Kitschy Christmas! (It’s baaaack!)

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Welcome back, a year later, to my Christmas craft gift. (Warming SPOILER ALERT!)

This year we focused again on ornaments.  And ornaments, and more ornaments.  Started right after Halloween because once we return to our family’s home for Christmas it won’t be about our gifts for others, it will all be about baking and decorating and Christmas music. (Who am I kidding I’m listening to it right now.  After making up a whole yoga class playlist of carols.  Sorry if you’re reading this and in my yoga class.  I did warn you with the spoiler alert!) And hey, don’t judge I am fully aware it’s a bit early.  Then again, we’re at the 6 week countdown…

I am so excited for Christmas.  This year both kids will “get” it: the presents, Santa, the anticipation.  And still believe in the magic.  Not sure how much longer the magic will last.  But we’ll hang onto it for as long as we can.  And have lots of memory-filled ornaments to hang on our tree, and Grandma’s tree and Oma’s tree, and the neighbour’s tree…you get the picture.

So bring in the cinnamon ornaments!  They are made of mostly cinnamon (insert shocked look here).

IMG_4789The recipe is one cup cinnamon, 1/4 cup applesauce (and mix…although nothing ever looks mixed properly in this recipe) Then slowly add 1/2 cup white craft glue.  Mix again.  And some more.  And nothing’s sticking together so you (or in this case, me) roll your sleeves up and get in there with your hands trying to mush that spice into the glue and applesauce.  Stick together darn it! And all of a sudden, just at the point you are about to throw it all away, it comes together.

IMG_4791Wait one hour, then roll out to 1/4″ thick and cut with cookie cutters (remember to use a straw to cut out the ribbon hole!).

IMG_4792Bake at 200F for one hour turning them halfway through. (I lined my baking sheet with parchment, because glue, ewww).  Oh and if your husband happens to be in the kitchen “helping” – Conveniently arriving to turn them over, remind him they are not cookies, they are ornaments.  They are NOT cookies. Seriously.  Our kitchen conversation went something like this:

“Stop! O-R-N-A-M-E-N-T-S! Not edible!  Seriously don’t put it in your mouth, there’s glue in there!! I’m not joking you can’t eat these ones!” (He always sneaks Christmas baking, or any baking prior to them being ready, or out for guests.) Sigh.  I bet this doesn’t happen in Martha Stewart’s kitchen.  She’s the one who invented these bad boys.  See her recipe site here. The pictures are way better.  And not nearly as realistic as the ones in my kitchen, with a 4 and a 2 year old.  And a hungry, cookie eating husband.  I didn’t take a picture of him.  Was waiting for the “sick” shot.  It never came.  Go figure, the one time he listens…

Then let them cool, and paint them.  And hang them on your tree!

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Practice Safe Snacks

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I love this week.  The excitement and the dressing up.  The parties.  The adorable children.  The thing I don’t love is the candy.  Well, the candy in itself is not entirely to blame.  The excess of it drives me a little bonkers.  (We still have leftover from last year when my daughter was 3…and she didn’t do more than a couple of blocks of trick-or-treating.)

We’ve tried to get rid of it, in moderation over the past year.  Allowing a piece of candy if dinner is eaten (and if she remembers to ask for it…which isn’t all that often). And of course, with Daddy raiding the bucket every so often on a craving.  But there is still so much.

What do you do about it?

There is a local dentist here who will trade it for money the day after Halloween.  And I’ve heard of the “switch witch” who steals it in trade for cash, or toys.  Also, the limiting kids to a certain number of candy pieces they can pick out and the rest disappear.

I’m at a loss what to do.  I try to instil good eating habits in my kids, and a huge part of that is allowing them choices.  In the end, when they are all grown up, I won’t be there when they choose what to eat or how to live.  So the best I can do is help them to understand choices.  A big part of choices are having things tempt you.  And I’m not sure that making those temptations disappear is the right way of going about things.  But I’m not sure.  So this year we’ll wait until the 12th hour to figure out what we should do.  And it will likely involve a discussion with my daughter about how we should handle all the candy, as a family.

