In my last post I mentioned that I was preparing “simple” meals for my family. Someone recently asked me what I meant by that, and I thought it might be helpful to “share with the group,” so to speak.
Let me quickly clarify one thing: microwaveable, pre-made meals in a bag, and fast food do not fall into the simple category because they complicate life by creating health problems. 🙂
I’m working on emptying the freezer (see how full it was last June?) to make room for our whole beef from my dear friends at Rocky Glade Farm, so this week I have definitely been on a roll with simple dinners. It began on Monday, with our last whole chicken from Goose Pond Farm (I’ll be getting more of those later this month too!). I put it into the crock pot, frozen solid, and sprinkled some fresh herbs over the top. I put on the lid and turned the setting to “high” and forgot about it the rest of the day. About an hour before dinner, I chopped up some yukon gold potatoes and onion, tossed them in olive oil and fresh rosemary, and roasted them in the oven at about 400 degrees. Then I sliced up some squash and put it in a pot with some onion slices and a little water and let it simmer on the stove til it was tender. We had a yummy meal that came together with very little effort.
On Tuesday I remembered that we had some chicken breast from West Wind Farms. That was a rare treat because I always buy my chickens whole and in bulk. I had purchased this chicken breast anticipating our barren freezer. The chicken had already thawed, so about an hour before it was time to eat I prepared Garlic Lime Chicken from Leanne Ely’s cookbook, “Saving Dinner.” Basically you season the chicken and pan fry it. Simple. While that was cooking, I quartered the rest of our yukon gold potatoes, put them in a pot with water, and boiled them on the stove. When they were done I drained them, dropped in a big dollup of butter, and mashed them up with a big fork. We call them “fork mashed potatoes.” Yum. Finally, I opened a package of frozen green beans and steamed them on the stove according to the directions. When we sat down to eat I made sure there was plenty of butter to add to our potatoes and beans, and of course salt and pepper. You might have heard my kids raving about the chicken all the way to where you are. It was good! And SIMPLE.
So yesterday I scavenged through the depths of the freezer and came out with two little packages of swiss steaks, and one round steak. Basically they are the same thing, except swiss steaks have been run through a tenderizer. It is a fairly tough cut of meat. I let the meat thaw on the counter all morning, then right after lunch I dredged each piece in flour and browned it on the stove in coconut oil. Then I put it all into a 9×13 pan (it took two pans), poured all the drippings from the skillet over it, tossed in some sliced onion, covered it tightly, and put it in the oven at 250 degrees for the rest of the day. About 30 minutes before dinner, I made creamy succotash from a recipe I found in a Kroger magazine about 8 years ago. That involved boiling some frozen lima beans and corn in a pot of water, sauteeing some onion and garlic in a skillet, combining everything, adding some Hatcher Dairy whole cream and chopped up cherry tomatoes, and letting it simmer together just a few minutes. While that was in the works, I found enough fruit lying around to make a quick fruit salad: fresh strawberries, local blueberries, banana, and one apple. The baked steaks were falling apart tender – real comfort food! The succotash was colorful and creamy, and the fruit salad was cool and refreshing for a hot day. That was easy! Did I say YUM yet?
So that’s my simple menu for the week thus far. “Simple” can have several meanings. A one-dish dinner is simple. A crock pot meal is simple. Re-heating left-overs is definitely simple. But also, a basic “meat ‘n three” (or in my case meat ‘n two) is simple. Slow cook the meat all day and add a couple of sides and you’re done. Now that is simple.
Before I close I feel a strong need to add a gentle reminder about “simple.” Are you looking at my meal pictures and descriptions and feeling overwhelmed? You might enjoy this quote from a great post by Lydia at Frugal Granola:
She eyes me as I diaper my son in the Parent Room at church one Sunday morning. “It’s really not a big deal” I tell her, depositing the soiled diaper in my wetbag and stashing it in the diaper bag. “Just an extra two loads of laundry a week.” She nods, but still looks dubious. I know why.
I laughed out loud when I read this – this is so me! So often when I tell people something is so easy, they look at me dubiously. What is simple for me is not necessarily simple for someone else. Read on:
Living the simple life really isn’t about making things “easy” at all. It is about choosing to focus on the complexities of things that matter to you, and making space in your life for those things.
I think Lydia has nailed it. This lifestyle is a choice. In addition to eating the way we do, we have chosen to dramatically slow down our pace of life. We have let some things go so that we can focus on others. The meals I’ve shown you above work well for me because I am home every day. I’m not sitting around looking for things to do, but I’m home. This makes certain things possible for me that may not be possible for you. Please read the rest of Lydia’s post – it’s short and worthwhile.
Well now you know what is simple for me. I hope that I’ve been able to give you some good ideas for making simple meals at your house. Join me and the Well Fed Family on Facebook and share your ideas of simple but healthy meals!