Thursday, June 30, 2011

A great thing about living in Claremont

There are TWO 21 Choices here!  

If you don't know this about me already, I have always loved frozen yogurt and the comeback it's making the past few years has made me really happy.  I have such fond Penguins memories of my childhood and then for years it was tough to find good frozen yogurt.  My current leanings are towards tart flavors.  If you don't already share my love of 21 Choices, give it a try (there's one in Old Town Pasadena too).  

Here are a few "insider" tips: 
You can check out that day's yogurt choices on their website.  For instance, you can see if your fav (mine is snickerdoodle cookie) is available that day.  
You can skip to the front of the line (particularly useful in Old Town) if you just want one of those daily choices and no mix-ins.  They also have a nice little size if you want to indulge just a little bit.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Oat & Whole Wheat Muffins

Oat & Whole Wheat Muffins
Thanks to everyone for your comments on the last post - it was fun to share something other than food and to hear that I'm not alone.  We've had an incredible vacation with many family memories and it's been a really special time.  I'll try to put some more photos up at some point, but for now, back to regularly scheduled programming :)  

While I was staying away from sugar, I made these muffins.  At the time, I didn't realize that sucanat is really sugar . . . just in a more natural form.  This is the least processed form of sugar cane that you can easily bake with and is lower on the glycemic index than refined sugar.  Thanks, Nicole for the jar of sucanat you gave me!  I'm definitely going to use it regularly.  The easiest way to begin using sucanat is by doing a straight substitution for brown sugar.  I thought these muffins might turn out like hockey pucks or something but they were surprisingly light and moist.  The raisins were terrific and other dried fruits (or nuts) would be good too.

Oat & Whole Wheat Muffins (makes 1 dozen)

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup sucanat
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup raisins

Soak oats in buttermilk for 2 hours.  Add the applesauce, sucanat, and egg.  Stir the rest of the ingredients together and add to the oat mixture.  Stir in raisins.  Bake at 350 for 15-18 minutes or until a tester comes out clean and the tops are browned.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Abandoned to Joy

As I watch my children play on our vacation in Hawaii, I'm so touched by their sheer abandonment to the joy of new experiences.  They give their whole attention to just enjoying the moment.  Baby sister tries to scoop handfuls of pebbly, gritty sand into her mouth just to see how it feels on her gums.  She splashes the same toy over and over in a bucket of water to hear the sound and feel the cold water.  Big sister swims, actually swims, not wades, in the ocean for the first time.  She convinces dad to rent a kayak (which she calls "my row boat") and spends a couple of hours laughing on the bow and saying "yo ho ho" pretending she's a pirate in Neverland.  And, she tells her new bff, a server at our first hotel who was really kind to her several days in a row, "I love you" and gives her a huge hug.  Really meaning it with her little heart.

As their mother, I'm happy they have this ability to just live in the moment, lavishly love others, and relish their surroundings.  At the same time, I can't help but contrast it with my adult view of the same situations.  I've been thinking recently of how my mind is always racing.  I know some people who experience this have trouble sleeping and lay there at night thinking.  I've been blessed with the ability to fall asleep quickly most of the time.  For me, the mind racing thing happens when I wish I was able to just be.  Like my kids.  I tell myself that I'm going to just sit on a chair and look at the ocean for ten minutes and then I start wondering if I forgot my cousin's birthday, trying to decide whether I should bring a meal to a friend at church the day after we get home, thinking about how I'm going to sleep train baby girl (again!) when we get home, what we need from the grocery store, if spf 30 is enough for baby girl, mulling over the secret plans I'm making for our 10th anniversary.

This kind of thinking isn't contemplative or reflective; it's the ordinary junk that I turn over and over in my mind.  Time to just be and just think isn't in great abundance with two little kids.  This morning I stopped in the middle of my run, borrowed a pen from a stranger, and jotted down this:

Why isn't there more in my life?  What do I not want to think about or face in myself?  Why on vacation do I still look at my watch and hurry to the next thing?  Why do I feel like I don't deserve an hour do to nothing by myself?

Maybe because even though it's a vacation version, my mental to do list is on a looped track:  reapply sunscreen, change the baby's diaper, refill the sippy cups, do a load of laundry, clean up the toys, reapply sunscreen, give the kids a bath, make sure they have snacks, make sure they drink enough water, put them down for a nap, take them to the pool so they're tired enough to go to sleep tonight after those naps, reapply sunscreen, fish something out of the baby's mouth, remind big sister to stop putting things in her mouth, remind big sister to go to the potty, make dinner, do the dishes, make sure everyone has clean pjs and baths and sippy cups of water and their favorite stuffed animal and white noise and a dark room and that the sheets don't smell funny and that there aren't monsters in the closets or under the beds . . . no wonder I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow.  But only until I have to get up in 2 hours with my teething 10 month old who won't sleep.

