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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Back to School Lunches

So it's only the second day of school and Oliver is already asking if he can buy his lunch....I hope that's not a reflection on my school lunch making ability!   I don't think it is, and the answer is sometimes, but not this week.   I didn't have the school lunch menu available and wasn't sure what they might be serving... not that I'm that strict about what he eats,  -- it's more I know what he won't eat and I'd hoped he'd be eating something to get him through the day.

So, for the first day I went with something tried and true that he asked for, spaghetti.   I made spaghetti the night before tossed with a light sauce of Olive Oil, White Wine & Garlic and I sauteed some yellow squash to mix in.  Easy.   So, the next morning I heated up the spaghetti and squash, added a little red sauce and put it in his thermos.  I also sent celery & peanut butter (we are not a peanut free school), and two cuties that I slightly opened for him.    The only thing he ate was the celery and peanut butter.  So much for my master plan of making sure he eats!

When I asked him why he didn't eat he said he couldn't get his thermos open, -- which may or may not be true.  We bought a new thermos this year after our old one broke at the very end of last school year and it has a different top.   But, we practiced opening it the night before -- and if he had really wanted it there is someone on lunch duty who can help the kindergartners with things like that.   As for the oranges, he said he just didn't want them.   He ate the rest of his lunch after school.

So, I decided to try a different tact for Tuesday.  I went with another tried and true favorite (albeit one I would have thought he was sick of being its all he ate all summer) PB&J!   I sent it with oranges again, this time I peeled and sectioned then and put them in a container, I also sent some carrots, a babybel cheese and some dried cranberries.    The verdict:  PB&J and oranges gone.  Half of a baby bel lying in a sea of cranberries and untouched carrots.    So, definitely better.  But, a boy can't live on PB&J alone -- although, Oliver might try.

I wasn't really organized or ready for the lunch making process to resume.  In fact, I think I was in deep denial that it was coming.  Today, finally, --two days into school -- I got around to making a batch of whole wheat banana and banaberry muffins.   I made a double batch to freeze some of them so Oliver is going to be eating banana muffins for a long time.

 Lunches for Wednesday and Thursday look like this:

Pizzaadilla, vegetables, sauce and mozzarella, folded in a tortilla
Banana Muffin

Veggie & Hummus Wrap
Banana Muffin

I haven't gotten my planning skills back on track yet.... but I'm going to try to start planning/incorporating our dinners and his lunches like I was doing last fall/spring.   So, I'll keep you posted!

Monday, November 17, 2014

So You Wanna Run a Disney Half?? My thoughts

As many of you know yesterday I completed the Disney Avengers Half Marathon.  I have a lot of friends who have expressed interest in doing one of the Disney races.  They have a ton from Tinkerbelle to Star wars and every Princess in between.   But, the cost for registration is nearly twice that of other races and spots go quickly.   I had the opportunity to pre-register for the Avengers half, but once general registration began the race sold out in 110 minutes.  --That's insane.  

The Disney Avengers is at Disneyland (not even Disneyworld could make me go to Florida) and takes you into and around both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. Bib pick-up and the Expo are located at the Disneyland Hotel and are super easy.  It was crowded but there was plenty of available parking, it was well organized, the t-shirt was cool and I got to grab lunch at Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen before heading home and going to bed and hoping to feel better for the race.

That’s right.  I was sick, so it is possible that being sick colored some of my experience.  I also should offer my thanks to Sudafed.  Without the Sudafed I would not have been able to complete the race.  As my runner friends may know pseudoephedrine is not recommended while running as it can cause both dehydration and affect heart rate.   So, I am in no way endorsing its use during races (and my mouth did feel like sandpaper for most of the race).  I'm just saying that without it I couldn't have done it.  My head was fully congested when I woke up; I was tired (it was 3:30 in the morning) and achy.   But, by the time I reached the starting line I was feeling okay -- although it was cold.   Layer people.  Layer.  

