Monthly Archives: September 2012

Our Meal Plan and This Week’s Loves and Letdowns

Here’s our meal plan for the week. I loved it. Everything on the menu was so delicious!

Sunday: We had a dinner at church so I didn’t plan anything for that night. At lunch Chuck made spinach salads with carrots, tomatoes, sunflower seeds, and cucumbers while I got the babes down for nap. It was awesome!
Monday: We had the green beans and red potatoes that I mentioned here.
Tuesday: Mushroom and Onion Pizza with Cauliflower crust. Well, I ran out of olive oil and had to run to the store at 4 p.m. [ugh] so we just went with our usual pizza crust but it was delicious. I try to limit the pizza to once every couple of weeks because it’s so much bread and so much cheese. Lucy got a corn tortilla topped with steamed broccoli and rice cheese.
Wednesday: Squash Casserole Risotto. I think the start of fall got me pumped for the holidays so I tried to create a healthier version of the Squash Casserole I grew up with. So we had risotto with roasted squash and gfv bread crumbs, topped with a tiny bet of cheese. It was a solid seven.
Thursday: Cabbage and White Beans. I think this was one of Chuck and Landon’s favorites for the week. I changed the potatoes to carrots and added soy sauce and rice vinegar to de-glaze the pan after the onions. I also topped it with toasted sesame seeds. So I guess I changed the recipe quite a bit. But it was delicious.
Friday: Quinoa Stuffed Peppers. Does everyone know about Moosewood? It’s a restaurant based in Ithaca, NY and they focus on healthful, vegetarian food. Bon Appetit named them one of the 13 most influential and revolutionary restaurants of the 20th century. I’ve never tried a recipe from their website [they have cookbooks, too] that hasn’t come out delicious and these quinoa stuffed peppers are no exception. Though I should add that you may want to limit the red pepper flakes with the kids. Whew.
Saturday: Black Bean Soup and Baguettes. We’re trying this recipe for the first time but I love that it’s a crock pot meal because I think the longer soup takes to make, the better it tastes. I make the baguettes from a King Arthur Flour recipe and they take 18 hours from start to finish [not too much hands on time]. So maybe they’re a labor of love, but they’re worth every minute. We skipped the cauliflower because our dinner plans changed a little and we didn’t need quite so much food.

Last week my sister-in-law mentioned that the hardest part for her with eating real food is having time to fix them after work. Legit. So I started writing about ways to get dinner on the table quicker. Buuuuut, I couldn’t finish it. Honestly, I have some tips but it didn’t seem fair for me to write it. Next thing you know I’ll write on how to parent teenagers [nope. noooope]. I’ll keep working on it. So until then, here’s a little summary of my week in the form of loves and let downs.

-Lucy when we’re driving on an on or exit ramp [she says “WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!]
-Lucy distinguishing girls and boys as “Belles” and “Beasts”.
-Husbands who do dishes.
-New clothes on super sale.
-Family trips to Trader Joe’s [99 cent coconut milk! Pumpkin butter! Coconut cream! Acorn Squash! Teeny tiny pumpkins!]
-The best chocolate cupcakes I’ve ever made [vegan or not!]
-Garage sales and thrift stores.
-Siblings playing together.
-Lucy singing Mizzou fight songs.
-Landon being the kid at the grocery store that smiles and waves at everyone in line and gets everyone smiling with him.
-Lucy learning how to plie. Well, Lucy believing she can plie.
-Landon helping me fold clothes [He picks something out of the basket, throws it into my lap, and lets out a big grunt.]
-Chuck asking if I want to walk around the mall and grab a blizzard.
-First chills of fall + light layers.
-“Mom will you read this book to me.”
-“Mom will you play blocks with me.”
-“Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah, Buddy’s awake. He’s awake. It’s time to play.”
-“Landon learning to make a silly noise by running his fingers over his vibrating lips.
-Watching random hockey practices and figure skating at the mall.

