3 Tips for Sharing Food with Others (Even When Life is Crazy)

It's so important to offer hospitality and to bring food to those going through hard times. But how do you do that when your life is crazy? I'm with you there. I share 3 tips here on how to get it done. -- The Nourishing Gourmet

We’ve had some very peaceful time periods. But if I’m honest, more often than not life has seemed very busy, hectic, and at times, stressful too. During the midst of stressful times, it can be hard to rip your eyes off of your own situation and share and serve others. I know it is for me.

But I want to share food with others (and serve them in other ways too). Why? Because people have done that for me. For example: When I was 16, I was in charge of my younger siblings while my mother recovered from a serious surgery and my dad helped take care of her and worked regular long hours. Our community rallied around us by bringing us dinners for weeks on end. To this day, I remember the support and help that brought us during a stressful time and am thankful for it. Years later I was pregnant with my second child and went through premature labor. I was hospitalized for two weeks until I stabilized. Friends brought me dinner every night so that I wouldn’t have to live off of hospital food. Once again, I still remember and am thankful for that tangible support.

That’s why for my very first Periscope, I shared on the topic of Sharing Food with Others During Busy Times. It’s a topic dear to my heart not because I am a rockstar in this area (I’m not), but because I have been greatly blessed when others have done that for me.

I loved sharing these tips on Periscope, so I wanted to share them here too!

(You can follow me here to watch future scopes! For those who aren’t familiar, it’s an app that allows you to broadcast live stream videos, and it allows you to respond in the text box in real time too! It’s very fun.)

Don’t be a perfectionist when sharing food

It can be easy to allow fears to derail our good intentions. We may wonder if others will like our cooking, or whether they will think our food is good enough, for example. When you are known as a “good cook” or (the horror of it) are a food blogger and cookbook author, expectations can be high, and that can put a lot of pressure on you. Once we invited a couple over for dinner, and when the husband walked through the door he said, “I feel like I’m in a dream. I can’t believe I am eating dinner with The Nourishing Gourmet.” I just about died right there and hoped that dinner was especially good. (I think it was a success, or perhaps my guests were just very good actors as they talked about how yummy it was!).

Sometimes that pressure has held me back, because, in all honesty, we eat plain and simple food most of the time! Nothing fancy! But then I realized that it was my pride holding me back. I don’t have a responsibility for people’s reactions to my actions, but I do have the responsibility to share and serve those around me. And you know what I’ve found? People are always thankful for you sharing food with them. I think our fears are unfounded. Even if they don’t love the food you brought to them, they will love the heart behind it.
Sometimes it takes a small amount of courage to share with others, and that’s okay. It’s worth the bravery to share life and love with others.

All you need is one meal

Some of the people who are the best at bringing food to others during times of need have one meal they always bring. It’s delicious, they know the meal so well they could make it in their sleep, and it’s generally frugal and family-friendly. For example, one lady I know cooks up a pot of rice, steams some vegetables, and bakes teriyaki chicken. She then layers the cooked rice, vegetables and chicken in a casserole dish to bring to someone. It’s delicious! Another brings makings for a healthy taco salad, and that’s always popular too. Another brings a big pot of hearty soup and homemade bread. Homemade pizza is popular as well.

The point is this, if you just figure out just one meal that is well-liked and that you can fit in your budget, it won’t be stressful at all to share that meal with others – whether they are coming over for dinner, or you are bringing them a meal.

Bonus points if the meal is allergen-friendly, as then you can serve it to a wider base of people. For example, it’s easy to make gluten-free teriyaki and even soy-free and gluten-free teriyaki!

Make it serve you (and your family) too

My sister recently had a baby, and although my life seemed very chaotic at the time, it was important to me that I offer help and support. While I wasn’t able to do all that I wished to do (I also have a nine-month-old baby, and she had a runny nose at the time, so we didn’t want to expose her newborn), I at least wanted to help provide meals for her during that happy, but fragile newborn stage.