Speaking of that starting line -- it is super easy to get to.   Some of you runners know that is not always the case.  There is nothing worse than arriving at a race only to have to walk a mile and a half even before you run.   You can be dropped off or park in the Disney Structure ($17 to park on top of that $175 race fee you already paid).  I was dropped off at about 5:00 am and walked to my corral with time to spare before the 5:30 am start time.    Yep.  You read that right.   

The corrals -- this is important for all of you serious runners considering a Disney run.  If you do not submit an official time from a previous race you are placed in the last corral.    I don't need to tell you that sucks.   It especially sucks in a race with a LOT of walkers who are just trying to make it through the race without getting swept.  (Disney demonstrates its trademark efficiency by making sure everyone is off the course exactly 209.6 minutes from the time the last runner leaves the corral).    I had no plans to run any other races during the year and hadn't run one in recent enough history to submit a time.   So I was left in the last corral.   This actually ended up being totally fine being I was sick and ended up walking a good portion of the race, but if I had been at the top of my game it would have driven me crazy – and even the top of my game is the bottom of a lot of other people’s game.  So, if your going to do a Disney Run - get an official time submitted.  

Another reason getting the time submitted is important is because - as if slow people weren't bad enough - a lot of this course is narrow!   Very narrow.   Trying to run the first three miles through the park I felt like expended way too much energy trying to keep from running into people.  Although it was still pretty awesome.  

Throughout the parks there are a few photo ops so you can stop and take pictures with characters.   I took a few selfies but didn't want to stand in line for photos. 

I already knew I would be slow and didn't want to slow down too much more and, more importantly, I didn't want to cool down after already running, especially being I was sick. I'll get my photo taken with my doppelganger, black widow, another day.    (I did, however, stop to use a flush toilet – because I could.)

After the first three miles the race heads out onto the streets of Anaheim where it is -- just like every other race.   Nothing special here.   Yesterday was crazy windy.   I mean insane winds.  I saw a few runners (much more serious than myself) give up running around mile four because the winds were so bad.   Mile four was the first mile marker to go.  

 At one point the race narrows considerably to a path -- where I was located in the pack it was virtually impossible to really run this part.    It was more like a shuffle.   The path was dirt and along a dry riverbed.  With the winds as bad as they were I was thankful for my nifty buff.   There were, however, a bunch of Marvel cos-players hanging out cheering the group on which was definitely a highlight of the race.  It is actually the only spot I regret not having stopped to take some pictures.    

The course then went through Angel’s stadium.   This was fun.   Nothing special - just fun, and gave me a little boost to get through mile 10.   There was also another cheering group dressed in military gear (in keeping with the heroes theme).  

I am consistently someone who loses momentum at the end -- those people who get that final boost of energy to take him or her through -- not me.   I'm more like, well, I'm tired now, let's have a drink.   Thus, traveling through the back of the parks for that last 2 miles was pretty grueling.     I was definitely ready to cross the finish line, get my medal and be done with the whole thing.  

Speaking of the medal -- it's pretty awesome.  Definitely the best one I've ever gotten.  If you want a cool medal for your collection -- then Disney might just be the way to go.  

After the race was totally uneventful.   Medal, water, blanket, food box and out the door.   There is no after party here.  Which I thought was a little disappointing.   I mean, sure there is Disneyland right next door, but I thought they could do something.   Family meet-up is also chaotic.   I was really surprised considering Disney's usual efficiency but it was total chaos.  And, traffic was so bad Justin didn't even make it to the finish line.  I walked out to the street to meet him and jumped in the car.  

As I was telling Justin about the race on the way home I told him I probably wouldn’t do another one.   Actually, I said I thought I was over long races.  I love running those first three miles but after that, they are kind of painful and boring.   I also told him I wouldn't do another Disney one for all of the reasons above.   But, by last night as the memory was starting to fade I found myself wondering what a different Disney race would be like...

