Tuesday, May 29, 2012

You Are Beautiful

Do you realize how ridiculously BEAUTIFUL you are? You will look back in your old age on your current version of yourself and be so proud of what you looked like "back then"....why not just embrace your beauty NOW....Stop in the mirror today, look into your own eyes and just get it. This is one of the most healing things we can do and when we see our own beauty we can truly see other's beauty as well. Time to wake up to your beauty! YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. ♥

I'm not sure who wrote this but I saw it on a facebook post and absolutely loved it and think it is worth repeating, often. Enough said.

Email me a picture of yourself that you really like and I'd love to add it to this post because you are beautiful!  burnsy103@gmail.com

I've got to toot this gal's horn because she has lost an impressive 45 pounds and isn't she looking fabulous?! That's no easy feat - way to go!

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Cookies and Cream Giant Oreo Cake

We love birthday's in this house, and cake for that matter. It became a running joke in my family with my mom that we celebrated her birthday with not just one day, but a full week of festivities. We decorate the kitchen with streamers and banners, pile out the presents, go out to dinner one night, request our favorite home-made dinner for another night and of course, our cake or treat of choice. As far as party's go, I can only handle a houseful of raucous kids and the expense of a big party every other year, but I do enjoy taking cake requests; my favorite cake being a pirate ship. It was totally awesome. This year I got a request for a 'cookies and cream' cake. Simple, but fun to do.

I used my Arrowhead Mills Devil's Food cake mix and poured the batter into two greased and floured 9-inch round pans. To my chocolate cake mixes I always add two cups of chocolate chips - a fantastic addition. While letting those cool upon baking completion, I made some vanilla frosting and added crushed Newman O cookies. This went in between the two cakes and I spread a considerable amount between the two to appear like a cream filling. I then iced the top and bottom of the cake with regular chocolate frosting. I sliced some of the cookies in half and put them around the top of the cake and added some more crushed cookie to the middle of the cake. It looked like a giant oreo and was laced with oreo's as well. He loved it.

Devil's Food Cake
1 package of Devil's Food Cake mix
4 eggs
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup oil (I always use coconut oil, melted)
1 cup natural sour cream
2 cups chocolate chips

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 min or until toothpick comes out clean.

Fantastic Chocolate Frosting
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup milk
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. to 1 tsp. almond extract
2 cups powdered sugar

Mix softened butter, cocoa powder, vanilla and almond extract together. I then alternate 1/4 cup powdered sugar and small doses of the milk until the milk is gone and adding enough powdered sugar until the frosting is sweet enough. I really don't know how much powdered sugar I end up using - I go purely by taste on this one and I will say that everyone loves my chocolate frosting. For the vanilla frosting, I use the same recipe and 'tactic' as the chocolate frosting obviously omitting the cocoa powder. Adding 4 - 8 oz. of cream cheese gives it an amazing flavor and some 'umph' but is optional (I didn't on this one). Once the frosting was mixed, I stirred in the crushed Newman O's. It was rich and tasty and the boys loved it. And for me who loves chocolate (and especially my chocolate frosting), I loved it as well. I store the left-over frosting in the fridge for the boy's to make graham cracker sandwiches once the cake runs out. Oh so tasty. And yes, I use white powdered sugar, I just haven't found a way around this one yet. It's one of those things I've had to make peace with as best I can.

*For parties or last-minute throw-togethers, the Chocolate Chip Bundt cake is quick and always has the men-folk raving (and women, men just tend to be more vocal about enjoying the chocolate cake). Using the same recipe above for the Devil's Food Cake, pour batter into greased and floured bundt pan. Once cool, either sprinkle powdered sugar over top, frost with fantastic choclate frosting or the chocolate glaze using melted chocolate chips and a tub of Tru Whip (the not-so-naughty, natural version of Cool Whip). So easy and SO good. I added the chocolate chips to the glaze for dramatic effect. Well, actually that would have been the roses, the chips just were something fun.

