Wednesday, December 14, 2011

12 Days of Holiday Recipes - Day 6 - Party Potatoes

It has to be good if it has 'party' in the name, right? I think the first time I had these I was a teenager and we were eating at a friends house. I love potatoes and this was so delicious I could have eaten the entire casserole dish full. It has made an appearance at most of our family holiday dinners since then only absent in the presence of gouda potatoes :) 

My mom is making these on Christmas so I opted not to and snagged this photo from Simply Potatoes
Party Potatoes

1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup shredded cheese
1 cup sour cream
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 lbs. Ore-Ida frozen cubed hash browns - sometimes I use shredded hashbrowns like Cracker Barrel's hashbrown casserole. 

Mix first 4 items together with salt and pepper, combine with frozen potatoes, put in greased 9x13 pan. Top with 2 cups of corn flakes and 1/3 cup melted butter together.Bake at 350°F for 1 hour.
You can add some chopped onions if you like. These are also good with crushed Ritz crackers instead of the corn flakes, in fact, next time I make these I may use some French's Fried Onions on top :)

12 Days of Holiday Recipes - Day 5 - Cranberry Punch

We went to a holiday potluck Friday night and one of the items I signed up to bring was a drink.... I debated back and forth between apple cider or picking up a 2 liter of soda but after our Ladies Christmas fellowship at church I settled on this. Quick and easy (are you seeing a theme here?) with just 2 ingredients it was a perfectly festive choice.

Cranberry Punch
  • 1 Lg bottle of cranberry juice - This can be regular cranberry, cran-raspberry, cran-whatever, I'll be using my favorite - Cranberry - Pomegranate
  • 1 2 liter of Ginger Ale

Don't add the ginger ale until you're ready to serve. To make it pretty you can add a skewer of sugared cranberries or place some cranberries in ginger ale and freeze it to make ice cubes or an ice ring. Simple. And sparkling :)

Now, mine did not look quite as pretty as the photo above (courtesy of because I just served it in a clear pitcher. I also attempted an ice ring of sorts by using a washed can and filling it about an inch with the punch and some cranberries and letting it freeze, then adding another layer of punch and cranberries to make a cylindrical ice ring. I started it too late and add a 15 min car ride to the mix and the 'ring' was mush by the time we arrived.... at least it tasted good.

12 Days of Holiday Recipes - Day 4 - Hot Cocoa Mix

Now we all know I'm a coffee gal through and through but when the weather starts to get colder I do find myself craving a snuggly cup of hot cocoa. This recipe makes a VERY LARGE amount. So grab your biggest mixing bowl (or even like a big roasting pan) and make you a batch :)

Hot Cocoa Mix

1 box dry milk - 8 qts.
16 - 20 oz jar powdered coffee creamer
2 lb box instant Nestle's chocolate
1 lb powdered sugar
1-2 TBSP Cocoa - to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a LARGE mixing bowl. Store in airtight containers - 2 coffee cans work well, or Ziplock gallon sized bags. To serve fill a mug 1/3 to 1/2 way full with the mix and add boiling water.

I like mine nice and rich so I use a very healthy heap. I purchased a 3 lb container of Nestle's at Costco and just kind of eyeballed it all. You can totally tweak this by adding, removing, adjusting amounts based on your personal tastes. I love that it's not an exact science. I tend to not fail at those kinds of recipes :) This recipe makes SO much we plan on packaging it up in some cello bags and including them in some gift baskets we are making for neighbors and some family members. A bow and a candy cane and these are fabulous!

12 Days of Holiday Recipes - Day 3 - Butterscotch Party Mix

Mackenzie was drooling just over the photo. Courtesy of*

Each year during the holidays we extend an open invitation to our friends who might not have family in the area and are unable to make it home. They become honorary 'Dunninites' and are treasured guests at our table. I love this tradition.

Last year our dear friend Russell was able to join us and with him came this MAGNIFICENT treat. Now, I don't like butterscotch or caramel very much but this snack has been renamed "Crack" by our friend Coy because of it's addictive qualities. And as always it is so easy to make...

Butterscotch Party Mix
  • 2 cups cereal squares - like Chex
  • 2 cups small pretzel twists
  • 1 cup dry roasted peanuts
  • 1 cup caramels, unwrapped, coarsely chopped
  • 1 2/3 cups (11-oz. pkg.) Butterscotch Flavored Morsels
COAT 13 x 9-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.

COMBINE cereal, pretzels, peanuts and caramels in large bowl. Place morsels in medium, microwave-safe bowl. Microwave uncovered on MEDIUM-HIGH (70%) power for 1 minute; STIR. The morsels may retain some of their original shape. If necessary, microwave at additional 10 to 15-second intervals, stirring just until morsels are melted. Pour over cereal mixture; stir to coat evenly.

SPREAD mixture into prepared baking pan ( or just some wax paper spread out on the counter); let stand for 20 to 30 minutes or until firm. Break into small pieces.

Note: I was able to find these little caramel pellet looking things at Target when I made it, taking out the caramel unwrapping/chopping step. You can also throw some white chocolate chips in there too.

Seriously good stuff. 

*Hopefully tomorrow I'll have a camera and after a trip to the store I can actually make and take pics of the recipes :)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

12 Days of Holiday Recipes - Day 2 - White Chocolate Popcorn

photo from Taste of Home
When the holidays roll around there is never a shortage of munchies around. This one has become a favorite in recent years. It's quick, easy, and tasty. :) I made it for our Mother/Daughter Christmas party last week.

Here is the recipe:

White Chocolate Popcorn
(Originally published as White Chocolate Popcorn Deluxe in Healthy Cooking December/January 2010)

  • 8 cups air-popped popcorn
  • 2 ounces white baking chocolate, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
Place popcorn in a large bowl. In a microwave, melt white chocolate and butter; stir until smooth. Pour over popcorn mixture and toss to coat. Add the cranberries, nuts and salt. Spread onto waxed paper. Cool until set. Store in an airtight container. Makes 2 quarts.

