Food Fridays...Lunch

So after I conquered breakfast, it was time to makeover Lunch.  I wish I could say it was a success, but it really wasn't.  I still struggle daily with what to have.  I love planning dinner and I always have at least a variety of 5 or 6 breakfast things on hand...so how come lunch is still so blah?  Previously, lunch was either a sandwich, leftovers or a bunch of snacks bundled together disguised as lunch.  If I bought lunch meat it would be what I served all week or until it was gone....boring.  It showed in how little the kids ate.  They never said "I love this, Mom."  I've made some small improvements but would love more suggestions!

Sandwiches:  I now make sandwiches on bagels, english muffins, tortillas, bread, toast, pancakes or wrapped in pilsbury or homemade dough.  My kids like turkey, ham, roast beef, SB and J, hot dog, hummus or tofutti sandwiches.  The warm aspect changed up a few of our old favorites...they love when the sunbutter is a bit melty on a warm english muffin.  Lunch meat rolled in dough and cooked is a big hit.  Also it can be easy to make our tomato pie (aka pizza in our house) on many of  breads.  I've tried bacon,  avocado, pickles or tomato in the sandwiches, but when I do that Chelsea usually deconstructs it and only eats the meat. 

Leftovers: My leftovers got a makeover.  I mostly  plan to turn a dinner into a new lunch.  Like... baked chicken dinner=cold chicken salad,  taco fixings=taco dip, noodles=pasta salad, meatloaf= mini sliders.  Another problem is my kids dislike when I just reheat stuff in a microwave...in fact so do I.  The results are usually dry and less flavorful than before.  So now, I also turn a meal into a soup in my crockpot, then I fish out the mains and they are warmed up without the use of my microwave.  They seem to retain more flavor or get a new taste.  Proteins, cooked noodles, rice and vegetables can be thrown into just about any soup.  Change up the flavor profile and it's a new meal. Perfect for lunch.

Snacks in disguise:  I have to come clean....I still do this, but I try to do it a bit better so it covers more food groups.  Previously I'd give them raisins, pita chips and a drink and call it lunch.  In it's place I now provide a dip of some sort.  My kids like hummus and guacamole, but I also do dips with tofutti (a dairy free cream cheese or sourcream).  I add pureed vegetables, seasonings and the kids love it.  Almost any flavor can be turned in a dip such as : BBQ sauce, onion soup,  italian dressing, soy sauce, sunbutter and jelly,  pizza.  I serve the dips with fresh veg, fruit, chips or bread.  I feel better that they are getting at least 3 or 4 food groups as their lunch/aka big snack.  This is a great on the go lunch too.


Thankful Thursday

Thinking about how happy I am to be healthy

My husband and I are in the midst of a cold.  Mine is almost over.  Whenever I have the sniffles, I get sort of down.  I long for the days of easy breathing, no tissues and soundly sleeping.  But somehow when I do get back to my normal self, I really only appreciate it for a day or two.

Every time I ever visit the doctor or hospital with my children I am especially thankful for their health.  It merely takes remembering that some families are dealing with all sorts of health issues that makes me appreciate our own health.  I say a prayer for any parent dealing with sick children every day.

Finally it was eleven years ago this week that I lost my father to cancer.  It's taken eleven years to be thankful that I had a healthy, wonderful father for most of my life. Thinking about this anniversary makes me give thanks that the people I love are healthy right now.

Now off to enjoy my good health!


Top Ten Tuesday, Halloween Candy

Here are the top ten things would like to find in my daughter's candy bag this year.  We're doing complete swaps for their entire candy bags this year.  This way she'll have the fun of gathering up the goodies and getting safe treats.    What I am hoping the little ones collect???

1. Baby Ruth...the best candy bar ever, hands down, without a doubt.  In fact my list could stop here.  It is a much overlooked treat, but tops my list.  Have you ever seen a baby ruth blizzard at Dairy Queen?...thought not.  Hoping to get a few of the mini ones.

2. Butterfinger...Bart Simpson and I both love these.

3. M&Ms...I would never buy these, but they are terrific.

4. Snickers

5. Reese's Peanut Butter Cup  (as you can see 4/5 in the top have peanut in them...yum!)

6. Necco Wafers...no one gives these out anymore.  Is it because of the thin waxpaper used to hold them in? These remind me of my mom and are fun.

