Keeping Holiday Food Simple

Welcome to the November edition of the Simply Living Blog Carnival – Enjoyment cohosted by Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children and Laura at Authentic Parenting. This month, we write about what food and how we simplify things related to it in our lives. Please check out the links to posts by our other participants at the end of this post.

We tend to be pretty low key on the holidays. Foreseeing issues of demands on holidays, we made it rule when we first were married that we would spend holidays at our home. If we invited someone to share the day(s) with us, that was fine, but we were not going to be dictated to concerning where we would spend our time. Our family traditions and festivities have changed a bit through the years, as we have blended the traditions I grew up with and the ones my husband grew up with, cut out ones that didn’t speak to us, and added others that had meaning for our family. Becoming parents has helped us a lot in that aspect, as we look at what we really want to do with our children and what baggage would be better left behind.

Food is a struggle for many families. I can’t tell you how many horror stories I have heard about getting the perfect holiday dinner on the table. I can’t say I really understand. In my experience, you really can’t mess it up. Trust me, my husband has unintentionally tried messing up the  turkey in multiple ways, and the truth is, no matter what has happened, they always come out nice and juicy with wonderful flavor…all without the martyrdom of getting up at 2 AM to cook the perfect meal.

So how do we simplify things to keep the crazy out of the day? To start with, we have a holiday dinner. It makes the meal feel a little more special, and there is no mad “running around like a chicken with its head cut off.” (Thanks to my mother for her visual descriptions which still pop into my head to this day.) There is no rush and we can take our time and start dinner on our schedule. If people are visiting from far away, they have plenty of time to arrive or wake up at our house and just chill.

A crucial part of the day, though, is that we don’t cook any other meals. That doesn’t mean we starve our children. That would be a disaster. Instead, all food leading up to the main meal is finger food/appetizer stuff. We have veggie platters with dip, fruit platters with fondue, platters with meats, crackers, and cheese. We make our favorite appetizers that we normally wouldn’t make. All of these activities are family time. Our children love making fun and unique food, and since we have so many other appetizers, there isn’t a need to make a ton of any of them. People graze all day, going into the kitchen when they are hungry and helping themselves. You can’t get any more low key than that. Visting friends and family also love it. They can wander in and not feel like they have to take something or shouldn’t take something. If they bring food, we just add it to the buffet. And with all of the resulting free time? We get to do whatever we want: watch a family movie, play board games to our hearts content, snuggleup with a good book, or just talk.

It’s a tradition that has worked well for our family for a long time and one that I absolutely love.

photo credit: tres.jolie via photopin cc


Thank you for visiting the Simply Living Blog Carnival cohosted by Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children and Laura at Authentic Parenting. We hope you will join us next month!

  • Seeking Balance – At Sagetribe, Kelly speaks about how their journey as a family has very much been marked by their journey into finding and learning about real food. From veggie burgers made and immediately frozen to homemade breads and cheeses, they’ve found the best way to find balance in their food story, is to keep simple ingredients on hand.
  • Keeping Holiday Food Simple – At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy shares how her family has developed a holiday tradition with food that allows her family to enjoy the day rather than slaving away.
  • Grain-Free Crock Pot Baked Potato Soup Recipe – A hearty and delicious crock pot soup recipe helps to simplify food planning and preparation for any family. Amy at Anktangle shares her tried-and-true recipe for loaded baked potato soup—made without any grains or flours. What’s more: it freezes well for reheating later!
  • Feeing a Family in the Middle of Nowhere – At Authentic Parenting, Laura writes about the many ways she has found over seven years of living in the middle of nowhere to feed her family paleo.
  • The Mind is a Wonderful Thing to Taste – Zoie at TouchstoneZ sees cooking with her family as a mindfulness practice and as service to her family.

Share your posts on simplifying meals, great simple recipes, healthy eating, and more. Just link up any old or new posts between now and December 19, 2013.

Vegetables That Promote Bone Health and a Recipe for Fennel-Dill Artichokes

I am happy to host a guest post today from Elaine Rosales. As our family continually strives to work on  our diet regarding food allergies and healthy living, nutrition is a topic which comes up at our house more and more. We are attempting to balance simplicity with nutrition and moderation. Check out Elaine’s awesome recipe!


Vegetables That Promote Bone and Joint Health

artichokesMany people, especially those nearing their senior years, are now looking for effective ways to take good care of their bones and joints. This is very important, because as you reach your 30s, your bone mass will start to gradually decline.

Many think that the best way to stop or reverse bone loss is to take high doses of supplements, such as calcium. But here’s the truth: you can actually keep your bones strong and healthy simply by modifying your diet. You will be surprised and happy to know that there are natural substances that can help keep your joints and bones healthy even as you age.

The Potential Benefits of Fennel

According to one study in the International Journal of Molecular Medicine, eating fennel seeds may have a beneficial effect on the loss of bone mineral density, as well as on bone mineral content.

The research says that fennel helps reduce osteoclast differentiation and function, which helps to decrease bone turnover markers and offers a protective effect on the bones. Osteoclasts are cells that break down weakened bones, while osteoblasts are cells that build them back up.

Fennel, also called bronze fennel or common fennel, is a plant that produces both a seed-like fruit and a leafy growth used as an herb. It is actually a treasure trove of nutrients: it contains folate, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, phytonutrients, and antioxidants.

