Saturday, July 30, 2011

School Lunches

The famous question in my house, almost as soon as my boys get up is “What’s for dinner?” During the school year, it’s also, “What’s for lunch?”

Packing school lunches is always a quandary for me because my children all like different things and are picky about their lunch items. I am constantly searching for ways to make their lunches both healthy and tasty, which is often not an easy feat. I must admit that at certain times in the past, I have used some processed foods for them, mainly because it was quick and easy, and I was ill prepared. I am really making an effort this year to provide them with healthier, tastier lunches even though it will require more planning on my part. I can do this. I know that.

My first step in this quest has been asking the kids to tell me what things they’d like to take for lunch and what things they wouldn’t mind eating cold. I asked them their favorite main dishes, fruits, and sides to take and took notes. Now I am planning.

Another thing I am doing this year is making my own granola bars. I stopped buying any processed, pre-made bars last year because they seemed to all have HFC in them…at least the ones the kids liked did. So I’m trying to make my own as they are very good for snacks and lunches. I have 2 or 3 recipes from Mama Pea at peas and thank you that I am trying out this week.  She has quite a few recipes that I think would be good for school lunches.  I am also scouring the web for ideas to help me as I wade through this process and deal with three kids with completely different tastes and challenges. Braces are a challenge too, as well as non bulky food items for the student who has so many things to carry in his backpack that sometimes just carrying a lunch can be a hassle.

Some things I know I will do this year are

• to avoid sending processed foods as much as possible. They often contain HFC or partially hydrogenated oils and lots of sodium. Homemade food is always better if you can do it. I make no promises that I will avoid processed food 100 %, but I'm sure going to try.
• to avoid sending over sized portions. This will require a little trial and error, but I want to avoid food from being wasted if at all possible. Still, I am feeding 3 growing boys and they do eat a lot, especially when they are in a growth spurt. It is also important for me to remember that they only have 20 minutes to eat as well.
• to avoid high fat and ultra sugary foods while pushing fruits, vegetable, and whole grains.

I am really going to try to make some healthy headway with school lunches this year, and I may need to put my brain to work and be creative with my food choices, but any steps I can take toward healthier eating for all of us is a good thing.

My teenager just came in and asked what I was doing.

Me: Writing on my blog.
Him: What cha writing about?
Me: School lunches and how I can make them healthier.
Him: (half-hearted, sarcastic, and monotone, while still trying to sound a little positive) fantastic.

I wish you could have heard him and seen the look on his face. It was priceless.  LOL!

So, what do you like to send in your kids' lunch boxes? Do you have any goals for school lunches for the year?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Very Excited!

I got 2 new books in  the mail today: one I was anxiously awaiting, and one was a surprise. That's always fun to get a surprise. The first book I got was my pre-orederd copy of Mama Pea's new cookbook (see below). 
I am so excited that my copy has finally made it's way into my kitchen. I did my first perfunctory "thumb through."  Next will be my longer look, including reading what text comes before some of the recipes. That Mama Pea is always funny and often insightful. She's also very real and down to earth which is probably why I love her blog so much. Every time it is delivered to my inbox, I find something about her entries that I can relate too.  If you are into healthy eating or just interested in being a little healthier than you are, you will probably love her book and definitely her blog. I'm going on and on, but I am a fan. My sister, Tricia, first introduced me to Mama Pea several months ago and now our mom is also a fan since Tricia and  talk about Mama Pea and her recipeas so often. I am very excited to try some of her recipeas to see if DH and my kiddos will enjoy them.  I am always looking for good food and recipe ideas since DH and I are doing the vegetarian thing.   I think this book will fit into our new lifestyle perfectly. I got my book today...Yay!

The second book I received today was from a distant cousin of mine. Through our genealogical research, we realised that we are indeed related. Recently, I shared some family information with her and spoke to both her and her husband on a long distance conference call so we could meet "ear to ear." They are wonderful people. So today, out of the blue, she sent me the book below.

