Saturday, December 18, 2010

The JOYS (?!?) of Parenting. :)

Being a parent to a toddler can be really alienating...especially when your littlest picky is two and likes to scream more than talk.  We can be in a restaurant, a store, at school or at a friend's house and he will start screaming.  He may be mad, he may be happy, he may feel hungry or tired.  Who knows?  He's verbal but not enough to communicate every want and need.  And yes, I am aware that he probably should be talking more because I do have two more at home. 

However...
I have tried everything.  You don't need to stare at me or shake your head.  You can stop thinking "my child won't be like that" or "I never had a screamer and I don't understand".  You know what?  Your kid will do *something* my kid won't do and I won't try to make you feel bad.  I will remind you that I have had three children and that although we parent our three children the same way, they all turn out differently.  If only there was a right answer or a wrong answer.  Saying these things, thinking these things and showing your aggravation doesn't help.  I cannot sit in a house all day because I have a screamer. 


What you don't see is that when he does talk, he uses very nice manners. 
Or that he loves his siblings with such ferocious love, it is impossible not to smile. 
Or that he walks around kissing everybody or everything.


I wish older people would remember what it is like to have small children...I know it is easy to forget.  I wish people would remember that these are CHILDREN and not mini-adults.  We expect them to sit quietly and still but then get upset when they don't speak with manners or do their homework.  We can be very confusing, us adults.
So next time you see a parent at the grocery store with a screaming child, smile.  That screaming child could be your doctor one day or a future politician.  I'm not asking you to feel sorry for me, I
am asking for you to treat me with kindness and compassion. 

Yes, I can hear my child screaming
 and NO, I am NOT happy about it.


Sally Poster available here on Amazon. :)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Take just ONE more step.

I can't see who you are but I can tell you've been here.
My stats button tells me so. 
It even tells me which post you have read and how many views it has had.

A surprising (or maybe not so much) observation?
My posts that have a link to a YouTube video or my Facebook links that show videos or podcasts are all left virtually untouched.  Those posts, statuses or links are the ones that usually lack comments or views.  And sadly enough, I found those to be the most inspiring.  More people want to read about my pizza dough recipe than watch a group of children sing with emotion?  More people want to read about what my family is eating for dinner than a woman doing slam poetry about how being pretty does not define who we are?

And then it hit me.

I am usually really good at checking in on what's going on, reading blogs or checking my newsfeed.  But I, myself, am really bad at taking just one more step.  I have to finish reading my Facebook Newsfeed before I click on someone's photo album, link or note.  I like to read my blogroll and find out who posted about what before I decide to read.  I know I'm not the only one doing this because I see which posts you like the most.

I love instant-gratification (as does the rest of world and my fellow "Gimme" Generation).  But when do we put our needs and our patience and our interests so in front of those for whom we care?  We live in a world of instantaneous text messages, emails, quick Facebook updates.  When have you called a friend from out of state?  When have you actually reached out to someone besides just posting on a "wall"?

Try to take that extra step today for some relationship.  Whether it be playing a game with your kids, touching your spouse's hand, clicking someone's link or inspiring video or writing your child's teacher and thanking them for making a difference, do something special, something small to MAINTAIN your relationships, not just build them. 

Go just one step further.  Look a little closer.  You may miss something extraordinary.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pizza Dough Recipe

Everyone asks me for my pizza dough recipe.  I don't think it is because it's *that* good (although it is yummy!) but because making homemade pizza is still a novelty for most people in a world of $5 Hot 'n' Readys and Boboli crust.  I figure that I can make two homemade organic pizzas for about $5.  Take that, Little Caesars.  Oh and it definitely is healthier.

Breadmaker Way (2 lb bread pan)

1 cup and 2 t warm water
2 T oil (I use olive or grapeseed)
3 cups flour (I usually use 2 cups All-Purpose and 1 cup Whole Wheat--the more WW you use, the thinner the crust...but still so good!)
1 t salt
1 t sugar or agave
2 t yeast
*I also sometimes add fresh chopped herbs like basil and parsley...I usually always add garlic powder and oregano as well...

Place all ingredients in bread pan in the order listed.  Set to dough...this recipe can be used on delay as long as you don't add cheese to it (duh).  :P  My machine takes 1 1/2 hours.  When finished, scroll down to Bake.  :)

Good 'ole Pizza by hand...(or food processor or Kitchen Aid) 
1 cup plus 2 t warm water
2 t yeast
1 t sugar
2 T oil (I use olive or grapeseed)

3 cups flour (I usually use 2 cups All-Purpose and 1 cup Whole Wheat--the more WW you use, the thinner the crust...but still so good!)
1 t salt

*optional...fresh or dried herbs such as basil, parsley, garlic, rosemary, oregano, etc...

