Happy New Year! And Resolutions!

Hey everyone.  I hope you are all safe tonight and have a smashing time ringing in the New Year!  The Wild One caught a little stomach bug so we are keeping it pretty low-key this year.  Once the kids are snuggled in their beds The Mr. and I are cozying up with a movie and some homemade ice cream (recipe coming soon!).

I am starting up the No Processed Foods Challenge again this week…Probably about January 4th because it will take me that long to get my act together.  Feel free to join me!  Even if you only decide to do it for 3 days, or for a week.  You have four days to talk yourself into it.  You will feel a HUGE difference.  I have been noticing the side effects of “eating normally” again – most notably that I can’t run as fast or far without cramping or not being able to breathe. 🙂

Here are some of Granola Mom’s New Year’s Resolutions:

+ Take better pictures!  I am signed up for a photography class and am so excited about it!

+ Read one book a month minimum – Sounds pretty lame, but you’d be surprised at how hard it is for me to find the time/energy to do this!

+ Get more sleep – Going to try to be in bed by 10:30, which seems absolutely impossible as I am typing this.  When there is a will, there’s a way!

I have a couple more personal ones I am working on too, but that’s the gist of it.  Notice how there is nothing in there about my body, weight, or diet.  Feel free to jump on that bandwagon and find more emotionally healthy goals.

Here’s to Health and Happiness in the New Year from the Granola Fam!

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Chocolate Pudding…with a secret ingredient

I heard of this idea a long time ago but never tried it, and it just so happened that I had a few avocados about to go bad.  So what better time than today to use my kiddos as guinea pigs for this recipe?  If you are like me, sometimes it is a challenge to get enough healthy fats into those kids of ours, so this is a great recipe to use that tastes great, is pretty healthy, and doesn’t take like a health food.  Everyone was skeptical, including myself, but it actually turned out to be delicious.  I took the original recipe from Forgiving Martha, except I didn’t have any agave or almond milk on hand, so I used plain old sugar and milk in their place.  Here it is:

Chocolate AVOCADO Pudding

makes about 1 1/2 cups total

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup raw agave nectar
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Peel and quarter a ripe avocado.
  2. Put all the ingredients in your beloved Magic Bullet (or a blender/hand mixer) and blend until smooth.
  3. Serve and enjoy!

Coincidentally, my sweet mamacita got me the Magic Bullet for Christmas, so I tried it out.

Consensus:

Me:  It was delicious, but sweeter than I thought it would be.  Next time I think I will try using even less sugar, or using maple syrup instead.  The avocado makes it so creamy.  I honestly could not tell a difference between this pudding and the conventional instant stuff I’ve had in the past.  Yum.

The Mr:  He is not a huge pudding fan, so he said, “wow, that’s pretty cool,”  but didn’t eat much.

The Wild One:  Devoured it and begged for more.

Tornado:  Ate it fast and then started to cry when it was all gone.

I’d say it was a hit!  Can’t wait to find more recipes like this one that are loaded with healthy stuff in disguise!

An Inspiring Story

This is pretty random, but The Mr. was reading the Costco magazine (nerd!) yesterday and came across this awesome article about a guy named Josh Neimark.  He told his story about being 250 pounds, living a sedentary lifestyle, eating poorly, and growing a mass in his chest.  Long story short, he went through a pretty rigorous series of tests, got diagnosed with some pretty crazy stuff and was sent home with a long list of pills to take.  He said to himself, “Forget that,” and decided to make some changes in his life.  He changed the way he ate (and attributed lots of it to eating Costco’s yummy organic produce, which is why he was featured), started exercising, and is now currently in amazing shape, a vegan, and drumroll…the mass is gone.  GASP!  How many stories have you heard like this?  I am so so so thankful for modern medicine and know some amazing doctors.  I am glad they are there.  But sometimes I think there is too much emphasis on taking a magical pill as a quick fix for things.  WE are mostly the ones to blame – lots of times we WANT a quick fix because we are busy, and it is easier that way.  But in the long run, the power and responsibility lies with us to live the healthiest life that we can.

Disease can literally disappear sometimes if we don’t provide an environment in which it can thrive (ie a sedentary lifestyle, poor nutrition, smoking, drinking, high stress environments, not enough sleep, etc). Many successful studies have been done on Adult Onset Type 2 Diabetes.  See an article here.  “We have seen numerous people reverse their condition,” says Dr. Michelle Magee, director of the MedStar Diabetes Institute in Washington. “But it takes a real dedication for the rest of their lives,” she notes.

Having said that, there are obviously some very real diseases and life threatening situations that can show up even if we are living healthily.  This is why I am so glad we have brilliant and talented doctors.  But if we take control of our health, we are fighting the odds.  Josh’s story is pretty inspiring, and his blog is too.  Check it out at http://www.joshneimark.com/.

