Leftover Pumpkin Money-Saver

I’m allll about saving money these days, plus there’s not many things more painful to me than throwing away food that went bad just because of my poor planning.   So I was looking around the house today at all our painted pumpkins thinking they were getting old, and I decided to find a way to use them.  So I chopped em up, baked em, and made some pumpkin puree to use for some recipes this week.

Several years ago I tried to make a homemade pumpkin pie from scratch.  I was successful but it literally took half a day.  When I made pumpkin puree that time, I baked the whole pumpkin and tried scoop out the meat of it while it was burning my fingers, but as it turns out there is a much easier way.   I’ve read that you should only use medium sized pumpkins for puree, and that the Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins don’t taste as good. But I have a big one that I am going to try tomorrow and see…

Here’s my pumpkins…(and The Wild One’s).  By the way, do you think that paint seeped into the pumpkin?   Is it toxic?  oh well… 

Just wash and dry them, then chop off the tops. 

The one with green in it didn’t turn out very good.  Guess it wasn’t totally ripe.

Then cut them into quarters and seed them, and put them on a cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes (just stick a fork in it and if it slides in easily, it’s ready).

The skin peels off really easily after that.  Dump it in the food processor.

Viola!  Pumpkin puree!!  From recycled pumpkins!!

I used this to make a creamy pumpkin pasta, and I will post the recipe tomorrow.  mmmmm… I LOVE Autumn.

I randomly heard a gardening show on the radio this weekend and the host said that winter squashes (pumpkins, butternut, spaghetti, acorn) got their name not because they are harvested in the winter, but because they will last all winter long.  Is that true??  Can I stock up on squash and keep them in my pantry for  several months?  It makes me curious.  Maybe I’ll do an experiment.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Halloween!!  Pics tomorrow…

Division of Responsibility

There is such a huge problem in this country with obsession over food.  Eating disorders are everywhere (afraid of food, restricting food, gorging on food, being addicted to food) and even if you don’t have an eating disorder, you are bombarded by the media with new diet fads, what is “good” to eat and what you should “restrict.”  It’s extremely rare to come across someone who eats to live and has a healthy relationship with food.  This is something I have thought about and read about a great deal.  When it comes to feeding my kids, I want them to grow up with a wide variety of foods available to them, and to not have any issues with food.  I don’t ever fight it or force it, restrict it or forbid it.  I try to make it a non-issue.  I think I was influenced mostly by a class I took in college.

We spent a unit studying Ellyn Satter and her philosophies, particularly on children’s nutrition.  She is legit (a registered dietitian with 2 masters degrees and a million initials after her name).  One thing that always stuck in mind was The Division of Responsibility.  It basically breaks down who is in charge of what when it comes to feeding families.  The parents are in charge of WHAT (to eat) and WHEN.  Children are then responsible for HOW MUCH to eat and WHETHER (they eat or not).  Sidenote: I haven’t read all of her philosophies on eating, so I can’t wholeheartedly say I am 100% on board with everything she says, but I do try to stick to this one thing.

We’ve been “taught” by many sources in society when it comes to food rules and what we should and shouldn’t do, so sometimes I have to force out that voice inside my head when it tries to contradict this.  My little Wild One was such a RIDICULOUS eater when he was younger.  He ate soooo much.  Everyone commented on it.  But he was also wild, so he quickly burned it off.  He just needed fuel for all that wildness.  One morning when he was 11 months or so, for breakfast he ate 4 waffle squares, an 8 oz. container of yogurt, a bowl of blueberries, and a whole banana.  That’s more than The Mr.!  I even asked the Dr. about it once because I had never seen a baby throw down like that!  But guess what.  He needed the food.  I was responsible for providing meals and snack times and making it healthy stuff, and I let him dictate the rest.

Here’s proof.  Little 11 month old Wild One after eating:

And then suddenly PANICKED for more food! (And a frazzled mom who couldn’t get it on there fast enough!)

Likewise, we need to trust our children when they are not hungry.  There are times when I offer food to my boys and one of them gobbles it up and the other one picks at it.  I have to let them.  They will eat when they are hungry.

Little kids have an inherent ability to eat according to what their body needs and feels like.  They never overindulge if they don’t need it.  Somewhere along the line, we read something that tells us we should restrict something, or we learned to “clean our plate”  or other eating habits.  We unlearn what we had inside us as kids, and listen to rules we made for ourselves.  That’s where the food issues start.  I’ve noticed this so many times with my boys.  If they get a treat on occasion, many times they don’t even finish it.  They’ll take a bite or two and run off to play.  It sounds ludicrous to us – who wouldn’t finish the whole brownie?  KIDS! They got it in ’em.  Let them do their part.  Trust the system.  It works!

