Our meal plan for the school year is ready to go! It’s a little too big for the scanner window; the left hand margin is cut-off, it reads Breakfast, Morning Snack, Lunch, Afternoon Snack, Dinner, & Evening Snack. If you click on it, you can read it better. I wrote mine over a watercolor and it will be laminated and posted on the fridge.
A Little Food For Thought…
Most of us are familiar with the story of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. But while many are caught up in the theological drama of original sin and falling from grace, and still others are explaining away literal interpretations in favor of an archetypal metaphor, I am stuck on the fruit.
What is this? There was a fruit that could convey the knowlegde of good and evil? And yet another that allowed one to live forever (must be loaded with antioxidants!)? I want some!
Interestingly, the Bible is not the only place we hear about food possessing amazing qualities. Eastern medicine is replete with all sorts of characteristics linked to specific foods. While our American culture tends to limit food’s nuances to the scientifically measurable (How many calories? How much fat? Which vitamins?), my love affair with the natural world has me practically assigning personality traits to the veggies on my plate!
Steiner also indicated certain foods were more appropriate for specific constitutions or ages. While I enjoy his recommendations and find wisdom in them, I have found my children intrinsically know what is best for them already. My middle child won’t touch ANY fruit. And yet, his watery constitution sends him to the bathroom several times a day. I am pretty sure he’d never leave the bathroom if he was eating fruits. My oldest is the opposite. He has a very dry constitution and he begs for fruit constantly (“Mom, can I have something cold and juicy?” he asks at snack time). He knows what he needs. Neither of my sons, when little, wanted veggies AT ALL. We didn’t force the issue, but provided plenty of raw milk, in essence running the chlorophyll and green right through the cow and handing it to our children in the form of white goodness. Now, coinciding with losing his first few teeth, my eldest is happily eating more than just carrots, peas, celery with peanut butter, corn, and potatoes- he wants broccoli, green beans, and mushrooms as well. And then my daughter was born loving vegetables and berries (no other fruits, and no carbs). At 20 months, she can down an entire pint of “blue-bees”, nurse, and call it a meal. While I’ve met other mothers who worry “is my child getting enough of x-y-z”, I’ve found the key to healthy eating is to provide them with plenty of high quality foods, let them choose what they like, and watch them flourish! The more you battle with them over what they eat, the more eating becomes a session of passive-aggressive battles of the will; and the more, I fear, we are isolating them from their God-given intuition (that same one which tells us pregnant mamas what to eat and when!).
Grain of the Day…
My favorite piece of dietary advice associated with Steiner and Waldorf rhythm is regarding the grains. Each grain corresponds with a “cosmic influence”, or planet which is perhaps dominant in the skies during the grains’ period of growth or harvest, raying down upon it. As each day of the week has a name originating with a certain planet (Sun for Sunday, Moon for Monday, etc), you can simply match the day’s planetary namesake with the grain it has influenced in its trek through our sky. In the wake of a food sensitivity and grain intolerance explosion (due I believe to the overprocessing, over hybridizing, and overconsumption of a very few grain products), the Grain A Day concept is wonderful in terms of including variety- the spice of life! And consistent with the Qualities of Food idea called forth by the Garden of Eden fruit and Eastern dietary consciousness, each grain has qualities, too.
Grains are very economical, especially when bought in bulk bins at the natural food store. The one caveat with grains is a bit of special preparation to truly unlock their vitality- in ancient times, grains were harvested and left in sheaf for three Sundays. Modern harvesting does not account for this special time during which fermentation and/or moisture from rains and dew deactivate enzyme inhibitors (which keep the grain from sprouting should it need to remain dormant for better conditions), rendering the grain far more digestible, slightly more like a vegetable than a carbohydrate in make-up, and bursting with life. We can mimic these conditions by soaking whole grains overnight (sometimes a bit of acidic or probiotic-rich medium is recommended to assist the process- perhaps a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, whey, or yogurt which is later rinsed off). The cookbook Nourishing Traditions also includes recipes for preparing grains in the form of flours, too (such as the sourdough process).
The grains are what carry my food plan, providing me with structure to build around. Without a meal plan I am lost; my mind is generally so full of news bulletins from my 6 year old, flashes of inspiration from the heavens, and that always-thinking-at-least-five minutes-ahead that characterizes life with an adventurous toddler- that I draw a blank if I have to come up with a meal idea on short notice. Chaos ensues as blood sugar drops! So the real backbone to our family life, homeschooling success, and overall well-being is a good meal plan. I try to incorporate the grain of the day at least once, maybe twice- in a main meal and a snack.