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Pears and Pumpkins

It's been hard to get this fall spirit with temperatures soaring over the last few weeks.  But, this weekend we got a break so I got did my best -- at least in the kitchen.  I made my favorite lentil soup, pear sauce and pumpkin-cranberry muffins.  

I've bought a lot of pears the last few weeks and while delicious, they haven't lasted long.   Last weekend I turned my extra's into a delicious pear crisp.  My changes to this recipe were very minor.  I left out the lemon juice and corn starch (because I didn't have any!) and used a glass baking dish.   This was excellent.  I can't think of any possible way to improve it.  I could have kept eating it all day.

This weekend found me with more pears to deal with.  I had 6-8 pears and decided I would to turn it into pear sauce for Oliver's lunches this week.   This was SO easy I don't really have much of a recipe for you just some general guidance.  You could use also use apples instead. 

Pear Sauce

6-8 pears
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons honey (Optional)
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Core and slice the pears (no need to peel) and place in slow cooker with cinnamon and orange juice.   Mix well.   Set crockpot for four hours (or at high heat).   Pears will produce a good deal of liquid.   After about 3 hours add the vanilla and the honey, again mixing well.   After four hours turn off the slow cooker and allow pears to cool.   Once cooled, emulsify.    I transferred mine to the container I planned to store the sauce in and use my hand held mixer to emulsify.   You could also use a blender or food processor.  

I thought this was perfect.  Justin found it a little too sweet.  Oliver's only complaint was that it wasn't in a squeeze packet.  I may need to break down and buy some reusable ones.

I also decided it was time for some pumpkin cranberry muffins.  I previously used a recipe that I liked.   But, it was a little high fat and still lacking in moisture.  So, I wanted to experiment with it a little.  This is what I cam up with.  

Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

1 can pumpkin
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon pumpkin spice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.    Mix together all ingredients well.   Scoop into muffin cups (I use silicone cups in a metal pan).  Bake for 25-28 minutes.

These will make about 1 1/2 dozen.  Again, this is a very sweet recipe.  I think they are perfect with my morning (decaf) coffee and Oliver is more than happy to eat them with his lunch and for snacks.

Happy Eating!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Broccoli Cheese Casseole Cupcakes

I don't usually update the blog twice in one week but in case anyone is looking for something different for school lunches next week I thought I would pass this one along.

Oliver loves broccoli bites. It is the only way to get him to eat broccoli.    But, I wanted to change them up a bit and saw a recipe with rice online.   I didn't want to use the recipe I found.  It didn't seem very healthy, so I opted to change it up.  So, this is what I came up with:

Broccoli Cheese Casserole Cupcakes

2 cups cooked brown rice
8 ounces chopped broccoli
3 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.   Mix rice, broccoli, cheese (reserving about two tablespoons), and egg together in a small bowl.  Divide between twelve prepared muffin cups.  Sprinkle remaining cheese on top.  Bake 30 minutes. 

These are the perfect size!  I put two in Oliver's lunch box.   Here is a pic of one of his lunches this week.  Along with the bites I put in green grapes and ants on a log.   -- I find that I often somehow accidentally end up sending foods that are all the same color!   I've made his lunches healthier with more diverse foods -- but I probably need to start working on presentation!

Nah, I probably won't.   This article sums up perfectly  my feelings on decorative lunch boxes! Thanks to Sherri for sharing!

Oliver does, however, love a good note!   I keep most of mine pretty basic, -- although, I have made some reusable ones, thrown a few jokes in, and drew some pictures.  Oliver tends to favor puns -- so some of his favorites have been:  "Have a Whale of a Good Day", "Lego to the park after school", and the one below.  Please don't judge me for my art. 

For some more ideas click here.

Monday, September 15, 2014

It's been a while but school is back in session and I'm still rolling!

