Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Vinegar ain't so bad...and baking soda is even better

So this cleaning with vinegar business isn't as stinky as I thought it'd be. And my favorite part? When I clean stainless steel or faucets, it resists water spots later in the day and week. It's amazing!
According to Wikipedia: 
"Among the items tested, vinegar (5% acetic acid) showed the strongest bactericidal activity against all strains tested, which was attributed to its high acetic acid content."
I thought this to be amazing. I have two bottles with vinegar. One with full strength, one two parts vinegar, one part water. I use the diluted vinegar for quick clean ups, on Luca's high chair and counter tops and such when I don't want the strong smell.
I use the full strength for everything else. Bathroom, kitchen, floors, cutting boards, rinse cycle in the washing machine for Luca's cloth diapers, anything gross or disgusting.
Also - vinegar is safe to use on paint, so I can use it to wipe down the walls, which is a common practice around here.
Please note - vinegar and bleach SHOULD NEVER be mixed. It creates toxic fumes that are likely to kill you. Nice, huh? I learned this from when I worked at Fridays. A cook knocked over a jug of vinegar while the cleaning crew was bleaching the floors. We all had to immediately leave and wait for the all clear.
Now to baking soda. I use it to pre-scrub the tub, shower, and pretty much anything gross in the bathroom. After that, I spray on the vinegar and scrub away. Note: it will fizz. And it will smell. And if you're sensitive to strong smells, then this may not be for you. Just stick with the vinegar. I have the exhaust fan on and another fan blowing when I do this. It's a very sour smell and extremely strong. But man does it ever do the trick. My shower stays cleaner, longer. I find that it seems to resist mildew and other gross happenings in the dark, moist areas.
I won't lie. I am the worst at scrubbing showers and such. So I am even happier that I can do it just as often as I typically do, and it stays clean!
Bestest, best part of all?!? There are no harsh chemicals that are bad for the kids, so I don't have to wait until they're napping to clean. Plus, I can clean pregnant. AND it's better for the environment. All things that make me happy.
So today, while the pizza was cooking in the oven, I cleaned with vinegar. Claire was a mere 10 feet away from me working on a puzzle and Luca was always within two feet. In that time, neither complained of a smell. And my fridge has never been whiter. And bacteria-free.
I'm so happy.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

PB2. Hmm...

PB2. I'm still on the fence about you. It still, to me, doesn't satisfy like Jif can. HOWEVER:


I found that baking with it is delicious. It doesn't make your product all oily and it isn't quite as filling. I had made some peanut butter cookies a while back with just PB2 and I couldn't tell a taste difference, just that it didn't leave me feeling slowed down and fat.


I'm starting with baby steps. Yesterday I made Peanut butter blondies with milk chocolate frosting. Thanks, Joy! It was flipping amazing. However, I made a few changes, just to make it not so bad for me. I mean, it's bad for me, but anything to curb a few calories, right?


Here's Joy's ingredient list for the blondies:




10 Tablespoons unsalted butter cut into 5 cubes
2 cups dark brown sugar
1 cup smooth and natural peanut butter: I used 1/2 cup regular peanut butter and 1/2 cup reconstituted PB2
 2 eggs: I used egg beaters
2  teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour: I used half white/half whole wheat
1 teaspoon baking powder
Now, it's still absolutely evil and bad for anyone, but it still tasted flipping amazing. My husband and daughter couldn't even tell the difference. And holy crap is it rich. I mean, I had half a square and that was enough for me. Matt and Claire, too. 
I didn't change the frosting recipe. However, if you're like me, I could have done with less frosting. I'm not a big frosting fan, just enough to add a little somethin' somthin'. I loved it, though. Joy's my new baking hero. No lie.
My husband is a sweet-aholic. I'm OK with that. I guess, this just shows that you can take something terrible and make it not so much. It's amazing how simple swaps can make a small difference. 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Murals!

I was searching through some old photos the other day on my computer and found some from when I painted a mural on Claire's wall.

I had purchased some 'decorative stickers' from Ikea and after a few weeks, they had begun to peel off the wall. It got to the point where Claire would wake up from a nap and be covered in a stem or a petal from the sticker flower. I figured then, that enough was enough.

Painting murals don't have to be difficult. You don't even have to be artistic, really. It does help, though.

Fortunately for me, I do have a small (very small) background on art and was able to make a pretty neat, and involved, wall mural for Miss Claire.



Here's how it went down:
What you need:
1. Acrylic paint
2. Tape and more tape
3. Poster board or thin cardboard
4. Small paint brushes, varying in size
5. PATIENCE.
6. Chalk

I sent Claire to my Mom's for the day, so I would be able to finish it without wanting to hurt myself.

The rest is based on your creativity and ambition. I'd post a step by step guide (and I had started to type it) but to be honest, I did most of it free handed. I did, however, tape out the stems.

The birds and 'happy sun' (as Claire calls it) is courtesy of Noggin's music video for Bob Marley's "Three Birds." Again, free handed.

The best part? When Claire gets sick of it, all I have to do is take a 240 or so piece of sand paper, gently sand the top of the paint and then paint on over. That's why I chose acrylic paint.

When Luca moves into his new room once the baby is born, I plan on giving him something too for his walls. I'm still kind of up in the air, since I tend to refuse to do anything 'cutsie' or seen on Nickelodeon. (Other than something related to Bob Marley.) I'm more into the whole contemporary and modern notion. It seems to me that it's more timeless.

Where was I going with this post?

Oh yah. Murals. Matt likes it because he says it's one less hole in the wall. I like it because I made it. Claire likes it because it makes her happy. All in all, I say, if you own your home, have some free time and are feeling extremely creative, go for it!

Any questions, I'm happy to answer them.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Eyelash in your food?

Have you ever gone out for dinner and found a foreign body in your food? Hair, eyelash, spit? Should it be in there? Probably not. 
That's how I feel about processed foods. 
There's absolutely no reason for food to have MSG, high fructose corn syrup, modified food starch, 'natural flavors'...none. 

That's just me.

Stepping off my soap box...
So today's meal is Black Bean Burgers! I love, love, love 'em. My husband? Not so much. I wanted to order it when I went Max & Erma's, but I looked online prior to it's nutritional content. Ouch. That's what I'll say:


Serving Size: Portion as served
Total Fat: 28 g
Saturated Fat: 4.3 g
Cholesterol: 20 mg
Dietary Fiber 9.3 g
Sodium: 1495 mg
Calories: 649
Calories from Fat: 252
Carbohydrates: 79.1 g
Protein:: 32.7 g



So here's how I made it husband-friendly.

