it’s not all about chocolate

Okay, so maybe it is, but thought I’d post something different today.  The pictures won’t be nearly as exciting.  First, I made a healthy dinner for the fam the other night – beef stew in the crockpot (LOVE my crockpot and love Reynolds Slow Cooker liners even more! and no they didn’t pay me to say that, but if they wanted to, that would be awesome – b/c I have 3 kids and never have enough money, and…. oh, yeah, back to my post). 
My stew consisted of onions, carrots and green peppers from my garden!!!  YAY!  This is still super exciting for me – actually growing something and being able to eat it!!  What can I say, I’ve lived a life of convenience foods. 
My plate vs. my 7 yr old’s…if I ate like a 7 yr old, I would be SKINNY!
The stew was “fine”, which means it was okay but nothing great.  When my mom uses the term “fine” it always has a negative connotation….it means she really doesn’t like it but doesn’t want to hurt our feelings.  I also had green beans (Del Monte) b/c the ones I froze from the garden were less than “fine”.  Note to self – do not freeze green beans.  They were…..water-logged, for lack of a better word.  Or maybe, just maybe, it’s b/c I didn’t know what the hell I was doing.  That’s a possibility.  Anyway – stew, green beans, brown rice – nothing exciting.  and cucumbers.  b/c we have cucumbers with every meal but breakfast.  I gave away 24 lbs of cucumbers yesterday!!!  How do I know it was 24 pounds?  I weighed them on my bathroom scale of course….my husband looked at me like I was nuts.  I wanted to know if I had at least 7 lbs for a woman he works with to make pickles….apparently I have no concept of weight, b/c it was 24.  Gave them to her anyway.  She can make LOTS of pickles – and hopefully give me some.  Once again, I digress.  So my point is, healthy dinner (oh, I forgot we also had yeast rolls – not healthy, but the best thing on my plate – from Sam’s, not homemade) and since I had eaten so much of my wonderful chocolate chip zucchini bread, and the weather was awesome, I told the kids we would go bike riding.  It turned out much better than our last attempt.  The fact that it was not a thousand degrees and the humidity was low made a huge difference.  So, strapped in my little man and took off. 
He loves it!  Maybe it will make me take the bike out more.  My oldest girl rode her bike, while my 7 yr old rode her scooter.  My point to all this….we got some EXERCISE!!!! 
I think we only rode 2&1/2 miles, but it’s better than nothin’!  Maybe today I will be motivated to get more exercise, and make it 2 DAYS IN A ROW!!  We’ll see… 

P.S.
Happy Birthday to my sister!!

Happy Birthday America!

Hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend!  The weather in NC has been FAB-u-lous.  Lots of festivities going on in celebration of Independence Day.  I haven’t done a lot of cooking this weekend, but my kids have!
They are mixing away for their EZ Bake oven creation.  No, my oldest does not have a vision problem, she was hiding her face with her directions.  She has learned that everything ends up on my blog or Facebook.  Poor kid. 

This morning I decided that PANCAKES would be a great way to start the day.  I really wanted to make “patriotic” pancakes (with strawberries, blueberries, and whipped cream)- but that would have required forethought and of course, that doesn’t happen much around here, so I didn’t buy any strawberries yesterday.  You can’t have red, white, and blue pancakes without the red, now can you?  So anyway, I fixed some low-fat pancakes from Heart Healthy Bisquick (b/c the last time I tried to make egg-free, whole wheat pancakes- they were a disaster.  The kids wouldn’t touch them.  I can’t blame them, they were not.good.)  I just followed the recipe for pancakes on the back of the Bisquick box, but I like to add a tsp. of vanilla and a dash of cinnamon to my batter.  Also, they don’t come out with the consistency of play dough when I do my egg substitution. (A ‘flax’ egg or Ener-G egg replacer).  My kids had a couple of strips of turkey bacon and apple slices with theirs, and I topped mine with blueberries and walnuts.  I top almost everything with blueberries and walnuts.  or chocolate.  Which is what my oldest daughter wanted – chocolate chips on her pancakes.  What can I say, she came by it honest, and it WOULD have been good. But my pancakes were yummy and filling and once I finish my coffee, I need to get moving.  I have had the energy of a slug this weekend.  I have a feeling it’s partly due to all the carbs I’ve been consuming and partly b/c I have PMS from hell.  Sorry TMI.  And this is a lame post, I know.  But…enjoy looking at these delicious looking pancakes, better yet, grab some Bisquick and make you some! Happy 4th!