Chocolate Chip Cookies: You Will Love Me For This

I don’t feel bad about making chocolate chip cookies, because it doesn’t happen often, and they are much healthier than store bought cookies.  I always try to add oatmeal (because I love it anyway) and that makes it even better!

Soooo…here’s a little secret that my awesome sister-in-law taught me.  Did you know that you can replace the butter with White Northern Beans?  It’s true!  One time she made them for me and I even tried the dough, imagining it to taste like beans.  But it DIDN’T!  I ate a bunch of it.  She usually just replaces half the butter so as to leave a little bit of flavor in the cookie.  Just measure out the beans, then mash them up with a fork in a bowl until they are nice and smooth.  I tried it myself tonight.

It’s always a bit of a gamble when it comes to me making cookies.  For some reason I always screw it up.  I either burn them or they melt flat with big pokey chocolate chips sticking out of them.  About 1 out of 4 batches comes out right.  You don’t believe me?  Here is the proof from last Christmas (cookies 1 cm thick):

Luckily, tonight I had some success!

Here’s my most favorite recipe ever from my roomie Brittany aka my second mother.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies (with Beans instead of Butter)

Original Recipe by John Hofman

  • 1 Cup Butter (so 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup beans)
  • 1 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1 Cup White Sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 Tbs Water
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 2 Cups Sifted Flour (I used whole wheat)
  • 2 Cups Oatmeal
  • 1 – 2 Cups Chocolate Chips
  • 1 Cup Nuts

Cook 10 minutes at 375 degrees.  Makes about 4 dozen cookies.  Or 3 if you are like me and eat a lot of dough. 🙂

Apparently you can also substitute the eggs with a big Tablespoon of pumpkin, but it leaves a slight pumpkiny taste.  I have yet to try this, but it sounds yummy!

 

Leftover Christmas Ham Recipes

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday weekend.  Ours was very magical with a 3 year old who asked Santa for a muffin (can you tell we love food in this house?).  No joke.  And he got a big fat poppy seed one.  Hopefully he will continue to ask for equally easy gifts as he gets into his teenage years.  Instead of a car, maybe he will ask for a steak?

If your situation is similar to mine, you have about twenty pounds of leftover ham from Christmas.  Luckily, I found some good stuff today to help me use it up.  Of course, you can always freeze it (we still have Thanksgiving turkey in the freezer), or use on sandwiches, but if you are out of ideas, check out some of these links.  Some of them you might have to tweak a bit to make it healthier (i.e. add more veggies and less sauces or cut the cheese amount in half).

1.  Asparagus and Ham Casserole (I am making this one for dinner this week)

2.  Ham and Beans (also for dinner this week)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.  Orzo Ham Salad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.  Cheddar and Ham Puff (from Whole Foods)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.  Ham and Pineapple Pops

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And if you don’t feel like making these, you could throw some ham in a breakfast omelet, a frittata, or use it for toppings on a salad or Hawaiian haystacks.

Have fun hamming it up!!

Granola Grocery Shopping On A Budget

I’m not ashamed to admit that I am a tight-wad.  Sometimes I look back on things and think, “Wow, was it really important that I saved that $15 and opted out of lunch with my friends?” Or something to that effect.  Anyway, there is of course a healthy balance, but I am pretty frugal.  So naturally I don’t like to spend a lot at the grocery store.  It’s no secret that eating healthy costs a bit more than it otherwise would.  It used to make me so mad as a college student that my options for spending a dollar on lunch were either one orange, or a couple tacos at taco bell.  It’s a major issue that has a long way to go before it gets better, and unfortunately we just have to kind of swallow the cost.  When I got on this health kick, I had to decide what I thought was most important.  Did an extra $20 mean that much more to me that I would give up our current and future health?  In my case, no.  And you have to weigh the cost yourself.  I’m not here to talk anyone into anything, or to judge, or scold.  I am merely offering what has worked for ME, in hopes that it might help someone out there.  You have to do what works for YOU and your unique situation.  When you are ready, you will know.

Anyway, I am not sure what others spend per week, but my plan has changed over the past few months.  When we lived in NY we spent about $80 per week, but we only had 2 adults (and The Mr. ate on the company a lot), a toddler, and a nursing baby.  But NOW, I feel like I live with three teenage boys.  We eat a LOT of food.  I mean, a LOT.  Sometimes I will go to the store, and by the next night I feel like all the food in our house is gone.  Our current food budget hovers between $350 and $400 for a family of 4.  Honestly, I don’t know if that is good, bad, or average, but that’s what we spend.  It gives me enough room to buy mostly whole ingredients, lots of organic, and tons of produce, and not feel guilty about it.  There are times when I pay more, if we have company, parties, special occasions, etc. I’m still trying to adjust the budget and the process I use, but so far, these are my philosophies.

