late to the party

I know I am the last person to give this a try, it seems.  We had spaghetti squash last week for the first time.  Recipes are all over Pinterest and FoodGawker, and it’s seemed intriguing for a while.

For our inaugural run at this, I did something simple and traditional and made these Spaghetti Squash Boats.  They were a hit!  I didn’t get a real photo, but everyone had their own little half, and it was a winner with a sometimes-picky toddler.  He loved the idea of his own little “boat” for dinner.

Other recipes I’m dying to try with this…..

Spaghetti Squash with Broccoli

Italian Style Spaghetti Squash

Skinny Spaghetti Squash Alfredo

Summertime Spaghetti Squash Pesto

Breakfast Quinoa

I’m plugging right along on the health challenge, and it’s getting both easier and harder in ways.  Adding gluten-free grains and lean meats solved my problem with consuming enough calories for breastfeeding, and it’s helping a little with the monotony as well.

In my quest to break up the repetition, I discovered quite a few breakfast quinoa recipes, and there are varieties all over the internet.  The version I ended up trying was a welcome break from my smoothies.  Filling and warm and tasty.

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Breakfast Quinoa

  • Boil one cup of almond milk
  • Add 1/2 cup of quinoa
  • Return to boil and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally
  • Add teaspoon of sucanat (could use brown sugar), dash of cinnamon,  and a handful of raisins
  • Cook for 10 minutes longer
  • DONE

I did add a splash (maybe 1/4 cup?) of water in the last 5 minutes to make it a bit looser and less gritty, and I decided to throw some coconut on top.  This is a flexible idea that you can adapt to anything.  I’m thinking maple syrup and pecans would be great, too.  Endless possibilities!  Quinoa serves up a lot of protein and makes a filling breakfast.  I never would have thought to serve it as anything other than a savory side dish if it weren’t for my whole detox plan.  If nothing else, I love that this is showing me a few new ideas to add to my usual rotation.

For the most part, I have stuck to my pledge.  I think the teaspoon of sucanat is against the rules technically.  And of course, I am still hanging on to my morning coffee.  But I’ve been truly dairy-free for five whole days, and that’s miraculous for this cheese fiend.  Ha!

Days 4-5

Breakfasts: oat flour banana pancakes, breakfast quinoa

Lunches: leftover broccoli soup (That recipe made a ton!), my favorite tuna salad over lettuce

Dinners: Grilled chicken with roasted cauliflower and asparagus, chicken with rice

Snacks: smoothies, apples with cashew butter

Cashew butter has been another blessed discovery with this plan.  Where has it been all my life!?

the beginning of 32

I turned 32 years old on Saturday.  It was a fun day with family and a fun weekend.  Spring weather is peeking out a bit here in Georgia, and I’m so ready for it.

As I look back at the past year, much of it is a blur really.  Adding another to the family has been perfect and wonderful, but the amount of busy in my life multiplied more than two times over.  (How is that possible, by the way?  It seems like the work should just double, but it feels like more.)  We’ve had so many changes with Jude growing up a bit and beginning preschool.  And our decision to sell the house.  And Norah’s constant changes as a baby of her age when every moment seems so different from the day before as she grows so fast.

I think the major lesson I have learned in my last year is that of self-care.  You know it’s important and you think you understand it, but it’s only when you ignore it that you really feel its weight.  An hour of knitting after kids are in bed, a night out with Scott or with friends, a long bath, a good book, a new pair of shoes.  There are so many little things that add up to help me stay sane and healthy and productive.

In relation to all of this, I decided to kick off my 32nd year with a dietary detox, and even as I type that, I can hardly believe I am going to try it.  I have no will power when it come to food. NONE.  I feel lucky that, genetically speaking, I might have an area or two I’d like to work on with body image of course, but on the whole I can eat what I want without too much showing up on my figure.  I’m not at all doing this for weight-loss, but for overall health.

