Cookies…It’s what’s for breakfast!

20 Nov

Don’t get me wrong, my kids are great eaters, but sometimes it’s helpful to make something sound more exciting than it really is.  I discovered this when my middle-little was about a year or so old.  That is when I started serving waffle cookies.  What are these little treats?  Absolutely nothing more than plain and simple, regular whole wheat waffles.  Because she heard cookie, she was hooked!  She will often eat them without syrup or any other topping, just holding and eating it…like a cookie.

Now, I have fallen victim to a few Pinterest-fails.  When I tried the individual baked oatmeal, it wasn’t a total disaster, but I had a heck of a time peeling them out of the muffin papers.  The other day my niece said she was eating 2-ingredient cookies; just quick oats and bananas.  I thought – c-o-o-k-i-e-s!  I won’t have to peel the wrappers off and what kid wouldn’t like breakfast cookies?!

I didn’t use quick oats and I also like to add flax seed meal to these types of recipes, so I fiddled around and came up with these, which turned out to be VERY kid-approved!

Keep in mind, these are not going to taste like the oatmeal cookie recipe that comes on the oatmeal container, but you can eat these knowing they are a guilt-free, healthy breakfast and are even good on-the-go.

Please don’t hate on my ingredients; in a perfect world everything would be organic, maybe even grown at home, free of any controversy, totally perfect for the world brands.  I don’t know if there are any specific issues with these brands, but feel free to use whatever brands you care to.  The only thing I would say is, make sure not to use quick oats, in my opinion, things turn out a little too gummy with them. 

Breakfast Cookies

1 cup oats

2 very ripe bananas, smashed

¼ cup flax seed meal

A big handful of raisins

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ cup milk (I use regular, but use almond, soy, etc., if that’s what you use)

Mix all ingredients together and spoon out on a cookie sheet.  Because there is no oil in the cookies, I placed them on a piece of parchment that I spritzed with vegetable oil.  Bake at 350F for 15 minutes, flip the cookies and bake for an additional 7 minutes.   

Makes 12 cookies

Note:  If you need to hide veggies in order to get your kids (or you) to eat them, I would add shredded carrot or zucchini to this recipe.  I’ll update this page once I try it.  My guess at this point would be to add about ¾ cup of either shredded carrot or shredded zucchini.

Fear not, my Twinkie loving friends…

17 Nov

I am a huge lover of books.  Actual books.  Though I adore my Kindle and Kindle Fire, I still can’t let go of the huge bookcase full of books in the garage.  When I can see how many pages I’ve read and pace myself as I read the remaining pages, I feel like I read faster.  I do the same thing with mileage when we take long car trips – it drives my husband crazy!

Many, many years ago, I purchased a cookbook; not odd, since I love cooking and will actually read through every single page of a cookbook as soon as I get it home.  However, this was not a cookbook that would have normally appealed to my tastes.  It was a cookbook with recipes that emulate “America’s Favorite Foods”, as quoted on their website.  I am not a huge fan of fast-food, but I was so intrigued by this book, that I had to have a copy!  Lucky for my Twinkie-loving friends, I remembered this book and can share it with you now.

Unless you are living under a rock, you have likely heard that the Hostess shutdown has prompted a run on Twinkies across America.  In this age of Pinterest, DIY and everything about homemade anything, it should be no problem for the crafty, cooking folk to whip up a batch of homemade Twinkies!

I have not tried this recipe myself, but with all the talk about Twinkies in the last 24 hours or so, I may give it a go.  If you are like me and need to have the book, it is sold on the author’s website and on Amazon.

This recipe is from Todd Wilbur’s book, Top Secret Recipes.

Top Secret Recipe’s Version of Hostess Twinkie 

You will need a spice bottle, approximately the size of a Twinkie, ten 12×14-inch pieces of aluminum foil, a cake decorator or pastry bag, and a chopstick.

*It should be noted that the author has updated the crème filling recipe, here is the link.

I imagine you could also make these in a muffin tin, and save some of the time of setting up the forms – but if you are a die-hard, classic Twinkie eater…knock yourself out!  If you end up making these, let me know how they turn out!

