Summer grillin’

I don’t eat much in the summer. I’m hot and grumpy (because I’m hot) and I don’t really feel like it. Which becomes a problem when by 330 I still haven’t eaten yet, and I’m miserable. But, as the vicious cycle of low blood sugar in my own body goes, once it drops and I’ve gone too long my appetite leaves. And because I still don’t eat, it gets worse until I finally eat something… and it usually is something fast and not really effective. With that in mind, I am really trying to stay on top of the cycle so I can skip right to the end… the part with a full (and happy) belly.

IMG_4447

And although I really enjoy a chopped salad or maybe a rule-breaking meal, chicken is my favorite protein to serve on my salad. I love grilled chicken, but don’t want to heat up the grill on a daily basis, so on the weekends, I have Matt grill up a LOT. It stays in the fridge until I’m inspired… or hungry. Lucky for us, I was hungry and inspired when I tossed together this salad that packs perfectly for an office or picnic lunch.

IMG_4446

You can grill the corn along with the chicken or use canned corn. Any type of tomato would be tasty, but right now, I am loving the grape tomato. I’m also really into black beans and cotija cheese. It crumbles up nicely and if your your chicken is fresh from the grill, it melts fantastically on top!

Summer Grilled Salad

  • 3 chicken breasts – grilled
  • 1 cup corn – grilled
  • 1 cup black beans
  • 1 cup tomatoes – chopped
  • 1/2 cup cotija cheese – crumbled
  • lettuce
  • tortilla chips (This is a special request from Matt… I’ve never felt the need to add them.)
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. white vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. sour cream
  • 2 Tbsp. salsa
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 2 Tbsp. chives – minced

Go to town chopping the chicken, lettuce and tomatoes. Toss together with the beans and corn. (At this point, you can stop prep and put your salad in containers for work or a picnic, or you can fill your plate!) Put the olive oil, vinegar, sour cream, salsa, onion powder and chives in a container and shake vigorously. Once you’ve plated the salad, pour the dressing and top with cheese. If you’re like Matt, you can also add tortillas. 

IMG_4445

The chicken and veg mix will stay fresh in your fridge for up to 4 days. I like to keep it in pint-sized ball jars with a lid and pull a serving out as needed.

Mighty Mommy Monday – Avocado edition

It’s Mighty Mommy Monday! Abbie of Farmer’s Daughter and I have decided to challenge you on a weekly basis.  Claim the Mighty Mommy title for yourself — every day, not just Mondays. Every week, we’ll host a link up for you to tell us what you’re doing to take care of your health: workouts, menu plans, how to keep your family active, etc. I’ve set a few goals for 2014, but my biggest is to swim a total of 30 freestyle miles this year. Join us!

 

Now personally, I’m not a fan of avocados. I don’t eat them any other way than in this snack. I know they are so, so, so good for you, but I cannot get past the texture. However, when blended with a tart, crisp apple, it serves as a creamy addition to raw applesauce. This is a quick and easy snack that will fill you up through the afternoon and give you plenty of beneficial fats. Which, I’m learning the further I get into the book, Grain Brain, are very important for the health and function of your brain!.

So here we go: 1 ripe avocado, 2 apples, 2 Tbsp honey, 1 pear per person served and cinnamon. Cut up your avocado (this post has great instructions if you’ve never encountered one) and place it into a food processor with the 2 apples. I peel the apples, but you can do as you wish. Add in the honey and process until smooth(ish). Chop up the pear and spoon your avocado mix over the top. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Eat right away, it will turn brown if you forget about it. (Brown is ugly, but doesn’t impact the flavor in case it ever happens to you.) 

I’m making an effort to share this recipe so that I would be reminded again why I loved this as a child. My mom used to make it as a breakfast option it is truly very filling. I’m having to make some adjustments to my workout routines as I’ve learned more about how to get and keep my thyroid in proper working order, and as I mentioned above, I’m reading literature about our diets again. Did you know that your brain is dependent on fats to function? And that research is showing more and more a connection between those people who ascribe to a high-carb, low-fat diet and dementia? Makes me want to go hug my ghee!

Tell me, are there any ways you like to incorporate avocado into your diet? 



