Author: The Mom

Simple Ideas for Easy Holiday Meals

Simple Ideas for Easy Holiday Meals

This year things were different for our Thanksgiving because of all the changes that have occurred in recent weeks. I was still determined to make the holiday great. I wanted the boys to have a positive memory from this holiday time AND it will be the last Thanksgiving where they will all be living under one roof.

We had the opportunity to visit with family for the holiday, but we opted to stay closer to home. With that in mind, I was determined that they would have the same cornucopia of options they would find at any large family gathering.

Thanksgiving Plan 2017

Main Event

  • Turkey
  • Ham

Sides

  • Green bean casserole
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Green salad
  • Spinach balls
  • Smashed potatoes
  • Yeast rolls
  • Stuffed mushrooms
  • Dressing
  • Gravy

Desserts

  • Chocolate pie
  • Peanut butter pie
  • Egg nog cheese cake
  • Pumpkin cake


  • Cooking this much is not as much of a challenge as it would have been before I started doing once a month cooking. I just go into it with a plan based on the length of time each item needs to cook (and I start developing a plan for what to do with the leftovers – or, as I prefer to call them, PLANNED overs).

    My biggest mistake was waiting too long to get started on the prep work. Had I been more prepared, then I would have only had to make one trip to the grocery store. Well, technically I did only make one trip. I sent my husband and my oldest for round two and three.

    What I would normally have done was look at all of my dishes, pull out all non-perishable ingredients, and add any missing items to my grocery list.

    I didn’t do that this time. I know better, but I chose not better. That is a perfect metaphor for how I often end up in trouble in my life journey as well.

    I saw all the social media posts that others were sharing about the food they were making and I felt guilty. Not guilty enough to get up and get started myself, but guilty enough to keep adding items to my list.

    On Thursday morning, I woke up a little late, but still early enough to hit the ground running just before 6 am (which was my designated start time). I prepped the turkey and got it started, then began working down my check list.

    Prep, cook, and clean time was less than six hours.


    Complete Thanksgiving Lunch for 2017

    Main Event

    • Turkey
    • Ham

    Sides

    • Green bean casserole
    • Dijon Brussel sprouts
    • Tossed Green salad
    • Spinach pie
    • Smashed potatoes
    • Refrigerated yeast rolls
    • Dressing
    • Homemade Cranberry Dressing
    • Gravy

    Desserts

  • No bake Peanut butter pie
  • No bake Reese’s pie
  • Apple Crisp
  • Egg nog cheese cake
  • Pumpkin cake


  • What Changed and Why

    I have never been great at following recipes, so I often just do what I need to do to get done. Since I knew I was cooking for the long term and not just for one meal, I made some adjustments.

    1. Out with the mushrooms. I LOVE stuffed mushrooms, but I am about the only one in my immediate family that does love them. I had time and space to do the mushrooms, but just made the call to let them go this year. NOTE: Next time, go ahead and make a full batch of mushrooms then cook up a few but freeze the rest for future meals.
    2. From Spinach Balls to Spinach Pie. As I contemplated my game plan for the next day, I determined that the spinach balls – which are designed to be a finger food/appetizer – could easily be turned into a pie instead. I already knew the pie crusts I had for the baked pies were not going to be used. It worked out great and my spinach lover declared it to be the best spinach he ever had. NOTE: Next time, use the filling to make TWO pies instead of one – that way the filling will get firmer and crisp up on the top without worrying about overcooking the crust.
    3. The chocolate pie and peanut butter pie became no bake versions. My family LOVES the no-bake version, so why mess with a good thing.
    4. Apple crisp was added to the mix. We had a large number of apples and my middle son wanted to do something with them. A crisp was chosen over a pie because originally it was going to be cooked in a crockpot.

    The meal was a complete success. The boys filled up on the sides and dessert was something we were able to enjoy at a later time during the day.

