Last day of processed cereals. This is a very hard one for me to give up. I grew up on cold cereal for breakfast almost every day. And I survived my years in grad school with cereal up to three meals a day. Cocoa puffs might not be the healthiest dinner, but they were quick and so yummy. Cereal is also my go-to food before a run. It may not work for everyone but a bowl of froot loops is the perfect pre-run fuel for me. And I hate to mess with what works. So, I’m hoping I can find something to take the place of my beloved boxed cereals.
Well, at least I was able to enjoy my last day of cereal. I had TWO bowls of cinnamon toast crunch and because we are having unseasonably warm weather, I enjoyed a beautiful run outside!
Today I got a little bit closer to creating a granola bar recipe that I like. It was a huge improvement over the last attempt. Those bars couldn’t even be called bars. They were a crumbly, gooey mess. Today I decided to start with a basic recipe. It called for 3/4 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup white sugar. I’m still experimenting with alternative sweeteners, so this time I replaced the brown sugar with 1/2 cup of honey and upped the amount of flour. It worked pretty well, so here is the recipe.
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups oatmeal
1 1/2 cups puffed rice
1/3 cup sun butter *
1/3 cup dried cranberries *
* These could be swapped with other mix-ins such as peanut butter or nuts or raisins, etc. I chose to make these nut-free so the kids could take them to school.
Beat sugar, honey and butter together until creamy. Add vanilla and egg.
Stir together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Add these to the butter mixture. Then add the remaining ingredients.
Spread in a buttered 9 x 13 pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes. Let sit for a while before cutting. They will firm as they cool. Yum!
Yesterday the kids went to a birthday party. As at most birthday parties, all of the guests leave with a goody bag. They were very excited about their goody bags so I felt awful when I told them we weren’t going to keep the candy in the bags.
They were pretty good about giving up the candy. Especially when I told them I would make them some candy to replace the processed things they were giving up. And who could be upset about giving up sweet tarts and lollipops when you get these instead:
Only three ingredients in these yummy chocolate hearts. These were super easy to make and so much fun to make your own chocolates! This is another recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie (Chocolate Recipe).
That is about all that I got made today because I made the mistake of telling the directors of the elementary school play that I could sew. So, most of my day was spent making a princess dress. I hope whoever wears this dress is on stage a lot because that dress was a lot of work!
I had an awesome day shopping for healthy baking supplies yesterday! Here’s what I picked up to add to the healthy pantry:
We do not have a whole foods store in our area (where I assume I wouldn’t have trouble finding the baking supplies I need), so it has been difficult to find everything I want. Well, I braved some more grocery shopping with the twins (not an easy thing to do!) and it was great! We have a Woodmans store about 20 minutes from us and they have a GREAT healthy foods section.
I also made two discoveries today:
1. I actually didn’t know what coconut tasted like. Unsweetened coconut is actually pretty bland. Mounds bars are very yummy, but they don’t taste like coconut.
2. Ground nuts are A LOT cheaper than chopped or whole nuts. So, if you are going to grind the nuts anyway, you can get them for about a quarter of the price.
So excited to have found a good source for healthy ingredients. Happy, healthy shopping!
Actually got some things done in the kitchen today! The trick it seems is to give the babies graham crackers. I baked some of these this morning and the twins were so happy making a mess with them that I was also able to make some more fudge squares (loosely based on raw thin mint brownies from chocolatecoveredkatie.com). If you have not checked out her site, you should. We have all LOVED everything we’ve made from her recipes. We have been going through a lot of cocoa in this house since I discovered her site.
Here is the easy graham cracker recipe I made today:
1 cup graham flour
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup milk (I used whole for the babies, but skim would work fine as well)
The trick I’ve found for recipes that ask you to “cut in the butter” is to use a food processor. I don’t have time to try to cut in the butter with two knives. So, combine the flours and baking powder in the food processor. Add the butter in small pieces and combine until it looks crumbly. Then add the honey and milk. Process until it clumps together in a ball. Roll out on a lightly floured surface. Cut into squares and poke a few holes in them with a fork. Place on ungreased baking sheets and bake at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes.
Take them out when they are golden brown. They will seem a little soft, but they will harden as they cool. Makes about 3 dozen.
These are a great food for babies (over age 1 – because of the honey). And my two taste-testers enjoyed them!
I was craving potato chips again today. And, since I can’t just open up a bag of chips anymore, I got out my food processor. Really, it is so easy to make your own chips. The food processor slices them pretty evenly. Just toss with oil, salt and pepper and bake. I’ve even heard that you can make them in the microwave. It sounds great. Homemade potato chips made quickly. However, I think if I figured out how to make them in the microwave, I would be eating chips all the time. So, probably not a good idea. This way chips still remain a rare treat.