I’ve complained here about the kids being sick a lot, and most of 2013 has been nursing their illnesses.  Now we are on a well streak, and spring is coming, so I feel like we are nearing the end of this preschool sick season.

But I don’t feel like myself, physically speaking.  Not at all.  I am sluggish and tired and lacking a predictable appetite and just plain blah.  I had to have an antibiotic for a sinus infection last month, and I guess that was the final straw with my tummy because despite taking probiotics and eating yogurt, I am more yuck than ever.  Bloated, sluggish, not healthy.  This is not at all how I want to begin my 32nd year.  The kitchen being such a mess with renovations lead to our eating fast food and frozen pizzas and such far too much recently.  To say I need a detox is an understatement!

So I’ve read a lot about the Whole Living Detox Program, and I decided to jump in.  I can do anything for 21 days, right!?  Week one is super strict – only lentils, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables, and I started it on Sunday.  I quickly realized that my caloric intake was not at all compliant with breastfeeding a baby.  So I’ve sort of tailored it to my own thing, and I’ve more or less just jumped in on week two of the cleanse rather than week one.

The main idea is no added sugar (fruit is okay), no gluten, and no dairy for 21 days. Very limited lean animal proteins.  This is not a Paleo diet where you can pig out on bacon but not eat rice.  Not at all.   I’m working on 80% of what I eat being fruits or vegetables for the next 21  19 days.

And I know this is only day three, but I am feeling results already, you guys.  Meaning I am not craving junk food as much, not falling asleep on the couch at 8pm, and not feeling like I need a gallon of coffee to get me going in the mornings.  So I intend to keep plowing right ahead with it, and logging my food and recipes here.  It might be totally boring to anyone reading (sorry!) but it could be of interest to some of you, and I want it as a resource for me as well when I do this again.  And I say “when” because I know I will.  We service our cars, we reboot our computers, we spring clean our houses, but we tend to let the bad habits in our own bodies just build-up over time.  It feels good to have a reboot every now and then.  More later.

Raw Broccoli Salad

I’ve intended to write here the last week or more, and I’ve had a hard time sitting down to do it.  We are having some work done before we put the house on the market, and while I am grateful for the contractors and their hard work, I am SO READY to not have strangers at my house all day every day.  I mean I know that selling the house means a lot of traffic as well, but at least it’s scattered a bit and I get a little notice.  As it is now, I’ve had people here for the past nine days, not including Sunday, I guess.

I’m posting a recipe that has been useful to me this week.  It’s adapted from Melissa Clark’s In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite, and it’s a favorite for me.  The best part is that it keeps in the fridge for a while, so you can have it available when your kitchen is completely inaccessible as mine was for part of last week!  (Or of course, if you are busy and just want a quick snack or a side to a sandwich.)

I wish I’d photographed it before I ate it, but I didn’t.  No real pictures to share this week really.  Except this jewel.

Remodeling

Yep, that’s a toilet on my porch.  Ah, renovations.  It’s been an adventure and an annoyance.  Without further rambling, here’s the recipe.  It takes about ten minutes to throw together, and I keep it in the fridge for three or four days.

Broccoli Salad with Garlic and Sesame

1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste

2 heads broccoli, cut into bite-size florets

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons sesame oil

Large pinch crushed red pepper flakes

1. In a large bowl, stir together the vinegar and salt. Add broccoli and toss to combine.

2. In a large skillet, heat olive oil until hot, but not smoking. Add garlic and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in sesame oil and pepper flakes. Pour mixture over broccoli and toss well. Let sit for at least 1 hour at room temperature, and chill it if you want to keep it for more than 2 hours. Adjust seasonings (it may need more salt) and serve.

beginner collard greens

This resolution of Sunday and Wednesday posting will have me sharing more recipes, I think.  I sometimes have nothing much to say, so I’ll rely on whatever I’ve been cooking to get me posting and keep me regularly appearing around here.

