Weekly Meal Plan 6/1-6/7

Okay, so while I was blathering about all the stuff happening, I forgot to reveal the reality about May and June for us. It is one LONG celebration. Mr. Little Sis’ birthday was at the beginning of May. Something happened in the middle, but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was – oh right, Mother’s Day. Then we had one nephew graduating, one sister’s birthday (yes,, that’s Bigg Sis)… oh, and wait a freaking minute! Did I mention she moved. She moved, she moved she moved. Sorry sorry Tennessee, but now my Bigg Sis is right near MEEEEEEE!

So you’d think that was enough celebrating, right?! But wait, there’s more! This weekend Mr. Little Sis and I will celebrate 16 years of marriage (at Ms. Picky Pants’ dance recital). and then Father’s Day and then my birthday and then the last day of school party, and then we’re going on a trip and then it’s the fourth of July (which we spend with friends). I feel like I’m exhaling crepe paper right now. Happy Everything!

Monday: Indian Summer Cold Sesame Noodles, spinach and cut veggies

Tuesday: Mulligatawny Soup, Oat Uttapam, pickled carrots, green salad

Wednesday: Lentil Casserole (a brief cold spell predicted this week says I may be able to appease Ms. Picky Pants with this very warm and hearty dish one more time this year), sautéed green beans, pickled carrots

Thursday: Strawberry Kale Salad with Almonds, crusty wheat bread

Friday: Homemade PIzza, cut veggies

Saturday: Dairy Free Womanicotti, bruschetta, green salad

Sunday: Homemade Pasta, Spinach and Strawberry Salad

Lunchbox Treats: Almond Lemon Jots

Adult Lunches: leftover sesame noodles, salad and soup (we rarely have leftover lentil casserole anymore…)

 

Here’s hoping your upcoming week is full of real food, loving family and true friends… oh, and a celebration or two if that’s your thing! Eat well, be well friends!

Eating Healthy Crumbs While Overwhelmed

Okay, so we’re not really eating crumbs…. It just seems that way as we attempt to empty refrigerator and pantry prior to moving closer to Little Sis, Sweetie Dad, Carni-Mom, Super Step-Mom, Little Big Bro and all of their attached spouses and children.  Hooray!

We are extremely excited, but between packing, working, finishing up a semester of school (only 1 more to go!!!),and trying to finish up the print version of our book, there has not been much time for cooking or blogging.  I realized that my current life mirrors the lives of some friends whose time is indeed so limited that they can not see any way to make time for healthy food preparation.  I am grateful for the times in my life that have not been QUITE so busy when I cultivated cooking skills and knowledge that comes through in a pinch now.  I find that in this difficult time, I am clearly reminded of 3 basic tenets that we have been preaching:

1) The Baby Steps approach.  If you are so incredibly busy that you can only find one meal a week in which you can make a change then that is one more healthy meal down the gullet per week than before!  And that is a good thing.

2) You eat what you have.  When I attempted to increase variety of snack foods and quick meals without time to bake, or slice lots of stuff, I found that I could a) buy more nut-based snacks, fruit and veggies that needs no preparation, and veggies that make easy snacks, OR
b) I could buy prepared foods that we would all regret.  The choice of what goes in the mouth when hungry is enormously affected by what foods are in the pantry!!

3) Having awesome sauces and spice mixes on hand can really save you.  Apparently, so can olives.

I don’t really have any pictures for you, but we have been wrapping up odds and ends and a few last minute ideas have come out of this endeavor (plus a few tips for me to remember in the future).

The first tip is that vanilla really truly brings a lot of flavor.  I made Little Sis’ chocolate crock pot steel cut oats and did not have vanilla.  I threw in the last of the ‘all natural’ chocolate extract instead…. Well, it was okay, but not fabulous like usual.  Hey – what’s a little bottle of vanilla to move, right?  Next time I’ll stay stocked in vanilla.

The second tip is that a person, okay me, maybe you, but definitely me, should have a firm grasp on consumption rates of dry goods before purchasing large amounts at a fabulous price if a person, okay me, maybe you, but definitely me, can’t possible use all of it… or even half of it prior to moving.  I have madly baked a few GF items before packing away baking ware just to try to use up some of the Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free baking mix.  Nobody minded of course, but it wasn’t really on the agenda.