    Making the Holidays Simple

    • Crockpots. I cooked three of my side dishes in the crockpot which left plenty of room for the other items that had to go into the oven. The green bean casserole, Brussel sprouts, and potatoes cooked wonderfully. Just be sure that you plan in the time the crockpots will need to cook (usually around 4 to 5 hours on low for many items).
    • Do make a schedule. Look over the recipes and determine what needs to go into the oven and when. Be sure to take into account any “sitting times.” Things like cranberry sauce and cheesecake need time to settle or set up. The meats should be allowed to rest before they are carved. Also think about PREcook times – like how long the dough needs to rise before you can make the rolls. Write down the schedule so you can keep up with what you are doing and what you need to be doing next.
    • Clean as you go. Do as much of the washing, drying, and putting away as you possibly can. You might even want to add that time into your schedule. You will be able to enjoy the holiday more if you know there isn’t a sink full of dishes taunting you from the other room.
    • Make it a team sport. I started letting my sons cook the sides when they were big enough to see the stovetop and reach it safely. They would choose the sides and we would find recipes together. They also helped with desserts. Now, we are able to work together (safely even) in the kitchen. Cooking and cleaning goes so much easier when we do it together.
    • Think about tomorrow. There are always leftovers after a big holiday. There were years when we had turkey and dressing until either the dressing or the gravy ran out (somehow there was always plenty of turkey). Now I plan dishes around the leftovers and I will even precook or prepackage the PLANNED OVER dishes so they will be easy fixes down the road.
      1. Turkey Pot Pie – perfect way to reuse veggies
        Turkey broth – I use the HUGE pot we had for deep frying the turkey to boil up some broth for the days ahead.
        Turkey soup – just add noodles to your turkey broth.
        Ham and cheese strudel – chopped ham with some shredded cheese rolled up in puff pastry . . . perfect for a relaxed morning meal (or for an easy dinner as well).
        Ham hash – another great morning treat.



    The key to enjoying the holidays is to plan to enjoy it and then work the plan so you can enjoy it. It is not about the food, or even about the day of the month. This holiday, like all days, is about the people around us. Invest in those relationships first – make them the priority – and no matter how the turkey turns our (or even if it gets away) you will still have a blessed holiday to remember.

    Time for Planned-Overs

    • Thanksgiving Pot Pie – normally I would have made turkey pot pie, but I completely forgot to set aside some potatoes to cube for this dish. So, I improvised. I layered a deep dish pie crust with turkey, made another layer of green bean casserole, added in some carrots (saved and frozen from a previous meal), stirred in some raw garlic (because . . . garlic!), smothered in all in gravy, and then topped it off with a mashed potato crust. Turned out good and was a nice change from just repeating the meal from before.

      Confession Time: I really only made this because I had a leftover pie crust that I had to use because I forgot to put it away. It was still good though and will definitely be a repeat in the holidays to come.

    • Ham and Cheese Strudel – all you need is some puff pastry sheets (found in the freezer section usually above or around the pie crusts). Let the pastry sheet thaw over-night in the frig. Roll it out until it’s thin. Spread out a layer of diced ham to within an inch of the sides. Spread out a layer of shredded cheese on top of that. Dampen the edges of the dough (this will help seal the strudel shut) and then begin to roll it up like a log. Put the strudel on a baking sheet – seam side down and then puncture the top with a fork (about 12 holes should be plenty – you are just giving steam from the cooking a place to escape). Cook at 375 F until golden brown.
    • Green Eggs and Ham

      My son came up with this little gem. He started by scrambling some eggs and before they were done he threw in some of the chopped up spinach pie. Fry up a couple of pieces of ham and you have a great breakfast to start the day after Thanksgiving.

    • Chefs Salad. Save a few of your boiled eggs from the Deviled Egg line and you can throw a healthy lunch together in a flash. Make it a T-day special by layering green salad, chopped turkey, chopped ham, chopped boiled egg, and then use home-made cranberry sauce as a tart dressing for your salad (you can even create an actual salad dressing with it as your base).



    Enjoy the holidays but also let the day or two of holiday cooking be a time that you can use to prepare for the weeks ahead. Things can get crazy this time of year, but if you are prepared and have a plan you can find a way to keep it simple.



    Now it’s your turn. What are your favorite holiday time savers?

    Review of The Raw Food Detox by Ani Phyo

    Review of The Raw Food Detox by Ani Phyo

    I was walking through Mike’s Merchandise when “The Raw Food Detox” by Ani Phyo practically jumped into my cart – which was quite a feat since I didn’t even have a cart. It was in that moment that I remembered WHY I had avoided going into Mike’s for so long. The book aisles are too tempting.

    The book had made such an effort, I decided to bring it home with me.