You need to proof your yeast.  In a small bowl (I like to use a 2 cup measuring cup), stir water, yeast, sugar and oil.  Let sit for five minutes until it gets bubbly and foamy.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl (or food processor or mixer bowl), combine salt, flour and optional spices.  When yeast is finished, pour liquid mixture into flour mixture.  Stir until combined.  On a floured surface, take out the dough and knead for 5-10 minutes..adding a bit of flour as necessary to prevent the dough from sticking to your hands.  If you are using a food processor or stand mixer with a bread hook, let it run for a few minutes until a ball forms.  No more kneading is required. When dough is soft and stretchy, put the dough in a large lightly-oiled bowl...coat the bottom of the dough ball and flip it so the top is coated too.  I ususally put  a plate or cookie sheet on top of my bowl and set it aside in a warm place for about an hour.

Bake
Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Oil your baking sheets.

On a floured surface, take your dough ball and cut in half.  Roll out the dough with a rolling pin to your desired size.  Place crusts on pans.  Let rise for another 10-15 minutes while you get out your sauce, cheese and toppings.  When you are done getting everything out...place some sauce on crust (not too much!) and put on your toppings.

Bake for 10-12 minutes.  Enjoy!

From what I understand the dough freezes well. You just roll it up in a ball, saran wrap it, tuck it into a freezer bag and defrost the night before in the fridge. :)

Sometimes I make this recipe and make 8-10 personal pizzas.  I let them cool and freeze them in freezer bags.  I also will roll out the dough and take a cookie cutter that fits into my kids' school thermoses, cut them, top them, bake them and freeze them.  I take a few out the night before, put them in the fridge and on school day, throw them in the microwave for a minute or two...gooey (HEALTHY) pizza for school lunches! 


Birthday pizza for my littlest guy's 2nd Birthday.  :)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Original GLEE...

To all my dear family and friends...
PS22 Chorus "I'LL STAND BY YOU" The Pretenders

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Taking some time to just BE...

I'm struggling this week and as a result, I haven't been meal-planning, I haven't been cooking, I've been spending way too much money.  It is interesting to me how when you go numb for a bit, the easy everyday tasks get done but with no regard to any of your cares.  I haven't cared if the kids eat chicken and fries two meals a day or if their food has been all that healthy.  I just haven't had the energy or the fight to deal with it.  That's ok.

I've started this post about three times and erased it.  I'm having a hard time titling it.  Hopefully I will fill it in before I save it because then it won't save and that's what I've let happen...I've let my words be erased in technology-land.  But I'm trying to just let go what I have had to say.

Last week started with a dr appointment for a four-week cold.  I received my treatment and the dr said I had a heart murmur.  I was surprised because I had never heard that before and before I knew it, my EKG came back abnormal and I was scheduled for an echiocardiograph the next day.  I go in and leave with the expectations that the dr will call me with any abnormal news.  And so I began waiting.

I recieved a phone call last Tuesday night from our Preschool Director that our beloved teacher lost her husband unexpectedly.  He was only 31 and he passed doing one of his favorite things--hunting.  He left behind a lovely, inspirational wife, two small children (one on the way as well) and an absolutely heartbroken community.  I didn't know him but I hope that I can impact people the way he did and I hope that we can continue to support Vee as these difficult days come. 

Oh, the church community that they all belong to is UNBELIEVABLE.  Everybody just picked up responsibilities and got them done selflessly.  When we are ready to go back to church, I think we have found a new home.  :)

I received the phone call Friday night that I needed to come in Monday for a physical and to go over my results.  Apparently I have a leaky valve but I guess that's pretty normal.  No cardiologist, no exercise reduction or monitoring and the dr couldn't even hear the murmur yesterday.  Awesome news!  Then as he is checking my pulse tones and reflexes, he finds that they are feeble.  Over the summer I was diagnosed with a syndrome that leaves my feet feeling achingly cold all the time.  It is supposed to be more annoying then a concern.  Well, dr is ordering all sorts of bloodwork to make sure the circulation syndrome isn't masking itself as a neurolgical issue or an auto-immune disease like Lupus.  It's one thing after another...just hoping I remain healthy. 

That was one week.  So no, I am not going to meal plan, tell you about a great recipe or tell you how to be more eco-friendly.  I promise I will be back to that but for this second,
 I am going to just be...
be love
hug often
give thanks
show grace
act with compassion.

If anybody is interested in donating to the King Family Memorial Fund, please let me know.  :)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

What We are Eating 11/7-11/13

I love to meal-plan.  I really do.  I also understand that makes me a dork and those of you that know me in real life understand that I am a dork anyway and this is just one more thing.  :)  I have this really cute, really abused notebook that I open up and I write out the calender for the week on the right page:  Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.  :)  The page to the left (the back of last week's meal plan becomes my grocery list.  As I jot down the plans, I check recipes and my pantry for ingredients and add them according to the Whole Foods layout.  I know, super dorky.