Black Bean Burgers a la Matt (makes 4 burgers)

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 tbs garlic powder or 3 cloves minced
1 egg or 1/4 cup egg beaters
3/4 cup bread crumbs
1 tbs chili powder
1 tbs cumin

Preheat oven to 350. In a bowl, smash the black beans with a fork. Then add all the above ingredients. I tend to eyeball my bread crumbs, because I find that too little and they don't keep a nice shape. If you plan on making the burgers ahead of time and freezing, then you could probably go with 1/2 cup. Otherwise, stick with 3/4 cup. 

Using your hands, make the mixture into 4 patties. Place onto a tinfoil covered cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes, flipping over about half way through.

To make this pleasing to my husband, I sautéed onions and mushrooms until caramelized. I then topped his burger with swiss cheese and the onions and mushrooms and served it on a toasted Arnold. 


For me, I just like plain 'ol ketchup. And only Heinz. Is there any other brand? (It's the Pittsburgher in me.)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Chicken Tettrazini and Banana Bread

Chicken Tettrazini! I'm so super excited for this one. It's SO super delicious and the perfect comfort food.

Back when I was a kid it was an easy casserole for our Mom to make and I remember it fondly. I, of course, have changed the original recipe to my liking since I'm such a stubborn and picky eater.

Chicken Tettrazini
1 or 2 chicken breasts (you can also use turkey breasts, but I find it to be too dry)
1 can of cream of chicken soup (I use the 98% fat free kind)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 package of frozen peas (I LOVE Bird's Eye super sweet peas)
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (must be sharp)
1 package of cooked spaghetti noodles (I actually prefer capallini. It's just a touch thinner than spaghetti.)
Assorted spices

Preheat oven to 350. While preparing the pasta, in a saucepan, add in about a 1/2 inch of water, crushed pepper, garlic powder and pepper. Cube the raw chicken and add to the simmering water. Cook until the outsides are no longer pink and strain out the remaining water.
In a large (and I mean large) bowl, mix in all other ingredients starting with the liquids first, then adding the cheese and peas, then chicken, then add the cooked pasta.
Pour contents into a large greased casserole dish and cook for 35 to 45 minutes, until bubbly.

*****************

My husband just loves banana bread. Every time my sister comes by, he'll say, "So when are you making me some more banana bread?" So finally I decided I had to figure out how the hell to bake it.

My first attempt was a few weeks ago. He said it was ... good, but not Carly's. Ouch. So I tried again. I pulled this recipe out of my head, so thank GOD I wrote it down. Because he loved it.

Banana Bread:
1 cup white unbleached flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
4 tablespoons flax seed
3/4 buttermilk (I use the powder and reconstitute it. It's MUCH healthier. And it keeps longer than fresh.)
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs (I used 1/2 cup egg beaters)
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
dash of salt
6 super-duper over ripe bananas

Preheat oven to 350. In a large mixing bowl, mix bananas into a pudding like consistency. Add in flax seed, eggs, butter, baking powder, butter milk, salt and brown sugar. Mix for 3 minutes on high. Reduce speed to the slowest setting and add flour.
Pour into greased bread pan and set timer for 1 hour and 5 minutes.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Stuffing and Chicken

I love good comfort food. I have been making stuffing and chicken for a while now. All you need is your trusty crockpot and you're good to go! I used to make this with Stove Top, but alas...

Enriched Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate(Vitamin B1), Riboflavin(Vitamin B2), Folic Acid), Degermed Yellow Corn Meal, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Onions*, Salt, Contains Less Than 2% of Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and/Or Cottonseed Oil, Vital Wheat Gluten, Yeast, Celery*, Parsley*, Maltodextrin, Monosodium Glutamate, Spice, Sugar, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Turmeric, Cooked Chicken and Chicken Broth, Annatto (Color), Artificial Flavor, Natural Flavor, With Bha, Bht, Citric Acid, and Propyl Gallate As Preservatives *Dried


Stuffing and Chicken:

Crockpot portion:
2 chicken breasts
*1 zucchini shredded (with skins on)
shredded carrots (I use a whole bag of the matchsticks, or shred 4)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/4 cup sour cream
1 cup cheddar cheese

Combine all ingredients into crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

45 minutes prior to serving, prepare the stuffing:

Stuffing:
1/2 loaf of bread cubed (I use TJ's white wheat bread, it crisps up well)
2 tsp sage
1 tsp ground thyme
1 tsp marjoram (if you don't have it, don't freak out. I've used oregano before and hardly noticed)
1/4 cup butter melted
chopped celery (to taste...I don't like a bunch, to be honest, but it does give a good flavor)
dried minced onion (to taste)

In a pyrex pan, coat with Pam and place bread cubes in. Mix in all other ingredients, being careful to coat all pieces, but don't go crazy. Bake in oven at 375 for 25 minutes, or until the top layer is toasted (but not burned!)

Prior to serving, place stuffing on top of crockpot mixture. Don't do it too soon, otherwise the stuffing will absorb all the liquid in the crockpot, making it mush.

Enjoy!

*Last night I didn't have zucchini, so I used broccoli florets instead. It tasted just as good!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

make tonight a tuna night!

Yah, and it was delicious, too. Ahi Tuna. Let me start by saying that I'm NOT a huge fan of fish. In fact, I pretty much don't like it...ever. If it is a steak-like, non-fishy-tasting, firm fish, then I'll give it a go. I enjoy shark, swordfish and tuna steaks. I buy my tuna at Trader Joe's and they assure me that it's wild caught and sold of free trade. TJ's hasn't let me down yet, so here's to hoping!
Here's how I made this meal:
The rice was cooked in low sodium vegetable broth and I added a hint of lemon juice.
The green beans were steamed. Nothing fancy.

