What Happens When I’m Forced to Just Sit and Be

Despite often claiming that all I want is quiet time to myself to just sit and be, truth be told, I’m not very good at sitting and being even when given the chance to do just that.  Yesterday, while home with my sick little one, I had to just sit and be.  She’s old enough now to voice her opinions, but young enough to still just want to cuddle.  Which meant I spent most of my day with her snuggled up next to me on the couch watching a series of shows (from the high of Nanny McPhee first thing in the morning, we devolved quickly into the land of Barbie on Netflix, and then ended on another high note with a series of classic Disney short films).  Point is, I had to just sit there and be.  The way my little one was snuggled up to me, I couldn’t work on my laptop, and the iPad and phone were pretty much out too.

Today has been a whole lot more of the same – although the little one has bounced back pretty quickly and I think is now just enjoying the fact that she gets to watch whatever tv she wants without her brother trying to get her to put on Star Wars.

With all the time to just sit and be (and watch kids’ tv), I also had a lot of time to think.  The re-visited eating regime is already paying off for both the Husband and I.  Sleep is getting better (when we’re not interrupted by sick kids).  Our bodies are recovering faster from our workouts.  And we both have a lot more energy.  Why, when I know how good it feels to live this way, do I ever allow myself to slide back into bad eating habits?

The truth is we slide into bad eating habits because we think it’s easier.  Because we think it’s going to help us deal with the stresses in our lives.  Because we think it’s going to make us happier to have a little bit of indulgence in our lives.

And while it may very well be easier to feed ourselves processed food, whether at home or at restaurants, it doesn’t help us deal with the stresses in our lives.  And it doesn’t, in the end make us happier.  In fact, it makes us more tired, sleep more poorly, less able to deal with stress, and in the end, decidedly not happier.  And with the most recent study from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Centre linking sugar intake with breast and lung cancers, bad eating habits can make us sick.

I hope, that with the recipes I share in the blog, you too can see how easy it is, even with the craziness of having two little ones, all their activities, and all that the Husband and I do, to make healthy food for you and your families that everyone will enjoy . . .and enjoy making!  Because I promise, when you start cutting out alcohol and sugar from your diet, you WILL start to feel better!!!

And speaking of recipes, the kids and I made a great meatloaf on Tuesday night.  I had started making this while the kids were playing, but in no time, they had drifted into the kitchen and were right in there helping make this.

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We made it free-form on baking sheets, but you could also make it in loaf pans.  Don’t be alarmed if, when you take it out of the oven, there is a lot of liquid on the pan.  While this was good on the first night, the Husband and I had leftovers the next day, and I think it was almost better on the 2nd day . . .Also, I doubled the recipe so we had lots (for leftovers).

Actually, that’s one of the most important ways the Husband and I can stay so committed to eating better – when we cook, we make lots – that way, there’s always healthy options – either in the fridge or frozen in the freezer.  Meat dishes make for great quick lunches.  And extra roasted veggies make salads that much tastier!

Super Easy, Super Quick Paleo Meatloaf

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

1 1/2lbs ground beef

1 egg

1 small onion / 2 shallots, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

6oz tomato sauce (use homemade if you have some on hand – it’s another thing we make in bulk, or use a good quality organic sauce from a glass jar)

1/4 cup blanched almond meal (I use Bob’s Red Mill)

1/4 tsp smoked paprika

salt and pepper to taste.

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or line or grease well with coconut oil a loaf pan).
  2. Crack the egg into a large bowl and beat it well.
  3. Add in the almond meal, paprika, salt and pepper.  Mix well with a whisk.
  4. Add in onion and garlic and mix to combine.
  5. Add in the ground beef, and mix well (use your hands!).
  6. Dump the mixture onto the cookie sheet, form into a loaf shape and put in the oven to bake.  Ours too about an hour.  Just make sure that the loaf is no longer pink inside before serving.

A Life Lesson from Nanny McPhee

My day started at 3 this morning.  With the little one asking for a glass of water.  This isn’t like her, I thought, but gave her the water and tried to get back to sleep, knowing that the Husband (and I) would be getting up for good an hour and a half later.

But at 4, she called for us again.  And a 4:30, she threw up.  My son, hearing noises and seeing that lights were on, decided to start his day at 4:30 too.  I will say, he demonstrated a great deal of compassion for his sister, and was more than happy to “just watch a little movie with her”.

