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!)
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.

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:

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.

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 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)