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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!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Baking and Breaking Bread

Well, now that my fortieth birthday is a distant memory, I plan to also turn all of the binge eating I did during the week into one too.   I imbibed in all types of deliciousness from Bouchon to Lucques with champagne, wines, cupcakes and ice cream galore!  

We spent Friday and Saturday at the Hotel del Coronado for my firm retreat, but, I just longed for home (for so many reasons, not the least of which is I hate the sand and sun.  Give me my smoggy, congested LA any day.)   To celebrate our return to civilization, Oliver and I opted for making bread this morning followed by a trip to the Natural History Museum (via metro, of course).   If you haven't checked out the Museum's edible garden its a must see/smell/taste!

Oliver recently expressed interest in learning where his food comes from.   His school has a garden (which is good because I hate to garden almost as much as I hate sand.  It's a sensory thing).  And, Justin and I have been trying to show him where other foods come from.   Last weekend, for Father's day, we went fishing and caught a trout.   We decided it would be a good lesson to cook it at eat it.   I'm not suggesting that Troutdale is where I would want all of the fish our family consumes to be from, -- but I think the lesson was well learned and he ate the fish carefully around the bones -- and poked at the eye sockets.   And, just so he was too terribly disappointed I ordered the Trout Almondine at Bouchon so he could see how good it could taste!!!!

We decided to continue that project today and baked bread.    I have never "really" made my own bread, (I don't count pizza crusts and quick breads).   I also don't have a bread maker so it was just up to me.  So, I simply looked for the simplest recipe that sounded good in my Cooking Light Cook Book.  (Note:  this is not the exact recipe I used, but is very similar).   The recipe was for a French bread with a crusty exterior.  Oliver loves "long bread" -- so, even though I wasn't ready to attempt to roll it out, I thought he would enjoy a nice little round loaf of it.

We got out the yeast, and I showed Oliver how it bubbled when hot water was added, he helped me measure the bread flour and salt, and was in charge of the Cuisinart's power button.   The recipe didn't require a lot of kneading, but he got his hands in there a bit, and after the bread had risen twice, he applied the egg wash.

As soon as it came steaming out of the oven he was ready to dig in!    We cut off slices and slathered them in butter.   So delicious.   The bread itself had a crusty exterior but was far more dense than the light airy texture I had hoped for.   But, by the end of the day, Oliver, Justin and I had eaten the whole thing.

So many lines have been spent discussing the breaking of bread, particularly about the Eucharist.  But, Eucharist bread is unleavened.   It has not had the addition of that foamy yeast or the rise and fall of the dough.  For me, the breaking of bread with my family is full of love and laughs as we each spread another smear of butter.   But, the baking of the bread, -- that's where the family is.   It represents us, our ups and our downs, our pasts and our present.  It is the chemistry of our lives.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Reflections and Resolutions for Forty

In honor of my fortieth birthday I have decided not to write my usual blog full of commentary on preschool lunches and healthy recipes.   Mostly because I intend to drown my sorrows in a bucket full of wine and champagne while eating a decadent meal tonight.  I plan to follow that with a slice (or four) of Baskin Robbins mint-chocolate chip ice cream cake.  At least, I better.  If I don't get one someone is getting shanked.  (I know, I know, the chemicals, the sugar, the food dye!   Bite me.)  I made it to forty I am eating my damned ice cream cake.


Now, I know there are a lot of blogs out there that want you to feel good about turning forty.  They are full of things like "40 is the new 30", "things I know now that I'm 40."  Blah. Blah. Blah.   Here is what I know about turning 40:

1.  It sucks.   Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
2.  Metabolisms slow.
3.  Hair color changes.
4.  Things hurt more.  Lots of things.  My back, my neck, my knees.  Hangovers.

Now, I know what you are thinking, -that I am going to follow this "bad" list up with a list of all the "good" things that come with being forty - like wisdom and patience.   Fuck that.   You know what wisdom brings you?   The knowledge that other people don't have it!    I do not want to spend my time with those people.   Patience?   I think not.   I do not have time now that I am forty to wait for your sorry ass.

