Breakfast Ice Cream OR Creamy Smoothies For All

IMG_0214If you’ve been playing a long for a while, you know that here at the pantry we simply LOVE smoothies, especially those that allow us to hide some super nutritious deep greens from our children…. Yeah, it’s probably dirty pool, but you only have to really hide them a couple of times before they no longer care what’s in there and will eat it up regardless.

We’ve had many, many a smoothie over the last few years, but I have to IMG_0205confess that my recent favorites include a decadent ingredient: avocado. In our recent smoothies, I’ve been adding the flesh from 1/2 and avocado, and it gives the smoothie (or breakfast ice cream if you use a little less liquid and don’t blend QUITE so vigorously) a distinctly ice cream-y quality.  Who wouldn’t want ice cream for breakfast?

Our recent formula goes a bit like this…

IMG_0212Breakfast Ice Cream

  • 3-4 frozen bananas
  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • 3 cups deep greens (or more if you can get away with it)
  • frozen berries to top of blender container
  • 1 soup spoon honey (opt – we use if the berries are tart, i.e. raspberries)
  • non-dairy milk (we used coconut) until blend ability (usually 1.5 cups for us) or some other liquid of your choosing

IMG_0219We have a power blender, which makes all of this very easy.  If you have a standard blender, I would recommend starting with the liquid and the non-frozen ingredients, and then add the frozen ingredients slowly.  This makes a lot of breakfast ice cream, which is awesome, because if you have leftovers you can freeze and pack in a lunch or serve with a grapefruit spoon to someone with a sore throat.  Breakfast ice cream.  THAT’s living.

IMG_0206 IMG_0209 IMG_0213

Morning Veggies

I am frequently reminded (in documentaries about other places that my son loves) that much of the rest of the world actually eats a breakfast that looks a lot like the other meals of the day – some kind of grain and some veggies, maybe a little protein, maybe not. And yet these sweet loving taste buds lead so many of  us to constantly seek out a breakfast that does a great job in satisfying a sweet tooth, but doesn’t necessarily do much else.  Despite all my sugar busting, I confess that my own flavor preferences in the morning tend toward the sweet side of the spectrum.

While on the morning in question, I wasn’t necessarily interested in simply having leftovers for breakfast (although this is an entirely reasonable proposition), it occurred to me that I had no good reason for not including vegetables in my morning repast. Vegetables CAN be in a dish that’s not primarily savory. I took my lead from my sister (yet again ;-) ) and just turned up the volume.

The result? Very slightly sweet, super satisfying, nutritionally superb and a definite keeper.

Veggies ‘N’ Oats IMG_0330

  • bowl of oatmeal & leftover sweet potatoes (cooked to your preference; I like my oats decidedly underdone)
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped and cooked with the oats
  • handful of fresh spinach or other mild green, chopped
  • palmful of raisins
  • sprinkle of grated coconut
  • handful of walnuts
  • splash of coconut milk (or your preference)

I thought the celery and greens would interfere, but truth is they were absolutely delightful.  And I don’t care who you are, there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with sweet potatoes for breakfast.  Okay, so I haven’t shaken the sweet tooth just yet, but things are definitely looking up. Throw some greens in there – you just might be surprised. Delish!

Healthful Breakfast In A Flash

The traditional wisdom tells us that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  I honestly don’t know if I buy that – I think lunch and dinner are pretty important too. ;-) However, I can tell you that I wake up hungry.  I want food and I usually have about 15 minutes to prepare and eat whatever it is I’m having (this is after I deal with feeding the kids and completing the whole lunch prep deal). I’m not kidding; I’ve timed it.  Sure, I could wait until after I drop them at the bus stop and make it a leisurely affair, but at that point I will have been up for over an hour.  Homey don’t play an hour before breakfast. I could also get up earlier.  Guess what? Homey don’t play that either, so 15 minutes it is. Continue reading

Chocolate Almond Butter

Almond butter is a wonderful indulgence.  A nice change from peanut butter, not an allergen for as many folks, some would argue it’s better for you, and it does not have the problems of some molds and toxins that may well be what sets off some people’s peanut allergies.  Alas, it is an economic indulgence.  It costs at least twice what peanut butter does in the store and much retail almond butter is produced in factories that also process peanuts and so still is inedible to those allergic to peanuts.

