Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Praise for purees!

My puree addiction came about when I realized that my kids were supposed to be eating 2 1/2 cups of vegetables a day. No, I didn't say fruits and vegetables--that's just vegetables. 2 1/2 cups a day. How many cups are your kids eating?

There are some veggies my kids eat willingly, but that is still a lot to get into one day's worth of eating. I added V8 Fusion into our weekly shopping staples. I have also found "Fruitables" at Sam's which taste okay. But these juices are both pretty expensive when you have four little mouths to feed.

I then bought the book Deceptively Delicious which teaches the basic concept of cooking with purees and gives lots of recipes--some good, some not so great. I realized you can pretty much add veggie purees to anything without affecting it that much. So that's what I do. Cookies, sauces, breads, muffins, pizza, casseroles, oatmeal, brownies, cakes, smoothies--almost everything I make has added veggies. It's a great fat substitute. I stick to two "flavors" because I find them to be easy and versatile--sweet potatoes and green veggies (mixture of zucchini and spinach.) I also always have pumpkin in the freezer (leftover cooked and pureed Halloween pumpkins.)

It's really simple. I just buy a bunch of fresh veggies and cook them up in the microwave.

Then I add a bit of water and blend until smooth.

I let it cool, separate it into 1/2 cup serving sizes and scoop them into snack sized baggies.

I lay them flat on a cookie sheet and freeze them overnight in the deep freeze, then put them all into my small inside freezer to be available whenever I need them.

It doesn't take long and it's a great way to add veggies to your diet.

Which by the way...should include 3 to 5 servings of vegetables a day!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Comfort foods

I had started feeling a little better on Saturday, but yesterday I went seriously downhill again. I have been sleeping almost constantly and I feel miserable. But today Ryan is at work and I have to be Mommy again.

When I'm sick all rational, logical thoughts about food go flying out the window and I just want comfort foods. It's so annoying. I don't want to think about balancing proteins and carbs--I just want to eat what I want, when I want it. Especially when my body is all achy like it has been this time. I know I should be eating better than ever when I'm sick and not working out. It is definitely a mental battle that I struggle with.

So this morning we had milk toast for breakfast. Very little protein involved. No veggie purees this time. Just yummy homemade bread, lightly toasted and covered in warm milk and a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar. It felt heavenly on my sore throat.

Milk Toast
Here is the simple bread recipe, adapted from one of Ryan's cousin's blog:

1 1/2 cups warm water
2 TBSP sugar
1 TBSP yeast

Let that sit for 5 minutes. Then add:

3 1/2 cups flour (use part whole wheat, if desired)
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup ground flaxseed

Mix until smooth, then let raise 10 minutes. Form into loaves and let rise 30 minutes. Bake at 400 degrees about 30 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Toast sliced bread under oven broiler. Place in bowl and top with cinnamon sugar and warm milk.

The color in this picture is kind of weird. But I've never claimed to be a photographer.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Lunch Bunch

Only another week before my kids go back to school and my days of playing lunch lady are over (at least until September.) Here is what they had today:

"Pasta Pillows"--aka Ravioli without the sauce. They love these and they are a good source of calcium and protein.
Also apples, "banana crackers", blueberries and whole grain goldfish. A little heavy on the fruits and light on the veggies, but I had been working in the yard all morning and was tired. Besides, I add veggie purees to everything I make for a reason...

We had salads topped with grilled chicken. We mixed iceberg, romaine and baby spinach, then topped it with grilled chicken slices, salsa and fat free sour cream, with a few crushed tortilla chips and the best part--caramelized onions. Yummy!

p.s. Did you know that spicy foods (salsa) are a natural appetite suppressant? Bring it on!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Liquid Health

I am feeling a bit better today. I hate being sick for so many reasons--I hate the way my house completely falls apart if I take even one day off to rest. I also hate that I am going into day 2 of no exercise! :( I may see if I can do some pilates this afternoon.

For breakfast this morning I am enjoying a delicious protein shake. I really do feel like I am drinking liquid health with this one. Hopefully it will help my health return!