It's a work in progress, but I'm trying to learn from my kids and add "let it go, enjoy yourself more, be abandoned to joy" to that list of things to do.  I think I'm going to send myself a postcard with those words so I can remember to take my vacation lesson and apply it to regular life when we get home.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

No Sugar Added

For almost 3 weeks, I cut all refined, added sugar and white flour out of my diet.  It wasn't as hard this time around as previous times when I've done it and I really felt good - more energy despite my 10 month old turning into a lousy sleeper again.  Even though now that I'm on vacation I've stopped being strict, I find myself reaching for healthier snacks and choices.  And, I wanted to share with you a few of my favorite items without sugar:

From left to right

Ak-mak crackers - no white flour, no sugar, from Trader Joe's or regular grocery stores
Brown rice rice cakes - I put almond butter and fruit spread on them for breakfast or cottage cheese on them for a snack
Kashi 7 whole grain Puffs - one of the only sugar free cereals I've found
Bars:  KIND and Think Thin Crunch -  delicious.  My favorite Kind is the apricot almond one.  Check the packaging - not all are sugar free.
Almond milk - vanilla flavored without sugar or any sugar free sweeteners
Tazo Tea - Green Tea with Ginger . . . . long time favorite.  Good for those afternoon cravings.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A morning with my girls

My morning started with big sister at the side of the bed, handing me my glasses and telling me it was morning. At 5:45.  So, even though it's barely 8:00am, it's time for little sister's morning nap and a post about our morning so far (can you tell I'm done grading essays?? Woohoo!!).

It's too early!!  Little sister is like her mommy - not so much a morning person
Big sister picked the first squash from her garden the other day and this morning, announced that she would be eating it for breakfast.  This was her assessment:

Looks like:  round with yellow edges
Smells like:  eggs
Tastes like:  not too good

Then, she ate some yogurt instead.

And, after breakfast, she tried to get her little sister to watch Curious George with her.

Little sister prefers to be on the move and was not interested in sitting on the couch.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Quinoa two ways

My goal of no sugar / white flour until our vacation is going pretty well . . . I cheated at the Hollywood Bowl this weekend and ate a macaroon (come on, it's the Hollywood Bowl) and had to research sucanat a bit to find out that I had inadvertently cheated (new post about sucanat coming soon) but so far, so good and 3 days to go!

I've made a few batches of quinoa in the past few weeks and if you're not already eating quinoa like us (my mom's side of the family particularly), it's delicious.  Well, it can be made delicious.  Quinoa itself is nutty, grainy, and very versatile depending on how you prepare it.  It's also way quicker to prepare than brown rice. I have been calling it a grain, but learned that it's "actually a chenopod, related to species like beets and spinach." 

You can read other quinoa recipes here and here.  I was a bit saddened to read this article in the New York times about how Bolivians, who have been eating quinoa for centuries, are becoming unable to afford it because of exportation.  Not trying to make you guilty (and I just bought another box), but I think it's important to be aware of how our consumption in the US affects people globally.

The new recipe below is for a pilaf that's easy and flavorful.  I had lots of leftovers so I just mixed up the leftover with some cucumber and feta cheese to serve with chicken kebobs - doesn't this meal just look like summer??  The day after that, I still had leftovers (now with cucumber and feta in it) so I chopped up the leftover grilled chicken and ate that for lunch.  The dish that keeps on giving!

Quinoa Pilaf with Lemon and Thyme (6 servings)

1 onion, minced
1 tsp. olive oil
salt and pepper
1.5 cups quinoa
3 cups low-sodium broth (chicken or vegetable)
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
1 tsp. minced fresh thyme (or 1/4 tsp. dried)
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
2 T. minced fresh parsley (or basil or cilantro or scallions).

Combine the onion, oil, and 1/4 tsp. salt in a large saucepan.  Saute until onion is soft, about 5-8 minutes.  Stir in the quinoa and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until quinoa is lightly toasted and aromatic, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the broth, zest, salt and pepper and thyme and bring to a simmer.

Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the quinoa is transparent and tender (about 10-15 minutes).  Remove the pot from the heat, lay a clean folded kitchen towel across the top of the pot and replace the lid.  Let sit for 10 minutes then fluff the quinoa with a fork.  Stir in the lemon juice and fresh parsley or herbs.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

What to make with the leftovers:

Greek Quinoa Salad

Stir chopped cucumber, pepper, and feta cheese into cold, leftover quinoa pilaf.  Add a little olive oil if it seems dry and serve.  You can also add chopped cooked chicken, pine nuts, olives, more fresh herbs . . .

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

If 3 year olds taught college

J:  So mom, were your students still fussing today?

Me:  Yes.

J:  Why?

Me:  Because they don't want to do their work or follow the rules and obey.

J:  So did you put them in time out?

Me:  No.

J:  Why not?

Me:  You can't really do that in college.

Then the very difficult task of trying to explain grades to a 3 year old . . . not sure I did very well.