In an attempt to keep them both on the couch and “resting”, I went to Netflix to find a movie we hadn’t seen before.  And without much thought, I put on Nanny McPhee returns.  If you haven’t seen it, it is a lovely movie for kids.  A nice break from animated movies.  And the story line is perfect for even really little ones.

Anyway, at the very end of the movie there’s a wonderful quote:

“that’s the thing about Nanny McPhee; when need her but do not want her then she must stay.  When you want her but no longer need her, she must go”.

I love this quote.  Because in the context of the movie it is quite beautiful.  And in the context of life in general, it is so highly applicable . . . how many times in life are we handed things we don’t really want, but that we need.  And how often do we have to let go of things we want but no longer need?

Through the course of the day yesterday, I had occasion to hear several stories of people who have fallen into ill health.  One of the stories involved a mom of two young kids and cancer.  After hearing that story, all I wanted was to be home with my kids. My heart hurt for this woman I have never met and for her husband and kids.  I am all too familiar with what they are going through and wouldn’t wish it on a soul.  So today, while I could do without washing icky bedsheets, I am quite happy to spend the day in the company of my little one.  It’s exactly what we both need.

On a lighter note, with the Husband and I back in our “clean” eating routines (the kids are along for the ride too), I’ve been working on coming up with some new recipes that everyone will enjoy eating, but that fall within our eating guidelines (no sugar, no gluten (for the adults, not so much the kids), no processed food).  I am happy to report that I hit it out of the park on Monday with this chicken finger recipe.  Even the little one gobbled up her entire dinner (a rare feat in our house!).  I made a double batch (mostly because I had thawed 2 packages of chicken tenders and wanted to use them all up) we ate the equivalent of a single batch, and I froze the rest – the kids had them again last night – re-heated in the oven – and they were a hit the second time around too!

Almond Flour Chicken Fingers

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

1 1/2lbs chicken tenders (or just use an equivalent weight of boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into strips)

1 cup blanched almond flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill)

1 tsp smoked paprika

salt & pepper to taste

2 eggs

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  (I actually experimented and did one batch right on the cookie sheet, one with a Silpat and one with parchment paper – they all turned out the same, so use whatever you have on hand).
  2. Crack the eggs into a bowl and beat them until they are well mixed.
  3. In a separate bowl, use a whisk to combine the almond flour, paprika and salt and paper.
  4. Take each chicken strip, one at a time, dip it in the egg, shake off the excess egg, and then dredge it in the almond flour mixture.  Again, shake off the excess and put it on the pan. Continue until all the chicken strips have been coated.
  5. Bake for about 10 minutes, then flip them over and bake for another 5-10 minutes depending on the size of your chicken strips.

Goodbye Christmas, Hello New Year’s & Finding my JOY (Oh, And the Best Sugar Cookies Ever)

With the Husband back at work today, it seems as though Christmas is really over in our house.  I started putting all the decorations away today, (despite the little one’s desperate pleas to leave the tree up in the living room all year long) and while I worked, New Year’s was on my mind; what my hopes, my dreams, my (gasp!) goals might be for the year ahead.  Which lead into a much deeper train of thought . . .

The coach once asked me what my worth was.  It was part of a larger conversation, and was a very valid question at the time (it clearly still is a very valid question).  I couldn’t answer him then, and I still can’t answer him.

How can I define my worth when I don’t even know who or what it is that I am.

I know that I used to be a banker.  And that I have a degree in economics and an MBA that lead me to that career.

I know that I’m the girl that went through that whole brain tumour thing.  And that I’m the girl that loves to spend time in the gym and lift heavy things.

I know that right now I’m a wife and a mom and a daughter and a friend.

But none of that answers the question “who am I”.

I’ve always had something to rely on to define who I am.  In high school, I was the “figure skater”.  In university, I was an “econ girl”.  And from there, I transitioned into my career where i was a “banker”.

As meaningful as the roles of “wife” and “mom” might be to the people to whom I am the wife and mom, anything I do in those roles is, well, expected.  Taking care of the house, making sure the kids are fed, dressed, educated . . . all part of the job.  And thus, while I may be “good” at these jobs, they don’t define me.