I don’t have a “real” photo of dinner last night, but I did snap one with my iPhone just before we ate.

Collard greens and chili Mac

I found this homemade hamburger skillet recipe on Once a Month Mom, and I ended up with some fresh collard greens from my grandparents’ garden, so I paired them together and it hit the spot.  It was cold yesterday, especially by Atlanta standards.  When I picked Jude up at school at noon, it was still below freezing and windy.  Nature knew what it was doing when it made greens seasonal in the winter months.  They are packed with nutrition to keep you healthy, and I think they taste perfect against the somewhat bland backdrop of other winter foods and produce.

I grew up eating greens, and Scott loves them.  Selling greens on our toddler has not been that easy, but we asked him to take one bite before finishing dinner last night, and he took a second one, too.  I’ll call that a victory!  I’ve grown up eating them the traditional southern way when they are cooked all day and almost increase in bitterness, and it’s a taste I grew to love.  This recipe is great for someone less inclined to like greens though.  The honey and sesame oil mellow any bitterness, and the result is delicious.  Trust me, if you think you don’t like greens, try them this way and see if you change your mind.

 

Beginner Collard Greens

about 1 pound collard greens

1/2 a yellow onion, diced

3 cloves minced garlic

1 Tbsp butter

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp sesame oil

1/2 tsp salt

1 Tbsp honey

dash of red pepper flakes

Melt the butter and oil together, saute onion and add garlic.  Add greens, sesame oil, red pepper, salt, and honey.  Cover and cook for about 30 minutes.

basic granola

It does not feel like January outside at all.  Yesterday was 70 degrees in Atlanta, and I saw people outside in shorts when I did my weekly grocery run in the afternoon.  But even though it doesn’t feel like it out there, it definitely feels like January in my kitchen.  Resolutions have not been left behind yet, and we are knee-deep in green smoothies and whole-grain goodness lately.  I feel like my body has finally recovered from Christmas and all of the overindulgences of the holidays.

And front-and-center here this week is some yummy homemade granola I want to share with you.

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Jude has begun to like cereal.  We don’t eat it often for breakfast, but he’s been snacking on it sometimes lately, and it’s one area that could use some improvement since even the most “natural” variety out there is somewhat processed and high in sugar.  (And so expensive!) This works well as a homemade alternative, and I couldn’t help but snack on some in a mug with a splash of milk when this batch came out of the oven.

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Granola is the perfect snacking food that doesn’t leave you feeling guilty, and while it is delicious as is, the best part is the possibilities in store with this basic recipe.  There are so many add-ins to choose from and many ways to tailor the taste to what you love.  If you feel sort of blah about store-bought granola, try some homemade before you give up on it.  It’s not even in the same league to me.  The taste of the oats toasted in your own kitchen is so much better.

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Basic Granola:

3 cups rolled oats

1 cup nuts (I often use slivered almonds.  Pecan pieces or walnuts are also great.)

1/2 cup shredded coconut

1/4 cup sucanat (or brown sugar if you’d like)

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup real maple syrup (no Aunt Jemima fake!)

1 tsp salt (For me, I love the sweet/salty combination, but if you are less inclined to that, you can cut the salt to about half a teaspoon instead.)

Mix the first four ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix oil, syrup, and salt and pour liquid over dry ingredients.  Stir well and spread onto cookie sheet.  (You want a shallow layer, so I use a large cookie pan and a smaller one, too.  Just be sure it’s not a deep pile of oats or it won’t get crunchy.) Bake at 250 for about 70 minutes or so and stir it every 20 minutes as it bakes so it all gets evenly toasted.  Done!

As for add-ins…. I add a few chocolate chips sometimes when I eat it with yogurt or milk.  You can add raisins or any dried fruit, but be sure to do it after it bakes and cools so it won’t harden the fruit.  Flax seeds or chia seeds mix in unnoticed for an extra dose of nutrition as well, even making it past a picky toddler!  I store mine plain with no add-ins in a cereal storage container and leave it in the pantry so it’s accessible as an easy snack, and then I just add whatever we are in the mood for when I eat it.  Enjoy!