Ahi Tuna Steaks:
thawed (if previously frozen) Ahi Tuna
fresh lemon and limes (one of each should be fine)
2 tbs low sodium soy sauce
oregano to taste
garlic powder to taste
a little water

Cut the lemon and lime in half, then squeeze one half of each fruit into a bowl. Save the other halves for later. Mix in all other ingredients. Using a brush, add the mixture onto the tuna. If grilling, put on aluminum foil, if broiling in the oven, put on cookie sheet and aluminum foil (it makes for easier clean up and less likely to burn/stick). Slice up the lemon and lime into rounds, and place on top of the tuna to bake. Depending on how you like your tuna done, I cooked mine for about 10 minutes on each side, reapplying the marinade and the lemon/lime rounds after flipping.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

What the Army taught me

I run 4 times a week, but I wouldn't call myself a runner. My idea of a 'runner' is someone who puts in 20+ miles a week. I put in about 10+. I'm not killing my knees, hips, legs...for a title. But for those that truly are runners, I applaud you. And I'm a tad jealous.
I go to the gym 5 days a week, but mainly I do cross training. I put in 30+ miles a week in on the bike, no sweat. But not running.
For example, yesterday, I was at the gym with Matt, we biked 5 miles, and I only ran 1. (The kids didn't seem like they'd cooperate much longer than that.) I did some weights and called it a day.
A typical day at the gym consists of 45 minutes of cardio and the remaining 15 minutes (because that's all I'll get out of Claire most days...an hour) I'll putz around and do weights and ab/core exercises. Easy enough.
A friend of mine asked me today what to do about shin splints. She says she runs down hill a lot during her regular running route and wondered what to do different.
When I was training to leave for the Army, I started running. And oh. my. god. did I get shin splints. I was in misery. I thought I'd never make it through basic. But I did. Because of our cross training and good shoes.
The Army isn't stupid. They know how to train a soldier correctly. And while I did break my hip, prior to that, I was in solid shape. And my shin splints never once acted up.
Here's how we did it:
We had organized workouts 6 days a week. Monday through Saturday. Sunday is the day of rest, you know. Every other day was either running or conditioning. On days we'd run, we'd run a few miles, but sometimes in between miles, we'd stop and do something different. For example, we'd run a mile, then bear crawl for 50 feet, sprint a 1/4 mile, then job the remaining miles. But first and foremost, we'd ALWAYS warm up appropriately.
There's the kicker.
And I still don't do that correctly.
Prior to running, especially on our 7+mile days, we'd stretch and start out at a fast walk, then jog, then run. We'd pace ourselves...and then when we were coming down to the last half mile, we'd jog again, then end with a fast walk. Every time.
I also think it was the shoes. When we first got to reception, we had to get fitted for running shoes. And it wasn't just your regular trying on shoes, it was standing on a clear box while this 'specialist' measured and poked and prodded, getting our perfect shoe.
After a long run morning, we'd all get ice packs to put on our shins. Regardless if we were hurting or not. Heat after running is really bad for your muscles, believe it or not. It's suggested to take a colder shower after working out. So we'd sit in front of our barracks, icing down our legs, then off to the showers, where they controlled the thermostat and wouldn't allow hot showers.
Mean? Perhaps. Smart? Definitely. Controlling? You bet.
So I look at my workouts now, and what the Army taught me. Well, too much to really mention here...but still. The Army taught me to warm up properly, give each workout your best, be mindful of every footfall, and cool down.
Warm up. Cool down.
The Army's motto is, "Hurry up and wait." Yet, with working out, they tell you to take your time. Warm up properly, cool down right. They don't want anyone passing out, breaking things, or getting hurt anymore than your mother does. At basic they are investing a lot of money per soldier to come out and fight later. It makes sense they'd teach us right.
So next time you start your workout, be mindful. Warm up. Stretch, jog slowly. When you're done with your intense workout, cool down right. Don't make me go Drill Sergeant on your ass.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

It's all about the cloth

Cloth diapers.
Let's talk about them for a moment, shall we?
I poo pooed the idea when I was pregnant with Claire, snarkily saying, "Wow. Is this 1910 or something? Bring on the Huggies!" And I did. For the duration of Claire's diaper life. So when you think about it, when she was 0-6 months, I changed her diaper on average 10 times a day. That's 1800 diapers. From 6-12 months, it decreased to about 7 times a day. That's 1260 diapers.
In one year, I sent 3060 diapers to the landfil. And they don't bio-degrade. EVER.
Luca just turned one. So double that amount, and I've sent 6120 diapers to the landfil. To be there forever. Isn't that cute? I can tell my kids how a piece of them is forever sitting, rotting on a piece of land that could have been a play ground. Or floating in the ocean, being eaten away by fish who then die or are forever altered because of the plastic...causing them to have abnormal baby fishies... and the sick cycle goes on.
I had enough. Not to mention how much money I was wasting.
Now before I go on, I'm sure you're thinking, "Well aren't you a hypocrite. You're a woman, aren't you? And you get your period?" Well, yes, I do. But I solved that issue, too. And that's all I'll say about that. So bite me.
Needing some advice, I sent it out there to cyberspace. I asked my friends on facebook. Not only did I get an overwhelming response, but I got several personal emails linking me up with other Green Mamas out there who just want to do something natural and good for the earth.
I found this website, that's actually local, called the Happy Baby Company. I love it. I was advised by many Moms out there to get GroBaby and Thirsties. I even enjoyed this blog, too: http://lazygreenmama.weebly.com/ My Thirsties haven't arrived yet, but so far I'm sold on GroBaby. Luca loves them, too. He would get so mad in his disposables. His poor little doodles couldn't breathe. And his skin down there would remind me of how your skin gets after wearing a bandaid on your finger. You know, all white and wrinkly? Anywho, I felt bad. But these diapers are so fantastic.
If you're a woman, and you've worn a Maxi-pad, that's exactly what it's like. Your baby pees or poops, you take off the offending layer, replace it with a new layer that resembles a pad and voila. The shell keeps for at least 3 to 4 days before you have to wash it. Amazing. Green. Cheap.

How have you impacted your world lately?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Crafty, crafty, I'm so crafty...

Next week my niece Sophia turns 1. I sat at the computer for an hour thinking and searching for what we could get her to mark this pretty awesome occasion. If you haven't guessed by now, I LOVE homemade things. Love it. When Claire insisted on making me a card for Mother's Day I bawled like a little girl. I love it.
I went to Etsy.com (my favorite site in the WORLD) and searched name blocks. I thought it could be neat for her to have little stacking cubes with her name spelled out. I searched and searched and came to a seller that makes blocks with wood and glues paper to it and crafts out some really neat stuff.
So I totally stole the idea.
Kinda.
(For Bachelor Girl...tutorial if you please...)
I went to Michael's and bought 7 3x2 1/4" thick wooden plaques for 99 cents each. I sat in front of the large paper selection for what seemed like an hour and chose 3 different colors of paisley print, a funky striped paper, a black rough vinyl-like paper and one with stars on it. I then picked out a wooden precut star and a chair rail for frames.
When I got home, I sat and stared at the supplies forever. I had an idea in my head, but sometimes it's hard to make it a reality. I started by gluing the paper to the plaques. While they were drying, I started painting the letters onto the black paper with pink, purple and green acrylic paints. I also painted the star green.
When the glue dried, I used an exacto knife to get rid of the excess paper. I cut the black paper with letters painted on into circles and glued them onto each color coordinated plaque. Then I glued the star onto the star papered plaque.
All in all, it took about 2 hours.
Now, you can totally use stencils if you don't trust your letter writing skills, but it's so much easier when you realize that you can turn the paper in whatever direction you want to make the curves perfect. Once you get past that mental barrier that you have to keep everything upright, art is really very simple.
I also made Luca a door sign. I used a large pine wooden plaque, a smaller 4x3 1/4" thick plaque and left over paper. Now, the photo can totally be interchangeable, this is just the one I happened to have laying around.

