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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Dear Wiener

My open letter to Mr. Weiner:



Dear Senator Weiner,
Really?? With a name like Weiner, you should have known that public office would not bode well for you. I'm sad to have to point this out, but it was doomed from the start. The frat guys got a kick out of voting for your name on the ballot, and many congressman had a good run chuckling each time they asked one another, "Have you met Weiner yet?", but it is now coming to a dreadful end. You were a "victim" of an unforgiveable and unforgorgettably bad name. Hindsight is always 20/20. But, please, don't hold out any longer. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Go straight to the court house and start the name change process. Honestly, we live in a day when people can change their gender for heaven's sake. Would it really have been that difficult?



You will probably need to begin the job hunt now too. Maybe you could apply at Heinz, with a whitty tagline on your resume, like, "Weiner knows ketchup." Better yet, call up the good folks at Oscar Meyer. They can forget the weinermobile. They will now have THE WEINER. Even if they aren't hiring, I'm sure they will create a position for you. Good luck, Weiner.

Sincerely,


Michelle Hall

P.S. NO ONE wants to see a twittered Weiner. Dude, what were you thinking??



And, dear readers, speaking of Weiners, do you have any idea how many preservatives and chemicals are in those things? (like that clever segue?) Not to mention the unspeakable animal body parts that are legal to use in hot dogs, but can't be sold as meat on their own? It makes me think twice about feeding them to my kiddos. I have offered them in a pinch, but I no longer buy them or keep them in my refrigerator. I would love to see some "natural" ones on the market, though. (The food variety, not the Senator variety of course. I'm sure he will be back on the market soon, but I would definitely pass on that offer!)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Garden Update

It is June first, and prime time for a summer garden to blossom. What was once only the hope of a garden...



is now flourishing beautifully!


See all those tomatoes, waiting to ripen? That makes me giddy! It obviously doesn't take much to make me giddy!







And my baby yellow squash...this is the point when I go out and check every day to see if there is anything I can pick. We have already eaten a few of these puppies and they were delish! (Way more flavorful than the grocery store squash! In my opinion, home grown squash tastes more "squashy" than the bland grocery store variety- if that makes any sense at all!)








And, my baby cucumbers. I have had the pleasure of eating a few of these already as well- fresh and crisp tasting!



On another note, the girls and I found this book in the kid's non fiction section yesterday at the library.




They are already showing the signs of little foodies in training, so they are just as excited as I am to read it. The plan is to read it and then find a great recipe for homemade strawberry ice cream (their favorite flavor.) My ice cream maker keeps begging to be pulled out and put to use, and since it is already nearing 100 degrees here in South Texas, there's no reason not to! I am thinking of doing a taste test: traditional vs. dairy free (Soy) ice cream. We shall see! When I come up with one that passes the rigorous taste test in my "test kitchen", I will definitely post it!


For now, bring on the Texas heat and summer sunshine. Summer is here!


















Monday, May 23, 2011

Fish- the real thing, not the sticks

I just started reading this book:




One of the authors has a great blog (thecleanerplateclub.com), and she is an advocate for raising children to eat whole, fresh foods...REAL food. In other words, she proposes that we not feed our kids "kids" foods like frozen, processed, and fried meat nuggets, corn dogs, white pasta topped with powdered cheese, french fries, and soda. Let's face it, these fake foods aren't chock full of nutrients and have little substance. So, her ideas are in line with my goal of trying to feed my family whole and real foods as much as possible. Since I started this blog 5 months ago, that has been my aim.



I realized as we sat down to lunch this Sunday afternoon, just how far we have come since January. Big Daddy had grilled up some tilapia and asparagus, and we made wild rice to round it out. We also cut up a fresh pineapple that I saw in the store that day on sale for under two bucks (SCORE!). Ordinarily, I would expect that the kids would not touch the fish, simply because they have both gagged on seafood many times in the past. But, this time they did not follow their "complain, push it around the plate, try a bite and gag" protocol. There is something to be said for the "offer it again and again, and again..and again 12 more times before they eat it" approach!