    I confess the concept made me nervous. The idea of eating nothing but raw foods was not new to me. I did a Green Smoothie Challenge several years back and went almost all raw for that. It was 28 days. There was something about the cover of the book and the idea that there was a set plan that set my nerves on end.

    *Those of you who know me, or have met me, or have read anything by me already have a clue that I am not good at following rules*

    Ani Phyo did not expect me to jump in blind. I appreciated that before she expected me to dive into the process, she took the time to explain the benefits. She also invested more than a few pages to explain WHY the choices were beneficial.

    RAw Food Detox Book Review

    Because I wanted to reap the most from the experience, I determined I would follow the recipes. If nothing else had caused my nerves to fire then trying to follow a recipe would have done the trick. I don’t think I’ve followed an actual recipe since I was in the 4th Grade 4-H competition and I HAD to follow the recipe. Most of the time I guestimate my measurements and hope for the best.

    I made it for the first three days before I started changing the recipes. I tried to stay true to them, and I did try them all first, but I made modifications so that I would enjoy them more and so that I would continue the process.

    It is not a hard read and it is a great introduction to eating raw. The recipes were diverse enough to provide a wide range of flavors sure to please any palate. I will not be moving to a raw lifestyle anytime soon, but it did remind me that fresh and raw are tasty and filling.

    What are your experiences with raw food options? Share your links and comments below!

    How to Power Boost Your System with a Red Smoothie

    How to Power Boost Your System with a Red Smoothie

    Eating healthy sometimes means drinking healthy. Adding foods that you won’t normally eat to a smoothie can give you the nutrients you seek without having to “learn to like” the food that is not at all appealing.

    # # #

    I have never been fond of beets. My disdain for the vegetable probably goes back to my first diet at 14. It involved lots of beets – and was one of those eat this for three days and you will lose weight fad diets.

    It may have caused me to lose weight because I struggled to choke down the beets required.

    Since that time, I have not done anything with beets. The canned cranberry sauce even caused me to look away because it reminded me of those beets from the fad days.

    Today, I made a change, and I believe it will be for the better.

    I tried a red smoothie for the first time.

    Green smoothies and I go way back, and my whole family will delight in the green smoothies. Granted, the smoothies are rarely green, but they do include a high dose of a green veggie.

    I read about red smoothies when I was looking for something to sooth my son’s stomach. The red smoothies include a raw beet. That alone was enough to cause me to pause. But beets are supposed to be a super food (they contain lots of vitamins and minerals including carotenoids, lutein/zeaxanthin, glycine, betaine, dietary fiber, vitamin C, magnesium, iron, copper, and phosphorus, while also being a source of beneficial flavonoids called anthocyanins) so I decided to give it a go.

    I started out with a recipe from the Food Network – because rarely has the Food Network steered me wrong.

    If you have known me for very long, you know I say “started out with” because I have trouble following a recipe. And since I was trying to pack this red smoothie with as much immune building and distestion soothing punch as I possibly could, I pretty much ignored most of what the recipe suggested and just tossed lots of things into a blender.

    NOTE: if you have never tried something before, you might want to follow the recipe first – just trust me on this.

    So, roughly this is what I did:

    1 med beet, peeled and then cubed
    1 med apple, cored and cubed
    Two lemons, juiced
    2 cups Northland Blueberry Pomegranate juice
    4 pitted dates
    1 cup frozen cherries
    1 cup frozen strawberries
    1 cup of Stoneyfield Vanilla Yogurt
    3 tbls Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar
    ¼ cup raw (local) honey

    I blended it well and then had a heaping cup with breakfast. My breakfast also included grits (with raw garlic added) so I should be wired to kill any bad guys that may approach or that may be roaming through my body.

    The red smoothie was not what I would call a shouting success, but it was tolerable. The whole time I was drinking I couldn’t decide if it was too tart (from the ACV) or two sweet. In I think it was too many flavors all at once.

    Do you have a favorite red smoothie recipe? Share in the comments below because I still have five more beets I need to do something with!

    Writing Our Story of Adventure

    Writing Our Story of Adventure

    I had never finished a #NaNoWriMo. I usually started with some gusto but faltered as soon as the “you should be here” line towered above where I actually was.

    I didn’t give up. Every year I started . . . determined to make it through.