I love planning for the meals.  I sit down with a couple random issues of Vegetarian Times or Veg News or I focus on one or two cookbooks.  If I'm not feeling the inspiration, I head to my favorite blogs on the internet.  WHEN do I do this?  Most likely in front of the tv when the kids are in bed or in the morning when my superawesomeamazing husband is feeding the kids breakfast.

I really do enjoy the meal plans but I don't always follow them.  Life happens and we end up going out or I end up creating something new.  Last night I was "supposed" to make sandwiches and roasted veggies.  I ended up making chocolate coconut pancakes, tempheh bacon and fresh fruit.  Sometimes we just need to follow the cravings.  :)

If you ever need help meal-planning, just let me know.  Remember, I'm the big dork with the notebook.  :)

Sunday 7:
Breakfast:  cereal and fruit
Lunch:  Chuck 'e' Cheese for a birthday party
Dinner:  chickpea piccata, mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli (trying this out for a potential Thanksgiving meal!)

Monday 8:
Lunch:  burritos and quesadillas
Dinner:  bean and pasta soup, green beans

Tuesday 9: 
Breakfast:  cereal and fruit
Lunch:  sandwiches (pb and j for kids, veggie for adults!)
Dinner:  homemade pizza and veggies

Wednesday 10:
Breakfast:  toast and fruit
Lunch:  hummus wraps
Dinner:  chana masala and rice, veggies

Thursday 11:
Breakfast:  banana coffee cake
Dinner:  avocado tortilla soup, chips and salsa

Friday 12:
Breakfast:  cereal
Lunch:  cheesy noodles
Dinner:  mujadra with pita and hummus

Saturday 13:
Breakfast:  cereal and fruit
Lunch:  out!  :)
Dinner:  whatever we are craving on the weekends or whatever leftovers we have!  :)

Extras:  Quinoa pudding, brownies

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Incredibly Ridiculously GOOD. Not kidding. Make these NOW!

OHMYGOSH.  These peanut butter cups are the most amazing thing I have eaten in a long time and I can't even taste due to my cold/allergies/hostile-takeover-of-the-sinuses.  Alicia Silverstone (of Clueless fame) went vegan, raw and eventually macrobiotic and she created a cookbook called The Kind Diet.  I haven't bought it yet, but my awesome mother-in-law sends me the most amazing vegan recipes (AHA!  My crazy daughter-in-law can eat THAT!) and this recipe for the peanut butter cups came in handy in time for a dinner get-together.  I don't want to share.  ANY.  But I did invite my sister-in-law over to try them because I am THAT nice.  Sometimes.  :)

Dairy-Free Peanut Butter Cups

(from The Kind Diet)


SERVINGS

12

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup Earth Balance butter

3/4 cup crunchy peanut butter (preferably unsweetened and unsalted)

3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs or 10 graham cracker squares (I used a graham cracker crust, crumbled)

1/4 cup maple sugar or other granulated sweetener (I used Vegan cane sugar)

1 cup grain-sweetened, nondairy chocolate or carob chips

1/4 cup soy, rice, or nut milk (I used almond)

1/4 cup chopped pecans, almonds, or peanuts (I used walnuts...trying to get those Omegas in!)


PREPARATION

1. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners. (If You Care makes unbleached liners made from recycled paper.) Set aside.

2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.

3. Stir in the peanut butter, graham cracker crumbs, and maple sugar and mix well.

4. Remove the mixture from the heat. Evenly divide the mixture, approximately 2 tablespoons per cup, among the muffin cups.

5. Combine the chocolate and milk in another pan. Stir over medium heat until the chocolate has melted.

6. Spoon the chocolate evenly over the peanut butter mixture.

7. Top with chopped nuts.

8. Place in the refrigerator to set for at least 2 hours before serving. (I ate one at 2 hours and 1 minute..before dinner.)

Obviously if you are not vegan, you can make them this way or substitute regular milk and butter.  But you should really try them this way.  REALLY.  Let me know what you think!


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Meal Planning...a little late...10/31-11/6

I apologize for blogging so late into the week...as if you are all waiting impatiently for my meal plans (haha).  Halloween came and went, I have been fighting a cold and I am battling a pile with Mt. Laundry (and losing terribly!).  I'm also trying to adjust my meal plans since my weekly CSA is over (BOO!) and now I need to start using potatoes since I bought 50 pounds of them for winter.  They last that long since they are coming straight from the farm...for real.

