Sunday, December 29, 2013


Part of this getting back to healthy eating is trying new recipes. Many of my old standards don't meet all my current nutritional desires. I recently got a new cookbook from Costco, CookingLight Way to Cook Vegetarian. I LOVE this cookbook!  There are wonderful pictures and easy to follow instructions.

No pictures from today's meal, but it is a keeper. I'm now writing notations IN my cookbooks so I know what everyone thought of the meals. Tonight's dish was "Polenta with Spinach, Black Beans, and Goat Cheese". My husband loves polenta and spinach, but isn't too crazy about sun-dried tomatoes (and this dish had a good amount). The kids have never had polenta and I've never cooked it, so we were in for an adventure. First, the whole meal, including prep, took less than 30 mins. Great for a Sunday evening in our house. Second, it was easy to modify for my bland eaters. I just served them the polenta and then something else on the side. And third, it is pretty healthy. I prefer us to eat mostly non-meat proteins and this hit the spot (13.8 gm per serving).

Opinions:  My oldest and youngest tried the polenta without the other stuff. My youngest wasn't a fan, but she's feeling moody today and I wasn't pushing it. My oldest really liked it with a little salt. My middle girl liked it. She loved the sun-dried tomatoes and beans. My husband liked it a lot, but wished there was a little less of the tomatoes. I liked it just the way it was written.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Back on track! Meal planning and a new recipe.

I've been lazy and got WAY off track food-wise these past few weeks. I've been eating so many things that really I shouldn't be eating and it shows.

So, time to get back on track.

I have found I don't do really well with walking into the kitchen/house with just an hour or less to plan for dinner. I do MUCH better with a plan, even if it's a pretty simple one. In the past, when I do my planning, I will write it on a pad of paper and then try to keep track of it. This doesn't work so well for me.

I'm scattered at times. I have ADD tenancies that make it near impossible for me to keep track of that pad of paper and even remember to look at it. I know that sounds bad but it's true. I will forget to look for the paper until I'm hungry. Never fails I had to start making something earlier those days. So, I'm trying something new and I'm going to really try to stick to it!

I use Google Calendar. I have to put everywhere I need to be on this. If it's not there, I probably won't make it on time. I love the Google Calendar because I can access it anywhere. No more excuses. I access it on my phone and on any computer. Also my husband can access it from work or on his phone (no more of that "what are we doing tonight?" questioning). We have our calendars synced so I can see what he enters on his and he can see what I enter on mine. I look at it several times a day.

Which led to the idea of putting my meals on the calendar and an approximate meal time. Eventually I'll get good enough to put the cooking times on there for myself because prep always makes me later than I planned. I also can put a reminder on there for stuff I have to do in the morning/afternoon (crock pot meals). AND, my husband knows what is for dinner every night :) I put the meal in the title and the location of the recipe in the comments.

Which leads me to tonight's recipe. I recently bought the book Fresh & Fast Vegetarian  on ebay. It arrived damage and the seller offered me it for half price. Turns out, this is a great book - even more-so for under $5! Tonight's dinner was "Bulgur pilaf with roasted vegetables" (pg 112).  My husband loves grains, especially rice and the nuttier flavored hearty grains. I love roasted vegetables. It seemed like it was made for us. Basically it's oven roasted veggies (peppers, red onion, carrots, zucchini) and bulgur cooked with onion and raisins. It turned out to be a very yummy and filling meal.

Christmas Cake

Christmas eve is our more serious Christmas celebration day. We hang out together and attend church. We always end the day with a family dinner and cake to celebrate the birthday of Jesus. This started long ago when my oldest was little and asked why Jesus's birthday was the only important birthday we didn't celebrate with a mommy-cake. Very true.

This year I made a simple cake with a twist. The kids didn't help me make it this year, so I decided to make it a surprise and swirl it red and green inside. The red came out a little pink, but it was still fun.

I made white cake like I normally would. When I got to the step where I would pour it into the pan, I separated it into two bowls and colored the batter with food coloring (and left a little natural colored). Then poured the green into the pan and then the red - kind of making color splats. And into the oven it went.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Crazy craft season

I know my fellow crafters feel the crunch.

These are the weeks when we have to get down to business and get some crafting done!