Now.... This is what I do: 

Pop some popcorn in the microwave. Plain popcorn, no butter. This last time I actually used regular popcorn that you'd use in an air popper and popped in the 'wave in a brown paper bag like they explain here. Put it in a large mixing bowl. Then you take a couple squares of white almond bark and microwave it in a glass measuring cup, 30 seconds at a time, until it's just melted. Pour over popcorn and stir. It will clump together as the chocolate hardens which isn't a big deal unless you want it to look pretty. If so, then spread it out on wax paper to 'dry'. If you want to be festive you can add some dried cranberries, red & green m&ms, or for non holiday occasions you can add a few drops of food coloring to the chocolate. For Kenzie's last birthday I added some red to make 'PINK' corn. No need for the butter or salt...unless you just want it. Store in an airtight container and it keeps for a while.


Monday, December 12, 2011

12 Days of Holiday Recipes - Day 1 - Potato Chowder

My friend Sarah has an awesome blog and during the month of December she always does something fun. Last year it was 25 Days of Cookies. Each day she and her boys, she has 5, would make a batch of cookies and then deliver them to someone. This year she's doing Crafty, Salty, & Sweet where they make something and she shares the recipe or the craft tutorial. It's always lots of fun to read. It also encourages me to seize these moments with my own kiddos and take the opportunity to make memories.It also makes me a little jealous, I mean, she's got time to blog regularly and she's so smart to think of this stuff ahead of time, instead of like me when it's almost halfway through the month and I'm trying to squeeze stuff in.

Anyway... I thought it would be fun to share some of the wintery goodness that I like to fill my tummy with this time of year. Today it's Potato Chowder. The weather is cold, sort of, and while I'm not a 'soup' person I totally dig a steamy bowl of this chowder with some dipping bread. Mackenzie was my kitchen helper and we got to try out my new Cuisinart can opener that I got for free by collecting stamps from my shopping trips to Albertson's over the past few months.This gem is from the Calvary Bible Church cookbook courtesy of Emily Scheffler.

Elise's Potato Chowder

1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
& link sausage cut into bite size pieces

2 cans Campbell's Potato Soup
1 can cream corn
1 can corn
1 can diced green chilies
2 cans milk

Heat thoroughly. Garnish with shredded cheese.

That's the recipe, which I think is how I made it the very first time except I used diced ham instead of the sausage. I do it a little different every time. Today I just did the 'cans' part. No onion, pepper, or meat. I wasn't sure how well rice milk would taste in it and I only had some powdered milk on hand so I used that and it worked fine. You could also skip the potato soup and use diced potatoes and make your own 'soup' by making a roux with a little butter, flour, and milk.

I served mine with a little cheese and some crescent rolls. Quick, easy, and totally hit the spot.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Favorites for the Week

During Black Friday I was able to get some great deals on household items and it reminded me that I wanted to share some of the deals I like best. Couponing doesn't have to be super hard and when I look at how much money I've saved it encourages me to keep it up. I feel like I'm being a better steward of what God's given me. I can't buy hardly anything now without using a coupon. In fact there will be times when Graham comes home from the store with items and I say "I have a coupon for that." We could have saved a buck here and there and those bucks add up!

Here are some of my favorite deals for this week:

Wholly Guacamole
We have been eating a lot of guac lately because it's a great alternative to cheese and sour cream on our mexican dishes and it's a quick and easy snack when you've got some tortilla chips handy. And the company is right here is Saginaw!

This is from their Facebook page -
"Soooo, we need to decorate our wholly guacamole office with some christmas/hanukkah/kwanzaa spirits. so since this is a season of giving, if you send us your holiday card with a self-addressed envelope WITH postage, we will send you back 2 bogo coupons ($12 value). cards must hit our office by december 15th.

The coupons are good until dec 31st, so you have to use them quickly (remember, we freeze well). can not wait to see what the mailman brings us!! HAPPY HOLIDAYS EVERYONE!!!"

Here is the address: marketing, wholly guacamole, 300 burlington road, saginaw, tx 76179

It is a little strange but if it's something you know you're going to buy anyway then why not? And if it's too weird for you they also have a $1 off coupon you can print. Just click 'Coupons' on the right hand side of the facebook page.

Muir Glen

This is something else we've been buying a lot of lately. There are actually 2 different printable coupons floating around out there. One is for 75¢ off and the other is for 85¢ off. I'm not sure where the 75¢ off one came from but these are better anyway. You can print 2 total.

$0.85/1 – Muir Glen, any flavor/variety – ($0.85/1 – Muir Glen, any flavor/variety – (

These are two deals you can use this coupon on:
At Walmart:
Muir Glen Organic Tomato Paste, 6 oz $0.92, Regular Price
Use $0.85/1 coupon
This makes the final price $.07!

Or at Whole Foods:
Muir Glen Organic Tomato Sauce, 8 oz $1.19
Use $0.85/1 coupon
This makes the final price: $.34!

I like to buy the pasta sauce. It's pretty tasty. These coupons won't make them super cheap like it does the sauce and paste but it's still a good value coupon. A few weeks ago they have a $1 off coupon out and I got some diced tomatoes and fire-roaster tomatoes which should make for some pretty yummy homemade salsa!

Conair Ceramic Hot Rollers

 These rollers are on Roll Back right now at Walmart for only $22..77, plus there is a $5 coupon HERE that you can print. PLUS you can send in for a $5 MIR HERE. 

Conair Extreme Heat $22.77
Use $5 coupon HERE
Total: $17.77
Then submit for a $5 MIR HERE
Total: $12.77

I've been looking for a good deal on hot rollers for a while so for me this is awesome!

