment of fresh veggies, we feast among the falling leaves.

Homemade Graham Crackers
makes about 6 dozen crackers
1c. shortening
4 c. wheat flour
1c. brown sugar
1tsp. soda
1c. white sugar
2tsp.baking powder
1c. honey
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. white flour
1c.sweet milk
1tsp.vanilla
Cream shortening and sugar until fluffy. Add vanilla.
Sift flour. Measure and add salt, soda, and
baking powder. Sift again. Add sifted dry ingredients alternately with milk. Mix thoroughly after each addition. Chill dough overnight. The next morning, turn out on a floured board and roll as thin as possible. If you have a pasta press, use it! Cut in squares. Place 1" apart on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown.

When All Is Said and Done....
It's you who knows the eating habits of your family and how and if they need to be changed. A hearty, nutritious lunch is a good thing for all of us, especially if we aren't active after the evening meal. Only you can determine what changes you are able to make in your home school routine. I encourage you to make those changes which save you time and worry. Include all the family in preparations and in clean-up time-many hands make the work go by faster. When looking for lunch recipes, look for those which take little pre-planning, little pre-cooking and lots of nutrition. Look for recipes that have ingredients which you can prepare ahead of time, all on one cooking day. Set aside one day a week on which you pre-cook some of your family's usual lunch foods or your staple foods such as pasta and rice; wrap them up well and store them in the refrigerator. Use all the tools you have at your disposal such as crockpots and pressure cookers. You will be rewarded by happy, well-fed children and time on your hands to enjoy your Autumn and Winter school days!

Sylvia Britton is a homemaker and author. She and husband Mark have been married 22 years. They have 5 children and this is their ninth year of homeschooling. The Brittons live in Kentucky Amish country and own a bakery and general store called Grandma's Cupboard. You can find them online at: www.grandmas-cupboard.com. Sylvia also operates the web site The 21st Century Homekeeper which is a place of encouragement, Instruction and Help for Christian Homekeepers. Visit The 21st Century Homekeeper at: www.christianhomekeeper.com

 

Copyright 2002.
Originally appeared in Fall 2002. Used with permission.
The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.
www.TheHomeschoolMagazine.com


 

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