Enter this wonderful blog-o-spere linking so many creative (and cheap) people to me!  I found lots of people are making their own almond butter who claim that it is easy in a food processor.  They were right!  And inspired by my Little Sis who can never leave a recipe well enough alone… I decided I should put my own stamp on homemade almond butter to share with you.  But what to do to almond butter?  Clearly, chocolate should be involved.

This is not a great innovation mind you.  Chocolate and nuts have been meeting in back alleys and broom closets for centuries.

Lots of my co-workers rave about Nutella ( a hazelnut and chocolate spread) and I have eaten it before – but it packs a whopping 21g. of sugar per 2 Tbsp serving.  Sugar is the first ingredient and palm oil is the second, relegating the hazelNUT part of the nutella to 3rd place on the ingredient list.

This recipe of mine also foreshadows our next Baby Step which will address the notion of baby stepping away from the more dangerous food choices in your life (or your kids lives).  Lots of kids eat sugar-y crap for breakfast…. Pop-tarts, sugar-y cereals, doughnuts, etc.  One way to move away from those choices is to offer an alternative that still provides a nod to the devil in one ear whispering
“I want sugar with Ka-POW,
Give me sugar, give it to me NOW!”  (scene shifts to hyper child jumping around and evil laughter in the background.) Continue reading

‘Hot & Hearty’ – Better than Porridge

Did you hear that joke about oatmeal?

It was a lot of mush…

Actually I like oatmeal, but I get tired of oatmeal, and variety is the spice… and I’ve got this big honking bag of quinoa in the pantry that I bought from CostCo, so… I had to try some different hot cereals.  Another plus is that both oatmeal and quinoa are on our list of healthy pantry items that can come through for you in a pinch.  (See post “Peeping in our pantries’)

I did, but I just need to state that I think we need a better name than ‘hot cereal’ or ‘porridge’..  Hot & Hearty is not that great either, is it?  Seriously, neither ‘hot cereal,’ ‘Hot & Hearty’, nor ‘porridge’  (please, Sir, could I have some more?) gets folks leaping out of a warm bed into that cold kitchen.  So in Little Sis’ honor, I will call my creation ‘Warm Bowl of Yum’.  This is not an instant recipe, but make a big pot, because with a little extra milk (whether dairy, soy or nut) to moisten, it works for a couple of days!

This, as is so often the case with people who cook from scratch for children, was developed over time with changes here and there to finally find the Warm Bowl of Yum that both my boys (one a smadge older chronologically, but not at heart), and I, enjoy.  I especially enjoy it because I’ve snuck some protein and lots of trace minerals in by using nuts that my son won’t eat when they are whole.  (Grind ahead of time if your children object to nuts!)

Warm Bowl of Yum

5 cups liquid : I use 2.5 water and 2.5 almond milk
1 cup oats
1 cup quinoa
1 cup ground walnuts (you can certainly try other nuts, but walnuts really seem to thicken this and they are not very noticeable either ;-)1 tsp salt (optional)
1-2 tsp allspice / or 1 Tbsp cinnamon (optional)

toppings like raisins, honey, more nuts, maple syrup, etc.

Bring your liquid and salt, if using, to a boil.  Be careful!  Almond milk is the wallflower of boilers.  It waits and waits and then suddenly gets inspired, leaps into the fray, jumps out of the pan and into the saucer under your burner there to create a rather ghastly smell and even ghastlier mess.  Do not step away from the stove until you’re at a safe simmer!

