Friday, July 24, 2020

A Quiet Life series: meal preparations...

Since my last post on living a quiet life I’ve had more time to consider the many and varied ways we can bring a sense of calm rhythm to our days, and I think that’s the key word – rhythm. Routine conjures up images of following a timetable, but rhythm has a swaying gentleness to it – in my mind at least.
I’ve often used that word to describe how I embroider. The rhythm of hand embroidery for me has always been an unrushed and quiet rhythm of needling one stitch after another without the pursuit of a quick finish, but rather an enjoyment of process and a delighted satisfaction at the end.

And that’s what I’ve been pondering with regards to the living of a quiet life, a life of purpose and productivity which is unhurried and lived day by day, a life that enhances our spirit and the hearts of those around us.

So I’m going to write a series of blog posts over coming weeks focusing on the many and varied aspects of living a quieter, simpler life, remembering that there is no one size fits all and what is simple to me may not be to you and vice versa – but the sharing of ideas and thoughts about this topic (please write about your own experience, ideas or thoughts in the comments below) will give us a wider view and hopefully encourage each of us.

Today I thought we’d begin with meals because of all the responsibilities around the home its menu planning and meal times which are an endless dance we must partner with.

You know, I’ve been well and truly sucked in to many different styles of diet, health and fancy cooking over the past twenty or so years, and whilst a ‘new’ way starts off well it rarely takes hold for more than a few months before I’m researching and experimenting with the next one.  Now, I’ve spent a little while thinking and praying this through recently and one question really resonated in my mind – “What do you keep going back to?” Such a simple question and surprisingly to me there was an equally simple answer - fresh fruits and vegetables (mostly raw), eggs from our own chickens, no meat, homemade bread, whole grains, minimal sugar and very little dairy. When I shared this with my husband he agreed.

We don’t need the chia seeds, the protein powders, acai, sprouted buckwheat, numerous nut oils, ground flaxseed, psyllium husks, pasture raised beef, kimchi, sprouted grains  etc etc…when we eat plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, bread, eggs, wholegrains and the odd sweet our tummies are satisfied, our taste buds happy and our health improves. All the things we enjoy are easily sourced locally, whereas with some of previous trips down ‘alternative lane’ I was buying ingredients online and even from overseas. I quite honestly shudder to think of how much money I’ve wasted over the years on products, powders and books that were purchased in the pursuit of health yet didn’t really make any difference.
We have achieved our greatest health benefits with those basics I mentioned as an answer to the question – “What do you keep going back to?”

This past week I’ve responded to that Q & A and prepared food we always go back to, and wow, how much simpler life in the kitchen became! I ditched the new recipes marked in a notebook and looked at what we had on hand, purchasing only fresh fruits and vegetables to supplement what was already in our fridge, freezer and pantry - because regardless of fads I still stock most things we enjoy and return to.

 Breakfast did not change; it always includes a variety of fresh fruit for both of us, and while hubby enjoys a bowl of cereal with coconut yoghurt after our fruit, I relish a bowl of porridge. From start to finish breakfast takes ten minutes or less to prepare and though I’ve made different things occasionally we both agree there’s no need to do that anymore…we love the simplicity of fruit and porridge/cereal and shall leave that meal as it is.

Last Friday the girls were here and I cut open the first of our recently harvested pumpkins. Cully May thought this was wonderful and after giving some to Blossom and our neighbour I still had half a pumpkin to play with on Monday when I prepared meals ahead for the week.

Simplifying life in the kitchen for me is being ahead of things with a number of prepared meals in the fridge or freezer, roasted vegetables ready to use in salads, eggs hard boiled, produce from the garden quickly made into a pickle (cucumbers) or crushed with garlic and onions for an easy bruschetta topping (tomatoes), and stewed fruits which I can scatter with toasted oats for a sweet dessert.

One large bowl of brown rice salad with fresh and roasted vegetables, dried cranberries and a very simple dressing becomes a work lunch for hubby twice in a week and lunch for me three days. Add a couple of slices of bread and half an avocado on the side (we seriously go through so many avocados each week) and both of us are happy as can be.  
Another week it might be a pasta, bulgur or cous cous salad and I'll scatter cashews, macadamias or pine nuts through and swap cranberries for dried cherries or apricots.

That pumpkin was roasted with garlic cloves and became a curried coconut pumpkin and coriander (cilantro) soup, as well as ten pumpkin & chick pea patties which I baked in the oven, keeping a few for small burgers and the rest popped into the freezer for another time. I washed the seeds and tossed them in cajun seasoning and salt before roasting for a delicious crunchy snack.

If I spend three hours in the kitchen two mornings a week the base of seven days meals are complete and I have extras in the freezer for nights when migraine has me relegated to the sidelines.