7. Banana Laffy Taffy's...bad for teeth, good for belly

8. Dots...another dental nightmare

9.Regular Hershey Bar...growing up, it was the best when our neighbor gave out full size original hershey bars......can't go wrong with that one.

10. Reese's Pieces...it's like adding #3 and #5 and reminds me of ET my favorite childhood movie.

Have no fear, Chris will be bringing most of the loot to work. I won't be sending my blood sugars sky rocketing come next Monday. But I'll snag a few treats, especially if any of these are in the bag.  Of course I'll share a few "unsafe" treats with Gavin, while Chelsea's at school too.


Menu Planning Monday

Again...stealing this from another blog.  After my first week of blogging by weekly words, I'm hooked...at least for now.  So onto my meal planning.  Tonight I went to cooking class through the FEAST allergy group I attend.  Not only did we learn some great recipes, ingredients and techniques, but we also tasted it all.  Between the food and talking to other moms whose kids have severe food allergies I was in heaven.  If you've been to my home you know I have a chalk board that lists the weekly menu.  So although I made my menu list yesterday...think I will switch out Saturday Night for my new meatball (aka meat lollipop) recipe.

Monday:  Chicken dinner with mashed potatoes, stuffing and vegetable medley. 
This wasn't a hit.  I was going out  to cooking class so Chris fed the kids. I'm pretty sure he had to work at it.  I heard lots of airplane noises. Love that man!

Tuesday: Pasta Norma
Just a fancy way of saying spaghetti with Eggplants in the sauce

Wednesday: Leftover makover: Chicken Salad
The kids will be eating this and we'll be having California Pizza Kitchen Pizza after they go to bed.  My moms club is having a fundraiser, so I try to do my part and scarf down pizza.  But it's the perfect night for leftover makeover because I don't have enough leftover chicken for us all.

Thursday : Fish Dinner
Going to attempt to make some homemade fish sticks, but it may end up as baked fish instead.  Going to make the veggie chips from cooking class to go with it.

Friday : Pizza Night 
You did see pizza earlier for Chris and I, but on Fridays I make homemade dough and stew a pizza sauce.  We leave it without the cheese.  I've been creative with the toppings lately for the adults...will have to think on that one, we may have some bacon in the fridge. Everything is better with bacon, am I right?

Saturday Night: Meat Lollipop night
 Learned a new "secret" ingredient to add that will pack some protein into my meatballs.  Add a stick and voila...lollipops.  We made some terrific dipping sauces so I think I'll try the roasted cauliflower dipping sauce and serve some veggies and scoops with the pops.

Sunday Night : Chicken Pot Pie in my crockpot
Sunday is Halloween and we'll have Grandma here for a visit.  So I'm going to make chicken pot pie in my crockpot to simmer for the afternoon.  Then we'll bake up some flaky tops.    

What meal this week are you most looking forward to? 


