Bloomquist family raises what they eat
By Kristin Danley-Greiner
DAYTON – Between work, six kids and a hobby farm, Kelli Bloomquist still manages to find time to fix healthy meals for her family that often utilize produce, eggs and meat gleaned from their own operation.
With a big family and busy schedule, she has fallen in love with her Instant Pot and relies heavily on her Crock-Pot.
“I guess you could say that Paul and I are a little different than the norm,” she said. “We choose to live the way our grandparents would have with large gardens, canning, livestock, etc. Farm life, to us, is the best life. We call it Swede Family Bloomquist – the farm always provides.”
Bloomquist began cooking as a child when she was involved in 4-H and learned her way around the kitchen from her mom.
“I distinctly remember learning how to make chocolate chip cookies with my mom and, at the time, learning about measurements and such,” Bloomquist said. “Being in 4-H also taught me how to branch out a bit more from the typical items I was used to making.”
Three out of the six Bloomquist kids have roots in China, so Bloomquist tries to incorporate a cultural dish from their heritage into her meal plan each week.
“In their province, kids typically eat a lot of noodles so we have a noodle dish at least once a week,” she said. “Usually these dishes are authentic Chinese recipes and not Americanized versions. This is usually a favorite day, as well.”
Not only does it feel as if she’s feeding a very hungry army often, she enjoys baking along with cooking. The family rarely eats out and they enjoy dabbling in different food genres. Right now, Bloomquist is enjoying making homemade bread that satisfies the special dietary needs that she and two of her daughters have. One has diabetes and must be very careful with what she eats.
“I’m trying to find a bread that we can eat and that the rest of the family can eat as well, and that the kids haven’t figured out is different than store-bought or my old homemade recipes,” Bloomquist said. “At first, the idea of almond flour or coconut flour and such really scared me because it was something new and different, but I’ve really tried to branch out and be open-minded. It also helps that my boys will eat just about anything.”
When winter rolls around, the Bloomquists consume a lot of casseroles. Both Kelli Bloomquist and her husband teach at the collegiate level, so she plans ahead with Crock-Pot and Instant Pot meals.
“I usually plan our suppers out a month at a time. We’re really busy and I’m an introvert, too, so I’m not a big fan of going to the grocery store very often,” she said. “I make a list of what we have and what we need and then those are the things that I shop for. It also makes budgeting that much easier, too.”
“It’s more cost-effective to make things by hand. Bread, for example,” Bloomquist added. “I can buy all of the ingredients and bake and freeze 25 loaves of bread for less than I could purchase them at the store.”
Keeping track of what she cans and freezes in the fall helps with monthly meal planning, too. She keeps a handy binder full of the meals her family loves that incorporates produce grown in their garden. This binder also helps her know what produce to plant the following spring and in what quantities.
“I add to it throughout the year with ideas and plans. It’s very possible to plant and harvest all of the produce that you need for the year, just as long as you’re willing to put in the time and effort,” she said. “Our grandparents did it. We can, too. We’re hobby farmers living on Paul’s family Century Farm.”
“We no longer farm as his parents and grandparents do,” Bloomquist added. “However, that spirit is still alive and well in both of us. We raise our own hogs so we always have a freezer full of ham, pork chops and bacon. We also raise our own chickens, so we have eggs on hand at all times and then we slaughter them.”
Having not just produce but livestock at their fingertips for this family is incredibly helpful. For example, when fixing scrambled eggs for the family, Bloomquist will blow through two dozen eggs for that one meal. Even more impressive is that her children love to be a part of everything the family does on the farm and in the kitchen.
“I think far too often people tend to look at gardening or farming as work. The word ‘work’ has become a naughty four letter word for some,” Bloomquist said. “But we really try to instill in our kids that work can be fun if you make it fun and if you have the right attitude about it. Gardening – I already know the produce that I need for next year but we still sit down with the kids and let them have a say on what they would like to have included.”
