Lunchtime

For the longest time, feeding kids lunch has eluded me. Once they got past the baby food and formula, and into the real stuff, I had no idea what to do for lunch. Breakfast and dinner were just fine, but lunch was impossible. Sandwiches simply aren’t an option for the toddler/preschool age, because they don’t understand why you would stack everything just so and then they can’t balance everything between the bread anyway. Even a simple tuna sandwich would be taken apart, the tuna eaten, and then the bread. For the longest time, I made soup, because it’s delicious and easy, but that was still too messy to continue for long. Then the raw foods craze came out, and I figured it out.

Chicken TendersOur lunches now consist of either chicken tenders or left overs and tons of raw fruit and vegetables. Protein and carbs, it’s a perfect meal for the middle of the day. I cook the chicken tenders in olive oil, so there is a bit of fat, but we get the majority of our fat from breakfast and dinner. (If you don’t know yet, I believe that saturated fat is good for you, and that olive oil is good in small amounts as well.…And actually I think everybody’s body is different so there is no one diet that will work for all.)

So, this is how lunchtime goes for us now. Starting around noon, I heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Then I add 3-4 frozen chicken tenders (Costco has the best.) After about five minutes, I flip them over and season the partially cooked side with Emeril’s Original Essence. It’s a fantastic spice blend that has become a staple in our household. Five minutes later, I flip them over again and season the newly cooked side. Then I flip them 1-2 more times until they are completely cooked. When the chicken is done, or very close, I get out a plate and pack it with fruits and vegies that are cut up or prepared in such a way that they make easy finger food for my kids. For example, baby carrots just go straight on the plate, grapes are washed and left on the vine, oranges are peeled and pulled apart, bananas and cucumbers are peeled and sliced into discs, and apples are cut into slices.

Fruit and Vegie PlateThen I stick the fruit and vegie plate between my girls, give them each a chicken tender, and we say a prayer on the food. Yes, I make them exercise self-control to not touch the food while we pray. It’s only 30 seconds max, and they handle it just fine. As soon as we’re done praying, they eagerly load their own plates up with whatever looks good to them. There are a few rules that they are required to follow. First, they must have one bite that they swallow of everything on the fruit and vegie plate. Second, they must have at least one more bite, beyond what they have already had, of chicken before they go for seconds from the fruit and vegie plate. They were resistant to these rules at first, but I stood my ground and stick to my word. If they have had one bite of a food and decided they don’t like it this time around, then I don’t make them eat any more of it. When they are finished, I have them clear their plates off the table, but leave the fruit and vegie plate out with whatever is left over for them to snack on whenever they want. Around dinner time, I give whatever is left over after snacking to our chickens, who devour the rest of it.

Sometimes I pick one color as the theme of the plate, and other times I try to make a rainbow of colors. When I first started, almost everything I put out were fruits and vegetables that they were already used to, but over time, I have been trying to expand their palates by trying a new fruit or vegie every so often. In the past I have done strawberries, raspberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, apples, pears, grapes, bananas, oranges, clementines, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and black olives. This week, I was able to buy more fruits and vegies than normal, so we have cucumbers, yellow cherry tomatoes, sweet peppers, and pineapple to try. When I put the sweet peppers out, the girls we very excited to try them, because they’re actually the ones who picked them out. As it turns out, that’s the one food they only took one bite of. Unfortunately for them, I have a whole bag of them, so they’re going to have to take one bite of them every day this week. Maybe I’ll give them some salad dressing to help with the taste. The cucumbers were devoured so fast that I almost didn’t get any for myself.

A Year of Dates

For Valentine’s Day, I gave my husband a year of planned out dates. I got the idea from What’s Up Fagans? I planned two dates per month, with a few bonus dates thrown in for fun. These are geared towards being pregnant and then having a little one to tote around as well. I discovered that planning dates, especially this many all at once takes a lot of effort, so I thought I’d share them, and maybe they’ll help you find something to do or inspire you in some way to go date your spouse.