Now on to the experiments based on limited choice…..

The first was scrambled eggs inside of tortillas with salsa.  Add GF/DF parmesan if you wish (I did).  This was actually a big hit and extremely fast and could also be made with tofu scramble.

The second was brown rice, spinach and smoked salmon with a little sweetened vinegar on top.  This is a bare bones sushi salad and again, it worked!  The sweetened vinegar is just about a 1:3 ratio of sugar to rice vinegar, dissolved at low heat on the stove.  We put raw baby spinach in the bottom of the bowl, hot rice on top, and cool salmon on top of that.  Drizzle vinegar – add any other veggies you want and even without soy sauce it was good!

I have noticed that many of the experiments involved animal protein, but we also had a meal that was leftover lentil casserole in a tortilla with salsa – and whatever type of cheese you might like.

Finally I made a marinade for rice and chicken that involved lemon juice (the last wrinkly lemon still packed some punch), green olives, dates broken into pieces and tabil spice mix.  This was a winner and there will be real experiments involving this mixture and vegan fare once we are re-settled.

It is true that lack of time and lack of supplies impact the diet greatly!  If you’d like some help planning how to slowly and powerfully change how you eat, check out our book: Baby Steps to Better Health: A Guided Journey to Healthier Eating.  Currently available as an e-book but coming out in print soon!

Eat well.  Be well.

Weekly Meal Plan 5/25-5/31

I am alive. THAT was a long week. So, remember how last week I posted that I’d be late with the meal plan because my husband was away and my daughter was throwing up? Yeah, when’s the last time THAT was a one day problem. It’s been a long and tiring week although everyone was home and well in time for the weekend and this weekend has been really swell. Lots of time spent with friends and lots of almost summer weather. Tons of time in the garden and things are really looking pretty good. I’m liking the straw as mulch I’ve tried this year, and I’m just glad with all the events planned for May and June that I’ve found a little time to weed and water.

This week will, I do hope, be more pleasant than last, but it’s still pretty full. We’re enjoying the last few hours away from our usual responsibilities here today and then we have 3 short days until the next celebration, when my nephew graduates from high school (not Bigg Sis’ son – I have many nephews). Then there’s a pool party with friends and time to see BIGG SISSSSSSS! Yay! I keep having to remind myself to care about these last few weeks of school for the kids. “Finish strong.”  Yeah, how about we just finish, K? With all the parties and chaos it seems particularly important to me to plan some healthful meals so we can be sure we don’t only survive on party food (wait, is that bad?). So… the week.

Monday: Vegan French Toast with Garden Strawberries (yeah, okay, not the most healthful, but a great way to welcome the strawberries that I picked this morning), Spinach and Strawberry Salad

Tuesday: Chickpea and Cashew Tikka Masala, green salad

Wednesday: Lentil Bulgur Burgers, Power Tabbouleh, cut veggies and pickles

Thursday: Company Good Pea Soup (we’ve got garden peas y’all), crusty wheat bread and green salad

Friday: Graduation Party

Saturday: Pool Party at Friends’ House

Sunday: homemade pasta, green salad

Lunchbox Treats: Healthy Pumpkin Cookies

Adult Lunches: Salad City, some greens ready in the garden too!

 
I hope your week is full of celebrations, even if they are small ones and that your early summer is proving fruitful.

More On Sleep and Awareness

Well-BeingEven though it’s Monday, I won’t be posting a meal plan today. Not because I don’t want to, but because I am totally impaired. It is not possible for me to write a meal plan today. Those of you who’ve been playing along may know that I have some determination to get more sleep this year.These last two days have been a major fail on that score as I have a sick little one (why does vomit only happen in the middle of the night?) and I’ve gotten very little sleep… hence the impairment and lack of meal plan. I’m shooting for tomorrow on that.

As for the larger sleep  goal, while I can’t say definitively that I have gotten more sleep all the time, I do think an important trend has emerged. I have become significantly more aware of the negative impact of not getting enough sleep and I have become quicker to recognize when I’m not getting enough sleep. I’ve made some observations lately that have been critical to the development of my sleep practice.