    In 2014, I had an idea sparked by a story about a shipwreck being uncovered by a hurricane along the Alabama Gulf Coast.

    “Mystery Rock” follows three brothers as they tried to unlock the mystery that they had discovered after a hurricane. The best part about the book was it was inspired by real events and real people – the conversations were often word for word what my sons were saying in the other room (adjusted only for context). Is that cheating?

    I already knew I wanted to incorporate letterboxing into the book design. It was important for you to see the locations and to experience them for yourself.

    Book 2 of the Scouting out Adventure series is “Secret of the Mounds.” It continues the pursuit of the mystery uncovered that day on the beach. This time the brothers discover the mounds of Alabama.

    Book 3 will be “Shadow in the Caves.” If my family stays on me, then it will be ready for a full launch by the Summer of 2017

    The thing I learned most when creating these books was to write what inspires and entertains you and others will be inspired and entertained as well.

    The Mom
    # # #

    About the Books

    Family fun and Alabama adventures – join three brothers as they uncover a secret long hidden and follow the clues around the State of Alabama to the amazing end. Mystery Rock, Secret of the Mounts, and (coming soon) Shadow in the Cave.

    Mystery Rock from the Scouting Out Adventure series

    About Kathryn


    Kathryn offers phrases of hope in order to shine the Light on the moment. She works through her columns, articles, books and workshops. Her personal hope is that every person who encounters her words will feel as if those words were written (or spoken) just for her or him.

    “In my fiction, I tell a story that provides an uplifting message entrenched in hope. In my non-fiction and columns, I offer words that will point to hope. In my talks, I tell stories that inspire hope. Helping others discover their path to hope is my focus.”

    Twitter: @Kathrynclang
    Facebook: theKathrynCLang
    Website: KathrynLang.com

    Make the Most of Mealtime with Crockpot Meals

    Make the Most of Mealtime with Crockpot Meals

    | Four entrees – One Pork Loin |

    We want to provide our families healthy, preferably home-made meals. We want to balance our household budgets. And we want to do all of this while keeping the house in order, taking care of ourselves, and also getting the kids where they need to be when they need to be there.

    | Bring on the Crock Pot |

    Crockpot Island - TraveLangs
    Can you ever have too many crockpots?

    I have always been a huge fan of “leave it” meals. The kind I can put in a pot, walk away, and it will be ready when mealtime rolls around.

    One year, just before Thanksgiving, our oven died. We didn’t have time to replace the appliance before the big holiday, so I improvised. Almost every dish (we got a smoked turkey that year) was cooked in crock pots or other electronic appliances. I discovered I could LITERALLY cook anything in a crockpot.

    So I did.

    | More Meals from Less Money |

    The more I used my crock pots, the more recipes I found to use my crock pots – and the bolder I got in creating my own recipes. I also found that I could prep my crock pot meals, freeze them, and then all I had to do was put them in the crockpot the night before and I would have a great lunch or dinner when the time was right.

    About this same time, I discovered that our local Foodland Plus sold pork loin that was two feet long – which divided perfectly into four meals.

    (I keep an eye out for any big sales on meats. When they come along – and they do – then I pack them up to freeze for later).

    It’s like someone was watching out for me and helping me get this meal thing in order (and under budget).

    | The Crock Pot Meals |

    I set up freezer ziplock bags – one for each meal I’m going to work on. Then I add the meats, top with the other ingredients, seal the bag, label and date, and then freeze. When it comes time to cook, I cut the bag open and dump the whole frozen concoction into the crock pot.

    Cinnamon Pork

    2.5 lb pork loin
    ½ cup chopped onions
    2 tsp ground cinnamon
    ½ tsp coarse salt
    ½ tsp pepper
    1 cup beef broth
    1 tbsp chopped garlic (cause is it possible to have too much garlic?)