My to-do list:
1-3 more Christmas dresses for my little one.
a holiday season skirt for myself
finish crocheting wrist warmers for dd1
headband for dd1 (or two)
sew up totes for all the teachers (with 2 kids in middle school this has become a major project!)
sew up/craft something for dh's bosses

today! --- finish up ornaments to hand out to people at our church event tonight, buy something to become a centerpiece for the table, make sure the boy gets some school work done :) , Christmas shopping, and shower!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Frustrations with school and sympathy from a dyslexic mother

Well, the school year has started and it's been a bit of an adjustment for us all. My girls decided to go back to M-F full time school (vs the home school hybrid). This has meant longer days and actually more work at home. My older girl is dyslexic and school can be very hard for her. She works very hard and wants to do well.  This year she's at a small academic charter middle school, which she picked. I'm still not sure if it's the right school for her.

The second week of school I went to back to school night and met her teachers. Not one knew about her dyslexia or that she had a 504 plan. I was surprised. I really didn't expect them to know the details of the plan, but I did expect them to know it existed and that she was dyslexic. There are 60 children in a grade level. Twenty in each class. So, I informed them and scheduled a meeting with the director. We had the meeting and all seemed well. All her teachers signed off on the 504, which is pretty simple. Her main accommodation is extra time.

My girl came home from school and was a little concerned that she'll never get to eat lunch with her friends again. Naturally, I took this to be normal 6th grade pre-teen drama. When I asked her about it, she told me that they were doing multiplication time tests and had to get 85/100 in two minutes or less and the students will have to stay in for lunch detention until they reach the goal. For an average student, this may be eventually doable, but I am pretty sure this goal will take more than a year for my girl to meet. She has been practicing her times tables almost every day since last December. The first time she took the test she got 22. The next time 27. The time after that 33. She's very proud of this 33 and quick to point out how much of an improvement this is.

In English class they are having spelling tests. Her first test she got 3/15. When I had met with the director, I mentioned that I was forseeing spelling tests as an issue and she didn't think that it would be an issue. I wanted the teacher to have my girl do vocabulary tests in place of spelling tests. The response I got from her teacher was pretty much a "no". She would have to continue to do the tests like everyone else. When she got below 60% correct, she would have to do spelling practice (extra homework) and then lunch detention on Thursday to try to retake the test (the regular tests are every Friday, so this will mean two spelling tests in a row).
X did not do too well on this first test. I talked with any student that scored 12 or below. I have asked these students to practice the words (examples: 5x each, copy/cover/write/check, pyramid writing, practice tests, or rainbow writing) and then come and retake the test by tutorial on Thursday. (With the new spelling words being tested on Friday, I don't want the lists to overlap.) If X doesn't know which way she should practice the words, I can help her during tutorial. Students can retake the test during lunch or tutorial. Students can also retake the test as many times as they need to get a score that they are pleased with.
I will hand grade X's spelling tests, as outlined in her 504, but she will continue take the tests with her class on Fridays. At any point during the school year, X can practice her words over the weekend and retake the test as many times as she needs or wants to the following week.
This is a website students can use to practice spelling words. We will continue to post the spelling words to this website throughout the year. 

I find this all so frustrating and I feel for my child. At the end of 4th grade, she was convinced that she would have to repeat the grade because she was stupid. At that point we found out she was dyslexic and started tutoring and took her out of the public school system. She was doing so well and felt that she could do anything... I don't want her to loose that feeling.

All this brings flash backs to my childhood and the struggles I went through. I remember practicing my multiplication tables for hours and hours - for years. Being rewarded with various things - even money. Being punished with detention and extra homework. I remember being stuck on the same spelling list for half a year in 6th grade, having friends practice the words with me before school so I'd be able to play at lunch time. I remember hating the fact that I could read above grade level, I could barely write well enough to pass a writing assignment. I remember being so frustrated in 7th grade English that spelling tests were bringing down my grade that I cheated on a test (and then felt so guilty that I was literally sick)... and I remember giving up. Knowing that I would never be able to spell like other kids and that there must be something wrong with my brain that made it impossible for me to do math in my head or memorize numbers, like my younger brother.