But, what about all of the blessings that come from knowing you are strong confident woman and mother you ask?   WTF?  I ask back.  You do not know me at all.    I am totally insecure all the time.   I'm pretty sure I'm going to get fired like 99% of the time.   And then I will be forty and won't be able to find another job because we all know those age discrimination laws are bullshit.   Motherhood, -- you mean the job that women have done for thousands of years but that I have to check every god damn website and/or book, by every expert out there, to figure out how to do it?    Not to mention the fact that now I'm forty and have to decide within the next minute whether or not I'm going to have another child. I've only just started fucking this one up -- how am I supposed to make that decision?

Have I mentioned wrinkles yet?  Because those suck too.  Forehead, eyes, smile.  Oh, and the neck!   There is not enough moisturizer in the world to contain what is happening to my neck!


There are some lessons that I have learned from watching my other forty-something friends, frenemies and nemeses.  These represent some things that I plan to do:

1.  Cover that shit up.   Now, I don't have some awesome body that I even want to show off, -- but what I have learned is it doesn't matter if its awesome showing it off looks desperate and pathetic.  (e.g. Kris Jenner).   The only exception to this rule is Madonna.   Mostly because she is the exception to every rule.

2.  Stop obsessing about food.   I know, I know, from me, a total foodie, pescetarian, this sounds ridiculous.   But forty-somethings are obsessed with organic, non-gmo, gluten-free, fat-free, vegan, whole foods, diets.   Do you know what we ate when we were 20?   Potatoes.   And, maybe some Ramen.  That's right boat loads of baked potatoes and we made it to 40.  Stop the Insanity!  

3.   I'm 40, not dead.   I like to do stuff.   Ride bikes, hike, climb mountains.   And, I have a group of friends who still do all that stuff even though they're old(er).   But, I have been so caught up in the rat race that was my thirties, that I sometimes forgot that there are things I genuinely enjoy doing and I need to take more time to do those things.

4.   Work.   I am not going to write anything here just in case anyone from my work happens to stumble across this blog.

5.   Parenting.   Back to that.   This is my favorite thing in the world.    So, my sole goal in life, is really to make it another 40 years so I get to spend them with Oliver.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Before and After: Lunchboxes Reviewed

There are so many mommy bloggers out there who post pictures of really beautiful lunches for their children.  The lunches are perfectly balanced with lovely, organic, wholesome fruits and vegetables.  We, as the mom's reading these blogs and planning our own children's lunches, are often inspired by what they have to offer.  And, if your like me, you often wonder:   (1) what the hell is wrong with me that I can't make a perfectly beautiful lunch for my child; and, on the rare occasion that I manage to come up with such a masterpiece, (2) why the ef didn't my child eat it?   We as the readers of these blogs are consistently led to believe if only our produce was more perfect, our designs more clever, our containers more environmentally friendly, then we too could have children that would eat vegetables.  

I sincerely hope that in my attempts to provide meal ideas for you and yours that I have never misled you into thinking that my son eats everything that I put in his lunch for him.  If I describe an item as a "hit," it typically means that somewhere between 55-95% of the item was consumed.   I do not believe than anything has ever been eat in its entirety (I omit here whole fruits, as Oliver sometimes will eat all of the grapes, pineapple or oranges that are provided and, of course, his PB&J if the crusts are removed).   But, an entire sandwich or thermos full of goodness?  No way.    I consider a "miss" to be something that Oliver refuses to eat at all, or something that he picks apart to the point that when it returns home in his lunchbox it is nearly unrecognizable.   So, 49% or below consumption.   You may think my criteria for hits and misses are too liberal.  But, in the world of preschool, I rarely expect more than 50% compliance with anything, to expect that with food would be pure absurdity.  

So, today, in the interest of showing you the inner workings of Oliver's lunch boxes are the results of two separate lunches from last week.

