Breakfast Sandwiches – Mediterranean Style!


Simple meze of feta cheese and olives: charact...

 

Today is the last day of summer vacation for the boys.  We are about to head off on a family day out….not sure where..we like to just go and see where we end up :)    To set us up for the adventure,  I made a delicious breakfast for the family.

My boys are beginning to appreciate stacking and building food, burger-style.  Peanut tends to add more variety than does Button, but adapting the presentation of the food, a la family style, helps encourage them to experiment.  Scouring the fridge for ingredients my boys might eat, I pulled together the following hearty and protein-packed breakfast. Continue reading

Breakfast Sandwiches – Mediterranean Style!


I am off work this week!  The joys of teaching come with a perk.  I admit I am very lucky to have school vacations off.  I finally get to do all the things I wish I could do while I’m busy working.  Today I got to make a delicious breakfast for the boys and myself (Hubby is recuperating after neck surgery so is on a more liquid diet – BellyFULL pops to the rescue). Continue reading

Vegetable Pasta


Trying to add Kale to my family’s diet has been a challenge.  This recipe gives me hope.  It came from a site as I was perusing the multitude of great blogs with inspiring cooking ideas.  I forgot to save the info on the fabulous blogger who had this idea so I cannot give credit…it is not my own recipe.  Had to share anyway…please claim with link to your post if it is yours so i can give credit :)

Kale

Kale (Photo credit: Another Pint Please...)

Ingredients:

  • Sea salt, to taste, plus 1/4 tsp.
  • 12 oz. whole-wheat spaghetti or linguini
  • 1 bunch (about 1/2 lb.) red or green chard
  • 1 bunch (about 1/2 lb.) dinosaur (lacinato) kale
  • 4 Tbs. olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Lemon wedges for serving

Directions:

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until just tender, about 9 minutes, or according to the package instructions.

Meanwhile, prepare the chard and kale: Tear the leaves from their tough ribs and stems, discarding the ribs and stems. Stack the leaves and fold or roll up and slice them thinly. Transfer the greens to a colander and rinse under cold running water, then drain well.

In a large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm 2 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, until the garlic is fragrant but not browned, about 1 minute. Add the greens and stir to coat evenly with the oil. (If they don’t all fit at once, add in handfuls after allowing the first batch to wilt.) Cook, stirring occasionally, until the greens are tender, about 5 minutes, adding a few tablespoons of the pasta cooking water to the pan if needed to prevent sticking.

Drain the pasta and return it to the warm pot. Add the cooked greens, cheese, the 1/4 tsp. salt and the remaining 2 Tbs. olive oil and stir to mix well. Divide evenly among pasta plates or bowls and serve immediately. Pass lemon wedges at the table. Serves 4.

Protein Breakfast


Breakfast is the most important meal of the day! I’m a firm believer, having seen the effects having no breakfast has on my students.  But I also see  the effects of different types of breakfasts too.  Not being an expert on the subject, I was delighted to find this post which helped me understand more about how powerful food is in terms of fueling our bodies the right way.

The Following is taken from ADDitude, an online magazine/blog for people with ADD and ADHD

Research suggests that a good breakfast helps a child do better in school. A 1998 study, published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, showed that children who ate breakfast regularly had higher reading and math scores, lower levels ofdepression, anxiety, and hyperactivity, better school attendance, improved attention spans, and fewer behavior problems.

For children with ADHD, the menu matters, too. In a 1983 study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, researchers at George Washington University tested three breakfast types (high-carbohydrate, high-protein, and no breakfast at all) on 39 children with ADHD and 44 kids without the condition.

For the hyperactive children, performance on several tests, including a test for attention, was significantly worse with the high-carbohydrate breakfast, as compared with the scores of the children who ate the high-protein breakfast.

Maryanne discussed Steve’s breakfast problems with her doctor, and they developed some strategies. He suggested that Maryanne and Steve get up 15 minutes earlier, to give her more time to prepare breakfast, and advised that Steve take his medication with his meal rather than just after waking up, to delay the appetite suppression.

Finally, they discussed how to get more high-protein foods into her son’s diet. Their list included lean meats and poultry, eggs, unprocessed nuts and seeds, and low-fat milk or milk products, as well as complex carbohydrates, such as whole-grain cereals and bread and fresh fruits.

