Sunday, January 29, 2012

Simple Homemade Veggie Dip

Here's a great way I've found to help my children eat more veggies: While preparing lunch or dinner, I put out a small veggie "platter" for snacking, with my dip of choice. (I don't offer any other snacks during this time, or the veggies may take 2nd seat) My kids are usually hungry enough that they eat at least a serving of veggies before we've even started dinner.

We usually put out our veggies with some homemade hummus (so easy, and much more economical than store-bought!). Last week, for our afternoon snack, I created my own version of homemade Ranch dip. I couldn't believe how much the girls ate--the dish in the photo below was FULL of carrots, cucumbers, and broccoli when we started.
This was so easy to mix up (done in minutes!), and the whole family loved it.

Simple Veggie Dip

1 c plain yogurt
1 heaping spoonful of mayo (I'd guess I used about 2-3 tbsp)
LOTS of dill (I've made this now with both fresh and dried; both work)
a few shakes of garlic powder OR 1/2 of a small clove, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pudding for Breakfast?!

Breakfast is something that is a continuous struggle for me. Oatmeal has been our standby for years now, but (as I'm sure I've mentioned before) our palates are beyond bored with it. Near the end of last year, I tried experimenting with some other grains (cream of wheat, cream of buckwheat, quinoa flakes, teff hot cereal) that were all flat-out rejected by my family. And when I say rejected, I mean that some were actually gagged back out onto the table. Major new-food failure.

Given the unfriendly welcome these new grains received in my kitchen, I knew I would have to get creative. Enter our favorite grain, rice. We have rice-based dinners at least once a week--burritos, fried rice, stir fry. Now, instead of making a full pot of rice, I have started mixing my grains, half and half. One week was half brown rice, half quinoa. The next week was half brown rice, half buckwheat (warning if you try this one, it comes out's trickier to disguise buckwheat's texture). Half brown rice and half millet works, too!

Sidenote--This is not a parenting tactic I'm proud of; I don't like to trick my children into eating healthy food by making them think it's something they enjoy. I want them to eat a food, identify that they enjoy it, and then tell them exactly what it was and how nutritious it is for their little growing bodies! This way, they can say, "Oh, yes, I like _______!" (zucchini, carrots, quinoa!!) But with these grains, we're not quite there yet. They will know the truth behind our breakfast "rice pudding" very soon, once we've enjoyed it a few more times. :)

And now back to breakfast--I pulled this together one evening as a snack when I was craving something warm, sweet, and comforting. It makes a delicious breakfast, and the whole grains really satisfy and stave off hunger all morning. My husband and I love it, as does our youngest. Our oldest daughter tolerates it, which is good enough for me... :)

"Rice" Pudding Breakfast Cereal
Place desired amount of cooked rice/quinoa blend in a pot over medium heat. Add enough almond milk (I'm in love with Silk Pure Almond, unsweetened) to cover the grains. Sprinkle in a handful or two of raisins, a generous shake of cinnamon, and a dash of nutmeg. Heat through, then simmer for a few more minutes to allow the grains to soak up some of the extra milk.

Serve with another splash of milk and a drizzle of maple syrup.

Friday, January 13, 2012

New Year's Goals

Image Credit: Valentina Design

Happy New Year, friends! I'm really excited about the year ahead. This is because, for the first time, my husband and I spent an evening together setting goals for our life this year. He is a goal-setter, and has always had very clear personal, business, and life goals. It was something I'd never really been interested in--I've considered myself a more…in-the-moment, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants sort of person. I just preferred to decide what my plans were for next week (or sometimes just tomorrow!), not one year, five years, or (good Lord!) ten years down the road. Yikes.

But, guess what? Flying by the seat of my pants is NOT working anymore, with two small children, preschool, and LIFE. I am always rushed, feeling overwhelmed, and running out of time to do the things I'd like to each day.

Like shower. Ew. :)

Without hashing out every detail of the goals we decided on, we basically just want to do better…be better…eat better…feel better. :) That could probably sum up, pretty broadly, almost everyone's New Year's Resolutions. But having specific, written goals that we'll re-visit each week together (when we review our week ahead on Sunday nights, which will make us so much more organized! woohoo!) makes it feel like I may actually pull it off this year.

Since this is my food blog, I will share our food related goals…nothing too surprising or over-the-top, but it still will be a challenge to stick to them.

- Each Tuesday, I'll complete a weekly meal plan (including snack planning and healthy lunch for hubby to take to work) with a COMPREHENSIVE shopping list

- Each Wednesday, I'll do all the grocery shopping for said meals

- Three of our dinners each week will be VEGAN (Have you seen Forks Over Knives? Gotta watch it, people!)

- We'll have a minimum of one family meal per day (this is mostly to make sure that my hubby is home and present for at least one meal a day :) )

-I will start to keep a FOOD LIST--for meal planning purposes, to keep better track of the tasty things I make (one of my motivators to start blogging again--it helps me keep track!)

