Friday, January 31, 2014

Protein Pancakes

In our home, Sunday mornings are reserved for big breakfasts, which usually means PANCAKES! I recently experimented with a gluten-free, high protein pancake recipe and the result was quite delicious. Try 'em this Sunday for yourself.

  • 1.5 cups of almond meal
  • 1 scoop of unflavored protein powder (I use Now Foods Whey Protein Isolate)
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup ground flaxseed
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • Mix all of the ingredients together.
  • Warm pan at medium heat. Cover the inside of the pan with cooking spray.
  • Pour in batter and cook for a few minutes on each side.

Top with fresh berries, honey, real maple syrup (please, not high fructose corn syrup). My favorite topping is a bowl of frozen blueberries, heated in the microwave until they are warm. So good!


Friday, January 24, 2014

Peanut Butter Banana Muffins (Gluten-Free): a sweet treat despite life's difficulties

My husband has multiple sclerosis.

This has been a part of our reality since he was first diagnosed in his early 20s. At times it has been extremely difficult. Other times, personally, I seem to forget (although I'm sure he never does). The thing is, my husband, John, appears to be the picture of health. He works out six days a week and eats "clean," meaning foods that are minimally processed and mostly organic. His healthy lifestyle has contributed to minimizing (or perhaps masking) his illness. However, every now and then, I am reminded that it is still there. It creeps under the surface, threatening flare up at any moment.

A recent MRI, revealing the further progression of his illness, prompted his neurologist to insist that he reconsider resuming his medication. (He has been living medicine free for several years with little to no relapses.) A difficult pill to swallow, rather needle to inject, John has yet to take this advice. His meds sit in the box untouched while he consults with his alternative doctor who encourages a more holistic approach.

"It starts in your gut," the doctor explains. We learn there is a possible connection between gluten sensitivity and MS. There are two recommended books/articles- The Wheat Belly Diet and The Best Bet Diet, both that preach the avoidance of gluten, among other things, to maximize health.
If it's a natural approach, my husband is all for it. Hence, in the new year, we have begun our gluten-free journey. Although I don't neccessarily need to go gluten-free myself, I am in it to show my support (fitting into my pre-Lila skinny jeans after 2 weeks of this is really just a perk). Plus, if he's going to do this, it makes sense to limit the gluten-containing products in our house. (Who needs bread, anyways?) 
When it comes to his health, John adapts to changes with ease. He just does it. "I don't eat gluten anymore." That's that.
I whine. First day, my stomach growls with complaints. "I want a muffin!!"
And so, I faced my first personal challenge in this lifestyle change-- I am a baker without flour! How is this going to work? My stainless steel Kitchen-aid electric mixer looks dull and rejected with the reflection of my pitiful face.

Baking is like therapy for me. I don't think about anything else when I'm baking. I can escape into the creative process and then indulge in the delicious finished product. But the best part (not to be corny) is sharing these sweet treats with other people. When I worked at a bakery, I sometimes would peek from the back to see a child's face when her birthday cake (that I made), adorned with her favorite character, was revealed.

And I loved that my husband loved my ginger cookies and my rum cake and... now what?

Apparently, this is not as big as a problem as I thought. With a quick Google search I discovered a plethora of gluten-free baking recipes. {Sigh of relief.} I also consulted some friends who have gone gluten-free.
This is my first attempt at Gluten-Free Muffins, adapted from I have to say, they are delish!

 A sweet treat for my hubby and me...
Peanut Butter Banana Muffins (Gluten-Free)
  • 1 cup of peanut butter
  • 2 very ripe bananas (mashed)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1/4 cup of ground flaxseed
  • a handful of mini dark chocolate chips
  • a handful of mixed nut and ground flaxseed topping
  • cooking spray
  • Preheat oven to 375degrees F.
  • Blend all of the ingredients together (except for the nut topping).
  • Spray muffin tins with cooking spray (I use a mini-muffin pan).
  • Scoop in batter, 3/4 full. Sprinkle with the nut/flax topping.
  • Bake for about 10 minutes (Caution- keep a close eye on them. They bake quickly).
Health is wealth.



Friday, January 10, 2014

Green smoothies for our girls

One of our new year commitments is to drink more green smoothies. Our go-to place for the best green smoothie recipes is online from some of our favorite health bloggers.

Here are Ellyn's top three smoothie tips:

1. Remember the liquid base!

Full Plate Blog is often my first stop for green smoothie inspiration. I like to follow the basic recipe for most of our smoothies: 

2 cups liquid + 2 cups packed greens + 2 cups fruit = 3 (2 cup) servings

When I first started making smoothies, I would sometimes add veggies and fruit without any liquid. This works for very water-based items like watermelon and cucumber, but most smoothies need a bit of extra liquid to get the right consistency.