And, the good thing about having the oven on is I threw in a couple of potatoes to bake. (I was clearly in a potato-y mood today.) My opinion is that you should always throw in a couple of potatoes as long as you’re going to have the oven on. These are a great quick food for babies – just mash with some butter, milk and cheese. They’re also a great no-process lunch. I like mine with cottage cheese and salt and pepper. And they travel well. The kids like them in their school lunchboxes. And they’re cheap! What’s not to love?
I sound like I’m writing for the National Council of Potato Farmers (not sure if there actually is such a thing).
Anyway, I do love potatoes! Here’s hoping there’s no Illinois potato famine on the horizon. :)
I’ve always felt good that we generally have very little that we put in our trash bin each week. Our recycling bin is another story! We can barely close it. On the one hand it’s good that we aren’t putting a lot into landfills. But on the other hand, there still is a lot of energy required to process all of that recycling. This year’s changes in our diet should reduce some of that.
Pretty soon we won’t have all of those cardboard boxes from cereal and pasta. We won’t have spaghetti sauce jars, etc. Food packaging probably accounts for half of our recycling each week. That’s a lot of packaging!
The other half of our recycling is paper. I know I should give up my morning paper and read it online. But I LOVE reading an actual paper with my morning coffee, so I’m not ready to give that up yet. Then there is the junk mail, catalogues, magazines, etc. So, my plan is to start getting myself off of those mailing lists. I really don’t need anymore labels and I’m never going to order anything from most of those catalogues. The last source of paper is from the school (as anyone with school age kids knows). I can’t really do anything about the amount of paper that comes from there, but I will start saving one-sided paper to use as scrap paper for the kids to draw on.
If anyone else has any tips for how to reduce your weekly trash/recycling output, please share!
To lots of non-vegetarian people I know, tofu is the most disgusting food they can think of. I have been laughed at more than once when I tell people that we are vegetarian and that, yes, we do enjoy tofu. We actually like the squishy white stuff!
The thing is, most of these people who think tofu is so horrible have never actually eaten it. So, for all you vegetarian folks out there and the adventurous non-veggies, here is super-easy recipe for tofu ricotta that I think most committed tofu-haters would enjoy. I served this to my mom who thought she didn’t like tofu and she said she had no idea tofu could be so good! We use this in our lasagna mixed with spinach, but you could change the seasonings if you want to use it in a different recipe.
Tofotta (tofu ricotta )
1 12 oz package firm tofu
1 tsp each of oregano and basil
salt and pepper to taste
Puree in a food processor until the texture of ricotta. (We add spinach to the mix here, too.)
Hope you all enjoy some tofu adventures. If anyone has any other unexpected ways they use tofu, please share!
Winter can be a long, bleak season with almost no good produce to be found. I am longing for spring and farmer’s markets and the great garden that my husband has been plotting out. It will be a little easier to stick to our whole foods approach when there are so many fresh and flavorful options to be found.
For now, at least we have those clementines. The kids actually thanked me when I bought the first box of them this winter. You would have thought I had brought them a bag of candy. Even now that we’ve had them for a few weeks, they still thank me sometimes for putting one in their lunchbox.
I have already had a few of them myself today. Along with some tasty trail mix bars my husband made. Yum! (Recipe to follow on those as soon as I figure out the best way to substitute for the sugar in them.)
I actually had a nice run today. Most people probably wouldn’t consider running in twenty degree temps with snow blowing in your face nice. But it wasn’t on the treadmill! I’m taking a break from my usual food related posts for a day.
So, a word about exercise. You don’t need a lot of equipment or a gym membership to get exercise. All you really need is a good pair of shoes. I know running isn’t for everyone, but for me it’s the easiest thing to do right now. In nice weather, the twins ride in the jogging stroller and the older kids ride their bikes. As long as we stop at a park on the way home, everyone is happy. (Maybe not the other moms at the park who are wondering who that crazy, sweaty woman is…) We haven’t wasted fuel in driving to a gym and we all get to be outside.
And if you’re not a runner, walk. The great thing about most suburbs is that they have a lot of parks. Find one close to you and walk there with your kids. Or get a bike with a trailer. I’m thinking of doing that myself this summer. It would be nice to not have to drive when we want to go places a little farther from home.
Maybe this post about warmer weather activities will help bring an end to winter sooner… We can only hope. For now, get outside and play in the snow while you can. It’s free exercise and, if you have kids, they will be thrilled that you’re out there with them.
So, what do you do for exercise in the winter (or summer)??