Monday, January 30, 2012

Dirty Dozen

Hi, how was your weekend?

Ours was a bit crazy, some things have come up and there were some decisions to be made…Jeff & I did the yoga “relaxation pose” Saturday night in front of the fire. What a HOT date night, right? LOL! Have you ever done yoga? I LOVE this pose, it’s amazing how it REALLY works and clears your mind. :) We woke up Sunday feeling so much more refreshed.

Do you buy organic produce? I am adamit about buying at least the dirty dozen produce in organic. This is especially important with young children, their bodies are smaller so the percentage of chemicals consumed is so much higher than if an adult consumed that same amount. In case you haven’t heard of this, the dirty dozen are the twelve produce items that have the most pesticide residue after washing and peeling just as we would in our homes. Something like a peach has pesticide residue all the way down to it’s pit! YIKES. If I cannot get these produce items organic, I just don’t buy them. Fortunately, the organic selection seems to be growing by leaps and bounds; I think us consumers are demanding it!!! We are choosing not to put harmful chemicals in our bodies when we can control it and growers and food companies are listening to us.
On the other side of it, is the "Clean 15" which is a list of produce that has pretty much no pesticide residue so they would be safe to eat non-organic. Did you know both of these lists can change year to year?

 Here is the most current list from 2011.
I thought I would create a new list and make it cute to share it with you so you could print it off and keep it in your purse. So much easier than trying to remember…

dirty dozen2

Here’s to your healthy eating!


Friday, January 27, 2012

Homemade soft pretzels

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I came across the recipe at Memories on Clover Lane blog months ago. I was re-inspired to make these last week when I came across soft pretzels with jalapeno dip on Pinterest. I decided to try the Clover Lane recipe based on the low bread flour content. It makes them less “chewy”. They were super easy, you get on a roll (no pun intended) while you are rolling the dough out…
Oh yeah and…these are delicious. They have a little chew but not rubbery like a ballpark pretzel. More like an “Auntie Anne’s” pretzel, which I have always been a fan of! (If you like your pretzels with more “chew” I would use a recipe that calls for mostly bread flour.)

I did 3 different flavors:

Wildtree Scampi Blend (a garlic,white wine blend)
I just recently got some more, can you tell I love this stuff?
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Rosemary & Fleur de Sel (french sea salt)
I used the freshly dried rosemary that I just jarred up the other day-very tasty!
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Bite (well, maybe 2 bites) size with just Fleur de Sel (these will be good for dipping)
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I hope these pictures entice you to give these a try!

Your family will gobble them up!!! How about making them for a fun after school snack or Superbowl party???

Have a great weekend!

Healthy Nutrition

Thursday, January 26, 2012

dried herbs

One of the things I miss about summer is having fresh herbs right outside my back door. You can just cut what you need and it makes the plant grow and grow!
fresh herbs
Most of the time, I find adding fresh herbs to my cooking dramatically elevates the dish’s flavor. Growing them yourself is the most economical way to add fresh herbs to your cooking but here in the midwest, most herbs don’t grow too well indoors in the winter. When I do make a recipe that calls for fresh herbs, I do fork over the $2.00 for a little bunch and it never fails that you only need a sprig or two.
What do I do with the rest of the herbs??? Well, sometimes I can add them to something else within the week or if I know I won’t be needing them, I tie them up with kitchen twine and hang them on a hook I have in my pantry to dry. After a week or so they just crumble off in your fingers and then I put in glass spice jars I have on hand. I must say that even though they are dry-they have way more flavor than if you were to buy them dry at the store. Who knows how long they have been sitting on the shelf. This also means you can’t keep them in your cupboard FOREVER, either. If there isn’t a VERY fragrant scent when you open the jar-you just have to toss it because it’s not worth using if it doesn’t give your cooking good flavor (this also applies to spices). Which reminds me that I desperately need to go through my spice cabinet and clean it out!
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Since the herbs seem so fragrant when I dry them myself, I don’t mind adding them where I would otherwise use fresh until they are gone which doesn’t take long. As you can see, you don’t get a ton from the bunches, but at least you aren’t wasting any right?
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I’ve got thyme and rosemary ready to go.

(notice my little orange timer in the background? yeah, that’s set for an hour to let homemade soft pretzel dough rise …oh I can’t wait-I will let you know how they turn out)

I just came across this-and remembered I have heard this before so I need try it next time-frozen fresh herbs.
frozen herbs

Have you ever tried freezing fresh herbs?
What kind of little tips & tricks do you do to prevent waste or improve your cooking?

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Don’t knock it till you try it

veggie burgers, that is.
I remember turning my nose up at the idea of a meatless “burger” not too long ago. A couple years ago, I took the plunge and made greek-style quinoa burgers.

quinoa burger
They were delicious and have become a regular in my meal planning (for either lunch or dinner). I recently came across another meatless burger-chickpea brown rice veggie burgers. I made them last weekend with roasted winter vegetables. Dinner was a hit! I was especially giddy that Reed loves them because I really like to find alternative ways to give him protein. I have always pushed the envelope with him to try new things and more times than not he likes them. I had HORRIBLE eating habits as a child, and quite frankly they didn’t get much better until recently. I wanted better for Reed. I think by him having food allergies, it has forced me to think outside the box more and be willing to try these less traditional recipes. These burgers couldn’t be better for you and they are D-lish!