Monday, May 21, 2012

School Field Trip and Grilled Cheese

It's been awhile since I've been able to swing a field trip with one of my kids and  I remember now why I don't make a huge effort to do so. We went to the landfill and the copper mine (both of which were fascinating and entertaining) and had lunch at the park; I was in charge of hovering over six third graders. I rode on the bus and I thought to myself, the rock concerts that I used to go to, including Van Halen and Aerosmith had to have rated higher on the decibel meter than being packed on a bus of elementary school children, but I debated it heavily. Once the bus stopped, there was a flurry of confusion and chaos as there was a mass exodus of kids running every which way through the park, swinging on the railings over the giant mining hole, sliding down brick walls, disappearing in restrooms; it was like an end of the world scene from a movie as people flee in every direction, those kids run like they are on rails. I swear, all kids need internal honing beacons or electric dog collars to be corraled. By about two o'clock I was totally exhausted; my head was pounding and I fell asleep on the bus waking suddenly as I felt four pairs of devious and plotting eyeballs watching me intently. It was a little creepy.

I will say that it was fun to be with Preston and he was a very, very good boy. The big hole was neat and the fun facts I learned about landfills and recycling were very interesting and informative. I will have to put some space between this one and the next field trip I volunteer to go on. With all that in mind - it's reward time! Okay, so most health experts (including non-experts like myself) would say that turning to food in times of stress causes only harm and no good. True, true. But who the hell cares right now after being on a bus all day with crazy kids?! "I'm having fish tonight!" (Bruce the Shark, Finding Nemo) Or in the non-carnivores reward-food realm - grilled cheese. Oh, grilled cheese has been a favorite Sunday afternoon past-time and 'comfort food' for as long as I can remember. I loved it when my dad made me grilled cheese and it has become Preston's favorite 'Mom Meal' as well. In fact, he refers to it as my 'world-famous grilled cheese.' I did some crude math on the calorie count of a grilled cheese sandwich and wondered if as a favorite meal, we just throw that number to the dogs and enjoy the meal in all its goodness. Kind of like not looking at what is actually in a Tasty's blueberry cake donut, but just relishing every tender morsel. Yes, we'll leave it alone - but I will tell you cheese is happy fat (slowing absorption of carbs), and high in protein (22 grams!) and I wasn't totally horrified by the number (which does depend on the amount of cheese and the type of bread used). We won't feel terrible about splurging once in awhile.

I've also found that aged white cheddar and Great Harvest's Roasted Onion and Asiago Sourdough bread make for a fantastic sandwich. Throw together the simple balsamic salad with tomatoes and maybe a few Terra chips for crunch and you've got a very happy lunch or dinner.

*As far as splurging goes, allowing some of your favorite foods in your life is the way to go. Deprivation never works - in fact it almost always backfires. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I eat impeccably during the week, look forward to my home-made popcorn and movie every Friday night and a '10' treat Friday or Saturday. The trick is to make sure it is a '10' and still watch the portion size. I don't like having to 'undo' what naughtiness I wreaked over the weekend over the course of the following week. Allow yourself some wiggle room but always keep the end goal in mind of staying fit and healthy. My mom gave me a slice of cake today and as much as I wanted it, I threw it in the freezer to have on my weekend treat day. I just repeat my mantra, "I can wait until Saturday" in my mind and find that I really CAN wait until Saturday. Find what works for you, then employ and enjoy.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Pumpkin Pancakes for Dinner

Even as an adult, breakfast for dinner has not lost its charm. It's a deviation from the norm and it pleases everybody; no food battles here. Waffles, pancakes, french toast (stuffed and baked OH! the joy!) scones, puffed apple bakes along with eggs, bacon and either barnyard cocktail or a little Sun Warrior protein shake to balance things out. One of my favorites is a fabulous pumpkin pancake recipe found on allrecipes.com, that is not only healthy but delicious. I've also put a spin on the toppings, removing that oh-so-naughty 'not maple syrup' (unless you buy pure maple syrup, what you are getting in the cereal aisle at the grocery store ain't syrup. I don't know what that stuff is other than scary!) and using either Xagave* or a combination of pure apple sauce and plain yogurt dusted with cinnamon. Here's the other plus, I double the recipe and put six pancakes in a ziploc bag and store in the freezer as our own homemade 'toaster panacakes.' We get out a bag the night before and heat them up a little the next morning for quick and tasty breakfasts.