February

Visit the chocolate exhibit at the Utah Museum of Natural History.
- This was a fun one and it is open until June, so you can still go. They have chocolate tastings on Wednesday and Saturday, but they sell out very fast, so you have to buy those tickets early. For us out of countyers, that’s a little difficult.

Organize photos on computer together.
- We didn’t get to this one in February, because we were invited along for a lot of other dates. I think it might be our date for this week. Basically, when the kids go to bed, we’ll snuggle together and reminisce over the millions of digital photos we have, and try to sort them so we can actually do things with them.

March

Go to the Festival of Colors.
- I have been dying to go to this for years, but my husband is so wary of taking the kids that I planned this one for just the two of us.

Pick out a new puzzle and put it together.
- I love putting puzzles together, and it’s always fun to have a companion helping out.

April

Go see Peter Pan at the Hale Center Theater.
- We both love theater, and I’ve wanted to see Peter Pan on stage since I found out it was a stage play, not just a movie, as a kid. Strangely, I found out it was a book last. Completely backward chronology.

Pick out a 3D puzzle and put it together.
- This one is geared more towards my husband. Sometime in the first year of our relationship (tons of stuff happened in that first year, so it all gets blurred together), we went to a hobby store, which we both love, and he mentioned wanting to put one of these together with me.

Bonus Date: Captain America
- I already know I want to see it, so I stuck it in there at the last minute.

May

Visit the Red Butte Gardens.
- I seriously debated putting this one in, because I’ll be massively pregnant when this happens, but I’ve been wanting to go, and the gardens should be pretty by then.

Game Night: Little Big Planet, Ticket to Ride, and Phase 10.
- Those are just some of our favorite games to play together. I’m, also, open to new games, which I’m sure we have somewhere.

June

Bowling at Fat Cats.
- This is a date that we both enjoy, and that I would feel comfortable taking a newborn on, especially if its not on a typical date night.

Make paper airplanes.
- I fully intend on making the most epic paper airplanes we possibly can. I will probably have a Pinterest board for this one.

Bonus Date: How to Train Your Dragon 2
- The first was awesome. Hopefully the second will be, too.

July

Bookstore Scavenger Hunt
- Some of our best dates have been in bookstores (R.I.P. Borders), but we have seriously different taste in books, so this will be a way to do something together before we go our separate ways, and then meet back up together for some hot chocolate.

Watch the sunset.
- Around here, it’s very easy to find a high perch on a mountain to watch the sunset, and see the city lights come on.

August

Make a movie about an invisible man.
- I think this one is just going to be super dorky, but I really hope we have fun with it.

Enjoy a dessert bar at home.
- Yum.

Bonus Date: See the Scarlet Pimpernel at the Scera Shell Outdoor Theater.
- This is a favorite show of ours, so I’m really excited to see it live.

September

Chalk the Block.
-We’ve been to this before, but this time we’ll leave the kids at home. It’ll be way less stressful. We enjoy the farmers market that’s attached to it as well.

Build a campfire in the backyard and enjoy marshmallows and hotdogs.
- Fun. Relaxing. No stress of having to find a baby sitter. I can’t wait for this one.

October

Go to a corn maze.
- Can you believe that we have never been to a corn maze as a date? I don’t know how that’s happened for so many years, but I’m making it right this year. For the baby, I’m thinking baby wearing and nice warm clothes.

Fondue Night
- This will be a fun at home date. We were given some great fondue pots when we got married, and we get them out every now and then. Plus, it’s fun to see what mixes well with chocolate.

November

Go to a comedy theater. Desert Star or Off Broadway.
- Neither of us have been, and they sound like a lot of fun. Now that I think about it, this doesn’t sound baby friendly, but I’m not going to write it off until I see how things are going at that point. If need be, I’ll switch it up for something else.