Now that my food goals are public, it's really official! You all are helping me stick to it, just by reading. Here's to a happy and healthy 2012! What goals and resolutions have you set this year?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Snack Time

We have been in a major food rut. I swear I just stare, cluelessly, at my meal planning sheet each week. It's as if all my delicious recipes are filed away in a part of my brain that I simply cannot access right now. My complete lack of new posts reflects the complete lack of anything new or inspiring coming out of my kitchen.

Snacks have been pathetic, too. Fruit and veggies with hummus are pretty much what we've been sticking to, and we're all tired of it. Nobody wants to eat it anymore, and when my kids don't eat, it's not pretty (remember hungrumpy?) Hunting the internet this weekend for someone else's ideas, I came across this post from What Life Dishes Out. YES! THANK YOU! This was a snack technique that I used to use when Lainey was a toddler. She really didn't like take time out to sit and have a snack, so I used to put out an ice cube tray with little bits of a variety of snacks that she could nibble on all morning. As she got older and we phased that out, I completely forgot how genius it is!

The idea to make it a "super secret surprise" snack sampler is equally genius. Lainey was ALL OVER this. She must have said "Thanks, Mom!!" about six times. She loved it, and I was able to give her a good mix of healthy snacks. Score!
This time, her Super Secret Snack included raisins and sunflower seeds, a few mini cheese sticks (cut from my giant block), banana slices, four Soy Crisps, carrots and rice crackers, and a spoonful of hummus.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Pan Pacific and Asparagus

When we packed for this trip, we decided to ship out a bunch of boxes to lighten our load on travel worked beautifully, except that our box of all the girls' toys arrived THREE DAYS after we did. We bought a set of foam blocks to try to hold us over, and Lainey's favorite new game became stuff-the-Sarah....(poor Sarah just ignored it and kept playing!)
Thankfully, their toys (and clothes, and my immersion blender that I can't live without!) arrived Monday, and being in the house is no longer torture for us all.

Still, we've spent some time venturing out; the girls and I walked to the Pan Pacific Park yesterday. It took us about 35 minutes to get there, and Lainey rode her new scooter the whole way, just like a big kid. We stopped for a strawberry-banana smoothie on the way...mmm.

On the way home, I bought this asparagus at the farmer's market; I don't think it's actually local, I don't know if it was organic or not, and I'm actually not even that into just looked so delicate and beautiful, I had to try some.
I ended up drizzling it with olive oil, sprinkling with sea salt and fresh ground pepper, and roasting it for about 25 minutes at 400° was incredible. It got voted by the adults (sadly, not a hit with the kiddos) as make-again-good.
More food adventures to come...stay tuned! :)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Hello from the West Coast!

I'm typing this on my computer in front of a huge open bay window, with 75° air blowing by. Oh, yah. We're in LA...for a month!!! I am thrilled to have traded this...

for this...!

In order to try to keep in touch a bit, my blog for the next month, though still often food-focused (how could I not focus on food?!), will also be my tool for sharing LA with my friends and family while we're away (I know that most of my readers are you guys, not strangers.. :) ).

Sadly, we woke up our first day here and all four of us had the nasty stomach bug that's going around. It was rough. The #1 thing I was looking forward to about getting here was the FOOD! Lainey put it very well when she whined, "But I don't want to be sick in Californina!" Believe me kid, I know.

We pulled through, though, and ventured out yesterday afternoon to start exploring the city a bit. Mike and I enjoyed a delicious dinner from Vegan Glory, an amazing Thai Vegan restaurant, one block from our house (woohoo!! can you imagine such a place even existing in the Capital Region?!).

I am absolutely loving having so much great food so nearby, and we're only on our first full day of being able to eat! Today we walked to a restaurant for breakfast (as in, about 10 minutes), and we're a 20 minute walk from a huge outdoor daily farmer's market/restaurant area.

So far, I'm totally embracing being a California girl; if only we could transport everyone we love to be here with us, I would consider moving here. :)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Combating the Hungrumpy

**I have been corrected, and have thus corrected my post; the word is hungrumpy, not grumpungry. :)

Yes, that says hungrumpy. As in grumpy and hungry--or hunger induced grumpiness. I credit my clever brother-in-law with coining this phrase (Thanks Bri!), which unfortunately is a common syndrome in our house. My mother-in-law tells the story of my husband, as a child, behaving like an absolute devil prior to a meal. Minutes after eating, she describes the sweet, loving smile accompanied with an "I love you, Mom.". Cute story, and though I've witnessed similar behavior in the adult-Mike, I always suspected it was a little exaggerated.

Until I had my very own mini-Mike named Alaina.

The story is 100% accurate (truly!!), and it happens regularly. I have learned that I need to keep a steady supply of snacks going or hungrumpy rears it's (really) ugly face. Our snacking had gotten into a rut over the past couple months. We don't really eat processed snack foods, and a piece of fruit and/or a small bowl of yogurt was getting old for all of us.

Our new favorite snack is super healthy and quick to get on the table. I've been trying hard to get more veggies on Lainey's "like" list. I had tried cut veggies with dip in the past, and it was always met with resistance. I need to remember more often the "try new foods again and again" rule; I brought out some carrot sticks, cucumbers, and homemade hummus last week, and both girls gobbled it up.