Lunch #1.   Lunch one, to me, looks super tasty.   I made a yellow bell pepper and cheese quesadilla in a whole wheat tortilla.   I cut the yellow bell peppers into super fine pieces so that they could not be easily removed from the cheese.  I chose yellow thinking that their mild sweet taste could not possibly be offensive to the preschool palate (and you can't see them in the cheese.)  I paired the quesadilla with a banana blueberry muffin (last week's recipe which Oliver has eaten up for snacks), pineapple, and some sliced tomatoes.    Here it is:

And, this, this, is how it came home.   Note the obviously unsuccessful attempts to remove the teeny tiny bell peppers and the carnage that remained when that didn't work out.   The tomatoes are untouched.   The muffin has been tried and cast aside.  Only the pineapple found a place in Oliver's tummy on Tuesday.

Lunch #2   As many people know, I began working on school lunch menus to try to get Oliver to stop eating PB&J every. single. day.   But, about once a week (and usually on Fridays), I pack him his preferred sandwich, - although on this particular day he chose peanut butter and honey.  He likes to get adventurous like that every now and then.  We have a few different sandwich cutters and his current preference is for the dolphins with the heart.  So, that's what he got today.   It is also accompanied by two carrot slices, blueberries, and another muffin. 

And, there we have it.   Sandwich totally gone.  Blueberry, Muffin, Carrot massacre.    My point is this, Oliver will never ever eat everything I send.   Even when every single item is something that he himself picked out.    

There may be other children out there who eat their lunches in their entirety, but mine is not one of them.  There is no amount of vegetable manipulation that will make my current preschool age, boundary testing, opinionated, Oliver eat all of his lunch.   Short of disguising them that is.   Now, I know that there are already lots of books on the market about hiding vegetables, -- and I myself have covered it before when I talked about my "special" tomato sauce and my kale smoothies.      In fact, we made up a batch of that special sauce on Friday night (Roma tomatoes, steamed carrots, kale, and bell pepper, all pureed with some basil, oregano, salt and pepper) and had it on pizza!   Oliver only eats pepperoni pizza -- or so he thinks.   I opted for slicing the Tofurky basil and sun dried tomato sausages super thin.... and he was none the wiser.   --I think it helps that he gets to put them on himself.  

Now to the week ahead, this weekend I prepared a pot of black beans (you know, the ones I said I was going to do last week and didn't!)     And, I put together this week's recipe:

Peanut Butter-Banana Granola w/ chocolate chips!

1/4 cup butter
1 cup peanut butter
2 small super ripe bananas (Tip:  If your bananas have turned, but you don't feel like baking, put them in a ziplock and freeze!   Just defrost and use on another day.)
1/8 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups rolled oats (I like to toast mine)
1 cup whole wheat flour
 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup raw almonds
1 cup chocolate chips.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Mix the first five ingredients while the oats are toasting (toasting is optional).   Allow the oats to cool completely.   Mix with flour, baking soda, and almonds.  Mix wet and dry ingredients, then add in chocolate chips.   Press firmly into a glass baking dish (I line mine with parchment paper to make it easier to pull them out and cut).  Bake for 20 minutes.  Allow to cool completely, remove parchment paper and slice/crumble.  

This recipe was supposed to be for granola bars, -- but they just turned out to crumbly.   But, the flavor profile is right on, -- and Oliver will eat the granola just as easily as he will granola bars.   Here is what his lunch looked like today:  leftover pizza, strawberries and granola.   Can't wait to see what comes home tonight!

Have a great week!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Monday Yumday!

Monday is upon us and what a great weekend we had.  Friday night I got a surprise in the form of a babysitter and tickets to see Porgy and Bess.   It was fantastic.   It was a great end to a very long week.  Saturday morning was full of swim lessons and food with some much needed "rest " time in the afternoon.  For me, that's a book, for Justin a nap, and for Oliver quietly playing with his Legos.  Sunday we headed out to the movies but we were too late for the show we wanted, so we had some time kill -- which led us straight to the bagel shop!   Oliver didn't want his so I ended up eating one and a half myself!    At the movie theater Oliver wanted popcorn, -- and well naturally he couldn't be expected to eat a whole bag of it himself, - so I helped him out a little.   It wasn't a great start to the month.    But, I did manage to work my arms and abs a little bit in the afternoon and hope to get back on track and redeem myself. 

