Not everything I make is a disaster. Here are the hits.

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I started this journey last June with the desire to share my cooking adventures with you as I went along.  I took lots of pictures and notes on everything I made.  However, those pictures and notes never made it further than the kitchen counter.  Time is limited for me since I have a major cooking disability which translates into way too much time spent agonizing over what to make and how to make it.  I also have three kids to nurture and a husband who I like spending time with.  So although my blogging intention was always in the forefront of my mind, I just wasn’t able to blog about every dish that I cooked up.  I do want to share what I made with you though.  Here are some of the “hits”—things we all, or a least most of us, liked a lot.  There’s plenty of “misses.”  I’ll post those another time. 

much anticipated / much dreaded birthday week

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The much-anticipated-slash-much-dreaded birthday week is finally here.  I’ve been dreading this week for a long time, although Bella, who just turned 11, has been carefully planning this week since we cleaned out the cupboards and starting eating clean 10 months ago.

It was as she was crying over her precious “food” that was being carted away that I consoled her by saying, “On your birthday you can eat whatever you want.”  Later, as she realized that her beloved foods couldn’t fit into the space of one day, we compromised and agreed upon “birthday week.”  For the past year she’s been looking forward to one entire week devoted to processed, not-at-all-good-for-you, delightfully-tasting, highly-addicting, not-from-the-earth, chemical-laden, food.  Yum.

Bella created a menu for the week and then together we created a grocery list.  I gave the list to my husband who took the kids shopping.  I honestly couldn’t bear to do it myself.  I have this thing now where I absolutely pride myself on the content of my grocery cart.  Sending my husband was nerve-wracking enough.  What would people think when they saw him with chips, candy bars, and all kinds of nasty stuff?  Sure enough he ran into two people that we knew.  Thankfully he mentioned to them that we don’t always eat like this.  (I’m glad that junk in the cart embarrasses him too).  They came back with birthday week supplies…..3 packages of ramen noodles, 3 boxes of mac and cheese, 2 bags of chips, 1 can of cream of mushroom soup, 1 can of pineapple, 1 box of french toast sticks, and 1 box of fish crackers, and six candy bars for her birthday candy gram.

Are you still with me?  Are you sick yet?  Because I’m gagging a little bit as I write this.
Besides the menu for home, Birthday Girl also had two “restaurants” in mind that she wanted to eat at this week.  She chose Wendy’s as her restaurant of choice on Tuesday.  Keep in mind I haven’t eaten fast food since Sept 26 when it was my youngest daughter’s birthday and we went to McDonald’s (a bad experience for me since I was on the toilet afterwards).  So it’d been about 8 months since I’ve had any fast food at all.

I ordered the plain baked potato and a bowl of chili since I was so hungry.  Let’s just say next year I’ll only be ordering the plain baked potato.  One bite into the “chili” and I could taste the salt, the MSG, and the high fructose corn syrup.  Another bite in and I’m freaking out over the “meat” I just put into my mouth.  What is that stuff?   

