Friday, April 26, 2013

Muffin's For Lunch and Surprisingly Tasty Cookies

Decided on a whim a couple weekends ago to drag the family to Vernal to check out all the dino bones. I used to travel with my family growing-up and it is something I would like to do more with my own family. The memories and laughs that came from those trips are what stand out in my mind. The only struggle with my own family is that I have two volatile kids and a toddler. Yikes! Nevertheless, dino land was still a boat load of fun.

En route to and from our destination, I picked up Slim for Life by Jillian Michaels which kicked off my next upward swing in, shall we say, extreme pantry habits. I totally admit that I go in spurts when it comes to my 'extremeness' regardless of the fact that I no longer buy any foods, ever, that have ingredients from the naughty list on them. However, it took until a couple weeks ago to kick my remaining holiday sugar addiction. I also dove back into Dr. Bob's Guide to Stop ADHD in 18 Days; both books re-freaked me out on the scary stuff that goes into our food. With all that being said, my newest project is weaning Preston from white bread (can you believe it! I buy white bread! Only because it was the only bread he would eat after months of experimenting with home made bread recipes - it still doesn't have stuff from the naughty-list on it) and peanut butter - as in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I've heard on more than one occasion from more than one source about mold that lurks in peanuts and peanut butter causing allergic reactions in kids that also causes bigger problems for kids with ADHD.
Jillian Michael's

I've had to get creative with lunch alternatives considering that Preston is almost the world's pickiest eater. I pulled out all of my cookbooks and scoured the recipes considering what ingredients could be tweaked and what he would enjoy and eat. I came up with the following:

~ Denver Sandwich/Homemade Egg McMuffin
~ Turkey and Cheese Pita Sandwich
~ Chocolate Cashew Butter Roll-Up (Homemade Crepe)
~ Omelet/Frittata
~ Grilled Cheese
~ Bagel Pizza
~ Baked Crispy Chicken Tenders
~ Poppy seed Vanilla Muffins
~ Bagel and Cream Cheese with Turkey
~ Homemade Waffle Sandwich (Homemade Waffles with Cream Cheese, Cinnamon and Agave Center)

Not bad sounding eh? I've got to find  a good insulated lunch box for him to use. Anyone have one that they love? I also went straight away to Trader Joe's and bought some Stevia prepared to try it with cookies. I found a cookie recipe online and the end result was fascinating - they looked gorgeous! I sat down to indulge and it had the consistency of sand. Literally. The last few batches of cookies I've made Preston actually asked me if they were the 'sand cookies.' Suffice it to say, I threw them all out. Oh well. I reckon that's what happens often with many a food blogger. Second time around I used a recipe that I had on hand and just tweaked it and they turned out delicious! My husband (hard to please when it comes to food) LOVES them (and I don't dare tell him there is only 1 T. of maple syrup and pure applesauce in them). They have a cake-like consistency which is not what I was going for but not sure I can get them to be like a Paradise Cookie without using actual sugar. Regardless, these really did turn out great and everyone in the house loves them. Not to mention protein from both the yogurt and the powder. All the minerals from the fresh ground spelt and what - I love it!!

And this week I swapped out Preston's sandwiches for homemade Poppy seed Vanilla Muffins which he has been enjoying and potentially add a Tupperware container of my fabulous scrambled eggs (the trick is to take them off the burner while still really moist - almost not done). I'll rotate those out for something else on the list next week. We shall see how he continues to do with the increase in B Vitamins and the lack of peanut butter. In the meantime, here is the recipe for my cookies and the muffins!

Chocolate Chip Happy Cookies
1 Stick Unsalted Butter
1 tsp. Stevia
1 T. Grade B Maple Syrup (next time I'm going to throw in 5-10 drops of Butter Toffee Stevia instead of the Maple Syrup. Or use Brown Rice Syrup which should replace some of the flavor of the missing brown sugar)
1 Egg
1 Egg Yolk
2 tsp. Vanilla
1/2 Cup Applesauce
1/2 Cup Fage Yogurt
2 1/3 Cups Whole Wheat, Spelt and/or Brown Rice Flour (I use a combination)
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Sea Salt
1 Scoop Vanilla SunWarrior Protein Powder
1 Cup Chocolate Chips

Melt 1 stick butter and mix with 1 tsp. Stevia and maple syrup for about a minute. Add 1 egg and 1 egg yolk and vanilla. Whip 2 minutes. Add yogurt and applesauce, mix one more minute. Add pre-mixed dry ingredients. Fold in chips.