And so, as I stand on the precipice of the new year, I am faced with the great task of figuring out who and what it is that I want to be and from there what my worth is.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am thrilled to be freed from the shackles of the whole brain tumour thing.  And I love the idea that I have the ability to choose where it is that I want to take my life.  But I am also absolutely terrified.  Because I want what I do with my life going forward to have meaning; to be worth something to more than just my husband and my kids.  And I also want whatever it is that I choose do with my life to bring me joy; so that I may teach my kids what it’s like to truly follow your joy.  And because I know all too well that life’s just too short not to follow your joy.  And I suspect that discovering this “life” is going to take a considerable amount of thought, hard work, and time.

But, with all that being said, I know that one day, in the not too distant future, I will have figured some of this out . . . and I will be able to confidently walk up to the Coach, and with a big smile on my face, tell him just what my worth is.

In the meantime, we’ve been having an ABSOLUTELY amazing break to date – by far the best decision I ever made was to just keep the kids home with me and not to put them in any activities or camps.  In fairness, they have had some time with their grandparents so that I could get a few things done.  But by and large, we’ve just been hanging out.  And we’ve been cooking.  I think the biggest hit this year was our sugar cookies.  They are PHENOMENAL.  And I don’t mean that lightly.  I could (and perhaps did) eat a dozen of these over the course of a day.  They are totally NOT paleo, healthy or in any way good for you.  Except, they are super fun to make with the little people in your life, and I grin from ear to ear when I eat them . . . We have devolved to the point with these cookies where we don’t ice or decorate them – we just eat them plain.  And we also debate as to whether we prefer them a smidgen under-done or more well cooked.  Do with them as you please.  They certainly can take smarties or other candy decorations on them before you throw them in the oven; or you can let them cool, ice them and decorate them fully.  Just please, provided you don’t have any gluten issues, MAKE THESE COOKIES!!

Best Sugar Cookies Ever

  • Servings: about 24 cookies
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour (I have also used cake flour and it works just as well)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cups softened butter
1 cup white sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and line 4 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or using a hand beater, cream the butter and sugar well.  Add in the egg and beat until the mixture is light, fluffy and pale yellow in colour.
  3. Add in the vanilla, baking powder and salt and mix until just combined.
  4. Add the flour and mix well – but try not to over-mix or the dough will get a bit tough.  Basically, mix until everything is combined and then mix just a bit more to be sure!
  5. At this point, I generously flour my working surface, and get straight to rolling the dough.  The dough can be quite soft, and hard to work with – so feel free to wrap it in plastic wrap and chill for an hour or so.  If you choose to do what I do, mash all the dough into one big ball.  Flatten the ball out a bit with your hands, then flour the top of the dough, your rolling pin, and get rolling.  I like to roll till the dough is about 3/4″ thick.  Then I cut out shapes with whatever cutters the kids want . . . Just be sure to have big spatulas on hand to transfer the cookies to the cookie sheets – this can be a bit tricky when the dough hasn’t been chilled.  If you have chilled the dough, flour your work surface, and the top of the dough as well, and then roll and cut the cookies out.
  6. Place the cookies on the cookie sheets leaving some space between them – they will rise as they cook so you don’t want them to turn into one giant cookie.
  7. Bake for about 15 minutes if you like them slightly under-done and closer to 20 if you like a crispier cookie.  Please note though that the larger the cookie cuter you use, the longer the cookies will take to cook.  I tend to use a range of sizes of cookie cutters, and just accept that the smaller cookies will be more done and the larger ones will be more under-done!

ENJOY!!!!

Counting Down to Christmas

I’ve always loved Christmas.  But since meeting the Husband and having our family, Christmas has become even more special for me.  In contrast to the Christmases I remember growing up where things were different every year, I’ve tried to make Christmas for our family a time of tradition and consistency in our house.  More than anything, I want my kids to remember this time of year as a time of happiness, and love, and family; and I hope they get this through our Christmas rituals.

This year, we started the Christmas season off early . . . at Disney.  We may have been there over the second week of November, but Christmas was in full swing there.  We saw the taping of the Disney Christmas parade.  We went to Mickey’s Christmas Party.  And we saw a Santa Claus parade.  I even had my first Starbucks gingerbread late of the season while walking down a completely decorated Main Street with my son and my daughter watched Cinderella decorate her tree in her castle.

