Tuesday, September 7, 2010

spinach white bean soup (and how we're planning to survive our school year)

i've gotta say, while we've been fairly sure throughout our thirteen years of parenting that we've been called to homeschool our kids at home,  there have been lots of times i've been equally sure my Papa thought we could handle more than we knew we could.  he's pretty good at knowing, though, and so i try to dive in and figure out how it is He wants me to adapt and grow through each season.

this year we start off (having promised to school through summer again and, well, NOT having done so, at least formally...) teaching an 8th grader, a 7th grader, a 5th grader who's halfway into 6th, a second grader who's got middle child syndrome, and a blue-eyed-baby-boy who's adorable and up-to-no-good... and who likes to sing and talk at the top of his lungs... all.day.long.  we plan to complete this school year ahead of where we "should" be, and do it while running our photography business and sharing the job of teaching.  huh.

one way i plan to survive is getting back to menu planning.  i went to a party years ago (thanks, tami's cousin-in-law!) where all the ladies brought recipes and shopping lists to compile into massive recipe/menu planner notebooks.  i've adapted the concept to fit recipes that:

-are higher in whole grains and fiber and protein
-are lower in "bad" carbs (read: white stuff :)  )
-are primarily whole foods recipes (with some raw recipes thrown in and some "junk" recipes for fun)
-are fairly easy to prepare
-are reasonably priced
-are a good mix of "unusual" and familiar

in a three-ring binder i've placed sections of five "dinner" recipes for each week, with a grocery list in a pocket at the front.  there are three copies of each list, so i shouldn't have to reproduce them for a while.  my goal is to automate the process of meals as much as possible, so we can eat well but still "do" the rest of our lives.  weekends are a free-for-all, which will leave room for crazy creativity, too, if we're up for it!  friday nights are taco nights, so we'll have an extra recipe to make ahead or share.

the idea is that any of us can pick a recipe from the week we've chosen and throw together a quick, healthy meal  (and that my awesome hubby, who is rapidly becoming a true renaissance man, but who is prone to buy-one-get-one-free items that may not be our healthiest options, can grab the shopping list for and go!).

oh, good gravy, i've misspelled my own name in the above watermark.  don't look.  i told you not to look!  :)

then, and here's the part i think will really help us, i've assigned a different menu category for each day's breakfast and lunch, and a kiddo to be in charge of it, based on age and ability.

in the back of the binder, there are simple recipes the kids can choose from for their category, asking me to add the items they need to the grocery list.  (for instance, there's a "hot cereal" section for b. to choose from for his morning.)  this should help automate things, still giving our young chefs some creative license.  (and because we've taught them to love to cook independently, i have to be prepared for things like cinnamon added to yellow rice and chicken.  which was actually pretty yummy.  :)  )

there are also some "stock" snack items that they are ok to grab during the day - these will be permanent grocery list items.

if all goes well, i hope to have some batters and breads frozen to grab from for those days when we're in a huge hurry.

this week we tried it, and it was great for the days we stuck to our schedule.  looking forward to week two!  and here are a couple images from our recipe list this week (with the spinach white bean soup, especially for lori!).  enjoy!

the beginning of e's "grain salad."  yummy, crunchy cucumber.

we have a cool pot my mom got me for Christmas one year that has a strainer for cooking pasta, topped by a steamer basket.  we steamed broccoli, carrots, onions, garlic, and smoked lite turkey sausage (yes, i know, we have an obsession with sausage in this house...) while our whole wheat pasta spirals cooked.

the end result: we tossed all the ingredients with emeril's balsamic dressing recipe.  delish.

the proud chef.  pretty sure even emeril himself couldn't have done better!

and from j's day, the promised spinach and white bean soup.  (adapted from my next door neighbor's soup with arugula.  i like spinach better.  :)  )

simple spinach and white bean soup

2-3 cloves garlic
one onion
one bag fresh spinach
(we supplemented with frozen spinach, a good thing to have in the freezer)
1/2 cup white wine
2 cans cannelini beans, rinsed and drained (love the creamy texture)

sautee the onion in 2 tablespoons olive oil.  add garlic and beans and season to taste with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper (in our house there's almost no such thing as too much cracked black pepper!)

 add 6 cups water and the wine.  leave a lid to partially cover the soup, allowing it to reduce as it cooks.

stir in the frozen spinach, if using, and simmer for 30-45 minutes.  if using fresh spinach, wait to toss in until the last 15 minutes of simmer.

taste and adjust seasonings... enjoy!  (if you like, with whole wheat beer biscuits. heavenly!)


Jordyn said...

Ok, you know how much I love food...but the pictures of your menu planning make my heart jump! I love it. When I watch chefs plan menus I often cry :). Love, love, love the recent recipes! Keep 'em coming (I'll need them to feel close to home)

Champion Builders said...

I am totally trying that soup. I make a white bean soup with garlic and parsley that everyone here loves. I'll definitely try this one too :) Thanks.

NadineW said...

Oh. My. Goodness. Angela, I am so proud of you for being so organized with your meal planning!!! I have been in terrible, desperate need of accomplishing the same thing for our family. Thanks for being that big, wake-me-up, glass of cold water in the face, splash of inspiration and swift kick in the pants that I needed to get me going! Love ya, sis!

Gingerbread Mommy said...

I sooo have to start stealing your whole foods recipes. I am on my way to veganism (I'll be skipping your sausage recipes), and need to cook yummy stuff for my family!