 

By the way, I’ve added a recipe page to the bar at the header here so that all my recipes are more easily accessible.  I don’t have many on here yet, but I hope to add to them soon.  Happy Sunday!  Hope it’s a good week ahead.

 

 

resolving

Here we are again.  New year and fresh start and the opportunities that lie in front of us in the next twelve months.  I’ve been thinking a lot about resolutions this past few weeks, and I’ve loved having this journal here to look back on my past resolutions and what stuck and what didn’t.

Remember that one time I resolved to finish at least one craft project a month?  I actually did it.  And that time I resolved to take a photo a day for all of 2012?  That one didn’t happen.  Sometimes they come to fruition and sometimes they don’t.  Nevertheless, it feels good to make goals, and writing them aloud here makes me more accountable, I know.

So first up this year, nutrition.  I have to say that I am really proud of how far I’ve come on this topic and how much healthier my family eats than we used to.  We are more or less purged of processed food, and I feel like I’ve mastered the whole grains quest.  My grain mill has us eating true whole wheat in our muffins and pancakes and breads and cakes and cookies and everything.  Brown rice and quinoa are frequent on our table, too.  And I do feel like that major change has had some really positive effects on our health and well-being.  Where I can improve, however, is my intake of fruit and vegetables.  I’m a creature of habit, and my morning breakfast is almost always one egg and one bread-like thing of some kind … muffin, toast, etc.  And my most often repeated dinner recipes are usually crockpot dinners or some other sort of one-dish meal.  Chicken and potatoes roasted in a skillet.  Fish with a side of bean salad.  Chicken over rice. … You get the point.  Quick and somewhat healthy and easy clean-up and simple to prepare with kids running under your feet.  Lunch is whatever I can grab in a hurry, to be totally honest.  Ham and cheese wrapped in a tortilla or leftover pasta from the night before.  Whatever I can find.  So I’m resolving to eat at least one fruit or vegetable in every meal of the day.  More than one is good and veggie snacks between meals are even better.  I know I probably won’t accomplish this three times a day for the next twelve months straight, but my hope is that it will change the way I think of eating and meal planning.  And making a real rule for myself, one I can count or see clearly, seems to work for my accountability most of the time.

For the past five days (yay, me!) I’ve been doing this, and it’s not that difficult, but it does require thought.  I throw a chopped mushroom and a sun-dried tomato in a tiny omelette in the morning, for instance, and it takes all of forty extra seconds to grab those from the fridge.  Some raw celery on the side for lunch.  Green beans to accompany our chicken and rice for dinner.  They are easy solutions, but they make me feel better about the variety in my diet, and I hope they will shed light on some creativity in the kitchen as well.

The second area I want to work on is my home.  Which I know was on my list of things in 2011, and I do actually think I’ve made strides since then, but I just find that as we add another baby to the mix and the months roll by, routines need re-evaluating and I need to make changes.  The main issue for me is to simplify.  Like simplify a million times over.  We cleaned out a ton of kids toys and old bedding and odds and ends over Christmas break, and I find myself wondering why on Earth we hadn’t done that sooner, or the real recurring question of why do I own this to begin with?  Making a house a home takes time, and you acquire hand-me-downs first and then the cheapest something of your own that you can afford and then maybe years later you get what you really want.  [Or this is how it happened with me.  Am I the only one?] So sometimes I look around my house and think what is that?  Or I find that the corners in my home that make me most happy are the things we’ve carefully chosen and really loved when we decided to buy it or hang it or arrange it or whatever.  I hope I’m making sense here.  All this is just to say that I want to work harder at making my house a home this year.  Whether through some aromatherapy oils or some kitchen cabinet reorganization or some new decorative details or whatever the case may be.  I want to walk in my home and feel that it is ours and full of our flavors and our tastes and our most favorite things and devoid of useless junk that does not serve to make me happy.