I know its been a while since I updated the blog.   There have been a lot of changes happening around our house lately.   More news on that to come some time in the future.   Sufficient to say, I have been super busy!   I also spent the two weeks that Oliver was off school just hanging out with him.   We had a super fun time.  We also took a couple of quick trips, first to Legoland and then to Joshua Tree.

Last week Oliver headed back to school.   Although, the weather here shows absolutely no signs of cooling.   It topped 100 yesterday at our house so we headed to the beach.  The rest of the week is set to be just as miserable.    The heat makes cooking anything in the oven really tough.   I made lemon-berry muffins last weekend, but the heat made the house unbearable so I gave up on preparing the broccoli bites I had planned to make.    So, last weeks lunches were kind of a hodgepodge.  Tuesday, leftover homemade mac & cheese; Wednesday, hummus, pita and veggies, Thursday, Tofu, and Friday PB&J.   Each day I sent oranges, carrots/celery, and a muffin.

I was recently asked for my "go to" mac & cheese recipe.  I actually have four different mac & cheese recipes that I use on a semi-regular basis.    Two of them are pretty fancy and require some special cheeses.  The other is a stove top recipe that is as easy as the box for school lunches.  This, however, is my favorite for an everyday weeknight meal.   It comes from the Moosewood Low-Fat Cookbooks.    The Moosewood Cookbooks are some of my favorite.  The recipes are easy and flavorful.    So, I give all credit for this too Moosewood.  

I've provided the recipe with my modifications noted below in blue.  Happy Eating!

Moosewood's Mac & Cheese

    1 1/2 cups cottage cheese
    1 1/2 cups buttermilk or skim milk
    1 tsp dry mustard or dijon mustard
    1/2 tsp salt
    1/4 tsp pepper
    1 pinch cayenne
    1/4 tsp nutmeg
    1/2 pound dry whole wheat macaroni
    1 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar
    1/4 cup grated onion
    1/4 cup breadcrumbs (optional)
    2 T grated parmesan (or more -- 1/4 cup)

    Preheat oven to 400. Spray 9 or 10 inch pan with cooking spray.

    In blender (or food processor), whirl cottage cheese, buttermilk and spices until smooth. Combine in a bowl with DRY macaroni, cheddar and grated onion.

    Scrape into pan and top with breadcrumbs, parmesan and a few sprays of the cooking spray. Bake 45 minutes or until macaroni is fully cooked.

    Serve with green vegetables and/or salad.

    Number of Servings: 6

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Sometimes a week comes together

Rarely, if ever, am I organized.  My house is a mess, my suit is still at the dry cleaner when I need it, and I have absolutely no idea where my keys are, ever.   And, I'm terrible when it comes to meal planning (which is what led to the resurrection of this blog!)   I never know exactly what we are going to eat on any given night -- even though I try to have a few ideas together so I can go shopping for the upcoming week.   But last week was one of those rare gems when a week of cooking (using almost entirely things in the refrigerator, freezer or pantry) comes together.

The week before, on a whim, I bought a bag of eggplants at Costco.  That's right, four little fresh baby eggplants that I had to figure out how to cook.  I scoured Pinterest looking for recipes and ideas, only to decide that a simple ratatouille was the best option.  I also had peppers, onions and zucchini on hand to fill it out.  I did send Justin to the store for a baguette to complete the meal.  

We had about 1-1/2cups of leftovers, so the next day, I threw those in with a can of organic, unsalted roma tomatoes, and ended up with a delicious "special sauce."  I had two eggplants remaining which I turned into an eggplant parmigiana casserole which I served with just a bit of spaghetti.  I made extra spaghetti to send with the remaining special sauce in Oliver's thermos for lunches.  

Wednesday night I decided to try making pinto beans in the crock pot.   I used my handheld emulsifier to turn them into "refried" beans.   Next time I would add a few additional spices to kick it up a notch, but the method is definitely a keeper!   These weren't actually ready to eat on Wednesday, so it was a bit of a free for all.   But, Thursday we put those beans to good use with bean tacos and burritos.  We ate out Friday night, but ate leftovers on Saturday and there were still enough left over for a couple of lunches this week.