Food Fridays

Breakfast....the most important meal of the day!
 Breakfast was my first meal I decided to "make over" this year.  It felt like all we did was eat cereal on weekdays and pancakes on the weekends.  As a SAHM one of the bonuses is that I have time in the morning to fix breakfast.    My children wake up hungry and asking for breakfast.  So I needed some quick and easy options.  Here is a collection of the things I do for breakfast.  At this point I try to give the kids 7 different breakfast with no repeats.  To achieve this I need all my favorite kitchen appliances (crockpot, bread maker, oven, tupperware, freezer and dehydrator).  It always makes me feel super accomplished that I filled their belly's while expanding their palettes a bit. Our dinners got a "makeover" too (that is another post)...but lunch is just an unlucky meal, it still remains totally boring or leftovers.  Hoping to tackle that soon.
 This is zucchini bread.  Only one of my kids like it, but I have an alternate recipe that uses cocoa powder...I think this will make a good breakfast snack if it were a bit sweeter. But it is a great way to get a serving of veggies in them before 8 am...thanks for the idea deceptively delicious.  Add a fruit salad and it's a terrific way to get vegetables, fruit and whole grain in one meal.
 Who can resist hot cereal.  We do versions of cream of wheat, oatmeal, flax seeds and warmed up cereals.  They like it best when I add cinnamon and brown sugar. But to cut sugar I use agave syrup, maple syrup or brown rice syrup.   We've also added apple sauce, dried fruit, protein powder, chocolate chips and yogurt to make other versions.
 One of the favorites in the smith house is pancakes.  These of course are milk and egg free.  I experiment with this recipe all the time.  Sometimes it works out well, others are a flop.  The best swap yet is adding applesauce for the oil (the vegan version call for 6 Tbs, which I can't stomach putting in).  I can freeze these bad boys and pull them out when I'm feeling lazy.  They also make terrific sandwiches.   Believe it or not I've even wrapped these in a napkin stuffed them in my pocket and had a great snack when we're out and about for the kids. I can change this recipe slightly and make waffles too!
 This is our homemade applesauce.  I wish it was apple butter, but better luck next time.  The kids eat this for breakfast with some whole grain english muffins or toasted wheat bread.  Yum!
 The muffin.  In our house they come in mini size (like this one)  or bigger versions.  Thanks to vegan cookbooks and online recipe searches I can make just about any type of muffin.  This is pumpkin spice muffin...but we've also made banana bread muffins, chunky apple muffins, blueberry muffins, strawberry muffins, zucchini muffins (they didn't know), carrot cake muffins and vanilla muffins that I piped a bit of raspberry preserve for a jelly donut effect.  I also add in a serving of vegetables and the kids have no clue. Why am I getting hungry as I type this?  Muffins also freeze well and thaw well, so I usually have about 6 in the freezer at all times.  Add a bit of icing and voila I have a cupcake for those b-day parties that sneak up on me.
 Cold cereal.  Boring...but a necessity.  Did I mention my kids eat 2 to 3 kid sized bowls of this each time I serve it.  We usually do grainy type cereals with no more than 5g of sugar.  But sometimes I break out the fruit loops, Gav calls them "fwoot woops."..sometimes I just want to hear him say it in the morning.  Those times I mix the sugary cereal with puffed rice, kix of something else a bit healthier for my itty bitties.

 Enjoy life is a brand that makes allergen free products.  Although they can be pricey they are worth their weight in gold for those with allergies.  This photo is the trail mix and granola.  These items usually contain tree nuts or are processed with them.  We use these in yogurt (soy of course) to make fantastic yogurt parfaits.  I was really missing the real thing, so whenever we get to the mall for a meal I usually go for a yogurt parfait, I love them so much I could eat it for dinner!  Thanks Enjoy Life!
 These are the fixings for our favorite clif bar recipe.  Found it here. We use brown puffed rice or wheat cereal, sun butter, brown rice syrup, protein powder and dried fruit.  Can you believe I own a food dehydrator?  Yikes.  Anyhow these are simple and the kids love to play around with what we put in.  One time we made chocolate cherry ones that everyone was wild for.  Not only are they safe for my munchin, they are really cheap and healthy! 
 Pita Chips for breakfast?  Yes, cinnamon ones made with super delicious yogurt or tofutti dips. I sometimes add in our soy protein powder, fresh fruit, cinnamon or nutmeg.  The possibilities are endless and my kids love dips, so why not?

Do you know this is homemade fruit roll ups or fruit leathers?  We call them fruit candy to entice the kids...but whatever you call them they are 100% dehydrated fruit...nothing else.  When I was in my 20s if you ever told me I'd be making homemade fruit rolls up, I'd have laughed so hard that I'd have fallen off my chair.  Who knew?  These are a great addition to breakfast toast especially in the winter when fruit is so $$$

This is popping fresh pilsbury dough right out of the can.  The magic of chemicals mean these are safe.  Sometimes I use homemade dough too.  If you slather these with a teaspoon of jelly they become french pastries (or some simpler version).  We have also popped in a few chocolate chips to make chocolate crossants.  Also the soy butter comes in a chocolate version that reminds me of nutella.  I thought this would be a good spread as well and the kids weren't fans.

I'm always looking for suggestions of new foods.  If you have any ideas for breakfast please, oh please, SHARE!


Thankful Thursday

Thought I'd do a post on Thursdays about something I'm thankful for.  Sounds a bit geeky.  But, sitting down to think about, then write about what I am thankful for will put it right in the front of my mind...and  therefore improve my mood.  So Here Goes...

This weekend will be the first time in quite a few years that I will spend time with all four of my brothers.  Friday night will be with all the kids and Saturday will be at a b-day bash in NYC.  So I thought for it would be fun to  peruse old photos and put some digital ones I have of my family on here. I am very thankful for my family.  Being the youngest and only girl was an amazing experience growing up.  I have four older brothers, who were each my hero in different ways when I was growing up.  Each of my brothers got married and had families of their own.  I am blessed with 16 beautiful, healthy, smart wonderful nieces and nephews.  There are lots of different types of relationships among the group.  I remember every wedding, every baby, birthdays, communions, parties and more.   Okay enough with the talk onto the photos.  Here are just a few...