Eventually I learned ways to cope with my disability. I understood math concepts very well and could do the work. I just had to work out each of the multiplication facts as I did them and learned to write them on my scratch paper as I went along. I was an instant lover of Word programs when they came out because spell check is my best friend. I graduated with ok grades in high school. At the university level, I did really well. The way classes were taught and tested seemed to work pretty well for me. I graduated with two degrees and a 3.8 GPA (I even had a 4.0 a few semesters).... I never knew I was dyslexic until I tried to figure out why my girl struggled so much with school. My mother could see the similarities. We don't struggle exactly the same way, but many things are the same. I still don't know all my multiplication tables. I can't memorize phone numbers or addresses very easily (after a few years of frequent use I can usually get it). I can't spell very well and have to laugh when I misspell a word so bad that not even spell check and figure out what I want to say. Reading out loud is very difficult and slow for me, but I somehow taught myself to speed read along the way. Reading on a computer screen is very hard and I have to print almost everything longer than a paragraph or I'll totally miss the point. I sometimes just have to laugh at my word mistakes when I'm talking to others.

I keep hoping that my girl will struggle less than I did and she'll be able to learn how to make school work for her. She's so smart and a very positive person and I don't want her perspective to change. Her teachers always tell me that she is one of the hardest working students in their classes. She wants to do well and works hard. I know it's frustrating to her when she gets a low score on a test. I am working on encouraging her to keep trying and to keep looking at the positive side of things. I don't want her to loose her optimism.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Cook Book Review

I got a new book to try out last week and I've been happy with it. It's not flashy and doesn't have a lot of pictures (I do LOVE lots of pictures in my cookbooks so this is a minus for me), but the recipes are good and easy to make.

Quick-Fix Vegetarian by Robin Robertson, also author of Vegan Planet.

The title of the book says it's a vegetarian book, but all the recipes are vegan. That said, they are not unusual vegan recipes. Most of the recipes are the type that you can feed your non-vegan friends and have them like it. The book includes appetizers, soups, salads, skillet meals, pasta dishes, oven baked dishes, slow cooker meal, sauces and desserts.

I have made three of the recipes from this book so far and they were all great. The ingredients were easy to find and the directions easy to follow.

My husband and daughter LOVED the "Potato and Onion Pierogi with Broccoli and Walnuts".  It's one of their favorite dishes I've made this month. As I have said before, I have two other children who are not so adventurous with food. A great thing about this meal was that I was able to easily do something they would like too. The first step is to boil water and add the broccoli, without any spices. I was able to scoop out some of this broccoli when cooked a little for their veggie and then made some whole wheat couscous with some Earth Balance butter. It was a simple modification to make a slightly different meal for them.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Fajita Salad

I really want to eat more salads at home. While I'm great at making simple (boring) salads, I don't have much variety. When I go out, I love a good salad. So, why can I not do this at home? 

I wanted to be able to make a lower calorie/fat salad that has lots of flavor and something that will work for more than one meal.

Tonight was fajita salad. I used to make chicken fajitas all the time, but haven't made them in a long time. When I thought about it, I realized making them without meat would be simple. For the fajita mix, I thinly sliced one onion, a small zucchini, and a red and yellow bell pepper. Heated up a little coconut oil in the pan (probably could have skipped the oil. I used to use olive oil but wanted to try the coconut in this recipe) and then added the veggies. Once they softened, I added some Mexican spices, stirring frequently. I also cooked up some flavored black beans (canned black beans, rinsed, and a can of green chilies).

My two simple eating children, had bean and cheese burritos. My husband decided he didn't want salad, so served his fajitas and beans an a tortilla.  My husband likes a little cheese, so I added that to his tortilla.

For myself, I chopped up a head of romaine lettuce. Then added  the slightly cooled fajita mix and beans. Topped it with a handful of cherry tomatoes, cut up, and half an avocado. YUM! I didn't have any good dressing so I just ate it like this.

Today, the next day, I had a repeat meal. It was quite good. I did add a small handful of tortilla chips and a tablespoon of ranch dressing, which is not my favorite. It was very good and filling.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Lemon Basil Pasta

A few days ago I got a bunch of great vegan and vegetarian cookbooks from the library. Many were hold/requests so they took a little time to get to me.