    Ginger Pork

    2.5 lb pork loin
    2 tsp ground ginger
    ½ cup onions
    1 tbsp chopped garlic
    ½ tsp coarse salt
    ½ tsp pepper
    ¼ cup honey
    1 cup beef broth

    Barbeque Pork

    (this is absolutely the easiest recipe)

    2.5 lb pork loin
    ½ cup chopped onions
    1 tbsp chopped garlic
    ½ tsp coarse salt
    ½ tsp pepper
    1 bottle barbeque sauce

    Traditional Pork Dinner

    2.5 lb pork loin
    ½ cup onion wedges
    1 tbsp chopped garlic
    ½ tsp coarse salt
    ½ tsp pepper
    1 ½ cup chopped carrots
    1 ½ cup chopped celery
    1 ½ cup baby potatoes (or 1 inch cubed)
    1 cup beef broth

    | Make it Work for You |

    I’ve shared some of the recipes I have used, but I should tell you that these measurements are guestimates on my part. I RARELY measure anything when I’m creating crockpot concoctions. A little salt, a little pepper, some onions, and some garlic and then I just add flavors I think will work.

    I do this with chicken as well.

    Most of my crockpot beef dinners involve ground beef and are more casserole than anything else.

    The more I have played around with the flavors, the more options I have discovered.

    What is your favorite crock pot cooking tip? Be sure you share in the comments below.

    The Mom

    Coming Soon!

    I’ll walk you through my idea of “once a month” cooking and share how putting the prep work in all at once paves the way for quick and easy meals.

    Tempting Veggie Tots that Made Cauliflower a Welcomed Visitor

    Tempting Veggie Tots that Made Cauliflower a Welcomed Visitor

    The Travelangs have been making an attempt to eat more vegetables and a wider variety of vegetables. That should read “The Mom” is making an attempt, but the rest of the TraveLangs are caught up in the journey.

    It all started when the Father-In-Law needed a change in diet. We started preparing all his meals and taking them to him. We wanted to make sure he had fruits and vegetables, so salad became a staple.

    It was only recently that he mentioned to my son that he has trouble chewing salad. I knew he had trouble with other things, but this information was new.

    I made it my goal to provide a full meal without salad as an option (fruit is only a rare option because of high blood sugar).

    So here we are. This week we have had zucchini chips, cheesy tomatoes, spinach loaf, butternut squash, roasted squash, green beans, and ratatouille (which included eggplant, a first for this mom) . . . and it’s only Wednesday.

    Today’s experiments . . . I mean recipes . . . involves a veggie I have never ventured into on purpose. Cauliflower and I have never talked. I’ve seen Cauliflower at parties and it has even visited some of my side dishes at restaurants. But I have never had an initial encounter.

    The Dad LOVES Cauliflower – which is once again proof positive that God does have a sense of humor.

    I will make a confession here. Several years ago, you couldn’t have paid me to make broccoli. It had just been a party companion to cauliflower. One day, my son asked if we could try it. So I did – because when your kids start ASKING for healthy choices you bite the bullet and make the healthy choices. Now I LOVE it.

    After a search for some veggie recipes, I decided I was going to have to extend Cauliflower an invitation.

    | The Cauliflower Saga |

    After my fiasco with ratatouille last night, I decided I should read the whole recipe I had downloaded for the cauliflower dish. The recipe for “Cauliflower Tots” came from CookBookMeals.com and looked simple enough.

    Full disclosure: “recipe” simply offers a starting point for my cooking. I, in no way, believe it is a directive – kind of like most people driving along Hwy 431 in Alabama feel about road signs and driving laws.

    | It Starts with a Pan |

    Not only does it start with a pan, but my goal for every meal is to keep it to one pan. That way there is less for me to clean up. We probably should buy stock in aluminum foil with as much as we use in our cooking (not to mention crockpot liners and parchment paper).

    The recipe called for softening the cauliflower in a skillet. Now, I’m prepared to invite Cauliflower into our home, but I’m not quite prepared to go out of my way for it. I decided to roast Cauliflower in the oven (and for those who are wondering I did have some great punchlines).

    Something else you need to know about me is I rarely measure things. I am a full-on “pinch, dash, splash” kind of cook

    I threw the roasted (and obviously happy) Cauliflower in the food processor, added some onion (what was left in the refrigerator of a sweet onion), about a tbsp. of garlic (because Garlic is ALWAYS invited), some salt and pepper, and chopped.

    After they were chopped together, I stirred in some seasoned bread crumbs. I had about a cup leftover of the Full Circle Italian Style Bread Crumbs I had purchased on Saturday from Foodland Plus in Guntersville (I really like these because they are not as fine as the store brand bread crumbs). I added in two eggs, stirred everything well, and then put the “tots” on the same pan that I had used for the Cauliflower roast.