But in the weeks that have followed, while the kids excitement for Christmas has slowly been building, I just haven’t been able to find the excitement that I normally have for the holiday season.

That is . . .until today.

As I sat down this morning to plan out the week ahead, menu plan and otherwise get organized in the kitchen, I clued into the fact that December 1st is THIS TUESDAY!!!!  That means decorations go up, Elf on the Shelf makes his annual return (this is the one tradition I wish I could kill off . . .literally), and advent calendars come out.

Which brings me to my point.  Advent calendars.  The one tradition I remember as a kid is having a small chocolate advent calendar.  So without question, each of my kids gets one of those every year.  They also each get a lego advent calendar.  And then there’s the wooden advent calendar that I fill myself each night with a note for the following day outlining what special Christmas activity we’ll be doing that day.

So, once all the food planning and weekly organization was taken care of, I sat down to try and plan out what special things I’ll do with the kids this December.  And as I started to map out the things we will do – decorate, bake, make holiday crafts, spend time with family, and spend time as just the four of us – I found the weight of all that is going on right now start to lift, and some of the joy and wonder of this season seep in.

I can’t control what’s going to happen to me over the next few weeks (yes, the weight of waiting for my blood work results does get me down), nor can I control what’s going on in the world (while I normally love nothing more than a strong cup of coffee and the New York Times first thing on a Sunday morning, today’s paper was downright depressing).

But I can control what goes on in our house.  And for the next 27 days, our house is going to be filled with happiness.

It’s also going to be filled with a lot more sugar than normal!  While I try to make sure the kids (and the grownups) don’t have sugar during the week, they are allowed treats on the weekend.  And yesterday, we made one of my favourite weekend treats – Peppermint Chocolate Bark.

This is a really tricky recipe (hah!). . . grease a cookie sheet with coconut oil.  In 1 double boiler (or in a glass bowl set over a pan of simmering water) melt 3 bags of enjoy life chocolate chips.  In a 2nd double boiler (or glass bowl set over a pan of simmer water), melt an equivalent amount of white chocolate (for this I use Green & Blacks organic vanilla white chocolate bars – about 4 of them).

Once the chocolate chips have melted, stir in 1tsp of peppermint exact.  Then pour it into the prepared cookie sheet.  Using a knife, spread the chocolate out evenly in the pan.  Repeat the process with the white chocolate.  You can use a fork or a skewer to swirl the two chocolates together.  Or just leave it as is.  Put the cookie sheet in the fridge or the freezer until the chocolate has hardened.  Then use a knife or whatever other implement you’d like to cut it into appropriate sized pieces.

Enjoy!!!

And my best wishes for the happiest of holiday seasons!

xoxo

Fairy Godmothers (sort of)

The post today was going to be about crossfit (shocking) complete with a Rich Froning analogy (even more shocking).  But when I sat down to write, iPhoto was open with Disney pictures from our trip, which I of course, started to look through, which got me to the Fairy Godmother photo, which got me to look up all the other Fairy Godmother photos from our other trips (honestly, I wanted to see how my body had changed over the last 5 years . . . really mature, I know, but logical in the context of some of my discussions today), which got me to here . . . .

Yup.  A post on Fairy Godmothers.  Well, sort of.

As popular as the idea of a fairy godmother is, Cinderella is pretty much the only story with such a character (yes, there were fairies in Sleeping Beauty, but they are nothing like the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella).  Clearly then, the idea that a magical being can pop out of nowhere, pull you out of wherever it is that you’re stuck and completely change your life for the better is a narrative with wide appeal across generations.

There have definitely been times in my life when I’ve wished for a fairy godmother to come along and “magic” me out of a situation . . . or at least “magic” me some new shoes.  But as I reexamined the story of Cinderella again, something became apparent to me after reading this quote:

“Even miracles take a little time”

Cinderella had to put in years of hard work before her Fairy Godmother appeared.  Perhaps we too need to put in the work before fate/the universe rewards us with some magic of our own.

And then there is this quote:

“The magic will only last so long”

Right. So hard work = a little bit of magic, more hard work = a little bit more magic, and so on . . .