And last but not least, I hope to write here more often.  I’m going to try to impose a Wednesday and Sunday schedule for myself, and I’ll hope that it grows from there.  But that will have me checking in at least twice a week.  I miss this space and the journal it gives me to look back on and of course the clarity writing brings.  That’s something I want more of in 2013.

What about you?  Any things you’ve resolved to work on?

2012 Christmas Gifts Round-Up

I’ve really enjoyed reading about gifts some of you have received, and I love learning about new books and products from fellow bloggers, so I thought I’d write a little about our goods, too!

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All Jude really wanted for Christmas was a violin.  He’s been really interested in instruments of all kinds lately, and he’s watched a ridiculous amount of Little Einsteins since sister came along, so I’m guessing that’s what led to the obsession. Or maybe it is my adoration of Andrew Bird who pretty much played on repeat throughout my entire pregnancy with Jude. Ha.  Who knows?  Whatever the case, he was so amazed to see this toy one left by Santa on Christmas morning.  What did parents do before Amazon?  In addition to that, we picked up a train on Groupon Goods a while ago and this Batman toy has received A LOT of playtime this week.  We threw in a few other little things here and there, but those were his big items, and I think he seems pretty happy with them.

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Norah, on the other hand, is just happy to have a few toys that are new and not hand-me-downs.  We kept it simple with her … a couple new cloth diapers, a Kicky Pants sleeper I found on Zulily a while ago, and a Sophie the Giraffe teether.  We also brought up the doorway bouncer from the basement and gave Santa the credit, and she LOVES bouncing in that thing.

I scored some great stuff myself as well.  Scot surprised me with a Kindle Paperwhite and a pretty new case for it. I have a first generation Kindle, and I know they’ve come out with all sorts of multi-functional readers now.  But I only use mine for reading books, so the Paperwhite is a perfect fit for me.  I complain a lot these days that I don’t have time to read with my current responsibilities in life, and my old light that I’d use on my Kindle was far too bright to take with me while rocking or nursing Norah.  This one is backlit very faintly though, so I can read while I am rocking her to sleep.  In the past 2 days, I’ve plowed though a quarter of The Chaperone in my little spurts of 20 minutes here or there to nurse and rock the baby. So this is a gift that got me reading again, and for that I’m really grateful!

Scott also took Jude shopping a while ago with the purpose of buying me something from Jude, and Jude insisted he purchase “a teacup” for me.  Apparently it’s all he would consider for mama.  So they went to Teavana, and I got an awesome loose tea infuser that I love  – coupled with the best tea I have ever had.  Ever.  I am not exaggerating.  It’s all I can do to limit myself to a cup or two a day.  Yum.  Add some Starbucks Christmas blend and this collection of stories from the gift exchange on my side of the family, and I am a happy girl.

 

I’ve got a little cash to spend as well, and Amazon should be arriving today with two cookbooks (this one and this one) I’ve been wanting for a while, and some kitchen odds and ends I need (hand blender and a pizza stone).  I’m vaguely thinking of purchasing an essential oils diffuser with the bit that’s left, but I am confused at the options.  Anyone with experience or interest in aromatherapy?  What kind of diffuser do you use?  I need some advice on that one.

 

So what’d ya get?  Anything fun or interesting for you or the kiddos?

full

I think I’m still stuffed from Thanksgiving meals.  Both Scott and I have family close to us, so we have two rounds of food on Thanksgiving every year.  Turkey, stuffing (or “dressing” here in the south), mashed potatoes, corn, squash, green bean casserole, brussel sprouts, cabbage, homemade mac and cheese, collard greens, sweet potato soufflé, deviled eggs, rolls, and too many desserts to count.  I’m not kidding, people.  All of that food in my body this week.

I didn’t take one single posed and planned photo with a real camera.  But life is full these days – in every sense of that word.  Spare hands are rare and spare moments even more so.