The next evening….yep…..Chuck a Rama.  It’s a Bella-birthday-tradition.  Our family used to love this place.  We ate there once or twice a month sometimes.  We liked going there because there was a big variety and it pleased each person in the family.  Mostly we’d go there because I didn’t like to cook and I never knew what to make for dinner.  My  husband would come home from work, see no dinner on the table, pack us into the car, and be the Chuck a Rama hero.  We loved it!  I especially loved the salad bar, the fluffy white rolls, honey butter, mashed potatoes, pot roast, corn bread, and sticky buns. Mmmm.
We were all kinda excited to go since it was our chance to splurge.  I helped Roman with his plate, John helped Capri with hers, and Bella got her own.  I was interested to see what everyone would put on their plate.
Roman and I strolled around as he looked at his options.  He decided on fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, mac and cheese, and those beastly french fries.  I hated putting all those things on his plate but whatdaya do?  A deal’s a deal.
Bella loaded up on similar things….mashed potatoes and gravy, mac and cheese, and french fries.  I noticed she also put a little salad and corn on her plate.
Capri had lemonade and mac and cheese.  And ice cream.  Her stomach hurt so bad that’s all she could eat.  Soon Roman’s stomach was hurting too.  He didn’t finish anything on his plate with no thoughts of getting up to get anything more.  Bella only had two plates when she normally would get four.  What’s going on here?  We’re usually up and down, up and down, going for more, another plate here, another plate there, loving every minute of it.
And what about me?  What did I get?  Since this was also my moment to splurge I didn’t go for the salad bar.  But I didn’t go for the meat either.  I made burrito with a white-floured tortilla, lime rice, refried beans, shredded cheese, and a little cilantro-lime dressing.  I’ve always had a thing for refried beans and the cilantro dressing had a nice kick.  My complaint was the white flour tortilla tasted so white-floury.  Bleh.  After I finished the burrito I wanted to have just a taste of some of the foods I used to eat there.  So I put a little bit of mashed potatoes and gravy on my plate.  “These don’t even taste like potatoes,” I said to my husband.  He looked at my like, “What did you expect?”  I was so disappointed.  Then I wanted to try the rolls I used to love.  I grabbed a wheat one since it’s healthier and you know what, it wasn’t even good.   Then I wanted to have a little dessert so I found the chocolate pudding and ew, that was gross too.  Didn’t even eat more than one bite.  And I used to love chocolate pudding.  Then I tried the brownie.  Ew, that was gross too.  Soft and supple but I couldn’t even figure out what it tasted like.  It had no taste.  Isn’t that weird?  It wasn’t chocolate, it was just, aw, I don’t know….chemical sweeteners.  I still can’t discern a taste on that brownie and it’s kind of frustrating me right now.  I guess I’ll settle for “chemical sweetener” as the official description, sure wish I could say chocolatey or something like that. 
I was tired of trying things and tired of being let-down.  I put down my fork and slouched down in the booth a bit.  I had to come to grips with the fact that my taste buds really had changed.   Eating at Chuck a Rama would never be the same again.  (I know some of you who hate Chuck a Rama are laughing right now.  But we used to love this experience and now it’s no fun).
As we took our last sips of water, Roman said to John, “I want to go home and eat some healthy food.”  Did he just say what I think he just said?  My old potato chip addict who recently told me his favorite food is red apples?  He’s such a good boy, man I love that kid.  
As we put the kids to bed, Capri and Roman both complained of stomach aches.  It made it hard for them to fall asleep.  Something tells me they are both going to have problems with constipation for the next few days.  It’s a good thing birthday week is over tomorrow.  I think we will all be glad to get back to healthy food.  I know I will.  

Mommy-guilt diminished

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Before we started eating clean I felt like such a crappy mom.  I gave in to my children’s requests for crappy food because they never wanted the carrot sticks or apples I offered.  They wanted chips, Cheetos, fishies, cereal, fruit snacks, Fruit by the Foot, pretzels, wheat thins, cookies, graham crackers.  Why did I give in?  Because I didn’t want them to starve.  And I didn’t know what else to put in their lunches.  I knew it wasn’t good but I didn’t know what else to do.  But I’ll admit it, the bad-mom-guilt really, really got to me.  It was always bringing me down and had me hating on myself.

I’m so glad I don’t have to feel that way anymore.  Actually now I feel rather pleased with myself.  The satisfaction when my kids ask for healthy snacks and foods is amazing.  I love, love, love it when my kids say, “Mom, can I have an apple?  Mom, can I have oatmeal for breakfast?  Mom, can I have some more carrot sticks?  Yay, we’re having (insert name of healthy dinner here) tonight!”  Who knew that feeding your kids this way could make a mom so happy.

Tonight I walked into the house after a trip to the grocery store and my son said, “Yay, Mom bought bananas.”  A year ago he would have said, “Where’s the chips?  Did you buy chips?”

Moroccan Chicken and Lentils

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Lentils.  Hmmm.  Never had them before.  I think I may have them in my food storage, but I’ve never actually eaten them before.  I certainly don’t know how to prepare them.  I’ve had my eye on this Moroccan Chicken and Lentil dish for a while.  Maybe I’ll make that for Christmas Eve dinner.
Okay, just need to find lentils at the store.  Hopefully they’re in the bulk.  Yep, they took a while to find but they have some.
Home now, let’s get this dinner started.  Uh oh, the recipe is calling for one pound of lentils and I’m not sure how many I bought.  I just put a few scoops in a bag.  Somehow I have to find out how much is one pound.  ::putting some in a bag, running upstairs, and placing them on the bathroom scale::  Darn, they’re not even registering.  Next idea.  Stand on the scale, weigh myself with and without the lentils.  Um, I’m not sure how accurate this is.  It says there is a 2 pound difference.  Calling up neighbor-friend who once loaned me a candy thermometer.  Nope, calling a different neighbor-friend.  Score.  A little nervous since it’s Christmas Eve, I hope she doesn’t mind me barging in like this.  She’s doesn’t seem to be, oh good.

