Monday, July 30, 2012

Blueberry-Banana Muffins and Weekend Round Up

So, school officially starts 1 week from today, and so this past weekend, we spent all day Saturday school shopping, aka spending a ton of money.  I know things were less expensive when I was a kid, but now that I have to shop for my 3 kids, I really feel for my parents and don't know how they managed the back to school shopping thing with 5 kids.  So, many pants, shirts, notebooks, calculators, and pencils later, I think we're ready. This week we'll be going to bed earlier and getting up at regular school time to get ourselves ready.  And thus it begins...

By the way, the freezer pop molds I bought work great. I think that they will be a cool addition to our school lunch/after school snack routine, and a great way for me to use left over smoothies. I made a strawberry banana  blend that my smoothie loving child loved.  My next batch will be very vanilla to accommodate a picky eater's tastes. The good thing about these tubes is that they are easy to push up and very compact. I didn't notice any weird smell or taste due to the silicone, and my tops stayed on perfectly.

Muffins are big in my house. We love them for breakfast and snacks. I found a muffin recipe when reorganizing my recipe book that I got from my beautiful sister, Tricia, years ago. I'm not sure where the original recipe came from or even if I have the exact recipe, but they are a hit in my house. They are moist and delish.

Blueberry Banana Muffins

1 1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour
1/2-3/4 c sugar (I use 1/2 heaping cup)
1/4 c ground flax
1 tsp each baking soda and baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp chia seeds (optional)
1/2 c chopped walnuts (optional)
1 c min frozen blueberries ( I use Trader Joe's brand Organic Wild  Blueberries.  Add them last.)
1 mashed banana
1 c skim milk
1 egg
1 Tbsp vegetable oil oil or unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray a muffin pan with nonstick spray.

Add flour  through walnuts in a bowl and mix.

In another bowl, whisk banana through vanilla.

Next, add frozen blueberries to dry ingredients and mix gently just to coat.

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir gently to mix.

Put into muffin tins and bake for 15-18 minutes till done (test with a toothpick) and browned on top.  Makes 12 muffins.

Let cool 5-10 minutes before removing from pan.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I just found the best new blog to peruse and subscribe to:  100 Days of Real Food.  There are great ideas about ways to be healthier on this blog as well as meal plans and a ton of information on food and healthy eating topics. I can't wait to read more from Lisa, the blog's creator, because there's some fascinating stuff there. And, she uses freezer pop molds similar to the ones I just bought. Who knew?  My first batch is in the freezer now.  And with back to school looming (only 1 1/2 weeks away for us), she's got a whole section on school lunches from ideas about what to send, to lunch boxes, kitchen aids, and accessories to ensure school lunch success.

I find her blog really interesting since her goal was to get rid of the processed crap and only eat  real food. We have done this to some extent in our house, but we are still a really big work in progress. Whether you go cold turkey though or want to make baby steps towards  a life unprocessed, this blog will have something for you. I guarantee it. So check out 100 Days of Real Food today. I think you'll be glad you did.

Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

So, granola em or hate em, they are a great way to eat something healthy because they are compact, easy to carry, and easy to eat.  Before I went plant strong, I used to buy them in bulk at my local Sam's or Costco store and send them to lunch with my kiddos or have them available as an afternoon snack. These granola bars were not all that healthy, just convenient. Below is the ingredient list on a kind we bought all the time.


Scary, I know. I am much more enlightened now and haven't bought any granola bars for two years. Instead, I've been trying different recipes and getting feedback from the peanut gallery. Finally, I think I have found a recipe that works for us. I reworked the recipe a little, of course, to make it even a little better. I like these granola bars because they are moist and chewy...not at all dry like most of the healthier homemade granola bars I have tried.Best of all, I know all of the ingredients and I recognize and can pronounce every one. And they are a hit at my house. With 1 teenager, 2 preteens, and myself and my batch goes very quickly...too quickly...

The link to the original recipe by CMOTSINGER on SparkRecipes is here. It is good. My version is below.  Check out SparkRecipes on for more cool recipes.

Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

Number of Servings: Depends on how you cut them.


