August 30, 2010

Just a few notes...

Here's another great book I've been reading:

It is a very easy read, highlighting 101 super healthy foods. Some are familiar, some are not. Each "chapter" gives the history of the food, it's health benefits and even has a recipe. I credit the book for me eating dried apricots for a snack today. Yup, got my full RDA of beta-carotene :) And we really need to eat more avocados. And I'd really like to try agave syrup. Can you tell I'm still on the A's?

A couple more tidbits to share from my copy of "Eat This Not That for Kids." First, this quote:

"Most of us don't labor under the illusion that ice cream snacks and fast food burgers are healthy. The occasional sinful indulgence is part of living, even for (or especially) for kids. But most parents could never guess how bad many of today's kids' meals really are."

That is, when you get down to the nitty gritty, these things are SOOOO much worse that most people realize. Those occasional treats add up to something quite awful. But there are alternatives! You don't have to deprive yourself and your kids, you just need to be educated on better choices.

And how about this, "Today's children are likely to be the first generation to live shorter, less-healthy lives than their parents." That's pretty sad.

And you know what is really disturbing to me? It's how deceiving the packaging is on store bought food. Any product can claim to be healthy and these marketers are very sneaky and quite dishonest actually. You can't trust the front of the box, you have to look at ingredients and the nutritional info to really tell if it's good or not. And most people don't know how to decipher all that, it's ridiculous how confusing it all is. Busy moms especially don't have time to read the small print on items so these sneaky marketers splash these "sound bites" on the front, make it sound "all natural" and "wholesome" when it's really just a load of sugary, fatty, processed CRAP!! Can you tell I'm annoyed? I have fallen prey to this deception, but no more. I'm finally realizing it is MY duty as a mom to figure it all out and do right by my family, so that's what I'm trying to do.

August 28, 2010


I made some pretty good dinners this past week!

-Monday: Chicken tosadas with corn & black bean salsa

-Thursday: Steaks on the grill with sides of Greek garbanzo bean salad and a cucumber pasta salad. Small note: I used that whole wheat pasta again and I'd have to say it doesn't taste quite as good in a salad. I think it does better when it is warm and smothered in some kind of sauce. Everyone kind of ate it with a frown on their face. Like this --> :(

-Wednesday: Leftovers

-Tuesday: Crock pot BBQ chicken with baked beans and cole slaw on the side

-Friday: Vegetarian night! Pesto pizzas on whole wheat pita bread with a side of roasted fresh green beans. These beans were awesome. They had toasted almonds and caramelized onions on them. We all loved them. Here's a pic of that dinner (it was so much more delicious that it looks):

August 22, 2010

A Few Substitutions

I've been trying to sneak in a few healthy substitutions because I think little things like this can make a big difference. Here's three I've had success with.

Whole Wheat Pasta in place of plain white pasta. I made some this past week for the first time and it was very good! And, it was only about 50 cents more than the regular white pasta. It had just a little bit chewier texture but tasted pretty much the same. My son looked at it funny, noticing that the color was darker. It reminded me of the way lo mein noodles look at the Chinese buffet, so I just told him that's the kind they use at Chinese restaurants and he was more than satisfied with that answer and ate it right up.

Plain Yogurt in place of sour cream. Actually, subbing it 100% for sour cream still doesn't cut it for me, so I've been mixing it about half and half with light sour cream and no one can tell the difference. It works wonderfully well this way in dips and on top of anything Mexican.

Almond Butter in place of peanut butter. I bought a big bag of almonds last week and I found a recipe for almond butter. It was delicious! It definitely wasn't as spreadable as peanut butter but the flavor was great and it was a nice change. It was yummy on bread with jelly and we dipped apples in it too. Here's a pic of my batch.

Right after I made it, I saw almond butter for sale at the health food store. A small container was $5.99. I definitely saved money by making it myself!

August 19, 2010

Eat This Not That

I just discovered this series of books and I'm so glad I did! These books compare and contrast various restaurant, store-bought and some home-cooked food and helps you make the healthiest choice possible. I chose the "For Kids" title since we have kids and getting them to eat healthier is my main challenge right now.

This book is really amazing, scary, exciting and enligtening all at the same time. I've just started reading, but I'll share a few of the things that have jumped out at me so far.

There is a large section on restaurant foods, kids meals, etc. and some of the calorie and fat amounts in this stuff is astounding. It actually makes me angry that there is someone out there deciding that this food is appropriate for kids or anyone for that matter.

Check out this kids meal from Denny's, the "Kid's D-Zone Big Dipper French Toastix." It is a pile of french toast sticks with 2 slices of bacon. It has 770 calories and 71 grams of fat!! Kids ages 4-8 should have within the range of 39-62 fat grams per day so this meal is SOOOO above and beyond what ANYONE should have at one sitting.