-Strangers in public: “Your baby is crying [Oh, I didn’t notice]. I think he’s hungry [MMKThanks].”
-“Mom there’s poop in my room.”
-“Mom I peed on my floor.”
-“Mom I have to potty and I want you to watch.”
-Siblings beating each other up.
-Chuck asking me if I want to walk around the mall and grab a blizzard [about 1/3 of the way through I got sick].
-“Hi, I realize that I just called you but my child has taken this opportunity to start screaming so maybe I’ll call back.”
-Days that trick you by starting cool and then heating up.
-Lucy taking three bites of dinner each night and declaring she’s done [A phase, I know, I know.].

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Green Beans and Red Potatoes

So I’ve talked before about how it’s taken some time to make good [and tasty] food for dinner each night. Part of the problem was a complete lack of understanding about how to properly cook vegetables. My mom is kind of this mix between Paula Deen, Sandra Lee, and Ellie Krieger [if you know your Food Network personalities]. She has this unusual gift to seemingly always win. Everything she serves is delicious, with a little southern flair, it didn’t take the whole day for her to prepare, and it’s pretty healthy for me. [What’s up big shoes?]

After a few failed attempts to make things taste exactly like mom used to make, I gave up. Horribly. I just bought the canned veggies; all you have to do is reheat them. [Sigh.] Thankfully, I think, staying home with Lucy gave me lots of time to practice cooking veggies right. So I thought I’d share how we cook green beans. Maybe you’re a shark in the kitchen and the simpleness of this will make you smile, but that’s alright.

Green beans will serve you up Vitamins K, C, and A as well as some manganese and fiber. So it’ll help your cuts and bruises heal up, help your pms calm down, and do it’s part to keep cancer at bay. I love livestrong for a head’s up about what my veggies are giving back to me.

Let’s start the usual way: giving the fresh green beans a little bath in the sink. I like to take this opportunity to spray them with a veggie spray. While they’re soaking I fill a larger pot [usually my dutch oven] with water and get it boiling. After they’re clean you can take your knife and cut the ends off [or snap them off, whatev]. When they’re all trimmed it’s to the boiling water with a timer set for three minutes.

After the green beans have boiled for three minutes I pour them into a colander and use the same dutch oven to heat up some oil [usually either olive or coconut]. To the hot oil I’ll add a medium onion. As soon as it starts to turn translucent I’ll add a few minced garlic cloves and stir that for a minute or so. Add your green beans in next and let them saute until they’re as soft as you want. [Since I knew they were going to join up with some potatoes that had lemon juice I added some lemon juice at the end too. Made for each other. So romantic.]

So that’s how green beans come to life at the Baker house. But this week we wanted to make a meal of it so we added a starch. Red potatoes love green beans. They’ve got some carbs and fiber, but they’re kind of a vitamin and mineral storehouse. They’re rich in potassium, vitamin C, niacin, magnesium, iron and vitamin B6. Red potatoes are heart friendly; all that potassium is good for your ticker.

To prepare the red potatoes this time I made a vinaigrette of olive oil, the juice from half a lemon, ground mustard, dried dill, nutritional yeast, a tiny bit of thyme, salt, and pepper. I mixed it up a bit and coated the potatoes with it. I baked them at 450 for 15 minutes, gave them a little shuffle, and put them back in for 15 more.

[I’m sorry. Did I just lose you at nutritional yeast? That’s alright. It’s a great source of vitamin B12 and a lot of vegans love it because it adds a cheesy or nutty flavor. You can buy it for pretty cheap in the bulk bins at Whole Foods. Sneak it into your dishes and see how long it takes your family to notice. (Cat’s out of the bag, now)]

I really enjoyed this meal. You could really play with the taste by mixing up the vinaigrette. I think next time I might try something like this one because I really liked the mustard and green bean combo.

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Kid Art: Bubble Wrap Canvas

I love making art projects with Lucy. And I love putting them up in my house. And Lucy loves seeing stuff that she’s made up in our house. So this project, my friends, is a triple win. We’ve bowled a turkey.

A few weeks ago I got my latest Vitacost order and it came with this awesomely huge bubble wrap. I knew right away we needed to do something with it. I’m not creating anything ground-breaking here. Bubble wrap painting is totally all over the internet.