For more of his work lunches my husband likes rice paper rolls filled with cucumber, avocado, capsicum, carrot, spring onions, cherry tomatoes and fresh coriander (cilantro). It takes me around 12 minutes to make three because I have a rhythm in place now that I've made them so many times, and this is what I find when you begin to make a basic set of simple meals over and becomes second nature and time spent in the kitchen is wonderfully relaxed.  Following Nana's example, I am now choosing to follow a rotation of meals, the kind we go back to again and again, the meals we enjoy and which bless our bodies. 
I'll write a list of them over the weekend and create a shopping list from the ingredients that I can print up and mark off what is needed before I shop.

My own lunches this week have been either a bowl of the salad I made or rice cakes with almond butter and banana with a boiled egg if I'm extra hungry.

Sweets are easy and delicious too, especially using the food processor which I use more now than ever before. These little sugar-free date-based biscuits were mixed together in two minutes, rolled into balls, flattened and scattered with crumbled frozen raspberries. Baked for just 12 minutes we've enjoyed them for dessert this week alternating the nights we had blueberry and apple crumble with custard.

This may look nothing at all like your own simpler living menu plan, but I think you get the idea? 
By choosing to make the meals you naturally enjoy, the foods you return to again and again, you've already simplified your life in the kitchen. Did it drive you bonkers when the kids would ask numerous times a day "Mum, what's for dinner?" - it sure did to me! It wasn't until I wrote a three week rotating menu and stuck it to the front of the fridge that I discovered the bliss of not having to answer that question anymore (or to wonder what WAS I going to make for dinner that night).

But the underlying problem once we became empty nesters and I no longer thought I needed to make a long term menu plan was that I very quickly slipped back to questioning myself each day on what to make for dinner. I would ask my husband and he'd give me a blank look and answer "whatever you like is fine with me"...aah, frustrating because I didn't want to choose, I wanted someone else to tell me what to make. Like the menu plan on the fridge used to 'tell' me.
So looking back I can understand why Nana was never flustered or perplexed over what to make, and why I found meal prep easier when kids were still living at home.

Has this given you food for thought today? Pardon the pun. 
If you asked yourself the same question I did - “What (food/meals) do you keep going back to?” - what would your answer be? 
Do you have ideas for simplifying kitchen time?

I shall leave you today with a photo of Blossom's baby belly and the girls wearing the cardies I knitted them... a rare photo of me (taken yesterday) because I am often asked to share one.
Apparently it's nice to see who you're talking to or reading from? Ha ha! I understand.

I never wear makeup and my hair is natural but I do love dangling silver earrings - they match my hair.

Bless you dear one, how very much I appreciate each of you!

Loving hugs


  1. Freezers are such a wonderful invention! Every so often I'll make a batch of my veg lasagne mix and make a lasagne. The left over mix I freeze and can have on baked potatoes, or sometimes I have small pumpkin pancakes that I top with the sauce and cheese. I call it Pumpkin Pancake Parmigiana! I recently experimented with filled pasta and made my own version of a pasta bake. It's been a yummy addition to my lunches at work (that is, when I'm at work and not working from home).
    The girls look so cute with their cardigans on. It reminds me of some my Nanna knitted for us. Although she always had to get Papa to knit the cuffs and cast on because her tension was too tight!
    What is your recipe for the pumpkin and chickpea patties? They sound yummy!

  2. You are just beautiful, but I already knew that from your writing. :)

  3. Dear Jenny I am reading your blog quite a while now and I love your embroidery so much. A few month ago I decided to change to mostly vegan diet (because of my systemic lupus, migraine, asthma etc.) And then I read that you are changing your diet as well. I am impressed how fast you adjusted your meals and about your ideas. I love this post about this "going back". I searched a lot for good and simple recipes. But many of them use some substitutes which I don't like. So I asked myself: would you mind sharing your rotating mealplan with us? I know your time is precious and I don't want to bring pressure to you. I am not asking for recipes, only the ideas about what to eat and how to rotate. Thank you for your wonderful blog, patterns, tutorials, ideas and work you do for us readers. You are a blessing. Love Heike from Germany

    1. I'll share a rough example sometime next month. Just need a bit of time as we've just begun this new rotating menu. :-)

    2. Oh dear Jenny, I am so glad you will. For me this rotating meal plan is completly new. So I will be glad to learn about. Thanks a lot in advance! Take care and be blessed. Love Heike from Germany.

  4. So nice to see you. The girls are growing like weeds. Their sweaters are as cute as them. Thanks for sharing your time and thoughts with me .