Pumpkin Pancake Recipe
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
2 T vegetable oil (I use pure coconut oil)
2 T vinegar
2 cups flour (well, you can use unbleached white or any mixture of wheat, brown rice, spelt, almond, coconut flours)
3 T brown sugar (I use sucanat or natural evaporated cane sugar)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
*I add chocolate chips and ground flax seed to the mix. Last night I threw in some unsweetened coconut.

Directions: Mix together wet ingredients in a separate bowl from combined and mixed dry ingredients. Stir wet ingredients into dry just enough to combine. Pour or scoop batter onto griddle using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake.

Pure Unsweetened Apple Sauce
Fage or Greek Yogurt, plain
Vanilla Creme Stevia
Or of course an assortment of fresh fruit (with the yogurt is very tasty)

Directions: Mix desired amount of yogurt with 5-8 drops of liquid stevia; theVanilla Creme is awesome. Top with some applesauce and dust with cinnamon. Otherwise, for the kids mostly, butter those babies up and pour some Xagave. *Remember, butter (natural, un-salted) is a good fat (but yes, do be careful because calories still count) for slowing down the absorption of the carbohydrates from the pancakes and preventing blood-sugar levels from spiking and leading to fat storage. Also, as this is a carbohydrate-rich meal, I'd recommend eating this earlier in the evening than later. 

By the way, I'm not a photographer. I don't pretend to be one in real life nor have I played one on TV. I bake, point and shoot. I'm just anxious to eat it and enjoy it.

*Xagave is a particular brand of agave that I have researched a little and feel okay about their extraction process and overall trust their product as a sugar replacement/substitute. I do know that most agave is highly processed and not a great deal better than most sugars.

Oh the happy baby with pancakes - yes, the chocolate chips make it messy. But cute!

Barnyard Cocktail Drink
Desired amount of orange juice
Probably about 1 tablespoon of dry milk
A dash of vanilla extract
A few ice cubes

Pour all ingredients in a blender and blend until ice is nice and crushed and there is a tempting foamy top. Just like an orange julius. So tasty!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Prepping for A Smoother Day

I am the Chief Executives of Operations in this household. I make the meal plans, do the grocery shopping, and prepare the meals. I also do homework, chase Preston to get him to do his homework, help the tween with his homework (if he actually has any), chase and feed the baby, do the dishes, shower Preston, help get Preston ready for bed, supervise room clean-up and usher Preston into bed, read to Preston for a half hour and of course, bathe baby, bottle baby, baby to bed (prior to Preston's bed-time routine) and deal with the doggy. Somewhere in there I also try to spend ten minutes of one-on-one time with Preston which admittedly is pretty tough these days.

With all that being said, I have had to learn to be a better prepper. So here is what I have found works best for me, I do all my prep in the morning simply because that is when I am the happiest and calmest OR at night when the kids have gone to bed. Ever noticed that your energy starts to fall short at about the same time kids get home from school and the baby starts fussing at about the same time you're getting dinner on the table and the dog starts to yak because you haven't fed her quite yet? The night pretty much looks like a scene from the Twilight Zone. However, this night-time catastrophe has become much more manageable when I take the time to prep and I seem to have far more nerves on hand as opposed to getting down to that 'last one.'

While baby plays and toddles around (or lays on the ground angry) I make treats to have on hand for hungry after-school kiddos, chop veggies, grate cheese and bag it , cook and brown meats, get out any canned goods, and organize everything for dinner or prepare my meal in the crockpot (I've been doing a lot of crockpot because there is no fuss. Crockpot meals are ready when I am and I'm not scrambling). I have started making extra of some foods so that I can freeze some to have on hand for the nights when it doesn't come together. I've also started buying 'all natural' bulk sausage from Costco that I brown when I get home and portion about one pound or so into individual baggies. I can unthaw them the night before and have them ready for my meal prep the next day. When I make my grocery runs, I always buy extra of what I am getting so that I always have everything I need on hand. This may make some trips more costly but it is both food storage and saves face on those 'missing ingredient' emergencies (which always tends to be eggs doesn't it?).

I also make my own sourdough bread every 3-5 days. I got the recipe from Heather (http://www.heathereatsalmondbutter.com/) and in the morning when I feed my starter, I also prepare the dry ingredients in a bowl so that at night I just add the starter, water and oil and I'm done. This makes making fresh bread every 3-5 days less daunting. I roll my eyes if I have to prepare it all at night. Employ and enjoy.