Smoothie of the day

1 banana
1 cup frozen fruit mix (peaches, pineapples and strawberries)
1/2 cup frozen berry mix (black, blue and rasp)
1/3 cup Light 'n' Fit vanilla yogurt
2/3 cup baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup skim milk
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
a few drops of "Kick it Immune" herbal stuff
a few drops of Cherry tree bark herbal stuff

Thursday, June 24, 2010


I can do this...

I slept a lot of today, thanks to good friends who helped out with my kids. But when they were with me, I still had to feed them, and myself. So I still got a few pictures of menu ideas to share.

For breakfast the kids had Green Eggs and Toast. I made scrambled eggs using half egg whites and half regular eggs, skim milk and reduced fat shredded cheddar and added a blend of zucchini and spinach puree (1/2 cup). I do, I like them, Sam I am!!

Almost every day I am on the go for at least one of my snacks, and I have found these generic Slim Fast things to be a great way to get some food in me. They don't have quite as much protein as a regular protein shake, but they tide me over. And I think they are yummy, too!

Lunch today was leftovers for me. Last night I was feeling so sick and tired, but I really wanted some substantial protein in me, so my dear husband ran to "On the Border" (my favorite restaurant) and picked me up a Sizzling Chicken Fajita Salad. When you order this salad at the restaurant, it is not listed as one of their lighter options. But when I get it to go I ask for it without sour cream and cheese and they don't put the dressing on it. Then at home I add my own fat free sour cream and voila! I have suddenly saved a bunch of calories without sacrificing any taste. Even better that I only ate half of it last night for dinner and the other half today at lunch!

Dinner was another quick and easy modified favorite. I have to double it or there just isn't enough for my growing family anymore!

1 pound lean ground turkey
6 slices turkey bacon, sliced
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 TBSP flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. paprika
Dash pepper
1 can fat free cream of mushroom soup
1 cup fat free sour cream
Whole wheat hamburger buns

Place ground turkey and bacon in skillet. Cook and stir until meat is browned. Add onion and cook until tender. Spoon off excess fat. Blend flour, salt, paprika and pepper into meat. Stir in soup. Cook, uncovered, on medium-low heat about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring often. Serve in buns.

I'll be back

I'm feeling under the weather. I have much to say, but I don't even have the energy to sit at the computer. I'll be back asap.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Ryan's Favorite

Ryan loves this stuff! We usually have it on Mondays, so I can say "It's Muesli Monday!" (I have a strange obsession with alliteration.) You make it the night before, so you do have to plan ahead, but it is nice to have a quick, healthy, tasty treat waiting for you in the morning.

4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup dried apricots, chopped
1 cup raisins
1 cup craisins
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
4 cups apple juice
fat free vanilla yogurt

Mix oats, fruits, nuts, spices and apple juice in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Serve with vanilla yogurt. (Ryan and I add a scoop of vanilla protein powder for a complete meal.)

Did you participate?!

It's Ride your bike to work day!

Ryan did it! It only added 30 minutes to his commute time (one way) but what a great way to start (and end) the day. I think he will start doing it more often.

I won't be participating this evening when I go into work. I don't think my co-workers would appreciate having to work with me all hot and sweaty.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tips from Jillian Michaels

I saw these tips for flattening your abs and thought I would share. I know most people (including me!!) are concerned about their abs. Bring on the watermelon!!

1. A big part of ab definition is managing water weight. This means that you should reduce your sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams a day and up your water intake to 80 ounces a day. The more water you drink, the less water you will hold.

2. Eat foods that are high in potassium (like watermelon). This will help you reduce bloat, giving definition to your abs. Other things to try: cranberry juice mixed with water, dandelion tea, asparagus, and try taking a couple teaspoons a day of apple cider vinegar. This vinegar helps to maintain healthy levels of potassium in your body.

3. You can spot-reduce belly fat, but you have to engage in a regimen that burns body fat. This means counting calories so that you are burning excess body fat.

4. When you hit the gym, go hard. Work at 85 percent of your maximum heart rate for optimal fat-shedding results. Try workouts that are core-based and use multiple muscle groups, like mixed martial arts or Yoga flow.