In the meantime…we’ve been snacking on this lately.  Say hello to the banana man.  The perfect spooky snack.

IMG_4284And as always if you like what you see let me know!  If you don’t, then don’t.  Happy Halloween everyone!  Practice safe snacks.

 

Nooner

I’ve come to the realization that all I usually post is everything to do with dinner meal planning.   The truth is that most of our lunches are our dinners (leftovers from the night before.)  But what happens when there are no leftovers?  And yes, there are nights dinner is good, there are none.  Or when picnics are planned?  Or when I send my little one to preschool with lunch?

Here are a few of my lunch solutions.

IMG_2142Here is one that is a favourite…open faced sandwiches on full grain/seed bread.  Tomatoes and avocado with a bit of mayo and salt/pepper.  Of course paired with a quick green smoothie of banana, celery, spinach, apple and frozen berries.  This is a favourite of mine because it is filled with vitamins and nutrients, or rather I can fill my kids with vitamins and nutrients.  I’ve also begun adding hemp hearts and chia seeds to our smoothies.  They add iron and omega 3s to the mix.  The vitamin C in the tomatoes helps our bodies to absorb the iron from the hemp seeds and spinach.

The thing about nutrition, or eating nutritiously is: that I am constantly thinking about it.  And by constantly thinking about it and acting on it, I hope that in the end we will be better off.

Another favourite an quick meal go-to is:

IMG_2160Apple sage Field Roast sausages with peas and carrots.  By the time I took this photos the steamed carrots had been eaten (oops!)  You see they are a favourite in this household.  So much so that if I don’t eat mine pronto the kids demand what’s on my plate after finishing theirs.  The sodium level is a little bit high for the kids, so I limit their intake of this type of food, both in frequency and amount at a meal.  Once in a while we serve them on whole wheat sausage buns…but not often.  I realized when my daughter was just four and asked me what a hot dog was, that a replacement for a food that seems a part of childhood needed at least an explanation.  So here it is – our ‘hot dogs’.

For a picnic lunch sandwiches are our go to.

IMG_3027 IMG_3029Note the re-useable sandwich bags!  They are perfect and easy to clean afterwards.  This time we did hummus and tomato sandwiches and utilized leftover avocado pasta sauce (similar to guacamole).  So good!

Tricks for packing sandwiches:  we freeze the bread then make the sandwiches right before leave and place them in the cooler – keeps the sandwich fresh and yet has thawed by the time we eat it.  IMG_3026The other trick with any avocado based sandwich spread: putting a small layer of water overtop.  Yes it looks messy but it keeps the avocado from oxidizing and is easy to pour off and reapply when done.  I will agree with the kids on this one – brown avocado isn’t appetizing.

Next up we pack tons of fresh fruit and usually include a few bags of assorted nuts, soynuts, and seeds (like pumpkin or sunflower).  The kids love the variety and mom loves the nutrition.

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And the other big favourite of mine are soups.  Number one because they taste so amazing!  Number two because the kids also think they taste so amazing (and nutritionally they are!) And Number three because they are cheap! (okay the cheap part only works when you make them yourself.)  There is actually a number four here too…my husband isn’t a big fan of soup, therefor if I can get my soup fix at lunch he can have a dinner he likes.  Oh and Number five I can make it once and it easily feeds us for a week…I could keep counting.  Soup is just that good.  I have both summer recipes (gazpacho anyone?) and winter ones (which also work in the spring and fall, or less than hot summer days.)  My blood tends to run cold, so soup for me is a big hit through the year.  I will someday write a whole blog about all the soups I make.  Lentil, chickpea, veggie mix… but for the most part if I’m not making a soup from a recipe I wing it.  So I’ll need to write down some of my ingredients for you to try one.  A full soup blog post is in order on this one.  You’ll likely see it down the road.

chickpea soup

chickpea soup

lentil soup

lentil soup

white bean and kale soup

white bean and kale soup

And there you have a few of our family favourite lunch solutions when we aren’t eating leftovers!  I hope everyone is out enjoying this long weekend.

Now I am stepping into the sunshine!

Oops!