Sunday 10/31
Breakfast:  pumpkin chocolate chip muffins
Lunch:  Miguel's Cantina (YUM)
Dinner:  spaghetti with marinara and alfredo sauce, homemade french bread

Monday 11/1
Breakfast:  toasted applesauce bread, fruit
Lunch:  spaghetti
Dinner:  shepherd's pie with pinenut breadcrumbs, french bread

Tuesday 11/2
Breakfast:  cereal and fruit
Lunch:  leftovers
Dinner:  chickpea and broccoli casserole, leftover shepherd's pie

Wednesday 11/3
Breakfast:  cereal and fruit
Lunch:  miso soup
Dinner:  black bean, corn and chipotle stew, kale salad

Thursday 11/4
Breakfast:  toast, applesauce, milk
Lunch:  bean burritos, veggies with dip
Dinner:  potato and spinach squares, roasted tofu

Friday 11/5
Breakfast:  coconut chai coffee cake
Lunch:  chickpea salad sandwiches
Dinner:  homemade pizza, steamed broccoli

Saturday 11/6
Breakfast:  cereal and fruit
Lunch:  Indian Buffet
Dinner:  tempeh sandwiches and roasted veggies

Extras:  peanut butter cookies and *maybe* a chocolate peanut butter pie.  :)

Holler if you want any recipes.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

Happiness isn't SO hard.

My husband reminded me the other day of a Buddhist book he read that talked about happiness.  The topic really spoke to me because I have been thinking about this lots lately; so many people I know are going through rough patches from so many different sources.  Whether it be jobs, relationships, kids, money,ailments, sex; all of these things can make us feel a variety of emotions.  And so many people start off with "I would be happy if..." or "we would get along if..." or "I would be done losing weight if..." 

What do they all have in common?  IF.

Why can't you just be happy with where things are?  There are people all over this world who have life so much tougher than we do.  Lots of them are happy.  Blessed.  Gracious. 

My favorite thing to say recently to my children and my friends is that it is ok to feel a certain way and that we can't control how other people feel.  But we can choose how we react.  We can live with  a sense of sadness, longing or loneliness or we can be grateful for what we do have.  We will never ever be able to control what other people do, say or feel, but we can control how we respond and in turn, how the world perceives us. 

I understand that tough, dark times happen.  I get it.  I have had my share.  I don't have a choice to wallow in them because I am a mother.  A wife.  A sister, daughter, a FRIEND.  All I can do is move forward and make the best choices I can make to make sure we are all taken care of emotionally.  :)  Obviously mental illness may bring people down and it isn't easy to turn it around.  But my point is to DO something about your feelings.  Seek help, guidance.  Make cupcakes.  Do anything that makes you warm inside.

So stop with the "IFs".  Make the conscious choice to move forward and create your own happiness no matter the circumstance.  There will always be a sharp corner, a dark place and  a wrench thrown in your plans. 
Choose your path and live peacefully.











Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Oh My Kitchen Smells Lovely! (and you won't have an asthma attack walking into it!)

15% of people have asthma CAUSED by their workplace. 

When I started becoming a little more environmentally-conscious, I began looking into making a few of my cleaning products or finding natural alternatives to some of the nasty ones.  After a month of using chemical-free products, I noticed when I went to a friend's house that I developed a TERRIBLE headache and congested lungs as I walked through the kitchen at her home.  She told me she had just cleaned.

We are so accustomed to all the horrible toxins and our bodies are used to them.  That means that our little kids and our pets are breathing them in as well.  As far as I am concerned, it is my job to provide my family with a safe breathing environment as well as a safe place to be, so I started researching cleaning products.  Here is my own recipe for an excellent natural all-purpose cleaner and disinfectant that is as economical as it is functional:

All-Purpose Cleaner
Large spray bottle
Distilled White vinegar ( I buy a 1 1/2 gallon at Costco for $3--lasts me at least two months!)
water
your favorite essential oils (not fragrance oils, ESSENTIAL OILS)

Fill up the spray bottle 3/4 of the way full with the vinegar.  Fill the rest up with water.  Add 30-40 drops of essential oils to the mixture and after you close it up, shake.  Spray and breathe peacefully.  :)  If your vinegar smells really strong, don't fret because it will fade as soon as it dries...but if you put in enough essential oils, you shouldn't be able to smell it.

White vinegar is a natural disinfectant but if you really want to be a little more comfortable with your disinfecting, add some tea tree oil because that's another natural disinfectant.  This week I added cinnamon essential oil and my house smells like fall!

Now, does this mean that I completely ignore all the bad stuff?  No.  I generally use baking soda to scour and whiten tubs but occasionally Comet may need to be busted out.  That's what I try to do: use the natural stuff as much and as often as I can but resepct the occasional use of chemicals. 

Don't want to make your own products?  I love the Naturally It's Clean products.  Not only are they local to my area, the glass cleaner is EXTRAORDINARY.  No streaks!  I also use the toilet bowl cleaner and the floor cleaner.  They are a bit pricey, but I want my children to breathe safely in my house. 


Comment and let me know what works for you.  Start small and whip up a batch of the All-Purpose Cleaner...that is the stuff you spray everywhere to wipe down counters, walls, toys, etc. 

Together we can make this world a healthy, clean place where all people can breathe peacefully.