American Greetings Cards  
On the CVS website there is a printable coupon for $2.00 off 3 American Greetings cards (excluding boxed sets). They have lots of $.99 cards. Buy 3 and pay only $.32 each!! You can print this coupon twice meaning 6 cards for the price of less than 2. I snagged a couple Thank You cards and Birthday cards to have on hand. This is a GREAT DEAL! (there is also a good Glade coupon on the website too for $2 off of 2 and if you act quickly they have their room sprays on sale for 99¢ through Saturday 12/3)
And lastly...

Proctor & Gamble Products

Would you like to have over $35 worth of coupons good for things like Cascade, Dawn, Swiffer and more?  If you said yes, then click here to register or log in to get your coupon booklet!  The FREE Procter & Gamble Gather Together coupon booklet (previously Organize in Style) is available now.  Just allow four to six weeks for delivery.

You can request one of these every 60 days and you don't need to re-sign up every time. I've been getting them consistantly for almost a year now. It makes for a nice little surprise when it comes in the mail :) 

Thanks to The Krazy Coupon Lady, My Dallas Mommy, and I Heart the Mart for the deal details!

Friday, November 25, 2011

E2 - 28 Day Challenge Wrap-Up

So I promised a follow-up post to our conclusion of the 28 Day (not quite) Challenge.

If you've read my daily posts you know that this challenge has been just that, challenging. The kiddos, especially the littles, constantly rejected my vegan offerings and often were fed a different meal. I was hoping that the challenge would encourage some weight-loss and it didn't, not for any of us. I think this happened for several reasons. 1. I deviated from the menu on occasion based on our schedule and what I knew we would, and would not, eat. 2. We rarely added extra exercise into our day and 3. portion control. I didn't feel bad having seconds if it's a plate of veggies... maybe I should have.

Several of you have asked questions. Here are some of them....

Why Almond milk and not soy? Soy contains estrogen-like chemicals, called phytoestrogens, and heightened exposure to estrogen has been linked with increased risk of breast cancer. I've got three young daughters and two growing boys who don't need any extra estrogen.

Is regular organic milk that bad? Organic milk is a better choice than regular milk simply because it's organic BUT organic milk 1. is still dairy, and 2. is ULTRA pasteurized - the process of
heating every particle of milk or milk product to 280ºF. This kills a lot of the beneficial nutrients... think about raw veggies vs cooked veggies. Cooked veggies aren't bad for you. You just retain more of 'the good stuff' when you consume them raw.

Does raw milk have casein? yes, because casein is an animal protein.

How does eating vegan affect your grocery bill? Well, this challenge affected our grocery bill somewhat. We eat out a LOT (3-4 meals a week) but on the diet we only ate out maybe once a week. This decreased out dining out budget but increased our grocery bill. Also, because there was a menu to follow as opposed to being able to meal plan based on grocery store sales had an impact too. It's the end of the month and we're making meals from what's in the freezer and pantry. I think going forward this shouldn't change our bill too much. You can get good deals on produce if you buy what's on sale and seasonal items tend to be a little cheaper. Also, I never bought a single container of 'milk' without using a coupon (lots of which I found online & printed at home). I matched it with stores that had it on sale and saved a lot this way.

Doesn't eating all those veggies and fiber cause lots of gas? Our house has definitely been a little rooty-tooty and not so fresh-n-fruity lately. Several forums I read said that your body needs time to adjust to cleaning out your system and processing all this extra fiber. Some people said they've eaten vegetarian for many years with no relief of excess gas. I think it depends on the person?? 

What websites are good for vegan recipes? The Post Punk Kitchen has quite a few recipes as well as a forum for asking questions. VegWeb has a lot of recipes too. I like the Engine 2 website but I found several of the recipes there are incomplete, so if you see a recipe on there you'd like to try google it. Several of them have been posted on SparkRecipes and are good. There are a lot, just google it. I'll post some of my favorites as I come across them. And if you've got some good ones please share! :)

Where do you go from here? Well, we've decided to make several of these changes permanent. Like always I'll continue to cut more and more processed foods out of our diet. We've been switching all of our 'whites' to 'browns' for a while now - brown rice, whole wheat flour, sucanat - instead of their white, over-processed, nutritionally void counterparts. We've never been big beef eaters so that's not too different but we do consume a lot of chicken. I'd like to cut this back a bit and try to have more meat-less meals. Graham is consuming almost no dairy and will continue to do so. He's realized the benefits on his digestive system and doesn't want to go back. All of us will make a permanent switch to almond/coconut milk. The kids love the original almond milk so why not? Less hormones that way too. I've started doing the Apple Cider Vinegar drink. I usually add 4 tsp to a 16 oz bottle of water and drink half of it in the morning and the other half in the afternoon. A friend mixes hers with apple juice to combat the pungent taste. I don't mind vinegar so the taste doesn't bother me. The girls have had a little here and there and they don't mind the taste in water either. Dr. Mercola has a good article about ACV. Make sure you read the whole thing.

I think more than anything we've been armed with information, information that can help us make wiser decisions on what we use to nourish our bodies. I have to balance what I've learned with what the bible says about the food God has provided. I think, like always, everything in moderation. A little meat won't kill us and I could use a little bacon in my life :)

Can-solidator Cabinet Organizer Giveaway!!!

One of my favorite blogs, Life In A Shoe is doing a giveaway that has me all giddy. We all know that one of my favorite hobbies is couponing. And now, as my stockpile grows, the need for organization increases as well. I'd LOVE to have one of these can organizers. Wouldn't you? Over at Shelf Reliance they have all kinds of shelving units, from the large units you might see in a store to the small 20 can units that would fit perfect in your cabinet. Head over to Life's blog here and enter! Maybe this beauty can be yours!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

E2 - 28 Day Challenge - Days 15, 16, 17, &18

I'm several days behind in posting. I'll try to condense and sum up...