Happy Crafting!

Monday, May 17, 2010

it's the simple things

As we speak, my kids are all over me because I made a large batch of my favorite comfort food: my own rice pilaf, sort of.

1 cup rice cooked in veggie broth
half a bag of frozen peas
slivered almonds (you choose how much you like. I put in A LOT.)

I cook the rice first, then add the frozen peas and almonds when it's close to being completed. Easy, delicious!

I ate this meal every day when I was pregnant with Claire and Matt would be out of town on business. I would make 2 batches, keep it in the fridge and enjoy...a little too much.

But here I am, over two years later and I'm still loving it. And my kids are loving it. So really, it's the simple things.

In other news, I just realized (it only took me 25 years) that the plastic bags that frozen stuff comes in is recyclable. That is HUGE for me. I love to recycle. It was actually the first 'big' word I could spell as a kid. Lame, yes. But awesome regardless.

Also - on a random note, I love *Tea Tree Oil. I use it for a lot of things: Claire's scrapes, my nose ring, a mouth rinse, cleaning...I use it a lot.

Matt says to me, "Hey, can you get me some more of my shampoo?" I had been buying him the T-gel stuff by Neutrogena, but it's so damn expensive and smelly. He has super duper short, dark hair, so everything shows. He uses it for dandruff prevention and it works great.

Now, I'm not saying that tea tree oil doesn't smell, because it does, but in small amounts and diluted, it's pretty tolerable, almost nice. So I made him his own dandruff shampoo by mixing whatever shampoo I had lying around (this time it happened to be the kid's Nature's Gate Shampoo because of it's gentleness) and 8-10 drops of tea tree oil. He says it works great. And it really doesn't smell bad at all.

*I buy my Tea Tree Oil from www dot puritain dot com. I love their buy 2 get 3 free sales. It's super cheap and so worth it.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Aunt Jemima vs Trader Joe's

This morning I thought it'd be fun to make apple pancakes. I had this recipe that I found, but, in the past, I've been less than excited at the turnout. So I decided to make my own.

Apple Pancake Bake
3 apples, peeled and shredded
3/4 cup egg beaters
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup flour
cinnamon and sugar (amount is completely up to you)
2 tbs butter
honey (again, however much you want is up to you)

Melt butter in a saucepan and add in shredded apples, cinnamon, honey, and sugar. Cook for a few minutes until it begins to turn golden, yet not dark, brown. Set aside.

In a bowl, mix eggs, flour and milk.

In a greased casserole dish, combine the apples and batter. Bake at 450 for about 20 minutes.

Serve with maple syrup and enjoy!

Most bakes require the apples to be cubed. I find that it doesn't meld well together. So by shredding it, you get equal parts pancake and apple in each bite. I know, lame, but so very true.

If you're not into maple syrup, you can top it with yogurt. It tastes wonderful, too.

I typically use Trader Joe's brand maple syrup, however, due to unforeseen circumstances, I didn't pick some up when I went last time and ended up buying Full Circle organic syrup. Personal opinion: it's not that great. I'll stick with my Trader Joe's brand. But at least I tried and it's not Aunt Jemima or Hungry Man. Have you read the ingredient list?

Aunt Jemima Ingredients:
Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Water, Cellulose Gum, Caramel Color, Salt, sodium Benzoate and Sorbic Acid, Artificial and Natural Flavors, Sodium Hexametaphosphate.

Trader Joe's Ingredients:
Maple Syrup.

Hmm....no brainer there.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Lentils make it better

I'm trying to get our meat consumption down to 3 or 4 times a week. To my husband, this translates to: Holy shit she's turning me into a vegetarian! He's Italian. I'll let it slide.
Through my Mom (as per usual) she showed me a recipe for lentil meatballs. Since my sister, Carly, is all about no meat these days, I figured I'd wait and make it on a day she'd be staying over night to watch the kids in the morning.
To be frank, I had outdone myself. They were delish!

Here's the recipe via In Jennie's Kitchen:


2 cups cooked lentils, pureed
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/2 cup fresh ricotta
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 teaspoon chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Canola oil for frying

Add all ingredients to a deep bowl. Mix very well, using hands or a wooden spoon. Cover and refrigerate for two hours or overnight.
When ready to cook, shape mixture into 1 1/2-inch balls. Heat about 1/2-inch of oil in a nonstick skillet over medium flame. Add shaped "meatballs" and cook until browned all around, turning only once. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and let excess drain off. Add to simmering marinara sauce if serving immediately, or store in a tightly covered container up to three days.

Here's how I modified it:
I didn't have fresh ricotta, so I had to let it sit in a strainer for about 30 minutes to let the excess water run out. Also, I prepared my lentils in organic vegetable broth, and didn't puree them too much. I left some whole pieces in it. Also, I used Egg Beaters and olive oil.
I also made my favorite sauce for it and served it over whole wheat pasta. It was amazing.

This past weekend, I wanted to try another lentil recipe with Matt present. He wasn't thrilled, but he said it was edible. I personally think he's just mad it wasn't ground turkey.
makes 4 to 6, depending on size
These veggie burgers heat well wrapped loosely in foil in 350ºF oven.
1 1/2 cups cooked lentils (about 10 ounces)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2  cup plain breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
Place lentils in the workbowl of a food processor. Pulse until mostly pureed, leaving some whole lentil pieces. Turn into a mixing bowl and stir in the egg and 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs. Cover and refrigerate for two hours, or overnight.
Remove lentil mixture from the refrigerator and stir in the remaining breadcrumbs. Shape into 4 to 6 patties. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add patties and cook until golden brown all over, about 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Serve hot on toasted buns or over mixed greens.
*Again, I used Egg Beaters and made my lentils in vegetable broth. Instead of buns I used Arnolds. It was so amazing. 