So this is what I did. I set aside a couple of hours and got in a good cooking rhythm. I whipped up some hearty soups from my cookbook, Ladled: Nourishing Soups for all Seasons. I made a homemade marinara sauce with Italian sausage, and bought some nice organic noodles for her husband to cook up to go with it. I made teriyaki chicken and rice. I made granola and bought a whole milk organic yogurt to go with it for breakfast or snacks. I picked up some fruit too. My sister-in-law made another soup to add to the box, and then I was able to send over a whole box of food for her.

But here’s the deal. While I was doing all of that cooking, I doubled everything so that my family also had plenty of food for the upcoming week. It was heavenly to have all of the food already prepared and ready to be enjoyed. I was able to serve not only her but my family as well.

If you deal with health issues, or just have a busy lifestyle, being able to kill two birds with one stone will be very helpful.

Finally, this list of gluten-free freezer meals may come in handy as well when sharing food with others. I often share freezer meals with others. This allows me to cook when I am able and then share when a need comes up.

What meals do you like to share with others? Has there been a time when people brought you meals? I’d love to hear about it!

How to Render Tallow from Your Beef Broth

After you make homemade beef stock/broth, there is always a lovely layer of tallow on the top of the broth. Learn here how you can render and save it for lots of cooking projects! Don't waste it! It's an excellent cooking fat. --- The Nourishing Gourmet

So, you’ve made a delicious, nutritious, homemade beef broth, and it now has a glorious layer of beef fat on the top. Now what? Don’t waste it! With just a few short steps, you can render it for a delicious cooking fat! This lovely cooking fat is stable at high temperatures, making it lovely for sautéing or roasting vegetables and meats, and many other uses!

As long-time readers know, I try to balance using quality, good ingredients, with a realistic budget. A practical way to make that happen is by not wasting anything. Certainly, saving and using this quality fat is a great way to eat well AND save money! Because we try to only buy top quality oils and fats, this helps tremendously in how much we spend on our oils/fats.

And don’t worry. It’s simple to make!

How to Render Tallow from Beef Broth

After you make homemade beef stock/broth, there is always a lovely layer of tallow on the top of the broth. Learn here how you can render and save it for lots of cooking projects! Don't waste it! It's an excellent cooking fat. --- The Nourishing Gourmet

1. After you have cooled your homemade beef broth in the refrigerator, there should be a layer of fat on the top. How much fat there is depends on what type of bones you use. Because we try to use at least some marrow bones in each batch, we typically have quite a bit. Scoop this fat off and place into a pot. (I use a small pot for one batch of fat.)

After you make homemade beef stock/broth, there is always a lovely layer of tallow on the top of the broth. Learn here how you can render and save it for lots of cooking projects! Don't waste it! It's an excellent cooking fat. --- The Nourishing Gourmet

2. Gently heat the fat over low heat until it is completely liquid.

After you make homemade beef stock/broth, there is always a lovely layer of tallow on the top of the broth. Learn here how you can render and save it for lots of cooking projects! Don't waste it! It's an excellent cooking fat. --- The Nourishing Gourmet

3. Pour over cheesecloth placed over a fine sieve over a heat safe bowl (or 4 cup measuring cup) to strain out any bits.

After you make homemade beef stock/broth, there is always a lovely layer of tallow on the top of the broth. Learn here how you can render and save it for lots of cooking projects! Don't waste it! It's an excellent cooking fat. --- The Nourishing Gourmet

4. At this point, you can do the lazy method of simply pouring the fat into a mason jar and re-hardening it in the refrigerator. Any leftover bits or small drops of broth will go to the bottom of the jar, and because fat is a type of preservative, the fat won’t go bad and I just don’t use the very last bit of fat at the bottom of the jar. This is what is pictured above.