{egg free} Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

So, I have bananas left AND I have zucchini….what can I make?  (Egg-free) Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread of course!!  It just came out of the oven (and I immediately ate some) and it is so good I had to begin blogging about it immediately.  I sort of combined two recipes, one from For the Love of Cooking (Chocolate Chip and Walnut Zucchini Bread) and one from Madhuram’s Eggless Cooking (Eggless Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread).  I guess I made enough changes to warrant typing out the recipe – it’s going to seem strange, but it is ooooh soooo good!

{egg free} Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

  • 2 very ripe medium sized bananas
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 cups raw, grated zucchini
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 4 oz. jar of baby food carrots or 1/2 cup cooked and pureed carrots
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 cup of mini chocolate chips – I used a very well rounded 3/4 cup 🙂

I then followed the directions from For the Love of Cooking recipe – My loaf pan was larger than 8×4, so I made one loaf and 6 muffins.

The muffins cooked in about 30 minutes I think.  They are so moist and delicious and the kids didn’t even complain about the flecks of green!!  (and they have no clue I added the carrots.)  They were moist enough with the bananas that I think I could use all whole wheat flour next time, and I love that I was able to cut the sugar in half!!
This really was the best I’ve made, so I will definitely be making this again.  I also LOVE sneaking veggies into my kids!!  I have some other zucchini recipes to try, but only have a couple of zucchini left, because unfortunately, my zucchini plants died 🙁   (Can I say zucchini one more time?)  I think they suffered dehydration and heat stroke.
I’m linking this recipe up at i should be mopping the floor Iron Chef Mom: Battle-Carrots

hold the poison, please

To go organic or no?  I’m trying so hard to increase the fresh fruits and vegetables my family eats, but then I read about all the horrible pesticides out there on the produce we eat everyday.  The answer?  Some say buy organic, others say organic is a waste of money.  And if you’re like me, and live in a small town – organic products are not even offered in most grocery stores.  What’s a mom to do?  The best I’ve been able to figure out for my family is – on some things, it’s worth the extra money to buy organic, while others, not so much.  Check out this list for more details http://foodnews.org/EWG-shoppers-guide-download-final.pdf.  Also, Why Organic Foods Are Good for You offers a compelling argument!  So, now I have to spend more money on things that are safer “organic”.  Great.  Thank goodness for my garden! 
This was taken on one of the super hot days, so it’s a little droopy

Researching this gave me renewed purpose to salvage it from the weeds and heat!!  I worked for 2 hours this weekend (and just about had HEAT STROKE) getting the garden back into shape, and making room for whatever I’m going to plant next.  Which I haven’t figured out yet.  I need a ‘Gardening for Dummies’ book. 

However, I’m starting to get
and
                 andYAY ME! 

There is also an interesting “discussion” going on here about buying organic.  A majority who weighed in feel it’s a waste of money.  What did surprise me is the number of people who made comments like “if people are that concerned about what they feed their kids…”, uhmmm, I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m assuming that folks who make comments like that DON’T HAVE KIDS!  Because, DUH, of course we’re THAT concerned.  It’s called being a parent.  Anyway, what-evuh.

So, in all honesty, I don’t know if “organic” is all it’s hyped to be or if things labeled organic are truly organic, so I will continue to research and educate myself on what is best – and maybe this whole gardening thing will continue to work out.  However, on some things (like RAISINS) I’d rather be safe than sorry (my sister said she read they are loaded with pesticides/chemicals, and she’s, like, super smart). 

Now, if I could just figure out how to grow cocao beans….i’d be a happy mama.

Other things that make me happy….free stuff!!!  Thanks to Soap & Chocolate for offering a NuNaturals Stevia giveaway, and choosing Mo’Betta as one of the winners!!!  YAY!!  Also, excited to try the Vanilla Stevia liquid in my morning cinnamon-infused coffee…..mmmmmm

What’s one more?!