Sunday’s grain is wheat. Wheat is cooling, nourishes the heart/mind (much as sunlight does!), mildly astringent, and is a good “building” grain (meaning those who are trying to lose weight or are prone to growths or tumors would do best to avoid it). However, because the wheat we are used to today has been overeaten in its refined (and often rancid- flours should be refrigerated as wheat germ oil goes bad quickly) form, and greatly hybridized (for resistance to the disease smut), it is often poorly digested. Cedar Ring Papa has trouble with it, so we use spelt, which is an older variety of wheat truer to the original, and can be substituted very well for wheat flour in most recipes. It also boasts a higher nutrient profile- more protein, fat (the good kind!) and fiber. We buy our whole spelt in 25 lb bags for a bulk discount, and grind it with our grain mill (I can’t believe what they charge for those tiny pre-packaged bags of spelt flour!).
We incorporate wheat on Sundays in sandwiches at lunch and and our afternoon snack- organic snack crackers which I spread with nut butter and sandwich together. Our meal plan centers around my attempts to find a worship service to attend as a family; a big breakfast to hold us over, quick lunch when we get home, and an old-fashioned Sunday feast for our evening meal. Lest “breakfast casserole” sound boring to you, I sort of lump in any conglomeration of ingredients bound by egg and cooked in one dish in this category- frittatas, quiches, stratas, souffles… once a month, I make a double batch of a casserole so I have a Sunday off, and the other two weeks we do something exotic like Cheddar Bacon Spoon Bread, Cheddar-Polenta Puff, or Egg & Hash Brown Pie. Many breakfast casserole recipes can be poured into muffin tins and baked as individual pies (my kids love these). Experiment!
Monday’s grain is rice. Rice is fairly neutral in its effect on the constitution which makes it a pretty good choice for everyone. It is especially beneficial in its effect on the nervous system, possibly because of its high B vitamin content. It doesn’t need to be soaked or fermented the way other grains do.
I always make a huge pot of brown rice on Monday mornings, and we use it in various ways throughout the week. It is often an emergency back up meal- scramble some eggs in a cast iron pan, toss in frozen mixed veggies and refrigerated brown rice with some coconut or sesame oil and soy sauce and you have 5 minute veggie fried rice! There is no lack of ways to incorporate rice into your meals- google brown rice porridge, brown rice pudding, rice balls, rice burgers, cheesy rice squares, or spring rolls if you need some recipes! We enjoy rice crisps crackers with our morning snack, spring rolls with rice wrappers for our afternoon snack, and rice and beans (any ethnicity!) for dinner. Monday is our favorite breakfast- muffins. We have a little muffin song we sing while eating them and everyone wants to help make them. For my muffin recipe and a clip of us singing our muffin song, go to this post over here. Before I go to bed I try to throw whatever bones may be left from our Sunday night roast into a pot with veggies to simmer into stock for tomorrow night’s soup.
Tuesday’s grain is barley. It is cooling and moistening (perfect for me!), and aids the intestines and mucous membranes. I’ll admit, barley seems to be the hardest grain to incorporate (for the kids). We have some pancake recipes that use barley flour, so sometimes we make those as it is “griddle cake” day. Other days, the barley shows up in our soup. I have a delicious recipe for a cold apple-barley salad, but my kids are not impressed with anything that uses vinegar as a dressing so I rarely make it just for me.
Some of our griddle cake recipes include johnny cakes, oat cakes, traditional pancakes, or luxurious German apple pancakes. On Tuesdays we go to the farm for raw milk, so I also make yogurt (usually before I go to bed, as it needs to rest in a warm place for 8 hours or so).
Wednesday’s grain is millet. Millet is cooling and drying; is the only non-acidic grain (it is alkalizing– something most of us could use!). It doesn’t need to be soaked or fermented like most grains, either. It is a good grain for morning sickness (google a millet congee recipe if you need help with that) and is also said to help prevent miscarriage and freshen breath.