Incredible Edible

If you’ve been on Pinterest for any length of time, you’ll discover a few pins that every one and their hamster you follow is pinning. And depending on your core interests and the interests of those you follow, perhaps you’ve seen the Bodyrocker tv deviled eggs. I see a few “healthy” or “low-fat” deviled eggs on a regular basis, but I’d really wanted to try the Bodyrocker ones. Until I looked at the ingredient list and the questionable comments. Seems you love them or you hate them. And there was no way I was putting honey in a deviled egg.

But you see, Sylvi and I love eggs and I’m always looking for an afternoon snack option that will tide us over to supper without much effort. The result here is an egg that is both good for you AND (according to the resident toddler) “Yummy in your tummy”. So here you go, tasty, healthy and satisfying… what more could you want?!

  • 6 hardboiled eggs
  • 2-4 Tbsp plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. onion granules (or powder)
  • 1/2 tsp. dried dill

Cut each egg in half, lengthwise and pop out the yolk into a bowl. (Your yolks should be bright yellow in color… if you have grey around the edges, you’ve over cooked them. And then they get stinky. Just a note.) Once the yolks are all in a bowl, you can mix in the rest of the ingredients. Start with 2 Tablespoons of yogurt and add from there. I wound up using all the yogurt because I wanted the consistency of the filling to resemble traditional deviled eggs as much as possible. Smash up the ingredients with enthusiasm… if you don’t like chunks of egg, otherwise mix well and move on to the next step! Fill each egg with the filling and top with chopped chives. Keep chilled until you are ready to eat!

Mighty Mommy Monday – Cha-cha-cha CHIA!

It’s Mighty Mommy Monday! Abbie of Farmer’s Daughter and I have decided to challenge you on a weekly basis.  Claim the Mighty Mommy title for yourself — every day, not just Mondays. Every week, we’ll host a link up for you to tell us what you’re doing to take care of your health: workouts, menu plans, how to keep your family active, etc. I’ve set a few goals for 2014, but my biggest is to swim a total of 30 freestyle miles this year. Join us!

Today’s post is a guest post from my friend, Nina. Nina is one of my “fitness friends” and one that I frequently text with questions late at night. 🙂 She’s Mama to 3 awesome little boys and is a wonderful inspiration to me!

SO! It’s been about 4 and a half years since the Lord has laid on my heart that I need to be treating my body as the temple that it is. This made me look into what I was “nourishing” my body with food wise a long with many other things but today, I’m focusing on the food part. I used the quotes around the word nourishing because my diet prior to my eating habits now were anything but nourishing to my body. It has taken me (and my family) years to get where we are today with eating healthy and I learn something new all the time about the nutrition wholesome, real, foods supply our bodies! One food that has been sorely misrepresented is the Chia seed. You might have heard of them back in the day while watching the commercials of your favorite cartoon, sitcom, soap opera, etc. I can’t pick up my jar of chia seeds today without saying, to myself of course, “cha cha cha CHIA!” Thanks to their catchy little jingle and marketing strategies, I’m assuming millions of Americans never knew that the chia seeds they were caring for on their chia pets were actually edible. This seed, despite the novelty item they were known for being, packs quite the nutritional punch! Especially for their size. They’re tiny!

I’m sure you’ve heard all about the importance of adding omega 3 fatty acids to your diet, but do you know why you should be incorporating them? Omega 3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats and are known to reduce inflammation and risks for cardiovascular disease.

A 1-ounce serving of chia contains approximately 4.9 grams of omega 3 fatty acids. That may not sound like a lot but it really is. Flaxseed is known for their omega’s but flaxseed only carries about 1.8 grams of omega 3 fatty acids. Compare that to the Chia seed and that’s a pretty big difference.

Something else I want to touch on is their fiber content. Soluble fiber is known for maintaining normal, healthy cholesterol levels and supporting healthy elimination. A 1-ounce serving of chia seeds contain 10.6 grams of fiber. Oatmeal contains roughly 2.8 grams of soluble fiber. I don’t know about you but I have always been told that oatmeal is good if you’re having trouble with constipation, but I think chia seeds seem to be the better way to go.