Give it a try, I swear, it's good! 

Sunday, May 2, 2010

And I'm back!

Sorry for that small hiatus, however, I've been doing a lot of soul searching and adjusting. I've really taken my latest challenge seriously and I have been winning. The challenge? Remove of all preservatives, chemicals and high fructose corn syrup out of mine and my family's diet. Successful? You bet.
It's amazing what reading labels can do. While reading one of my favorite blogs: Fooducate.com, I found this one sentence helpful: If your grandma can't read what's in the ingredient list, then it's probably bad for you. Short, simple, and to the point. And it's changed me in a lot of ways.
I have been making a lot of what we eat from scratch. That way, I can be in control of all aspects of what goes into my mouth. I also realized that we, as a nation, are very trusting of the food industry.
Here's what I mean:
I'm a nurse. Patients are reliant on the fact that I'm educated, smart and good at what I do. Am I really? Well, let's hope so. But 99.9% of the time, people put their full trust in me. Scary? You bet. For both parties.
Same goes for the food industry. 99.9% of the time (OK, probably not that much, but work with me here) we don't ask questions. We buy a well known label and consume it. Ever wonder why some brands are so dirt cheap in comparison? Chances are, because of the lax rules and quality of the product. That doesn't necessarily mean that just because you buy the most expensive product you're getting the best quality, but chances are good you're getting poorer quality with the dirt cheap product.
We sometimes only see (and I used to be this person) the sales price or what's cheaper, but sometimes, it's not the right choice. I have to ask myself now, what was added? For example, why does a simple jar of applesauce need 10 ingredients? From personal experience, if you want to make it at home, it requires apples and cinnamon.
Today at Sam's Club, I asked Matt to grab the kids' applesauce. He went over to where they were and said, "Which one? There's two kinds." So I grabbed one, looked at the ingredient list, then looked at the other and handed him one. I said, "This one. It has apples in it. The other is full of chemicals, high fructose corn syrup and sugar." I showed him the label and he scratched his head and said, "What's the need for all that junk?" I told him, "No idea, but aren't you glad you looked?"
Recently, Matt was out of town on business. We had been on our 'eating clean' plan for about a month at that point. He called me up and said, "My stomach's been upset. You think it's something I ate?" I said, "Yah, I'm sure it's all those chemicals."
When he got home, he at some leftovers of this awesome black bean crockpot (recipe to follow) and he made a comment about how it's the best it's ever tasted.
That alone amazed me. How different food can taste when the mask of chemicals is removed.
So that said, here's a great recipe. My Mom had made it for me when Claire was first born. I was skeptical, but it is AMAZING. I made it for the girls at work and they all loved it and one called it "Yummy Goodness."

Black Bean Crockpot
1 jar of salsa (I use Trader Joe's organic salsa)
1 can of black beans (buck up and buy the organic)
1 bag of frozen corn (I love the super sweet organic at Trader Joe's)
1 brick of lite cream cheese
1 cup white rice (uncooked...about 1 1/2 cups cooked)
2 or 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (again, I use organic, so the breasts are the size the chicken was meant to have. If you don't use this kind of chicken, 1 breast should be fine.)

Combine the salsa, black beans, corn, and chicken in a crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours. 1/2 hour prior to eating, shred the chicken and add the cream cheese and cooked rice to the crockpot and stir, allowing the cream cheese to melt and combine thoroughly. ENJOY!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Constipated baby? Don't be like me.

When Claire was a few months old, Matt was CONVINCED that she was constipated. She had a hard belly and was cranky. Even though all she ever ate was breast milk, he was convinced. I tried telling him over and over, breast fed babies don't get constipated. I swore to him, it doesn't happen. He didn't believe me. He said he was going to go out and buy something to help her. Problem was, it was Christmas.
He drove to Giant Eagle, Walmart, gas stations....everywhere. Of course nothing would be open. All he wanted was prunes and he couldn't find them. He came home angry, frustrated and tired.

Yesterday, I fed Luca meatloaf for dinner. I cut them up into little pieces and it's so soft he just mushes it down. Problem was, he ended up truly constipated.
It was rainy and cold and I just didn't feel like going to the store for some overpriced baby prunes. This time, I was prepared.
I placed several prunes into a bowl of water and let them soak for about an hour. Then I put them and some water into the food processor and voila! Prunes for a baby.

Luca is happy, I'm happy and his belly is happy. I'll never have another Christmas mishap, ever again.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Lunges, lunges and more lunges! (and some squats, too)

On my other blog, Sisters From Different Misters, I wrote about my love/hate relationship with Tamilee Webb. The specific blog: I must be missing my army days... I wrote about how I hate, hate HATE lunges.
But something funny happened. I love lunges now.
Personally, I think I have a sick sadistic way about myself where I find pleasure in pain. From workouts only. (See, back in the day, I used to have a problem with cutting. That is a topic of discussion for another day.)
Anywho, finding pleasure in pain through workouts is a great! I'm not talking about the ouch, sharp pain. I'm talking about this sucks, my muscles are burning and shaking pain. It's great! And that's how I've overcome my hatred for lunges.
I did so many, in a bunch of different variations that I learned to love them, and master them. The best part about being able to do lunges well has improved my balance. When I was 17 and in the Army, I broke my hip. This depleted my balance and made it difficult to do simple things, such as putting my pants on without having to hold onto something for stabilization. It has also helped with my running ability.
Here's what kind of lunges and squats I did, all courtesy of Miss Webb:
1. The Sumo Squat: by putting your feet shoulder length apart, turn out your toes to an extended first position. It resembles a Sumo wrestler's stance.
2. The Reverse Lunge: With alternating legs, step back with your right leg first into a deep lunge. Then when pushing back up, raise your knee up to hip level before switching legs.
3. The Split Lunge: In a split lunge stance, slowly lower and raise your right leg, being careful not to put your weight past your knee.
4. Kick Boxing Lunge: Lunge forward, kick with the opposite leg while returning to standing, lunge backwards and stand back to neutral.
And my FAVORITE, which adds a cardio benefit:
5. Squat variation: In three steps, start by moving to the right. Squat out to the right three times, squat back to neutral three times, then step out to the left and squat three times, then squat back to neutral three times. Then step out to the right in a Sumo squat (and follow the above repetition.) Then go back to regular squats. You repeat this so that it's 3 squats in each position, then 2, then 1, then you go from squat, sumo, squat, neutral.