I haven't planned out our entire meal plan for this week.  I am just going to wing it and see if I can keep us all on track.   The fact that I have to buy my lunch today will start me off behind the eight ball, - but Monday mornings are tough.   As much as I want to be the mom who is totally organized I totally am NOT.  

Tonight I am going to make up some tuna fish for myself (greek yogurt, with just a little bit of mayo, mustard, onion, bell pepper and celery).  Dinner tonight will probably be a salad as we have some produce to get through before it goes it bad.  And, tomorrow I hope to crockpot some beans (I haven't decided whether to do black beans or lentils yet) to get us through the week.  Of course, we also still have plenty of veggie burgers stashed in the freezer too.  

Oliver's lunch today looked like this:

I know, it's not a great picture, but I'm trying.   It's carrots and bell peppers, hummus, grapes and a whole wheat banana muffin, - which is really what the blog is about today.   I made these last night and they turned out great!   I learned a new tip:  when baking with berries, coat them with the dry ingredients first.  This will prevent them sinking!   As some of you know from previous blogs, I love the Lemon-Raspberry Muffins -- with my own twists of course  -- from the 100 Days of Real Food Blog.   But, I always ended up with one or two muffins that were off because the berries sunk.  I had no idea what the problem was until I read about it on the Joy of Baking.  

Banana Blueberry Muffins

1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs, lightly beaten        
1 teaspoon pure  vanilla extract
3 small ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup fresh blueberries
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup honey        
1/4 teaspoon  baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine mashed banana, eggs, vanilla extract and honey in a bowl.  Combine whole wheat flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a separate bowl.     Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients slowly, leaving approximately a half of cup in the dry ingredient bowl.   Place blueberries in dry ingredient bowl to coat with mixture and then fold into the rest of the batter.   Divide mixture into twelve baking cups (recommend silicone) and bake for 25 minutes.

Great for breakfast or including in the lunch box!   


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Good Food, Bad Back

Well, I've been off the wagon for a while now.  It's been two straight weeks since I managed to record what I ate during the day.   And, I was having a good run too.  I'd lost about five pounds and was hopeful of meeting my goal of losing 10 pounds before my 40th birthday.   Now, I'm afraid to get back on the scale and see what kind of damage I've done.   Let's just say my Memorial Day Weekend was full of beer, wine and  chips.  Lots of chips!   And, what would chips be without guacamole.   So, now that Tuesday is here it's time to get back on track!!!!!!  

Speaking of the track, I also haven't been good about running.  I've been experiencing some pretty severe back pain ever since my fall over month ago.   So, for June I'm really going to focus on working on my abdominals and back strength so I can get back to running regularly.   If your on Pinterest there are ton of examples of "Ab Challenges."   But, I think I'm going to develop my own, being I really want both back and abs -- a little more planking and a little less doing sit ups ....

In the meantime.I've been making it to spin class at least once and sometimes twice a week.  I finally bought a pair of spin shoes over the weekend.  I wear a size 44.   They don't carry that size in Women's at REI!   I had to buy the men's shoes or special order them.    Lot's of women I know have big feet, but I'm the only one I know who is 5'6"!      Meal planning is relatively easy for us this week b/c there were a lot of leftovers from the weekend.   Here's Oliver's lunches and our dinners:

Hamburger and Cheese - diced
Corn - cut off the cobb

Dinner:   Black Bean and Corn Chili -- No recipe.   I'm using canned black beans -- which I don't normally do, but after all the work over the weekend I wanted to keep it easy.   We have two ears of grilled corn left, so I'm going to slice that off the ear to add to the black beans along with some peppers, onions & spice.