+ Eat in Season:  In the past I would flip through cookbooks trying to decide what sounded good to me, and then make a list and go shopping.  After shopping at farmers markets and Bountiful Baskets this year, I discovered that produce in season tastes significantly better than off-season…and it’s cheaper!

+ Shop the sales:  Before making a menu, I look at the grocery store circulars or online to see what specials they are running, and then try to look up recipes that have those as the main ingredients.  This is a big time money saver.

+ Go vegetarian:  We try to eat meat only once a week or less.  So far, it’s been working great.  The hardest part is finding menu ideas, but once you get going it gets easier.  This week we’ve had 5 dinners all with vegetables as the main course.  I’m learning so much about foods I’ve never even touched in the past, and discovering a whole new world of flavor.

+ Shop the Perimeter:  Not only are the healthier foods in the perimeter grocery stores, but it saves money too.  Produce, Grains, Dairy, etc. – It’s mostly food in its natural form.  I do venture into the middle to get some things like peanut butter or maple syrup, but for the most part, the processed stuff I loved in the past I am learning to make from scratch.

+ Use What is In the House:  There is nothing I hate more than throwing food away.  Not only do I feel bad about wasting it, the cheapskate in me is crying that it wasted my money.  At least once a day I am looking through the fridge and the pantry seeing what is about to go bad.  Once a week or so we have a random last-minute dinner that was made from something about to spoil.  Tonight it was breakfast burritos with veggies, because my peppers and potatoes and tomatoes were all about to bite the dust.  I’ve found that if I always have a few items on hand, I can whip up several last-minute things (see below).  I also take an inventory before shopping, in case I have something I need to use up, and then try to incorporate that into a menu that week.

+  Keep several items on hand:  I usually try to keep the following items in the house for last-minute meals.

  • chicken or vegetable stock
  • limes and lemons
  • a variety grains
  • rice
  • tomatoes
  • tomato sauce
  • pasta
  • coconut milk
  • a large variety of spices and herbs
  • oils and butter
  • peppers
  • onions
  • garlic
  • frozen veggies

Most basic recipes won’t ask for more than that, and if they do, you can usually find a way to manipulate it.

Only plan 4 meals:  This is my best kept secret.  We always have leftovers, and we eat it the next night.  Even eating this way, one of my planned meals usually ends up spilling over to the next week, because I didn’t end up making it.

+ Rice and Beans go a ridiculously long way:  I make rice and beans once a week as a rule.  It goes a long way, and we usually have leftovers for the next 2-3 days.

That’s pretty much it.  I try not to go back to the store the rest of the week, and in the event that I ran out of food or had one of those crazy hectic days (anyone?) I use my list of emergency meals:

  • pancakes or waffles
  • burritos (you can always put something into a burrito).
  • spaghetti
  • grilled cheese
  • stir fry (from frozen veggies)

That’s it for my tips in frugal healthy grocery shopping.  Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful weekend!

 

Switchin’ Up the Workout

I’ve mentioned here before that I love to run.  It’s my exercise of choice.  But lately the temperature has been in the upper teens and mid twenties, and it’s reeeeeally easy to talk myself out of going for a run in that weather.  So I’ve been heading to the (free) gym at The Mr.’s school to get my sweat on.

You know what’s annoying?  Running on a treadmill.  You know what’s even worse?  Stationary Bikes!  I get soooooo bored.  Plus I feel like it takes longer to get a good workout on a bike, and you have to keep upping the resistance, and what are you really supposed to do on it?  I have been to spinning classes before, and they are awesome, but I have no idea how to do that all by myself in the middle of a gym. Treadmills are at least pretty self-explanatory.  The gym has “spinning” bikes, and they were calling my name, but I was lost.

I usually listen to an iPod to make things less robotic, and lots of times I listen to podcasts.  Well today I found a jewel of a podcast that turned my biking woes into an awesome workout!  It’s called “motiontraxx.”  It is basically a deejay who puts music to beats that help you keep your pace in endurance exercise.  You can use it for walking, running, biking, hiking, dancing, etc.  The one I downloaded today was a guest spinning instructor from Equinox gym in New York who talked you through an entire spinning workout.  It…was…awesome!  Afterward, I wanted to sing this song:

I love technology!  Anyway, if you are looking for a good pace-setter with music, or a cycling workout, or a running workout, or anything else, this podcast is awesome.  Check it out on iTunes, or go to the website and check out past podcasts to see what they have.