Whew! Did you follow all of that?

Enjoy!

Monday, March 15, 2010

reBlog from fooducate.com: Inside the Label | Fooducate

This is what I'm talking about:



Were you to make the waffles at home by yourself, you wouldn’t add artificial colors Yellow #5 and Yellow # 6 to make the waffles look better (these colors are not good for you). You wouldn’t use palm kernel oil with TBHQ and citric acid. You’d use real butter, or perhaps canola oil. And you wouldn’t fortify your waffle with vitamins and minerals in order to make it appear more healthy than it really is. And you probably wouldn’t find any surprise bacteria waiting to make your kids ill.fooducate.com, Inside the Label | Fooducate, Feb 2010



To read the whole article, click above.

HFCS, I hate you

You've seen those commercials about high fructose corn syrup, right? Where one person makes another feel stupid because she refuses to feed it to her self, family, kids...etc? Well, the person who felt stupid was right in the first place.
According to Wikipedia:


"...A system of sugar tariffs and sugar quotas imposed in 1977 in the United States significantly increased the cost of imported sugar and U.S. producers sought cheaper sources. High-fructose corn syrup, derived from corn, is more economical because the domestic U.S. and Canadian prices of sugar are twice the global price and the price of corn is kept low through government subsidies paid to growers. HFCS became an attractive substitute, and is preferred over cane sugar among the vast majority of American food and beverage manufacturers. Soft drink makers such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi use sugar in other nations, but switched to HFCS in the U.S. in 1984. Large corporations, such as Archer Daniels Midlandlobby for the continuation of government corn subsidies."


Continuation of government corn subsidies. Do most people even know that HFCS is a government subsidy? It is in your favorite Yoplait yogurt, your maple syrup, your bread, your cereal, your soda...I could go on forever. All so it can be unnaturally sweet. All those extra calories. All so it's not imported and corn farmers can continue to grow their corn.


Now, this is all just my take on it, but it seems to me like the government is going a long way just to keep something domestic. However, instead of infecting our foods, they should probably find an alternative fuel source instead of using foreign oil. But that's another debate. 


I found this great blog called Fooducate. I was reading one on what people want the government to do for them regarding food labels:


"93% of shoppers ranked the Nutrition Facts panel as a very or somewhat useful tool, followed by front-of-pack information (low fat, high in fiber, etc.) at 88%.




86% of consumers are interested in the government implementing objective  front-of-pack labeling. This includes information about calories and beneficial nutrients.
58% support  government bans of junk food advertising to kids.65% of shoppers reject proposed taxes on junk food and beverages.
64% said if their favorite food had a warning label on it, they would either eat less or stop buying the product entirely.
Wow. That last stat is amazing – almost two thirds of Americans would cut down on their FAVORITE food? And all it needs is a warning label? Seems like wishful thinking, although some will say that severe warnings on Cigarette packs have reduced smoking."
I totally agree with that last statement. It IS wishful thinking. 
But at least we can be educated, right? 

So next time you're out, read the label. If it says high fructose corn syrup, or even if the list is TOO LONG that means it's TOO PROCESSED. I try to only buy things that I can read off the ingredient label. However, we're still in the process of doing that...it's a learning process, I suppose. I'm just glad I've started it!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Running, biking, running, biking...

I signed up for my first 5K of the year. It's April 10th at Heinz Field on my normal running route. I've asked my sister's boyfriend to run it with me, and he was excited to do it. I looked at the calendar and blinked...one month!
Here's the thing: I can run 3 miles, no sweat. My best time since I've started back up running again was 28 minutes. Carly's boyfriend can run a 5K in 20 minutes. I don't want to hold him back, but I don't want to kill myself. So I've started to train and I'm taking this seriously.
Last week I ran 10 miles and biked 20.
Monday I ran 3.1 miles in 28 minutes.
Yesterday I ran 1 mile in 8 minutes and biked 3.5 miles in 15 minutes.
Today I plan on running 3 miles slowly, doing 10 minute miles.

My ultimate goal is to run Pittsburgh's Great Race 10K in September. I know I'll be able to do it, it's just nerve racking since I haven't run that many miles at once since the Army and breaking my hip. I am going to take it easy so I don't injure myself.
My super ultimate goal is to run the Clarion County River Run Half Marathon next March.


In the meantime, here's a simple baby food recipe that I made for Luca that he loved:

1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tbs cinnamon

Steam the butternut squash, then combine all ingredients in the food processor and voila! Delicious baby food!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Chili!

Who doesn't love chili? It's spicy, sweet, and good to eat!

My husband likes my chili recipe because it's filling and I like it because it's healthy. Here it is:

1 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2 or 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (14.5 ounce) can pure pumpkin (not the pumpkin pie mix)
1 (14.5 ounce) can tomato puree
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin (or add more depending on taste)
1 (14.5 ounce) can black beans
1 (14.5 ounce) can kidney beans (dark or light, I don't know the difference)
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
(Optional, 1/2 cup cooked lentils)

I mix in all the ingredients minus the beans and corn into a crockpot. Set it to low and cook for 6-8 hours. I add the beans and corn half way through cooking.

Serve it with sour cream and cheddar cheese and enjoy!

I typically serve my chili in bread bowls that I make from Rhode's frozen texas rolls. Before baking, I squish 3 or 4 thawed balls together, allow to rise, then bake.

Since this is too spicy for little Luca, I steamed a Nectarine that I picked up at Trader Joe's and mixed it in the food processor with Oikos greek yogurt and a banana. To thicken it, I mix in my cereal mixture: Gerber whole grain dry baby cereal, flax seed and ground dry oatmeal.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Shells, shells, shells

I married an Italian. When we first started dating, he told me about the way his late grandmother would cook, and how it was some of the best food he's ever had.
Now I'm no Mary, but he told me that my cooking is top notch. I think he's just delusional, but I'll take the compliment.
I'm always playing around with my recipes, trying to improve this, change that...and I finally found the perfect way to make stuffed shells! This makes me super excited. Here's how I made it:

(First, the sauce. I used my Mom's recipe, however, instead of roasting the tomatoes, I steamed them. Either way is delicious.)