Another thing that I'm learning about is evil condiments, namely mayo and ranch. These two things can turn an okay meal into totally not okay meal. I like to think a chicken sandwich is a pretty healthy choice. Well, not if it has mayo on it. Unless it is light, the mayo and ranch that restaurants use is jam packed with grossness, adding fat grams into the double digits. More often than not, a hamburger is a better choice than the chicken sandwich.

A really big surprise to me was the Arby's recommendation. When I first saw these two pages, I thought they had it backwards! Turns out, the Arby's Melt, a roast beef sandwich smothered with cheese sauce and piled on a onion bun is a pretty good choice. That doesn't sound healthy to me at all! But it beat out the Roasted Turkey and Swiss Sandwich on wheat bread big time. 303 Calories vs 708 Calories and 12 grams of fat vs 30 grams! WAY less sodium too.

And I learned something really sad about a cookie. Last time I took the kids to Fazolis, I decided their chocolate chip cookies looked yummy, so we got one. Well, little did I know that Fazoli's Chocolate Chunk Cookie is probably the most caloric cookie in the history of cookies. It has more fat and calories than a Quarter Pounder with Cheese from McDonalds!!! That's ONE COOKIE! It was good, but not THAT good.

I'm so glad to be learning about where these evils are lurking and I'm going to do my best keep them away from me and my family.

I'll be back soon with more "fun" info...

August 16, 2010

Black Bean Brownies

Yes, you read that right, beans in your brownies! I ran across this recipe a while back (I don't even remember where) and finally I tried it out. Here's what you need:

1 can black beans & 1 box (any) brownie mix

That's it! Here's what you do: Drain and rinse the beans. Then put the beans back in the can and cover with water to the top of the can. Put the beans and water in the food processor and process it good until it looks all creamy chocolate-y like this:

Now combine it with the box of brownie mix and follow the directions on the box to bake. It sounds crazy, but they turned out pretty good! I won't claim that they were the most delicious brownies ever, but I liked them fine and so did the fam. In fact, they were gone in less than a day. To substitute protein & fiber for fat & cholesterol, I'll give up a little flavor for that! Still took care my chocolate craving no problem.

I sprinkled some walnuts on top before baking and voila!

Aren't beans amazing?!?

August 13, 2010

Snack Success :)

Feeling a little bad that I smack talked on Snack Girl a bit, so here's one of the VERY successful snacks I discovered on her website. She calls it an apple pie makeover. But I think it's more of a quick and easy apple crisp substitute, though it does bear a slight resemblance (in taste anyway) to McDonald's apple pie. Something about that graham cracker. So, check out the link to her recipe if you please, but here's how I do it.

Peel and cut up one apple. Place it in a bowl and squeeze a little lemon juice on it. Take one whole graham cracker (all four sections), crush it up and sprinkle on top along with a couple dashes of cinnamon. Depending on how sweet you want it and how sweet your apple is to begin with, you could stop there, but I choose to add a bit of sugar as well. Maybe half a teaspoon tops. Stir it all up and microwave it for 2 minutes. It's really really yummy! My son especially loves it. Great with a glass of milk or I'm sure it would be divine with some ice cream.

Give it a try!

August 11, 2010

Snack Fail :(

I had really high hopes for this! I love Snack Girl. Have you heard of her? She has an awesome website where she reviews store bought food, restaurant menu items and also gives some great tips and recipes for healthy snacking. So, I was excited to give THIS one a try. I've never eaten kale. Didn't know much about kale. In fact, whenever I hear the word "kale," I think of the boy I had a crush on in 4th grade. His name was Kail actually, and he was super cute...anyway, the FOOD kale is a cruciferous vegetable, related to cabbage. It is jam packed full of all kinds of nutrients and cancer-fighting stuff. Sounds excellent! And according to Snack Girl, my kids will LOVE this stuff in CHIP form. So, I found it at the store and it was not expensive, just $1.18 for a large bunch. I washed it, patted it dry and tore off some pretty bite-size pieces. Tossed them with olive oil and a splash of vinegar, a bit of salt and pepper and into the oven they went.