Which leads me to my favourite quote about fairy godmothers

“I became my own fairy godmother”
–Amy Schumer

On that note (and while I contemplate why one of my lowest marks in undergrad was in a Children’s Lit course), I will leave you with one of the recipes that I made yesterday that was really quite delightful . . . super easy lemon curd.  I know it’s not for everyone, but it’s good and I’m working on ways to use it up now . . . more on that later!

Lemon Curd

  • Servings: 2 cups (approx)
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

zest from 1 lemon

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 cup raw honey

3 eggs

6tbs coconut oil

Directions

  1. In a saucepan set on medium heat, add the eggs, honey and lemon zest.  Whisk constantly until the mixture turns paler and thickens slightly. Be careful not to set the heat too high or to stop whisking or you may end up with scrambled eggs!  A little bit of cooked egg is ok, you can strain it out at the end!
  2. At this point, add in the lemon juice and coconut oil.  Keep whisking well and watch as the mixture will turn a very pale yellow and will thicken nicely.  It may even start to bubble.  Once it has reached a thickness that you deem appropriate, pull the pan off the heat and strain the mixture through a fine metal sieve.
  3. Store the curd in a mason jar in the fridge.  Use as you wish!

 

My Quest for Tasty School Snacks The Kids Will Actually Eat Continues

While I proclaimed my love of Disney yesterday, the one aspect of the Most Magical Place on Earth that really bothers me is the over-abundance of sugar-laden foods.  On one had, I absolutely understand the desire to celebrate a trip to Disney with special food treats.  I do enjoy the Mickey ice cream sandwiches (and yes, I did have one on the trip).  But on the other, some of the “treats” are so over-the-top it’s hard not to shake your head.  Take for instance one of our breakfasts; it was a buffet where characters visited your table while you were eating.  As if that wasn’t excitement enough for the kids, there was a large bowl of gummy bears placed next to a tray of croissants, along with dishes of jam and butter (I wasn’t aware that gummy bears were a traditional accompaniment to croissants . . . haha).  There were also rice krispie treats, krispy kreme donut holes, and brownies.  And this was breakfast!!!

Seeing this excess of sugary foods and how easily and in such quantities that people were consuming these foods made me think just how far we’ve come, as a society, from eating, never mind valuing real (unprocessed, sugar- and chemical-free) food.

So now that we’re back, I’m even more committed than ever to making sure my kids grow up to not only value, but to enjoy and to choose real food over it’s processed counterparts.

Which lead me back to my quest to find healthy “treats” that the kids can enjoy during snack time at school and not feel ostracized by the other kids with their processed snacks.

Both my kids LOVE granola bars.  I’ve tried to buy healthy store-bought versions, but they are hard to find in school-safe nut-free versions that are actually edible (according to my kids, anyway).  And so, I started to research how to make granola bars.  And after reading LOTS of recipes, I came up with one that, at least one of the kids and I think is pretty darn good.  They’ve been requested as tomorrow’s snack, which I’m taking as a good sign.  They were super easy to make – we whipped them up after school and were ready to test after dinner!

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Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

  • Servings: 18ish bars
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

1/4 cup butter

1/3 cup honey

2tsp vanilla extract

1/2tsp salt

1/4 cup coconut sugar (or brown sugar if that’s more your thing)

2 cups old fashioned oats

2 cups puffed rice cereal

2/3 cups Enjoy Life chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Line a 9×9″ pyrex pan with parchment paper.
  2. Heat the oven to 350 and spread the oats on a rimmed baking sheet.  Toast the oats for a few minutes (it took about 5 in my oven) until they are just a bit toasty looking in colour.
  3. While the oats are toasting, put the butter, honey, vanilla, sugar and salt into a small saucepan and heat on medium heat.  When the mixture comes to a simmer, put the timer on for about 2 minutes – when the 2 minutes are up, take the pan off the oven and let it cool for a few minutes.
  4. While the mixture is cooling a bit, add the puffed rice to a big bowl, and then add in the oats and mix until they are well combined.
  5. You can now add in the butter/honey mixture.  I just dumped it in and then mixed it well with a wooden spoon.  When all the puffed rice/oats have been well  coated with the mixture, add in the chocolate chips and mix well.  If the butter/honey mixture is still warm, the chocolate chips will melt a little – personally, we all liked how this turned out.  If that’s not your thing, let the butter/honey mixture really cool before you mix all the ingredients together.
  6. Once everything is well combined, dump it all into the pan and using a metal spoon, press the mixture down into the pan so that it is really tightly packed.
  7. Put the pan into the fridge and let the bars set up.  Once they are firm, lift them out of the pan and cut into as many/few bars as you want.