All in all, I love it when a lack of plan comes together!


  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 Tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1/4 Tsp. Pinch crushed red pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes (quartered)
  • 1 Tsp. thyme
  • 1 red pepper, stems, seeds and pith removed and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1/2 yellow pepper, same
  • 2 small  eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 large zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • Fresh basil leaves, cut 

Coat a large wide pan with olive oil. Add the onions, season with salt and crushed red pepper and bring the pan to a medium heat. Cook the onions until they are soft and very aromatic but have no color, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, 1/2 cup water, thyme and salt. Cook the tomatoes until they become very pulpy and have broken apart, 15 to 20 minutes.  Add the peppers and cook for 5 minutes. Add the eggplant, and zucchini, season with salt and cook until the squash is soft, 15 to 20 minutes.  Stir in the basil and taste to make sure the seasoning is correct. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Caffeine and Alcohol Withdrawal - with a Mocktail

So, I didn't blog last week.  I started to, but every time I wrote, it turned into a diatribe against the Supreme Court and the Right Wing White Male Establishment.   And, although, I feel incredibly strongly about that topic, and the second class citizenship of female Americans, I decided this wasn't the forum for that.   So, I just didn't write at all.

Then on Thursday, after a trip to the Doctor last week, this week's blog topic started writing itself!  My doctor proscribed a drug that I will need to take for a while, at least six months, that interacts negatively with caffeine and alcohol.

Caffeine can be re-introduced in small amounts depending on my personal reaction.  The effect is like that of combining pseudoephedrine and caffeine.   Now, I took those two drugs together a lot in college because, you know, who needs sleep when your 20?  But, this time the Doctor advised I cut the coffee and do it quick to start the drug.   So, I went cold turkey, or at least, almost cold turkey.  I've had a cup of decaf each morning because coffee is part of my morning ritual.  It does have traces of caffeine, -- but not enough to ward off the withdrawal effects.   The headaches were brutal!   And, the lethargy left me napping (which I don't normally do) in the afternoon Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  On the upside, Saturday afternoon, I re-discovered the Vanilla Ice Blended from Coffee Bean.  I was hoping that the trace of caffeine would help my withdraw headache.  It didn't.   But it was pure deliciousness and I will definitely be back for another one soon.  I think the worst is over - for now.   But, knowing I won't be able to reach for coffee or diet coke when I am feeling tired mid-afternoon is going to be tough!

Alcohol is out completely.  So I am on day four of no wine as well.  In preparation for this hiatus, I drank an entire bottle of champagne by myself on Thursday night.     Since then I avoided it.  Here are the times I wanted to drink something:  during fourth of July BBQ, after getting back from Grand Park via a crowded subway, Saturday afternoon hanging by the pool, Saturday night with dinner, Sunday night for no good reason.   Yep.   And, Oliver hasn't even been bad this weekend!   (Although, I have dealt with the stress of his allergic reaction to a bug bite today so one tonight would have been nice).   Now, I know I sound like an alcoholic, but I don't actually drink every day, although I do drink often.  I like a glass of wine with dinner and/or after Oliver goes to bed.  Giving up wine over a holiday weekend, though?   Maybe not my best idea.

So to get myself through my alcohol withdraw, I decided this was a good week to share a tasty mocktail!  It's super delicious.  This recipe makes two small drinks, but you might want to make more because the kiddos are going to want to drink this one up!   (Another downside to having to give up alcohol -- it was the only food or beverage that I didn't have to share!)


1/4 cup frozen pineapple
1 cup frozen mango
1 1/2 cup light coconut milk

Blend and serve!   I know what your thinking -- that's just a smoothie..... but not if you serve it in a fancy glass!