I already have one Happy Herbivore book. This recipe was from Everyday Happy Herbivore (on the table 30 minutes or less).  The cookbook has some great and simple recipes.

This was the Lemon Basil Pasta. The recipe only has 5 ingredients: whole wheat spaghetti, cherry tomatoes, lemon juice, basil, and capers. I added asparagus. I think peas would have tasted good too.

Everyone loved this dish. For those who like cheese, a little of Parmesan would be great too. Two of my kids ate their noodles and veggies separate, but it was easy to do.

1st day of school sewing

My youngest is going back to the local public school this year and today was the first day of 2nd grade for her.

This little 7.5 year old is an artist and my strong willed child who knows what she wants and doesn't go with the crowd. Due to this, her clothing sometimes is a little interesting, but usually it works. Being the first day of school, she 'needed' a new dress. In reality, she really does need some new dresses because she has a lot that are way too small (over 2 years old) and worn out (worn by her sister for 1-2 years and then her for another 2 years).

She decided that she wanted an owl dress and found this cute Alexander Henry owl fabric in my stash. Then she decided she wanted to have an owl on the top. I drew one but then she wanted to draw it herself. Of course, this made the process take a lot longer in time, but turned out very cute. She picked the fabric for pieces and put them together. Picked the colors for all the fabrics. She instructed me on what type of stitch to do and drew the finer details on the owl for me to sew over them. As we went along she changed a few features in her design, but it worked out.  She specifically told me not to make the face round and keep the circle not a circle (which did drive me a little crazy).

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Yummy Summer Squash Pasta

This week was super busy but I was feeling the need to make something fresh tonight. I've been out and about and just eating sandwiches and simple stuff the past few days. Tonight I wanted a real dinner! Plus, I really needed some leftovers for tomorrow at work.

After a day at the beach with a long time friend (lunch- PBJ and some crackers) and then evening activities for the kids, I picked a dinner to try tonight and quickly squeezed a shopping trip to the local hfs.
Today I was at a city library and found some vegetarian/vegan/healthy cookbooks that looked good. I dropped my daughter off at her tumbling class and skimmed the books and found something I could make tonight.

Tonight's dinner was based on a recipe in "The Vegetarian 5- Ingredient Gourmet" -- Overall I like this book. Naturally, I can't just make something the way it's written if it's simple. I'm not a cook, so this doesn't always turn out for the best.

The recipe I started with was Spinach Fettuccine with Summer Squash. Like the cookbook says, it's just 5 ingredients: spinach fettuccine, olive oil, 2 medium yellow squashes, tomatoes, and Parmesan (copy Parm) cheese.

While getting things together, I had to make a little something to eat because the PBJ from 11:30 this morning was long gone (it was 7pm). So I whipped up a quick bit of what my husband and I call 'almost bruschetta'.  I have a gourmet friend who totally scoffed at this and it makes us laugh whenever we say we're having bruschetta now. All it really is chopped basil, garlic, tomatoes, and a touch of salt, pepper and very little olive oil served on pita crackers. My husband likes it with goat cheese too.

For dinner I found an interesting dry pasta that was calling my name. A dry pasta with spinach and chia. The texture was a little different and it cooked up really fast, but tasted pretty good.

While cooking the pasta, I chopped up and sauteed the yellow squash and some asparagus. Then I added some halved cherry tomatoes and tossed it with the past. I didn't use the oil because I didn't need it. The recipe did call for a little salt to taste, but was really good.

Last week I made a wonderful veggie chili. I love how colorful the peppers and onions look all cut up!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

County fair

Do you enter the local fair?

Our's seems to be more about having fun and concerts than the traditional fair stuff, but I still try to enter something every year. The past few years I've entered a lace crochet shawl. I don't think crochet gets really good representation in the public view.

This year I got third and an honorable mention for my shawl. Normally I place higher, but I'm happy with this. I really liked the one that got second place.

4th of July

Well, the 4th of July has passed and was a fun day.

At the beginning of the week my girls decided they HAD to have new outfits for the 4th. We didn't have any big plans, but they wanted something new. So, I told them to look in the sewing room and find some fabrics and think of a design.

