Saturday, January 28, 2012

Not so Egg-celent Hard Boiled Eggs

I am a vegetarian but not anti dairy. While eggs are an egg-celent source of protein for me, I cannot for the life of me find an easy way to peel a hard boiled egg. I have read about this all over the web and tried everything from salt and oil in the water, cold v. hot water boiling, cold ice baths after boiling, timed boiling and cooling to the minute,peeling under cold running water, and letting the eggs come to room temp first before boiling...NOTHING works!  I'm beginning to think it's me. All I want is to be able to make 6 or 7 hard boiled eggs, then put them in the fridge, and grab one when I want, and peel it without any trouble. It is always trouble, and I am frustrated! Help! If you have any ideas, please let me know. Argh!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What Happens In Vegas...

I was planning a different blog topic today till I read Mama Pea's new entry, cuckoo-for-cocoa-puffs.  It was hilarious, and I wanted to put my own 2 cents in on this topic. It's a very timely topic for me as well, since my children will soon be staying with my parents while my DH and I take a short trip to Vegas.

They say "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." Well, I say "what happens on vacations with the grandparents, stays on vacation with the grandparents."

Seven years ago or so, when my husband and I decided to go on a little trip without our 3 kids, we had my parents and his mom come out to keep the kids for us. I made sure they had the kids' health insurance card, that they knew the numbers of the Disney Channel and Nickelodion, and how to get to the grocery store. I gave them no real "instructions" and really, only gave them all, kids and grandparents alike, one basic rule: Have fun and then have more fun and more fun after that.

At this time, my whole family was still eating according to the standard American diet. That's not to say that we let our kids run amuck or anything.  We had rules for certain things they could eat at breakfast and what they could or could not have for snacks, but that was pretty much it.  We were much more dependent then on prepackaged food products and foods with lots of ingredients (most of which were not good for you), and I had never even heard of whole wheat pastry flour or chia seeds or flax. At this time, even though we were not eating as healthy as we are now, the kids had restrictions:  they weren't allowed to have 12 cookie or 4 Popsicles or a whole bag of chips. There were limits.

We had a great trip and upon returning home, one of my kids all giggly and smiley (like he was the cat who ate the canary) came up and told me that he had pop tarts all weekend long and that one day he even ate them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. "It was great," he giggled. I smiled back and excitedly said, "Really. That's cool. How exciting!" He looked a little confused. I think he expected me to be mad. I said, "That's what's great about staying with your grandparents. We can't do that normally, but I am so glad you had a fun time!"

Some people would have flipped out. Some people would have left a whole list of rules. Some people wouldn't like this pop tart incident happening at all. And some people might be mad at the grandparents for letting this go on. I'm not saying that those reactions are wrong, except for me. I had a great, short, 5 day vacation with my DH, I had the best people in the world looking after my children, and they had a great time too, all the while spending quality time with their grandparents.

Now, seven years later, my DH and I are eating plant strong, and while my kiddos are not vegetarians like we are, we are all eating better and wiser. In general, we don't stock our pantry or fridge with many prepackaged, preprepared foods. There are some exceptions, but not many. I cook with healthier ingredients and fresh fruits and vegetables rule in our house.  Once again, I am readying for a short trip away with my DH, and my  parents will be keeping the kids. It will be a vacation for us and a staycation for them.  We are eating healthier for sure, but my only rule will still be to have fun, to have more fun, and then to have more fun after that.

While DH and I are gone, things will be different. Maybe the kids will stay up a little later, or maybe they'll eat more fast food, or maybe they'll even convince Nannie and Pappaw to buy pop tarts for them at the grocery...and  maybe they'll eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner again...maybe. But you know what? It's all good. Just like on my vacation, I may indulge in an extra cocktail or a really decadent dessert, my kids will also be on a vacation of sorts...a vacation with their grandparents and away from us. They may indulge in extra cookies or candy or ice cream treats, and that's okay because it's all a part of vacations/staycations.  It means indulging a little and having fun and maybe doing things or eating things that are out of the ordinary (if you choose to do so). It's what you do most of the time that matters  the most anyway. A few days eating fattier, richer, less all natural foods will not kill my kids. When I come home, things will get back to normal, but while I'm gone it's strictly grandparent-grandchildren fun time, and I would never do anything to stand in the way of that. What happens on vacations with the grandparents, stays on vacation with the grandparents.