  5. Hi Jenny,
    Great photo's :)
    Yes, it's nice to try new things once and a while but we enjoy the tried and true. Now the potatoes and carrots with a bulb of garlic are roasting in the oven. We'll enjoy them soon with honey mustard dill dressing and tomorrow another hearty salad meal will be created.
    Kale has always been eaten here ...cooked together with kale..."stampot" a winter staple. for an idea
    but every house hold has their own recipe :)

  6. Thank you for this. It is exactly what I needed to hear today as I am once again struggling with food choices (mostly bad) and how to get out of this cycle. I am going to work on my list of favorite healthy dishes this weekend. Thank you for steering me in the right direction.

    1. Neescee, did you join my Faith In Hand club today? If the 'neescee' membership I received is you please know that the Paypal email address I was given is not valid so I cannot contact you or send you the patterns. Please email me.

  7. You're so right, Jenny! My husband has been telling me for years I need to make a rotation menu and you've inspired me to do just that! It's so simple and freeing! We eat three solid meals a day :) it seems all we do is eat, lol. I retreat to my sewing room after breakfast, come down to make lunch, go back up and come back down around 4:30/5 to make supper. We like to eat early (just don't seem to digest well if we eat later, guess that's part of aging too.) You are beautiful inside and out, Jenny. I'm so glad you're in my cyber life. Hugs, Diane

  8. Bonsoir c'est Françoise de France
    Oui moi aussi j'aimerai que vous nous indiquer comment faire une rotation .J'aime beaucoup la cuisine simple mais je manque d'imagination ...
    Merci pour votre photo , vous êtes une belle personne ,vous savez donner de l'amour .Merci Jenny

  9. Blossom's baby belly and the girls are just adorable. YOU are so beautiful, jenny...inside and out. Your hair is gorgeous.

  10. What a wonderful post! I could just smell and taste the delicious foods you made. My husband is the cook in our household. And he agrees with you about meal choices. He is fine making dinner if I can just decide what to have. It's not always easy. We do have some favorites that we have often. I miss our garden but after several years of having one, it got to be too much work once I wasn't able to help with it much. So we have to rely on the grocery store for all our produce. Last night was a big salad which is a favorite of ours and believe it or not, our puppy. He loves lettuce and most of the fixings. He doesn't get dressing of course and no sweet pepper rings or olives. But carrots, pasta, chicken or ham, peas, kidney beans or chick peas, oh yes! Especially chicken and pasta. Please mommy, can I have some more?

    Love the picture of Blossom and the girls! Cully has the most beautiful smile! You and Mr. E are so blessed.

    May the Faeries Shine Upon You!

  11. Your hair is pretty, is it short or just pulled back?

    1. Hi Joy, my hair is short. I love it long but it's thick and the weight of it triggers migraines, even when piled atop my head in a bun. It's also extremely hot in the tropics and a short cut is much cooler.

  12. Yes, wondering what to cook, asking my husband and getting a blank look and "Whatever" answer was my biggest problem, too. But we didn't have many dishes we kept going back to. My mom cooked for a husband who did hard physical labor, but farm meals are way too much and too heavy on the meat. I have thought I'd like a lot of what you've posted, but except for the sweets, husband didn't think so. We ended up solving the problem when we were give a Dinnerly (meal service here in usa) box. We really weren't expecting much, but the meals a simple and healthy, basic in-season food, often vegetarian meals (could be all veggie), and best of all I don't have to think about what to cook. I'm actually enjoying cooking again. Now, even if we discontinue the service, I've learned new meals for two that we really like.

  13. Thank you Jenny for your inspiration on leading a simpler life. I started a weekly menu a while ago now after reading your blogs and it works so well. I make a shopping list and my Hubby does the shopping for me. He also suggests meals that he has enjoyed to go on the menu. A collaborative task. I only wished I had done this years ago when our lovely ones were growing up and I was working. I too use to get Mum what’s for dinner? I feel organised now!

  14. Hello Sweet Jenny! As always, I so enjoyed this post. I'm the same with taking only rare photos. I've tried to get better about it, thinking family in years to come, even after I'm gone, will appreciate it. I wished so much that I had more pics of my grandparents and even further back. So thank you for sharing! I already feel we are kindred spirits and would be rest friends if we lived close together! Your girls are precious. Their cardies are darling! Food, good ole southern style comfort foods. I've been trying to incorporate less meat and more raw veggies. I take care of my 93 year old dad and he loves his food the way he's always enjoyed it:). Thank you again for sharing life with us! You are such a blessing! xx

  15. I've been keeping the 8 month old Grandson for the past three weeks and prepping meals one day a week has been a lifesaver! Yes, it's hard to do all in one day's time but the bonus is that come end of a day with baby, I have a meal ready prepared and all we have to do is heat and eat. I shall not give up this little habit! I am also falling back more and more on the meals we ate when our children were home. I'll try the occasional new recipe but mostly I want the old favorites, easy to fix, well known and thrifty.