5. Or, to make it completely free of any broth or bits, pour into a wide container such as an 8 by 8-inch pan. Let re-harden in the refrigerator, and then remove from the pan and turn upside down. You can then scrape off any bits or broth from the bottom of the fat. Reheat to liquefy, and pour into desired container of choice.

Keep refrigerated. Will keep for at least several months when refrigerated (freeze for longer storage).

How to Render Tallow from Your Beef Broth
 
Serves: 1 cup
 
You will need a fine sieve and cheesecloth for this recipe.
Ingredients
  • Fat skimmed from the top of homemade beef stock
Instructions
  1. After you have cooled your homemade beef broth in the refrigerator, there should be a layer of fat on the top. How much fat there is depends on what type of bones you use. Because we try to use at least some marrow bones in each batch, we typically have quite a bit. Scoop this fat off and place into a pot. (I use a small pot for one batch of fat.)
  2. Gently heat the fat over low heat until it is completely liquid.
  3. Pour over cheesecloth placed over a fine sieve over a heat safe bowl to strain out any bits.
  4. At this point, you can do the lazy method of simply pouring the fat into a mason jar and re-hardening it in the refrigerator. Any leftover bits or small drops of broth will go to the bottom of the jar, and because fat is a type of preservative, the fat won’t go bad and I just don’t use the very last bit of fat at the bottom of the jar. This is what is pictured above.
  5. Or, to make it completely free of any broth or bits, pour into a wide container such as an 8 by 8-inch pan. Let re-harden in the refrigerator, and then remove from the pan and turn upside down. You can then scrape off any bits or broth from the bottom of the fat. Reheat to liquefy, and pour into desired container of choice.
  6. Keep refrigerated. Will keep for at least several months when refrigerated (freeze for longer storage).

Related Posts:

Eating Healthy Does Take Work (and Here’s Why That’s Okay)

Yes, eating healthy does take some work, but that's not a bad thing and the rewards are huge. Don't set yourself up for failure by not admitting to the fact that it will take *some* time to prepare healthy foods. But be encouraged, there is a lot you can do to cut down the time in the kitchen.

Work. That word has bad connotations for many of us. Work is perhaps what takes you away more than you’d like from your family. Perhaps it is what tires you out. Or takes you away from the pursuits that give you the most joy.

So when we are told that eating healthy takes “work” it leaves a bad taste in our mouth. But I would like to propose two things to you today. One, work is not a negative thing. And secondly, the faster we acknowledge that eating healthy does require activity (or work) and planning, the more successful we will be in actually fulfilling our healthy eating goals.

(For email subscribers, check out my Cheat Sheet to a Healthy Diet in Ten Easy Steps – It’s my gift to my email subscribers right now! It shows that it doesn’t have to be complicated or hard to make some great changes in your kitchen. Yes, it takes work, but in the very best sense!).

Why we consider working a bad thing

What are some of the reasons we consider “work” to be such a bad thing? One of the reasons I believe we view work so negatively is because we associate work with unfulfilling jobs and exhausting hours. We associate it with making money, not accomplishing goals. And we live such busy lives, anything that requires extra activity is met with groans.

But work doesn’t have to be those things. A simple definition of work can be “activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result.” Work can mean reading a book to your child, taking a walk, journaling, playing music, gardening, and chopping vegetables. All of these activities take physical or mental effort, but that doesn’t mean they are negative activities. In fact, I don’t know of anything worthwhile in life that doesn’t require some activity behind it. Even the act of meditation takes mental effort.

Work is not the problem. But our attitudes towards work can be.

I think the biggest hang up a lot of us have towards eating healthy is that we want to create new habits without effort or exertion. We fool ourselves into thinking that healthy eating should be effortless, or at least very easy, and so we set ourselves up for failure.

But the fact is, it takes effort, some planning, and commitment. We now have many fairly effortless ways to feed ourselves available in the stores, the fast food line, and the restaurants surrounding us, and they have taught us that food can be easily attained without much effort.