Sometimes, You Just Have to Laugh

So, I was up at 4:30 this morning.  To work on a spreadsheet.  For our vacation.  Not a spreadsheet on what to pack (I did that last week), and not a spreadsheet with a general itinerary (that was done months ago).  Nope.  A spreadsheet outlining everything that I have planned for us on each day of our vacation.

And as I finalized the formatting and hit print . . .

I laughed.

We are visiting the most magical place on earth, and here I am, STILL trying to plan exactly how, when and where we will have magical moments.

And then there were tears.  I thought I was supposed to be letting go, surrendering to what is, what could be, what will be, enjoying the moment.  And yet I can’t stop planning what we’re doing (and what we’re going to wear while we’re doing it) on our vacation.

Then there was frustration.  Really, have I not absorbed any of the stuff that I’ve been reading/talking/blogging about lately?  Did I not learn from the post where I talked about “over-planning killing magic”????

So I did the only logical thing I could do.  Set my son up with a lego set, set up daughter up with a bin of magnatiles (her current obsession), and gave myself a time out to stop, to think, and to compose myself.  And while in that self-imposed time out (really, I was putting away laundry . . . but it was a few quiet moments to myself to think), I got back to that place of laughter.

Really, it’s time to stop taking all this so seriously.

“To laugh at yourself is to love yourself”
-Mickey Mouse

And on that note, I’m going to smile my way to the gym, where I’m sure there will be lots more laughs.  And after that . . . well, I’ll do my best to keep on laughing.

Speaking of which . . . I made a fantastic dinner last night.  It was super easy, took next to no time to prepare, and the leftovers taste even better.  So here goes . . .

Pork Tenderloin with Maple Applesauce

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

2 pork tenderloins

4 apples (I used 2 granny smith and 2 honey crisp – use whatever you have in the fridge

1 shallott, minced

1/3 cup maple syrup

3tbsp butter

3tbsp olive oil

salt, pepper, cinnamon to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425.
  2. Heat a large cast iron or oven proof skillet on medium/high heat.  Add the olive oil, making sure the bottom of the pan is well oiled, and add in the pork tenderloin.  Let the pork brown on each side (about 4 minutes per side).
  3. When the pork is browned, remove it from the pan and add in the butter, and turn the heat down to low/medium.  When the butter has melted, add in the shallot and apples.  The pan will still be hot, so turn the apples frequently so they don’t burn – they may get a bit browned, but that’s ok.  Once the apples start to get soft, add the pork back to the pan so that it is resting on the apples.  Now pour the maple syrup all over the pork.
  4. Put the pan in the oven and let the pork cook until it registers 145 on a meat thermometer (or until it is just barely pink when you cut into it).  This took about 12 minutes for one of my tenderloins and about 20 minutes for the other.
  5. Once the pork is cooked, the apples should be nice and soft.  Serve by slicing the pork and putting a heaping spoonful of the apples over the pork.

So Who’s Giving Up Bacon and Red Meat (‘Cause I’m Not) – But Really this Post is About Cookies

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(in case you’re wondering, after a wonderful day of celebration and reflection yesterday, life is officially back to normal today)

So . . .yesterday the WHO announced that red and processed meats lead to an increased risk of colorectal cancer.  I was amazed by just how many people were talking about this announcement yesterday – teachers at the kids school, people at the gym, random people I passed at the mall.  Although I suppose I shouldn’t be; it was a great headline.  And while the information that the report was based on and the conclusions that were drawn are a bit tenuous (I spoke with an expert on this subject yesterday and I’m awaiting his formal “statement” on the matter), that didn’t seem to matter to the people who were abandoning their bacon and processed meats yesterday.

What I’m trying to get at is this: how is it surprising that when we take the meat from animals raised with high exposure to chemicals, and then process the meat from these animals with more chemicals into “processed meats” that these processed meat products are carcinogenic?