Bake at 375 degrees for 6 minutes, leave on tray.

Vanilla Poppy Seed Muffins
1 3/4 Cup Wheat and Spelt Flour
1/4 cup Xagave
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1/4 tsp. Sea Salt
1 Beaten Egg
1 Cup Plain Yogurt (I like Fage - 24 grams of protein!)
1/3 Cup Coconut Oil
2 tsp. Vanilla
1 Scoop Vanilla Sunwarrior Protein Powder
1 T Poppy seeds

Prepare muffin tin. In medium mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt. poppy seed and protein powder. Make a well in the center of the dry mixture.

In another bowl, combine egg, yogurt, vanilla, Xagave and coconut oil (add the coconut oil last and working quickly as the coldness of the yogurt may make the coconut oil to begin chunk-up). Add egg mixture to dry mixture and stir until just moistened. Batter will be stiff and lumpy.

Spoon batter into muffin cups about 2/3 full.

Bake at 375 degrees for 18-20 minutes until just browned. Makes 12 muffins.
*So, Preston loves these. I personally feel they could use a little more sweetness. Next time I will add a several drops of Vanilla Crème Stevia.

Orange Flavor Variation
I quite like the orange variation but Preston didn't and my hubby wasn't a huge fan either. At any rate, I added 2-3 drops of Wild Orange Doterra Essential Oil to the yogurt and a bit of orange zest and cut back the vanilla to 1 tsp. Fragrant and tasty.

Chocolate Chip Muffins
1 Cup Brown Rice and Spelt Flour
1/2 Cup Almond Flour
1 Scoop Chocolate Sunwarrior Protein Powder
1 T Cacao Superfood Powder
1/4 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
2 Eggs
1/3 Cup Coconut Oil
1/2 Cup Applesauce
1/2 Cup Plain Fage Yogurt
1/2 Cup Xagave, divided
1 tsp. Vanilla
1 oz. Unsweetened Chocolate
1/2 Cup Chocolate Chips (optional)

Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Combine eggs, yogurt, applesauce, 1/4 cup Xagave and vanilla in a bowl, stir well. Melt 1 oz of unsweetened chocolate in a sauce pan with the coconut oil. Remove from heat and add 1/4 Xagave and combine with egg mixture. Add egg mixture to the powder ingredients and stir to combine; batter will be a little runny. Add chocolate chips (I like chocolate chips mostly for their texture). Pour into prepared muffin tin/muffin cups filling 1/2 to 2/3 full. Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes. Makes 18 muffins.

Brittany's 'Best-Ever' Scrambled Eggs
Desired amount of cage-free, hormone free eggs
An ounce or two or three of Neufchatel Cream Cheese
Touch of butter
Sprinkle of parmesan or cheddar cheese or mozzarella
Liberal shakes from the Sea Salt shaker

Whisk the eggs thoroughly in a bowl. Add to warmed skillet that already has melting clumps of cream cheese and butter. Scramble, adding the salt and pepper. While the eggs are still moist and not quite done, remove from heat and mix in cheese and quickly remove from pan. Delicious!!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

My Choice

What a week. And it's not over! I sat down three different times this week to write and my mind was a fuzzy mess. One day I had nothing in me to do anything (I think my mind was on overload) and there was no wind in my sails. I felt hopeless and frustrated - why do I try so hard? Does it matter? It doesn't seem to. Another day I felt downright angry; sometimes I feel like I am the only force for good in this house! The kids are always bickering, baiting fights, and I got a call from the school psychologist (the principal wasn't available). And to cap it off no one listens to a word I say! Grrr.

Then I sat down and thumbed through a catalog and noticed the title of a book: The Mother's Mite, Why Even Our Smallest Efforts Matter. Just that simple phrase really broke through to me. The tough thing about this parenting business is that most of the time, the results of what we do are not measurable - at least not in the short term. Who knows, we may not really see the fruits of our labors until way down the road or maybe not even until we get to the other side. I have read, researched, and read some more, taken classes, turned my kitchen upside down, and altered the foundation of holidays all for the well being of my family - namely my little Preston and his invisible metal disorder. But the kids still fight, there is still tension amidst the blended-family setting, bad grades still come home, think-times at school still happen and principal phone calls are still made. Is anything changing? Is anything sinking in?

