Tag Archives: food

‘Tis the Season – of Indulging Your Taste Buds!

During the month of November, I’m participating in NaBloPoMo, where I try to write and publish each day.

I don’t know what it is about this time of year that makes me abandon any sort of diet or food regulations I might normally have going for me. Perhaps it begins with Halloween and the amount of candy that enters the house. Or it might have to do with being inside more often… which typically leads me to baking a lot. Or maybe it’s just that the holidays are full of sugary treats and fatty, sharable sides. Who knows. But what I DO know is that I LOVE food that tastes good.

Now, for me, saying “food that tastes good” covers a multitude of sins. I love fancy meals. I love farm-fresh eggs and meats. I love organic fruits and veggies. I love cuisine from all over the world (here’s looking specifically at you, Italy and Thailand). BUT! I also love a good slamburger (the term coined by my husband for a greasy burger from a no-name burger joint). I love a late-night hotdog from a street cart. Coldstone ice cream creations can cheer me up any day. My kids don’t have to beg to get me to eat at Chick-fil-A. To me, they taste good. And that’s what matters.

But this time of year, I lean in to those home-baked cookies, the cinnamon-sprinkled drinks, and the heavily-buttered breads or potatoes. I want large cuts of fatty meats (hey there, prime rib!) and richly-flavored, creamy soups (butternut squash soup, anyone?). And who can blame me?! It’s getting dark at 5:00pm and I’d like to have some compensation for the stealing of my daylight.

So today, I celebrate the pumpkin muffins with maple-pecan drizzle, the eggnog spiked with bourbon, and ramen from the Bahtmobile (our local Asian food truck). I celebrate shortbread cookies, King’s Hawaiian rolls (why are they so good?!) and 18-pound hunks of prime rib – if you’re having Thanksgiving lunch at our house, anyway. I celebrate good ol’ GBC (if you’re from around here, you should know that’s green bean casserole) and mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and Honeybaked Ham. It’s going to be a good couple of months, y’all, in the world of flavors. Indulge. ‘Tis the season!

Healthy After-School Snacks

If your kids are like mine, they come home from school HUNGRY. I’ve been working a lot on packing healthy lunches for them, and consequently on providing healthy snacks for when they get home. If you’re out of ideas, here are a few oldies (but goodies!) and a few new ideas for you to try with your kids.

1. Variations on “ants on a log”. I bet we can all remember having a celery stalk with peanut butter and raisins, but you can also halve a thick carrot and add the toppings the same way! Try a different kind of nut butter (or sun butter) for a new flavor, add honey if your sweetie likes sweets, and if your kids don’t like raisins, try Craisins for a similar effect with a tart pop!

2. Peanut butter on anything. Speaking of that wonderful creation: peanut butter. It goes with anything. Apples, bananas, carrots, celery, on lots of different kinds of bread (try tortillas, pita, or naan), rice cakes, or just on a spoon. My friend’s mom used to make “fruit pizza”, which was pizza crust or pita, with a layer of peanut butter and honey (or caramel for a treat), with bites of fruit, nuts, and granola sprinkled on top. It was a major win, especially if you need a snack that’s multiple servings.

3. Tortilla sushi. You can take a tortilla and put a thin layer of mayo or mustard, deli meat, lettuce, and cheese, roll it tightly, and slice it into “sushi bites”. It transforms a “boring” wrap into a fun snack! As you can imagine, peanut butter and jelly (I buy Polaner’s Fruit Spread that’s sweetened with only fruit juice) works just as well! Or, if your kids are like mine, picking up a California roll for some REAL sushi is a hit, too!

4. Chips and salsa or guac. With this one, the fresher the better. Grab some avocados from Costco or Trader Joe’s, add tomatoes, some onion, lime juice, salt and pepper, and you’ve got yourself a pleasing and healthy guacamole for an easy snack. Lots of grocery stores have Wholly Guacamole if you aren’t a cook, or some fresh-made salsa in their deli section. We like black bean and corn salsa for its protein, too, easily whipped up with tomato, onion, lime juice, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Try a new salsa on your kids!

5. Protein bites. These no-bake treats are so easy! I came across my favorite recipe on Pinterest, but a quick search for “protein balls” or “energy bites” will reveal hundreds of ideas in a second. My usual ingredients include dry oats, peanut butter, chocolate chips, ground flaxseed, honey, Craisins, and vanilla. There are so many flavors out there to try, and they’re all pretty easy!