I’m so relieved the food scale allows me to figure out how much is one pound.  I probably should have soaked these lentils over night.  Oh well,  too late now.  I rinse them really well.  Then I add them to some boiling water and let them simmer for 25 minutes until soft.  I rinse in cold water and drain.

Then I get busy on the dressing.  I mix together olive oil, red wine vinegar, ground cumin, chili powder, and minced garlic.  I pour half of this over the lentils and let them cool.  It’s so strange that the lentils are served cool instead of warm.  Huh.

Next I saute the onion until it’s dark brown and soft.  I add some thinly sliced organic chicken breast (I will never go back to inorganic chicken breast after seeing Food Inc) and add cumin, chili powder, and cinnamon.  I know the husband isn’t a fan of cinnamon in his dinner.  Hope he doesn’t notice.

I find a Christmas platter and place the lentils on it.  The chicken and onions and the rest of the sauce go on top.  Oh, I almost forgot.  I need to chop up some parsley.  I quickly pick off some parsley, wash it, and throw it in my I-don’t-know-what-I’d-do-without-you chopper.  The parsley gets sprinkled on top and voila dinner is served.  Although now I’m thinking cilantro would have tasted much better on top.  Oh well, next time.

Boost your immunity by eating clean

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Last year the kids were sick the entire winter.  I even charted it on my calendar.  One week one kid was sick.  The next week the next kid was sick.  The next week the other kid got sick.  Then it repeated.  The first kid got sick again.  Then the next kid.  And I’m not kidding it went on and on like this all year.   When I asked the pediatrician about it she told me it was normal for kids to have 8 to 12 colds per year.

I don’t know about you, but when my kids get sick, it stresses me out.  I always worry way too much and I’m so empathic that it’s difficult for me to feel okay inside when they do not.  In the past I would blame myself and feel helpless because I didn’t know what to do differently.  I kept them away from sick people, tried to disinfect the house and keep it clean, fed them the usual Standard American Diet, washed the bedding in hot, changed their toothbrushes often, had them vaccinated against the flu, ran the humidifier at night, gave them Motrin for their fevers, and had them stay home and rest when they were sick.  Other than that I didn’t know what more to do.

But I’ve learned a few things.  Here’s the difference between last year and this year.  First of all, no flu vaccine.  It’s far more important to boost immunity than vaccinate.  Since we started eating clean in June I’ve already built up their immunity in preparation for the winter.   Each day they take liquid multivitamins, flax oil, and probiotics.  They eat clean for the most part.  (I say more part because they are allowed to eat whatever they want outside of our house be it at school or grandma’s or a friend’s house). When they do get sick I give them large doses of vitamin C throughout the day and make sure they get a lot of water and rest. 

This year we have been sick once.  I have a cold right now, my youngest daughter has a cold, and my oldest daughter is getting a cold.  But none of us have had to miss any school and we’ve had no fevers.  Thankfully it’s been a completely different experience than what we went through last winter. 

Ten unexpected benefits of eating clean

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1.  No more McDonald’s smell emanating from our mini van.

2.  No more feeling like an addict walkin’ around with a diet coke in my hand or sneaking out to the fridge in the garage to get my fix.

3.  No more smashed-up fish crackers in the carpet.

4.  No more mess.  No diet coke cans, fruit snack wrappers, Hershey kiss wrappers, candy bar wrappers, small potato chip bags, fruit by the foot wrappers, juice boxes, and Capri suns.  Besides the occasional banana or orange peel, we are mess free.

5.  Fewer colds and flus.  Quicker recovery times.  Less stress over worrying about sick kids and less trips to the doctor.

6.  No more mommy guilt.

7.  No more thinking we are going to die if we don’t stop for fast food.

8.  Treats are now just that—treats.

9.  No more napping.  We are doing more and napping less.

10.  No more B.I.F.   (aka butt in front)

Just say yes

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Whenever I take my three year old daughter to the store, she always points to things and says, “Can I have that on my birthday?”
“Yes! You can have that on your birthday,” I reply.

She knows that we don’t have food like that at our house unless it’s someone’s birthday.  This simple lifestyle change has really improved my grocery shopping experience with my kids.  No more being pestered for junk food.  No more giving in.  And no more junk food in the cart!

The best part is I get to answer “yes” to what she’s asking me and that makes us both happy.

Squash and Flax Soup

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I made Squash and Flax soup the other night.  After we were done eating I noticed that I left the flax in the strainer on the counter.  Oops.  I forgot to add one of the main ingredients.