We Just Ate the Great Pumpkin

13 Nov

Photo credit: Urban Farmer

Well, to be honest, it wasn’t all that big of a pumpkin.  It was a sugar pumpkin.  The kids didn’t want big pumpkins this year, so we picked out some sugar pumpkins.  Instead of carving them into jack-o-lanterns, they were just as happy painting them with non-toxic, water based paint (I knew I would be cooking them after Halloween).  When they decided to go with the smaller pumpkins, I instantly started scrolling through my pumpkin recipes.

I learned a few years ago that you could just bake the pumpkin whole!  I thought this was the neatest idea and after trying it, realized how super simple it is!  Just place the pumpkin on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven and bake for approximately 45 minutes.  Let it cool for a bit before you cut it in half and scrape out the seeds and stringy parts with a spoon.  After peeling it, run the pumpkin through the food processor  or a blender and use it in place of canned pumpkin in your recipes.We strayed a little from the original recipe this time around.  In addition to using fresh pumpkin, you can use your own chicken stock.  We also did not have the pear nectar, so we used our juicer and juiced some apples and carrots instead.  With grilled cheese sandwiches, it was the perfect fall meal!

Ginger-Pumpkin Soup

Ingredients:

2 can(s) (15-ounce) pumpkin puree

3 can(s) (14 1/2-ounce) chicken broth 1 can(s) (11 1/2-ounce) pear nectar

1/3 cup(s) creamy peanut butter

2 clove(s) garlic, finely chopped

2 tablespoon(s) grated fresh ginger root

2 tablespoon(s) finely chopped green onion

1 tablespoon(s) fresh lime juice

1/2 teaspoon(s) salt

1/4 teaspoon(s) ground cayenne pepper

Toasted pumpkin seeds (optional)

Chopped chives (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a 6-quart saucepan, combine pumpkin puree, chicken broth, and pear nectar. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 10 minutes.
  2. In a blender or the bowl of a food processor fitted with chopping blade, process 1 cup pumpkin mixture with peanut butter until smooth. Return to saucepan with the remaining pumpkin mixture. Add garlic, ginger root, green onion, lime juice, salt, and cayenne pepper; cook 10 minutes over medium heat.
  3. Divide soup among soup plates and garnish with pumpkin seeds and chives, if desired. Serve immediately.

 

Wear Your Scar with Pride!

8 Nov

When I was 15, I had surgery on my left wrist, via the top of my hand.  For whatever reason, I was always very self-conscious of this s-shaped, two inch scar.  I remember worrying (years before I was ever even engaged, mind you), what my wedding pictures would look like with this scar on the hand that would one day carry my wedding ring.  I look back now and realize what a waste of time and energy it was to worry about such a trivial thing!  I must admit, I was made to feel even sillier, as I tried to take a picture to display here, and couldn’t even get a shot that showed this thing that bothered me for so many years.

I thought about my scar today, when I watched the video of Brooke Burke-Charvet on her ModernMom blog, as she relayed that she has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and described where her scar would be.  I’ve always admired her as a mother and a businesswoman, and think she is doing a tremendous job meeting this challenge head on.  In my opinion, no matter what scar she is left with, she will still be just as beautiful as she is today!

I thought about the ‘vanity of a scar’ and when my ideals changed.  Yes, vanity; you should celebrate your scars!  There is a story behind every single one.

van-i-ty  Noun: Excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own appearance or achievements.

I honestly have to say, my view changed when I became a mother.  Don’t get me wrong, I can still be vain from time to time, but being a mom has literally caused me to lay my own life on the line.  Just prior to being 23 weeks pregnant with my first baby, my sweet boy, I flew to Boston for him to have fetal surgery on his tiny heart.  After the surgery I was left with three small scars, but had given the doctors permission to make a large incision, similar to a cesarean section, if they could not adequately access him during the procedure.  I could write an entire book with just that time in my life, but that is not the reason for my post; this post is about scars.  I have since learned to embrace and even celebrate scars.

My sweet boy has had 16 surgeries so far; seven of those surgeries have cut into his tiny chest.  These scars have always been a reminder of what he’s been through and proof of how truly strong he is!  He laughs when I tell him he is stronger than I will ever be.  His reply, with his big smile, is always “you’re joking me!”  One day he will understand!  In the meantime, we remind him that his scar is cool and “chicks dig scars” and that we are so proud to watch him with each new day and every new experience.