I have to believe it is. And once in awhile off-the-cuff comments that are made catch my attention and let me know that I what I say and do does sink in (and unfortunately that goes for the bad too). There are days (even weeks) that not much good is going on, but then there are days that are almost calm and pleasant (and moments where they'll actually share a chair at the dentist's). At the bottom of all this, my little Preston has a good heart and wants to do the right thing even though brain befuddles for him what that means in any given moment; from pre-action to action to consequence. The bigger lesson that I've learning is that if I'm going to survive my life with this crazy and wonderful critter in it, I've got two choices: to be happy and learn to let a lot of things go or be miserable and focus on all the horrid, confusing acts of life that happen under my roof and elsewhere.

I know I've said this many a post, but this is the choice I have to make today. Raising kids is a messy, scary, horribly imperfect business. But I can look back in 20 years and know I did all that I could and that I gave him all of the love I could muster, or I could look back over my life and wish that I had just chosen to be happy in that moment. When my kids do something naughty, it's not the end of the world it's an opportunity. And it is possible to parent with empathy, encouragement and consequences without anger and condescension. Everyday I have the opportunity to create good, even when there is nowhere to pull it from. I've got what it takes. I just have to remind myself of that. Often. Even when they make me want to jump off a cliff.

And in the end despite it all, I love them all to bits and remind myself that it IS worth it.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

School-Time Blues

At the moment, I've been metaphorically placed on the rack and am being effectively pulled in different directions. The issue: Preston is doing pretty great at home, not-so-great at school. His teacher (bless that woman) works with him everyday to get his classwork done so it doesn't come home (yay for me! One less battle I have to fight). He is doing decently with the 1, 2, 3's in the morning and I'm even getting him to come to the table for dinner to possibly pick at his food. I pull out the chat pack at dinner time to spur some light-hearted conversation as well. If my husband leaves the parenting up to me, then Preston is pretty happy. I'm even getting him to complete his daily chores which is something in and of itself. So, on the home front, I think we have made some great progress (and I also attribute some of this to the addition of B Vitamins and some Greens powder in his daily shake which he amazingly enough doesn't know I started slipping in there). The torment for me comes from the fact that he is really struggling at school.

My education on anxiety is just about to begin and I feel that that is the little devil that is causing the problems at school. I see it when my parents come over - he gets so excited and starts doing nutty things to get their attention and goes into his hyperactive state. I see it when step-brother comes around - Preston just automatically goes on defense (and this has only escalated in the last year since step-brother has officially entered adolescents and is himself not well self-regulated). It comes out randomly when I ask him to do something - he doesn't want to do it initially and then goes into this other realm of dread and drama and tears because he so badly doesn't want to do it. Other times and other issues he goes to pieces over the smallest thing and ends up totally freaked out because he can't breathe and is screaming, "I'm going to die! I'm dying! I can't breathe!" Oi vay.

So, imagine going to school with all your peers that you are trying to win over but you really don't have a good idea of how to do that which leads to inappropriate jokes and behavior to just get a laugh. With his lack of self awareness there is also the issue of just not recognizing when people really don't appreciate what you are doing, including getting in their space. Preston loves to get weird and crazy in people's personal bubbles. This in turn leads to 'think times,' table-jumping and eventually isolation at the back of the room near the teacher. In fact, the last update from his teacher was titled, "Preston is an island." Sigh.

The real plus (I'm training myself to see the positives) to this is that he seems oblivious; yes, that can be good and bad. The bad is that is will affect his relationships with others long term, the good is that is depression used to be pretty severe and it has lightened considerably. The school psychologist related a story to me that one day she was walking by and Preston was working in the hall and after greeting him he very pleasantly told her, "I just wound up out here because I'm being 'cray-cray!!'" (Crazy) All the disruptions from him also cut down on his work time and if he really doesn't understand the concept of something, he just gives up. This is where I need to get a math tutor for him to help him over that mental hurdle. In the end, mostly manageable at home and not-so-manageable at school. Amidst all of this inner turmoil and concern swirling around my head, I can't decide if I've actually put the possibility of trying meds again back in my pipe to smoke or not. I can see how far he has come and I remember what a battle it was with the meds and that the side effects outweighed any small benefits. He's actually getting some great nutrition from his shakes and greens and I'm trying harder to prepare meals that he might try. I'm really not sure what else to do.