In this family, we’re going to keep eating our red meat.  And our bacon.  But we’re going to keep buying organic / grass-fed / pastured meats.  And get our bacon either from my brother (who makes his own without the use of chemicals) or from our butcher who also makes it (without the use of chemicals).

Ok.  I think that’s enough of a rant for today.  Except for the fact that I will say, as much as I, and the family, avoids processed meats, we also avoid processed foods in general (I refer to my statement about adding more chemicals to already chemical laden ingredients . . . how can that possibly be healthy????).  This of course leads to some pretty big issues around snack time for the kids.  They want the “fun” processed foods that all their friends get.

So, my quest for healthy but still “fun” and nut-free snacks continues.  I was inspired today by a friend’s pin. It was for gluten-free oatmeal cookies.  They looked good, the recipe was nut-free, gluten-free, sugar free, and seemed like it would work.  So, me being me, went for it . . . but with a few modifications.  I think they’re pretty good.  And I think the kids will like them too.  Guess I’ll have my answer in about an hour!  Oh . . .and due to my lack of gluten-free baking supplies today, I just used regular flour (it’s raining cats and dogs, and I just didn’t feel like going back out for gluten-free flour).

But seriously, these aren’t crispy or chewy cookies.  They’re more like a cross between a mini muffin top and a cookie . . .if that makes any sense at all.  They were super easy to make, and I’d make them again for sure (even if I’m the only one that eats them).

Question is now . . . are the kids going to eat the cookies because they don’t want to do their homework?  Or are the kids going to do their homework because they want to eat the cookies . . .

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • Servings: 60 small cookies
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

1/2 cup softened butter

4 eggs

1/4 cup raw honey

2tsp vanilla

1tsp baking powder

1tsp baking soda

1 cup oats

3 cups flour (regular or gluten free)

2/3 cups chocolate chips (I use the mini Enjoy Life brand)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. In a mixer, or a bowl, cream the butter and honey until the mixture is light and fluffy.  Add in the eggs and vanilla and mix well so that everything is well combined.
  3. Add in the baking soda, baking powder, oats, and flour.  Mix gently to combine.  The mixture will be sticky (because of the honey), and quite stiff.
  4. Add in the chocolate chips and given one last mix to combine it all.
  5. I used my 1tbs ice cream scoop to make balls out of the dough.  I put 12 balls on each tray (I didn’t line the trays with parchment paper or grease them, and the cookies came out just fine) and used a fork dipped in warm water to mash down each ball.  With this size scoop, I got 60 smallish cookies out of the batter.  The cookies rose up, and didn’t flatten out much.
  6. Bake for 8-12 minutes (cooking time depends on your oven and how many you cook at once – I kept mine in for all 12 minutes, but did them 2 trays at a time).  Let cool and enjoy!

Happiness in a Bowl of Cauliflower Soup

Yesterday, I woke up with a ton of energy.  I was riding a high from Saturday – finding a recipe for nut-free, semi-healthy cookies that my entire family will eat (other kids tried them – and they liked them too . . . so I know it really is a good recipe), seeing my son take part in a ceremonial puck drop for his hockey association, and then spending an awesome afternoon that turned into dinner with friends and their kids.  It was a fantastical day through and through.

So what did I decide to do with all that energy . . . . tackle the garden of course!  There was no better today to put the garden to bed for the winter – it was sunny, not too cold, and I had all the time in the world to get the job done.  Of course, as I went to the garage to get my gardening tools, I was faced with the obstacle course that my garage had become (yet again!).  So, with the help of the Husband, we did a massive garage clean-out/up.

At some point, probably during the basement reno a few years ago, I filled a big plastic tub with kitchen stuff that wasn’t in every-day use.  Clearly, we’ve never needed any of it, as I had completely forgotten that it was out there.  But since I had unearthed it, I decided it was time to deal with it.  For the most part, I had no issues getting rid of the stuff in that box.

Except for four ceramic bowls.  I bought these bowls when I was still in university.  When I had hopes and dreams of one day having a husband and kids.  And a house of my own.  And I would feed my small, perfect children their morning cereal out of these adorable little bowls.

Right.  So . . . I have the husband, the kids (still kinda small, and delightfully imperfect), and the house.  But the kids don’t particularly care for cereal (at least not for breakfast anyway, as a snack after school, eaten dry, maybe), and the cuteness of the bowls are be completely lost on them (I believe my son asked if there was a Star Wars version that he could have instead).