    Finally, I baked at 425 degrees F, because that was what the oven was set to from the roast. I think the 400 degrees F suggested by the recipe might have provided a crisper finished product.

    | The Verdict |



    veggie tots for lunch


    It’s usually a good sign when everyone is popping the bites in their mouth when they walk through the kitchen. If Cauliflower continues to show up with such flavorful fanfare then Cauliflower will be welcomed in our home!

    Signed,

    The Mom

    P.S. Cleanup only took about 10 minutes total!

    What are some of your veggie favorites?

    The Insanity of Daylight Saving Time

    The Insanity of Daylight Saving Time

    I live in North Alabama in a rural community. My ruralness increases because we built our house in the woods, back away from the road and neighbors. It gets dark at night.

    I am an early riser . . . not by choice but by necessity. Home schooling three boys and writing in a full-time career required me to make quiet time to walk. Mornings became that quite time. I could get up, do my study time, get in some exercise just as dawn would break, and still have time to get work completed before the chaos ensued.

    Until . . .

    Winter brings on the longer periods of darkness, made even longer for me by the government’s determination to steal my morning. I spend the winter months longing for the burst of green that the Spring will bring, and the early mornings that will creep up along the way.

    I used to anyway. At some point, the government must have discovered my new found morning routine and set about to steal the light of my morning.

    I suspect the conversation went something like this.

    “We need more daylight.” Politician One said.

    The politicians had gathered from all around to correct the light problem.

    “I concur the we need more daylight.” Politician Two concurred. He had made his mark concurring.

    The politicians huddled around for days, talking some and sharing meals. The cries of yes announced that the answer had been discovered.

    “We will set all the clocks forward one hour and then we will have more daylight.” Head Politician declared the measure.

    The vote was unanimous. They all patted each other on the back and smiled for pictures. They had fixed the the problem

    I HATE Daylight Saving Time

    No matter what the clocks declare, the amount of daylight remains the same. Instead of driving home in the dusk or dark, commuters make that drive on the way to work. Instead of being able to start the day at sunrise, farmers start their day in the dark.

    Now, we just have the added core of resetting all electronics and clocks to the “right” time, which is the wrong time, until the fall colors sprinkle the ground (and then we have to reverse the process).

    Stop the Insanity

    You will never make a blanket longer by cutting off the bottom and sewing it to the top. All you do is increase your work and make the blanket a little less effective.

    Daylight Saving Time never worked and will never work. It is time to leave time alone!

    Signed,

    the Mom

    What do you think? Do you love DST or do you hate DST? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

    Keep it Simple When Planning Family Meals

    Keep it Simple When Planning Family Meals

    We have been on the go – not that we have ever not been on the go. We are down to one family car in a car of four drivers and that requires a LOT of going.

    For years, I would sit down on Saturday or Sunday and map out the menu for the upcoming week. There were times when I would get very optimistic and plan out a whole month. The month menus hit snags when I forgot to get certain items from the store. The week menu hit snags when I got caught up in work and forgot to start a meal.

    EVERYTHING hit a snag when we started this new “Go Schedule.” It is tough to follow a menu when you are not even in the house.

    I came up with a template for meals – one that would make use of all the food groups, the leftovers, and the convenience food (like cereal or bagels).

    There are several options for each of the main entrees in the pantry or in the freezer. Breaking down the entrees into this template means that we have no main course more than twice a week (except for leftovers). Any leftovers not utilized by Saturday night gets sorted into individual portions and frozen for future conveniences needs.

    There are still days when it life gets in the way or the going keeps going and the menu is ignored, but those days are fewer than ever before.

    [tweetthis]Keep meals on the table for your family even during chaotic times by keeping it simple[/tweetthis]

    Keep it simple – it is not just a great idea for life but it turns out it was the perfect solution for getting my family fed.

    What meal time tricks do you use? Share your thoughts in the comments below and be sure to link to your own meal time struggles or ideas.

    Download the Simple Template by clicking HERE

    Six Tips for Meals on the Go

    Six Tips for Meals on the Go

    Following a few simple tips can help you make the most of your meals on the go. Taking to the road does not mean you will leave a wake of fast food containers or restaurant receipts in your wake. I have learned from experience.