Perhaps we have started to feel that this effortless way of feeding ourselves should be our right. Whereas in the past the work of feeding our families and ourselves was a simple fact of life, now we have to choose between pre-packaged foods and cooking from scratch. And if you’ve never had to learn the art of cooking, it can seem a daunting amount of work to learn.

If that’s you, here is some encouragement for you.

Reframe the word work in relationship to food

The job of feeding yourself (and your family) healthy food will be a much happier event if you can reframe the word work. If you go into the kitchen resenting the work it takes to feed yourself, it’s going to be an unhappy relationship. There are a lot of things that I can feel resentful towards in the kitchen if I’m not careful.

For example, I do enjoy cooking, but I dislike doing the dishes. However, if I can turn my mind towards the benefits of doing the dishes and how doing them helps me accomplish my wider goals of nourishing my family and myself, I can embrace the work happily. Yes, I wouldn’t put doing certain chores on the top ten list of things I enjoy. However, you know what I do enjoy? Feeding my family food that helps them thrive and have good energy. Food that brings them pleasure. Seeing the wider goals and benefits can make even my least favorite chores more positive.

Know that while it can be simple, it does take some time and effort

However, that said, I do want to clarify that there are a lot of ways you can eat simply to cut down on the workload. There have been times when I have tried to keep too many things spinning in the kitchen at the same time, and I have spent too much time in the kitchen.

Working smarter, faster, and cooking more simple food has gone a long way in cutting down the time I spent in the kitchen. Recipes we love but take more time aren’t made on as regular of a basis. Recipes that make good leftovers are made in larger batches. You can spend a huge amount of time in the kitchen if you’d like too. But few of us have the luxury of spending half the day in the kitchen (though I suspect half of us mothers feel that we do regardless of our cooking methods). The point is this: It does take work and activity and planning. But you can also streamline the process, learn to cook faster, and cook smarter for less time spent working in the kitchen.

The more you practice the faster you can become and the more effortless it will seem

This leads me to another important point. Like anything else, the more you practice, the faster and more effective you can become in the kitchen. One of the trends I see in the cooking world is to view cooking as a kind of luxurious weekend activity; an activity to use to relax, like your yoga class. I truthfully think that we should not view all of our cooking that way because, once again, it sets ourselves up for failure in eating healthy on a consistent basis. Instead, we should view it as “activity done in order to achieve a purpose or a goal”.

Like all skills, it does take time and effort to become better at it, and there is a learning curve. But we should focus on the purpose and goal, and that should include becoming skilled and wise enough in the kitchen to make the most of our time there. Our goal in the kitchen is not to once in a while spend the weekend creating gourmet spreads of food, and then eating food on the fly the rest of the week. Our goal is to consistently eat well. And for that to happen, being able to use effectively what time you have in the kitchen is crucial. Practice makes perfect here.

Acknowledging and accepting that there will be a time commitment, a learning curve to the cooking process, and that cooking healthy does require some work will go a long way in helping you succeed long term in eating well.

I’ve accepted the fact that eating well takes effort and time on my part, and I’m fine with that. In all other areas of my life if I am going to achieve my goals and hopes, I also expect to use effort and time to achieve them.

And so far? I’ve discovered that the effort and time have been worth it.

Homemade and Healthy Christmas Gift Ideas (Fun & Unique!)

Beautiful, fun, and unique homemade gifts (made with all natural ingredients!)

Our tree is up, our decorations are out, and the Christmas music is on! As a family, we look forward all year to Christmas for so many reasons. It’s a time of celebration for us, a time of thanksgiving for our blessings, and a time of giving.

And speaking of giving, I love making and giving away beautiful homemade gifts. But there is a wide variance of worth of homemade gifts. My criteria for homemade gifts:

  • Something the recipient would like
  • Something that isn’t completely contrary to my lifestyle decisions (that is, I’d feel sheepish giving away GMO-laden cheap candy after blogging about the evils of them)
  • And something that is tasty, useful, or adds value to the recipients life.