‘pot full of milk’ waiting to be transformed into ‘pot full of yum’

Once it boils, toss in your quinoa, turn down to a simmer and cover.  Let simmer about 10 minutes and then boil again Baby!

Toss in the oatmeal, turn down to low and cover. Let simmer about 5 minutes.

While it is simmering, grind your walnuts.  I am blessed with a Vita-Mix which is a noisy but effective way to grind nuts.

Noise, Noise, Noise! Why do you have to be makin’ all that noise?

Stir in the ground nuts and cook covered for a few minutes or until the oats are tender and the quinoa is tender.

A few large walnut lumps – but he doesn’t seem to notice!

Schplop into bowls with your favorite schplopper and enjoy!

I am feeling very grateful for raisins right now.

If I have leftover rice in the frig that is not ear-marked for something to be cooked, I have been known to toss that in as well at the final stages.

I’m sure some of you have your own ‘warm bowls of yum.’     Do tell – spice up my life ;-)

 

 

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Our Delightful Home

Baby Steps Down the Road to Better Health

  • You want your children to be healthy.
  • You want to be healthy and feel good.
  • You want members of your family to maintain a healthy weight.
  • You are VERY busy, including juggling various schedules.
  • You have not yet won the lottery.
  • You don’t think you and/or your family can make the necessary changes in your lifestyle to achieve “Hollywood Health.”  You know the kind of health I mean… the kind on the talk shows which requires lots of time and lots of money.

My sister and I (we write this blog together as Little Sis and BiggSis), have both walked a long way down the road to eating well and feeling / looking better.  We have dragged our spouses and children along for the ride, and while it isn’t always easy, it IS possible to eat well, without spending hours in the kitchen and without greatly increasing your grocery bill.  We are talking about Hometown Health here!  Jill Q. Public Health… Happy, Human Health.  (Okay, I’m done now, I get on a roll sometimes.)

If you’ve been on a diet before and tried to change everything you eat at once, then you know that it is easy to fall off the wagon and revert to your old ways.  However, this is not a diet.  This is not a test of your character.  This is an opportunity to change your life.  Eating food : real food is an attempt to better nourish yourself and your family in a culture that encourages mal-nourishment.  Every time you and your children turn around there are advertisements for, and the presence of, cheap junk food.  It’s everywhere… school, church, work, meetings, sporting events and practices, many stores that don’t sell any other food… and did I mention that it is cheap, convenient and appeals to our taste for sugar and fat?

Processed food contains ingredients that make us want more.  It’s not just you who can’t put down the bag of Doritos.  No, you are not alone in this.  Sugar, which is more addictive than cocaine (PLOS, 2007), is also everywhere. The food industry is pumping sugar through their powerful machine that keeps us eating their products, regardless of the effects.  However, the results of better nourishment, and of eating real food, not only include weight loss, but a stronger response to sugar and fat.  In other words, after eating real food for a while, processed food became less appealing and I now notice how badly I feel after eating it.

For the Sis sisters, eating real food began with a desire to feed our children well in a world filled with horrible food choices.  Eating real food was reinforced by what we saw and felt in our children, our spouses and ourselves, as we all became healthier and thinner.  The plan is simple and is touted by lots of celebrities, chefs, and books in various forms, but we feel that it is made too expensive and too difficult via an emphasis on ‘super foods,’ exotic foods, and expensive foods.  It is possible to eat well on a budget.  It is possible to feel better, look better, and even preserve the environment just by changing what foods you buy and consume.

Yes, but it’s still difficult to change how and what you eat, right?  Trying to replace everything at one time is usually a losing plan.  That’s why we are going to begin a series on this blog to present you or someone you love, with Baby Steps.  Some of the baby steps mirror small steps we took in our own journeys and others are steps that make sense under the bright light of hindsight.