Last year, the girls chose zinnias. When it’s planting day, the kids plant their seeds. They take ownership in the process and care for their own plants.
“We praise the kids when the flower blooms or the produce finally begins to form,” she said. “When we eat their produce we make sure to mention that these are the tomatoes that so-and-so planted and took care of. It becomes a real sense of pride to them. We try to involve the kids in it because then it isn’t work – it’s fun,” she said.
The kids also assist in the kitchen every day. The Bloomquists want their kids to know where their food comes from, how to prepare it and experience first-hand how much work it takes to fix a meal. This instills a greater sense of gratefulness in them for the nourishment they’re receiving.
“I want my boys to know how to cook just as much as my girls do because someday, they will need to know how to make chicken noodle soup for a sick friend or a spouse or to carve a turkey or to make an omelet. It’s healthier, too,” Bloomquist said. “The kids all have jobs in the kitchen and we routinely shuffle them around. These jobs get the kids involved and gives us time spent together with them to talk about their day, what they’re learning in school, etc. All of the kids also know how to do dishes by hand and how to load and unload the dishwasher.”
Not surprising, the Bloomquists use three Instant Pots simultaneously when they aren’t using the Crock-Pots for mealtime. They are named after characters from the kids’ favorite movie series, “Star Wars.”
“One of my favorite things in the Instant Pot is the simplest thing in the world; hardboiled eggs,” she said. “Farm fresh eggs are rarely easy to hard boil and peel, but I place a dozen eggs in mine along with a quart of water and cook them for six minutes. Once cooled, the shell literally just falls off.”
“We use the eggs in lunches, salads and snacks. I usually run all three while we’re at church on Sunday, too.” Bloomquist added. “I start them as I’m walking out the door, and when we come back, it’s all ready to go. I usually will put chicken or meatloaf or ham balls in one Instant Pot, potatoes in a second and a vegetable in the third. It’s possible for smaller families to layer in one Instant Pot using the trivet or glass dishes to make all of that in one, but when feeding a large family, it requires me to use all three.”
Bloomquist suggests families, whether big or small, plan ahead, make lists and cook efficiently in order to save money and time.
“On Sundays I usually try to brown up all the meat that I’ll need for that week and will start putting the Crock-Pot meals together in baggies or containers,” she said. “That way I can just dump it in and push the button on really busy days.”
Chicken tortilla soup
1 1/2 pound raw boneless skinless chicken breasts
10 ounces diced tomatoes with green chilies
14.5 ounces diced tomatoes (no salt added)
1 cup frozen corn thawed
1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
1 diced medium onion
1 diced jalapeno
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups of organic, low sodium chicken broth or stock
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Toss all the ingredients for the soup into your Instant Pot and give it a stir.
Set to manual setting for 15 minutes. When timer is done, switch to quick release. I always put a kitchen towel over the top to be safe. When the steam stops, carefully open the lid and shred the chicken with two forks. We usually add sour cream and tortilla chips or wonton strips.
Broccoli cheese soup
2 tablespoons butter
1 small diced yellow onion
4 cups chicken stock
1 large bag frozen broccoli
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
Start with the lid off of the Instant Pot. Add butter and heat to high until melted. Add diced onion and saute until translucent. Add broccoli florets, carrots, chicken stock, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper to the Instant Pot. Put the lid on and set for 5 minutes on high. Perform a quick steam release to release the pressure from the cooker. Stir in the heavy cream and the sharp cheddar cheese.
2 pounds ground beef
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 cups fresh or frozen Lima beans
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
2 cups frozen corn
3 cans of diced tomatoes
2 cups water
Salt and pepper to taste
Set your Instant Pot to saute setting. Cook meat and onions until brown and onions are soft.
Add all the other ingredients and seal lid on tightly. Set the manual button for 4 minutes. Allow to naturally release for 5 minutes and then do a quick release.
Remove lid, stir, and add more salt and pepper to taste.
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