Roasted Tomato and Garlic Pasta Sauce

2 pounds Roma or plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
6 peeled garlic cloves
1 T fresh rosemary leaves (or 1 tsp dried)
1 T fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tsp dried)
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 cup of crushed tomatoes
½ tsp salt
1 tsp dried basil and oregano (or 1 tsp of Italian seasonings)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place the tomatoes, onion, garlic, rosemary and thyme on a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick spray. Spray veggies lightly with non-stick spray. Roast for 20 minutes. Flip the vegetables and roast for another 20-25 minutes or until they start to brown. Scrape everything into a food processor fitted with the chopping blade and process until pureed.

Pour contents into a large saucepan. Add vinegar, tomato paste, salt and basil. Simmer for at least 30 minutes to an hour, depending on richness of flavor desired.

Shell Filling:
16 oz low fat small curd cottage cheese
16 oz low fat ricotta cheese
1/2 cup plain greek yogurt (I used Oikos)
2 cups grated italian cheese (I used kraft, it has 4 different kinds of cheeses)
1 cup sharp or extra sharp cheddar cheese (I like extra sharp for that extra zip)
garlic powder (I just dump it in.)
grated parmesan cheese (again, I just dump it in.)

Mix all ingredients in a bowl, then put into jumbo shell. (I boil the shells until it's soft, but still firm. Approximately 10-12 minutes.) Place into greased baking dish, cover with sauce. Cook for 45 minutes at 350.

Enjoy!


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Who doesn't love free stuff?!?

My Mom sometimes gets really cool work out DVDs to give a try or give out to readers. I was looking at them in her house one day and got super excited when I saw one for Pilates. Pilates makes me all warm and fuzzy inside just thinking about it. I think of women who frequently do pilates and I get all hot for them because their bodies are so perfectly toned, flexible and, well, hot. While I'm perfectly heterosexual, I still can appreciate a woman who takes great care of their body. And don't even get me started on men who do Yoga or Pilates. *hotflash*
So I did a review on my Mom's site, Lynn's Weigh. If you want a chance at winning the DVD, then you need to comment on her blog and then you'll be entered to win! It's that easy. I have my copy and you'll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands before I give it up!


TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2010

Who Loves Pilates? Cassie Does! (Giveaway Inside!)

Each winter around this time, I start getting bored with my fitness regimen. I can’t do much outside so cardio machines, Thera-Band and free weights are my only exercise friends.

Or are they?

Variety is the spice of life, so I’ve decided to try a new fitness video every week or two. Not only will I try it, I’ll post a review and give you a chance to win it! (Yes, I’m dragging ya’ll along on my “spice of life” campaign.)

Having said all that, however, I’m not the one wrote today’s review of “Element Slim and Tone Pilates with Kara Wily.” My daughter Cassie, mother of my g-babies, was crazy about this video and so I thought I’d let her tell you what’s up.

First a little info about Cassie: She’s 25 years old, 5’8” tall, 145 pounds. She’s in the process of losing weight, down 30 pounds since Luca was born in May and eyeing 135 if her body will let her. She joined a gym when Luca was 3 months old and works out there when she can, usually 4 or 5 times a week. If the kids are well behaved at the gym daycare, she can get her cardio and strength training done in 45 minutes to an hour. Cassie also likes to use fitness DVDs at home (Claire “helps”) and that’s why I’ve asked her to review this and future workouts. I’ll throw my two cents in as well. Just not this time.

Here’s Cassie’s review.

“Element Slim and Tone Pilates with Kara Wily” (approx. 40 minutes long)

Rating: ***** of ***** stars. LOVED IT!
Difficulty: **** of ***** stars.
Presentation: **** of ***** stars. Unless you’re familiar with Pilates, you will need to be able to see the screen to follow, which can be difficult since this is a very fast moving exercise. I recommend watching it first prior to actually performing it.
Benefit: *****of ***** stars. I felt it working with every exercise. This is going to be a DVD I’ll keep around for the long haul.

I think of Pilates as Yoga on speed. While it still requires using your breath and centering, it is more fast-paced and has a cardio benefit.

“Slim and Tone Pilates” is wonderful for intermediate to experienced Pilates users. I felt every exercise and got a full body workout without feeling completely winded and exhausted at the end. It was also nice and short so I could get it in during the kids’ naps.

“Slim and Tone” uses a voice-over format, with the instructor performing just the movements. This allowed for much more fluidity with the exercise as a whole. This format works well for me since I’m familiar with Pilates and don’t require extra explanation of the movements. That’s why I recommend beginners watch it and perform the moves a few times to get familiar with the flow.

Each movement is performed only a few times, enough to feel it working, but not enough to exhaust the muscles. The rowing series is a very nice yet different exercise that uses both core and arm strength and flexibility. When preformed correctly, and you use your own resistance, it works the arms in such a unique way – I felt it working my deltoids, triceps, forearms and the muscles of the upper back (especially those along the bra line.) It’s a very refreshing movement.

I’m not as flexible as I once was, but by the end of the video I had much more movement because of the constant stretching throughout the workout. Also, the breathing instruction was great for extending my flexibility.

The jumps and leg lifts at the end really completed the exercise. It felt like all my stretched out muscles got a good shake out.

One downside, if you have weak knees or wrists, this will be a little more difficult for you. I found the six pushups required at the end were next to impossible since my muscles were surprisingly weak.

Overall, though, the workout was so fun that I hardly realized I was working hard. I didn’t once look at the clock or wonder when it would be done. I felt relaxed, rejuvenated and ready for my day after completing this exercise.

I know I’ve implied that “Shape and Tone Pilates” is probably not for beginners, but I’m afraid that by saying that, you might be timid to try it. I think if you’re new to Pilates, I’d just recommend watching it a few times and taking your time to stop and watch while going through the movements the first few times. Please don’t be intimidated or frustrated by the movements. This isn’t an exercise that will be mastered after a few times, it will take months of practice. This requires a lot of flexibility and for some people that doesn’t come naturally.

I also feel that if done often, this will show quick results. I have since done this DVD three times and already notice a difference in my flexibility and strength in my back and spine.

Now for the giveaway part: To enter the drawing to win this DVD, leave a comment or send an email to lynnbering@verizon.netand let us know if you’ve ever tried Pilates before. We’ll draw a random name and announce a winner on Thursday, Feb. 25!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Make this, make this now!