2 cups quick oats or organic regular oats pulsed into quick cooking size                                              
1 c whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 c brown sugar (next time, I will try using a little less)
1/2 c mini semi sweet chocolate chips (you can use regular sized chips too or dark choclate chips if that is your thing.)
1/2 c ground flax
1 Tbsp. chia seeds
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c chopped nuts
1/2 c all natural, unsweetened applesauce
1/2 c honey
1 egg
2 Tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp water

Preheat oven to 350F, line 9x13 baking pan with parchment paper.

In large bowl, stir together oats, flour, brown sugar, chocolate chips, ground flax, chia seeds, cinnamon, and nuts. In smaller bowl blend applesauce, honey, egg, water and vanilla. Pour into the flour mixture, and mix  until the liquid is evenly distributed. If for some reason it seems dry, add a little more water. Mine is always fine the way the recipe is written, but it can seem not as moist if your applesauce is super thick. Use your best judgement. Press into the prepared pan.

Bake 20 min or until the edges are golden. Cool completely in pan before placing on cutting board and cutting into bars. I cooked mine till it was lightly browned on top too...your choice.

Tips If you take the bars out too soon, before they are cooled completely, they might break apart. Let them cool first.
Any kind of nuts can be used. The original recipe called for pecans, but use whatever nut your family enjoys. slice almonds, pecans, sunflower seeds, pepitas, and walnuts all work well.  You can also use a mixture of nuts and raisins or other dried fruit. I think that would work well too. Just play with it according to your own tastes.
I usually use the applesauce in this recipe, however, I was out so today I used 1/2 c canola oil which is what the original recipe calls for.
I use ground flax, but oat bran or wheat germ would also work.
I am a vegetarian, but I do eat eggs. If you do not, use either an egg substitute or try a flax-water mix.
This granola bar is great as an afternoon snack or as a compliment to any lunch. We take it with us a lot to our son's football games so we have a vegetarian, healthy snack should we get hungry.

Friday, July 20, 2012

How Important is Your Health?

Today on my Facebook homepage I saw the question below from Talia Fuhrman on the Disease Proof website:

Have you ever heard someone say,
 "I'd rather enjoy my food and die early than eat healthfully and live long"?

I  hear this all the time from people and I don't really understand why.  My guess is that it must be because they view healthy food as "rabbit food'" often lacking in flavor and tummy satisfaction.  I have found quite the opposite to be true. Some of the best food I've ever eaten has been "healthy."  Healthier food choices like whole grains, lean meats (if you are a meat eater), fruits, and vegetables aren't always as "sexy" as as many of the SAD-Standard American Diet food choices (I get that), but they can keep you feeling better in the long run.  Personally, I'd rather eat a healthy diet and maybe avoid some diseases and illnesses that might affect the quality of my life down the road, including quality time with my children and family.

It's about personal responsibility and taking your health into your own hands. We all have one body in this life, and it is so important to take good care of it. But like anything, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. Good nutrition and exercise training is a valuable tool for people, but it's up to each individual if he or she chooses to use it. I would suggest to people who think like the quote says to try some healthier food choices and see how they feel. I can tell you that since I have started on this healthy lifestyle journey, that I physically feel better, and I can now taste things that I've never  really tasted before.  With my palate unencumbered by  all of the preservatives and fake food ingredients, I am tasting some foods for the very first time. I realise that there are so many flavors out there to try...still, and I look forward to each new flavor experience. But, you don't know until you try it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

I had a different topic planned for today, but in my inbox this morning, I had this entry, Food Blogs and What I Ate Wednesday from Shelby at Everyday Vegan Girl.  It really resonated with me. I too believe that health and food bloggers are not necessarily immune to food issues and that it's okay that they blog even though they are not perfect. Read the article because its a good one as well as her guest post, How Food Blogs Can Affect Your Health at the blog, Around the Plate.  I responded to Shelby in the comment section, which I rarely do, because I felt it was important. Below is my comment to her:

Thanks for posting this. It's been something I have struggled with in writing my own Blog, Banana Boats and Cabbage Patches. I am on a journey where food and health are concerned and while I post a lot about healthy eating, topics related to it , and recipes, I am not an "expert." I am a work in progress for sure, and like you, I feel I have some worthy things to say even if I'm not "completely there" yet. I have very few readers and mostly, I blog for me because I find it cathartic. I appreciate your post today because I think this topic is something that all us food bloggers in progress need to remind ourselves of. Thanks.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I Know It's Not Monday, But...