I’ve fallen off the wagon.  Okay, more than that.  I fell off the horse and the wagon rolled on top of me!  But I’m back to this blog and I promise to do better – at least weekly.

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Why? You ask.  Well why not.  Life. Is. Busy.  I celebrated my 10 year wedding anniversary and went away on a fabulous (and also not-so-fabulous) vacation without kids.  And kids, my kids; well they are like the black holes of my space/time continuum. Not that it’s a bad thing.  I love actually living my life.  I’ve added more teaching karma yoga classes to my week, added going-to-yoga-classes (where someone else can stand at the front and give instruction – yeah!) And my garden. Sigh.  The never ending project of trying to turn my black thumb green.  And also now, just today I start my 6 week no dairy trial.

Yes. No more cheese. *Sad face*

Or cream in my coffee. *Exasperated look* This is the hardest part.  Did I mention I only drink one cup of coffee a day?

So I’m at a toss up as to discuss with you in the next 1/2 hour of writing time.  My deliberations include:

a) goodness in giving back to the world (cuz I added more FREE yoga classes to my backyard class! And boy does that feel amazing!) or

b) the endless battle with slugs and aphids and my anti-pesticide attitude. (My poor Hostas!) I could also get into a large rant about the ants living in my walls and currently attempting to randomly take up residence in my residence. Sigh. or

c) this week’s menu plan.  Which as of right now has one thing on it because all I can think about is everything I can’t make with cheese and how I will get through without cream in my coffee!  First world problems for sure.

Since I can’t decide I will go into a little of each.  So here it goes.  About 7 min on each topic, since I’ve spent the last bit of my 1/2 hour of free time trying to decide…

A) Karma

What you give to the world you get back (or there abouts).  I can’t speak more highly about everything I gain from giving away my yoga class.  The relationships that develop and my own inner sense of peace knowing that I am doing good in the word (or at the very least not doing harm for my hours of weekly yoga.)  Bliss.  Better yet, I’m reading a negotiation book currently.  The entire concept is to focus attention on what you can do for others, so they can in return give you what you need.  And I truly believe that if we all followed this mantra, everybody in the entire world would get what they need.  By giving so much of what you can, and what you are good at, other hearts open and give to everyone else.  Once a circle or community is established if we all continue to give freely of our gifts the egos would (in theory) all fall away and life would be perfect.  Right?

Did I mention I’m still allowed wine on my new dietary plan? (Or have you already guessed that by this point?) I’m sounding like a socialist.  Maybe deep down under I am.  Wine brings out the best?

And time. 7 minutes are past.  Well past.  I had to stop mid post to intervene a naked non-potty trained child from further running through my house.  Put him to bed.  And then there was laundry…so I hung up the wet and folded the dry and

Life.

But I will attempt to get through this one blog post.  It has been a month!

B) B is for bugs.

IMG_2821I’m at a constant battle within myself that the bugs of this earth make the soil and environment what it is. Which gives the rest of us food to nourish our bodies, and helps to enrich the soil so plants can grow, giving us fresh air to breath.  So they have just as much a right to be here as I do.  And given that it’s not up to me to take them out of this world.  But gosh darn it if I don’t get my panties in a twist when I can’t seem to keep the snails off my Hosta and the poor thing is looking like the swiss cheese I can’t cook with for the next 6 weeks!
I went outside to take a picture of the plant.  Then found another snail (5th today). So I snapped a picture of that (and promptly took it off the plant and relocated far away into my lawn).  Then noticed some random weeds trying in infiltrate the bed so I just pulled a few, and then a few more and then a few more.  The soil was just IMG_2822perfect for this right now, and one out of two kids were in bed, the other pre-occupied so I had a few moments to pull plants without “help”.

And time. Waaaay past 7 min. Snails, weeds,

Life.

Back to focus.

C) Menu plan.

I’ve been told to try 6 weeks dairy free to give my body a rest from certain inflammatory foods to give my system a rest.  Do I believe the whole inflammatory food? I’m still unsure.  More reading required (in all of my free time!)  But I do believe I can do anything for 6 weeks so here I go.  But sadly without the cream in my coffee. *Really sad face*

Sad panda face.