My mom turned me on to this great website called A Year of Slow Cooking (located at the right of the blog) and I printed off several recipes to try. Today we tried Applesauce Chicken. Lord was it delicious. I changed a few things, as per my normal. Here's how you make it:


Applesauce Chicken
--4 frozen chicken breast halves or thighs (I used 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts)
--1 1/2 cups of applesauce
--1 T dried onion flakes, or 1 yellow onion, chopped finely
--1 T apple cider vinegar
--1/4 tsp cinnamon
--1/2 tsp black pepper
--2 cloves garlic, minced
--1 or 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed


Put the frozen chicken pieces into your 
crockpot. Add the onion (if you are using the dried onion, wait and add it to the applesauce). In a bowl, mix the applesauce, vinegar, garlic, and spices together. Pour on top of the chicken. Add sweet potatoes.

Cover and cook on low for 5-7 hours, or on high for 3-4.



I added the sweet potato. The original recipe also calls for red pepper flakes that I omitted because I'm sure Claire and Luca wouldn't appreciate it. The sweet potato in it was delicious (says the person who HATES sweet potatoes.)


I again, put some in the food processor and added some water and grinded it up for Luca. He loved it, Claire loved it. This dish was delicious. 

Saturday, February 20, 2010

M&M cookies and baby food

My grandpa's favorite holiday is Valentine's Day. He would always send us Valentines and candy every year. I'm guessing I'm getting too old, because he sent the Valentines and candy to my kids. Either way, it's still a benefit for me, because, darn, Luca's too young to eat M&M's.

I make cookies every week from scratch. I buy the giant bag of chocolate chips, butter, egg beaters... all from Sam's Club and that lasts me about a month or two for supplies. However, I hadn't bought chocolate chips in a while and I knew I was running low. Not to mention, those damn M&Ms were sitting on the counter, taunting me. So what did I do? I substituted them in my cookie recipe.

Note: I am the WORST when it comes to measuring. So sometimes I'm guestimating. I apologize.

Chocolate Chip/M&M Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup egg beaters
1 cup no sugar added applesauce
1 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp ground flax seed
1 tsp baking soda
a dash of salt
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
as many M&Ms or chocolate chips as you prefer

In a mixer, combine all the wet ingredients and mix on high for a minute until well blended. Add brown sugar, flax seed, baking soda, and salt while mixer is on low. If using a table top mixer, add flour slowly until well blended. If using a hand mixer, I'd recommend mixing flour in by hand for less mess. Then add M&Ms or chocolate chips.

Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes. It makes about 3 dozen.

(If you like sweeter cookies, add a tbsp or two of white sugar. I don't usually do this, but I have, and it still tastes good. Also, I add applesauce to my recipe even though I use butter, because flax seed can be drying and the applesauce keeps it soft.)

Here's my philosophy: I'm going to bake cookies. I always do. But instead of just using chocolate chips and then eating those M&Ms in a different sitting, I mixed them and saved myself the torment. Is it a good philosophy? Probably not. But it works for me.

For dinner I made Chicken Tetrazzini.

2 chicken breasts, boiled and cubed
2 cans of cream of chicken soup (I get the 98% fat free kind)
1/2 cup fat free sour cream
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese
garlic powder (add to taste)
2 tbsp ground flax seed (yes, I like my flax seed)
package of frozen peas
whole wheat spaghetti, boiled

Mix all contents in a bowl then place in a greased casserole dish at 350 for 35-45 minutes.

Then, for Luca (since I make all of his baby food from scratch) I took the cooked end product, stuck it in my handy food processor and blended it up nice and fine. I also added some water to make it smooth.

Luca's thought on the food? He loved it. Cleaned the bowl clean and looked for more. I guess I know what he's having for lunch tomorrow!

My only regret is that I didn't do this for Claire. Not only am I saving money by not buying baby food, but I know exactly what is going into the food I make him. Plus, he gets to know my cooking at an early age so hopefully he will skip the finicky I-hate-all-food phase that Claire hit...

Happy baking and cooking!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Blueberries on a wintry day

I finally made it to my bi-monthly Sam's Club trip where I had a list in my hand that was better off being invisible. I'm not quite sure what it is about that place that makes all my ambitions go to hell in a handbasket. I did, however, plan on buying blueberries so that I could try out a new recipe for blueberry muffins. (I got this recipe and only slightly modified it from Simpledailyrecipes.com)

In a word: LOVE. They were delicious.

Here's what you'll need:
3/4 cup low fat milk
1/2 cup no sugar added applesauce
1/4 cup egg beaters
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 tsp baking powder (not baking soda)
1 tsp salt
4 tbs ground flax seed
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
Here's what you do:

Preheat your oven to 375 and use Pam to spray the muffin tin.

In a mixer, combine the milk, applesauce and egg beaters. Add the sugar, flax seed and baking powder. On a lower setting, add both flours. By hand, fold in the blueberries and using a spoon, ladle the batter into the muffin tins and bake for 18-20 minutes, depending on your oven.

What I liked best about these muffins is that they're moist enough but they don't crumble apart, which is important when it's given to a two year old who fidgets a lot.

Last year, my husband was convinced that Giant Eagle brand premium chocolate chip cookies were the reason to the Pittsburgh Penguin's success at winning Lord Stanley. He would only eat them on the days that they won. So, this year I decided to make my own cookies. I'm a bit of a control freak, and I like to be in charge of what goes into what I'm eating. No mysteries, here.

The first few batches, well...hmm. Then over the course of 6 months, I've mastered the cookie baking and have even made them healthier. My philosophy is, you're going to eat it anyways, might as well make it healthier.

I recently discovered using applesauce in baking and it made me so excited, it was almost the happiest day of my life. Especially when my sugar loving husband said to me, "These are the best cookies you've ever made, what's your secret?" And I told him, "No white sugar, just applesauce." I will post that recipe here, soon, once I remember it. My other major fault, I don't write things down when they're delicious!


I'm no expert...really.

It took me two kids to get to this point, but I'm so glad I'm here. Given that we all learn from example, I'm starting this blog to keep myself honest and heck, this could be fun, too.
Since the birth of my daughter, Claire, in 2007, I've turned myself into a self sufficient, home cookin', exercising fool. Emphasis on the fool.
When Luca was born, in 2009, I had a rough bout with postpartum depression. It took every bit of me to turn it into a good thing and attempt to get back in control of my life.
I started by joining a gym. It was a great way of getting away from it all for an hour and have some great ME time.
Then I started blogging. My other site is done with my sister, Carly, at Sisters From Different Misters. I enjoy being able to be candid and speak my mind.
Next, I started making the food that I already consume healthier.
After that, I decided to make my own baby food.
Lucky for y'all, I'm going to share my wisdom!
Keep in mind, I'm no expert. I'm just a girl trying to make the one life that I've got better. Enjoy the ride!