Here are some easy breakfasts that Maryanne put on Steve’s menu. Most can be eaten in the car on the way to school.

  • Natural peanut butter on whole-grain bread, with a dab of all-fruit jam.
  • Eggs; glass of orange juice. To save time, make hard-boiled or deviled eggs the night before.
  • Slice of whole-grain bread with a little whipped butter or margarine and a dab of all-fruit jam; low-fat milk.
  • Whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk; lean meat from last night’s dinner (pork chop, chicken); orange sections.
  • Plain yogurt with fresh fruit.
  • Grilled-cheese sandwich made with whole-grain bread and two-percent cheese; glass of orange juice.
  • Homemade instant breakfast shake or sausage patties (see recipes, left sidebar).
  • Mixed nuts; fruit; glass of low-fat milk.
I do not have children with ADHD.  Yet I do try to provide protein as much as possible.  The school mornings are difficult as we already get up at 5:30 in order to commute to school on time.  Cereal is easy and the kids can get it themselves.  Thankfully there are healthier cereal choices that let me feel a little less guilty as I count all the good things the kids are getting through the milk and grains with some fruit added, when I remind the kids to do so.  (They don’t leap to include fruit by choice at breakfast, but thankfully eat plenty of it through the day.)
Weekends are much more relaxed and this working mom can enjoy a family breakfast packed with protein and a sense of smugness!  Today we enjoyed eggs.  My kids love eggs, but are fussy about how they are presented.  Scrambled is the choice du jour and I got ‘cracking’ on a fun favorite.  (Pun intended – sorry folks.)

My eggs:  Please note, I don’t measure anything so I can’t give you specifics.

6 Organic eggs

Organic 2% milk

Coconut oil

Organic ham (Nature’s Promise from Stop and Shop)

Green onions

Organic kale or baby spinach (just a little kale as the kids hate it, but I can get away with more spinach)

Whole wheat toast with butter

I pre-chopped the ham, onions and kale or baby spinach.  I often steam the kale/spinach a little before hand so my kids don’t go all “icky on me”.  Cooking eggs is one of the few times I use my non-stick pan. I add a little coconut oil to the pan.  I beat the eggs and milk together, add to the pan and cook on low, stirring carefully and evenly.    Adding all the chopped ingredients before the eggs ‘scramble’ helps them integrate into the mix better.  Serve with whole wheat toast and butter.

Hubby also cooks eggs and he has his own version…variety is the spice of life.  We then sit down together to eat, serving orange juice or water and my much needed coffee.  The whole breakfast takes about ten minutes to make, is delicious, and nutritious and brings us together for some quality family time.  Perfect!

Working Mom = Need for help!


Working Mom’s Tip:

Crazy day got the better of your dinner plans?  You have the fresh pasta with four cheeses, the tomato sauce (gravy to non-English folks I believe) is ready, and then you realize the sweet potatoes just did not make it into your grocery cart yesterday. No problem!  I used organic baby sweet potato tubs (which had been necessary for a while with Button during his illness), and they made a very quick and easy substitution for the pureed baked sweet potato I usually add to the tomato sauce for this dish.  Easy!

Going back to work after the holidays has certainly dented my schedule in terms of blogging, cooking, organizing, project making, exercising, and spending quality time with my family.   There have been so many studies both promoting the benefits working moms have on their families and blaming women in the workplace for a decrease in valuable parenting…yada, yada, yada.

I have no choice, I have to work or we will have to bring our kids up at my in-laws; I love them but we prefer to own our own house.  We would also have to curtail all the activities the kids do, and I may no longer have the option to buy organic food any longer.  So, I work in order to have these choices, I also lose out on many other things.  Thankfully, I love my job.

Let’s take cooking, for example.  You already know I am very happy to cheat my way through quick and easy dinners, providing they are nutritious and healthy.  Yet, even then, our shopping bill is through the roof.  I do intend to work harder at couponing in the near future, once I have mastered other things on my to do list.