Paint a Bob Ross painting.
- This is a super fun one to do. Basically, you get a Bob Ross DVD, pick a painting, and paint along with him. It doesn’t matter what kind of paper or paint you use, so long as you have fun and finish your painting when he does.

Bonus Date: Recreate our first date, getting ice cream at the Union.
- We met at the University of Utah. On the second day that we got to spend time together, he bought me ice cream in the middle of a blizzard at the Union. We became facebook friends, and started “chatting” like crazy that night.

December

Visit an art museum.
- There are so many all over the place, and many of them are free.

Relax with a movie and popcorn at home.
- I saved this one specifically for the holidays. It’s a stressful, busy time of the year, and I want to make sure we get a break from all of that.

January

Go to Tucanos Brazilian Grill.
- If you’ve never been, it’s worth it. Never ending meat, and a salad bar that beats just about any other salad bar out there. Grilled pineapple. Fried bananas. Sushi (for those of you that like sushi). Death by Chocolate Cake.

Build a computer together.
- “Like with all new parts?” “Yes, with all new parts.” I think a trip to the Fry’s in Vegas is in order for this one. This date is 1) his birthday present, 2) a celebration of working so hard to become financially stable, and 3) a chance to let him show me all the nerdy stuff that he is always dying to show me.

Cow’s Milk Free Quiche

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Quiche is a family favorite, but given the amount of milk and cheese in it, we haven’t had it in over a year. Our chickens gave us so many eggs recently, that I could think of no other way to use them other than in a quiche. So, I experimented, and it worked the first time, which is amazing. The texture is not perfectly the same as if it had milk and cheese, but the flavor is very similar, and my kids still eat it, so it must be good.

Every good quiche starts with an amazing crust. I use this crust recipe for every crust I ever make, pumpkin pie, apple pie, chicken pot pie, and quiche. This is a butter crust, so if butter is on your list of no-nos, there are shortening and oil crusts out there that some people prefer, but the butter crust is my favorite, and thankfully our lactose intolerees can handle it.

Butter Pastry Crust

1 C flour
1/4 t salt
6 T butter
1 egg

Combine flour and salt in a small bowl. Cut in butter and mix using a pastry blender. Add egg and form dough into a ball. Flour a flat surface and a rolling pin. Roll out dough to about 1/4 inch thick. Gently place crust into pie pan and form edge as desired.

For a quiche, cover crust with foil and place rice or beans on top of the foil to keep crust from bubbling up. Cook in a 450°F preheated oven for 8 minutes. Remove foil and cook for another 4-5 minutes. Remove crust from oven and lower temperature to 325°F.

Filling

4 T butter or oil
4 T cornstarch or arrowroot powder
1 1/2 C coconut milk, divided
1/8 t cayenne pepper
1/2 t pepper, divided
3/4 t salt, divided
1/4 t garlic powder
1/2 lb. ground beef
1/4 C FD* onion or 1/2 fresh onion
7 eggs
3 C swish chard, chopped

*freeze dried

In a small sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in cornstarch. Add 1 C of coconut milk all at once. Stir to incorporate with butter mixture. Add cayenne pepper, 1/4 t pepper, 1/4 t salt and garlic powder. Stir continuously. Sauce will start to boil and then thicken. Remove from heat when it has the same consistency as gravy, and allow to cool.

In a frying pan, brown ground beef and add onion.

Place eggs in a medium bowl, and add 1/2 C of coconut milk. Whisk in coconut and butter sauce. It will be lumpy. Add beef and onion mixture and swish chard. Pour into crust and cook in a 325°F oven for 60 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes and serve warm.

Apple Butter

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Apple butter is a deliciously, thick, dark sauce that was a huge treat when I was growing up. We put it on pancakes, waffles, toast, probably my mom’s homemade bread fresh out of the oven if the two ever happened at the same time. I love the stuff. The first time I ever went grocery shopping for just myself, I found some and enjoyed the entire tiny, little bottle. My mom made it just using applesauce, but I had a box full of Jonathan apples, the best apple on the planet, and I wanted to turn them into the best tasting sauce on the planet. My husband said I made the whole house smell like wassail.

