Tuesday, May 5, 2015

homemade blender salsa (paleo and gluten free)...

It's Cinco de Mayo!  So in honor of the holiday, I'm making homemade blender salsa.  It is so good and easy.  It goes perfect with chips and all Mexican food really.  It is the perfect thing to make for your Cinco de Mayo party or for a regular weekday meal. 

I actually had no idea what Cinco de Mayo celebrated so I had to look it up.  As you may have already known, the date is observed to commemorate the Mexican army's unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1962. 

I'm sorry to say that I just use it as a reason to make mexican food and eat lots of guacamole and salsa.  Actually, I don't need a reason for that and we typically eat some version of mexican food at least once a week.  And I think adding salsa and guacamole to any meal makes it better...



Here is my version of homemade blender salsa.  I know, I know, there are so many good salsas in the stores you can buy but try making your own.  It's easy.  It's fast.  And best of all, you control the ingredients.  So you know exactly what and how much is going into your food.  I love that about making my own food.

Homemade Blender Salsa (paleo and gluten free)

3 Cups fresh, local and/or organic tomatoes (if you can't find good quality fresh tomatoes, use 2 14.5 oz cans of high quality canned organic)
1 bunch of Cilantro, with the stems removed
1/2 sweet pepper, use red, orange or yellow or whatever you have on hand
1/2 sweet onion
1 clove garlic
1 jalapeno pepper (you can adjust the heat by removing the stems and seeds)
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp salt

Put all the ingredients into your blender and blend until you reach the desired consistency.  My family doesn't like a real chunky salsa so I blend mine a little more so it is smoother.

Notes:

You can adjust the ingredients to suit your tastes.  For example if you don't like cilantro (which I can't imagine but I've heard such people are out there), you can omit it all together.  For hotter salsa add more jalapeno.  You get the idea.

For a sweeter salsa, add up to 1/2 cup of fresh or frozen pineapple.  If you want a really sweet salsa I would omit the jalapeno and just add the pineapple.

This salsa keeps in the fridge up to 7 days in an air tight container.

I like to put this salsa on pretty much everything I eat - on my scrambled eggs, on my salads instead of dressing, on my tacos or other mexican foods and of course chips.  Right now I'm not eating processed foods so I am using plantain chips instead of corn or tortilla chips.


Obviously, this picture has nothing to do with Cinco de Mayo or salsa but it sure is cute.  John is holding Kenzie our 10 week old border collie mix puppy.  The puppies are a lot of work, but we love them.





Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

lately...

We have recently added two new activities to our family schedule.  We like to limit what our boys are involved in and had a long period of no sports for our boys.  But that ended not to long ago and we are back in the thick of multiple practices a week and games every weekend.

John has started flag football.  He really wants to play regular football, but I won't let him until he is in middle school.  I know that there are a lot of opinions out there and this is just ours.  So while he's waiting for next year, he signed up for flag football.  There's about 10 kids on his team and there are six teams in the league.  He had his first game yesterday, they are all on Sundays, and was one of the quarterbacks.  He was so happy to be playing QB.  He also plays on the defense and wide receiver. 

Mark is one of the assistant coaches for the team.  This is the first time he has been able to coach, even though his work schedule means he will miss some practices. 



 Luke decided he wanted to try karate and he loves it.  He has it twice a week and is doing really well.  We have him taking karate at a studio that a friend works at and it is really fun for Luke.



I'm so happy they have both found activities that they enjoy.  Even though our family is a little out of balance right now. 



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Monday, April 20, 2015

puppy love...

So, we added to our family again.  We adopted Kenzie (all black) and Parker (black & white) from an animal rescue farm near our house.  The boys had been begging for years.  They even launched a letter writing campaign to try and get us to get them a dog.



Mark and I both grew up with dogs so we weren't necessarily opposed to it.  We kept telling the boys, we had to wait for the time to be right for our family.  We even looked into therapy dogs for Grace, but she didn't qualify because she has no diagnosis.  One play offered home companion dogs but the process took sometimes as long as 18 months.
Lately, the begging had been amped up and was verging on relentless.  So Mark and I talked about getting a rescue lab from the same agency that placed my sister's dog.  He said if we're not going to get a dog trained for Grace, let's just get a puppy.  Then he said, maybe it would be good to get two so they could play with each other.  We said, how hard can two puppies be...

The boys were beyond excited.  John immediately got on line and found a dog he wanted.  We applied to that rescue for the dog and then we found a puppy at a different rescue.  So we applied for that too.  Well, we heard back about the puppy and went to the farm last Thursday.  Obviously, we came home with two puppies.  It was terribly difficult to choose just two.  They are border collie mixes from the same litter but may have different dads, say whaat?!?

We love them so much already.  The first night, they didn't sleep well but have been sleeping great since then.  We have them crated in our bedroom until they are potty trained and then the boys want them to sleep in their rooms.  I'm totally okay with that.