(we opted to put the burgers on toasted whole wheat buns instead and just piled the veggies on top of the patty like you would a meat burger; we just cut Reed’s up since he’s only 2)

(I omitted the beans since we were eating this just as a side but this would make a great lunch with the beans and I varied the veggies to what I had in the house-leeks, garlic, carrots, sweet potatoes and frozen asparagus)

I hope you give one (or both) a try. I think you will be pleasantly surprised as I was!


Monday, January 23, 2012

Fun in the snow & pure decadence

Hi, how was your weekend? 
Ours was good. I took some time Saturday morning to do some window shopping by myself and then did some cleaning/organizing the rest of the weekend. Sunday, we took Reed out to play in the snow for the first time. Of course, he loved it! Winter can be so pretty!
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We came back in and made a fire to cozy up by and then had this for dinner:
Yes, that’s right, cinnamon roll pancakes!!! You have to indulge sometimes, right?
They were heavenly, but not too rich. I even made them dairy free! You can either use the recipe for the pancakes themselves or use your favorite pancake mix.

I hope you try them-let me know what you think!!! :)


Friday, January 20, 2012

Fresh-baked cookies, spur of the moment

Happy Friday!

It’s snowing here today…what could be better than some warm cookies right out of the oven after lunch? That’s what I thought too…unfortunately they are only for Reed! :(

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When I make Reed goodies I always make the full recipe, size them smaller and portion them out and freeze them since I think the same treat for weeks and weeks would be sooooo boring, not to mention, they would probably not taste as fresh towards the end.   For cookie dough balls, scoop them with an ice cream scoop for uniformity and then put them on a cookie sheet in the freezer. Once firm, put into freezer bags.  You can bake them right from the freezer-just allow a little extra baking time. For cutout cookie dough, once shaped into a flat round (it will make rolling out much easier), wrap in plastic wrap and put in freezer bag, allow to thaw and then just cutout the cookies.

I also portion out pizza dough I make in our bread machine the same way. It’s great to have some go-to meals at the ready!

Cupcakes freeze well, so I just freeze them after I bake them (I like to make the little mini’s for Reed). I can just grab some whenever I need to and just whip up some quick frosting while they defrost.

I just love having frozen goodies on hand for these type of days when baking is spur of the moment and you don't have to think about if you have all the ingredients on hand to make them. Now, I just have to get better at consistently doing this for entrees. Jeff's tells me his Grandma was great at doing this-there was always something in the freezer. 

So, do you freeze food to have at the ready? What types of things do you freeze?

Have a great weekend!


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

How something so simple…

can make life so much easier.

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I am not one of those people who is extremely organized by nature.   I’m not a complete scatterbrain and there are certain things/areas where I am fairly organized,  but mostly, I think I have made it this far in life by having a good memory and keeping my mess in piles so it’s “tidy”. When you can’t find something, just look in the pile. Do you know what I mean? LOL! I really want to be more organized because it thrills me when I need something, I know where it is. And, when I see beautifully organized spaces, I do get some butterflies imagining my space like that.  So why can my home not stay organized. I know, it must be because of my husband… Just kidding honey!  I am trying to incorporate lasting changes that suit my personality this year. I feel like I will get just some peace from a beautifully organized home, it’s good Feng Shui you know. So this year I am all about edit, edit, edit and organize. Can you believe I stopped into Home Goods the other day and didn’t even feel like shopping??? Nothing was exciting me. I need more home decor like a hole in my head I guess.  Don’t panic stores…I am sure this too will pass. :)

Corralling mail, keys, phones, sunglasses, etc has always been a hot mess in our laundry/mudroom. We have a bench that has always been a dumping ground and I am forever searching for where my keys are…how did they get under that pile of mail and leaving the house isn’t always a smooth process because of that. I want to set a good example for Reed on the importance of being at least somewhat organized and not the mom who is always looking for her keys.

I know this isn’t rocket science, but last fall I came up with the idea of installing a shallow shelf right when you enter from the garage….for dumping our keys and hung a wire basket above for mail. Voila. How this has changed the ease of heading out the door and kept the laundry room more tidy. We got the shelf from Ikea and the wire basket from Container Store (I actually bought the mail basket like 4 years ago when I was trying to organize, but never put it up. Lovely!) I shopped the house for a bowl and a tray to corral each of our items separately. It has been working out beautifully.

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What little changes have you made around the house that has helped you stay organized?

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Day 1

Hope you had a great weekend!
I started my detox eating plan today. Breakfast and lunch have been really tasty. I would eat these recipes even after this “detox” plan.