My only rule: have fun, then have some more fun, and then have some more fun after that.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Cow and an Apple Tree

Once when my kiddos were younger, one of them brought home a story about a genie who gave them three wishes. How cute it was that one of the wishes was "I would wish the genie for a cow, because my mom always says she needs a cow." The other two wishes I can't remember, but they were probably very kid oriented. How sweet of my boy to make a wish for me! Indeed, I always used to say that I needed a cow. Now that my boys are older, I could really use one! We go through about a gallon of milk a day between breakfast and dinner, and skim milk is always on my grocery list, even on a pop-in I-just-need -one-thing-list. Anytime I go to the store, I pick up some milk.

Now, apparently, I also need an apple tree. My teenager eat apples like they're going out of style. Yesterday alone, I think he ate 4 or 5 small Granny Smiths. Not that I mind. I'm very happy that his go-to snack is apples, but man, it gets expensive. I make a fresh apple run every few days just to keep up.

Yogurt, Triscuits, and my homemade grain~ola also go quickly in my house.

Growing boys eat a lot, don't cha know! I was not prepared for this since I'm a girl and never really paid much attention to how much my brothers ate as they were growing. I actually think that if I stopped grocery shopping that my local food store would fold...out of business...totally! That would definitely not be good for the economy!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Lentil Chili Review

After note:  Even better the next day (yummo!) time I will make it the day before we plan to eat it.

I can't remember where I got this recipe, so if you read this, and it happens to be yours, let me know. I always want to give credit where credit is due. It is not my recipe though.

We didn't care for it at first. Then, I added my magic touch and we both (DH and I) really liked it. I is a little spicy, so I ate mine with a dollop of sour cream on top and a cold, crispy, green salad. The salad paired with the soup was really refreshing.  After tomorrow, I'm going to freeze the rest of the soup into 1 cup servings for an easy lunch or on the fly supper.  My touches are are in purple.  With my touches, I give this 4 spoons.

Lentil Chili

2 teaspoons olive oil (I only used 1 tsp - next time I will leave it out altogether)
1 cup chopped onion (1 medium) (our onions are always strong so I used 2/3 c- 3/4 c onion)
1 cup diced carrots
3 garlic cloves, minced
5 teaspoons chili powder
4 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 cups vegetable broth or reduced-sodium chicken broth (I actually used about 7 c-see my notes below)
3/4 cup brown lentils, sorted and rinsed
2 cans (10 ounces each)diced tomatoes with green chilies (I used mild)
2 cans (15 or 19 ounces each) dark red kidney beans (I drained and rinsed them)
Freshly ground pepper to taste (I left this out altogether)

1. Heat the oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. (I only used 1 tsp oil and some water to "sweat saute" my veggies.Next time I will leave the oil out altogether) Add the onions and carrots Cook, stirring often, until vegetables are softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin and oregano. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about a minute. Add the broth and lentils. (I only added the 4 c broth the recipe called for at this point. I added the other 3 c after the soup was cooked.  Next time I will add all 7 c at this point) Bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover and simmer for 25 minutes.

2. Add the tomatoes, beans, and pepper (If using-I didn't). Return to a simmer. Cook, covered, over medium low heat until lentils are tender, 15 to 20 minutes  or longer. One serving is 1 cup. Left-overs will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

When the soup was done (I call it soup because it really was nowhere close to what I know as a chili), I added the last 3 c of broth (for a total of 7), a sprinkle of chili powder, and a few sprinkles of Tony Chachere's (one of my favorite seasonings).  Then I let it simmer a bit longer. To give it some consistency, I removed a blender full of the soup ( heavy on the chunky items in the soup- about 2/3 full of the chunky and 1/3 more of the liquid) and let it cool in the blender while I took my potato masher and mashed some of the remaining soup in the pot.  Then I  blended  the soup in the blender till smooth before pouring it back into the soup pot.  Then I stirred it all  together and turned the heat to low. this gave it a great consistency.

199 calories, 12 g protein, 36 g carbohydrates, 12 g fiber, 3 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 691 mg sodium

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


I can't keep my homemade grain-ola in the house, and I think that's a good thing. Whether eating it by itself for a sweet treat, in oatmeal for a little crunch, or  with yogurt, it's just delicious.  I'm going out this week to buy a bigger container to store it in since my current container isn't large enough for anything more than a single batch. These, by the way, are my favorite containers. 