Keeping up with the housework is another matter.  I mean well and make a plan, but I already get up at 5:30am, work all day, commute home, do homework, feed the family, walk the dog, and then have to work some more. (As a teacher I am lucky to have the flexibility to bring work home), but sometimes I find myself dragging my butt to the desk to work on lessons, reports, grading, or administrative stuff at 10 o’clock at night.  What dusting?  Cleaning the bathroom…when?  I know the laundry has been sitting there for three days, but there is only so much time in the day!!!

In order to work on getting the family back to normalcy after my son’s illness, I am now creating chores and a family philosophy: Helping out is part of family life.  With trepidation, I began this movement by asking the boys to take charge of the waste paper basket emptying.  This is to be their daily activity, along with a short dog-walk,  and they immediately set to work around the house.  In order to ensure all was carried out correctly,  I offered to give a demo lesson, but Peanut insisted he knew how to do it (why the #^!*@ didn’t he do it before then?) and so I sat back and listened.  It was like a scene from an old Laurel and Hardy movie.  Peanut was directing Button. Button was revolting against the dictatorship. Peanut was struggling with the need to have it done right and the desire to avoid beating up his brother, and I sat in merry amusement as the two finally worked out a system and then got the ball rolling.  They were very quick and successful around rest of the house.

English: Silhouettes of Stan Laurel and Oliver...

Image via Wikipedia

Then came the ten-minute pick-up.  The idea is to have a ten-minute session each day where the boys pick up all their stuff and put it in the correct location.  The problem today, however, was that there was so much junk and unwanted stuff cramming cubbies and closets, that ten minutes was not going to cut it.

I still told the boys that they had to work for ten minutes but could continue for longer if they wanted to, as we were really beginning an organization project rather than just tidying up.  I was so proud of them as, over an hour later, they had sorted out the entire family room, tossed broken toys, placed unwanted items in a donation pile, and created peace and harmony on the shelves.  I let them decide how to do it apart from the odd guiding word when a Pez candy machine took all attention away from the job at hand.

Tomorrow we are going to do the same thing with the bedrooms.  One of the biggest jobs will be to sort through the gazillion books lining not only bookcases, but also stacked high in baskets, under beds, inside drawers, and overflowing into the bathroom; we love to read!  Many of these books need a new home: they are too young for the boys, although I know they want to keep some beloved early childhood books.

Monday, we will move on to the Legos.  My, what a task that will be!  I think I will save that for another time.  I know you only have so many hours in your day too :)

I feel good about enlisting my “Peeps” and getting some sense of organization and scheduling accomplished.  Baby steps allow a busy working mom to feel less overwhelmed with the myriad tasks facing her.  Adding a workforce is also key.  The boys are going to finally start receiving an allowance, as they will be earning it through additional chores as they come up; the bottom-line chores do not earn anything.

How old were your children when you started chores?  Do you give an allowance regardless of chores?  Do you have any other suggestions to help a busy working mom establish a great routine with her family? 

 

Healthy, Lazy Dinner


From Happy Healthy Mama

After a long day at work and the commute home, it is hard to muster up the energy or enthusiasm to cook.  On days when my oomph has deserted me, I like to open a bottle of red and make up a new recipe.  The adventure lies in the fact that I have absolutely no idea about the outcome…will it be edible?  Will I like it?  Will the kids eat it?

I always know it will be healthy, but edible is another matter.  I am typing as I am waiting for the concoction to cook, so I really don’t know the answer!  Here is what I decided to put together:

4 organic boneless/skinless chicken breasts sautéed in coconut oil, garlic, organic tinned tomatoes and a good dose of wine – all simmered down to a mush (my technical term) and I cut up the chicken into strips. I also sprinkled sesame seeds on the chicken as it cooked…yummy!

1 cup of quinoa most of which I add to the concoction, leaving some plain for fussy kids.

Steamed green beans

So simple to throw together…no measuring (except the quinoa) and it smells delicious!  Now I’m off to serve the meal.  I’ll report back in a few.  Oh!  I forgot to grab the camera so I’m adding pictures more for the sake of interest than to actually show my handiwork.

Okay, I’m back and we all survived.  I think the meal was pretty successful all in all.  I think the following tips helped that happen:

  • I served everything family style so the boys could be in charge of what they chose and how much they put on their plates – I’ve always done this but was reminded how helpful it can be over at Blog for Family Dinner
  • I served the concoction in one dish (chicken, quinoa, and tomato sauce) but also served plain chicken and plain quinoa (the boys were expected to try the concoction – three bites – but could then opt for the plain versions if preferred)
  • As the boys finished their chosen portion of green beans, I gently guided them to help themselves to more, which they happily did!