    Take the Meal on the Road

    Feeding my man family – two teenage manboys, a husband, and ready to be a man but not quite a pre-teen – almost requires taking out a loan when we stop at restaurants or fast food establishments. I long for those days when one meal could be spread out between a child and a parent . . . but I fear that longing will be all that I get to do.

    The kids are growing, and that means some creative meal planning when we are going to hit the road. As long as I think ahead and pack well, we can eat healthy and happy without having to hit a bank along the way.

    My Tips for Feeding the Family on the Go

    1. Offer something different (or maybe it would be better to say special). Road meals should be treats that will not be had at any other time. I have a fond memory of peanut butter and honey sandwiches that they gave us at summer camp, but only when we went on the canoe trip. I loved those sandwiches. That is one of my favorites for “only get this when we are on a road trip” meals. I up the healthy status by baking the loaf bread from scratch and using almond butter in place of the peanut butter.
    2. Keep the meal easy. The more moving parts to the meal, the more opportunities there will be for a train wreck – which means messes. I have taken the morning biscuit to a new level by modifying the sausage ball recipe. I added extra flour mix and several eggs so that the resulting “sausage baseball” is more of a well-rounded breakfast meal than just a meaty appetizer.
    3. Make sure that it can close. I have used drink bags and even canned items in the past, but sooner or later (and often both) a spill is going to happen. We have gone to individual water bottles that we use for hiking and camping. I can pack a container of sweet green tea and we know that even if the car makes a sudden stop the drinks will not end up everywhere. Be sure that the main container will also seal shut for that moment WHEN it tips over (because it will).
    4. Provide garbage cans for all the rows in the car. We have several of the little bathroom cans in the Suburban. We use the leftover plastic grocery bags to line the cans. This makes for easy cleanup. Be sure to empty the cans each time you stop – even if they are not yet to the point of being declared full. Roll up extra bags and keep them stored in the bottom of the can underneath the liner.
    5. Take a moment and eat outside the car. Use gas stops and bathroom breaks as meal breaks. You will have more opportunities to enjoy the unique scenery of the places you are passing through. You will keep the driver from trying to eat and drive (because something gets spilled or messed up no matter how nice the intentions). Most importantly, it helps to keep the car clean.
    6. Consider a travel cooler. We have several full-sized coolers that we use for camping and activities. Our travel cooler is about two feet by one foot and offers just enough space for some sandwiches and a few snacks. It is the perfect size for sitting in the middle of one of the rows of seats and it is easy to access while we are on the move.

    Eating on the road can become a fun part of family travel traditions. The right planning can help you save on your travel costs, but also allow you to see even more while you are out on an adventure. These top tips can help you make the most of your meals on the go.

    Let me know if they work for you and if you have any great tips for meals on the go.

    Signed,

    The Mom

    Backyard Field Trips – Steele Orchard

    Backyard Field Trips – Steele Orchard

    Every week my sons and I took a field trip. Keith worked a traditional job on only had the opportunity to attend on a few occasions. Some of the trips were just to local playgrounds while others were too amazing “backyard” locations – like Moundville, Alabama.

    I scheduled a few trips when son #3 came along, but the logistics soon became a nightmare. The older boys were NOT interested in trips that would entertain the youngest and I would have had to hogtie the youngest to do the trips the older boys would enjoy.

    It is a new season for the TraveLangs and that is opening up doors for field trips again.

    We took the first leap with a trip to a local orchard. I intend to do many more of these agricultural trips because the youngest has declared an interest in having his own farm.

    Goodies from Steele Orchard with TraveLangs

    The drive was easy enough, but I did pack snacks just in case the tour took longer than expected (or food was necessary just to make it home). Keith was able to make this one with us.

    I had forgotten how much “fun” (and by fun, I mean noisy, chaotic, squealing free play) that appears when a whole gaggle of homeschoolers gathers. The tour was also informative, although the orchard had the barn decorated for haunted house tours and the older boys were distracted on more than one occasion with the tunnels and decorations.

    Apple varieties at Steele Orchard with the TraveLangs

    The tour taught about bees, Johnny Appleseed, and apple varieties. The taste testing was one of the favorite stops for all.

    I appreciate small farms and growers that are continuing to not only pursue their passions but that open their doors to share those passions.

    Thanks to Steele Orchard for sharing with us. You can see more about the orchard by clicking the link and viewing the video Keith put together about the orchard and the fun we had.

    Watch the Video