First of all, I now have a FitBit. Now, I know I know we’ve said you don’t need to spend money to get more fit and you don’t. HOWEVER, I’ve really been struggling with acknowledging my fluctuating reality in getting exercise and feeling good. I needed a reality device. I needed the equivalent of the pedometer I got after I gave birth to twins. The cool thing about the FitBit is that it also tracks how long I sleep. This dumb (and slightly creepy tracking me) little device has made the connection between the amount of sleep I get and my mood the next day crystal clear. I’ve only had it for a little while, but in that little while Mr. Little Sis has been away on business. A good time to make a change in my own behavior. Earlier to bed it was and guess what? When I get more sleep, I like my kids a WHOLE LOT MORE. I am more patient. I find humor in situations that would otherwise aggravate me. I’m more willing to be in the moment and enjoy them, to play with them rather than just do what’s required to get through the day. And know what else? Even with all that zen lahddie-dahddie fun with my kids, I still got a ton of stuff done in the yard and the garden AND made decent progress on the cabinet project.  It seems so silly, so simple. It couldn’t possibly be as simple as that, right? It couldn’t just be that we need more sleep… or could it?

For a little reinforcement of that learning, while Mr. Little Sis has been away the kids got sick (which almost always happens and I don’t really want to think about how that can be true). We’ve had some nights with very little sleep. And know what? (I realize I sound like a 5 year with all the “know whats”; I don’t really care.) Adults are no different than children. We all have a harder time holding it together when we don’t get enough sleep. My two, who really are generally well behaved and affable seem to have a limit of two fundamental problems. Lack of adequate sleep is one seriously fundamental problem. What that means is that one other thing being wrong on a sort of basic level means game over. I’m hungry and you’re not giving me food right now, tears. I feel yucky and you’re not making it go away, tears. I can’t find the Lego piece that you just stepped on and nearly broke your foot, tears.

Yes, kids can be like this, but in particular TIRED kids are like this at my house. Two things help: 1) more sleep and 2) acknowledging out loud to them that they are tired and you understand it’s hard to deal with things when you’re tired. Tears stop, sometimes there’s even an apology. Then we fix the secondary problem because without a fever there is no napping at our house anymore. Here’s a banana. Everything’s okay. Really.

Well-BeingAll of this gives me significant pause. It seems, from this long and rambling series of observations about sleep while I’m completely exhausted. Perhaps it is not just my children that can only have 1 fundamental problem at a time. Given inadequate sleep any other problem of any significance becomes too much to handle. All problems added on to too little sleep also become much larger than they are in reality – I’m hungry for a snack becomes tears. I can’t find my Lego becomes tears. My boss didn’t love my presentation… My car broke down… The dog ate 2 pounds of chocolate chips (yes, this is a real example and also occurred while Mr. Little Sis was out of town and required me to make the dog vomit, we’re a regular vomitorium)… tears or an adult over-reacty equivalent. What would happen if we all just got more sleep? Would we be more productive? Would we be more tolerant of each other? Would we remember to enjoy the good things? Hmmmm. I’m going to make sure to get more sleep tonight (assuming the vomit part is over, which with twins is a big assumption) and see about all of that. Anybody want to join me? I mean in your bed, of course. My sick child and misbehaving dog will be in mine.

Sleep well, be well friends.

Weekly Meal Plan 5/11-5/17

It’s been an exciting domestic week here in mid-Maryland. The kids are giving me the daily countdown on school. The garden is in and mulched with straw (which if you ever purchase is a great time to line the car with a tarp, duh… The cabinet project proceeds and in acknowledging how very long this is bound to take, I’ve surrendered to the pace and am focusing on purging things as I approach each cabinet. It has been very liberating. While there is a certain charm to a chipped cup, the ones with cracks down the side are decidedly less cute. We had a lot of cracked bits. Some will be used as plant holders, some for pencils, some for fai

ry houses, and those that still function but were unnecessary are being donated. VERY freeing. I may need to find the cracked bits in all the other rooms as well.The things that accumulate in 25 years of adulthood can be staggering. All that we don’t need and that could be of use in some other way to to some other person… staggering. Dogs shed in the spring, and I’ve always thought there was sort of a built in zen wisdom to dogs. Perhaps it’s time to take a lesson from Baxter and shed away as though it’s the most natural thing to do. Meanwhile light meals that are easy to prepare (I’m flying solo this week) and that don’t add spiritual or physical weight to this lighter feeling are the order of the day.