Black Bean & Cheese Burrito
Banana Muffin

Dinner:  Greek Salad -- I like the Ina Garten Greek Salad Dressing Recipe

Hummus & Veggies (carrots & peppers)
Banana Muffin

Dinner:  Grilling some leftover "dogs" (which are really nitrate free organic sausages), veggie burgers and some more corn on the cobb

"Hot dog" - cut up
Corn - cut off cob
Banana Muffin

Dinner:  Siracha Salmon.  It's Gwyneth's Recipe.   But, don't let that stop you.  It's delicious.   Probably sauté some green beans to go with!

 Fortunately it is a short week!   So, I only had to come up with four days of stuff.   I don't think I could have handled a fifth!

Have a healthy week!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Getting Ready for Easter

This is actually the pre-Easter menu that I drafted and then forgot to publish!   So, this week was really about me not buying a bag of Reece's peanut butter eggs and eating them all up! 

Weekend Before:   This week in addition to cooking for us we are delivering food as part of a meal train to a boy from Oliver's preschool who lost his mother.  I like to pull out my (Alton Brown) trusty lentil soup recipe for these occasions.   Its easy and pretty much fool proof.  So, I made enough for us and them.  I also repeated the lemon-raspberry muffins from last week because they were so good and I could send half to the family.   I also cut up my celery and carrots and made my stock (for the lentil soup and tomato soup).

Lentil Soup

Dinner:  Lentil Soup and Salad

PB&J (more dolphins)

Dinner:  Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese

Tomato Soup (yes, that was me unsuccessfully trying to sneak in a leftover the next day!)

Dinner:   Leftover soups!

PB& HONEY   (totally mixing it up don't you think)
Celery/Carrots and Hummus

Dinner:  You guessed it -- leftover soup -- again.

Tomato Soup
Pretzles & Hummus

Dinner:  "Healthy"  Mac & Cheese and green beans

No cooking post easter!

So, the week following Easter turned out to be a bit of a free for all week.  There were plenty of leftovers of salmon, asparagus, and bread to be had by all.   Not to mention an extra bottle or two of wine!    Lunches were mostly PB&J and boiled eggs much to Oliver's delight.   When we weren't eating leftovers, -- we were eating out and leftovers from that.   Not a good week last week.  Hopefully this the next one will be better!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Leftover Week

So, last week, we are on a "clean out the freezer/refrigerator" mission.   One of the things I have been trying to do is freeze some extra stuff as we go along from previous meals to make lunch and dinner planning easier.  Except that I haven't actually used any of them.  So, the goal this week was to get through some of the stuff.   I've noted the items that were defrosted.

Weekend Before:   Nothing except buy fruit. Oliver chose Halos -- again.  You could make muffins.

Broccoli Bites (defrosted)
2 Halos

Dinner:  Whole Wheat Pasta w/ Olive Oil and Garlic with squash and zucchini (the squash and zucchini were defrosted from when I made veggie lasagna about 5 weeks ago!)

Hummus (not leftover, but we had two individual servings left in the refrigerator that expire next week!)
String Cheese

Dinner:  Chili -- using the last of those black beans from last week!  Added some frozen corn and bell peppers.

Veggie Nuggets (defrosted)
Honey Mustard

Dinner:   Free for all night!

Thursday -- repeating Tuesday here
PB&J --cut in the shape of dolphins - as I stumbled upon cute sandwich cutter at the 99c store!

Dinner:  Pea Soup (defrosted)

Veggie Nuggets
BBQ sauce

Dinner: Shrimp and Green Bean Stir Fry w/ brown rice

About the Recipes:
The recipe this week is from the 100 Days of Real Food Blog.  I tried her Lemon Rasberry Muffins.  I made a few alterations.  I used honey instead of maple syrup, I used mixed berries instead of raspberries and added about a tablespoon of lemon juice (I would probably add a little more even)  It took a solid 25 minute to cook.   I used silicone baking cups in my regular metal pan.  These were tasty -- but a little bit crumbly.  But, a keeper nonetheless.  Oliver went crazy for them!