On The Menu (Which ended up being what we actually ate):
Breakfast: the usuals - Cereal, toast with fruit
Lunch: typically leftovers from the night before with salad
Dinner: Split Pea Soup, Veggie Burgers, Pad Thai, Jane's Jammin' Burritos

My Thoughts:
Surprisingly we stuck to the menu pretty well. I mean, I looked at the actual menu for those days, adjusted a little based on our schedule and the groceries I had on hand and then planned accordingly. We ate what I'd planned for the most part. The veggie burgers were a last minute time saver on a stressful day. Just some MorningStar Farms Grillers Prime frozen patties that I'd picked up a few weeks ago. I've always been a fan of their black bean burgers and these were just as tasty. The kids liked them and probably wouldn't have known they weren't 'real' burgers if I hadn't told them.

The Pad Thai turned out to be a little bit different. I went to the store on an evening run to get a few things and somewhere between the car and the store I lost my grocery list. Tried to remember everything I needed but completely forgot the veggies for this. Several of the reviews I read said that this dish turned out to be a big disappointment so I changed out a few things - I used Brown Rice Noodles instead of the traditional rice noodles because they cook like traditional white pasta. I also bought a jar of Annie Chun's Pad Thai sauce at Sprouts, which probably wasn't as healthy as the E2 version but it saved me a lot of time and was actually very good. Not too spicy so the kids liked it. I just poured it over our noodles and served it with a side of steamed brussel sprouts.

Tonight I'm making the 'jammin' burritos' and they sound like they should be pretty good - What doesn't taste good with some black beans, salsa, and guacamole slathered all over it, right?

So I think this is the end for us. 18 days is a decent run. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving with second Thanksgiving on Saturday and I think it's just going to be too hard to try to get back on the wagon. There are several reasons I think this was not the best time to try this: 1. I've got lots of small children, some of whom are picky eaters to begin with. I'm tired of the littles not eating the meals I prepare because they don't like them and then snacking all day long and I let them because I want them to eat something. 2. This time of year is SO crazy. We eat out quite a bit, way more than I did growing up and that's only going to compound with the hectic days to come. We were out running errands on Monday trying to hit the grocery store before the deluge of Turkey Day shoppers and while we were out it made since for us to stop and get lunch out. After half an hour of debating we finally just ended up at Chick-fil-a. They had a play ground so the kids could run off some energy instead of doing it in the store while I was shopping.And 3. There are so many things we get to have this time of year that we don't get any other time of the year. It's part of they I enjoy this season. So many experiences that come from what we consume and who we consume it with. I don't want to stress over "Is this vegan?" every time.

I'll try to post either later today or tomorrow a kind of summary, answer the questions I've been asked, and share some of my favorite recipes. It's been a learning experience & I've tried things I've never had before. But now, I think I'm ready for a plate of Yucatan Taco Stand chicken nachos.... 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

E2 - 28 Day Challenge Days 13 & 14

I decided to combine 2 days into one post.I figured you wouldn't mind.

On the Menu - Day 13:
Breakfast: Mighty Muffins
Lunch: Leftover Burgers & Fries
Dinner: Fajitas w/ Brown Rice and guacamole

What We Actually Ate:
Breakfast: Cereal - I didn't have all of the ingredients to make the muffins but they sound good so I will this week
Lunch: The kids had Mac-n-cheese from Central Market. I ate some pita chips & hummus
Dinner: Jason's Deli

My Thoughts:
We had a play date with friends on Friday which was so much fun. We ran some errands afterwards and I needed to stop by Central market so I gave in and let the kids share a thing of their prepared Mac-n-cheese. At this point I just want the littles to eat something and this they willingly gobbled up. We did dinner at Jason's where the littles ate PB & J, the bigs had salad bar, Graham had some kind of pasta with grilled veggies and I had a veggalatta muffalatta - hold the mushrooms, tomatoes, & of course, the cheese. It was good except the bread was really dry and crispy. I drank lots of water with my meal.

On The Menu - Day 14:
Breakfast: Lemon Cornmeal Pancakes with Raspberries
Lunch: Big Leaf Wraps
Dinner: Split Pea Soup w/ Toasted Pitas

What We Actually Ate:
Breakfast: a Banana - the kids had muffins (We participated in the St. Jude's Give Thanks. Walk. which meant leaving the house at the crack o' dawn. They served fruit and muffins at the walk)
Lunch: Grilled Veggie Fajitas on Whole Wheat Tortillas with some guac
Dinner: Well... um... I cheated....


 Shameful, I know. I'd gotten very little sleep the night before and had a headache most of the day. Graham and the kids, all but Rhys, went to play with Uncle Josh and cousin Eli. So the baby and I crashed on the couch and slept for a few hours which meant a bigger headache and a groggy fog when we got up. Graham took us to the store so I could get a few ingredients for dinner. We'd made a plan to stop by Chicken Express afterwards for a Dublin Dr. Pepper to hopefully help alleviate my headache and drowsiness. As we walked out of the store the kids asked what we were having for dinner. Split pea soup. GROAN. 

"You want to get the kids some chicken?"
"So they get chicken & we have to eat soup?"
"..... we can have chicken too."

I was set-up. Entrapment I tell ya!

Um, yeah. We're not talking 'I had a little cheese on my pizza'. We're talking full on FRIED CHICKEN, mashed potatoes WITH cream gravy and dinner rolls. We did have green beans but I can pretty much GUARANTEE they were cooked with bacon. Oh, I know. This was not good... but it tasted so good. And I got my Dr. Pepper.