We enjoyed a nice family dinner with conversation guided away from the food and towards our daily evening chat:  What was the best and worst thing about the day?  We always have that talk, as I like to catch up with things going on in my boys’ lives, but also so they have the opportunity to share anything that is not so great.   I believe in creating a safe environment to talk about the stuff that might be on their minds.  My plan is to ensure that conversation is part of our family life  now, so communication is open when we hit the dreaded teenage years.

Family Dinner Time!


As part of my project to create A Better Me I have made it a goal to eat the same healthy way I feed my children.  All to often you would find me concocting a smorgasbord of nutritionally sound, organic meals for the boys, then collapsing with a bowl of cereal or reheated pizza later on in the evening.  Not good!

So…despite Button and myself running fevers (apparently there is a virus doing the rounds), I set to work on a family dinner.  Spaghetti and Meat-sauce made the organic and nutritional way (for the most part.  Better yet, it was easy and I took healthy shortcuts to save my sanity, as I was not feeling so great.  Here is my attempt at giving you the lowdown on how I made the meal:

First of all, I believe in organic foods as much as possible (some fruits and veggies are non-negotiable).  My main products are:

  • Organic beef (the leanest I can find)
  • Organic, whole wheat spaghetti which I am trying to mix with Ezekiel Pasta to wean the boys into the more healthy sprouted grain pasta

  • Coconut oil  - the nutritionist at my son’s hospital recommended this oil above all others for its power to provide some amazing punch:  there are so many benefits I won’t even try to claim expertise on this, just refer you here for the lowdown. 
  • Wine which I store in my trusty Pellegrino bottle…I never manage to finish a bottle so I save the leftovers once they are less drinkable and use it for cooking!
  • Organic vegetables such as mushrooms, onion, yellow or red peppers, and garlic
  • Oregano
  • Kombu seaweed which naturally salts the water while providing a nutrient-rich punch which helps maintain a good digestive system (do not use daily for more than 2 weeks at a time as it contains a large amount of iodine and can imbalance the thyroid system)  

I begin with melting the coconut oil in a large skillet and browning the meat usually adding a sprinkle (I don’t measure anything) of oregano.

The vegetables are very roughly chopped for two reasons.  I believe it saves time (lazy but happy) and so my fussy family can pick things out more easily while getting the goodness of having them cooking in the sauce. (I will let you into a little secret later).

I then add the veggies and cook lightly…the less cooked the better for retaining nutrients.

My favorite flavoring is, of course, the wine that I add to the sauce.  The wine is actually added during the meat browning, after the veggies are in, and I have poured the sauce over the top!  Delicious!

 

I cheat completely with the sauce on a workday (especially when I am running a fever) and use a delicious pre-made variety that is organic and contains less sodium than other brands.

Now for the big secret:  I actually finely chop some of the veggies as they are cooking so that they become hidden in the sauce.  Kiddies see big chunks of veggies and pull them out, but they don’t think to look hard at the little tiny pieces on their plate :)  They are also being provided the opportunity to have a go at the veggies if they so wish…eventually they will.

Once the sauce is simmering on low, I prepare the pasta.  As I’m trying to include an as yet unknown pasta in the mix, I stick with regular Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (yes, it’s organic but not always), and in goes the Kombu.  Once boiling, I cook for as many minutes as I think I need to (my goodness this woman doesn’t follow the rules) and serve al-dente without butter.  (You can add butter to taste as desired).

In order to please everyone, I serve Peanut with the sauce on the side, Hubby and I have the plate full of pasta and sauce and poor Button had to have crackers as he was still suffering with the stomach bug…but he did join us at the table because, as he declared, “I LOVE having meals together and I don’t want to miss it!”  Aww!

And that is how I throw together a healthy and tasty meal in a really short time for my boys…and now I am joining in too!  Oh, and Peanut and I had leftovers for dinner tonight which tasted even better!  Button has graduated to plain pancakes and Hubby was out.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring…I’m thawing out chicken as I type :)