Right, back to focus.  The easiest thing to do is access my vegan cookbooks (which surprisingly encompass half of my food library.)

Today was Portabella Enchiladas.  I’ve given out the recipe on the blog before.  But this time I omitted the cheese, and put sliced avocado all over the top.  So good.  Day one down!

IMG_2117IMG_2122Tomorrow is a very simple meal.  Tofu dipped in Tamari and coated in nutritional yeast, then pan fried in coconut oil.  So yummy!  With a side of brown rice.  And in the leftover coconut oil in the pan, I will saute a massive amount of swiss chard, lightly salted.  My family loves this meal.  We just can’t get enough swiss chard.  And with it’s iron content, I’m a happy mommy who can sleep well at night knowing we won’t be iron deficient.

Then comes my staple Lentil Bean Dish.  Also a family favourite and posted on here previously. (Makes for faster blogging too!) Only this time I omit the cheese and will top it with a blend of steamed cauliflower/russet potato mash!  Creamy goodness!  Good as cheese? Only time will tell…

Tuesday will be a Cauliflower Curry  with rice.  And I’ll add a cup of red lentils to the cooking process and omit the paneer (indian cheese) I usually add.  Might even get wild and throw in some torn up spinach! I knew that I added dairy to about a meal a day, but I never realized how constantly it has because a part of our main meal.  It is a good thing to shake life up a bit.  Especially for me, who is at times stuck in my ways, and averse to anything different.  Tuesday is also shopping day.  Which means I have to meal plan for the entire week!

Wednesday is a new thai cashew salad.  On recommendation of a friend. Yum!  And then I fall back on the plan.  Which is to be made in the future.  If I haven’t already lost my marbles because I just can’t drink coffee without cream. I bought and started using a coconut creamer today.  Not. The. Same.

I am trying.

Times up.

A Mini-fridge, Microwave and Masterplan.

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We’ve done lots of family trips away where I’ve planned an entire week of meals off of one master grocery list, down to spices, condiments and often including utensils (missing from the “kitchenette” rentals).  In a Las Vegas timeshare I even had to buy a pot and frying pan to accommodate us eating in.  In Hawaii a delayed oven timer saved me when meal planning conflicted with a hike we wanted to do (and dinner was ready when we returned!)  Eating in on vacations has saved us the hassle of small kid’s constant needs (milk and breakfast 30 seconds after waking…at 5:30am) and my requirement for healthy, balanced, vegetarian meals.  I can only do salad so many times guys.

I’ve realized with travel that many places don’t factor into account the required protein and iron for vegetarians. (I can’t imagine being vegan and trying to navigate!)  Sure we could opt for the “veggie burger” and fries every night.  But we all end up feeling crummy.  Trust me, we’ve done it.

Hence why I plan.

So we’re going on a (SURPRISE!) family trip. (I have yet to mention to the kids.)  And they don’t seem to have noticed my near-constant cooking and kitchen prep the last few days to prepare.

The difficultly this time doesn’t revolve around an oven timer or can opener…this time what I am given to work with is only a mini-fridge and microwave.  And 48 hours of fun in a waterpark!  Which means large appetites.  I tried unsuccessfully with my pinterest reflex to find solutions.  So I created my own.

Mini-fridge and microwave. 48 hours. A family of four.

Bring. It. On.

IMG_2397First things first…the master meal plan of what to bring…and then the shopping trip of what to buy (along with the regular weekly grocery shop, see my grocery belt lineup of food above – YUM!)

Meal One – Dinner

  • IMG_2419 IMG_2420So after arriving, checking in, and going hard at the waterpark for a few hours we will start with Homemade Cauliflower Mac’N’Cheese.  Just needs to be heated up in the microwave safe bowls I’m bringing!  Kids love it, and the extra carbs will be needed for all that swim time! Recipe makes enough for two meals (freezer meal for later in this case!) Packed in a gallon ziplock baggie so we can stuff it in the minifridge in any shape needed 🙂  The kids will also have tetra packs of almond milk.  Mom and Dad’s bevvie of choice: Bota Box wine!  Then back to the pool, slides and splash park before bed!