Wordless Wednesday

Saw on another blog, Musings of a housewife,  the idea of wordless Wednesday.  This sounds like a great idea for midweek.

Top Ten Tuesday

Saw this idea on another blog and liked the idea of making my own top ten lists on Tuesday.  Something to break up the week, work my mind in a different way and make me feel like David Letterman.

My Top Ten list of how my life has changed with kids
1. Let's get this one out of the way...my life is definitely better, happier, fuller and more wonderful with the kids around!
2. I now own a station wagon instead of an SUV, so that my kids and aging dog can easily get in and out of the car.  
3. The amount of time I get to spend doting on my darling aforementioned dog has certainly changed a ton.
4. I know what Yo Gabba Gabba is...and I am not happy about it.
5. I bake, from scratch.  I was the queen of buying it at the bakery or picking up the easy box mix version.  Because of my daughter's allergies I now bake and do most cooking from scratch.  Even made all our babyfood.  If you knew me before you'd never believe this one.
6. A fun evening out consists of drinking coffee in a local bookstore for 30 minutes.  Again, if you knew me before this would sound crazy.
7. Before kids I only stepped foot in the library for teaching.  Now I go twice a week at least, reserve books and excitedly await their arrival at my library.  
8. I'm in bed most nights by 9 or 10.
9. I love playdates and playgroups because I get to spend time with other moms.
10. I see the father my husband is and love him more than I ever have before.



Mommy loves Monday!

Changing it up a bit here.  I was thinking of following more of a weekly format showing things that happen to us, as a family.  I'm sure no matter what the topic is the kids will sneak into the posts.  Today I want to write about what I've done for myself this week...thus calling it Mommy Monday.  Sound selfish?  It's really not.  A great piece of advice I was once given was that mom has to take care of herself first so she is better equipped to take care of the family.
 So let me tell you about one of the ways I've taken care of me lately.  The photo above is from the fall festival in Chestnut Hill.  Back in my single days I lived in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia.  The move to Philadelphia took a bit of a learning curve from my days in DC.  As a Capitol Hill afficianado, I really scoured Philly for the area that would give me the DC feel and get me close to my family.    I loved walking wherever I went. The restaurants, shops and food stores are the best.  It was uber easy to get around and even fun to do my errands.  Imagine creating a great spread for a few friends with a fun afternoon of shopping.  First stop the bread store for a great loaf of french bread.  Next sample and pick out a fabulous cheese at Chestnut Hill Cheese Shop.  Then it's onto the farmer's market for a delicious dish that is food network worthy.  Last thing is to pick a great bottle of wine.  Saturday night with a few friends,  in my cozy little home...my version of perfection. 

Trip down memory lane over. So every year I try to get to at least one of the festivals.  They block off the street, have tons of vendors and food.  On this beautiful day I enjoyed a pumpkin beer while ambling down the cobbled street looking at all the beautiful things being sold. BLISS! We stopped at Jenk's School playground.  When I told Chelsea I used to teach at this school her eyes got really wide.  She couldn't believe I was a teacher, especially at a school with the BEST playground ever.  This little mommy event was good for the kids and Chris too, which makes it an all around great thing to do.  Can't wait until the garden festival in the spring



Look: From start to finish how we made our applesauce/apple butter/ apple pie concoction.  We went to the farm on a mom's club outing.  The kids had a blast picking apples.  We bought a huge bushel and it cost a bit over 15 bucks!  Score!  The kids had a fabulous time doing the haystack mazes and mini tractors.  As they played I dreamed of what I would make with the apples.  The last photo is my apple recipe in the crockpot.  I did this twice.  Once we made it thick almost apple butter consistency.  The kids ate it up (no sugar needed) and called it apple pie.  This made me think, hmmm...lets try that.  So we loaded some into pie crusts and yum!
Learn:  I was going for apple butter and came out with apple sauce.  I was so into doing my own recipe, cutting out any sugars etc that I didn't bother consulting a recipe.  Lesson learned, next time I will so I get the end result I was looking for.  But happy accidents come in the fact we did apple pies, apple sauce and used this as a spread on toast and sweetner in warm oatmeal.
Love:  Every phase of this was fun, from the picking to the children dubbing it apple pie!