5. Avoid processed foods, alcohol, and lack of sleep. Those three things increase cortisol levels, which is one of the hormones believed responsible for storing belly fat.

French Toast a la Lindsay

I LOVE French Toast. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it!!! If I ever go out to breakfast, you can bet I'm ordering the French Toast. I have had it all over the world. So of course I had to come up with a recipe that doesn't involve heavy cream, butter and calorie-laden bread to appease my cravings at home. Here you have it...

French Toast

3 egg whites
cinnamon to taste
dash of milk
1/4 cup sweet potato puree
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
2 slices whole wheat bread (homemade tastes better, but I didn't have any today)

Mix ingredients, coat bread and cook on a sprayed skillet. Serve with sugar-free syrup and a bit of reduced-fat peanut butter for a bit of extra protein if you like!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Is there a 12-step program for this?

Hello, my name is Lindsay and I'm a stress eater.

Here is my day so far...
Take son # 1 to summer class. Wait in line with all 4 kids for 30 minutes to register.
Drive to grocery store with younger 3. Park car and realize I left my wallet at home.
Drive home, get wallet, go back to store.
Shop for an hour with three kids without strangling any of them.
Pick up girls' friends for a playdate.
Come home, start to unload groceries. Hear the horrible sound of shattering glass and realize that son # 2 has closed the garage door on the open tailgate.
Clean up glass for an hour.
Finish unloading groceries--losing some eggs along the way.
Go pick up son # 1 from class.
Wait in the hot parking lot for 15 minutes because daughter # 2 refuses to put on seat belt.
Get home, make lunch for 6 kids.
See this and can't help myself...
I'll console myself that it is heart healthy dark chocolate and almonds. But still, not exactly part of my eating plan. And I'm working tonight so I won't have any time to burn off extra calories. Sometimes, for some inexplicable reason, chocolate just takes the edge off. Hopefully the day will get better!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Hit the road!

We love to travel and, especially at this time of the year, we spend a lot of our free time outdoors enjoying nature. This weekend we traveled up to Estes Park, CO and had a wonderful time. We stayed at the YMCA of the Rockies and got to spend a whole weekend together making wonderful memories. Vacations can be tricky when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle. I have a secret formula for making it all work and not compromising when we are not at home. Two simple, powerful little words:

Plan Ahead.

Whenever we go anywhere I plan out all of our meals (and snacks) in advance, pack it all up and take it all with us. Disneyland, Yellowstone, Chicago--I've taken my own food everywhere. Not only does it save us money, it saves us calories! So here is an idea of some of what we ate this weekend:

Thursday dinner: Pitas (see previous post)
Friday breakfast: Whole wheat muffins, yogurt, hard boiled eggs
Morning snack (Ryan and I): Slim fast shake--easy, easy.
Snack for kids: Mini whole wheat bagels with fat free Strawberry Cream cheese
Friday lunch: Cold cut sandwiches on whole wheat bread with fat free meat and reduced fat cheese and honey mustard (no calories.)
Afternoon snack: protein bar (us)--easy, easy!; granola bars (kids)
Friday dinner: Turkey burgers on whole wheat buns with Sun Chips

Saturday breakfast: We ate at the cafeteria there. I had plain oatmeal and some scrambled eggs.
Saturday dinner: Turkey hot dogs on whole wheat buns with Sun Chips.

Also, there is so much you can do while you travel in terms of exercising! Many hotels offer work out facilities these days, but even if you don't have that you have options. I have done many strength training exercises using my kids as the weights. (If you don't think that is hard try doing 50 squats with an 8 year old on your back!) And for the most part, you can always run. I went on a nice evening run on Thursday night and saw 2 bucks and a large female elk right up close! Much more exciting than anything I see on my normal runs!! :)

A Picnic with Panache

This recipe is adapted from The Healthy Kitchen cookbook, one of my favorites. It is a bit more labor intensive than the things I usually make, but it is delicious and worth every minute of chopping, dicing, marinating, cooking and assembling. We took this as a picnic dinner on the first night of our vacation this past weekend. Warning: some of these ingredients (Tahini, whole wheat pitas) are not to be found in stores such as Wal-mart. Try hitting a Sprouts, Sunflower Market or Whole Foods type of a grocer.