Here is what I have made so far for breakfast & lunch:

carrot mango smoothie

And thank goodness since I indulged yesterday…Jeff & I went on a date to a local winery in the afternoon and then stopped at Starbucks for a cappuccino & couldn’t resist the mini treats (that’s exactly why we don’t have that kind of stuff in the house on a regular basis anymore).
Then for dinner I made a beef stew from Barefoot Contessa with homemade bread. If I am going to eat red meat, this is the kind of thing I love-especially on a cold winter day! It was so delicious!!!!

So, what resolutions have you started???


Thursday, January 12, 2012

What I’ve been up to

So…2012 has not started out as I would of hoped. In a matter of a week, several medical issues have surfaced with me all at once. It’s been a bit overwhelming not knowing exactly what is going on and if it’s 3 different issues or all somehow related. After we got back from our trip, it’s been doctor visit after doctor visit and a whole lotta feeling awful all the while. So much for enjoying Jeff’s vacation off work. :( I even had a "me” day planned last Friday that had to be put off. The good news is nothing terrible appears to be wrong, but no one is quite sure yet what what is exactly going on. It’s just a guessing game and let’s try this and wait and see business which I HATE. I much prefer to have closure on things, but hence is life. So, in the midst of all this I am finding myself plunging into discovering some good for me things, too.

I got myself a little stovetop cappuccino maker which I am so very excited about! It’s the little things, you know…
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I finished my last coffee mate creamer on Sunday and said, “that’s it…no more of that junk”. I was seriously ADDICTED!!! When we go out for a nice dinner, I always get a cappuccino and so enjoy it with just a touch of the raw sugar (which is alot better for you than the white sugar) so I thought, why can’t I just make it at home using vanilla soy milk? Oh did I mention that I have eliminated dairy from my diet? (More on that in a bit.) So far I am loving it and since I have to make it cup by cup, it also lends itself to having just one cup in the morning and not drinking a half pot of coffee like I used to.

So, yes I have eliminated all dairy from my diet (at least as a trial). I have sinus issues and although I don’t consume alot of dairy, I know that it does increase mucus so I thought I would try to see if it gives me some relief. It hasn’t been too bad so far-but long term it will be hard to live without some good cheese. And maybe if this does prove successful I will just know I need to limit it and not eat it all the time. The other dairy products I have found great substitutes for due to Reed’s severe milk allergy(I pray every day that he will stay safe and the severity will lessen or better yet, he will outgrow it, it’s so so scary!!!).

I have resolved this year to really improve eating even cleaner and just simply doing more things to be healthy, not just for my body but my mind & spirit, too. I neglected those too much in 2011. All this stressful health stuff going on has led me to get back to yoga. The classes already started where I work out, so I have been doing PM yoga at home to wind down at the end of the day. It really has helped some of my symptoms already and has done wonders for my sense of peace. I really have been craving that since the holidays.
I am toying with the idea of doing a detox diet. Of course there are some social functions coming up that would be impacted, but I feel like my body just is craving it, especially when I am not feeling 100% right now. I am looking at the one from Whole Living. In past years, I just turned my nose up at the menu thinking, I don’t like any of that…but in the latter of 2011 I really broadened my horizons on new foods and tastes and you know what, I am loving good, whole food. I think I mentioned before and it was one of the 31 days to green living is to eat more vegetarian or vegan for that matter. I have tried to do that more and it’s even more of a priority this year to eat plant-based.  Too much research has shown how crucial this is for healthy living not to mention better for our environment. Thankfully, Jeff is open to trying new things. He is not the typical “meat and potatoes” kind of guy. Ironically, when we met, I was a meat & potatoes girl, boy have I changed or what???? And Reed, well he is a pretty good eater and likes "different” types of food than I think most kids do so I am confident he will eat more plant based just fine. I have always strived to provide him the same if not very similar meal we are eating for dinner despite his food allergies.  In recent years, we have always preferred to eat fish or pasta over a big steak so I guess it’s just a natural transition to eat less meat.

I was really pouring over my ‘babycakes’ cookbook yesterday (famous allergen free bakery in NY & LA) and reserved the other one at our library. In the spirit to be more healthful and provide yummy, allergen free baked goodies for Reed, I really want to delve into just trying these recipes to see what we like. Delicious baking sans dairy, eggs & wheat is tough. Actually, the wheat I find the most challenging, other flours just taste different! Reed likes them alot, but it’s all he has ever known. Certainly I don’t do too much goody baking with wanting to lose more weight but I want to find some great ‘go to’ recipes when an occasion arises.

On days that I feel pretty good,  I have been trying to work on deep cleaning a room or two since the house just frankly gets neglected during the holidays. It gets the bare minimum attention when you have so much other things going on. Strangely…cleaning helps me-it settles my mind and let’s me burn off any stress. Not to mention I feel great when I have a clean & organized house. The organized part, well that’s a whole other issue to be tackled. How do things get so darn unorganized???

We are getting our first real snowfall of the season…it’s so peaceful (when you don’t have to drive in it). Jeff is home from work early since it’s accumulating fast. Once Reed gets up from his nap, we are looking forward to a nice cozy evening together. I think a dinner carpet picnic in front of the fire with my two best boys is just what ‘Dr. Heather’ ordered!
Roaring Fire

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