I have played around for a little over a year with different hummus recipes; super garlic-y, cumin, tahini-free, plain, atrichoke...but none of them compared to the store hummus. Then, a few weeks ago I pulled out my recipe book and found this recipe, from my dear friend Amy. It's hummus perfection--creamy and not overpowering; just a perfect blend of traditional hummus flavors. It takes about five minutes to make, and I plan to have this in the fridge all the time.

Lebanese Hummus

1 clove garlic, crushed (I used garlic powder, maybe 1/4 tsp)
1/4 c. lemon juice
16 oz. can chick peas, drained with liquids reserved
1/3 c. sesame tahini
1 tsp. salt

I put all ingredients in a bowl and puree with my immersion blender; add liquid as needed to help puree and thin to desired consistency.

Here's to a hungrumpy free day!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

New Year, New Kitchen

My resolution this year has been to get my butt in gear in organize my life. Yes, a pretty hefty goal...I've been cleaning, de-cluttering (as in, several trunkfuls of stuff off to goodwill), meal-planning, making lists...all this organization has actually resulted in having free time--a rare and beautiful thing.

It's hard to meal-plan when you don't know for sure what's in your kitchen, so now that the house is actually clean (see how I've done it in my post here, about my awesome new chore system!), I'm starting to do major projects like cleaning in cupboards and closets.

This was my project on Sunday night:
My cupboard, before...
I buy alot of items in bulk, and have an assortment of unlabeled bags piled all over. A trip to the store for some new glass jars and a couple hours of work later (I got through two cupboards)...
I can actually see all my food, I labeled all the mystery powders, and it just looks lovely!!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Dinner, Fast: Fried Rice

This meal has become one of my weekly regulars, and quite possibly my favorite meal to cook. It's super healthy, full of veggies, and takes about 10-15 minutes to prepare, start to finish. Who doesn't love a healthy, fast meal?!

I've started consistently meal planning each week, and I've really been taking advantage of our freezer. When I cook rice in the rice cooker, I always make a double batch and freeze the leftovers in freezer bags. This is the key for this recipe--cooking rice is not difficult, but when fast is the goal, it just doesn't work.

Now, on to the recipe. As with most of my recipes, I don't measure much, so adjust as you prefer!
First, gather your ingredients:
frozen cooked brown rice (go with brown rice, it's so much healthier and when it's cooked this way it doesn't taste any different!!)
1 bag of frozen mixed veggies--any kind you like
2-4 eggs (up to you!), scrambled and set aside
soy sauce
sesame oil
canola oil

1. Heat equal parts of sesame and canola oils in a large pan (total a few tbsp.).
2. Pour in frozen rice and frozen veggies, stir and cook over medium heat until both are thawed and warming through.
3. Stir in about 1/4 c. soy sauce (more or less), a little at a time, to your taste (my soy sauce, from the Honest Weight Food Co-op, is potent, so I don't use a ton).
4. Push rice mixture to the perimeter of the pan, and pour in scrambled eggs. Continue to stir and cook the eggs through, and mix together into rice mixture when they're set.
Additional soy sauce and sesame oil can be added when served if it needs more oomph. I also sometimes add a generous drizzle of rice wine vinegar while it's cooking, just for a little more flavor.

This is fast, easy, delicious, and a huge hit with both Lainey and Sarah (my 1-year old)...and adults!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Welcome 2011!

Without really planning to, I took a two month hiatus from my blogging here. The combination of the holidays, knitting like a madwoman, and LIFE just caught up with me. I've also been writing on From Scratch Club, which took the little bit of blog energy I had.

This is a new year, though, and I am all about getting back in the bloggy game. This year I have big plans to get organized...this is a pretty ambitious goal for me, as I am just not. The insanity of the holidays actually helped me to notice how difficult it is for me to keep track of everything, and has made me determined to make changes. I realize that I'm only four days into it, but I think I'm doing pretty darn well so far. My house is cleaner than it has been in months, my calendar is organized, I can see the floor of my car, I made it to the gym today, I'm blogging, and I don't feel lost in the shuffle of my day. Now if I can just keep it up... :)

Since some of my readers are here for a recipe, and others are here in hopes of seeing some pictures of my cuddlebugs, I'll do both tonight. First up, a quick and easy veggie side dish inspired by the incredible green beans my sister brought to Thanksgiving dinner.

Dijon Mustard Green Beans
(excellent served warm OR cold)
1 lb green beans, washed and trimmed
equal parts Dijon mustard and olive oil (I used about 1/4 c. of each)
salt to taste

Cook green beans in a large pot of salted water until tender, 5-8 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together mustard and oil.
Drain green beans and stir in mustard sauce. Season with salt. Serve.

And, last, some photos of my sweet girls...

Getting ready for Thanksgiving and more child labor with the Bissell...

Lainey's first self-haircut...

Merry Christmas!

And, some beautiful shots by Christina Davis, photographer and friend...