I am very excited to get this because you never know what you might learn that will help out in future searches. Debbie said she picked one up for herself and thought I might like one too. How super sweet of her to think about me!  One thing for sure, I have met some of the nicest people ever on my genealogical journey.

Two new books that I can't wait to dig if only I had the time to start right now!  I love the mail lady today!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Head Games

Quote of the day:
May they never hear me coming
by the swooshing of my thighs!

So, one of my favorite bloggers, Wendy, from healthy girl's kitchen, is rereading The Beck Diet Solution by Judith S. Beck.

Wendy says it's a book to help in "retraining your brain to think like that of a thin person."  Sounds like something everyone who struggles or has struggled with weight issues should check out. I certainly plan to. According to Wendy, one thing the book suggests you do first is to make a list of all of the reasons you want to lose weight, placing the most important reason at the top. I've seen a similar type of activity mentioned on several weight loss websites.You're supposed to reread this list throughout the day as well, I'm assuming , to keep you motivated and on trackAnd whether you share this list with anyone else, I think having clear goals gives you stronger purpose.  So, I'm off to make my list.  Maybe you will make one too.  I'm going to read the book, but I may not do each activity. Wendy will be chronicling her trip through the book in her own time on healthy girl's kitchen. If you're interested, check her out. Her website is great.

Vacation Update

I was on vacation with the family this past week in Tucson doing the southern Arizona thing. We had a blast, going to the Pima Air & Space Museum, Tombstone, and Biosphere 2, as well as shopping, playing games, and just spending some good ol' fashioned family time together. I also got the pants beat off of me in a rousing game of Nintendo Monopoly! Oh well, I've never claimed to be a real estate mogul. 
We walked a lot on this trip, which was good for my exercise, but I was a little concerned about how I'd eat once on our trip.  As it turns out, it wasn't very difficult at all. I stayed vegetarian (woo hoo!), but I also allowed myself a little space to indulge. The place we stayed had a small fridge (dorm like) which was good to keep some fruits and veggies I brought with me nice and cool. I took some Balance bars, apples, oranges, carrots & celery sticks, bananas, peanut butter, bread, V8 and mixed nuts with me. I wanted to always have something handy I could eat should I need it. I was glad I did, even though, most of it remained untouched. Always better to be prepared I say.
My big indulgences were a chimichanga which was fried (I never eat fried foods), a bottomless bowl of chips and salsa (I allowed myself as much as I wanted), and 5 Margaritas throughout the trip (soooooooo delicious...I just can't tell you).  I ate eggs, fruit, and oatmeal at breakfast, a Subway veggie sub one evening, a soup and salad bar combination,chimis (bean and cheese favorite) and some tastes of kid desserts (a bite here, a bite there). I was very pleased not to stray too far  off of my dietary path. DH did well too.  I came home up only 1 1/2 pounds, which I completely attribute to my visiting aunt (wink, wink). If it weren't for the  bloating, I think I may actually have been down a little when I got home. I'm not worried though...that pound and a half excess will take care of itself once I get back to normal. All in all, I was very pleased with how well I did (Yay me)!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Weekly Menu July 10th - July 16th

Sunday: sub sandwiches & chips/ salad

Monday: pork chops, roasted veggies, beans and greens, fruit

Tuesday:  vegetable soup or lo beans and greens / kids: HM chicken strips, green beans, fruit

Wednesday: big salad with kidney beans/ vegetable soup , kids: beanie weenie, carrots, fruit

Thursday: skillet lasagna, garlic bread, carrots / buffalo tempeh wraps (new recipe-review to follow) and fruit

Friday:  frozen pizza, big salad and soup

Saturday: LO burgers/ Bocas, fries,small salad, fruit

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Almost Sweet Tomato's Pinto Bean & Barley Soup with Basil

So, about a month or so ago, DH and I went to Sweet Tomato's and had this delectable bean soup. They never post their recipes, but you can always ask for the ingredient list. That's what I did because DH loved it so much. My recreation, he said , is better than the original. Not sure if that's true, but it turned out pretty good. I like bean soup okay, but if you love bean soup, you will probably really like this recipe.