For women, calcium is great! Especially if you are trying to ward off osteoporosis. I know when I would I think about ways to get more calcium into my diet, my focus would go straight to dairy products. Ever since I have been doing more research on the food I’m eating, I have found that the plant world is full of foods that are rich in calcium. Broccoli is a great source of easily absorb-able calcium and it turns out, so are chia seeds. A 1-ounce serving of chia seeds supplies 177 mg of calcium. One 5-inch stalk of steamed broccoli contains 56 mg of calcium.

During my workouts, I always get my cardio in but getting in my strength training is equally as important. Protein is imperative when you incorporate strength training into your workouts, which is another reason why chia seeds are so great! A 1-ounce serving of chia seeds contain 4.4 grams of protein. Compare that to a 1-ounce serving of kidney beans which supply .01 grams of protein.

As you can see, ounce per ounce chia seeds are a concentrated source of nutrition.

It blows me away how easy it is to incorporate them into your diet! They can be put on absolutely everything. Usually something as nutritious as the chia seed needs to be prepared a certain way or only tastes good if you pair it with something else. That isn’t the case here. I sprinkle chia seeds on everything! Smoothies, cereal, toast, my kids’ pb&j, fruit, and when I make my homemade granola bars and energy balls. My oldest son pretty much expects to see them on his food now! A serving is 2 tablespoons but I typically only put it on a tablespoon at a time since I use it on a lot of the things I eat throughout the day. Although I have never tried it, I have read that chia seeds make a good substitution for eggs in recipes and that chia seed flour can be used in gluten free cooking as a 1 to 1 ratio to wheat flour. I thought that was interesting!

Trying new things or understanding why something is healthy for you (or unhealthy for you) can be very challenging and it tends to get discouraging at times…err, A LOT of times! Like I mentioned above, it has taken me years to get where I am and I’m still learning but I hope you found this to be helpful and informative. It’s not an easy transition when it comes to shaking up your test buds and eating for your health rather than your belly but I can promise you it’s worth it!

Thanks Nina! Have you ever tried Chia seeds? If so, what’s your favorite way to use them?



Lunch solutions

Lunch is at 1130 here. School at noon. Quiet time at 1230. Three days a week this hour is very busy for me because I’m scrambling to make sure little ones are completely dressed, fed and snack is packed for preschool and are out the door on time. (Which, considering that we live across the street from the school shouldn’t be an epic feat, but for some absurd reason always is.)

Because we all seem to really thrive on routine around here, we try to have the same basic routine every day. (Key word: try.) Lunch, clean up, something educational (Today we graphed Liam’s 46 matchbox cars by color… Mom is a super-nerd, I know) and then the kids are in their room for about an hour while I work or make business calls. I try to keep things pretty simple at lunch so the afternoon, I’m able to be productive instead of cleaning up lunch. Or wishing we had had a good lunch. A couple weeks ago, I started searching Pinterest for good lunch ideas. And you know what? Tortillas are huge. I’ve been working with Liam and his therapist to help him handle new textures and we’ve finally overcome the tortilla crisis!

I’m learning to make our lunches fun and quick. We are having these power wraps (each packing a punch of 6-7 grams protein for each wrap), meatballs dipped in feta dip, pb&j puzzles and every now and then mac and cheese. I also bought some fun picks and suddenly, the kids are scarfing down everything on their plates… including pizza. (Yep. They don’t like pizza. Unfathomable, right?)

Power Wraps

  • Small tortillas
  • hummus
  • thinly sliced turkey
  • shredded colby cheese

Spread the hummus all over the tortilla, sprinkle on the cheese and place the turkey on top. Roll up and slice in half.

I’m leaning pretty heavily on this meal, hoping it stays a favorite for a while! There are summer picnics to pack for! And then, kindergarten in the fall. Oh my. By then, I’m going to be the one needing the extra power!

 

Brought to you by chocolate, butter and sugar

Today was one of those days were my to-do list just never seemed to lessen and the kids were literally bouncing. off. the. walls. So what does one do on a day like this? Bake, obviously. And preferably something with chocolate and sugar.