So to make our bubble wrap painting a little more permanent I grabbed a pack of canvases from Michael’s. With a sale it came out to a couple bucks per canvas, so this is no bank-breaker. I also timed the project with Lucy’s graduation from the separate potty seat to making the transition to the “big” potty with a stool. I knew I wanted to replace the generic art we had in the bathroom so what a better way to convince a kid to spend more time on the throne than with some new art to appreciate.

I feel like I should start off by letting you know that we did this project first thing in the morning while Landon was still sleeping. So I think I wasn’t quite awake yet when I let Lucy paint with acrylic paint without a smock. [Boo.]

We started off with with me showing her how to use our supplies. This is the hardest part because everything is set up and ready and the last thing she wants to do is watch me play with her paint. I showed her how to use the brush to paint on the bubble wrap and then press it on the canvas and she was ready to go. And wouldn’t let me touch the canvas again. She’s already got the artists’ attitude.

She really was still tired. She soldiered through. For the love of painting.

I picked three colors for her and she painted them onto the bubble wrap.

She was able to carefully lift the bubble wrap and press it down onto the canvas.

We had some smaller bubble wrap so after she was finished with the larger bubbles we moved to the smaller. For this bubble wrap I found that it was easier for her to put too much paint on. When that happened you couldn’t see the little dots of the bubble wrap on the canvas, it just kind of turned in to a big goop. I’d suggest making the smaller bubble wrap a one-shot deal. Have the kiddo paint their design onto the bubble wrap and use it once like a stamp.

After Lucy was finished with her masterpiece I painted the sides of the canvas with a mixture of the leftover paints [so it ended up a nice navy color]. I think it would look better framed but I can always do that later. The painted edges did give it a more finished look.

Here’s our bubble art, living large in its new home in the throne room. I know I’m biased but I LOVE how it turned out. And since the project was only a couple bucks if I get tired of it we can do another project!

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Mountain Bread

Growing up in the South, we had a lot of traditions. An abundance. But one of my favorite traditions was special to our little family. After church on Sundays we would stop by Publix and pick up some oven roasted turkey and white mountain bread to make sandwiches.

via
[Publix makes whole wheat white mountain bread now. Man, I love Publix.]

So if you’re switching to a real food diet it might not take you long to realize buying bread at the store is a bit of a challenge. Add that to the list of questions we get about our diet, “What do you do about bread?!” So this bread is our solution. A welcome solution considering we call Lucy a carbivore. Here’s a recipe I adapted from a message board recipe I found years [and years] ago.

Mountain Bread [with vegan adaptations]
Makes 1 loaf

starter:
3/8 cup warm water
1/2 tablespoon active dry yeast
a pinch of sugar

bread:
3/4 cup warm milk [almond milk]
1 1/2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter [earth balance vegan spread]
1 1/2 tablespoons honey [agave]
2 1/2 – 3 cups flour (all purpose, white wheat, spelt, or high protein gluten free)*
1/2 tablespoon salt

[If you want your bread to be light and airy make sure you’re measuring the flour by scooping it into the measuring cup with a spoon.]

Start off by mixing the warm water [about 100F, but I don’t usually use a thermometer], yeast, and sugar. Let it sit for about 10 minutes.

While this is resting, heat up the milk and butter. After the starter has rested, add the milk and butter, honey, flour, and salt. Mix until blended and cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel. Let it rise for 30 minutes.

Punch down the dough and let it rest for 30 more minutes. After 30 minutes transfer the dough to a baking mat or parchment. It is a loose dough but let it rise for another 45 minutes. Now would be a good time to preheat your oven to 375F.

About 20 minutes into the last rise you might realize the dough is spreading too much. I like to pull the sides of the bread back to the top and make it look a bit more like the mountain it was named for [whip it into shape]. You can see where the bread was before I pulled the sides up.

After the final rest, bake the bread for 30-35 minutes. I transfer it to and from the oven with a pizza peel. You should be able to knock on the bread and hear a soft hollow sound when it’s done.

Sometimes if we’re feeling crazy we make up some honey butter to eat with it. So good! I love this bread most because it’s totally acceptable for sandwiches. It’s soft on the inside without a lot of crumb. Yum.