  16. Just one word......Amen!!!

  17. Speaking of food, health issues, etc., I am also on that train due to my health, altho being thinner would be a huge bonus...been collecting recipes, etc and came across this delightful website: and you might enjoy some of their recipe ideas as well...they are vegan too. Their weight loss is beyond amazing. Even if one does not need to loose weight, if you have allergies, well I find I am always on the hunt for substitute things that taste at least ok. I enjoy all you share here. May you be blessed!

  18. You have such a healthy glow about you Jenny.

  19. That sounds a wonderful menu to me, actually. I love almost all fruits and most vegetables, too. Thanks so much for sharing some ideas to think about. I always go back to meals that are quick. When I lived alone, I made pots of vegetable soup, or 15-bean soup, and ate salads a lot. Needless to say, I have gained weight since then. LOL I also don't get enough exercise, especially since the virus stuff. I'm going to have to think about this carefully to address both issues. Your girls are all so adorable. And so are you. Love you, Jenny!

  20. So obvious to stick with the foods you like and know that it is easy to overlook! Nothing too fancy here although I love spicy food and Philip is not keen so I somethimes find myself making two variations of the same meal! But then that hour before dinner with a glass of wine and the radio news is one I look forward to every day so creating something to suit us both is a pleasure. We both have very different tastes in food so it is always going to be a compromise but one I am happy to work with. Your date biscuits sound delicious. Lovely picture Jenny and beautiful picture of Blossom and the girls. xx

  21. Beautiful picture of Blossom, the girls and their beautiful cardies!! I never used to think about food much, but since my dad died, I have stopped cooking just for me. I'll eat raisin bran cereal for breakfast and a green salad with some soup for dinner. After being in hospital in May, finding out I need surgery and everything topsy-turvy, it is all I can do to eat those two small meals a day. I'll have to be changing my diet post-op for a month, then again when I can start eating the "new normal". I find I don't want much meat, but when I do, I prefer chicken, turkey and occasionally pork. Should be interesting when I can finally go home with a hubby who likes his beef or any other meat and vegetable. I don't like many vegetables or fruits, he loves vegetables but no fruits. I have to watch his carbs (diabetic) as well as my need for high fiber now! I like the idea of having a rotating menu as well as having a hubby who is quite a good cook!

  22. Oh gosh I used to do the same thing - I had a month's worth of meals, planned them out so we weren't eating chicken four days in a row, and shopped from my rotating menu. It was bliss! I do still have Sam at home, but he's never here for dinner - works afternoons - so it's just me and hubby, and he can't eat half the things I like anymore. Actually, if it was just up to me, I'd have raw veggies for dinner every night.
    Thankfully we have a freezer stocked with hamburgers, hot dogs, and pot pies for when I'm stumped (and out of veggies, which hubby won't touch). Love the pics of the girls!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  23. Those little girls always make me smile. Their cardigans are lovely on them. xx

  24. I enjoyed this portion of your newsletter. Thank you. I would love to have the recipe for the squash patties.they look yummy

  25. Jenny your blogs always leave me feeling calmer and envious of your lifestyle. Reading of your cooking and abundant supply of pumpkins reminded me of the pumpkin pikelets our mum cooked and I thought uou might like to try. Just add 1 cup of cold mashed pumpkin to your favourite pikelet recipe, using less milk to make the correct consistency. We loved them warm straight from the pan and slathered in melting butter and honey, jam, or my favourite just sprinkled with a little sugar. My mouth waters just at the memory. I hope you enjoy. God bless Jenny to you and your precious family.

  26. Jenny I used to do this when the children were small and life was so busy. I was still planning a week ahead but decided to do a 3 week plan when I read your post. My question is - why did I ever stop? It's so easy not to have to think about food. I can take my plan, write my weeks shopping list and I'm done in about 5 minutes, no more sitting chewing the end of a pencil trying to think of something different, and I use everything up so absolutely no waste. Thank you Jenny for reminding me of this.

  27. My family and I plan what we’re going to eat for the week Sunday after church while eating breakfast. We really onl6 plan our main dish, but that’s enough for me. During the school year the crockpot is my friend.

  28. I am so happy to be a homemaker and my garden might not have much it is such a joy. I am learning about dehydration my veggies and fruit, so much fun. I use what I have and no gadgets. I can't believe how much people spend on makeup and lotions. I am the way I am and God has been so good to me.

  29. Ahh Jenny, with a face like yours you don't need makeup! What a beautiful picture and your smile expresses your heart full of God's love. I so enjoy and an encouraged by your blog. I love the way you meal prep...instead of making the full meal, prepping ingredients to have on hand and be able to change your mind about what to cook each day rather than eating the same leftovers for days. I am single and had started to just clean and prep individual ingredients when I came home from the shops. I just love that way of meal prep and since I have been doing it this way I rarely have stuff to through out because I forgot about it and it went bad.


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