Monday, October 11, 2010

I WIN. What's the Name of that Game? I WIN. :)

How many of you recognized my title from "Big Daddy"?  :)

I have become a trickster in the kitchen.  I have mentioned previously that I have a million squash and man, I just don't know what to do with them.  I have a couple spaghetti squashes and they sit on my counter looking like bright yellow footballs, mocking me because I have no clue what to do with them.  I know that back in the Atkins-diet phase, it was recommended you cook it and use them as spaghetti noodles.  Nah, I don't think that would fly with "The Pickies"; these are the children (2, 4 1/2 and 6) who can literally create a hostile takeover at the kitchen table.

Soccer is on Sunday nights for our middle buddy, so I need something that doesn't cause a huge ruckus because he is usually tired after soccer.  So for the last two Sundays, I have made Spaghetti with Spaghetti Squash. 

And the BEST part is that they don't know they are eating SQUASH. 
And when I happily tell them, THEY KEEP EATING.

Mom-1
Kids-0
Here's how I do it:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Take a spaghetti squash and slice through it lengthwise with a VERY sharp knife.  Scoop out the seeds (bet they would be good roasted) and place the squash cut-side DOWN on a lightly-oiled baking sheet that has the little sides.  Roast for 30-40 minutes.  You will know when it is done because when you flip it over, you can shred the squash with a fork to make spaghetti-like strings.


While you are roasting the squash, start boiling your water for your spaghetti noodles.  This week I used whole-wheat fettucine and it worked just as well as the spaghetti last week.  You also need to start preparing your favorite sauce.  This week I made a small pot of marinara with fresh herbs and I also made a batch of my vegan alfredo.  Normally I don't do two meals, but the alfredo is ridiculously easy and 2/3 of the kids prefer it where 1/3 prefers marinara.  The hubby and I mixed them together for palomino. 

When the noodles are done boiling, drain them in a colander.  Shred your cooled spaghetti squash and add it to the noodles.  My spaghetti squash was SO big that I only used half of it for a full bag of noodles.  I take a sharp knife and fork and cut all the noodles and squash into bite sized pieces.  I  mix the squash into the noodles but they do start to blend in.  Maybe not as much yet but they will when you add the sauce.

Since "The Pickies" are in full force, I added half of the noodles into the alfredo pan and half into the marinara, mixing the sauce into the noodles.  :) (It tastes so much better like this anyway!).  The squash is officially hidden.

 

The littlest Picky ate two plates of the vegan alfredo (He DETESTS anything pasta)
The middle Picky and the oldest Picky ate their pasta with very little trouble...even when I told them there was squash in it. 

In fact, the middle Picky, raising a forkful to his mouth, says "I DON'T LIKE squash."  Hmmmm, really?!?



Sunday, October 10, 2010

This Week's Eatin': Meal Plans week of 10/10-10/16

The forecast this week:  BUSY.  Nuts.  CRAZY. 

My husband has a million meetings this week and I have lots to do to get ready for this month's PTA meeting as well as being all excited about my 31st birthday.  I LOVE birthdays and if you know me in real life, this isn't a surprise!  I shall spend this year's birthday in a PTA meeting but that's OK...I get to socialize with lots of people I like.  I'm hoping that I can get this much cooking done between soccer, playdates, a doctor's appointment, a get-together at the end of the week and everyday stuff so I'm utilizing leftovers a bit. 
Embrace the power of leftovers.  :) 

Sunday 10/10

Breakfast: cereal
Lunch: leftover pizza from last night's dinner
Dinner: spaghetti with roasted spaghetti squah and palomino sauce (mixture of tomato and alfredo sauces), zucchini bake

Monday 10/11

Breakfast: pumpkin chocolate chip bread and fruit
Lunch: leftover spaghetti, veggies and ranch
Dinner: pancakes, scrambled tofu and roasted veggies

Tuesday 10/12

Breakfast: leftover pancakes and yogurt
 Lunch: thai style carrot soup
Dinner: butternut squash chili and salad

Wednesday 10/13

Breakfast: toast and applesauce
Lunch: leftover chili with veggies
Dinner: pasta with lentils and kale, sauteed garlic spinach

Thursday 10/14

Breakfast: crumb cake and fruit
Lunch: chickpea sandwiches (pb and j for kids)

Friday 10/15

Breakfast: cereal
Lunch: bean burritos and quesadillas
Dinner: homemade pizza, veggies

Saturday 10/16

Breakfast: toast and apple sauce
Lunch: Indian buffet
Dinner: vegan mac and cheese and whatever yummy veggies I get from the farmer's market

Special Snacks/Treats for Lunchbox LOVE:

fruit gel babies (vegan jello), hummus and crackers, pumpkin whoopie pies

Hope you have a wonderful week.  :)




Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Yup, this post is really about BEANS. Yes. Beans.

You probably think I am a big dork but this post is about beans.  And I promise to not sing about them being a "magical fruit"...