*During the summer I use closer to 3 cups but during the winter I use closer to 2 1/2. If you’re making this bread for the first time be aware that you may not use all of the flour. Only add as much flour as you need to make it kneadable.

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Mama Confessions

Hi. My name is Beth and sometimes I raise my voice to my kids. I know, I know. If you would have told me three and a half years ago when I was pregnant with my first lovely that I would sometimes lose my cool… well I totally would have defriended you on facebook. Kidding. Mostly. When Lucy was swimming around in my belly it was terribly easy to shake my head at other mamas and think about how different I would be.

And then God blessed me with a high-energy, spirited, and iron-willed child. Game changer. No wait. And then 20 months later God blessed me with her brother. Okay, there’s the game changer. When they won the numbers game, I started to feel the stress: so there’s the real game changer.

But for me it only took a few yells [from me] and a few confused, hurt looks [from the babes] to realize that was not the way I wanted to parent. I mean I only get one shot at this and I really don’t want to screw up.

So about six months ago I saw this adaptation of James 1:20 on another blog I read.

I loved her take on it. Getting angry or upset about the toddler shenanigans was just teaching Lucy and Landon how to respond to things that upset them. Mmm. Not good. I mean I totally want to encourage them towards righteousness. I want them to respond to situations with calm and reason [and without a quick temper]. So the next time every article of clothing was taken off of its hanger or out of its drawer I decided to sit my future fashionista down and talk to her about how her actions made me feel. I talked to her about the extra work it would take me to put all of the clothes away and had her help me fold everything to go back in the drawers.

And it was going really well. Until it wasn’t. Lucy decided that she didn’t want to help me put the clothes away. She screamed. She threw herself on the floor. She slapped me [in the face. out of nowhere. oh.my.goodness]. So I did the only thing I could think of. I gave her a huge hug and started singing James 1:20 to the tune of “The Ants Go Marching”. Yep. She was shocked. It was kind of awesome.

So I can’t say that from that day forward I never lost my temper again. But I can say that I realized the value of having specific scripture memorized to whip out when needed. I mean when you have toddlers [or teenagers, or tweens, or pre-tweens…I’m guessing] you are given a lot of opportunities to compose yourself. A lot. And a lot of practice on making the right decision and having the right response.

So there are a couple others that I keep in the bank for necessary moments. One is Romans 12:1 – “Therefore I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices: holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual act of worship.” This verse is great for reminding me of the bigger picture. It reminds me that we’re put on earth to worship God and have to continually offer ourselves to Him. It also reminds me that we have to daily worship Him and strive to be holy and pleasing to Him. [Working.On.It]

The other is a passage from Proverbs 31:10-31 and it’s always a fresh reminder of the kind of wife and mom I’m striving to be.


[You are right mom. Always total angels. Always.]

Anyone else have any verses they keep at the ready for challenging times?

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Our Meal Plan and How We Choose Food

Here’s our meal plan for the week.

Sunday: Broccoli Salad from here. I don’t use mayo or milk for my dressing and I added chickpeas.
Monday: I made my favorite broccoli soup recipe but subbed cauliflower for the broccoli. It was delicious.
Tuesday: As soon as the weather turned the slightest bit cool I started roasting veggies. Just in case you don’t have your own sweet potato fry recipe. I use chili powder and paprika instead of cayenne. There are never extra!
Wednesday: We invited some friends from our small group over for dinner Wednesday so I fixed a bigger meal than usual. We had rotisserie chicken, roasted asparagus [even though it’s out of season, just a craving], roasted cauliflower, and an apple and feta spinach salad.
Thursday: We had leftovers from Wednesday’s feast! We never have leftovers so I was thrilled!
Friday: Because I switched Wednesday’s meal plan last minute I had to use up my broccoli so we had another roasted veggie dinner of broccoli, sweet potatoes, and corn. Not the most creative or inspired meal but all of our bellies were full and there was not an extra veggie left.
Saturday: We love to watch football on Saturdays so that usually means a big meal late afternoon with some healthy football snacks [roasted chickpeas, guacamole, carrots]. I can’t wait for this BLT salad!!