When I told him that there was a lady that I heard about who was going to have surgery and was a little worried about the scar she would be left with, he jumped right at the chance to share his scar and to show, yet again, that scars are cool!  I don’t know Brooke, and she may never see this, but if it helps even one person – then what we are doing does make a difference!

My Happy Little Heart-Hero!

A Morning for Me

7 Nov

I mentioned in a previous post that I finally admitted to myself that I need to plan for some time for me, a time to recharge.  Day one of this new focus began on Saturday morning.  Everyone was awake; the little ones were being fed and were to be left in the capable hands of my wonderful hubby.  I took a quick shower, put on some comfortable clothes, pulled my hair back and headed out for MY morning.  I was on the way to Total Woman Gym and Day Spa in Mission Valley for a massage.  It has been quite a while since I had a massage, thinking back, I think it was shortly after my son was born…and he just turned 6!  Since that time I have had two more babies and I’ve acquired a very bad case of what I call mommy-back.  I’m constantly hunkering over to nurse the baby, carry the baby, change the baby, you get the idea; I carry a lot of stress in my neck and shoulders.

Since I pulled into the parking lot a bit early, I decided to take a non-rushed moment to check emails and take a quick peek at my news feed; after all, this was MY morning!  I was not about to rush this brief hiatus from my normal responsibilities.  A moment later, I got out of my car and thought, no one can see the mess of crumbled fish crackers, kids’ shoes, toys and any other number of junk items now floating around my car – I’m on a “me” day (or morning, at least)!  I walked into the lobby and asked for directions to the spa, they pointed me toward the elevator and I thought; no one knows I’m a crazy, stressed out mom of three…I may be able to pull off just being a normal person on the way to the spa!  Then, I looked into my purse, only to discover a diaper.  Yes, that’s my reality!!  Thankfully, it was clean!

I really was able to leave all of my normal stress aside as soon as I entered the building.  Though Total Woman Gym and Day Spa is also a gym, the entire facility has a very spa-like feel.  The lobby is very well appointed and one of the first things you see is the grand, sweeping staircase that leads to the gym.  This trip, I wasn’t there to work out, I was ready to be pampered; so I headed straight to the day spa!  I checked in at the spa reception desk and went into the locker room to change into the robe and sandals that were waiting for me in my locker, before heading over to the client room to wait for my massage therapist.  My therapist, Rebekah, came to greet me and asked if there was any particular spot that was bothering me.  I mentioned that I tend to carry stress in my shoulders, and she did a wonderful job utilizing trigger point release to alleviate the tension.  It was an amazingly relaxing massage and I was truly pampered!  As the massage was ending, I was already looking forward to my next visit!

In addition to the great staff, a HUGE plus for me was how spotless the entire facility was!  I’m a bit of a germ-freak, and this place scored big in that regard!  Also, when I was booking my appointment, they inquired if I would need to utilize their Kids Club.  I had already made plans to have hubby take care of the kids this time around, but it’s great to know that they offer a safe place for my kiddos while I get a bit of pampering!

Use of the gym does require a membership, but the full service day spa is open to the public.  If you are interested in trying the gym, sign up for a one day VIP pass and give it a try!  If some pampering is what you need, call the spa and schedule a treatment; you’ll be glad you did!  It really was an exceptional way to start my weekend!

*Total Woman Gym and Day Spa provided my massage complimentary. Opinions are my own.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

3 Nov

He clearly didn’t know my slow cooker was on the other side!  With the unseasonably hot weather, roasting a chicken in the oven was not happening!  We scored a great price on a roasting chicken, so into the slow cooker it went.  We pretty much followed this recipe from food.com, but to be honest, next time I will follow their cooking time (hubby cooked it on high for 3 hours and low for 1 hour), I would definitely cook on low!  The flavor was great, but it seemed a bit dry to me.  No one else complained,  but I’m certain I can get it right!

Spice Rub

Ingredients:

4 tsp salt (per recipe reviews, 2 tsp is better)  – I went with 2 tsp.

2 tsp paprika

1 tsp cayenne pepper – I used chili powder, because it’s what I had.

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp thyme – This invoked an entire “whose on 1st” scenario in my house.

1 tsp white pepper – Didn’t have it, didn’t use it.

½ tsp garlic powder

½ tsp black pepper

1 large roasting chicken

1 cup chopped onion (optional) I opted to use it.

Ready to cook.