Beans are a big component of a meaningful vegetarian/vegan diet.  They are full of protein and fiber and they have so many uses in cooking...but I get asked a bit about which ones to buy, where, etc.  :)

I really like to buy dried beans at the store but they aren't the most convenient.  Organic beans cost approximately $1.99 per pound and once soaked, you get double!  So it is really much cheaper since a good organic brand will cost you a couple dollars for a pound.  :)

To Cook:

OVERNIGHT SOAK:
Rinse beans in a colander and pick out any beans or debris that are bad.  Place them in a pot with cold water a few inches above the beans.  Soak overnight.  Drain beans and put in a clean pot, fill a few inches above the beans with water and simmer (covered) checking it every 15-20 minutes for tenderness...they can take anywhere from one to two hours.  Salt as desired.

QUICK SOAK:
Rinse beans in a colander and pick out any beans or debris that are bad.  Place them in a pot with cold water a few inches above th ebeans.  COVER with lid and boil for three minutes.  Keep th elid on and turn the heat off.  Let sit for two to three hours.  Rinse beans, put in fresh water a few inches above beans and bring to a simmer.  Check every 15-20 minutes or so for tenderness.  They can take anywhere from one to two hours.  Salt as desired.

Reserve some of the cooking liquid if you are making hummus with garbanzo beans or for other recipes.

Canned Beans:
Obviously canned beans are SO much more convenient but at what cost?  Most companies have BPA in their aluminum cans and they add lots of salt to the beans.  If you choose to buy canned beans, buy smart:  buy organic with as little amount of salt in them.  I buy Eden Brand beans because they are the *only* company that I know that has a BPA free lining, they are organic and they are local for me.  :)  I suggest you buy them, too. 


What's a post about beans with some links to a few of my favorite recipes?  You can thank me later.  ;)

Tortilla Soup (I omit the cheese and add one to two cans black beans)
Sweet Potato Chili
Simple Hummus (I ALWAYS mess up hummus and I made this successfully TWICE)
Chickpea Salad
Chili Mac
Lemony White Bean Arugula Salad

Let me know what you think!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Mom's Cooking LOTS This Week--10/3-10/9

I didn't properly meal-plan last week because my husband and I went out of town for a few days.  And when I don't meal-plan, we tend to eat out a ton.  Believe it or not, we have some great places we like to go to but they are mostly ethnic restaurants because "American" restaurants don't cook anything remotely vegan.  Yes, we can eat salads, but I'd rather not pay a ton of money for a mediocre salad that only contains basic veggies and oil and vinegar dressing.  So we like to go out for Indian, Mexican or Middle Eastern food...we can find lots of choices at these places and the specific restaurants where we go don't use animal broth in any of their essentials: beans, rice, hummus, etc. 

Trust me:  You'd be surprised where chefs stick animal or fish stock.

Sunday 10/3

Breakfast: cereal

Lunch: roasted veggie sandwiches and leftover lentil soup

Dinner: spaghetti with roasted spaghetti squah and tomato sauce, lemony white bean arugula salad

Monday 10/4

Breakfast: pumpkin cranberry walnut bread and fruit

Lunch: hummus wraps, veggies and ranch

Dinner: eggplant parmesan, salad


Tuesday 10/5

Breakfast: cereal and yogurt

Lunch: chickpea sandwiches (pb and j for kids)


Wednesday 10/6

Breakfast: toast and applesauce




Thursday 10/7

Breakfast: cereal and fruit

Lunch: noodles and leftover tofu

Dinner: butternut squash and black bean casserole, chips, salsa and guacamole

 
Friday 10/8

Breakfast: Coconut Chai Coffee Cake

Lunch: leftover casserole

Dinner: homemade pizza, veggies

Saturday 10/9

Breakfast: cereal and apple sauce

Lunch: Indian buffet

Dinner: roasted veggies and whatever we get in our CSA

Special Snacks/Treats for Lunchbox LOVE:

fruit gel babies (vegan jello), hummus and crackers, popcorn mix

PS:  I totally realize that this week's menu is squash heavy but I have a MILLION.  OK, maybe not a million but I am barely strong enough to move my centerpiece and I still have a few more that aren't in the picture...did you know that most squash (acorn and butternut) are interchangeable in recipes with sweet potatoes and pumpkins?  Very cool.
My Centerpiece
(minus a few)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

All those unnecessary deaths.

Over the last few days, the internet has been stormed by stories of suicides from people (teens!) who had been bullied and felt there were no options available other than ending their own lives.  This isn't anything new...think of Columbine and all the other stories of violence on campus.

We are different. 
We look different, sound different, love different. 
We need to practice compassion and them we will BE compassion.  Our children learn from us and we need to stop speaking sharply or mocking those who are different. 
We all like to feel loved, appreciated and understood
Why do people make it so miserable for others?

*be love* and compassion in everything you do...you NEVER know how it will affect someone else.  Let's save our children.
(scroll down and pause the music playlist on the right before you press play)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

We are more than numbers.