I’m still recovering and still on some meds from last week’s triple whammy sickness but [like all mamas know] that doesn’t give you a free pass for dinner. I did take the liberty of filling the week’s meal plan with low prep dinners and I’m finally starting to feel better. I’m definitely itching to get back in the kitchen next week and try some new recipes!

I thought I’d explain a little this week how we choose what to eat. I hinted at it in this post, but we use the Harvard Healthy Eating Plate as our guide to healthy eating. There are a couple differences between the Harvard plate and the government’s Choose My Plate initiative. One is that the Harvard plate is limiting dairy to 1-2 servings a day and the other is that you should eat more vegetables than fruit.

Making choices about what to eat [beyond what I’m craving or what tastes good] took some adjustments. There were some foods on my “no” list that had to switch columns. But it started at the grocery store. If you don’t buy “treats” [are they really treats if you eat them all the time?] you won’t have to resist the urge to devour them. Here’s some things I noticed after I started eating healthier:

1. My definition of sweet changed. Sugar is good. It’s so good when you eat some your body wants more. When I stopped eating sweets on a daily basis I noticed I couldn’t eat as many of them. My taste for them changed. The less sugar I ate the less sugar my body wanted. I feel like that’s crazy: but it’s true. And even better still, as my desire for sugar went away so too did my guilt for the occasional indulgence. It’s bananas, really.

2. I convinced myself to try [and like] foods I’d never cared for before. Some examples from that list: carrots, coconut, and broccoli. My aversion to carrots and coconut was kind of intense. But I changed my lunch from a sandwich and chips to salad everyday. And I put carrots on my salad [and ate them all]. Eventually I decided carrots are naturally super sweet and tasty. Obviously #1 helps with this transition. Coconut was pretty much the same way. So many of Lucy and Landon’s allergen-free recipes called for coconut oil and at first it was all I could taste. In a bad way. But, eventually my taste buds acclimated. Broccoli was a different story. I’ve always been okay with broccoli. I would cook it until it was mushy. Slather it with cheese and then have a little broccoli with my cheese. So after I learned how to properly steam broccoli I started to enjoy the taste of it. Here’s what’s crazy to me: we all want our kids to eat healthy. And we ask for advice on how to get them to eat their vegetables. But are we being a good example for them [I wasn’t]? Are we giving them a variety of vegetables, cooked and seasoned well, and eating alongside them. That was my game-changer: eating the way I wanted my kids to eat.

3. I felt sick when I strayed from healthy eating. This is the one that kind of bummed me out in the beginning. The first time I ate fried chicken after I switched to a healthy diet, I thought I was going to see it twice. My tummy ached. My head was cloudy. My energy waned. I’m not trying to be melodramatic; It was crazy! My body was trying to reject the fried goodness.

4. We eat a bigger variety of foods now. So we aren’t eating the typical American fare. We eat meat about once a week and the rest of our meals are vegetable-based. We cut out or limited a lot of the foods we were eating [meat, pasta, acidic foods]. Because of this we get the question, “What do you eat?!” a lot. So here’s the thing. We eat a greater variety of foods now than ever before. If vegetables are going to be the main part of your meal you need a lot of veggies to feel full. I mean, really, you have to eat a lot of veggies to get your calories. So this has led us to really expand the number of veggies we eat. If it’s plant-based, it’s fair game. And that’s really fun. We’re trying out new recipes all the time. We’re aiming to see three colors on our plate each night. We’re giving our children a variety of tastes to try.

So the story totally has a happy ending. We made these changes. We committed to owning our family’s health. We learned about food: what’s good for us, and how our bodies feel about what we eat. We did these things and we saw results. Some were immediate and some took a lot longer. Almost all of them were surprising. So here’s my list of how a real food diet changed me, Beth.

1. My hair is shinier. I used to dye my hair because it was so dull and looked sort of dead. No more. Hallelujah.

2. My pores are smaller. Yep. On my face. Can’t explain it. Don’t know the science behind it. Really, in general, my face feels healthier. This is super exciting for me because I have a crazy combination-skin face and any improvement makes me want to give myself high-fives.