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, combine the spices.
  2. Remove any giblets from chicken and clean chicken. (I didn’t dry the chicken enough prior to putting on the rub.)
  3. Rub spice mixture onto the chicken.
  4. Place in resealable plastic bag and refrigerate overnight. I skipped this step.
  5. When ready to cook, put chopped onion in bottom of crock pot.  I used the onion.
  6. Add chicken. No liquid is needed, the chicken will make it’s own juices.
  7. Cook on low 4-8 hours.

The original recipe recommends a pop-up timer.  I didn’t use a pop-up timer, but will cook on low next time.

Slow Cooker Chicken

This easily fed all five of us and we had leftovers for the next night.

Leftover Chicken

I boiled pasta and chopped the leftover chicken.

In a pan with about a ½ cup of olive oil, heat the following until warm:

Leftover chicken

1 lb of pasta (prepared)

Steamed broccoli

A handful or two of toasted pine nuts

Juice from 1 lemon

A handful of seasoned breadcrumbs – I use garlic powder, salt, oregano, basil and parsley in mine.  No one ever likes the heels of the loaves of bread, so I save them in a Ziploc in the freezer until I’m ready to make breadcrumbs.

Cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

Add more olive oil if necessary

Needing Balance…figuratively AND literally!

29 Oct

I am living my dream!  I have a wonderful husband, three beautiful children (ages 1, 3 & 6) and I am lucky enough to be able to stay home with them – it’s not easy, we sacrifice some of the things we would like in order to afford it, but it is what we want for our family.  I love knowing that I am able to make breakfast for them every morning, walk the oldest to and from school and I’m right there if they need me.  The trade-off with this is that I don’t always allow enough time for me.  I don’t get a lunch break, I don’t get breaks, I don’t have that alone time in the car driving to or from work.  Please don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining!  I love what I do and wouldn’t trade it for anything!  However, I have recently come to the realization that I need to balance things better, to build that “me time” into my day.

I like order.  I like lists.  I like a plan.  I turned 39 this summer and my plan is to start my next decade in the best shape of my life.  I have always been active, I’ve never had a problem with my weight, but after three pregnancies, I can see a few places that could use some work.  I also don’t feel my fitness level is where it should be, just walking isn’t cutting it.  That was my plan, but this final year of my 30s is not starting out according to that plan.  After all of the craziness with having three kids at home with me all summer, I was looking forward to back-to-school and getting back into a health and fitness routine.  With back-to-school, comes creepy-crawly little germs and I ended up hacking for 6 weeks; I tried to convince myself that all the coughing was working out my abs!  It was tough just walking up the stairs, so my usual walks were out of the question.  Now that I have recovered from that, I was once again readying for my return to fitness and the other morning I woke up with vertigo.  COME ON!  I’m just getting ready to turn 40; my warranty can’t be expiring yet!  I am working with a doctor to treat the vertigo, but I realize that with each day that passes, it is one day lost in my plan to get in shape.  These set-backs weren’t written on a list or scheduled on the calendar!!  Don’t they know I need order?

I’ve been researching different fitness programs and have found one that really interests me.  I’ve already started following some of their eating recommendations and am really enjoying the recipes they provide.  I will post more after I begin the program.  I am looking forward to getting started and sharing my progress and results!

If you have any recommendations for how you successfully make time to focus on yourself, please share.  I’d love the input.

Quick Update on Juicing

23 Oct

I mentioned in a previous post that Luke had recently been inspired to start juicing.  The discussions we had following the documentary we watched, forced him to see that he really wasn’t making the best food choices when he was not at home.  In the past week and a half, he has taken the lead in doing all the juicing for us and even sent me this pic today, of what he is having with his chicken sandwich at lunch.

Veggies, almonds and cheese

He is not choosing to do a juice fast at this point, but starts each day with a glass of water with approx. 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, followed by a cup of freshly juiced veggies and fruits (primarily veggies).  At the end of week 1, he is down 5 lbs, and has stopped drinking caffeine.

It is amazing how little changes can make such a big difference!  We have been keeping track of the juices we like, and will include them when Luke writes his first post about his experience with juicing.