My sweet husband is helping us get back on track today. We're meeting his mom for lunch and he could have very easily picked a 'non-vegan' friendly place but he choose to go to Souper Salad. "We can't cheat today" he says. Thanks hunny. And they don't know it yet but we're gonna have that soup for dinner tonight ;)

Friday, November 18, 2011

E2 - 28 Day Challenge - Day 12

On The Menu:
Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: E2 Basics Tacos
Dinner: NY Times Veggie Burger & Potato Wedges

What We Actually Ate:
Breakfast: Grapefruit & Cereal
Lunch: Spaghetti
Dinner: NY Times Veggie Burger & Mixed Baby Greens

My Thoughts:
Ok. This burger was actually not half bad. Super easy to make, I just took a can of vegetarian refried black beans (The recipe called for just canned black beans but all I had were refried - these just had water and some sea salt added to them, they worked fine) a can of rotel style tomatoes with chilies, and some seasonings and combine them in a food processor - I had to borrow my mom's. The recipe called for carrots and onions which I didn't use because I didn't have. Then you stir in 2 cups of oats. Bake for 8 minutes and then flip and broil for an additional 2 minutes. They really didn't take any time at all. All the reviews I read about this burger said they held together better than any other veggie burger they'd tried to make and for us this was true as well. They also had a consistency that was closer to an actual meat burger. Not a whole lot of flavor but that can easily be remedied. Since we were having the salad as a side dish we didn't top them with many veggies. Just some bell peppers and condiments. And after finding this photo I kind of wished I'd busted out some of the guac I've got in the fridge.

I wouldn't say I've got a lot more energy than usual but I have felt a little more 'get-up'. Before, I spent most days sitting and feeding the baby or sitting and doing school or sitting and folding laundry. But now I kind of can't sit still for very long. I think my kitchen has been cleaner the past three days than it has in a while. Not a huge improvement health wise but every little bit helps.

There is also a little bit of illness floating around. I'll be interested to see if our 2 weeks of eating better helps to fend it off. Because I'm thinking if I get sick, all bets are off. ;)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

E2 - 28 Day Challenge - Day 11

On The Menu:
Breakfast: Orange & a Bagel
Lunch: Leafy Wrap
Dinner: Picadillo Burrito

What We Actually Ate:
Breakfast : Grapefruit & Bagel
Lunch: Four Star Cafe
Dinner: Roasted Red & Yellow Bell Peppers, Baked Sweet Potatoes, Mustard Greens w/ cashew sauce

My Thoughts:
Seriously. I have no idea what happened to this weeks menu but what the diet suggests and the order I wrote them down in is all kinds of whacked. I'm going to try to get back on track today.

We decided to spend the afternoon running some errands so we opted to visit daddy at Four Star for lunch. The kids all had the California club with no bacon, and only a tiny bit of turkey. The turkey was the only part Silas ate. I had some romaine with artichoke hearts, olives, and red bell peppers with the Greco dressing (lemon juice, olive oil, & seasonings). It was yummy!

I think one of the neat things about doing this is that it forces me to try new foods. Yesterday it was bok choy and soba noodles, today it's mustard greens. I know traditionally it's fried but with some bacon, which I can only imagine tastes fabulous, but ours was just boiled until it wilted and we topped it with a cashew sauce. The greens had a similar taste to brussel sprouts. The cashew sauce looked like and had a similar taste to hummus. To make it we took about a pound of cashews, a little bit of tamari, and some water to make it into a paste. It was pretty salty, I think mostly because we used regular cashews and not raw, but it was great with the greens. The sweet potatoes were HEAVEN and I didn't do a darn thing to them. I washed off the skins and then stuck them in a pyrex casserole dish and put them in the oven on 450° for about 45 minutes. We mashed them up and the kids had a little demerara sugar on theirs but I had mine plain. So creamy and good for you!

Last night I went to the store to get some more milk and I picked up a half gallon of Silk brand coconut milk. My Albertson's had it on sale for $3 and I had a coupon so it was my most cost-effective choice. This morning everyone informed me, including the child who helped me pick it out at the store, that they didn't like it. No one wants to eat their cereal, the bagels are all gone (I forgot to get more at the store), and they are all complaining about their other options. Grrr. It's going to be a long day. Part of me thinks we should just finish out the week and call it quits... I mean, 2 weeks is good right? Ugh. This is a really hard choice to make when you've got small kiddos but I know it's better to do it now than when they are teens and the habits & tastes are even harder to change.

I would like to share some of the recipes if you guys would like to try them, but I want to know which ones specifically so I'm not posting a gazillion :) What would you like me to share?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Milk. It Does A Body Good?

When we watched Forks over Knives there were several things that, when they were said, really made since to me. Either because it sounded logical or because I've experienced this myself. They drew many connections between our diet and the presence of disease. One study that hit home in a hard harsh way was the connection between consuming low or non-fat dairy products and prostate cancer. Right at 4 years ago my Grandfather passed away after battling with prostate cancer. Prior to his illness he was the picture of health. He had been in the navy as a young man and I think a lot of those disciplines stuck with him. He was very active and strong, always watched what he ate. Consumed very little red meat and what he did eat was super lean. He ate fish, lots of veggies, & took his vitamins. One thing he was also strict about was his consumption of dairy, in a low fat or non-fat form. He, like most Americans, believed that the fat in milk was bad for you but you need the calcium so reduced fat was the 'better' choice.

"The fat in milk is there for a reason, namely to help the body absorb the milk's calcium and Vitamin D; improperly absorbed calcium can be 'toxic'." - Joanna Evans of the magazine What Doctors Don't Tell You

My Grandfather wasn't a smoker nor did he have any other risk 'factors'. For me, my Grandfather is a perfect picture of these studies. The 'modified' dairy makes since in connection to his cancer. In retrospect it makes me very sad that this one, simple thing, could have given us more time together and his final years less of a struggle.

I thought this was a good article from a UK men's health magazine explaining the issue.

There is a clip in the film where they explain how your body processes milk and absorbs the calcium. It also explains how the calcium in cow's milk is not easily absorbed. When we consume milk it creates an acid-like condition in the body called metabolic acidosis. The body leaches calcium from your bones in an effort to neutralize this, causing our bones to become weak and brittle. This, based on what we've been taught (mostly by the dairy industry), seems backwards. But my mom's mom is another example of this. Now, she did smoke for MANY years which probably only compounded the issue but she drank lots of milk. She was diagnosed with osteoporosis and like so many these days, dealt with hip fractures.

Another concern with milk and dairy products is casein. Casein is the main protein present in milk and (in coagulated form) in cheese. It's commonly found in mammalian milk, making up 80% of the proteins in cow milk and between 60% and 65% of the proteins in human milk. It is used in processed foods and in adhesives, paints, and other industrial products.