10 apples, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 T cinnamon
1/4 t cloves
1/4 t nutmeg

Put apples in crock pot, and cook on high for 2 hours. Stir every 30 minutes or so to keep the apples from burning. Mash the apples with a potato masher. Cook on low for 6 hours. Continues to stir every 30 minutes. In the last hour, mix spices in with a whisk. Makes about 4 cups.

After mashing, the apples will look very similar to applesauce, you could probably stop there and have applesauce. As the apples cook, they go from the yellowy cream of an apple, to a pinkish, to a brown, and then when you add the spices, you will get the very dark brown color.

While, in the picture it shows that I put them in glass jars, I did not properly can them, so I will be freezing them after the 24 hour waiting period. The sauce was hot enough to seal the jars, however, so be careful to let it cool down before putting it in anything plastic.

Granola Trail Mix

imageI made a goal to make granola as part of my 101 Goals, but when I started the Paleo diet, I figured that one would never get accomplished. But, I’ve switched back to my hypoglycemic diet, so that my body can get the benefits that diet offers, and oats are not evil for the time being. I stumbled across this Applesauce Granola recipe, happened to have all the ingredients already on hand, and decided to make it. I cut out the brown sugar, so the only sweetener is a tablespoon of honey. By itself, the granola is quite bland, and I was worried that it was just going to sit around for a few months, before I threw it out. Then I got the idea to make a snack out of it, and I created this delicious trail mix. The practically unsweetened granola allows the other flavors to stand out and shine. I’ve even considered eating this as a cereal, because it would be fantastic. My girls are constantly begging to snack on this, and I’m okay with them doing so.

2 C Granola
1 C FD* Raspberries
1 C FD Strawberries
1 C FD Vanilla Yogurt Bites
1 C Raisins
1 C Unsalted Pumpkin Seeds

*freeze dried

Mix together and store in an airtight container. If you really want to be super healthy, leave out the yogurt bites, as those have sugar added, made glaringly obvious by how my girls eat all of those first. If you don’t have any of the freeze dried foods, it’s still really good with just the raisins and pumpkin seeds.

Chicken Zucchini Soup

2013-09-15_12-42-33_387One day, when I was a brand new mother, I opened a can of Cambell’s chicken noodle soup, heated it up, and was disgusted by it. So much so that I searched and searched for the perfect chicken noodle soup recipe, and settled on a combination of a few. The perfected recipe is here. We have enjoyed this recipe many many times, and I was so sad to see it go when I discovered the amazingly delicious and healthy world of Paleo eating. To top it off, the only thing in the soup that is not Paleo is the noodles, but without them you just have chicken soup, which is kind of boring.

Being a year into Paleo eating, and having a huge surplus of zucchini, I decided to do what any good Paleo eater does and sub zucchini for noodles. It was pure perfection. No heartburn for my husband, no sluggish feeling for me, and the kids went for seconds and thirds. We are, also, a month into our crazy plan to be out of debt by January 2014, so I made this using food storage. Feel free to refer back to the original recipe for whole food amounts if you don’t want to use food storage to make this.

4 T butter
½ C FD onions
½ C dehydrated carrots
½ C FD celery
2 quarts of liquid, chicken broth, water, or a combination
Salt
Pepper
1 t Thyme
1 Bay Leaf
2 C FD chicken or leftover rotisserie chicken
1 medium zucchini, shredded

In large soup pot, over medium heat, melt butter. Sauté FD onions in butter, and add some liquid before the onions burn. Add carrots and celery, remaining liquid, and spices. Allow to simmer for five minutes. Add FD chicken or cut up rotisserie chicken and zucchini. Let simmer for 30 minutes. Serve warm

Note: The more water you use, the more salt you will need.