I must tell you that the reason why I made chocolate chip muffins instead of cookies is because this weekend when I told the kids they could pick out any candy they wanted at a bulk food store, Liam chose dinosaur cupcake wrappers. And to me, it was so precious that instead of any number of chocolates or cookies he chose something for me to bake muffins for him in. When he saw them laying on the counter this afternoon, he instantly hugged me and thanked me for baking in his dinosaur wrappers. This kid. I really hope these little things continue through the years to make him feel special and loved.

This little helper was far more interested in scooping the sugar out of the jar and eating it than actually *helping* me. And she ate a LOT.

But the muffins? We had them tonight with the world’s ugliest omletes and it was a nice, sweet counterpart to the protein. The eggs were so ugly, I almost was afraid to eat them in case their appearance effected their taste.  Which then made me laugh and think of this clip from Julie and Julia when Meryl Streep imitates Julia Child and her instructions on how to make a proper omelette. Perhaps I didn’t have enough conviction when I flipped mine? Regardless, supper was yummy and remembered that I hadn’t shared a recipe here in a while and since the Pug himself was eyeballing the plate of muffins, I figured this was one worthy of a share!

Chocolate Chip Muffins (makes 24)

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 heaping Tbsp. Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1/2 c. coconut oil or butter, softened
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla
  • 10 oz. chocolate chips (I used a mix of dark, white and milk chocolate chips)

Sift together your dry ingredients and whisk together the wet ingredients. Mix them together thoroughly and then stir in your chocolate chips. Scoop into muffin cups (24) and top with coarse sugar if you desire. Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes and enjoy!

 

Hot stuff!

At some point in our early married life, Matt discovered the Pappy’s Sauce line. I honestly can’t remember if we were on our honeymoon in Savannah or if we were vacationing in Oak Island with family, but during one of those trips, he discovered the stuff and has been a loyal customer ever since. One Christmas, I purchased a gift set for him and we discovered The Hottest Ride in Town.

For the record, I don’t like hot sauce. I’d rather dice up some jalapenos and call it a day. But the hubs, he loves his sauces. Anyway, this week I tried Bang Bang Cauliflower and while it was so not worth the work, I discovered that the Hottest Ride makes for an amazing dipping sauce for roasted cauliflower! Just mix with 1/4 cup sour cream, 2 Tbsp. Mayonnaise and 1 Tablespoon onion powder! This little dip is up to your standard of spice, so you get to decide how much of the sauce to add. It’s good with raw and roasted veggies, summer sausage and crackers and chips!

If you live in Indiana, I’d suggest a trip to Pappy’s Market. If you aren’t, HotSauce.com can help you out. 🙂 We’ve tried a number of sauces that they carry and they certainly live up to their names… and several of the items in the Pain is Good line.  Which reminds me that I should order a batch of Jerk Nuts for the hubs’ birthday next week!

So what about you? Do you like spicy or mild? And how do you feel about cauliflower?

Popcorn and Bones

Matt and I have been watching Bones since it first came out.  Which is about as long as we’ve been together and tonight… tonight is THE night!!!  Booth and Bones are finally getting married!!!  I’m probably a little more excited about this than absolutely necessary. My night is cleared and I’m about to make a batch of this Pumpkin Caramel Popcorn.

Sweet, Cinnamon-y and addictive, this is the first popcorn experiment that I’ve tried that Matt has told me “must stay in the house always”.  It’s a good snack that will hold up for packing in a lunch box or taking to the drive-in for a movie night. Now… if you will excuse me, I have a snack to make for the wedding I’ve been waiting for since Season 1!

Pumpkin Caramel Popcorn

  • 10 cups popped popcorn
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 honey
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger

Melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the sugar, honey and spices.  Bring to a boil as the sugar melts and let it bubble for about 5 minutes, stirring well.  Then, pour the caramel sauce over the popcorn, stirring to coat.  Once all the popcorn has been coated, spread it out on a baking sheet evenly.  Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake at 200 degrees for an hour.  Check frequently to make sure the caramel isn’t burning and stir each time.  Eat as soon as you can.  Or wait until it cools.  Whatever you like.  It keeps well in an air-tight container.