I had forgotten how great these veggie nuggets were.  A big hit when I made them the first time and again now.     A great alternative to chicken for us!   I used whole wheat flour and panko bread crumbs when I made these.

Wednesday night's Pea Soup came to us straight from our freezer and Ina Garten.  The flavor is great in my vegetarian version.   I would, however, add all my peas at once next time and use more liquid than the recipe called for.   It's just a little too thick.  Hence, half of it making it into our freezer!

Friday's dinner was a new recipe for us.  We had about a pound of frozen shrimp left and a ton of frozen green beans.   So I was super happy to stumble across this.  I actually replaced the chicken stock with water rather than make a batch of vegetable stock for 1/4 cup.   This was not great in execution -- but green bean/shrimp combo was surprisingly good and a keeper with a different sauce.  Oliver requested soy sauce on it - and happily ate it up when we obliged.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Not a menu -- Steps/Half Marathons & More

So, as per usual I am frantically trying to control my eating and find time to exercise.  It is quite simply no easy task.   I've committed to my 10,000 steps a day and with the help of the fitbit am still going quite strong.  Even if it sometimes means pacing around my house to get those last few steps in before it buzzes.   The most I've gotten in a single day was about 16,000.    My next goal is to hit 20,000 some day soon!  

In the meantime I signed up for another half marathon.  It's not until November, so I have plenty of time to stall.   But, I sat down over the weekend to put together a training schedule.  Of course, first things first, I have to actually start running again, -- which is going to be difficult to say the least!   Being I have so much time until the half, I decided to take it easy and start with just 30 minutes of run/walking (3 min running/1 minute walking) this week.   I'm also committed to getting to my spin class every single Saturday and hopefully one on Wednesday too!   To help me make sure I don't overindulge with the extra exercise (why yes, I would like a 500 calorie piece of pizza being I just burned 100 on my jog -- check out this article for more on this and other sabotaging behaviors!)   I am also back to using My Fitness Pal to track my food.

I've also been searching for some inspiration.  I know, I know, you would think that say, a Marvel Avengers Half Marathon in and of itself would be inspiration, -- or at least maybe Black Widow's figure (which I would need implants to achieve), but alas, no.    I've already read Born to Run and Eat and Run and watched every running documentary available on Netflix and Amazon Prime. So, I think my next book is going to be Ultra Marathon Man.   I mean me running 13 miles is pretty much the same as him running 50+ right?  

Finally, I am planning to try to think like an athlete!   This article is full of some awesome tips. I printed it out to re-read.   Although, the truth is I currently do not think that way.  I think more like this.

So until I complete my journey from the latter to the former, the following accurately depicts the conversation in my head that happens before every single run!
What goes through my head...

Skipped Two Weeks -- But here is week 3

Ok, so I had two really bad weeks.   We completely fell off the planning wagon.  Oliver ate tofu w/soy sauce at least three and possibly four days for lunch last week.  The other day was PB&J.   Dinners were equally bad.  I did manage to make a pot of lentils that we ate, but we also ate out 4 times last week.  So, last week we were really  trying to get back on the wagon.  
Then last week, Oliver got sick.   So I didn't actually send what was on the menu for Tuesday and Wednesday, because he didn't go to school.  But, I included what I had planned below incase you're interested -- I just can't comment on how well the may have gone over.  Then when Oliver did go back he asked for a heart shaped PB&J on Thursday -- how could I refuse that request!
Weekend Before:  Shopping, Crockpot Black Beans, Salsa.   I stocked up on some of Oliver's staples last week -- and am continuing to use them in his lunches this week.   
Thai Noodles w/tofu and veggies (this is the 100 days of real food recipe w/tofu added)
Two Mandarin Oranges
Dinner:  Black Bean Burritos 
Black Beans in Thermos w/ a little cheese.
Greek Yogurt w/honey
Mandarin Orange
Dinner:   Black Beans & Rice w/  Salsa (I was going to make jerk shrimp to go with this, and just got too tired!)
Tofu & Rice w/soy sauce
Trail Mix
Dinner:  Veggie Pizza
PB&J Heart
Mandarin Oranges
Trail Mix
Dinner:  Southwestern Quinoa (quinoa, black beans, corn, cilantro) served w/ salsa
Black Bean & Cheese Burrito
Mandarin Orange
Trail Mix
Dinner:   Salmon w/ mango salsa, black beans and rice.
-- No recipes to share this week, but here are my tips: 