What homemade gifts fit the criteria depends entirely on who I am giving gifts to, but here are some delicious and useful ideas that meet this criterion for many! And look for even more upcoming ideas soon! (You can sign up for my RSS fed to make sure you don’t miss any).

All of these bundles of ideas can also be separated out into individual gifts as well. For example, a popular singular gift that we’ve given as a hostess gift is a jar of Candied Citrus Peel (they are really quite incredible!). Choose to give away just one jar of something or a basket brimming with treats! Both have been popular in my experience.

I’ve also included items that you can add to the basket that are store-bought, and, because we don’t always have time for homemade everything ,“cheater” options of organic/healthy store-bought options. I’ve included affiliate links below, when applicable. Thanks for supporting this blog! 

Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix, Marshmallows and More

Fun Homemade and healthy hot cocoa gift ideas
Homemade hot cocoa mix is a yummy and useable gift that is popular to give and receive, but most recipes use a lot of ingredients that are unfortunate. Plus, I try to use Fair Trade Chocolate because of the problems in the chocolate industry (including unfair wages, child labor, and even slavery). To make it extra special, give along with homemade marshmallows!

Hot Cocoa Basket Ideas

Add Ons:

Cheater Options:

Christmas Candy Plate (made with unrefined sweeteners and natural ingredients!)

Homemade candy perfect for gift giving! These are all made with all natural ingredients too.  I have had so much fun making candies using natural, unrefined ingredients and giving them to family and friends. There are so many beautiful candies you can make. Pick one, or pick 6!

 Recipes for DIY Healthier Candies:

To Give in:

Homemade Ice Cream Gift Basket

Give a fun gift of homemade ice cream toppings such as bittersweet chocolate syrup, caramel sauce, and candied nuts!

I know it’s winter, but who doesn’t like ice cream year round? It’s one of my most favorite treats, and I am certainly not alone in that. What about giving a basket full of scrumptious ice cream toppings? You can even include cartons of homemade ice cream (or organic store-bought) for a beautiful gift.

Topping Recipes:

Ice cream recipes:

Add Ons:

Cheater Options:

For the Kids: Playdough Gift Set

How to make homemade glitter playdough

My girls love homemade playdough! To make it especially winter appropriate, try out the glitter dough, keep it “white” or un-dyed, and then add silver glitter! So pretty. Above left, you see our “Elsa” inspired playdough from the movie Frozen (White, with light blue glitter). It is especially fun to make a couple different color combinations. If you do want to dye it, check out the suggestions in the below links for natural dye options.

Recipes:

Add Ons:

Spa Night or Beauty Basket

Vanilla lavender sugar scrub for soft skin!

Beauty products are popular to give as gifts. They are easy to make, easy to use, and smell wonderful too. I don’t have a lot of recipes on this site (yet) for beauty products, but one great resource for homemade beauty products using superior ingredients is Mommypotomus’s book: DIY Organic Beauty Recipes eBook

Recipe:

  • I am pretty much in love with this Vanilla Lavender Scrub. It makes your skin smooth, soft, and smells great too.

Add Ons:

You can give it along with the other items listed on the spa night post – Epsom salts, beeswax candles, lavender essential oil, and honey for a face mask.

Tea Lovers Gift Basket

DIY Beautiful tea blends to give as gifts!

I love tea, so I have given tea gifts a lot. One year I made up a bunch of chai concentrate steeping bags and gave them away with directions for use to a wide variety of my friends and acquaintances. So fun! But you can also give a basket with several different delicious options. Below are some beautiful, DIY tea blends that are super fast and easy to put together. If you have a local store that carries herbs and spices in bulk, this is a cinch to make. (Mountain Rose Herbs also carries all of these ingredients).

Recipes for DIY Tea Blends:

To give in:

Add ons:

Cheater Options:

Those are some of my ideas! I’d love to hear yours!