One note: I don't use any added salt when I make this because DH doesn't do added salt, however, I can't eat it without adding salt. To me, salt is a must.
 I like to eat  it with salt, a drop or two of hot sauce and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. DH used hot sauce and Mrs. Dash.

Almost Sweet Tomato's Pinto Bean & Barley Soup with Basil

1 small pkg pinto beans (16 oz)
1 c  low sodium vegetable broth
2 c or 2 stalks sliced celery (not diced)
1-1 1/2 c sliced carrots
a heaping 1/2 c chopped red onion
2 bay leaves
2 1/2 tsp basil
1/2 c fresh chopped parsley
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
garlic powder ( I didn't measure this, but start with a couple of good shakes-you can always add more later. I wanted to used minced garlic but was out)
4 c vegetable broth
8 c water
1/3 c barley
optional: hot sauce, Parmesan cheese, Mrs. Dash ( I especially like the tomato basil flavor, but the regular one will do.

Prepare beans as you like for cooking. You can presoak them overnight, but it is not necessary.  Sort and wash beans. Put them in a soup pot covered with water 2 inches above where the beans are. Also add 1 c vegetable broth . Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer for 1 hour. 
After an hour or so, drain beans and rinse them. Rinse the soup pot out too to get all the foamy, dirty residue out of it.
Put beans back into the pan.  Add celery through water. Stir to mix together and bring to a boil once again. Put a lid on it, turn down heat, and simmer several hours to all day.  You want your beans to be tender and falling apart.  Add more water or broth as needed to make sure you keep a good amount of liquid in the pot. About an hour before serving, add barley, a little cayenne, and more garlic powder if needed. Simmer till its done, maybe about 45 minutes or so. It's better to start with a little cayenne and then have to add more later because you want just a little kick...nothing too overpowering. When barley is tender,  discard bay leaves and put some of the soup in a blender ( I did 1 1/2 c beans and veggies mixture & 1- 1 1/2 c. liquid). Blend to mix well, then pour back into soup pot. If it's still not the consistency you want you can blend up some more. This adds consistency to your soup and thickens it up. Stir and serve.
Use optional toppings if you choose.

I give this recipe 4 spoons. It's pretty close to the  Sweet Tomato version DH, of course, thinks it's better.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Let's Get Physical

So, we bit the bullet and moved on to the next phase in our journey to better health and wellness by joining an exercise gym. I really like the idea of joining a gym, but now dammit, I really have to go. And, they're open 24 hours, so it's not like I can complain about not being able to fit it into my schedule. So with free classes, no contract, a convenient location, and 24 hour access, I am finding it hard to make excuses. I don't like to sweat doesn't work as an excuse anymore either since I live in the desert where just a few days ago it got upwards of 118 degrees, and, in Phoenix in the summer, we are always sweating anyway. Even thinking of going to a gym again makes me start to hear Olivia singing "Physical." I hope there's no sagga bagga though :)

Today, I got a  yoga mat, and a small duffel bag as well as two tummy trimming brassiere reinforcing exercise tank tops (love them). The task now is to search for the perfect exercise bra (gotta support the Ladies after all).  I have been shopping for one without any luck. It is now, that while I normally like my ample bosom, that  I would kill to have just a little  less so I could find a bra that fits without too much rigmarole. 

I'm mapping out my classes now and making my schedule for next week of when I will go workout. My goal is 3 X a week. On my off days, at the very least, I plan to ride my bike and/or do my exercise walk DVD. When the kiddos go back to school and my schedule settles a little, I am going to see a personal trainer for tips to target the areas I want to focus on the most.

I probably would not join a gym by myself, but as with anything to do with losing weight, it's better with a buddy. Even if DH and I don't go together , we can keep each other honest by talking about it, mapping out strategies, and making sure each other is following through.  What we will give to each other is accountability and peace of mind in knowing that we are not doing this alone.

And, as with most things in life, everything is better with a friend.