Creamy Feta Dip

I woke up at 6am today and checked out the window to realize I couldn’t see to even the end of my back yard through the dense fog.  It’s continued all day and all I really want to do is curl up with a book in bed. I should probably start the supper prep soon, but I’m going to push it until the last moment, I think. I was doing so well with meal preparations, too! Planning is the key to us eating well and sometimes, benefits others, too! Yesterday, I made food for a family since the mother is on strict bed rest.  Sloppy joes, sweet potato fries and creamy feta dip.

The feta dip is the reason for this post. I’d been buying a glorious Greek yogurt and feta dip at the grocery until we realized Sylvi liked it and she was having an allergic reaction every time she ate it. And I’m sorry… there is almost nothing worse than having to deny your child food due to an allergy.  Especially when you love it too.  Of course, after looking at the ingredients on the container, I kind of felt I wasn’t going to miss anything… until I remembered how much I really, really liked it.

Thus far, I’ve tried this recipe with sweet potato fries, veggies and crackers. Amazing. Also amazing on a hummus and cucumber sandwich. Or just from a spoon. Ahem. To prove the taste factor, my friend told me that her teenaged son ate half of the dip himself. In my experience, if a teenage boy inhales your food, you may as well stop cooking… you’ve reached your pinnacle.

Creamy Feta Dip

  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese
  • 1/2 Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp. Greek seasoning

Soften the cream cheese until it easily mashes with a spoon…. I typically warm it in the microwave so it’s really soft. Then, place all the ingredients in a food processor and whir until smooth and blended.  You’ll have little bit of Feta still, but it’s primarily smooth.  At this point, test for taste. You may want more seasoning or to thin it out a bit with some milk. I keep mine in the fridge (and it does firm up, by the way) in a glass jar.  I can’t tell you how long it lasts for… I eat it too fast.  But I can tell you this is a staple in our home and it’s something I can safely feed my kids without worry!

Honey Orange Granola and Bars

I think that if you had read my earlier Facebook post, you’d have gotten the idea that my day was going very smoothly. I had high hopes for today, despite being very tired. In the end, my husband walked in the door tonight and didn’t bother to ask what was for supper. Instead he commented on my tired, puffy eyes and asked how soon I wanted to lay down. We wouldn’t have starved for at the very least we could have eaten granola bars for supper.

The amount of money I spend each month on granola bars is laughable. Shameful, even. But I tell you, for whatever reason, despite trying dozens of recipes and even finding a few that I loved, my children would not eat my homemade creations. Now I will admit that Liam still turned his picky 3 and a half year old nose up at these, but he’s been in a foul mood all day.  Sylvi couldn’t shove hers in her mouth fast enough. What’s more, the husband gave these guys a firm stamp of approval.

I made a quick batch of granola first.

  • 2 cups of gluten free oats
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. melted butter
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. orange extract
  • orange zest (optional)

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.  Melt the butter and mix in the honey, orange extract and any zest you choose to add. Mix together the oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and a pinch of salt.  Then, pour the honey mixture over the top and toss through the oats.  Line a baking sheet with foil and dump your granola out on it.  Spread the granola out and cook for 10 minutes.  Stir the granola well and cook for an additional 10 minutes.  Recipe makes just over 2 cups of granola, which is the perfect amount for the bars.

Once the granola cooled… and I got my hands out of the pan… seriously.  I couldn’t stop eating the little granola clumps!  Honey and orange with the oats is amazing! Anyway, once the granola cooled, I made it into bars.

  • 1 recipe of granola
  • 2 cups puffed rice cereal
  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup mix-ins (chocolate chips, cranberries, raisins, peanuts, etc.)

Mix together the granola and rice cereal.  You can reuse the foil from making the granola, but this is very important: grease the foil before you put the granola mixture on it.  I know there’s butter in the recipe, but it still sticks like the dickens and that’s just not pretty. 🙂  Then, melt the butter in a small pan with the brown sugar and honey.  Bring it to a boil and stir constantly.  The mixture will become caramel colored and bubble constantly, remove it from the heat and very quickly stir it into the dry ingredients. Press the granola into the prepared pan.  My bars were about 10 inches square, so I just molded it so that they were fairly even across the top.  Then, press your toppings into the granola and set aside for 20 minutes while the caramel hardens.

These granola bars and crispy and chewy and just the right amount of sweet.  Store them wrapped tightly for 2 weeks.