Once I put in the two cups of liquid- mostly water for us, but sometimes almond milk, almost any other combinations of fruits, vegetables, and nuts seems possible. I think the experimentation element of making smoothies is something that appeals to me. Even if I make a combination I don't like, it's only a few minutes of time and a few ingredients, so it doesn't feel like a huge loss if it doesn't work. It probably helps that I end up liking almost everything in my smoothies, with the exception of celery. 

2. Make your smoothie fun by drinking it in a fun cup or mug.

Kris Carr, author of Crazy, Sexy Diet was my original inspiration for trying green smoothies. I saw her speak at a workshop and she makes many compelling arguments for the benefit of drinking daily green smoothies, most notably that her green smoothie regimen helped to put her cancer in remission. Kris is good at making eating well feel fun. I like her tip to serve green smoothies in a mug or cocktail glass, anything to make it more festive. Serving green smoothies in a mug is also a helpful tip for introducing green smoothies to kids, so that the color doesn't create a negative first impression. I like drinking my smoothies out of a mug in winter because it keeps my hands from getting cold!

3. Lemon is a favorite addition to most smoothies- it brings out the flavor of other fruits and veggies well. Don't be afraid to mix it up with adding different veggies or fruits if you don't have what the recipe recommends.

Here is Tara's recommended smoothie shopping list:

As Ellyn mentioned, one of the best things about making smoothies is the experimentation that's involved. Lila and Clara love the idea of making "potions" and "concoctions," so the green element makes it seem mysterious, scientific, and fun! Together, you can just throw in handfuls of veggies and fruit and see what happens. Using many combinations of the following ingredients, we've never made a smoothie we didn't like.

Swiss Chard
Other leafy greens
Berries (Tip- throw in the whole strawberry including the green stem!)
Any fruit can be used... (Tip- Use frozen fruit instead of ice.) 

Main Protein Sources:
Protein Powder (i.e. Whey, Casien, Soy) 
Silken Tofu
Nut Butter

Other Ingredients:
Ground Flaxseed
Chia Seeds

Dark Chocolate
Cocoa Powder
Liquid Vitamins

Although the above is a recommended shopping list, most of the time we are able to whip something up with the random items in our fridge. Making smoothies has helped us to save what would be otherwise wasted food. When our veggies are wilted or our fruit is bruised, we throw them in a smoothie. This is helpful during the summer when we do our farm share-- sometimes we have so many vegetables we can't get to eating them all. So, a quick solution is to blend 'em and drink 'em up!

"To good health!"

A green smoothie is a perfect quick, healthy breakfast on a school day!
We encourage smoothie-makers to be creative, but if you are looking for a recipe, here's a great one to try from Whole Life Nutrition, another favorite smoothie source. This New Year's Day, Clara and Ellyn started the new year with their favorite green juice recipe:

Cucumber-Kale Green Drink

2 medium cucumbers 
3 large kale leaves 
small handful fresh parsley 
1 small lemon, peeled 
½ Granny Smith apple 

Place all ingredients into your blender. Use the machine as directed, then stir, and drink immediately.

Yield: about 2 cups 

Cucumbers and lemons are two of our favorite smoothie ingredients so we really liked this one. We didn't have Granny Smith apples on hands, but another apple variety worked fine.

Clara loves loading up the blender, and sometimes adding extra ingredients that she thinks would make a yummy addition. It's definitely a collaborative effort.

Our blender is ready to go!

Serving our smoothie in a mug helps to keep us warmer and feels more special!

The blender is loud, so Clara and I keep our ears covered while it is running. :)

The hardest part of the cleanup is cleaning the green moustaches off of our mouths!

Cheers! Smoothies are always better when shared with friends.

We would love to hear your favorite smoothie recipes. Please share in the comments.

-Tara and Ellyn

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A year in a jar: Opening our 2013 Memory Jar

For the entire year of 2013, a simple jar sat on the mantel over our fireplace. There are many special items with special stories on our mantel, mostly gifts passed down from my grandmothers and even my great-grandmother. The jar looked rather plain in their midst, and yet, each time I looked to the mantel, it was this jar that made me smile most of all. It represented memories and very small moments of our year, moments that normally would pass without recognition.

In January of 2013, I made a commitment to write down favorite moments throughout the year on a small piece of paper and toss them in the jar. I didn't create too many rules around the activity, just that I could not open any of the notes until New Year's of 2014. It was surprising how much anticipation and excitement we felt around the opening of this jar. I can't say that it surpassed Christmas in anticipation for Clara, but every time there was a mention of opening the jar, I can attest to witnessing squeals and jumping. 