I have been a yo-yo on the scale of life over the past six years; my weight has fluctuated between babies, our income has made sharp turns and all the while, I have been increasing in age.  :P

As far as materialism goes, I want little more than jeans that fit properly.  I am stuck in a world of skinny jeans while I prefer bell-bottoms or flare, so this task is extra difficult.  Throw in some post-baby pudge and trying on jeans can be simply disastrous.  I am between sizes and that makes things interesting, too.  Nothing ever fits quite right and that could easily break some self-confidence. 

But not me.

The size means nothing, the scales speak lies.  Yes, I monitor to make sure I am not too far above where I am most comfortable but I don't take it too seriously.  I have seen more women at the gym step on that scale with much more additional cargo than myself weigh significantly less than me.  I have seen popsicle-stick thin ladies weigh more than me:  the number means nothing.  It doesn't measure muscle, it doesn't measure genetics and it sure doesn't measure HOPE.  We need to stop defining ourselves by these numbers and let them control our emotions. 

Income is really no different; there was a time in my life where we had two incomes, one extraordinary source and my teaching salary.  I showed the world by wearing my Tiffany's jewelry and driving my Lexus (both very nice things if those are what you enjoy).  When I became a stay-at-home mom, not only was my income gone, we had moved to a house with lots of trouble and then the real estate market CRASHED.  So did our income.  That marked the beginning of my internal transformation when I realized that I was not necessarily happy with all of my material treasures; our income dollar amount meant nothing if we couldn't function as a family and appreciate simple things.  And over the years, it has been difficult adjusting to the highs and lows of owning our own business, but we are happy and have gained some great perspective.  Once again, we make do with our numbers but don't wallow in them.

Age isn't going to go away and I vow to do it gracefully.  I notice the lines in my hands, the skin stretching with age and I don't feel sad...I make the best out of what I have.  I promise to love and nurture my physical body as well as my emotional and psychological nature.  Age does not define who we are or what we feel, it just shows how long our souls have been alive.

As a society, it's not about how much we weigh, what size we are wearing or about how much money we make.  This does not define us..it only pushes us away from others we judge ourselves against.

I am grateful to have these numbers at all.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Water, water, everywhere!

I used to be a heavy Diet Coke drinker. I was about 15-20 pounds overweight when I got pregnant with my first child and I am pretty sure that I never drank a healthy intake of water at all during her pregnancy (terrible, I know). I also suffered from high blood pressure and an emergency c-section three weeks early...is it all related? Who knows but it is an interesting concept.

I didn't like water. I would drink pop, juice, anything that wasn't plain 'ole water. And that continued on into my second pregnancy as well. Longer bedrest, raging blood pressure and another emergency c-section.

Then I slowly started developing a healthier lifestyle. I cooked at home, we joined a gym so I could shower (and exercise, too, I guess) and I started drinking lots of water. I dropped 70 pounds after the birth of my second child and maintained a good exercise program.

When I got pregnant with my third, BPA hit the media and I ran out and bought a recopmmended Sigg bottle. They are aluminum, they are reusable, they seemed to be a great alternative to plastic water bottles that leech BPA into your body. So I bought each family member two bottles. Last fall, Sigg admitted that the liners in their bottles had BPA and we could trade them for new ones that didn't contain the dreaded substance. So we walked up to Whole Foods with our backpack 'o bottles and exchanged them. Now, a year later, I have grown weary with a company that allowed themselves to be portrayed in every media opportunity as a BPA-free brand when in fact, they did have BPA.


I am slowly weaning the Sigg bottles out of our house and I replaced mine with this really cool ORANGE glass water bottle made by Lifefactory.

It is a 22 ounce glass water bottle and it is protected by a silicone sleeve.  It is dishwasher-safe and the silicone sleeve doesn't have any plastics in it.  The water bottles range from $17-$21 and I love mine.  :)  The company also makes baby bottles, too, since lots of parents are choosing to stay away from plastics in general.    I was talking with a Whole Foods worker and she said that they had tested them out by dropping them on the floor and that none of them broke because of the sleeve.  If you take the lid off and then drop it, there is a spot that is unprotected by the sleeve...and that could break.  So obviously, when you aren't drinking from it, keep the lid in place.

I haven't seen any smaller versions for kids yet from Lifefactory.  I need to do more research since I hope to weed the Sigg bottles out soon and I am not entirely pleased with going to plastic, even if it is BPA-free.  It's a better choice, but I'm not sure it is the best choice.

I now believe that drinking water solves about every ailment--tummy aches, headaches, sleepiness...dehydration does funny things to your body.  And when I am feeling up a few pounds?  I drink an extra bottle or two of water a day and I can drop those pesky pounds. 

I continue to embrace a healthy lifestyle; cooking a bunch at home, excercising daily, drinking water , taking good vitamins and getting lots of sleep.  If you are missing any of these components, try to squeeze them into your life. 
You will feel extraordinary. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Awww...you're actually reading!