I was late by one day to post my menu to Laura"s Menu Plan Monday, but here it is now. Better late than never, I guess. Check out Laura's Blog for more dinner ideas.

                -Kids:  Hamburger BBQ, broccoli, fruit or yogurt

Tuesday-All:  Meatless Vegetarian Lasagna, salad, and bread

Wednesday-  DH and myself:  Vegetable Soup
                       -Kids:  LO lasagna

Thursday-  DH and myself:  Big Salad
                    -Kids:  Chicken Washington, green beans, cheese sauce, fruit or yogurt, 30 Minute Rolls

Friday-DH and myself:  Picante Beans and Brown Rice, carrot sticks, fruit or yogurt
             - Kids:  .LO chicken, Quesadillas, LO green beans, carrot sticks, fruit or yogurt

Saturday- DH and myself:  Out to Dinner, Pizza for the kids

Sunday- YOYO:  your on your own (LO, hot pockets, sub sandwiches,hot dogs, salad, soup, etc.)

Monday/Tuesday- DH and I:  Big Salad w/HM croutons
                                =Kids:  meatloaf, mashed potatoes, peas & carrots, applesauce

Friday, July 13, 2012

Getting Ready for a New School Year

With the new school year right around the corner,I  am already starting to do my lunchbox planning so that not everything is left till the last minute. We start school on August 6th, so it's coming quick.  A friend of mine posted this on her Facebook page this week, and I thought it was inspired. Now, I am not going to tell you that my kids have never eaten a Lunchable...they have. But I mostly try to save those for field trips... and then only if the kids ask me for them. The good thing is that they hardly ever do. They say it doesn't taste as good as what I usually send, and half the time it's the "packaging" they like and not so much the food. I mean they love pizza, but a lunchable pizza that is not cooked with non melted cheese just doesn't fit the appetizing, "I can't wait to eat lunch" bill. Not to mention, it's much cheaper to just make my own stuff and send it.  Usually my kids get a protein bar or a ham, turkey or peanut butter sandwich (or maybe peanut butter crackers). These main dish items are rotated. Sometimes they take LO pizza or homemade chicken strips if we have any. Their sides are usually carrot sticks, cucumber slices, goldfish, pretzels, nuts, yogurt, occasional chips, homemade granola bars, ...and of course, fresh fruit. (P.S. I have absolutely nothing against anyone who uses lunchables. We all have to do what we all have to do.)

This year, I'm also going to be sending my own homemade "gogurts." to school. The packaging is the challenge.  On Once A Month Mom they tackle this issue by using a Foodsaver.  I don't have one, although it's a brilliant idea, so I may invest in some new popsicle type molds. I like these from Norpro.

I also like these from Cosmos. The reason I like these more conical shaped containers as opposed to  regular old popsicle molds is that they are compact and the frozen food inside of them can be easily pushed up. Sending frozen smoothies and yogurt works great here in Arizona  because it's always so darn hot, and I think these two products are just what I need to aid me in my endeavors. My boys will also be getting braces this year, and I'm thinking that this will be a good way for me to send something nutritious to school with them that they won't really have to chew...especially after tightening appointments. I will let you know how these work out for us, but I anticipate that they will work just great.

I'll also have to be more of a logistics expert this year (how to pack things the most efficient way possible is my challenge) since the twins won't be packing lunchboxes with them anymore.  Only brown bags from here on out. Lunch boxes are babyish and uncool once you get to the 6th grade don't ya know!   It's a good thing my oldest (who is entering high school this year...Yikes!) is around to tell us these things and help his younger brothers out.

I am also putting together my August food menu. With football every night in August, we need quick, and easy, and mostly healthy food ready for us so we don't get tempted to whip through Mickey D's or Wendy's at a ravenous moment of weakness. More on my August menu later...

Is anyone else already thinking about school lunches.  Do you have any special tips or tricks that you go by? Please share.