My younger girl is 7 and decided on a tiered dress in a few fabrics. We had a few problems with her first plan (it wasn't quick and easy for Mom), so this was plan B.

The pattern is McCall's 5798. I just saw that it's OOP, which is sad, because it's a nice pattern. It's one of those that looks better sewn than it looks in the drawings.

My older girl wanted to design her own outfit. I wasn't so sure of the style she wanted, but I have to admit, it turned out better than I even came  close to imagining. She wanted a romper style outfit. Basically we made a pair of shorts and attached a rectangle of fabric to the top of them :)
Hints for those making one of these --- For the shorts, you'll have to cut off a bit from the top because you will have no elastic at the top where you normally fold them down. Her shorts were a touch too small, but in general, you'll need a drawstring or elastic at the waist somewhere.
The top was a rectangle (folded the fabric in half and cut across the top and bottom) with loose elastic at the top. The straps cross at the back and snap.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Breakfast foods

I really need to get some sewing reviews up or this will become a food review blog.

I've been experimenting with tofu this week. I'm actually getting decent at the breakfast foods now.

First up - Tofu Scramble. This was pretty good, but a little too much for me. After doing a little on-line search, I came up with a plan.
Got out my tofu and drained the liquid. Cut off a little bit and pressed it (put the rest in a glass lock container for another day). Cooked up some onions, garlic, carrots. Added the tofu and scrambled it up with the spatula. Added mushrooms and spinach and spices (turmeric, italian seasoning, and pepper) and then a little of my vegan pepper jack cheese. Cooked and chopped up some vegan sausage. Mixed it all together.

This was today's breakfast. A vegan "egg and sausage muffin".  Wheat English muffin with 'butter'. In the pan I cooked up 2 slices of tofu, seasoned with turmeric and pepper and one slice of the vegan sausage. Browned a little spinach and added a pinch of the vegan cheese. The cheese didn't melt well this time, but it added flavor. I think I need to cut the sausage thinner because it has a very strong flavor. Overall, I really liked this breakfast.

A quick and easy breakfast or lunch (I think I ate this for lunch the other day, not breakfast). Good bread, Earth Balance crunchy peanut butter with coconut oil, and sliced bananas. Yum!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Vegetarian Rice Noodles

Tonight I cooked a recipe from The Vegetarian Bible, which I bought on clearance at least three years ago. This is the second time I cooked from it. The other time was 2 weeks ago. Yes, it's sad.

That said, it's a good cookbook.

This dish was veggies, rice noodles and tofu. Since I have a very hard time following a recipe as it is written, I added asparagus and carrots. I had bought water chestnuts but totally forgot to put them in. I also used aminos for half the soy sauce.

Opinions: My oldest and youngest didn't want it. This wasn't surprising. I made them whole wheat couscous and peas.  My  more adventurous middle child thought the sweet potato was really good, but didn't like the noodles or tofu. The husband and I thought the soy sauce taste was too strong but overall, it was good. He liked the tofu (the guy who doesn't like tofu), but I thought it would have been better without it.

Vegan Quesadillas for lunch

On a posting role today. Actually, I am home all day because all the kids have a friend over. Which means, I have to stay alert for any crafty plans, arguments, or injuries. (so, no shower until tonight).

I wasn't feeling a veggie burger today and had just given my youngest daughter a quesadilla, her favorite. I've never been a fan of cheese, but I was thinking about that vegan pepper jack 'cheese' I bought yesterday for my breakfast sandwich. That might be good.

So, a plan was born. Vegan Quesadillas!

Remember, I'm not a chef - just a mom sharing my ideas and trials.

Slightly less than half an onion, chopped
1 can of corn (forgot I had some fresh stuff in the fridge -oops)
1/2 can of green chilies
1 can black beans (drained)
tomatoes (I had cherry so I cut them in fourths)
a good shake of cumin (around 1 tbsp, maybe a little less. I love cumin)
a quick shake of turmeric, crushed chili peppers, garlic powder, and chili powder (maybe 1 tsp each)

In the pan, add a little olive oil and start cooking the onions until slightly cooked and starting to get clear. Add the corn and cook for another minute or so. Then add everything else. Cook for a good 5 minutes to mix the flavors and taste. Put all this good stuff into a bowl for later.