Here they are all green and perky:

And here they are shriveled up, dried up and not so pretty:

They smelled okay while they were cooking so I was anxious to give them a try. I took a bite and they tasted very...cruciferousy. Kinda sorta bitter with a strange aftertaste. Maybe we got a bad batch? Who knows. Anyway, my son was very excited to try them. He's an adventurous kid always willing to try new things. I gave no indication on how they tasted to me, and was thinking maybe he would like them. He took a little bite and promptly asked for a drink of water. It was a no go. My daughter thought they were fun to smash into a million pieces, but none of the pieces made it into her mouth. I think she just knew. I ate a few more and they were okay, tolerable, but not great. I suppose if you're a big fan of this family of vegetables than you'd like them just fine! I like cabbage in cole slaw and cooked as sauerkraut is okay, but I guess kale is just not for me. It was fun to try something new though!

and PS. if you do try these, be prepared for little "reminders" of them and their unique flavor throughout the rest of the day. if you know what I mean.

August 08, 2010

Happiness wrapped in bacon

These tasty treats are not the healthiest but they were so delicious that I couldn't not post about them. Hubby brought home a bag of jalapenos that were given to him by a coworker. The coworker suggested making jalapeno bacon wraps, which we'd never made or even eaten before but he decided to give it a try. Here's how:

First slit open each jalapeno and remove the seeds and as much of the membranes as possible. Then soak all of the peppers in cold water for 20-30 minutes. This removes some of the "heat." While they're soaking, combine softened cream cheese with some dry ranch mix and some garlic powder to taste. Stuff the cheese mixture into each of the peppers. Next, wrap each in a happy blanket of bacon and fasten with a toothpick. Chill them in the fridge for an hour or so till the cheese hardens a bit. Here they are getting ready to chill:

When they are chilled, it's onto the grill 'till the bacon looks done:

I ate way more of them then I should've and my tummy protested a bit but my
tastebuds did NOT! Just the right amount of spiciness with a cool creamy ranch
filling and hello, BACON. Can anything wrapped in bacon be bad? I doubt it.

A couple notes...I think we used about 2 packages of cream cheese for that pan full of peppers. Also, best to soak the toothpicks in water so they don't go up in flames.

Linked to: Tempt my Tummy Tuesday @ Blessed with Grace

August 06, 2010

World's Best Baked Potato!

I believe I've found it :) Last month, my mother-in-law asked if I could make baked potatoes for a family get-together. Of course! I said. But inside, I was saying, dang, I don't really know how to make baked potatoes other than in the microwave by pushing the "potato" button. And those never turned out that great. So, I searched online, I found this recipe at I read the reviews and tweaked it a bit based on some suggestions. Here's what I came up with:

My Perfect Baked Potatoes

5-6 medium size potatoes
3 T olive oil
approx 1/2 tsp garlic salt
approx 1/4 tsp ground black pepper

First, scrub the potatoes good then prick several times with a fork. Place them on a microwave safe plate and cook them on medium/high for 6-8 minutes. Microwaving them cuts down on the baking time which is especially great in summer! Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle place them in a large ziplock bag with the oil. Seal the bag and move them all around so they are all coated and shiny. Then, place them on a baking sheet and sprinkle them with salt and pepper, rotating to get all sides. I really wasn't sure on the measurements, just enough to lightly coat them. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until easily pierced with a sharp knife.

These potatoes come out awesome! They are so tasty, the skin is shiny and a bit crisp and really, they are delicious with NOTHING else on them. But of course some butter and sour cream makes them super extra delicious.

Plain baked potatoes are not the most beautiful things to behold, but I took a pic anyway.

August 03, 2010


I cooked up a Mexican feast tonight. Okay, it wasn't really a feast,
but it was a pretty fancy dinner by my standards.
I bought this book at a garage sale:

It's a great little cookbook with so many simple recipes.

It inspired these two dishes:

Then upon recommendation of my sister I tried the Carnitas recipe from That there was some yummy pig! We piled the rice and meat on our tortillas and topped them with shredded spinach (my sub for lettuce), cheese, my "homemade" tomato salsa and sour cream. We ate the corn and black bean salsa on the side with tortilla chips.

It was a very good dinner and everyone liked it lots.

AND there's plenty of leftovers for tomorrow. YAY!

August 02, 2010

Great website!

This site has some very helpful tools to make meal planning easier! I've been
wanting to meal plan for...forever but really didn't have the tools or the
organizational talents to make it happen. I'm hoping and praying this site will
change that! It allows you to browse their recipes (and there are some good ones!) then create a meal plan based on the recipes you choose and even print a shopping list. All for free. I haven't yet learned all the ins and outs and there are probably more features that I haven't discovered yet. So far it seems like an excellent tool to get started.

I have made a pledge to myself that starting this school year I will plan at least 3 dinner meals per week. The other nights we will either have leftovers or just fix and eat what we've got (can anyone say "sandwich night?") I've already created my "cookbook" on this site and am just about ready to get started!

And for dinner tonight I'm planning on making THIS. Seems like the perfect light dinner for a blazing hot summer day.