Physical Therapy for the CHD Kid

20 Oct

For the past 25+ years, doctors have been honing the techniques that are saving the lives of children born with heart defects that are similar to my son’s.  The oldest person I know with his condition, Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS), is 27 years old.  In addition to being a wonderful inspiration to our family; allowing us to see all that these kids are capable of, our dear friend,  Jeni Busta, has also answered the many questions we have asked and has offered great advice for living well with this condition.  One of the things she recommended we do with Landon is to get him into physical therapy.  Many of these kids end up with back issues, flexibility issues and trouble with scar tissue.  As these kids live longer lives, it is necessary to not merely make sure their hearts keep beating, but also make sure to take a whole body approach.  While we do allow Landon treats and sweets, we have built a foundation for him with healthy eating.  We are ensuring that his physical strength and flexibility are addressed, as well.   I checked with Landon’s pediatrician and cardiologist and received the go-ahead and prescription necessary to receive physical therapy.

We found a wonderful Physical Therapist (DPT) at San Diego Sports Medicine Physical Therapy Center.  Dean works so well with Landon and really makes things fun for him, while keeping his attention during a one hour session.  Landon really looks forward to his PT sessions!  For him, it is a fun time, not just ANOTHER doctor’s appointment!  In the few months Landon has been receiving PT, I have really noticed his balance, jumping and strength have greatly improved.

I took a few photos of our latest session to provide an idea of the types of things they work on.

Scar Massage

Not all doctors think this method is necessary.  Our cardiologist didn’t seem to think there would be a benefit, but gave the OK for us to do it.  Landon’s scar does seem much less lumpy and thick than before.

Rolling the Fitness Ball

Stretching on the Fitness Ball

The first time Landon did this stretch on the fitness ball, it really showed that it was such a relief for him.  He was so relaxed!  The look on his face was priceless; he almost looked shocked that he was able to get such relief from a stretch.

Assisted Pull-ups

Over-hand and Under-hand Medicine Ball Throw

This is just a sample of what occurs during one of Landon’s PT sessions.

Considering that during Landon’s first 5 1/2 years of life, he cumulatively spent an entire year recovering from his five open-heart surgeries, pacemaker surgery and numerous heart caths, the benefits he is receiving from physical therapy are beyond measure!

*Our many thanks to Dean Makredes, DPT, for allowing us to publish our experience with him and for the wonderful care he provides Landon!

**DISCLAIMER: This post is in no way providing medical advice.  Before participating in any of the mentioned techniques, I would advise you to check with your physician, just as we did prior to starting our program.

Forgetting to Prep the Slow Cooker Items

16 Oct

Like many families, everyone is running in a million different directions all at once.  Our typical week contains homework, karate, swimming lessons, physical therapy, play dates, Sunday school and any number of other projects that come up.  Luke and I have been trying to simplify things by planning ahead and using the slow cooker, but on occasion, we don’t get the prep done in time.  What can I say, our meal planning is a work in progress.  We have, however, discovered a new weapon in the kitchen; a pressure cooker!  Ours is a 6 quart, that is similar to this one.

Fagor Cookware

While Luke had some experience using a pressure cooker before, I never have.  My mom just happened to give one to us over the summer when we were visiting her.  (She REALLY likes to buy things from QVC – I’m sure I will write about that another time!)

Let’s get back to the pressure cooker.  The other day Luke and I were planning to make a slow cooker recipe with beans.  We woke up that morning and realized that neither of us had soaked the beans.  I recommended that we soak them, then use the pressure cooker later on that evening.  It worked great!  Since then, we have steamed artichokes, made rice and last night we made Kalua Pork.  The artichokes were a pretty good size, and even kept whole, steamed in 6 minutes!  The Kalua Pork was WONDERFUL and super easy!  I’ll post the recipe in a bit.

Finally, this brings me to the rice.  Plain brown rice.  Every now and then, I will admit to resorting to the frozen, pre-made rice that we have found at Trader Joe’s.  I wondered, why can’t we just make our own rice and freeze it for those nights that we get behind schedule?  Since we are able to make quite a bit of rice in a 6 quart pressure cooker, we did just that!  We portioned it in Ziploc bags and now we are ready for nights we don’t have an hour to cook rice!

Frozen brown rice

The only thing I would do differently is to put the rice into the bags in a thinner layer, so they stack better in the freezer and you can loosen up the rice a bit prior to reheating.  Luke loaded the Ziplocs, and in an attempt to get all the air out, forced all of the rice to the bottom of the bag and the top few inches of the bag are folded over.  We’ll try the flatter way next time, but this still works.

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