Some people call these jars Gratitude Jars, and others make the art of decorating the jar a creative project. I chose to call my jar a Memory Jar, and I liked that it was such a simple jar and that I could see inside how many memories I built. Although I think of my jar as a Memory Jar rather than Gratitude Jar, I can attest that I regularly felt a tremendous and inevitable sense of gratitude looking over at this jar each day on my mantel. Look at all these happy memories, I thought, look at all these good things that happened. It was hard to feel down when a jar of happy memories sat beckoning, reminding me of a year of blessings. And the fact that I couldn't open the jar for a whole year made the notes feel mysterious and special.

For 2013, I wrote about 99% of the notes. I am hoping now that Clara is writing more that I can encourage her to participate more this year. Nonetheless, the revealing of our yearly memories felt like a family bonding activity rather than a solo adventure. We ceremoniously poured out all of the notes upside down on the table, and then took turns pulling each one from the pile to read aloud.  

There was a lot of laughter as we recalled favorite events and remembered special moments that had already been forgotten. Many of the notes were memories of a funny thing Clara said. It seems like her unique pronunciation of words represented nearly 10% of what I wrote down. And I'm glad I did, because I already forgot many of these idiosyncrasies. The most resounding reaction as we read through the notes was "Awww, I remember that." And for the memories we had already forgotten, the reaction was a feeling of joy and wonder at reclaiming a lost moment.

Overall, creating this Memory Jar felt successful and meaningful. It helped me to appreciate events in the moment (Oh, I should write this down for the jar!, I often thought) helping to reinforce the smaller moments of life that wouldn't have a place in Clara's baby book or more formal places. The anticipation of waiting to open the jar created a sense of excitement in our house, and the joy of reading the year in review as a family reinforced our sense of togetherness. So, if you're looking for a family bonding, memory reinforcing event for the new year, I highly recommend trying out your own Memory Jar.

Here are just a few of the memories we recorded last year:

January 20, 2013
Clara wrote: I had fun going to Lila's thumbs-up party. I watched a movie and ate popcorn and gummies. I did a dance with the balloon for everybody. And I ate dessert.

January 22, 2013
Clara got a pink yo-yo today from Sophia's birthday party bag and she loooved playing with it. She said, "I'm really, really good at this. I should take a yo-yo class!"

February 17, 2013
Clara finds a quarter on a cold, windy walk around our neighborhood. "Will ten dollars and this coin pay for my college fund?"

The backstory on Clara's knowledge of the "college fund" is that she found a ten dollar bill on a neighbor's driveway just a few weeks before finding the coin. I told her she was a lucky girl to keep finding so many coins and bills. When we tried to return the said ten dollars to the neighbor, she told Clara to keep the money for her college fund. Ever since that comment, Clara has assumed that she will can pay for college from her piggy bank. How great it would be if college cost only $10.25!

March 2013
Making smoothies in our new blender. Clara always says "Can I have a try?" even if its rhubarb & kale mix. Her favorite so far is apple-pear-raspberry-rhubarb-almond butter-almond milk!

March 2013
Driving on a long car trip and having the radio pop on after more than a year of not working... just when I most needed it.

May 21, 2013
I love how Clara tickles the soles of my feet while I'm doing push-ups for my cardio workout dvd. So funny how Clara calls exercise "extracise."

May 27, 2013
Clara woke up this morning and drew us a Happy Memorial Day drawing with an American flag. All day, she said, "Happy Morials Day!" When I said it is pronounced Memorial day, she said "that's not how I say it!"

We had a picnic on the beach, even bringing our own grill. We bought a kayak today, too!

May 31, 2013
Clara was happy that it was the last day of school and soon she will be visiting Nonna and going to Switzer-land (she pronounces it like it is two different words, and a long "a" sound).

From a very hot July day: July 17, 2013
Popsicles at the playground after an afternoon of swimming. Jump into the pool and then walk over to the playground barefoot, cooled off. Swing. Climb. Play! Strong, in our bodies, the joy of summer!

August, 2013
Meeting our newest niece who is all smiles and love. Camping in Colorado and seeing the endless stars at night.

September, 2013
Seeing Matilda on Broadway. Staying up until 2am talking with my sister-in-law afterwards. Impromptu four-hour lunch the next day with a neighbor I barely knew. I really like unexpected meetups.

December, 2013
Driving along the Pacific Coast highway. Walking through Muir Woods. Finding a spot after a hike through the woods where I can lie down nestling into the earth and looking up at the tall trees. Feeling adventurous and independent.

I plan to type up all of the 2013 notes so that we have a record of our yearly memories. And we are already gearing up for our next year. 

Here is our 2014 Memory Jar with the first note of the year for each of us. Happy memory making!