I just wanted to take a brief moment and thank you all for reading my blog.  I have run into many of you on Facebook, in the grocery store, at elementary school or even at the gym and you've said, "I read blahblahblah in your blog!".  And although my look of disbelief should tell you enough, my heart SOARS!  I wasn't so sure that when I began this blog what my purpose would be or how often I would write.  I just figured it would be a little url of my life, a place I could go when the stressors of the real world inspired me to digress into the many things I adore:  food, family, eco-friendly choices, etc.

So all in all, thanks for reading.  Feel free to comment.  Let's start dialogue.  Let's make it less about just reading and let's starting making differences in this world.  We need to do it together.  :)

The Beatles "All You Need is LOVE"...to stop my playlist from playing, make sure you scroll down and to the right, you can pause it so you can play this incredible video. :)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

This Week's Eatin' 9-19-9/25

I really do love meal-planning but I don't always love sticking with it.  I try to be mindful about switching plans and make sure that I am not adding to the grocery bill for a specific craving.  Sometimes I do go off the plan and throw something together.  :)

I roasted a pumpkin yesterday and made pumpkin walnut cupcakes with a chocolate mousse frosting.  I have leftover pumpkin so that is why you see my menu a little pumpkin-heavy. 
Pumpkin symbolizes Fall to me; the air is getting crisp and the kitchen smells of apples, pumpkins and cinnamon--YUM!

Sunday 9/19
Breakfast:  cereal
Lunch:  vegetable quinoa soup and tempeh sandwiches
Dinner:  bringing herbed black-eyed peas to a party :)

Monday 9/20
Breakfast:  pumpkin yogurt bread and fruit
Lunch:  leftovers (coleslaw, cheese and crackers, etc for the kiddos)
Dinner:  pizza and veggies with homemade vegan ranch

Tuesday 9/21
Breakfast:  cereal and fruit
Lunch:  leftover pizza for kids, chickpea sandwiches
Dinner:  chili mac and roasted acorn squash

Wednesday 9/22
Breakfast:  toast and applesauce
Lunch:  buttered noodles for kids, pasta veggie salad
Dinner:  tofu and brown rice teriyaki, veggie

Thursday 9/23
Lunch:  leftover tofu and rice teriyaki
Dinner:  roasted vegetable barley soup, homemade french bread

Friday 9/24
Breakfast:  cereal and yogurt
Lunch:  bean burritos and quesadillas
Dinner:  fettucine alfredo, veggies

Saturday 9/25
Breakfast:  chocolate chip scones and apple sauce
Lunch:  Indian buffet
Dinner:  whatever is inspiring from the farmer's market.  :)

Special Snacks/Treats for Lunchbox LOVE

*If you are interested in any of the recipes that I don't have linked to a website, just ASK.  :) 
I will be more than happy to share them with you...they just usually aren't electronic*

Friday, September 10, 2010

Little Lunchbox

This is a BIG year for us...my oldest is now in full-day school and she gets to bring a lunch which means that we have to be very creative because little missy, she doesn't prefer most sandwiches!  So I thought that I would make a list of all the different *healthy* things we are packing or excited to pack...


Equipment:

Horsie Lunchbag
(Really?!?  I never knew she likes horses!)
Little BPA-Free Bento lunchbox containers
(I don't have a picture but they are containers with lids--all sizes)

Wide thermos
(and it has a pop-out spoon)
BPA- Free Water Bottle

Washcloth (for messy kiddos)
It's only day three but we have been very excited about what we pack for lunch.  Since my girl is at school all day, she needs a morning snack as well as an afternoon one along with her lunch.  I am all about the healthy with a dab of the treat so it has been an interesting balance.  I empower my daughter by giving her some options and letting her make the choices. 

So far, some of the snacks we have chosen or have planned:
Organic applesauce
Homemade carrot-rasin muffins (I doubled a batch, flash-froze them and threw them in a freezer bag to be individually defrosted)
Veggies with various dips (hummus, ranch, honey mustard)
Crackers with cheese
Homemade chex mix
Dried cereal
Other homemade treats (coffee cake, scones, muffins, cereal bars, etc)

We have only had two main dishes thus far, because she liked the first one so much she wanted it the next day.  The thermos keeps things temperature-ready, so it has been really helpful.  And when our sassafras isn't taking it to school, her daddy takes it to work...who cares if it is pink? 

Some non-sandwich, non-peanut butter entree choices:
Bean burritos
Spaghetti (she actually wanted to take the leftovers with lentils and zucchini...who IS this kid?!?)
Buttered noodles
Butter and jelly sandwich
Miso soup
Pizza (small, but a few of them)
Hummus and Pita (or veggies)
Fondue (with chips, veggies, bread, etc)

And I give her little treats to eat with her lunch..
Homemade vegan chocolate chip cookies
Chocolate chips...

If you have any ideas, please feel free to share!  :) 
I hope our enthusiasm keeps up for the whole school year!  :)

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