In T. Colin Campbell's The China Study he describes a direct correlation between casein administered to rats and the promotion of cancer cell growth when exposed to carcinogens. One group of rats was put on a 5% protein diet and another group on a 20% protein diet. Regardless of the amount of aflatoxin (a potent carcinogen) administered to these rats, NONE of the rats on 5% protein developed foci, precursors to cancerous cell growth, and EVERY rat on 20% protein developed the pre-cancer foci. Other studies conducted by Dr. Campbell on humans confirmed this correlation between the amount of protein consumed and the promotion of cancerous cell growth. Basically, he discovered that cancer growth could be turned on and off by adjusting the amount of animal protein in the diet. Casein has also been shown to aggravate the symptoms of Autism causing many with the disease to adhere to a gluten-free casein-free diet. *

Sadly casein & rennet, another bovine derived protein, are found in TONS of stuff, just like corn, including soy and almond cheeses. This makes it pretty much impossible for anyone eating a typical American diet to stay under that 5% and is why 1 out of every 2 men and 1 out of every 3 women will get cancer.

We've been using almond and coconut milks and like them a lot. They taste great and don't cause any digestive issues for the boys. I think this is a change we'll make permanent.

More reading:
Cancer Project

* from Wikipedia

E2 - 28 Day Challenge - Day 10

On the Menu:
Breakfast: Simple Cereal
Lunch: Open-faced sandwiches w/ cannellini dip
Dinner:Gingered mushrooms, bok choy, & carrots over soba noodles

What We Actually Ate:
Breakfast: Homemade Pumpkin bread
Lunch: Spinach Spaghetti w/ leftover pasta sauce
Dinner: Bok Choy & carrots over soba noodles

My Thoughts:
My Mom was super kind and baked us some yummy pumpkin bread and that's what we ate. No clue if it was vegan but it was good. The sandwiches didn't go over very well last week so we opted to use our leftover pasta sauce and ate it on some spinach fettuccine. It was very tasty. The spinach in the noodles just added to the flavor of the pasta sauce. We'll be eating this again.

Dinner was... weird. First, I hate ginger & mushrooms so I skipped that part of the recipe. I've never eaten bok choy or soba noodles so that in and of itself was an adventure. Bok choy is a Chinese cabbage that looks sort of like a hybrid between celery and romaine lettuce in that it has a hardy stalk as well as big green leaves. I wasn't sure what part we were supposed to eat. So I had to google it. You eat the whole thing. When I sauteed it a peppery flavor seemed to appear making the dish a little spicy for the girls. The soba noodles cooked really easily, like traditional dried pasta. The instructions on the package said to rinse the noodles with cold water, so I did and assumed the noodles were supposed to be eaten cold. They looked like little gray worms. Cold little gray worms. It looked disgusting but tasted like regular noodles. The sauce for the veggies was pretty tasty and the whole thing was pretty good once we nuked it in the microwave. The carrots were my favorite part of this dish, but we will probably not be repeating this one.

It's getting really old having to battle with the little ones over food. I say battle, it's not really that harsh but almost everything I fix gets met with a grimace. All of the sudden it seems like things Silas would normally eat, like the pasta, he pushes away and says "I no like it." I don't know if it's because it looks different or because he's almost 2 or because he'd rather eat candy. I'll be beyond thrilled when the candy is all gone, hopefully by the end of the week.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

E2 - 28 Day Challenge - Day 9

My coffee woes have been appeased. It was as simple as checking the dairy case at my local Sprouts. But more about that later...

On The Menu:
Breakfast: Banana & Toasted Bagel
Lunch: Supreme Pizza
Dinner: Roasted Red Peppers, Sweet Potatoes, & galloping greens with cashew sauce

What We Actually Ate:
Breakfast: Not Vegan: Quiche with cheese & lots of veggies, strawberry scones, fruit bowl, pumpkin muffins
Lunch: Nothing - The kids munched on some snacky stuff in the afternoon but we didn't have an official meal
Dinner: Make your own pizza

My Thoughts:

Today (Day 10) is my mom's birthday & several weeks ago her very dear friend asked if I would help her execute a surprise breakfast/brunch to celebrate my mom's special day. My job was to get her over there. I had to come up with an excuse as to why my mom would need to come with me so I told her that all of the kids had a Dr's appointment and I needed her to go with me to help and she willingly did, despite the fact that her own to-do list was full. That's just the type of person she is. I picked her up and she was indeed surprised when we arrived at the surprise destination. Her friend Pam & Pam's daughter Emily (my dear friend) had prepared quite the spread of goodies. First stop was the coffee bar..... AHHHHHH.... (Imagine a scene from a movie when the heavens open up, the sun streams down like a glorious spotlight, and the Hallelujah chorus plays). There, sitting on the tray, was the answer to my problem. So Delicious Coconut Milk Creamer. I poured some into my coffee and watched it's creamy goodness fill my cup and turn my coffee from it's harsh black to a sweet, inviting latte. It was perfect. Now I don't feel like I'm depriving myself of anything. Emily said she just picked it up at Sprouts. Duh, Lori. Why don't you try looking at the non-traditional food store??? Anywoo, I grabbed my coffee and sat down at a table covered with plates and plates of beautiful food. We prayed with my mom, thanked God for his wonderful gift & enjoyed a morning of sweet fellowship with friends. On my way home I stopped by the store and this morning I got to have my 'experience' . :)

Because we'd had such a big breakfast & at a later time than usual, I just wasn't hungry for lunch. I got busy cleaning house and before I knew it the day had slipped away and it was time to start dinner. Dinner was SO easy and SO tasty. I bought some pre-made vegetarian pizza crusts at the store (a package of 5 personal sized pies for $2 - sorry I can't remember the brand). We topped them with some Bertolli organic Garlic & Olive Oil pasta sauce and then each added our own toppings. I used them all: fresh spinach, black olives, yellow bell pepper, & some veggie patty crumbled up. The kids were allowed to top theirs with some cheese but Silas still didn't eat his. He would, however, eat Izzie's (exactly the same as his). He was gobbling up the olives while I was slicing them but wouldn't touch them when they were warm on his pizza. Oh well. These were a big hit that we'll definitely have again.