3. I have more energy. I kind of laugh at this one because when we started our new eating lifestyle I was nursing a six month old baby who reeeeeeally likes to eat. He was still waking up two or three times a night to nurse and didn’t seem to care that his sister was also an early riser. And I was tired. So tired. So to feel less tired, was awesome.

4. Vegetarians make better lovers. I don’t want to talk about this in person. I’m totally blushing in my living room. But all I can tell you is that it’s true. Even if things are already great: Get ready for it!

5. I’ve lost weight. And kind of a lot. And inches. And booty. And love handles. It’s sort of crazy to me. I tried on pants today in a size I’ve never worn. Well, not since my Bongo days in the late 90s [please someone else tell me they wore Bongos.]. But I couldn’t tell you how many pounds I’m down. I honestly haven’t weighed myself. It’s just never been about that. It’s been about feeling healthy. But, seriously, what a bonus.

If you’re looking for a resource to help you understand how foods affect your body I’d recommend “You Are What You Eat” by Dr. Gillian McKeith. It’s not for the person casually considering changing their diet, and I’ve never done a detox or cleanse, but I think it’s so interesting to see signs your body is giving you that it has nutritional deficiencies. Is that homework? It just might be…

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Second Season Planting

So maybe I’m super behind the times, but I just heard about second season planting this year. There are other people who know way more about it than I do, if you need a little fall crop edu. So I am super excited to see how the garden does.

I actually didn’t even need to buy new seeds for this adventure. I looked at the back of my spring seeds and, wouldn’t you know it, it says right on the back of the package that there’s a second season. Most of the greens we usually plant had a Aug-Sept plant date suggestion.

This fall we’ve got green beans, snow peas, spinach, and beets in the ground so we’ll see what comes up. We’ve already got seed sprouts from all but the spinach so I think that’s a good sign. Is there anything cuter than little seedlings?

Yes.

Anyone else planting for a second season? Or have any tips for fall crops?

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Big Lots, What?!

Did anyone else know that Big Lots carries Bob’s Red Mill?! I saw it on Bob’s Red Mill’s twitter feed [why I was on Bob’s Red Mill’s twitter page I cannot answer. There is no answer.]. So I packed both kids in the car and kind of ran/walked to my closest BL. Who would have thought?!

So comparing the prices to amazon bulk prices [4 x 22 oz packs, usually] I found the flax seed [almost sold out] and soup mixes to be really good prices. The wild rice was a good price too, but it takes a lot longer to cook than the stuff I normally buy [why?!]. They had a bunch of gluten free stuff at comparable prices so I bought a few packs [brownie mix, pizza crust, cornbread] because I don’t want to buy 4 packs in bulk on amazon without knowing if we’ll like it. I’m super excited to try to the cornbread [hello, fall!]. I was also excited that all of the expiration dates were 2014. We eat a lot of beans over here. A lot. So it’s exciting when you can get a good deal on a mix because all of the work is done.

So here’s the breakdown for the best deal I found. Bob’s Red Mill 13 Bean Soup Mix:
Big Lots: $3.90
Amazon Subscribe & Save: $19.70 / 4 = $4.93

A penny saved… Anybody?

I feel I have an unhealthy amount of excitement about this. But a soup mix that includes grains takes care of half of the plate!!

source

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[Vegan] Chocolate Chip Cookies

Lucy’s pretty good at coming up with excuses to not go to bed.
“Mooooooooooooommy, my nose is running again.”
“Mooooooooooooommy, tuck me tight.”

So this is not me complaining about that [because I can’t. It’s real cute].

Last night Chuck came back from checking on her for the last time [she really held out] and said, “Um, I told Lucy you’d bake cookies with her tomorrow. That’s all she wanted.” I thought for sure she’d forget about it. I mean she’s 2.75, right?! But sure enough we only made it to 10:30 a.m. before I heard, “Mommy, I want to cook cookies.” I told her we would in a little while [let’s get baby brother to nap first, right?!]. To which she responds, “Mommy, Daddy told me you would cook cookies with me.” Woah. Woah, woah, woah.

Bravo, LuLu. Bravo.