Farewell Credit Card

IMAG2051We are excited to say a much anticipated farewell to our largest credit card. We will not miss you. We will not mourn the loss of you. We will never ever use you again, and we are so excited to see you go! We will allow you to let our credit score look awesome for a brief second, and then we will shut you down, because you are a horrible piece of plastic that I hate, hate with a vengeance. We hate the $50 of interest you gave us every month. We hate how you gave us the option of slavery. And we hate how you never seemed to go away no matter how hard we tried. So, fare thee well you stupid piece of plastic that caused us so much pain and hurt and familial discord. You are out of our lives forever and you are never coming back.

Dairy Free Spinach Dip

IMAG1957We had a fondue night with some friends, and needed a non-dairy dip for our lactose intolerant daughter. I wanted something like a cheesy spinach dip, without the actual cheese. After browsing many spinach dip recipes, I decided to try a dairy free white sauce, mixed with spinach. To give it a bite like cheese, I added cayenne pepper.  This is really good with chips, cheddar cheese, and bread.

 

4 T butter*, coconut oil, or olive oil3-4 T cornstarch or arrowroot
2 C coconut milk
dash of cayenne pepper
salt
pepper
1 T Worcestershire sauce
2 C FD** spinach
1 1/2 C chicken stock or water

*Our lactose intolerant can handle small amounts of butter.**freeze dried

1. Melt fat of choice in a sauce pan. Add cornstarch to thicken. Stir in coconut milk and heat over medium heat to thicken. Add spices and Worcestershire sauce.

2. Heat spinach and stock until stock is mostly gone.

3. Add reconstituted spinach to white sauce. Heat over medium heat for about 15 minutes until thick. Stir frequently.

Remembering 9/11

AdorableIt’s been twelve years since that terrible day. Life continues as normal, although we have since experience a recession that we never fully recovered from. I have children now, who have no idea such a thing has occurred on the land they live on. One day I will teach them of that event, and how I was there, and Daddy was there, and Grammy and Papa and aunts and uncles, but we were on the other side of the country, so we were just watching the news in horror that day. I had teachers that disobeyed rules so we could watch the news all throughout their class. I remember the second plane hitting, and the plane in Pennsylvania going down. I remember my mom talking to me about myths that had started spreading that weren’t true, and helping me understand what was going on.

The next day, the moment of silence took place while I was in my health class. I wrote a poem in my English class. It wasn’t very good, because I was still too young to fully grasp what had happened. In my poem, though, I wrote about how we Americans came together and supported each other and loved one another. In my short life, I had never seen America so united, and it was wonderful and inspiring, and sadly short lived. For now, I teach my children about patriotism. They love the flag, and keep begging for fireworks. They got to see my cousin receive his Eagle Scout award, where they experienced a flag ceremony with a color guard and a room full of at least 50, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. And, one day, I will teach them about that day when something terrible happened, and America united.

Zucchini Raisin Cookies

Hi everyone! It’s been a while, and to make up for so much time not posting anything, I have a fantastic recipe that will use up all your giant zucchinis that got away from you. One giant zucchini can probably make three or four batches of these delicious cookies.
zucchini cookies

2 C water
1 C raisins
2 C flour
1/4 t salt
1 t soda
1 t cinnamon
1 t nutmeg
1 t cloves
1/2 C butter, soft but not melted
2 C zucchini, shredded
1/2 C honey

1. Boil raisins in water until only 1 C of water remains. Reduce heat to medium so as not to loose too much water, and add more water to bring up to 1 C if needed.

2. While raisins are boiling, combine flour, salt, soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in a large bowl.

3. Add butter to the flour mixture and cut in with a pastry blender.

4. Add zucchini and honey to the flour mixture.

5. Add 1 C of raisin water and raisins to the flour mixture. Dough/batter (it’s kind of in between the two) should be thick.

6. Spread on greased cookie sheet.

7. Cook at 375°F for 15 minutes.

Viola! Delicious zucchini and raisin goodness in mere minutes.