You can head down the road to better health one baby step at a time.  Baby steps are wonderful because they don’t demand a huge change from you, are easier to live up to, and they still take you down the road.  The processed diet lies at the beginning of the road, and every baby step forward takes you further from obesity, lethargy, and diseases like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, auto-immune disorders, high cholesterol and cancer.  Of course, everyone knows someone who has one of these diseases despite a healthy lifestyle.  That stinks.  However, you watch the people you know who eat real food.  They feel better and look better, and research is indeed on their side, in terms of their lower probability for chronic diseases.  Feeling better, being thin and having a decreased chance for chronic disease is on my side, my family’s side, and it can be on your side too.  Just take it one Baby Step at a time.

We will be publishing the Baby Steps along with our usual postings of recipes that are made with real food here on our blog, so follow us down the road!  And in the meantime… here are some links to easy, healthy breakfasts from previous posts.  Everyday is a new day and any successes in eating well are just that.  Successes in eating well.

Crock pot oatmeal takes the hurry up out of the morning.

If you have some leftover rice (always make extra rice!!) you can have a very yummy sweet potato for breakfast!

Oats that you soak in milk overnight and don’t even have to cook. - plus some cool pics of a bear in Little Sis’ backyard :-)

Another soaking cereal that is ready when you wake up – no oats this time.

Eat food.  Real food.

Gluten free pump-king pancakes

Pump-king pancakes indeed.   INDEED!  Let me tell you that the king of the Cucurbit family which also includes cucumbers, melons and squashs, is a grand thing that makes incredible baked goods, soups and now, GF pancakes.  One of these days I will grow pumpkins and go through the process of extracting that incredibly healthful and tasty flesh, but for now 1 large can of pumpkin had me set to make gluten free pumpkin pancakes and the healthy pumpkin bites I mentioned in my post on getting more veggies in the morning meal.  Plus, I couldn’t leave you, our dear readers thinking that only Little Sis’ family is fixated on pancakes.  I love seeing all the wonderful things she does with pancakes including topping them with a yummy berry sauce… but with a gluten free husband, we can’t try all of her pancake ideas.  The following recipe seemed like a match made in crack of dawn heaven.

So one Saturday morning, along with the help of my 11 year old photographer, we attempted to see if one really could make a decent pancake that is mostly egg and pumpkin.

Grain Free “Orange Vegetable” Pancakes
From : Katie Kimball
http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/recipes/orange-vegetable-pancakes/

Ingredients
1 c. cooked, pureed squash* (I used canned pumpkin)
4-5 eggs**
2 Tbs. coconut flour OR 1/4 c. whole wheat flour OR almond flour OR 1/3 c. sourdough starter OR brown rice flour (I used brown rice flour)
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. cloves
¼ tsp. ginger
¼ tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1-2 Tbs. maple syrup (optional) – I opted yes
1 tsp. vanilla (optional) – again, I opted yes
Instructions
Separate eggs. In one bowl, whip egg whites a few minutes until frothy/foamy.

I dumped the yolks right in the mixing bowl and placed the whites in a separate bowl.

This is supposed to make the pancakes more fluffy but is not required. I will probably skip it next time to see how big a difference it makes.

In a separate bowl, combine yolks with squash, flour, sweetener, vanilla and spices. Fold in egg whites.


I used safflower oil with a little depth to it -not the usual barely there for pancakes.  This is not a low fat breakfast!!

They smell divine – and look pretty good too!

The author offers this : The lazy way: Instead of separating the eggs, just mix everything together willy nilly in one bowl. The pancakes might not have as much height or fluff, but they’re still perfectly fine, especially for a weekday morning! I often use my stick blender to whiz it all together, especially if I have un-pureed squash or sweet potato.

They were (obviously) a little different in texture from the normal p’cake.  We all thought they were fabulous.  I made 1.5 times the recipe because that’s how much pumpkin I had and we only managed to save a few for freezing.