Monday: Rice sticks with raw veggies, cashews and Asian dressing (Bragg’s, rice vinegar and garlic chili paste)

Tuesday: Super green salad, crusty bread, seasoned chick peas, olives, pickles (it’s supposed to be H.O.T.)

Wednesday: Zucheesey Noodles, peas, green salad

Thursday: Sesame Pancakes with Honeyed Oranges and Kale Smoothies (yes, I’m playing to the kid crowd while Dad is away… can you blame me?)

Friday: Homemade Pizza, cut veggies (we eat this while we have a movie picnic in the living room)

Saturday: Creamy Daal, Vegan Palak Paneer, Naan (we’ll see about all of this, ambitious after nearly a full week flying solo)

Sunday: Pasta (from a box, Daddy’s the homemade pasta king around here) with red sauce AND pesto, green salad

Lunchbox Treats: Nut Butter Bliss Balls

Adult Lunches: salads, leftovers, hummus and spinach sandwiches

There. The week is much less daunting now. I hope it is for you too. ;-) Eat well, be well friends.

GF Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

I posted ‘My Best Chocolate Chip Cookie – and it’s GF’ not too long ago.

You know what’s coming, now don’t you?  I was wrong.  I have a new best, although this is just an adaptation of the old best…… These are my best-est, BFF-est chocolate chip cookies – in fact they are right up there with my best cookies ever and are indeed GF, so the whole family is very excited about these cookies, and dang it, they are almost gone.

20150505_183509-001I hate it when everybody loves the cookies!  But what is not to love?  A little crispy on the outside – chewy on the inside, chocolate… do I need to go on?  Seriously, these are good cookies.

I also made these without nuts because 2 guests coming to a gathering that night don’t do nuts.  And I (who generally feel  that nuts are an essential ingredient in any worthwhile chocolate endeavor) loved them.  So the original recipe is here and the new recipe is………
Here!

GF Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

My Best GF chocolate chip cookies  – vegan as well!!
– adapted from I.S. at Yahoo Voices

1 cup Bob’s Red Mill GF baking mix (or your favorite GF baking mix)
½ c almond meal (or dried and pulverized leftover almond milk mash – that’s what I use)
½ c brown rice flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp tapioca starch or potato starch
1 tsp guar gum
½ c brown sugar
½ tsp salt
1 1/2 Tbsp cocoa powder
½ c pure maple syrup
½ Tbsp blackstrap molasses
3 tsp pure vanilla extract
½ cup + 1/2 Tbsp organic neutral flavored oil (I used avocado)
½ – 2/3 c non-dairy chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Mix the dry except chips
In a separate bowl, combine the maple syrup, molasses and vanilla, then stir in the oil until well combined.
Add the wet mixture to the dry, along with the chips, and stir until combined
Place ½ Tbsp scoops on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and flatten a little.
Bake for  12-14 minutes, rotating halfway through until browning just a tad on the bottom.  Mine puffed up slightly and then started to deflate.  That’s when I took them out.
Cool on a wire rack before removing from tray.
As Little Sis always says….. and she comes from a very bright family I hear – Eat that chocolate cookie while it is still warm!!

And if you’d like some more chocolate chip recipes…. we happen to have a few others.

Zucchini Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies 

Peanut Butter Chocolate Drops

Sanely Delicious Chocolate Cake

Did She Say Chickpeas & Chocolate?

Good Neighbor Chocolate Chip Cookies

Enjoy your chocolate chips when they roll or drop your way and come back and visit us soon.

Weekly Meal Plan 5/4-5/10

Wow. I kicked some major garden booty this past weekend and I am feeling pretty smug. Or at least I was feeling pretty smug until I looked at the weather forecast and realized that it’s supposed to be in the high 80s most of this week. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m A-OK with some summery days arriving, but my little newly transplanted seedlings will not like it very much. What can I do about that? Give them a little shade is what I can do. I happen to have some of the kind of cover a lot of folks use for hoops to protect from frost or bugs. Here in mid-Maryland where late winter frequently hangs out until summer can make an appearance, I have found this kind of cover to be very useful – for cold nights and sweltering “Spring” days. So starting at about 2 pm I will cover those little babies and then get on with birthday preparations… for Mr. Little Sis.