My grain-ola is also a terrific base for trail mix, which I have been loving lately. My favorites mix includes my grain-ola, nuts (pepitas, sunflower seeds, almonds, whatever I've got), and always Trade Joe's Golden Berry Blend (pictured below).  It's scrumptious!

* * * * *

Trader Joe's is great place. I make it my goal to get something new at least once a month that I haven't tried before.  This month, I finally tried the Veggie Masala Burger that I have been hearing about all over the web.  Make no mistake that while I really like this product, it is not really a burger. It is a  patty.  It also does not look like the picture on the box. What I like about it is that it is so very flavorful and tastes different from traditional frozen burgers and veggie patties.  I also really like that I can see the veggies in it.  When I first tasted it, I thought it tasted like a potato puff, and so I think it would make  a great breakfast addition...either served as a patty along side of eggs or chopped and cooked inside of an omelet or an egg scramble.  DH did not like it as much as I did as a "burger" on a bun, because, as I said earlier, it's really not. He did really like the flavor though and suggested the same breakfast concoctions that I just mentioned. Great minds think alike, I guess. Regardless, it is a tasty and inexpensive product that I whole heartedly recommend.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Vegetarian Fried Rice

So yesterday was fried rice day at our house. The kids had my chicken fried rice, and DH  and I had vegetarian fried rice. My recipe is very similar to the chicken fried rice only minus the meat and way more veggies. Both are delish, and my house smelled good all day from the aromas. My
vegetarian fried rice recipe is below, and while it was great, I still plan to tweak it for next time. So whether you make my chicken fried rice or my vegetarian version here, I do believe your tummy will be satisfied.

Shannon's Vegetarian Fried Rice

1 c jasmine brown rice
1 1/2 c water
1/2 c each of the following;
       zucchini cut in rounds, then halved     
       mixture of green onion and onion slices
       green bean (I like haricot verts--TJ's has them cheap)
       broccoli florets
       mini julienned carrots (little match sicks)
a handful of frozen green peas
toasted sesame oil (again I use TJ's brand--yummy and cheap)
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp fresh minced ginger
ginger powder
crushed red pepper
lite soy sauce
oyster sauce
water chestnuts(maybe 1/4 - 1/2 c sliced and chopped)
1-2 eggs + 1 egg white scrambled

The night before, make your rice. I use Dynasty jasmine rice (in a bag in the Asian food isle.) When rice is done and cooled slightly store it in the fridge overnight.

The next morning, scramble the eggs and

store in the fridge till you are ready for them.

Cut up all your fresh veggies and set aside. this can be done the night before as well.

Heat up wok and add ½-1 t. sesame oil. Stirfry the broccoli and green beans about 4 minutes till crisp tender.  NOTE: If at any point you feel like you need more liquid so your veggies saute but do not burn, just add a little water to "sweat saute" the veggies.
Make a well in the middle of your veggies and add  fresh ginger, minced garlic, carrots, and frozen peas. Stir fry about 3 more minutes.

Make another well in the middle of veggies and add onions and zucchini. sprinkle all with a drizzle of lite soy sauce and a dollop of oyster sauce. Sprinkle with some ginger powder and a little crushed red pepper.Saute about 3 more minutes and stir to combine.Then remove veggie mixture and set aside.

Add 1 t. sesame oil and add cold cooked rice. Break rice apart with a spatula or spoon and cook 1 minute w/o stirring. Then stir adding  egg, veggies and  maybe 1/3 or more c. soy sauce. Mix thoroughly.

*I usually prepare rice in AM and let flavors meld in the fridge all day. Then I warm rice up before serving. YUM!

Food Notes:  Next time, I want to add some peanuts to the stir fry either cooking them in some of the oil with the sauteed veggies or crushing them and sprinkling them on top. I think it would add to the dish. I also want to try some bok choy next time and maybe some Chinese red pepper or hot sauce for a little more heat.  DH said definitely more green beans next time, so I'll up the green beans a little as well. I did saute separately some mushrooms for myself since DH doesn't like them, and they were a nice addition as well. The great thing about having sooo many veggies in this is that you can easily adapt it to your own tastes: Don't like broccoli? Don't add it.---Love Chinese bay corns? Add some of those instead. This recipe is very versatile and warms up nicely for leftovers. I may have to give tofu another try as well. Chopped up, I may not even know it's in the mix.