Apples with Brie and Walnuts

I bought a HUGE brie cheese wedge from Costco thinking it would be easy to eat it all.  WRONG.  It is going really slowly, so I am trying to find out more things to do with it.  The other day I made these sandwiches (a smashing hit) and then a few days later I made these:

Here’s a fun little snack or appetizer.  Just slice up some apples, put a bit of brie on top, followed by walnuts and broil it for a few minutes.  Delectable!  I’ve also done this with pears, blue cheese, and walnuts on top of french bread.  To die for!

Before

After

I’m not a huge fan of cooked apples, so next time I think I will just leave it in long enough to melt the cheese…or even eat it raw.  So yummy!!

The Mr. ate like 50 and neither of the kiddos liked it.  Fine by me.  That means more for us!

What’s for Dinner Wednesday – Crock Pot Edition

Today was a little chilly.  Time to break out warm and hearty (and healthy!) meals.  I love this time of year.  If you are like me, then you always have more corn tortillas in your house than you know what to do with.  I made this out of scraps I had laying around, and all I had to buy was cilantro.    Super yummy and pretty easy.  I adapted this recipe from Weelicious, but I didn’t use as much cheese, salt,  or salsa, and I think next time I will substitute the meat with beans.

Crock Pot Mexican Tortilla Lasanga

  • 1 Large Onion, diced
  • 1 Garlic Clove, minced
  • 1 lb Lean Ground Turkey or beef or BEANS
  • 1 tsp Cumin
  • 1/2 tsp Salt (if any at all)
  • 1/2 Tsp Chili Powder
  • 1 Large Egg, whisked
  • 1/2 Cup Sour Cream
  • 1 Cup Carrots, peeled and grated (about 2 carrots)
  • 1 Cup Frozen Corn Kernels, defrosted
  • 1/4 Cup Cilantro, chopped
  • 1 12 oz Pkg. Corn Tortillas (12 Tortillas)
  • 2 Cups Mexican Cheese Blend
  • 1 14. oz Jar Mild Chunky Salsa

Start cooking beef in a skillet (if using beans, omit this step and add beans in later).  Saute onion with beef, along with cumin, chile powder, and salt.  Cook until meat is done.  Add garlic for 1 minute.  Set aside.  In a bowl whisk the egg with sour cream.  Add in carrots, corn, cilantro, and beef or bean mixture.  Pour about 1 cup of salsa in the bottom of a large crock pot.  Then layer tortillas, 1/2 of the meat mixture, salsa, and cheese.  Repeat.  Layer a few more tortillas, salsa, and cheese.  Cook on low for 2 1/2 hours. Serve with a big green salad and side veggie, and you’re set.

I should note here that Daisy Sour Cream is the best.  It has one ingredient – milk.  I’ll take it.

Consensus:

The Mr.:  He liked it but had an event to go to where food was served so he only took a bit.

Me:  I have a problem because I could not stop eating this!  It tasted so delicious to me!

The Wild One:  He was pretty hesitant.  I had to keep telling him it was tortillas and cheese (his fav.) but it was a struggle.  I was hoping it would fool him that the carrots look like cheese since they are grated, but he saw through it.  I put some on his fork and made him take 2 big bites and he said, “mmmm… I LIKE that meat.”  But that was pretty much it.  It’s okay.  I read once that a child has to be introduced to a new food 15 times before they will start eating it.  So only 14 more Mexican Lasagnas to go…

Tornado:  Ate it and smacked his gums.  Don’t be jealous…I couldn’t get him to eat anything for breakfast or lunch.  sigh.

 

A Pep Talk

I was talking with my BFF today about something that has been on my mind a lot recently.  It’s this: being overwhelmed.  In July we had a big move across the country from NYC to Utah.  I used the moving date as the “starting over” point.  No more crackers for the kids, no more refined sugar, less salt, less dairy, more whole grains, only organic, only homemade, sprouted grains, and only $70 a week.  Wanna know how that turned out?  Fast forward two weeks and I was trying to sell everything I could on Craigslist to have extra money to buy food, I was at the grocery store practically every day and there was still nothing to eat in the house, the kids were both whiney, I was very grumpy and depressed and on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and the house was a complete disaster. The Mr. (always the voice of reason) sat me down and said “Honey, you are in way over your head! No one is happy!  It’s too much at once.”  He packed us in the car and we sped over to Costco and blew $300 on glorious food.  It was amazing.

I came to realize we cannot do it ALL!  Duh – how many times have we heard that one before?  I lots of times think “well MOST people can’t do it all, but I can.”  And surprisingly I have still had to learn this lesson over and over and will probably have to keep learning it in the future.  I’ve learned to get a bit more realistic about my expectations and what I am able to do.  If I have a day where everything was homemade and yummy and nutritious, and the kids are happy and full, something had to give somewhere else to make that possible.  Lots of times it’s the tidy house.  Or time with The Mr. (which I LOVE and don’t get nearly enough of).   Or the kids have been stuck in the house all day with an absent mom, because I’ve been slaving away in the kitchen trying to make them healthy food.  That doesn’t seem right.  Right?