Several people have asked if this diet change has affected my supply/ability to nurse Rhys. In all honesty, I haven't noticed any change at all. He's always been a great sleeper and the past two nights he's slept straight through, instead of waking up to eat at 4:30 like he had been. I came across an article yesterday about a french couple who were being charged with neglect & face life in prison because they fed their daughter solely breastmilk which because of the mother's vegan diet, was deficient in the essential vitamins A & B-12. The girl became very sick and they chose not to follow the Dr.'s advice for treatment, seeking alternative means instead. This hit a little close to home. In a separate case in Georgia early this year a
court upheld the conviction and life sentence against an Atlanta vegan couple over the death of their malnourished 6-week-old boy, who was fed a diet largely consisting of soy milk and apple juice. To me these two cases are vastly different. The first couple sound similar to Graham & me in that we don't always agree with or follow our Dr.'s advise or what the the US says typical treatment of certain ailments may be. BUT, if I saw my child wasting away I think I might reconsider my Dr's words. We've had weight issues with Silas but there are NO other indicators that there is a problem. He's happy, active,sleeps well, and blood work tests have revealed nothing to suggest he could be malnourished or have any other issues. The second couple, however, concerns me. Why in the world would you be giving your newborn apple juice? I just attended a breast-feeding class recently and they shared a study where the World Health Organization suggests you breastfeed for the first 2 years of the child's life to get the full benefits. Even the run-of-the-mill pediatrician would tell you not to give your child anything else until they are at least 4 months old. Just wondering why the couple thought that was a wise idea. So, I'm trying to be more diligent in taking my pre-natal vitamins just to cover all my bases.

Enough sharing for today. I'm off to get my second cup!

Monday, November 14, 2011

E2 - 28 Day Challenge - Day 8

On The Menu:
Breakfast: Big Bowl
Lunch: Stuffed Pita with Cannellini Dip
Dinner: Baby Greens w/ Supreme Pizza

What We Actually Ate:
Breakfast: I skipped it - Sunday mornings are just too chaotic for breakfast. I think the kids had cereal
Lunch: Spiral Diner
Dinner: Brussel sprouts, roasted new potatoes, leftovers

My Thoughts:
Sundays are always a little rough food wise just because its a busy day. We almost always eat lunch out and then are so beat when dinner rolls around it's usually something low key like leftovers or take out.

We ate lunch at Spiral Diner. It's an organic vegan restaurant on Magnolia. I've had food from there before but only as take out. This was my first time actually dining in. It was BUSY! We waited about 30 minutes for our table and were all STARVING by the time we were seated. Graham & I had the all-you-can-eat pancakes. These were SO good! Chelsea had a yummy chef salad with grilled tofu, (which she says actually tasted like chicken- I wasn't fooled but it wasn't bad) lots of veggies and a tasty homemade 'ranch' dressing. Kenzie had scrambled tofu with a side of toast and jelly. The tofu was seasoned really well. I was on tofu burn-out since our 'eatloaf the other night or I might have liked it more. Silas shared some of our pancakes and part of Izzie's grilled 'cheese'. Everyone else had a bite of her sandwich when it was nice and hot and loved it. I got my bite after it had cooled to room temp and it was a little gross. I didn't like the cheese on Chelsea's salad either. I guess I just love the real stuff too much. The girls at the table next to us had some nachos that looked really good. May have to try those next time.

Sitting there made me remember how much I love the idea of living in a neighborhood where you can just walk down the street to a neighborhood eatery which made me miss Chicago. I loved the "Granola". I'm typically a t-shirt and jeans girl myself and I love the laid-back attitude of the folks in the place... A nice slow down to the stressful pace of life... Then our waiter came over and seemed uber spaced out and several people wreaked of Patchouli, which I'm not a fan of, and I remember why I'm not that way - I like regular showers and I get extremely annoyed by those who indulge in pot smoking. You know what I'm talking about. I wanted to smack the waiter and say "Helloooooo, let's focus here." When he was taking our order it seemed like he was writing a million things down. No. Just writing REALLY SLOW.

Avoca was right across the street. A fantastic coffee shop with the roasters in house. I know, I know, but it's not cheating. Four Star serves Avoca coffee and Garold, one of the Avoca owners, is a former co-worker. Plus they are opened on nights and weekends so I don't feel ashamed for the plug. This coffee thing is really starting to get me down. I think my mom pegged it when she said it's about the experience. Sitting down with a hot cup and taking a moment to enjoy yourself. Graham was sweet and bought me some coconut milk to try. It was tasty but it just isn't as creamy. I NEED CREAM! This morning I tried a dollop of some chocolate syrup I made for our strawberries for dessert in an attempt to make it a mocha but it just didn't cut it.

Dinner was lame and unexciting. Just cleaning out the fridge, but the potatoes were pretty good.

I decided that this week I will shop for three days at a time. Last week I did a big shopping trip at the beginning of the week with a smaller trip mid-week and ended up with some things in excess and some things that just went bad before we used them because of the changes to the menu. I bought some organic grapes and had them in the fruit drawer with a million other things and kind of forgot about them. Only two days after I bought them I had to throw out the whole bunch :( I also have an extra package of hamburger buns and wraps that I have no idea what I was supposed to use them for. Hopefully this approach will prevent any waste, especially since we're going through our grocery budget pretty quickly.