Oh what a veggie-ful, and delicious morning!

http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/recipes/orange-vegetable-pancakes/

Our Weekend Pleasure

Just about every weekend, we have pancakes (I trust this is not new information for those of you who’ve been here for a while). We all love pancakes, and while typical pancake breakfasts are not exactly low sugar, I’ve cut the sugar out of the batter, and we’ve greatly limited syrup. The kids get to have some with their first pancake, and then we turn to jam. There was a smidgen of resistance the first time we announced this policy change, and not a gripe since. They are just happy to have pancakes; and I am happy to see them happy eating wholesome homemade breakfast food. I am even happier that I have a weekly opportunity to tweak the family favorite and experiment with grain combinations and flavors. Today’s offering… Momma’s MultiGrain Thanksgiving Pancakes. As you might have guessed, these include our favorite tuber in a starring role.

Momma’s Multigrain Thanksgiving Pancakes

  • 1.5 c whole wheat flour
  • .5 c all purpose flour
  • .5 c corn meal
  • .5 c spelt or buckwheat flour
  • 3 t baking powder
  • 1.5 t baking soda
  • 1.5 t salt
  • nutmeg to taste
  • 3 eggs (I used flax eggs)
  • 3 c butter milk or soured milk (I used soured almond milk)
  • 6 T oil (I used canola)
  • cooked sweet potato cut into small bites
  • handful of craisins (any dried fruit, I used craisins because I had some leftover from a large purchase BEFORE I looked at the sugar content)
  • handful of pecans (toasted if you’re really going for it)

When I make pancakes, I mix the dry ingredients and prepare the flax eggs (1T flax meal to 3T water for one egg, in bowl, in fridge) the night before.  I can’t speak for everyone, but I am hungry when I wake up and I don’t like waiting TOO long for breakfast.  I also put my pans in the oven and set it pre-heat them before we get up because I’m fussy like that (more on pancake technique here).  On rising I task whichever munchkin is up with mixing the dry ingredients while I whisk the oil and flax eggs together.  Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until just combined.  I then remind wakeful and hungry munchkins that we must let the batter rest.  While resting, I gathered my “flavors” (sweet potato pre-cooked and cut into small pieces, toasted pecans leftover from making a salad, and the stupid big bag of Craisins).  Remove warmed pans from oven and turn on heat on stove to bring to temp.  After at least 10 minutes of resting, pour batter using a 1/4c measure onto med warm pan.  Add mix-ins (I find it takes surprisingly little, especially of things like craisins, to get the flavor without overwhelming). I realize many people mix in their flavors, but I prefer adding them to the pancakes once in the pan.  This way the fruits get a little brown edge and you can SEE what you are eating, and you’re more likely to get all the bits in one bite – yes, I am that particular.  Flip when pancake edges are firm, and there are a few bubbles in the batter.  Serve to famished and delighted family.  Happy Thanksgiving… errr..  delish!

Sweet Flavors on Top

I’m going to squeeze into the confessional with Little Sis and admit that I too really like the taste of sugar.  When I was a kid I would walk to the drug store with my 1$ and a few pennies so that I could purchase and consume ten $.10 goodies of the candy or gum variety.  I could put a whole Big Buddy in my mouth.  Having a mouth this big came in handy when teaching elementary school, but a mouthful of cavities and a tendency to mood swings have not helped me in life at all.

Little Sis offered a very yummy low-sugar treat option called Awesome Oatie Bars yesterday and I am going back to the breakfast table today.  I have always loved breakfast, probably because it has the most options for eating dessert as the actual meal.  Who doesn’t love that?

Let’s be honest, pancakes are yummy, but that’s mostly because they are a vehicle for maple syrup or honey.  Maple syrup and honey are both natural, right?  That’s good, right?

Well….I wish they were not still sugar, but chemistry tells us that they are both still sugar with the negative physiological impact (albeit minus some leftover chemicals from processing and nasty effects on the planet).