This was definitely a successful recipe and a better food day overall than Saturday's "Mighty fine food today, Ms. Betty." ( Historical reference: growing up if  my dad didn't like something that mom cooked, he simply would say, "Mighty fine supper Ms. Betty." That basically  meant "I don't care for this. Please don't make it again.")   On Saturday, Ms. Betty would not leave my kitchen, even though I asked her nicely! (wink, wink) But now, she has left the building! Yes! We definitely wouldn't want her to overstay her visit!

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Best Pancakes I've Ever Made

I used to use Bisquick (confession time). But, about a year and a half ago, I started trying to find healthier alternatives.   I bought mixes from Trader Joe's and from Whole Paycheck, but neither was received with ooohs and aahhhs, so instead I started trying homemade pancake recipes. Well, a year and a half later, my quest for the perfect pancake (at least for my family) has been accomplished. 

A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled across this pancake recipe. I am not a big fan of pancakes myself, mind you, but even I think they are good, and if I really like them, there's something to them. I am reprinting the recipe below exactly as it is on Fuzz Food's blog with my changes noted. Let me tell you what...they are called Fly-Off-The-Plate pancakes for a reason!  All of my boys love them too. tonight, Jake said they are deinitely the best pancakes I've ever made. They are not a puffy pancake, but flat, more like griddle cakes. I was dubious about the sour cream at first, but no more.  The first time I made this recipe, I followed it exactly. This time, I made a few changes. Next time, I may make even more. Thanks for the help, Fuzz Food!

Reprinted from Fuzz Food at

Fly-Off-The-Plate Pancakes

1 cup flour ( I use whole wheat pastry flour)
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. sugar (I used half the sugar)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup milk (I used skim)
2 1/2 Tbsp. sour cream (we like Daisy. It's close to natural) (Do not leave this out)
2 Tbsp. butter, melted (I used half the butter)

Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Mix rest of ingredients with a wire whisk until frothy; add to dry mixture, stirring just until smooth. Lightly grease griddle. For each pancake, pour 1/4 cup batter onto hot (375 deg.) surface. Cook pancakes until tops are covered with bubbles and edges look cooked; turn. Serve with butter and syrup or honey, or your favorite jam if desired. Makes about 1 dozen.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Big Salad and other things...

Last night  I had a great "big salad" (Thanks, Seinfeld).Here's what I had on it:

iceberg (just a bit for crunch)
green olive
edamame- I love Trader Joe's frozen shelled edamame.
 It's great in soups and on salads,
and it is very inexpensive...SCORE!

sunflower seeds
1 hard boiled egg, chopped
homemade whole wheat croutons (Mama Pea~style)
Maple Groves fat free Wasabi Dijon dressing (delish!)
This salad was delicious! It was a real success for me because I have been out on salads lately, but now am trying to eat them more often.

When I was at Trader Joe's this week, I finally bought TJ's Veggie Masala Burgers. I have been hearing about them on the web for months and finally got a package. This weekend, I plan to try them...very excited! Review to follow soon.

Today was a sad day for me. I feel stupid that this means so much to me, but it does. My favorite pair of jeans finally died...big rips in the leg and butt areas that could not be repaired.  Now in my head, I know they were getting a little big on me anyway, but oh, how I loved them so!  I've cooked, exercised, worked, slept, dated, danced, kissed, played, light saber fought, traveled and enjoyed life in these jeans. They were the perfect cut and length for me and the flare was just just right!  They don't make this jean anymore, so another pair just like them is out of the question. It wouldn't be the same anyway. Well, it's a new year now, so maybe this is just one more thing that will be new for me this year... out with the old and in with the new, right? Yeah, I'm still struggling with that concept. Life goes on though, and so will I, to even skinnier, sexier, more comfortable jeans that will once again fit me just right : )

Monday, January 2, 2012

Detox Week

Since I have totally been fooded out over the holidays, I am eating light this week. I have decided to do a little detox for myself, consisting mainly of soups, salads, smoothies, and oatmeal. I simply feel the need to cleanse my system a little bit. The holidays were hard because of all the sweets around. I stayed plant strong, but I did eat sweets that contained white sugar and white flour...2 things I haven't had in a long time. I realised that during this past month, my stomach has bothered me more than it has in a year. And since I have remained meat free throughout the holiday season, the white sugar and white flour must be the culprits. They have been my only dietary change from previous months without stomach trouble and heartburn.