Crockpot black beans:  1 pound beans, about 6 cups water, I cooked mine with about a half a cup of onion, a garlic clove (I mince mine) and a bay leaf.  Then salt when done.  It took a solid 8 hours in my crockpot.     It made a LOT.   We've used them all week, and I think I may have to freeze some. 
Salsa:  I've said before I started with the pioneer woman recipe and now have completely changed it.  This week I had tomatoes that were going to go bad so I roasted them and the jalapeno.   I still used one can of organic tomatoes too, onion and cilantro.  I have no idea how much of each because I pretty much just to it to taste.  Turned out great!   
Trail Mix:  So, my trail mix isn't fancy at all and Oliver doesn't always eat all the nuts, but I wasn't up for making muffins this week, so I took Almonds, Dried Cranberries and Dried Bananas and mixed them up.  
Number of Items in school lunches:  Someone asked me why I only send three different items.  This is based on Oliver.   Sometimes, I feel like three is too many!   The more choices he has the less he actually eats.  So, I like to limit it to three items.  I also don't send diary every day because he drinks plenty of milk/eats plenty of cheese at home, so he doesn't need it for an overall balanced diet.   This weeks menu was short on vegetables.   That's mostly because I forgot to buy any that he will actually eat and I wasn't feeling creative enough to whip up something to hide the ones he won't.  So, I'll be looking to correct that next week.   

Another menu

Week 2.   

This week we ate out on Wednesday, so it's missing a dinner.   Everything this week was super simple! 
Weekend Before:  This weekend I did nothing.    We had a lot left over from the week before, and I was super swamped at work this week.  BUT, we did make Broccoli Bites for Dinner on Saturday night and I took four of them and froze two, and saved two in the refridgerator.   I also still had granola bars and hummus and pita from last week.   You could make your pasta sauce over the weekend if you wanted to, I didn't do mine until Tuesday night.   Mine is never the same twice, but I cook carrots, spinich or kale, sometimes butternut squash, and blend it into my tomato sauce (I use my hand held emulsifier but you could use a blender or food processor).  This week we had some fresh tomatoes I needed to use that I mixed with a can of organic tomato sauce.  If it is too acidic you can add a touch of honey.  I usually just add garlic, salt, basil and oregeno to taste.   The sauce lasts about a week in the fridge, -- so it may make it onto next week's menu too. 

Broccoli Bites 
Granola Bar
Dinner:  Black Bean Burritos (black beans left over from last Friday's dinner). 
Dinner:  Pasta Bake w/ kid friendly Pasta Sauce.  (Just cook pasta add sauce, sprinkle with mozzarella (I use shredded low fat) and bake for 10 minutes at 350).

Pita Pizza (just half a pita with leftover sauce and cheese melted in the oven -- although Oliver has requested pepperoni)
granola bar

Dinner:  Out (I needed margaritas!)
Leftover Pasta Bake
Dinner:  Veggie Quesadillas

Peanut Butter and Jelly Wrap (PB&J on a whole wheat tortilla - Oliver likes it).
Mozzarella Stick
Dinner:   Shrimp "bisque"

-- you don't have to use half and half, you can use whipping cream or even milk.  I've never tried a non-dairy alternative but I'm sure that would work too.
--I used panko bread crumbs instead of Italian.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Airionna drafts here first weekly meal plan