SO, the lesson I learned after the move was to simply do what I can.  I aim to feed us all as healthy as possible.  If I have extra time to get organized or find a few awesome recipes, I try them, but I am a mom of two little BABIES.  I have to give myself a break.  They need their mama so much, and I need them too.  I have to give them my best self.  I don’t like to eat processed stuff.  Do I have to sometimes? yeah.  Sometimes we just have one of those days.  But I don’t beat myself up over it. Case in point – as I mentioned yesterday, The Wild One busted his chin open. He is only 2 and ended up having to get  stitches, and he was not numb for the last two.  He was such a trooper.  When we got home, I had ice cream in the freezer and I was so glad I did, cause I wanted him to have a HUGE reward for being so brave.  It made him feel happy.  Imagine if we had come home and I said, “I am sooooo proud of you buddy.  Here’s a nice bowl of plain Greek yogurt.”  Not quite the same message.

Once I attended a seminar by green smoothie girl.  She mentioned that when she started out trying to feed her family healthy foods, she bought a bunch of celery and apples and they ate like that for a week and were STARVING.  Been there.  Then she went and spent a ton of money at the health food store, and made a lot of recipes that made her kids CRY.  I’ve been there too!  Eventually, little by little, she got the hang of things and figured out how it worked best for her family.

The whole point of this blog is that it’s a PROJECT.  Get it? It’s a process and it’s going to take time.  A lot of time!  We’re tweaking things little by little to try to improve our health.  I’ve made a rule for myself that I can only make one drastic change every 2 months.  Like using brown rice instead of white, or only whole wheat pasta instead of regular.  Otherwise it gets a little insane and the important stuff starts getting overlooked.

So there you have it.  Don’t stress it.  Don’t make your families cry with all the “healthy” recipes.  Just make changes little by little and do what you can!  Pretty soon we’ll look back and say “Wow!  I was such a greenie back then, and now I’m a REAL granola mom!”

Homemade Chicken/Veggie Broth

I know, I know.  The title sounds like a total snore and a pain, right?  But trust me, this is a time-saver, a money-saver, and a health-saver (and a flavor-saver, I might add).

Many recipes call for chicken, beef, or vegetable broth.  Most canned broths are filled with preservatives, partially hydrogenated oils, salt, and even corn syrup.  Swanson’s broth has less of that stuff, but is very high in sodium.  And the natural healthy ones are like five bucks a box, so what’s a girl to do?

I make a lot of steamed or boiled veggies for side dishes at dinner (I often boil chicken too because it is hard to mess it up and it makes it nice and tender), and I always used to dump out the water in the sink.  Then one day I thought…”Why am I wasting this?”  I decided to start saving it up for the future.  I use vegetable broth interchangeably with chicken broth when recipes call for it and can’t even tell a difference.  How great is that?  Lots of my motives are cash-driven, so this is a win-win situation. Healthy, easy, cheap, tastes great.

I made a batch last night…and got flustered this morning when The Wild One busted his chin open, and all I could find to sooth him were veggie ice cubes!  I should probably keep some real ice on hand for such emergencies… Anyway, here’s how you do it:

Boil or steam some veggies

Pour the excess water into a measuring cup (so you know how much is in there when a recipe calls for it)

Pour the amount into ice cube trays and freeze it.

When it is frozen, pop the cubes into a labled ziploc and store it for months at a time.

Great huh?  There you have it.  No sodium or preservatives.  With the cold weather upon us, I am trying to stock up a lot for all those yummy soups and stews.

Oh!  And you can also use this when you cook rice- it adds such a nice flavor to it!

Happy brothing!!

Balsalmic Vinegarette

Yesterday The Mr. and I went downtown (sans The Wild One!!) to peruse around the cute little artsy shops.  We found an entire store dedicated to Olive Oil (see here).  I’ve heard about these before and was intrigued.  It definitely did not disappoint.  There were shelves and shelves filled with all kinds of flavored extra virgin olive oil, and bread on the counter for sampling the flavors.  They had everything from the standard to Chipotle Olive Oil to Lemon Pepper to Zesty Onion.  They were delicious.  If not for little Tornado getting bored, I would have stayed for an hour.  They also had a section dedicated to many different kinds of balsamic vinegarette.  They get the base from Verona, Italy, and they age it for 18 years.  Once it gets to their shop, they flavor it without artificial sweeteners or flavors.  I’m not a HUGE balsamic fan, but I bought the raspberry chocolate vinagerette.  It’s DELICIOUS.  Just a hint of chocolate, and tastes sweet like raspberry.  I talked to the owner and she gave me some great ideas of how to use it.

  • On pancakes/waffles
  • On sweet salads filled with spinach, berries or pears, and walnuts
  • Drizzled over fresh fruit
  • Over ice cream
  • As a meat marinade

I opened it up last night and ate it on a big fresh salad, then I had it again for breakfast on top of plain yogurt.  We didn’t have berries, so I just added some nuts.  It was DIVINE.  It tasted like raspberry yogurt! And without any fake ingredients.  Kind of a fun little find.  I love experimenting with new things.