Meal Two – Breakfast

  • IMG_2437 IMG_2434I’m not a huge fan of the pre-packaged instant oatmeal you can buy.  But my family are huge oatmeal fans.  And I appreciate the convenience of just having to add boiling water.  Solution: Homemade Instant Oatmeal!  No high fructose anything or preservatives. IMG_2435 Only awesomeness. I made an apple cinnamon walnut kind…after finding these dehydrated apple chips.  Even more than loving the pre-made chips (because I don’t have a dehydrator and keeping my oven on for hours while continually checking chips doesn’t thrill me) is the ingredient list.  Organic apples and organic cinnamon!  Along with our oatmeal I’m bringing a variety of fruit (mangos, pears, bananas and apples). Yum!

Morning Snack

  • I caved and bought yogurt tubes.  Yes.  I know. Parent fail 😉  The kids love them and they are e-a-s-y!  And even though they are the organic, hormone free kind they still make me cringe at the level of sugar (9g – that’s 2 teaspoons of processed sugar!)  Oh well, it is vacation.  They will be served alongside apple slices and gulp…another processed item – cheddar bunnies. (Similar to goldfish but sooth my inner-health-food-gal minimally by being organic.)

Meal Three – Lunch

  • IMG_2438I really, REALLY wanted to bring my homemade soup.  I know, crazy right.  Mini-fridge I fear your small size!  So I bought the best darned canned kind I could find.  Amy’s Organic Lentil Soup (in the BPA free can).  This is actually a staple in our pantry for emergency lunches when we have nothing else.  The kids LOVE this soup.  I LOVE this soup. Heck everybody must LOVE this soup, half the time I go to buy it there aren’t any left on the shelf.  And as a side I made jello fruit cups. IMG_2439 My daughter has somehow been lured by marketers before ever having even had jello.  So she will be happy to have her wishes fulfilled for the elusive jello that mommy never buys/makes (except this vacation).  Oh and I stuffed those darned little cups full of as many berries as I could before pouring the sugar/gelatin mixture in!

Afternoon Snack

  • IMG_2378Cheese Strings.  I lie, they aren’t stringy at all.  They are the whole foods brand organic colby cheese in pre-packed singles to look like cheese strings 🙂 hehe sneaky mommy! Fruit squeezes and homemade granola bars.  When planning these snacks I thought I would be allowed to bring them along with us to the water park.  Sadly I learned after prepping everything that isn’t the case.  Had I known, we would have done real fruit and cheese, rather than spend the extra on less-mess and easy-to-pack foods.  The granola bars are Ah-mazing!  Filled with oats, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds, almond butter goodness.  Travel well wrapped in foil.  I don’t feel right about giving out the recipe, as it comes from a fellow blogger’s recipe book (which is also Ah-mazing!  Really, every recipe I’ve tried scores an A-plus in my book, and my kids) Find it here.

Meal Four – Dinner

  • IMG_2424IMG_2422Sweet Potato and Spinach Lentil Curry  and rice (made and bagged separately).  All pre-made in gallon baggies, again stuffed into that small mini-fridge!  Everything can be divided into the microwave safe bowls and heated up! (And enough leftover for another freezer meal for later.) Nice hot meal filled with protein, iron and love to fuel our activity!  And again with the tetra packed almond milk for the kiddos and wine for Mom and Dad.

Meal Five – Breakfast

  • A repeat of the same family favourite instant oatmeal! And more fruit!

Morning Snack

  • whatever is leftover and not already eaten 🙂  I also packed a few extras for night snacks (which we don’t normally do, but this is vacation!) Microwave popcorn, raisins and cherry tomatoes.  So whatever isn’t already gone is game on our last day!

Meal Six – Lunch

  • IMG_2440Egg salad sandwiches and jello fruit cups.  Again the egg salad was pre-made and bagged to fit in the mini-fridge.  We brought the bread and will make the sandwiches right before check out time at 11am.

So all in all it will be a fabulous time!  What a great Mother’s Day gift.  And I’m happy I could give it to myself, because the best thing in the world I could get on mother’s day is family memories.

Happy Mother’s Day!