So I thought I’d share our very favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. It’s the only cookie recipe I’m brave enough to share with our allergy-free & non-vegan friends.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie
Makes 12-13 cookies

1 & 3/4 c oat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/8 c brown sugar (I measure it out 1/4 + 1/8)
3/8 c white sugar
2 tablespoons apple butter
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1 & 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 c almond milk
1/2 c chocolate chips

In a medium bowl, whisk together the oat flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside. In another bowl, cream the sugars with the apple butter, add the coconut oil and vanilla. Add the coconut oil mixture to the dry ingredients and combine. It will be very dry. Add the almond milk (and more if needed) and mix well. Stir in the chocolate chips. Line your baking sheet with parchment. Scoop out 1 tablespoon portions and place at least an inch apart [use a cookie scoop and make pretty, uniform cookies]. Bake at 375 degrees F for 12 minutes [you may only need 10 minutes, my oven is a slow cooker]. Let them cool on the sheet for 5 minutes and then serve. Mmm.

A vegan cookie dough that doesn’t spread to accidental lace cookies. Yes.

These are really our go-to cookie. If we want oatmeal chocolate chip I add about 3/4 c of oatmeal and increase the milk to a little more than 1/4 c. Those are a bit more “meaty”. But these, these are the cookies I’ll serve you and then later, when you ask what’s in them, spill the beans. No, they don’t taste like they have butter and eggs in them. Yes, they are delicious.

So Lucy had a great time helping me bake these. I usually measure out ingredients and she pours it into the bowl. We have to wear our matching pink and brown polka dot aprons [it is offensive to her if I suggest otherwise]. About halfway through the recipe [usually as soon as I bring the sugar out] she asks when she gets the bowl. So here’s a gratuitous picture of Lucy eating cookie dough.

And if you were wondering what Landon was doing [and does every time the oven light is on].

Anyone who wants to caption that in the comments has my hearty consent.

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Food Budgets [and this week’s meal plan]

I think everybody has a bit of curiosity about what others spend on food [what kind of food they buy, too!]. It’s fun, right?! To compare a little [but only a little; don’t be crazy]. So here’s my breakdown of where our food budget goes:

Aldi: $60 a week for produce, nuts, a few items from the dairy case. I shop heavily from the produce picks for the week. Heavily. Here’s a glance at my receipt for last week:

[That $1.69 for veggie chips is well spent: it gets me 40 minutes of uninterrupted shopping time while Lucy sits in the back of the cart. She even shares with Landon to keep him happy. The mandoline slicer put me a little over but COME ON! Aldi! A mandoline slicer for $2.49. Works like a dream, too. p.s. Chuck does not eat “clean” cereal. It’s his vice. p.p.s. I bought extra peaches to preserve some but we ate every.single.peach. Those kids…].

Whole Foods: $50 a month for bulk items like dried beans, grains, and special allergen-free things for Lucy and Landon. This trip I bought soy yogurt, applesauce, rice and flax pasta, a two pack of almond milk, 2 coconut creamers, 2 packs of rice cheese for Lucy, spelt pretzels, and my bulk items.

[Lucy’s pasta was on sale so I bought two and sent myself a few bucks over].

Sam’s Club: $80 bi-monthly for bulk items like coffee, chocolate, almonds, pasta sauce.

So maybe the Sam’s Club entry surprises you. I feel like a lot of the stuff they sell is not frugal or clean-eating friendly. It kind of makes me laugh. We have a Sam’s membership because Chuck loves Sam’s. He loves the Saturday samples. He loves the giant sodas and pizza from the cafe. The carts that both kids can ride up front in. He loves it all. Every year at renewal time I tell him I’m thinking about cancelling the membership and he looks like a puppy left at the pound. So, we’re Sam’s members. I have to say that the things we do buy from there are great; diamonds in the rough. Here’s a rundown:

-Fair-trade Coffee
-Ghiradelli dark chocolate morsels
-3# bag of almonds
-3 count of Classico pasta sauce (a real food!)
-Giant bags of frozen veggies
-Organic spinach

I do make my Sam’s membership go a little farther by marking my renewal date on my calendar. The day before my renewal date I buy two of everything I normally buy. That way I’m renewing my membership every 16 months instead of 12.