E2 - 28 Day Challenge - Day 7

On The Menu:
Breakfast: Simple Cereal Bowl
Lunch: Ann's panini
Dinner: Big Salad w/ brussel sprouts and new potatoes

What We Actually Ate:
Breakfast: Simple cereal
Lunch: Big Salad
Dinner: Lynn's Meatloaf - or as I like to call it "Eatloaf" with steamed broccoli

My Thoughts:
Our lunch was pretty much just my way of trying to use up the veggies in my fridge that were about to go south. Some romaine, cucumber, a little celery, some shredded carrot, & a little spinach. We topped it with the dressing from this salad which has become one of our absolute favorites & without the bacon & feta it would be vegan too. (But lets face it, those are pretty tasty. Who'd want to exclude them?) The dressing is a simple mixture of poppy seed dressing (I used Brianni's - it's vegan) & balsamic vinaigrette (I used Newman's Own), about 70/30. YUM! We all gobbled this up.

The 'Eatloaf was a pleasant surprise. You saute some onions, garlic, and celery up and added it to some firm tofu, oats, soy sauce, ketchup, dijon mustard, and some herbs. The recipe also calls for veggie crumbles (meatless patties that come crumbled up) but I just used a few of our leftover lentil and rice patties and it worked well. It had the consistency and flavor of Stovetop stuffing. Soft, bready, and the combo of herbs must have been similar. Everyone ate this, some with extra helpings. Chelsea helped me make it so she was more willing to try it. And she liked it just fine.

I am starting to feel like we are just eating the same veggies over and over, just in slightly different forms. It does get a little old but, like with our lunch, just simply adding a super yummy and familiar dressing, made it a little more palatable.

Weight Check: I am a little frustrated. My weight hasn't changed at all. Graham's maybe a pound. I have a five pound window that I seem to float in. Some days I'm at the higher end, some days the lower. I hope that incorporating more exercise this week will help push me past that hump.

Week One Recap: Graham has noticed since pretty much Day 1 that his digestive problems are no longer and issue which further confirms what we'd previously suspected that it is connected to dairy/lactose.

I am not seeing any major or obvious changes in the way I feel but I think we're gonna stick with it... for now...

E2 - 28 Day Challenge - Day 6

On The Menu:
Breakfast:Breakfast Tacos
Lunch: Burgers w/ Sweet Potato Fries
Dinner: Starter Salad, Lynn's Meatloaf, & steamed broccoli

What We Actually Ate:
Breakfast: Breakfast Tacos
Lunch: At Grandy's (my mom's)
Dinner: Chipotle

My Thoughts:
The breakfast tacos were super easy. Just some hashbrown potatoes and some veggie breakfast sausage patties wrapped in a corn tortilla. You could probably have used some egg substitute or grilled up some veggies to go in it but I just topped mine with some salsa and called it good. The kids really like these.

We go to my mom's house most Fridays and this week was no exception. She made a fantastic spread of fruit and veggies, guacamole, hummus, & a white bean dip with some whole grain tortillas she baked up into tasty chips.

Since Graham had the day off because of the holiday we spent to afternoon running errands so dinner out was thrown into our plans. Graham and I had the vegetarian burritos with guac. Graham added the grilled veggies to his. I just went straight-up black beans and brown rice. The kids, once again, had a difficult time finding something to eat, but they stuck with it and got their own veggie tacos. And didn't eat half of them. They did eat the beans and rice and some chips. Chelsea, who doesn't like Chipotle under normal circumstances, just had a bowl of rice. :(

Graham was a little concerned that the kids aren't eating. Maybe they aren't getting enough nutrients. Part of me thinks if they'd just try some of it they'd like it. They are eating a lot of fruit, which causes other issues, but in all honesty I think they'd just prefer Halloween candy.

Friday, November 11, 2011

E2 - 28 Day Challenge - Day 5

On The Menu:
Breakfast: Hot Lap Bowl (oatmeal w/ fruit)
Lunch: E2 Basics Tacos
Dinner: Brown Rice & Lentil Burgers

What We Actually Ate:
Breakfast: Simple Cereal w/ fruit - I really like this so I don't think about changing it up to much. We will probably do breakfast tacos on Saturday when Graham is home, but for now this works.

Lunch: Chalupas - We were supposed to have this the night before and then use the leftovers to make tacos for lunch. I thought these were easier.

Dinner: Brown Rice & Lentil Burgers w/ regular old frozen white potato fries

My Thoughts:
I started my day without a headache or feeling the need to rush to the coffee maker even though I didn't get any more sleep than usual. In fact I didn't have my first cup of coffee until 4:30 when my day started to stress me out and I was starting to get the teeny-tinyist bit of a headache. I didn't even finish it before dinner. Don't know why this seems to be changing, if it's the diet or if it's just me....

Lunch was pretty good. The kids gobbled it up. I took organic corn tortillas and put them on a cookie sheet. Stuck them under the broiler for 2 minutes then pulled them out and topped them with some vegan organic refried black beans, shredded romaine lettuce, diced black olives, and a dollop of guacamole. I think I should have turned the tortillas at some point during cooking because some of them were still a little soft in the middle but all in all easy and tasty.

Dinner was interesting. I used leftover rice from our meals earlier in the week which was my first mistake. I think warm rice would have helped the burgers stay together better. I also was out of chili powder so I had to kind of make my own substitute and it wasn't quite the same. This was my first time using lentils and I was surprised at how quickly they cooked. I didn't have to soak them like beans. The recipe had you saute some onions, diced bell pepper, and garlic and add it to the beans and rice, form them into patties and bake for 15 minutes or until they are slightly firm. I had to mash the mixture up with my hands to brake up the lentils so the burger would hold. I think next time I'll add a little more seasoning and blend up the mixture in a food processor, then pan fry them like you would a black bean burger. They might stay together better as these were somewhat crumbly. But the taste was good. We topped ours with mustard and ketchup and had fries on the side. I decent alternative to McDonald's :) Silas was the only one who refused to eat is and I think part of his issue was that he was in a funk.

We are not exercise people but I think next week I'd like to incorporate some into our day, especially with the St. Jude's walk next Saturday. If you haven't checked out our page you can do so here.