Okay, so I completed the six week 100 days of real food menu for school lunches.   One of my issues with the six week plan that I tried, was sometimes I was cooking all the time because it wasn't tied to what we were eating at home, so I tried to correct for that a bit here.  But, I learned that planning what we were going to eat for the week really did work!   So, here is my son's meal plan for the week tied to what we are eating at home. 
Weekend before:  Cut up carrots/celery; make (or buy) hummus; make granola bar (I didn't actually get around to this until Tuesday, otherwise it would have been earlier in the menu); make lentil soup (For whole family's lunches not just Oliver).  Buy fruit choices for the week -this week, Oliver chose grapes, apples, and we always buy bananas.  We also always keep applesauce on hand, either homemade or store bought (Oliver prefers the squeezies, no surprise there) so I didn't actually include that in the things to be prepared category.  It's not a perfect plan, -- but hopefully they will get better as time goes on!

Lentil Soup
Carrots/Celery and hummus

Dinner:   Salad and as Oliver calls it "the good bread" -- a baguette from the grocery store.

Hummus and Vegetable Wrap (Whole wheat tortilla with lettuce, carrots, celery, cucumber)

Dinner:  Free for all.    Oliver had leftover bread, cheese and grapes, I had a bowl of Lentil Soup.

Lentil Soup
Granola Bar

Dinner:  Falafel, with cucumber, hummus, and pita.

Bean and Cheese Burrito
Granola Bar

Dinner:  The plan is to break out the grill, -- Oliver and Justin will be having "hotdogs" (ie; chicken and apple sausages) and I will be having a veggie burger (I don't make my own), with baked squash fries (we had frozen some squash a while ago that we need to use) and green beans.

Falafel (these are what we are having for dinner Wednesday -- I have to wait a day to send in his lunch b/c he won't eat leftovers).
Hummus and veggies
Granola Bar

Dinner:  Veggie Enchilada Casserole.

Here are the recipes: -- I leave out the grains of paradise. - I bake mine instead of frying them. - I taste mine a lot -- this is more inspiration than recipe

My First Granola Recipe -- okay, so I haven't like any of the granola bar recipes I've tried that much so far.   So, I tried to come up with my own.   And, I really wanted something without peanut butter because I feel like it was what was drying some of the ones I tried out.   This is WAY too sweet for me.  Oliver loves it.   So, I will be modifying it, but I thought I would pass it along anyway.    I think you could probably decrease the honey by at least a fourth, maybe a half a cup to decrease the sweetness.  You could also add in rice crispies for more crunch.      You could also leave out the chocolate chips.   I've found that knowing there is chocolate in the granola is the only way to get him to eat it.   You could also substitute carob -- I just had chocolate chips at home.

3 Cups Rolled Oats
2 Tablespoons Butter
1/8 cup coconut oil
1 cup honey
1/8 cup apple juice
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup flaxseed
 1/4 cup pecans (generous)- chopped
1/4 cup almonds - chopped
 1/4 cup chocolate chips.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.   Melt butter and coconut oil and toss in oats.  Spread over a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes tossing occasionally.  (Thank you to Pioneer woman for this idea - which is genius).

Combine nuts and flax seed and chocolate chips (optional).

On stove top, combine honey, apple juice and vanilla over low heat. 

When oats are done add to the oat mixture and decrease oven to 325 degrees.  The chocolate chips will melt unless you allow the oats to cool.   -- I like them melty so it is more like a chocolate granola bar than a chocolate chip bar, but you can wait to add them until right before you bake.   Add the wet ingredients, mixing thoroughly.    Then press into a baking pan.  (I line mine with parchment paper first, so that I can easily lift out the bars when they are done baking.   Bake for 30 minutes.   Remove, remove parchment from pan, and cool for 20 minutes or so.  Cut, and eat and store in an airtight container.

Again this is a REALLY sweet recipe so I cut mine very small.  Just enough for a after lunch treat.  I will continue to experiment with granola bars - so I will keep you posted. 

Happy Cooking.