Hmmmmm.  I tried all my new tricks; what did these bowls me to me right now?  did I really need them?  What would my life be like if I gave them on to someone else to love???

And then I did what any logical person would do.  I washed them, made a batch of homemade soup, and sat down to enjoy my soup out of my treasured bowls.  Maybe the novelty will wear off in a day or two and then I’ll be ready to part with them.  But for now . . . I’m going to use them, be thankful for my dreams that have come true, and enjoy my soup.

Happy Monday.

Roasted Cauliflower and Apple Soup

  • Servings: 8 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

2 heads of cauliflower

olive oil

2 apples peeled and cut into eighths (I used MacIntosh this time)

4 garlic cloves, peeled

3 shallots, peeled and cut into quarters (or use 1 onion peeled and roughly chopped)

4 cups stock or bone broth

salt & pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375.  Prepare 2 cookie sheets by lining them with parchment paper or tin foil.
  2. Roughly chop the cauliflower and toss it with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Arrange the cauliflower on the prepared baking sheets.
  3. Scatter the apples, onions, and garlic amongst the cauliflower.
  4. Put the cookie sheets in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the cauliflower starts to brown and look “roasted”.
  5. While the cauliflower etc. is roasting, heat up the stock in a large pot.
  6. When the cauliflower is roasted, add it all to the pot and bring it all to a simmer.
  7. Take the pot off the heat, and using an immersion blender, puree the soup.  (I then used my blender to further puree it . . . but it’s not necessary).

Today is a GOOD Day or How I Discovered the Answer to One of the Universe’s Great Mysteries

After about 1,000,000 attempts to come up with a cookie that was paleo, nut free, gluten free AND that my kids would actually like, I had to cut my losses, walk away, and accept that my kids would snack on store-bought organic chocolate gingersnaps at school for their “treat” snack.

But today, I was oddly inspired to give it one more shot . . .I had pinned a recipe earlier in the week for chocolate cookies.  Based on all my previous attempts, I had a sense, just from reading the recipe, that they might work out.  And so . . . I gave it a shot.

The Husband had a hard time containing his laughter when he figured out what I was up to.

But then . . . the cookies came out of the oven . . . perfectly timed to the end of our lunch . . . and I was redeemed . These cookies are GOOD.  The Husband liked them.  The kids LOVED them.  And I thought they were fantastic!  I can definitely serve these at a girls night without anyone being any the wiser that they aren’t “real” cookies!  And the kids certainly won’t complain when I send them to school in their lunches.

The recipe comes from a blog called A Whole New Twist.  I changed the baking time, but otherwise, the recipe is pretty much the same.  It looks like she has lots of good recipes on her blog – I can’t wait to try her gingersnaps!!!

Anyway . . . make these cookies!  I promise you’ll love them!!  Just try to remember that they are a treat . . . and it’s probably not a good idea to eat all 24 of them in one sitting . . .

I also made one more attempt at the crispy rice squares today – this time I used puffed rice and peanut butter . . . so we’ll see how they go over with the family later in the day!

A Whole New Twist Double Chocolate Cookies

  • Servings: 24 cookies
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter, softened

3/4 cup coconut/palm sugar

1 egg

1Tbs raw honey

2tsp vanilla

1 cup tapioca flour

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tsp baking soda

3 tbs coconut flour

1/2 cup Enjoy Life chocolate chips

sprinkle of Himalayan sea salt

Directions

  1. Preheat over to 325.
  2. Cream butter and sugar together in a stand mixer.  Add in the egg, honey and vanilla and continue to beat on medium to high speed until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  3. Add in the tapioca flour, baking soda, and mix on low until just combined – if you over-beat at this point, the tapioca flour will take on a gummy texture in the cookies (which is NOT good).
  4. Add in the coconut flour, and give a quick mix to combine.
  5. Then add in the chocolate chips and sea salt and give the mixture one last quick mix.  Make sure everything is combined, and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure everything is well mixed!
  6. Drop about 1tbs of batter onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  I put 12 cookies on each sheet.  You should get 24 cookies out of this batter.
  7. Put both cookie sheets into the oven and cook for about 22 minutes, or until the cookies are set.
  8. ENJOY!!!!

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