My girls had a friend over for the day, and around noon I started thinking “crap, what am I going to feed everyone!”  Because, of course, I had not thought ahead, and had not been to the grocery store.  No bread, no frozen pizza, no money for takeout – what’s a mom to do?  Well, I looked at what I had….lots of fresh fruit and LOTS of cucumbers (still!).  So, i made a(nother) fruit and veggie tray – cucumbers, grapes, apples, and a fresh picked straight-from-our-garden watermelon!!  The kids thought this was great, my girls finally got to pick their watermelon and they all enjoyed it.  We took pictures with our prize and everything!  I know, I’m the dorkiest mom – but my kids are little, so they haven’t figured that out yet.  I also gave the kids some Sun Chips, and cut up the remaining Chocolate Banana Muffins (in quarters).  They never complained or asked for pizza once!  Score for mom! 
(p.s. when children take pictures looking up at you, it makes you look gi-normous!)
It wasn’t the ripest or best watermelon I’ve ever had, but the girls ate it ALL!  Who knew you could get so excited over growing stuff?!

Going bananas

 After a visit to Sam’s Club, I have about 100 lbs. of bananas.  I knew when I bought them, they would not all get eaten b/c only one of my children even likes bananas.  (including me)  However, subconsciously I was probably thinking about the awesome recipes I have that call for bananas.  Somehow, when you mix bananas, sugar and chocolate, they go from blah, too AWESOME!  Imagine that.  So last night I decided that we (read “I”) would make Chocolate Banana Muffins this morning.  I did really good and gathered all the ingredients I would need (and utensils) and put everything on the counter last night so I wouldn’t wimp out and not fix them this morning.  This really made things easier since I’m so NOT a morning person.  Made the muffins, and all I can say is….THANK YOU PAM!!  I don’t personally know Pam, who does the For the love of cooking blog, but, I heart her.  Some of my favorite recipes are from her site.  Check it.
Don’t they look yummy and delicious and chocolaty?
  I love that the recipe calls for whole wheat flour, and only a 1/3 cup canola oil.  The only changes I made were:  instead of 1/2 cup white sugar, I cut it back to 1/4 cup – b/c I figured bananas are pretty sweet.  We did not miss that extra 1/4 cup.  Next time I might cut the white sugar all together!  Of course, since I cut back on the sugar I thought, hmmmm, why don’t we add some powdered sugar on top?!  It looks so pretty on chocolate.
Also, I had to make it “eggless” for my little allergy boy, so I used my standard baking substitution – 1 T. milk, 1 T. white vinegar, and 1 t. baking powder in place of the egg.  The only difference I can tell is that the muffin is a tiny bit crumbly, but not bad – and a little butter on the hot muffin takes care of that 😉   I use Smart Balance Light w/ EVOO.  Adding mini chocolate chips would make it even mo’betta, and I would definitely cut the sugar then.  Also, this would be a good recipe to add in zucchini or some pureed carrots/squash whatever.  I didn’t do this today b/c I am making zucchini bread later….lots of carbs today.
My little runny nose man after eating TWO muffins – he “stole” the second one!

pretty as a picture

I have found that packaging has a lot of influence over decisions children make.  I know…..DUH!!  That’s why companies spend so much money gearing their advertising, etc towards children.  However, I’ve never noticed it being that much of an issue with food choices my girls make, but it is a big factor with my little 2 year old terror.  If given a choice – which he likes – he will study the 2 things, whether it be movies, cereal, fruit, etc. and it takes him a couple of minutes to make a decision.  But he looks at the pictures and decides from there.  For example, Cheerios vs. Rice Krispies – RK have the cool little snap, crackle, pop men on the front; Cheerios – a yellow box with….well, Cheerios on the front.  He chooses the krispies.  There are other examples, but the point is, packaging makes a difference.  Now, the easy solution to that is only give him 2 good choices, so it won’t matter what he chooses.  For my older children, I have been teaching them how to read nutrition labels and what they mean, so hopefully they will be able to make better choices when away from me.  But what about fruits and veggies that don’t come in pretty, fun packages?  How can I get them to choose the “ugly” one?! 