Birthday planning is one of those areas where having different family cultures can really throw a wrench in things. In my extended family birthdays are pretty low key. Like, we are happy you were born, but let’s not get carried away, okay? In Mr. Little Sis’ family it’s like the freaking circus is coming to town JUST FOR YOUR BIRTHDAY. It took me a while to realize that this basic family culture difference was at the heart of what I rightly discerned as his very polite and yet still perceptible letdown on every birthday that I have orchestrated. I’ve upped the ante for the last couple of years with positive results, but am finding myself at a bit of a loss this year in the food department of the birthday celebration. I’ll sort it out, and it will be good, but you’ll notice an incomplete spot on my meal plan… and that is SUPER irritating to my inner OCD freak. Please forgive the omission and my neurotic response to it. I hope you are having a great week, that all your endeavors are established before the heat rises on them, and that you have plenty of cool foods to eat if you will be sweating… like the ones we have here…

Monday: Umbrian Lentil Salad, Green Salad, Whole Wheat Bread, Navy Bean Herb Hummus

Tuesday: Nutshroom Burgers, Sweet and Sour Pickles, green salad

Wednesday: Mr. Little Sis’ Birthday…. aaagh I don’t have a plan and I’m FREAKING OUT. Okay, not quite freaking out, but it’s not good people. I may just let him choose whatever he wants, which could mean just about anything depending on his mood.

Thursday: Singapore NoodlesMung Bean Sprouts Namul

Friday: Homemade Pizza, cut veggies

Saturday: Taco Salads (Picadillo as the chili, big greens and cut vegetables, some healthier tortilla chips)

Sunday: Homemade Pasta, green salad

Adult Lunches: Power Tabbouleh, Kale Avocado Sprouts Salad

Lunchbox Treats: Almond Lemon Jots

 

Looks like a great week. Nice cool summery foods to welcome what looks to be a very warm May. I hope you have a stellar week and that all the important people let you know how much they love you. Okay, maybe if just one does that it would be good. right? Eat well, be well friends.

Very Roasted, No Stank Broccoli

Wow – what an invitation, huh? What is stank anyway?  You know, it’s just a variation of stink.  Reach back into your Christmas time trivia and recall the Grinch song:

“The three words that best describe you
are as follows
And I quote
Stink, Stank, Stunk”

Of course Mr. Grinch has garlic in his soul which is in his favor… but really – broccoli…. cabbage, kale, cauliflower and all of the incredibly healthful cruciferous vegetables do carry a bit of a stank with them.  I noticed it very strongly when pregnant with my son who despises broccoli, and have never fully appreciated it since.  I still eat it, it’s available and a gift of nutritious abundance – so I make my son eat it as well.  For awhile he offset that stank by putting ketchup on it (bleah!).  Now he reports that he prefers it steamed rather than cooked in the microwave… but he still doesn’t like it.

So when Snack Girl posted a recipe for broccoli that had her 6 year old begging for more I HAD to give it a try.  For my son’s sake.
Okay, for mine!  I’ve missed enjoying broccoli and if it works for him (always a dubious prospect when it comes to broccoli, asparagus or brussels sprouts) then so much the better.

downloadWhat is so different about this broccoli?  You throw it into the nearest volcanic vent, into the fires of hell…. or if you don’t have access, you roast it at 500 degrees.  That’s right 500 degrees.  I confess this was a new setting for me.  This setting could reveal dirt on the dial for those that have ovens with dials on them.  My little digital window said “Are you sure?” as I approached that lofty number.  And I said – “Of course I’m sure!  Why didn’t I realize earlier that you could heat blast the stank out of broccoli?”  Can’t wait to try it on brussels sprouts!

The other trick is to put a little sugar on it.  “AHA!” you say smugly. It’s the sugar, not the heat.  Well, it’s only a teaspoon of sugar for 2 pounds of broccoli, so I’m thinking that is not really the stank-remover.  It was indeed the fiery furnace.