I contacted his psychologist who is being very supportive of my continued crusade to leave meds out of the mix and ran by him a few ideas on a more structured class behavior plan. The plan is to have Preston bring home his planner each day that notes how he did academically and behaviorally during the day. If he can average an 'okay' day, he gets to pick something off his money tree that now has money, scholastic books that will be ordered and mystery envelopes on it. It could work, but at the same time, we're talking about a kid with a mental disorder who doesn't really have control over his impulsive behaviors - the ones that cause the problems. I guess I'm hoping he can teach himself to cue in on it, but I don't really know if that can work. Well, actually, yes, that can work because he has been making progress so some stuff does stick around in that brain of his. This is the latest and greatest of my efforts and I hope it gets me off the rack for a little while at least.

Friday, April 5, 2013

This Year's Easter

Okay, I'm going to be totally honest and I'm sure many a parent is going to think I'm the Evil Queen - the Easter Bunny did not visit our house this year. Gasp! Preston's old nuance to rummage through the whole of my house starting in the kitchen and eventually making his way to my room and closet has re-surfaced and it is causing a problem. Did I ever mention the time that he left a half-eaten cookie in the corner of his room and within 24 hours we had an ant colony in his bedroom? No joke - his room was teaming with them and we had to spray everywhere; it was pretty bad. So, ever since we've had the hard and fast rule that there is to be no food outside the kitchen. At any rate, I'm really at my wits end trying to curb this kid's sugar addiction - because quite honestly, that is what it mostly comes down to. So, I just decided that I did not want any treats in this house to further tempt his snatching and squirreling (I would definitely not be setting him up for success). Then I started to wonder where in the world the candy for Easter tradition came from anyway - the Easter Bunny and the resurrection of Christ don't seem to have a common thread. So I did a little research and it wasn't super insightful.

There really isn't a connection that I could find. I found that the origins of Easter MAY have started in 16th century Germany when the Oster Haws (hare) would bring colored eggs to the well-behaved children. I'm guessing this was the Christmas version of Christ's death and resurrection as Santa had a naughty and nice list for those kids during the season of Christ's birth. The eggs bit came from the symbolism of eggs for fertility and spring. So, I started searching online for Easter traditions that I could use to replace the candy garbage and focus more on Christ. Three traditions that I found and will be adding to my repertoire are as follows:

1) Placing a scrap of paper in an empty plastic Easter egg and each day reading a scripture pertaining to the death and resurrection of Christ. The twelfth egg will be empty signifying the empty tomb.
2) Easter egg hunt that consists of one chocolate egg for each person and one plastic egg per person with a five or ten dollar bill inside. I just get to be sneakier with hiding places.
3) Resurrection rolls. I found the recipe for these on pintrest and they were fun, easy and quite tasty. You start with a marshmallow that represents Christ. You dip the marshmallow first in butter and then in a cinnamon sugar mixture (3 T sugar, 2 T cinnamon) and this represents preparing Christ's body for burial as they used oil and spices. The marshmallow is then wrapped in a crescent roll triangle (pinching all the sides to make sure it is sealed) which represents the linens/shroud. Then into the oven (or tomb) and closing the entrance to the tomb (oven door) and waiting three days (or 12-14 minutes in this case) before opening the tomb. When you cut into the roll, the marshmallow is gone - He has risen! It was fun and kept all my kids engaged. We enjoyed the rolls with my delicious scrambled eggs and some bacon and Barnyard Cocktail (see recipes page).

I felt like those were decent substitutions without driving my kids into a either a sugar-induced coma or frothing-at-the-mouth-hyperactive-frenzy. Not to mention, a good focus on what Easter is really all about. On the flip-side, my step-son went to visit his mom for Easter this year and came home with a truckload of candy and naughty items; everything I was trying to avoid. I tried my best to replace them all with 'organic' options, all the while wondering why I felt the need to replace them versus just getting rid of them and calling it good. One of my good friend's posted a link to a recent CBS 60-Minutes news-story on sugar and toxicity just today; it's fourteen minutes and well worth the watch:

Let me say however that I still believe in moderation! I do enjoy a good treat and enjoy baking immensely. To cut goodies out completely isn't realistic to me, but reducing the amounts or using healthier alternatives works for me.

Have you ever tried to totally forfeit sugar from your diet? Did you stick with it? Did you notice any strong health benefits from doing so?