Vitacost: $50 every 4 months for staples that they sell cheaper than Amazon and Whole Foods.

Here’s a typical Vitacost order. Usually when I place an order it’s for a lot of gluten-free flours so that I can stock up (just keep them in the freezer):

-Bob’s Red Mill Potato Starch
-Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose Gluten-Free
-Bob’s Red Mill Spelt (Awesome if you’re allergic to wheat. Not awesome if you’ve got a gluten sensitivity or are celiac).
-Bob’s Red Mill Garbanzo & Fava Bean Flour
-Bob’s Red Mill Brown Rice Flour [Can you tell I like Bob’s Red Mill?].
-Puffed Corn Cereal. One ingredient. I usually buy at least 4 bags because the kids love it and it’s ~$1.50 a bag.
-Puffed Kamut Cereal. Also one ingredient. This one is the crowd favorite. They’re kind of magic because they taste like Sugar Smacks without any added sugar.

So obviously the Vitacost order wouldn’t be necessary for someone who’s not on a gluten-free diet [though my sister orders her natural shampoos and lotions from them as well as the Eden Organic black beans (they have a bpa-free liner)]. I love them because the prices are almost always cheaper than Amazon’s! That’s not something I find too often. And Whole Foods can’t compare. If you want to try out Vitacost you can use my referral link and get $10 off $50. That’s a deal-maker.

Amazon: $120 in the last six months.

I love Amazon for a few reasons. First, the shipping is amazing. If you can find a friend to split prime shipping with: do it! If I need more oat flour I can stand to wait two days for it to come (especially since it’s cheaper and I don’t have to run out with two kids in tow). Also, “Subscribe & Save”. This little gem will knock a couple bucks off your total [well 5% usually] for signing up to have your order auto-shipped every few months [you choose the frequency]. But here’s the crazy part: there’s no penalty for cancelling so you can get the S&S price and cancel later if you want. So here’s a sampling of what I’ve purchased on Amazon over the last six months.

-Bob’s Red Mill Oat Flour 4 pack (twice). It is so good.
-Sunbutter 6 pack. So much cheaper.
-Farro 3 pack.
-Alter Eco Quinoa 8 pack. This was cheaper than buying Whole Foods brand and fair trade!

Depending on the month I usually end up spending between $350-$375 for a family of four. About $100 of that is special food the kids require for allergen-free eating. It is definitely a budget buster. And unavoidable.

So here’s this week’s meal plan. It went really well until Thursday when I landed in Urgent Care with Mastitis, a sinus infection, and a fever of 103.5. Oy.

Sunday: Roasted Broccoli Quinoa Salad

This is one of my favorite meals. This time I roasted some pecans and feta cheese on a baking sheet and added them into the mix. It was so good.
Monday: Stewed Lentils
. We left out the peppers and will probably use more spice next time. It was good but could’ve been better.
Tuesday: Spaghetti with Kale and Cauliflower [here] We left out the sardines and I roasted the cauliflower. We don’t eat pasta very often so this was a treat.
Wednesday: So I actually switched Wednesday and Thursday so that I could delay going to the grocery store by a day [though if I would’ve known I’d get sick I would’ve gone Wednesday!] We had our green beans on a bed of wild rice instead of the farro because I didn’t have time to soak the farro. Next time you saute green beans try them in a little coconut oil. So tasty!
Thursday: I was in bed but we would have had black bean burritos from Simple Bites.
Friday: We didn’t get to have the Bacon Avocado Corn Salad I usually make based on Joy the Baker’s wrap recipe so we’ll bump that to next week’s menu. Instead I had Chicken Noodle Soup from Crushed Red courtesy of my mom. I am a lucky daughter!
Saturday: We are going to have these Sweet Potato Skins from Pinch of Yum tonight. They scream fall and football season to me and Chuck has volunteered to be my sous chef since I’m not 100% yet. We’ll do a side of cabbage. Is cabbage comfort food for anyone else, or am I weird?

Here’s hoping next week’s meal plan isn’t de-railed like this week’s was!

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