We have shared Snack Girl offerings in the past and I recommend her as a source of common sense recipes and changes for folks that are not as interested in losing animal products from their diet.  I did not adapt her recipe much other than I cut the broccoli smaller (in hopes that would help number only son to try it with an open mind), and I used brown sugar instead of table sugar and avocado oil instead of olive.  I recommend that you use a high heat oil….. because this is really high heat!  And maybe your oven gets a little cleaner while these bad green boys lose their stank :-)

Snack Girl’s Roasted Broccoli
(makes 4 servings)

2 pounds broccoli crowns
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (I used avocado)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar (I used brown sugar – packed)
ground black pepper (optional – I opted out)

Preheat oven to 500F.  Place sheet on the lowest rack of the oven while oven heats up.

Cut crowns into 4 wedges LENGTHWISE (I cut smaller pieces – see above). Place broccoli in bowl and add oil, salt, sugar, and pepper to taste (optional). Toss to combine. When oven is heated, place broccoli on baking sheet and roast for 11 minutes (until slightly browned). Serve and enjoy!

20150427_184136This was very yummy.  My son was not enamored of this, but he did not make a face and he had to admit a little of the stank was gone.  I think he’ll come around, but I was sold.  I will do this again and again, and as I said before – I can’t wait to try it on Brussels sprouts.  As long as Brussel doesn’t mind ;-)

Weekly Meal Plan 4/27-5/3

Another day, another massive inhalation of paint fumes. But wait, you say, aren’t you concerned about your health? Aren’t you using low VOC paint? Don’t you need your brain cells Little Sis? The answers: yes (of course), yes (on the insides of the cabinets), and I guess sometimes. The cabinet project proceeds apace. I’ve finished a couple and am making my way around the first corner on the upper cabinets. Yes, this is time consuming. Yes, I now understand why people we talked to wanted to charge so very much to do this. Yes it looks fantastic, even only partially complete. And let me tell you how much more rewarding this is than any of the other chores that await, well except cooking which I still love, but confess is not quite as fun in my disarranged kitchen. I am not a terribly neat person, but I am not a big fan of a disarranged kitchen. I am working on my ability to accept said disarray as part of the process. Yeah, I’ll let you know how that’s going as soon as I rinse the sawdust out of my tea mug… For your meal planning enjoyment:

Monday: Potato Squashers, sautéed green beans, green salad

Tuesday: Easy Veggie Lo Mein (from Meatless Monday)

Wednesday: Spinach Chickpea Burgers, burger fixins, pickles and cut veggies,

Thursday: Tofu Bahn Mi, Quick Pickled Asian Carrots, green salad

Friday: Homemade Pizza, cut veggies

Saturday: Chickpea and Cashew Tikka Masala

Sunday: Homemade Pasta with Nofredo Sauce, green salad, Wilted Mediterranean Kale

Lunchbox Treats: Healthy Pumpkin Cookies

Adult Lunches: Namuls and leftovers all week

There it is folks. We’ll see if I can stick with it enough to share a recipe with you later in the week. How’s that for some ambition? If you’ve not yet checked out our FB page, give it a like . You know you want to. Eat well, be well friends.

A Big Winner!

unnamedThe long wait is over. After a week of entries, we have pulled a name from the hat (okay, it was a large measuring cup because yes, we’re that high tech around here) and Rita is the winner of our friend Annie Oliverio’s new cookbook. In case you miss the first description of this fantastic book, I’ll give you a short version Annie is a super creative and accomplished plant based cook. She has assembled a cookbook based on the kind of craving you might be having. Each craving includes a variety of healthful plant based answers to that craving call. She is really super talented. Bigg Sis and I have both been using recipes of hers for a few years and have yet to be anything but Wowed. So, Rita is the lucky winner, but you can get your own copy of Crave, Eat, Heal: Plant-based, Whole-food Recipes to Satisfy Every Appetite on Amazon. Check out Annie’s blog here. Rita, if you are a Facebook user, please go our page and use the message function to let us know where to send your book. If you’re not a Facebooker, let us know in the comments and we’ll devise another communication scheme. Congratulations to Rita for winning and to Annie for putting together such a wonderful book!