We feel that if we are going to have dogs they should be a big part of our family.  Including sleeping with the kids.  We are not doing so well with potty training but it's improving.  I apologize in advance for all the puppy photos that will be a part of my blog, instagram and facebook account now.  I just can't help myself they're so cute.




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Saturday, April 11, 2015

easter 2015...

I once heard a speaker say that Easter was the Christian equivalent of the Super Bowl.  Which just tickled me, because not only am I a Christian and a huge sports fan but I love a good analogy.  This comparison holds true because our hope is not in the Crucifixion and Death of Jesus but in his resurrection.  And that is what we celebrate on Easter Sunday.  The hope, promise and love of God that is fulfilled in the fact that His Son rose from the dead. 


We had a super low-key Easter weekend and it was exactly what our family needed.  The boys only had Good Friday off, because their school cut out Spring Break in favor of getting out of school early in June.  Which I'm thrilled for right now, but ask me again in August...

John went on a 3 day missions trip for 4th & 5th graders with our church and came home Friday tired and sick.  But Luke greeted him like he had been gone for 3 months instead of 3 days.  I love the relationship these two have.

We dyed eggs on Saturday.  These two were still in their pjs and John hadn't combed his hair but they still look cute.  This year I got 18 eggs and it still wasn't enough for them.  We just use the commercially available dye packs because no one eats hard boiled eggs in our house so I buy super cheap eggs that I would never eat and use those.



We also hid eggs and baskets for the boys to find.  And once again, I forgot where all the eggs were hidden.  At least, it was one of the eggs Mark hid and not one of the ones I hid (which has happened in past years).  The boys are so funny because they try not to say anything for fear of hurting my feelings, but they are always super annoyed at me.  I always say, this is just part of life when you have older parents.

Since John wasn't feeling well and we knew that church would be crowded, Mark and I went to different services and left the kids at home.  When I got home from church, I had the kids all get dressed so I could take our annual Easter picture on the hearth. I don't love any of the pictures of all three kids but I did realize that Luke is wearing the shirt that John wore last year in our Easter picture.  Which was the picture I used for our family Christmas card.  Which made us all laugh for some reason...






I hope you and your family had an awesome Easter celebration.

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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

homemade paleo and gluten free snack bars...

One of my commitments, or goals, for 2015 is to eat clean.  For me clean eating means to focus on eating whole foods and avoid processed foods, sugar and gluten.  It has been a lot easier to do than I anticipated and I feel so, so much better.  There are many names for this way of eating, but I like to refer to it as clean eating.

As with anything, preparation is the key to success.  I have found that I need to stock my fridge and pantry with whole food options that are easily accessible to me.  If I don't, then I'm prone to be enticed by Grace's Doritos or the gluten free chips that the boys eat.  One way to ensure that I have something to snack on when I get hungry in the afternoon, is to make my own snack bars.

I do keep lara bars on hand for when I travel but they tend to be expensive for everyday or even every other day eating.  I found several recipes on line for homemade 'lara bars', which I played around with until I came up with a bar that I loved.

I love to play around with and adapt recipes I find from cookbooks and bloggers I follow.  I think that more people need to give themselves permission to play around with recipes in the kitchen.  It's okay to change a recipe until it suits you and your family's food tastes.



Homemade Snack Bars

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups medjool dates
1/2 cup raw macadamia nuts
1/2 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup unsweetend coconut flakes

1. Grease bottom and sides of glass baking dish
2. Combine all ingredients in food processor or vitamix blender
3. Pulse until combined.  This is really up to you!  I don't like my bars to have big chunks of dates or nuts in them, so I process mine until all the pieces are really small.  If you like larger chunks, then you can process your ingredients for less time.
4. Dump the processed ingredients into prepared baking dish and push down with hands.  You want to have the bars evenly distributed in the pan.
5. Refrigerate covered bars for 2-3 hours.
6. Cut into bars.  The size depends on you.
7. Store in airtight container in the fridge for up to 7 days or you can freeze these guys for up to 3 months.  My bars never last that long. 

Notes: Feel free to play around with the ingredients and/or amounts.  If you don't like cashews, for instance, you can add another nut you do like.  Or if you don't like coconut, feel free to omit it from the bars altogether.

I try and buy the highest quality ingredients that I can afford.  This usually means organic or locally grown.  This is something that is important to me and I think affects the taste of my food and the overall health of my family.  I know that it can be expensive to purchase organic fruits and nuts.  I have found that if I shop at my local health food store, I can find these ingredients in bulk at a more affordable price. 

Let me know if you make these and how you like them.

Enjoy!




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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

real men make (and eat) quiche...

I was talking to my sister the other day about her oldest getting accepted into college.  It was unsettling because, I knew this little boy when he was born and I can't figure out how 18 years went by already.  It also made me think about my boys going off to college.  Which, I'll admit, is not happening soon.  And really, may not happen at all for Luke because he's convinced he always wants to live with me.  