okay, so maybe not this ugly
But this is what I have been working on – presentation.  I’m thinking that if I make healthy foods look fun and pretty and just, well, HAPPY, then the kids will want to eat them.  This is an ongoing “project”, but I’m sure I will post pics of things that work and don’t.
You can’t get much prettier than this!  My kids love a fruit salad.
I’m trying to keep containers full of fresh fruits and veggies – ready to eat, in the fridge.
I thought this was a beautiful fruit/veggie tray!  I just knew the kids would be excited about trying all the different things, some from our own garden!
My 7 yr old is trying squash in one hand, and has a cucumber in the other.  I’m thinking this is a good sign!
But after dinner, all the veggies are still sitting there – but the fruit is history!
Obviously, it’s a work in progress!!  We’ll see how my “making happy food” works out.  I’ve been checking out the blog lunchbox limbo, there are many cute ideas for making food look happy 😀

it’s H O T!!

Record breaking temperatures, no rain, high humidity…..it’s hot, hot, hot!!  My poor little garden is suffering.  But we are not!  What is one of the best things to have when you are hot?!  An ice cold beer!  But I meant for the kids….and that is POPSICLES!  However, some that you find in the grocery store are LOADED with sugar.  An easy alternative – make your own.  The molds can be found pretty much everywhere (Dollar Tree, Wal Mart, Target) and are super cheap. 
You can fill them with anything, but I decided to make the Blueberry Smoothie (from earlier post) and make yogurt popsicles!!  I used the same basic ingredients (Greek yogurt, frozen blueberries) but I added some strawberries and a banana, a little V-8 Fusion Strawberry Banana juice and just a little milk.  I blended it all up and poured it into my molds.  It didn’t take long for them to freeze, and other than being a little annoying trying to get out of the molds – they were yummy and refreshing!  My 2 yr old loves them, and I feel good about serving them.  The kids feel like they are getting a treat, and I feel like they are getting something wholesome, with the yogurt and fruit!
Partially eaten popsicle 🙂

pizza, pizza, pizza

The BOMB.

Everyone in my house luuvvvs pizza.  This is my fav – Buffalo Chicken Pizza.  A little too spicy for the chillins’, which is good.  Means more for me!  I am actually the only one who eats this at my house, so, I end up eating on it for several days.  I did freeze some the last time I made it, using my handy, dandy food sealer – and it was still pretty good.  Not as good as when fresh out of the oven, but….duh. 

Whenever we have pizza I try to make my own crust, using 1/2 white and 1/2 wheat flour, and small amounts of olive oil.  It’s a healthier version of pre-made crusts and WAY better for you than take out.  Some frozen pizzas taste okay – but then you have all those added weird ingredients (preservatives, added colors and crap), so I just prefer to prepare my own.  The recipes I use do not require a lot of rising time and are easy to prepare with just a few ingredients.  I’m still experimenting and playing with the recipes.  When I find THE one, I’ll post.  The kids like to help with the dough (for about 5 minutes) and they really like to add their own toppings.  We use whatever cheese we have on hand, but almost always the standard mozzarella and parmesan.  I like to use fat-free or reduced fat cheddar on my Buffalo Chicken and parmesan.  I also use Fat Free Bleu Cheese dressing (I only use 1/2-3/4th bottle) and omit the butter when I make this.  I don’t see that butter makes a difference, so why add the fat?  For the kids, it’s usually just cheese, but sometimes they like turkey pepperoni, or turkey sausage or even ham. 

When I’m in a hurry, or for lunch, we’ll make pizzas on english muffins, pita bread (both wheat) or whatever bread we have on hand.  My youngest daughter likes “pizza sandwiches” – I take a roll of some sort, add pizza sauce and cheese and stick it in the George Foreman – it makes a pizza panini!  I like these too, what can I say, I don’t have a very mature palate. Speaking of the George Foreman – I have recently discovered that it makes awesome sandwiches and have been sticking everything in there.  Even my terrible-two boy will eat a grilled George cheese sandwich!

pizza on a pita
The George Grilled Cheese

After looking at these pics, I want pizza.  Being that it’s 8 AM, I guess I’ll have to wait.