The kids actually ate every bite of the fish, and even though I put a glob of ketchup on their plate in case they felt the need to drown the fishy taste, they didn't even use it! I was so proud as I watched them munch on spears of asparagus and grilled (fresh caught, NOT farmed) fish. I realized that we have come a long way from our past eating habits. Not only are my kids eating healthfully, but they have sophisticated tastes! They savor freshly picked tomatoes and squash, blue cheese and vinagrette salads, fresh fish, chicken and turkey breasts, and gourmet spinach and feta chicken sausage.


Eating out is now a rare event for us because we have come to enjoy cooking and eating at home. Even the kids pitch in with the chopping of veggies and tossing of salads (using plastic utensils of course). We put on some fun music almost every time we sit down to dinner, and just enjoy the time together, discussing the events of the day or future plans. Many nights, we end the evening on the back patio, watching the kids play outside eating frozen fruit bars for dessert. On occasion, we splurge on locally made (and our very favorite) Bluebell ice cream. It's totally full of fat and sugar, but we can pronounce all the ingredients and ...well...all Texans know that there is absolutely no ice cream that tops BlueBell and that's a splurge worth experiencing!


We definitely make different food choices now. Not all are low fat or vegetarian, but they are better than what we used to choose to feed our family. Memories of chicken nuggets and fish sticks are in the almost forgotten past. In fact, if I offered my kids a fish stick, I'm not even sure they would take it, just as they snub artificial fruit juice pouches for bottles of water (most of the time). My family is now used to seeing lots of fresh fruits and veggies on their plates, and that's makes a Veggie Mama's heart go pitter patter. :)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Vegetarian Taco Casserole

I have a confession: I have added poultry and fish back into my diet. I got a bit off balance somewhere along the way and realized that my energy was low and I was basically eating a bunch of processed white flour junk, all in the name of avoiding meat. I was not eating a lot of protein, and the protein I was eating was from the same sources every day: peanut butter, nuts, and soy. For someone like me, who really enjoys variety, I just needing something more. I admit, I just am not a great vegetarian. Some people make it work wonderfully, and creatively. I guess I'm not a member of that club.

I am sticking with my philosophy of eating plant strong, though. I continue to plan my meals around veggies, instead of meat. And, I am constantly adding extra veggies to things. In fact, my cutting board has become my best friend in the kitchen. I add tons of extra zucchini and mushrooms to italian dishes, yellow squash, extra tomatoes, and onions to Mexican dishes, and just generally try to throw in every veggie under the sun into everything that I cook.

For example, last night, I made Averie's Cheesy Taco Casserole, and added yellow squash, onions, mushrooms and zucchini, and served it with a side of carrot sticks for some crunch. It was yummy, and very filling. I substituted light sour cream and cheese to make it low fat as well. I'm all about tweaking a recipe to suit my needs, and make no apologies for doing so.

How about you? What are some of the tweaks you have made to recipes to suit your needs? Post a comment here so that we can all get some great ideas!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Homegrown

Is it just me or is your facebook page filled with Farmville updates and requests? This may be unpopular of me to say, but I don't do farmville. I can barely remember to water my REAL plants. There's no way I can take care of virtual ones. Almost everything I have ever planted has died a long, painful, thirsty death. I've really been quite ashamed of myself...until I started my backyard vegetable garden a few years ago.


It started with a few plants in 4ft by 4ft space in the sunniest part of the yard, and spread to a few pots of herbs. I now grow everything from seed, and my garden has produced beans, different types of tomatoes, gourmet lettuce, squash, cucumbers, peppers, rosemary, onions, cilantro, and basil. It has been awe inspriring to see a tiny seed grow into a waist-high plant in the span of just a few months. It has also been a learning experience for my girls, and they enjoy picking the fruits of my labor so much that I plant a few tomato plants specifically for them to pick and eat from.


Every spring, I have a few friends and family members join with me in backyard farming, and sometimes we even trade produce. Here are a few of our gardens this year in the early stages:







They are all different sizes and shapes, but backyard gardens are so worth it. I find myself in the summer, planning my meals around the produce I have picked that day, and trust me- my homegrown produce tastes so much brighter and fresher than the stuff I buy at the market anyday! If you love to cook healthy food for your family like I do, maybe backyard gardening is for you. And, if someone who lacks a green thumb as much as I do can do it, anyone can!