Wednesdays we are enjoying millet and potato pancakes for our afternoon snack, and the Waldorf Kindergarten Snack Book also has a few nice millet recipes (millet cakes and millet squares). If you’re looking for more good millet recipes, use it as a cous-cous like side dish, or google recipes like Millet Souffle, Millet Pie, Quick Skillet Meatloaf with Millet, or Millet Pudding. Wednesdays we make lunch people, which my kids LOVE. Here is a picture of a recent one…
Thursday’s grain is rye. Rye is a very hardy grain, great for harsh climates and cold weather. It is drying, so if you have watery bowels or often wake up with a puffy feeling of water retention (in your face or feet), maybe rye will help bring your body into balance. We incorporate rye using Ryvita crackers and cheese in our morning snack. If you are looking for rye recipes, google Finnish rye cauliflower casserole or look for sourdough breads using rye.
On Thursday mornings, we have a breakfast platter. I love using a large white serving dish as an easel to artfully portray bits and pieces of morning fare- little toasts cut into fun shapes with cookie cutters, egg roll-ups (strips of omelet rolled up and secured with a toothpick), whatever fresh or dried fruits we have on hand, bites of cheese, handfuls of nuts, any small bits of leftovers (like breakfast casserole minis that were baked in muffin trays, leftover from Sunday, or mini muffins leftover from Monday). Perhaps a few squares of twice baked oatmeal might show up, little cups of yogurt- who knows! Thursday afternoons we bake. Sometimes we do our nature walk before our usual craft/bake time instead of after, so it can flow into the dinner prep hour (dinner is already made in the crockpot) and we have enough time to make big batches of our favorite breads and snacks for the week (one week we may make a huge batch of mini muffins for the rest of the month, the following week a huge batch of granola bars, or pecan sandies, etc).
Friday’s grain is oats. Oats are warming and restoring. It’s easy to see why Friday is porridge day! We also do granola or other food bars (like Lemon Coconut bars, mmm!) for snack, and make sandwiches in the shape of sailboats for lunch, like this…
Lastly, Saturday’s grain is corn. This is another common allergen, again because it has been hybridized, genetically modified, and altered from the Creator’s original design in our attempts to produce the sweetest kernels and biggest yields… highly refined corn syrup is in so many packaged products, and is probably yet another reason why we have trouble with it. In our family, we choose organic corn and blue corn to avoid these pitfalls. Corn is neutral (neither heating nor cooling), and a little bit diuretic. Traditionally it was prepared with lime to compensate for its low niacin content, which caused a wasting disease, pellagra, in people who consumed it without the lime added. Today we have enough niacin from other sources in our varied diet and don’t have to follow this traditional practice, although it certainly wouldn’t hurt (Nourishing Traditions gives the how-to).
On Saturdays we have a blue-corn tortilla nacho platter for morning snack, as well as organic popcorn in the afternoon. There are so many ways to incorporate corn in the evening meal- cornbread, polenta, corn on the cob, carmellized corn and shallots, creamed corn, corn salads, corn casseroles. And if there are canning projects or other putting up to do, I try to get to it on Saturdays.
A Few Tips…
For those of us with picky kids, it can be challenging to introduce new foods or dishes. I’ve had good luck with the following techniques:
- Give it a really cool name. It doesn’t even really have to make sense; Pirate Oatmeal is made with steel cut oats, and has a different texture. My boys didn’t want anything to do with it until I gave it that name, and now they request it!
- Make it look really cool. Like sailboat sandwiches… borrow a Bento book and let your plate be your canvas! Maybe you can borrow a theme or character to create from a book or block you are doing in homeschool.
- Tell a story about it. My kids wanted nothing to do with soup of any kind until I read them this book from the library. After we read it, we followed the recipe and made the soup together. No more problems with soup!
- Don’t force it. Have a couple quick alternatives (like yogurt or cheese and crackers) if it is a no-go. Offer it a few weeks later… keep trying… let them see you enjoying it. Maybe you’ll be surprised one day!
Worried it will cost a lot to eat healthier? Farmers markets, bulk food bins, and cooking from scratch really save the wallet. Looking for recipes? Check out cookbooks from the library and if you really like them, order them used from Half.com (this is how I obtained most of my varied collection!)… and of course, the internet.
Hopefully you’re feeling inspired, and I plan to start taking pictures and sharing recipes as we eat our way through autumn. 😉 If you have a meal plan posted somewhere, comment with a link and do share!