So what to put on top of all of the healthy pancake recipes we’ve offered?  Mind you, I’m not giving up my real maple syrup completely but options are good.  I find that when I try new things and open myself to options, more often than not I appreciate the new and different taste rather than missing the Ka-Pow of the expected and much loved taste of sugar in its myriad of forms.  For more on Ka-Pow see Abstinence Makes the Taste Grow Stronger.

So here are a couple of alternatives to place on your pancakes or French toast, or hot cereal, or yogurt, or to dip carrot sticks in or…. don’t you love options?

First off, another confession, I swiped this idea from Little Sis who has apparently made a coffee creamer from similar ingredients.  I’m guessing she’ll share that with us at some point.  But for now I offer you 2 maple syrup / honey substitutes : Date Cream or Apple Drizzle.

Date Cream
Place whole dates in your blender (I used a Vita Mix, you may need a powerful blender for this) up to about the 1 cup line.
Pour almond, soy or cow (I used unsweetened almond) milk to cover
Whip it good.  (Any DEVO fans out there?)

I do love the action shots.

Seek the creaminess level that your heart tells you is right Grasshopper…

i.e. add a little more milk of your choice until you get a consistency that you think will be moist enough for whatever you are putting it on.

I was originally planning to add just a little maple syrup or honey to this mix, but then I tasted it.  WOW!  I will have to be careful not to just make this and eat 3 pounds of it, because dates are not cheap and 3 pounds of anything will show up on me somewhere… and usually NOT where I would have directed the placement of extra flesh.

Take this creamy, sweet substance and pour it on other stuff!

On hot cereal (totally unsweetened except for the topping which is hard to see as it is beige) YUMMY!

or on pancakes.

Or on a spoon or your finger : )

Idea #2 was to just make some raw applesauce, and make it a little thin for moisture and drizzling purposes.

Apple Drizzle
Find some nice, or if you have a few to dispose of, cruddy apples, and chop them up in sizes appropriate to the estrogen level of your blender.  My blender is a Vita Mix…. very high estrogen level!

Nice thing about high estrogen blenders is less need for chopping.  I could have left them bigger than this but there is a splatter factor involved in large chunks, especially when using low amounts of liquid.
(Note I left the skins on – why waste good nutrition?)

I used half of a large apple and one small apple without cores.

Add about a Tablespoon of water and start the blender on low.

Add water as needed to get the stuff spinning and pourable.

It looks pretty in the blender – kind of cosmic… Could it be a vastly dense apple vortex that is slowly pulling everything in to its center?  How can a black hole, or in this case and apple hole pull things in when the universe is expanding?  And if the universe itself is expanding, shouldn’t I be able to open my mind enough to try something new on pancakes?  Who knew an expanding universe could be so inspiring?  Sorry, I’ll get back to the Apple Drizzle now…

To the pourable apple mixture I added 1 teaspoon of maple syrup and a pinch of salt.

It was awesome as applesauce and I think it would be great on pancakes or French toast as well.

And one last action shot to demonstrate the thickness I settled on (more water would make yours runnier)…

Dates and apples both have sugar, but not as much as maple syrup or honey!  Plus you’ve added other nutrients by grinding up whole foods.  Win win and truly yum yum.  Try these ideas with other fruits and let us know what you come up with!

As far as getting your child to try ‘sweets substitutes,’  I have had luck with a few techniques:
I try not to emphasize that the new item is sweet – it can only fall short of the cupcake he received for a classmate’s birthday at school on the Ka-Pow Sugar Richter Scale (KPSRS).

Emphasize the other flavors and that it is yummy.  Describe the snappy cinnamon, or delicious apple flavor, or you know how you like dates?…. You’re going to love this date cream, it’s soooo good.

So let us soldier on in the quest to bring sugar consumption for ourselves and our loved ones to a manageable and healthy level.  It is indeed an on-going battle.  For me, the battle rages the strongest at the breakfast table.