Started this morning off with my power oatmeal. It fills me up, keeps me going all morning long, and is a great source of whole grains and good-for-you ingredients..

Power Oatmeal
1 3/4 c water
1 c thick cut rolled oats
1 large honey crisp or gala apple, shredded
1 Tbsp ground flax
1-2 Tbsp raisins
1-2 Tbsp sliced almond, chopped pecans or walnuts
1-2 tsp chia seeds
skim, soy, or almond milk
toast whole flax seeds
sweetener of choice
sometimes a dash of cinnamon or 1/4 c. blueberries instead of raisins

Boil water. Add shredded apple, oats, and ground flax. Simmer about 5 minutes till oats are cooked. Remove from heat and add a little skim, soy, or almond milk to desired creaminess. I usually add a Tablespoon or 2 at the most. While the oats are cooking, I put raisins, nuts, and chia seeds in my bowl.Then I add the cooked oatmeal and mix it all together. Add the sweetener of your choice and stir. Top with toasted flax seeds and enjoy. It makes 2 good size portions that y DH and I split. When I eat this power oatmeal, I am not hungry for hours.

I also had a really yummy smoothie today that I made with vanilla yogurt, vanilla protein powder, chia seeds, milk, bananas, spinach, fresh cranberries and a few chunks of fresh pineapple.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year 2012

New Year's Eve and day have been wonderful (so far)...a far cry from the sad and scary New Year's weekend of 2011 when I took my husband to the ER with congestive heart failure. What a difference this past year has been for us. I am down 30#, my beloved, 160#. Yes, I said 160. All done with hard work, diet, and exercise...and not crazy exercise either...just becoming less sedentary and more active. YAY!

 So last night we played poker with the boys, watched the ball drop, and did some fireworks in the backyard. BTW, Dick Clark was born in 1929, and oh my Lord, he still looks good...too much makeup of course, but still good. I'm happy he still participates in the New Year's Rockin' Eve show. Ryan Seacrest is an awesome MC, and he is a terrific heir apparent, but nothing says New Year's like Dick Clark.  Of course, I used to say that about Guy Lombardo whom my family watched growing up. I digress. After the fireworks came a short unplugged type of concert from Adele (LOVE her) on Paladia.

This morning we woke up slowly. I'm off today to buy a new bike pump, because I want to ride my bike and the pump we have is this new fangled piece of something that woks opposite of how it's supposed to. I really just want a normal pump. I am not an engineer after all.

Last night, I broke out my new donut pans given to me by my two beautiful sisters for my birthday.  While my husband and I do not eat many, if any sweets, my 3 boys do, and I thought it would be a nice treat for them. In my mini donut pan, I followed the recipe that came with the pan, then rolled the minis in powdered sugar.  I used this recipe for Mama Pea's Chocolate Glazed Cake Donuts in my full size donut pan. My only changes:  I used cake flour instead of the organic unbleached flour and I cut the amount of nutmeg in half since I almost always think nutmeg is overpowering. I made a glazed for 6 of the donuts and chocolate glazed and sprinkled the other 6.  I'm not sure if cake flour was the difference, but my batter was not doughy like Mama Pea's looks in her how to pictures.  My batter was runnier, so when it cooked, they ended up like half donuts. This was fine with me though because I got 12 donuts rather than 6 out of one batch...bonus!  Here's how my donuts ended up looking:

The Verdict:  Everyone loved the donuts! Mama Pea's were the best and will be made again. Her chocolate glaze was easy and delicious too. My glazed donuts were good, but I'll use a different glaze next time...maybe one more icing-like. It was tasty but not thick enough.  And no one complained about the "half donut" size. I think they definitely were healthier than Dunkin or Krispy Kreme, and tasted fresher and not so processed.  Everyone liked the powdered sugar donuts...better than Hostess Donettes if I do say so myself. So, 2 donut recipes, 3 different kinds of donuts, and all 3 boys liked them...score one for mom! Visions of donuts now dance in my head, and I'm already planning my next donut making experience.