I did manage to catch Jude cooking in his underwear on Thanksgiving morning, mimicing me as I baked an apple cake.

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And I snapped a quick photo of Norah and I together before we headed out for family meal number one. I was trying to make her smile on cue, and you can see a glimmer of a grin.  Our hair is the exact same shade right now, and I love it.

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And Black Friday? You shoppers are nuts. I spent half the day in pajamas and had an extra cup of coffee and snuggled with family.

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I have so much to be thankful for this year. My health and that of my family members first and foremost. I feel like 2012 has been a rough year for so many people I know with health-related difficulties for themselves or loved ones.  To be here and healthy and able to live each day unencumbered with worry for my own body or those of my husband and children is a gift I don’t recognize enough.

So I am saying it now. For my health, the food on my table, my home, my friends old and new, and my tight family.  I am thankful this week and always.

I’m also thankful for this apple cake recipe which tastes even better for breakfast the next day.  (Cake for breakfast.  That’s okay at Thanksgiving, right!?)

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Apple Cake with Caramel Glaze  (from The Gift of Southern Cooking, by Scott Peacock)

For the cake:
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
3 eggs
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
7 apples, preferably organic peeled and diced into 1-inch pieces
1 1/4 cups coarsely chopped pecans
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

For the glaze:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
Pinch salt
1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour an 9-by-13-inch baking pan.

In a mixing bowl, beat sugars, oil and vanilla until well-blended. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and gradually add to the sugar and eggs, mixing just until well-blended.

Fold in the apples and pecans. Pour into the pan.

Bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours (begin to check after 50 minutes), until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan while preparing the glaze.  (I poke holes in the cake with a toothpick or butter knife so the glaze and run throughout.)

To make the glaze,in a medium pan, melt the butter. Add sugar, salt. and cream. Stir until blended and cook over medium-low heat for 2 minutes. Increase heat and boil for about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and cool slightly until glaze begins to thicken. Spoon over cake.

back on the train

Two weeks ago was Disney World.  Then we come home to have Jude’s birthday a few days later.  Then his little preschool class celebrated his day on the 18th.  Then we had a Mickey-themed birthday party at our house on the 20th.  Then yesterday we spent time at a fall carnival at the local elementary school.

First cotton candy!

To say we haven’t been healthy eaters lately is such an understatement.  And I think I hadn’t realized how far I’d gone on the real-food-and-crunchy-healthy-eating spectrum until we spent a week at a theme park followed by a week of indulgent celebrations at home.  Oh, my unhappy body.

 

And in my opinion, it is no coincidence that Jude has had a random 24-hour fever, a tummy bug, AND a head cold in the past month or so.  Preschool germs are relentless, I know.  But eating junk can’t help that situation.  Throw in a little development spurt and the related sleep regression for Norah, and I am feeling worn and tired and just not up to par at all.  I’m so ready for a little return to normalcy.  [But then soon Halloween… and then Thanksgiving and then Christmas….so normal is not really that normal this time of year, is it?]

 

Anyway, I haven’t posted on food in a while, so I thought I’d share our dinner plan this week in my attempt to get us back on track.

Sunday – grilled tilapia, quinoa salad, roasted broccoli

Monday – Honey-Curry Chicken and brown rice

Tuesday – Butternut Squash Lasagna (my absolute favorite fall dish)

Wednesday – Husband has a work thing, and the lasagna makes great leftovers, so that’s probably the plan.

Thursday – homemade whole wheat pizza with proscuitto and red onions

Friday – My carpet is being cleaned at 2pm, so I’m thinking we’ll head out since I need to keep little feet off of it until it dries.  Maybe Indian food, I’m hoping?

Saturday – I’m hosting a bridal shower for my cousin, so more busy times and a leftover petit fours to tempt us. I think I’ll rely on something from my freezer to help me out that night.  Maybe baked ziti?

 

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Anything good in your kitchen plans this week?