I've told him that there will come a time when he will no longer want to live here and will want to venture out into the real world.  But, he can't picture that.  He refers to college as that time after high school when they make you leave your parents.  Which just tickles me.

Anyway, so as I was thinking about Joe going off to college, I decided that it was time to start teaching my boys how to plan and prepare dinner.  I really feel that it is important to equip your children to be able to thrive in the world outside your home.  This is one thing that Mark and I have talked about at length and we have always tried to teach them, about money, time management, cleaning and taking care of your belonging, just to name a few.

Since they are now 11 and 9, I thought it was a good time to teach them about planning and making dinner.  I have always baked with them.  Even when they were little and it wasn't fun for me.  So they know their way around our kitchen and a little bit about cooking.  

John fell in love with this idea and wanted to do it the next day.  I told him, that he would need to pick a menu for the meal, find a recipe, write down the ingredients needed (so I could buy them), and then cook everything.  He was jacked!  John picked ham and cheese quiche, fruit salad and brownies for dessert.

Which is a surprising meal for an 11 year old boy to pick.  But a friend delivered this meal to my family when Grace and I were away and John loved it.  I will be honest, I had never made a quiche before so I did not have a recipe for one.  But, problem solver that he is, John said  'call your mom, she has a great quiche recipe'.  Evidently, they talked about quiche because mom was here when my friend dropped off the meal.

After school, John came home and I reminded him that he wouldn't be able to play or watch TV because he was responsible for cooking our dinner.  He was still excited and wanted to keep his menu a surprise from Luke and Mark.  We read the recipe together and then he gathered all his ingredients.  He was able to prepare the whole meal with very little help from me.  I did make suggestions, like how big to dice the ham, but he did everything himself.  Since he's not quiet tall enough, I did put everything in the oven for him but that's all I did besides supervise.

He even set the table with matching plates, cloth napkins and candles.  He was so thrilled when he was able to call us all to the table.  The whole meal was a hit as evidenced by the fact that there was literally no left overs.  He can't wait to do it again.  Next time he wants to make enchiladas and rice.



Here's the recipe we used.  It's super easy and yummy.  It's a little different from the one my mom gave me because, for some reason, I just can't seem to stick to a recipe the way it is written.  I talked to John about this when he was cooking because he wanted to add more ham and less cheese.  Which I told him was fine and how it would change the taste of the final product.  He ended up putting 8 ounces of ham and about 4 ounces of cheese in his quiche.  I told him the most important thing is that he makes good food and has fun doing it.  I'm hoping to instill a love of cooking in both boys, since they already love to eat.

John's Ham and Cheese Quiche


Ingredients:

1 pie crust
6oz ham, diced
6 oz cheese, shredded
4 eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
salt and pepper


Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Crack eggs into medium bowl, beat with whisk
3. Add sour cream to eggs, whisk to combine
4. Put diced ham and shredded cheese in bottom of pie crust
5. Pour egg mixture over ham and cheese
6. Bake for 35 minutes, check to see if it is done.  The eggs should be set and not jiggle.  Keep adding 5 minutes until it is done.


Enjoy!  And, let us know if you make this quiche. 

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

week four summary...

This post on week four is a little delayed because, of the real world and my re-entry into reality.  I spent the weekend snuggling on the couch with my babes in front of a fire and trying to find all my stuff that got moved around while I was gone.


Grace finished her feeding therapy strong.  The last week was much of the same of the first three weeks, you can read those posts here, here and here.

We continued to have Grace drink from a cup and transitioned her to a regular cup from the cut out cup.  We are still holding the cup up to her mouth for her to drink and feeding her every bite of food.  We will work on Grace's self feeding and drinking skills in the future.  Right now, she is getting 7-8 ounces of liquid from a cup which is great progress.
 

We added several new foods to Grace's diet.  She ate sliced deli ham (lunch meat), pancakes with syrup, french toast sticks and macaroni & cheese. 

 

It is difficult to tell if Grace likes new foods but she is eating everything we present to her.  She will also eat anything for a dorito (just like mama!).

Overall, I would consider the feeding therapy to be a success.  I did ask for an additional week, something I never thought I'd do but I felt like we were making such good progress I wanted it to continue.  I'm concerned about transitioning Grace back to the real world and I am anticipating some regression.  Mark and the boys came up on Friday so Mark could get some experience feeding Grace and help me check out of the Ronald McDonald House.  This last week, the boys had 3 snow days and a 2 hour delay, in March.

 It was so funny because Grace ate really well for me in the session that Mark observed but she fought Mark in the session he was in charge of feeding her.  It really shows me how smart she is that she knew to fight 'the new person'.  For that reason, I think she will fight the new feeding program at school.  However, her teacher is amazing and I know they are on board with making Grace successful.
We will now be going back to Hershey for monthly follow up appointments, so they can make sure that Grace continues to progress and that we will reach all the feeding goals we have for Grace.

It's good to be back home...

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