Try This Simple Fennel Recipe: Fennel-Dill Artichokes


4 artichokes

1 cup carrots, quartered lengthwise

1 cup fennel or celery, thinly sliced

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup melted coconut oil

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

2 tablespoons or more fresh dill, chopped

½ teaspoon salt

Black pepper



  1. Trim the tips of the artichoke leaves and cut off the stems, so they sit upright.
  2. Put the artichokes in a large pot, add water until they’re properly covered, and bring to a boil. Cover the pot, reduce heat, and let simmer until just barely tender. This takes about 15 minutes. Drain.
  3. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. Mix the carrots, celery, and fennel, and then spread evenly in a baking dish. Put the artichokes in an upright position on top of the vegetables.
  5. Mix the coconut oil, olive oil, fennel seeds, lemon juice, salt, dill, and sprinkle with black pepper. Pour all over artichoke mixture.
  6. Cover the baking dish and bake until all the vegetables are tender. This takes about 45 minutes.

This recipe makes four servings. Remember that this is a high-starch dish, so eat it in small amounts. You can also combine it with a protein and fat meal.

Don’t Miss Out on Other Healthy Vegetables

Fennel is just one example of a vegetable that has beneficial effects for bone health. High vegetable intake is actually associated with positive effects on bone mineral status for many years. Vegetables supply your body with bone health-promoting nutrients, like potassium and vitamin K1.

Potassium is needed by your body to help keep your body fluid pH levels at an optimal range. Sufficient potassium intake can help optimize your sodium to potassium ratio, which is an important factor for ensuring optimal bone mass.

However, if you eat a diet loaded with processed foods (which are high in sodium but low in potassium), there’s a high chance that your potassium to sodium ratio will be far from optimal and will set the stage for many health ailments.

In conclusion, eating a diet rich in high-quality, organic, and locally-grown vegetables – while ditching high-sodium processed foods – will help you to increase your bone density and strength naturally, and will help decrease your risk of developing fractures.

Remember, though, that healthy eating is just one aspect of bone and joint health – you need to combine it with other natural lifestyle strategies, such as optimizing your vitamin D levels, exercising regularly, and getting enough  high-quality sleep.

About the Author

Elaine Rosales enjoys reading articles written by Dr. Mercola. She is currently researching different treatment protocols for joint pain, and how optimal joint health greatly depends on various natural lifestyle strategies such as proper diet, exercise, and sufficient rest.

photo credit: minwoo via photopin cc

Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Torte (GF/DF)

What makes pumpkin better? Chocolate!


Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Torte (GF/DF)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the following over gentle heat:

  • 1/2 cup dairy free chocolate chips
  • 2 TBSP. oil

Mix the following:

  • 3 large eggs and 2 egg whites or 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • frshly grated nutmeg (however much smells right to you)
  • pinch of salt

Add the melted chocolate to your batter and continue mixing.

Add to a 9 inch spring form pan that has been greased well (wax paper on the bottom also helps). Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes, until the torte is jiggly in the middle but holds together. Allow to cool and remove from pan.

Melt 1/4 cup of dairy free chocolate chips and a smidge of oil. Drizzle across the top of the torte.

Chill torte before serving.


Note: I typically freeze my pumpkin puree in 2 cup increments, so I make two tortes and freeze one for later!

Pumpkin Hot Chocolate (dairy free)

Fall screams pumpkin, and much to my husband’s chagrin, we try to incorporate pumpkin into a lot of dishes……including, apparently, hot chocolate!

Pumpkin Hot Chocolate (dairy free)

Blend the following ingredients:

  • 3 cups almond milk
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 4 1/2 TB. maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • a sprinkling of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 3 TB. cocoa powder

Heat over gentle heat until warmed through to your liking. Garnish with miniature marshmallows as desired.


Homemade Marshmallows (corn free)

My children were so excited about cooking over our new fire pit, that they decided we really needed some marshmallows. Our marshamallows turned out not to work very well for roasting, as they melted off of the roasting sticks. However, they were light, fluffy, and absolutely delicious.

  • 2 Tablespoons unflavored gelatin
  • 8 Tablespoons cold water
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • powdered sugar (make your own for a corn free version)

Dust an 8 or 9 inch glass dish with powdered sugar. In a small bowl, soak the unflavored gelatin in the 8 Tablespoons of cold water. Set aside. Combine the granulated sugar and 1/2 cup water in a saucepan. Cook and stir until dissolved. Add gelatin and bring to boil. Pour into mixing bowl and let cool slightly. Add salt and vanilla. Beat with your electric mixer  until soft and doubl ein volume. Pour into prepared pan and let cool. When ready, cover top with more powdered sugar. Gently work loose from pan and dump onto ctting surface. Cut into squares and dip in powdered sugar. Keep in air tight container for up to three weeks.


June’s theme for the Families Create! challenge was adventure, and our participants didn’t have to go far to find some. Check out these adventures that were found in the backyard or around town:

Carrie at Love Notes Mama writes about a sensory adventures you can take in the rain without ever leaving home.

Hannah @ WildParenting discovered that being outdoors with your kids is bound to turn into an adventure when their family decided to try camping together.

Dionna at Code Name: Mama and her family created an impromptu summer adventure complete with water play, a bus ride, and a picnic.

Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children built a backyard fire pit with the help of her children, which necessitated the ultimate campfire accessory – marshmallows!

Please join the Families Create! Make and Play Challenge in July. This month’s theme is swashbucklers!