Look: Today's post is just about giving thanks.  Lately I've been reading some book by Geneen Roth that have really been opening my eyes and changing my thinking.  To give a brief synopsis:  Her writing has reinforced the fact that each day is gift.  Also I'm seeing just how strong and powerful positive thinking is.  The photos above were taken by my husband.  He pulled over on the side of the road to take photos on a trip he had taken up to the poconos.  He sent them to my phone and I kept them.  Just looking at them brought me joy, especially since he sent them to me.
Learn: I'm learning to change the inner voice, make it more rainbows and less criticism. How fantastic does that sound?   I don't want to go on and on about the changes, but let's say I'm thankful!
Love: I love rainbows, love my husband, love my kids and love myself.


Washing the Car

Look: Chris gets all the credit for starting this one.  He decided to wash the cars with Chelsea while Gavin napped.  But of course the moment Gavin sensed fun being had, he woke up...so I pushed him out the door to help.  
Learn:  They had a lot of fun and I think they were even helpful!
Love:  Love that my car is now shiny!

Outdoor Movies

Look: Our township showed Ratatouille in the park.  We popped popcorn, brought some flashlights and headed out.  We only made it until about 9 before they were beyond drowsy but it was fun.
Learn:  This summer I learned that we are the type of family that tries a lot of stuff.  I'm proud of that and look forward to all the fun adventures we will take together.
Love:  This photo doesn't exactly capture it but this was a stellar night!

Nature Walk- a picture post only

First Day of Preschool for Chelsea

Look: Holy Canoli, my child is three and needs to begin school.  This thought first hit me mid winter when our local mother's club group sent a list of suggested preschools in their newsletters.  While reading through it I realized that registration for September actually begins in January...who knew?  My search was really short.  I loved the first school I visited.  Loved the teachers, loved the schedule, loved the...everything.  Asked a few questions about dealing with allergies and then knew this is the right spot for my kids.  These are a few pictures of the first day.  First at home, then at the door of school, then with her adorable friend Adalyn (who is in her class too, yippee!)
Learn: I taught preschool and kindergarten for 10 years.  I NEVER understood why the moms cried.  I used to be sympathetic, tell them the child would be fine and didn't think about it any further.  Well on Chelsea's first ( and 2nd, 3rd, 4th...) day I cried my little heart out.  Chris kept reassuring me that she would be okay (he thought I was worried about the food).  But what was really happening was I couldn't believe my tiny, sweet baby girl was actually able to leave me and go to school.
Love: She did great of course and adores school!  What was I worried about?

Finger Paint

Look: I avoid this at all costs.  But on this day I really wanted to tire and entertain the kids all day...without the lovely TV.  So we fingerpainted right before bath time (I'm a very smart mommy!)
Learn: Believe it or not finger painting tells a lot about a person's personality.  Sort of like those ink blot tests.  Chelsea is generally a tidy, very feminine, rule follower.  Gavin is messy, boyish, rule breaker.  Total opposites!  So as you can see Chelsea used on a few fingers to paint.  She tried to keep it neatly on the paper and managed to walk away from the table with none on her clothing.  Really the only spot she made that wasn't intentional was on her knuckle.  Her brother was a different story.  The moment I put the paper plates of paint down he dug both palms all the way in.  He lathered his paper and tray up with the paint, so much so the paper became super mushy.  By the time he was finished he had paint on his forehead, clothing (even socks) and had solidly covered up to his elbows in paint.  
Love:  Messy things are hard to get up the energy to do.  But on this occasion (and most occasions) I am happy I let them make messes.


Look: This year is the first year I actually got joy from my garden.  We got to eat most of the strawberries, a job previously held by Millie our dog.  We also grew potatoes, tomatoes and herbs.
Learn: I learn little by little how to garden.  This year instead of trying to plant tons of things, we did a little and that really helped up keep up.  The kids really enjoyed digging and playing and seeing things grow.  This past week I saw that my friend had bowls of dried herbs from her garden.  I thought it was perfect timing to do this here too.  I dried sage, oregano, basil and mint.  I even infused some herbs into my olive oil and froze it for sauces.
Love:  Flavor brings me joy...so herbs are a great way to make everything taste fantastic.  My favorite this year was my pesto.  I make it with roasted soybeans, basil and evoo.  It comes out super yummy and no one has asked or missed the cheese!