Orange Chicken Pita with Vegetables and Tahini Dressing

1 TBSP Italian Seasoning
1 can garbanzo beans

1 cup orange juice
1 TBSP paprika
1 tsp. tumeric
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin

Tahini Dressing
1/4 cup *tahini
1/2 cup fat free sour cream
1/2 cup orange juice
1 TBSP lite soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 TBSP chopped parsley

Pita Filling
2 whole tomatoes, cut into wedges
1/2 cup shredded cabbage
1/2 cup grated carrots
1/2 cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped red or yellow bell peppers
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup grated low-fat cheddar

6 whole wheat pita breads

Cook the beans in a pot of water with the Italian seasoning for 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Mix marinade ingredients and pour over chicken. Cover and refrigerate overnight or as long as possible. Bake in marinade at 350 for one hour. Slice and let sit in juice as it cools.

Mix dressing ingredients and whisk for one minute.

Mix vegetables with garbanzo beans. Stuff each pita with chicken, veggies and dressing. Enjoy the fruits of your labors!!

*Note: Tahini is sort of like peanut butter made from sesame seeds.

Thanks for the help, Chloe!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Casserole Doctor

Just home from another bike ride/run. The girls are getting so good I was sprinting back and forth across the high school parking lot by the end of our ride tonight!! This is what we had for dinner tonight!

This seems so completely obvious to me, but I realize that a lot of people are hesitant to alter recipes, I guess for fear of messing them up. Or they think that fat-free also means flavor-free. I beg to differ. Here is my altered version of a classic, easy casserole. I'll put the original recipe first, and my changes in italics. (So just use one version or the other!)

Club Chicken Casserole

2 1/2 cups cooked chicken
4 TBSP margarine 2 TBSP butter (no trans-fats)
1/4 cup flour
1 can evaporated milk 1 can fat free evaporated milk
1 can chicken broth 1 can fat free chicken broth
4 cups cooked rice 4 cups cooked brown rice
1 can mushrooms
1/3 cup chopped green peppers (I used red today because that is what I had on hand.)
1/4 cup ground flaxseed (Omega-3's)
1/2 cup sweet potato puree (Normally I would have used zucchini, but I am out.)

In a saucepan melt butter. Blend in flour. Add milk and broth. Cook til thick and bubbly. Add rice, chicken, peppers, mushrooms, flaxseed, veggie puree and 1/2 tsp. salt. Pour into greased casserole dish. Cook at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Lincoln gives it two enthusiastic forks up!

You'll notice that many of the ingredients that I use are the Wal-mart brand. I'm glad that companies are becoming aware of desires of their consumers for healthy options that are cheaper! Most of the time you can find generic items that are fat-free or reduced fat (and reduced price!)

Anytime I make a recipe for dinner that has rice, I double the amount of rice I make and do rice pudding for breakfast the next morning. My kids love it. I just add milk, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and sweet potato puree and cook it on the stove top until it is nice, thick and creamy.

Confessions of a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad mother

I claimed at the outset of this blog that we are far from perfect and today I get to prove that to all of you.

I took the kids to McDonald's for lunch.

It is not something I like to do very often, but we went to the free summer movie this morning and had some errands to run in that part of town and the next thing I knew, it was lunch time and we were 30 minutes from home. Yes, I suppose I could have made a healthier choice, but I have to admit I am lured in by that ginormous playplace that keeps the kids occupied and happy for hours.

Well, as we were sitting there I glanced over at the Happy Meal bag in front of me and noticed that it had some nutrition facts on it. After I read through them and did some calculations I announced to the kids that this would in fact be one of our last trips to McDonald's. Ever. Unless it is some sort of emergency.