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Dr. Oats is in...

I'm the oatmeal Doctor. I just might hang a sign on my front door and start charging a hundred bucks a pop for an office visit. I love doctoring up my oatmeal, which sometimes makes it slightly (only slightly!) less healthy. But, it is still much healthier than the typical eggs and bacon American breakfast (Big Daddy!!).


So, I was craving carrot cake. Not just any carrot cake. My mother-in-laws homemade-from-scratch-weighs-at least-2-pounds carrot cake. It is the best carrot cake to ever grace my lips, and I could totally eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But, I think it would make a great breakfast, coupled with some hot java.


I got a great idea to "doctor" my oatmeal to mimic the flavor of this delicious cake. It could only mimic it, since nothing could really come very close to the wonderful taste and texture, and I just don't think it's acceptable to put a half cup of cream cheese icing atop my morning oatmeal... but I can at least give it a shot.


So, this morning, I made my bowl of oatmeal and added to it:

One shredded carrot (added to the boiling water with the oatmeal)

A few tbsp coconut

a few tbsp walnuts

a dab of smart balance buttery spread

a tbsp or 2 of brown sugar

2 tsp of blackstrap molasses


It was divine! It tasted similar to carrot cake, but it was really great oatmeal. As I ate it, I came up with some other add-ins I may use next time, including pineapple and raisins.


P.S. I have become acutely aware of my lack of skill in the food photography area. I will work on it!


Do you dress up your oatmeal? If so, tell me about it by posting here!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Hurry up and slow down

The message has been loud and clear to me recently- SLOW DOWN. I am a serial multi-tasker. I talk on the phone while doing dishes, laundry, checking email...I text multiple conversations at the same time. I cook dinner, while emptying the dishwasher, taking out the trash, and loading the dryer...at the same time. But, who doesn't?? There are only 24 hours in the day, and I need to get as much done in those hours as humanly possible. Right?

After hearing a sermon a few weeks ago about "single-tasking" and being more present in every moment, I have paid closer attention to what happens when I am multi-tasking. I have always been absent-minded, misplaced things, zoned out while people are talking to me, and I am notoriously distractable. Could this all be a result of my multi-tasking ways? Likely...

I can't say that I am yet a recovering multi-tasker. But, I am working on it. Baby steps.

I am aiming to stop forcing my family to join in my multi-tasking by being over-booked and not allowing down time. I mean, what kid wants to rush from school to home, to hurry up and rest up before a rigorous gymnastics class, after which we rush home and eat dinner (hurriedly), and then rush upstairs for bath and bedtime, before which we hurry through a book? "Stop the madness!", I am telling myself. I am trying to relax, because life is NOT a race.

So, ironically, I am bringing you the world's fastest healthy dinner recipe. I love this one because I can step away from the stove and have some down time with my family after dinner. Time for a game of Chutes and Ladders, a bike ride, playing at the park, swinging on the rope swing in the backyard...and I guess we will let the kids tag along too.


The world's quickest Chicken (or vegetarian) tortilla soup
(As always, my measurements are not exact. Adjust to your liking. You know, just eyeball it)

1 box chicken or veggie broth

1 serving cooked brown rice (I use instant)

1 can rotelle diced tomatoes and green chiles

1/2 can corn

1 cooked chicken breast, cut into small cubes (or omit this, if making the vegetarian option)

4 oz. shredded cheddar, colby jack, or monterrey jack cheese

1 avocado, cut into small cubes (to garnish)

a palm full of cilantro, chopped (to garnish)

a few handfuls of tortilla chips


In a soup pot, combine all ingredients (except avocado and cilantro), and heat until cheese is melty. Before serving in soup bowls, crunch a handful of tortilla chips and fill bottom of bowls. Ladle soup over chips, garnish and serve.

Then, relax, since that whole process took only 10 minutes!


We did...