Take a tortilla and fill half way with the good stuff and add a little of the pepper jack 'cheese'. Spray the pan or tortilla with some olive oil and brown for a minute or so on both sides. And it's done!

I remembered I had some avocado and just added it as I ate my quesadillas.

This is a two day lunch (or more). Tomorrow I work and I'll take some tortillas and topping with me to heat up. I always have such a hard time figuring out what to eat when I'm out, especially at work. By the time I get a break, the choice for buying stuff are quite limited (as in Mcdonalds or pre-made stuff in the cafeteria  and I only have 30 minutes too. So, this will be perfect.

Vegan Breakfast Sandwich

Looks pretty good, huh?

It was.

In general I don't like fake meats. I have really liked tofu when eating out, but have yet to make it well at home. So, I was a little nervous about trying this recipe.

Guess what? It was really good. Of course I modified it a little bit.
Whole wheat English muffin
Earth Balance "butter"
Lightlife Lean Gimme Sausage
Daiya Pepperjack shredded 'cheese'
a little salsa.

I didn't feel like getting out my press because mine is big and I already had the dehydrator out. So, I did it in a pan. Cut the 'sausage', put it in the pan that I had just sprayed with olive oil, and pressed it with the spatula. OOPS! stuck to the spatula! Scraped it off and sprayed the spatula and pressed again. This worked better. I cooked up the veggies right next to it. I don't really care for syrup  so I skipped this part. The cheese didn't melt but had good flavor. Really it was fine and tasty without the salsa, but I decided to add it for more flavor.

Overall, wonderful. I think even meat eaters would like this one.
The Lightlife Sausage is a keeper too. I will have to try some other meals with it.

Healthy eating changes

I've been trying lots of new recipes lately. I realized that I had gotten off track with my eating habits and needed to clean things up a little bit. I feel better when I stay away from meat, so that what I've been doing. The focus is on trying to be more healthy.

Labels - I would call myself a flexitarian or a meat minimalist. I've been doing LOTS of reading and making my own conclusions. The main points I agree with are that meat is not meant to be eaten at every meal, not even every day. It should be a rare item. Food should be non altered (not chemically or mechanically processed) to the point that it really isn't food any more. We need to eat what was meant to be food and avoid what wasn't meant to be food (chemicals, additives, etc).

Of course, this isn't easy and it is a huge change. We didn't eat a lot of boxed or prepared foods but it's amazing what is in things that I thought were "healthy" when I looked at the labels. Goodness!

So what to eat. At home this is easier than on the road. I have found that some places have very limited choices (we just finished a long road trip). I have realized that I have issues with buying something that would have meat, without the meat, and paying the same price. That is something I need to get over.

Friends have asked me what I think of foods I try. I'll try to post them here, but I know I can be inconsistent.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

back to sewing

I've had a creative lull the past two months. I have looked and patterns, styles and so many lovely photos of items I love... but just not sewing. Near the end of this week, I finally got my sewing groove back. Unfortunately, due to family visiting, my sewing room was being used as a bedroom and not very accessible for sewing.

Today things were back to normal. Yeah!

I was in the mood for baby sewing today. Luckily, I have a good friend who just had a sweet baby girl. I've not done any baby sewing a long time, so I had to some serious stash digging, but I found those baby fabrics. Flannels, chenilles, and sherpas.

Baby bibs:

Next up, since I had the flannel boxes open and realized I really need to get down to just one box of flannel, napkins. We've been using cloth napkins for about 8 years. About 75% of the napkins we are currently using are from the first year we made the switch... and they look like it. Time to retire some of them and make some new ones. One thing I have realized over the years is that I strongly prefer flannel. I have made napkins out almost every type of fabric and flannel is the best, in my opinion.

Two weeks ago I made her this little doggy dress. The skirt is from Sew Baby's Twirly Dress pattern. We've had the shirt for about 4 years. It was a hand-me-down to my first daughter from a friend. My girls weren't crazy about it for some reason, but they both think it looks great as a dress. (she really likes it, just not in the mood for a picture at this point because she was busy).


And to top off this creative summery - A wrap that I just finished knitting. A wonderful pattern that I was testing and really enjoyed making.