Isaac had ordered a Mighty Kids Meal and I calculated he consumed about 950 calories in the 45 seconds it took him to inhale his food. A boy his age should have an average daily caloric intake of 1,970. My lunch today consisted of 3/4 of a McDonald's plain hamburger--about 200 calories. So Isaac's lunch had over 4 times the amount of calories that mine did and it represented 48.2 % of his recommended daily calorie intake. Don't even get me started on the 34 grams of fat or 1390 mg of sodium (more than half of what he should have in a day.) And--get this--he still had room for ice cream! (We did NOT indulge!)

Just a regular hamburger Happy Meal with fries and a soda certainly isn't as bad--590 calories, but still. And yes, I know, they have healthier choices available but unfortunately when given the choice of apples or french fries, my kids have never really taken the higher road. I shouldn't even give them a choice, but sometimes as a parent you have to pick your battles. So we will just stop going to McDonald's.

None of this should be a surprise to me, as my all-time favorite documentary is "Supersize Me." It is soooo good and very eye-opening and I HIGHLY recommend it. I need to watch it again tonight. After I saw it the first time we didn't go to McDonald's for about 3 years. But once again, I fell victim to convenience. NO MORE!!


My kids love these German Pancakes--they get HUGE in the oven! I've also heard them referred to as "Hootenany". Another recipe that required a few tweaks, but it's a great (and fun) breakfast food. Within the next year I will probably have to start making two of them, though--one isn't quite enough to fill up the kids anymore!

German Pancakes

6 eggs
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup white four
1/4 cup flaxseed
1 cup skim milk
1/2 cup skim milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. While the oven is warming, melt 2 TBSP real butter in a 9x13" pan (in the oven.) Mix together ingredients and pour into pan. Bake for 20 minutes. (Make sure you have room in the oven for it to grow! And turn on your oven light for the kids to watch--I have seen these things get HUGE!!)

We like to serve it with a sprinkling of powdered sugar.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Qdoba Heaven

Last night I went out to eat at Qdoba with some friends for dinner. When I know ahead of time what restaurant I am going to, I like to go online and check out the menu to plan what I am going to have. It makes it a lot easier when I get there to just stick with my plan and not let the sights, sounds and smells tempt me to make a bad choice food-wise. Qdoba's website takes it a step further. They have a nutritional calculator that lets you type in exactly what you are planning to have and it gives you the calorie content! It made my decision to get the Naked Chicken Taco Salad (395 calories) instead of the Grilled Chicken Quesadilla (1110 calories) quite a no-brainer! What a great tool! I am happy to patronize restaurants that promote healthy and conscious eating habits!

Yesterday was a good day work-out wise. I did my normal 30 minutes of elliptical in the morning and a good upper body workout in the afternoon, and we did a nice family bike ride in the evening. It was a great work-out because we are attempting to teach the girls to ride without their training wheels, so we take turns riding one bike with Lincoln on the back while the other parent runs behind the girls and jogs along with them helping them balance on their bikes. They will get it soon and then we can all ride! I love it when I can get in a little more exercise in the evenings!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Lunch time

I'm health conscious, but I'm also a busy mother of 4 and I'm always struggling to find balance. Sometimes, especially during the summer when the kids are all at home, I rely on convenience foods for the simple fact that they are, um, convenient. So today the kids got fish sticks (yay for Omega-3's!), carrot sticks, grapes, go-gurts (hey, it's got calcium!) and light ranch to dip things in.

A few years ago I discovered a brand of fish sticks that I LOVED--they were actual cuts of fish with a light Panko crumb covering instead of these little minced and re-smashed together things I fed my kids today. I just haven't been able to find them in ages. I did a bit of research for this post and found out they are only sold at Costco, and we switched to Sam's 2 1/2 years ago. Anyway, if you have a Costco membership they are called "The Ultimate Fish Sticks" and they are SO YUMMY!! Buy me some.

My lunch consisted of a panini with reduced fat pepper jack cheese (protein), fat-free turkey slices (protein), honey mustard (yum), tomatoes and red onions (anti-oxidants) on sourdough bread (carbs) with purple grapes on the side (more anti-oxidants.)