6. Healthy muffins. I have discovered a food blog that’s quite literally changed my life. BrenDid.com has tons of different healthy muffin recipes and I haven’t made one yet that my kids haven’t devoured. Almost all her muffin recipes are sugar free, oil free, and gluten free! Everything from pumpkin muffins to chocolate peanut butter muffins, even the plain oatmeal muffins (with any type of add-in you can think of) are a hit with my kids. We eat them for breakfast, or I send them in their lunches, or we snack on them. They’re whipped up in the blender and totally yummy!

7. Hummus. Easy to eat on veggies, chips, or pita, hummus is a versatile and delicious snack. If you’ve never tried your hand at making hummus, there are very few ingredients and all you do is toss them in your blender! I recommend trying a new hummus recipe (just get on Pinterest, y’all!) and even let your kids help you make it! (If your family usually likes Greek or Mediterranean food, try making some tzatziki, too!)

8. Apple cheddar toast. This may sound crazy, but one of the most delightful snacks is cheddar cheese melted on toast, with a (still cold) Granny Smith apple sliced on top. Savory and sweet, hot and cold, crunchy and melted cheese? Those are three winning combinations, not to mention healthy!

I hope I gave you a few new ideas for healthy snacks (or even lunches) to please the hungry brood at your house. What other suggestions do you have for healthy snacks?

10 Reasons I Brunch

Brunch is super trendy right now. You probably see memes about it, pictures your friends post on your Instagram feed, and local restaurants promoting their brunch specials. Whichever day you brunch, it’s likely a lovely event with friends, yummy food, and a mimosa or two. Here are the reasons I personally love brunch.brunch.jpg

1. I love breakfast. I’ve written about this before, but it’ll never stop being true. Breakfast food is the best food. Any time of day.  So there.

2. Sunday is my busy day. It might be the most common brunch day anyway, but on Sunday, I’m often too tired by the time church is over to even consider what I’d like to do for lunch. This is where my hubby and besties come in, whisking me off to brunch.

3. The kids love it. What’s something easy your kids will actually eat at a restaurant? Brunch food. I feel like most kids love things like pancakes, waffles, French toast, and other brunchy things.

4. Mimosas. I don’t even have to explain why something bubbly and sweet is a perk, do I?

5. I love seeing my friends. What is brunch unless you’ve got all your people with you? My kids are the cutest, my hubby is the best, and our friends and their kids can complete a brunch date with their good company.

6. It’s springtime. The weather has been beautiful, the sun is gleaming but not blistering hot, and there’s usually a pleasant breeze around brunchtime. It’s the perfect excuse to eat bacon outdoors.

7. Eggs. Shall I elaborate on why eggs are the ideal food? Okay, you forced my hand. I hardly need to count the hundred ways that eggs could be prepared by even the most basic of chefs. I also don’t need to list reasons that eggs are very healthy and beneficial for your body. What I will say is this: have you ever had a perfectly fried egg?

8. I can sleep late and still not cook. Brunch on a Saturday means that I don’t have to worry about feeding the family anything right when we get up. We can snooze a little longer, and not have to rush to the kitchen to get breakfast in before we head out for the day. Brunch IS heading out for the day!

9. You can have the sweet and the savory. I’m always torn at brunch places on whether to get something sweet or something savory. I love having a veggie omelette, for example. But I know when my kids chocolate chip pancakes arrive, I’m going to covet that dessert-like dish. But I think it’s acceptable (and there’s an option on most brunch menus!) to have a little bit of both. Best of both worlds, if you will. After all, it is breakfast and lunch.

10. It’s easier than going out to dinner. Taking our kids out to dinner sometimes means that they’re already tired, or too hungry, or that they just can’t sit still any more that day. But at brunchtime, they’re still fresh, and they’re more likely to behave (or at least stay in their chairs). We want our kids to know what it means to go to a restaurant, but brunch is a great time to practice restaurant etiquette.

Well, there you have it… ten reasons I think brunch is worth doing. You can find me brunching pretty much every weekend – join me!

The Best Ever Pancake Recipe for Moms Who Aren’t Chefs

 I make hot breakfast for my kids almost every single morning. There are very few exceptions – mostly because I set a particular precedent and now they won’t eat cold cereal. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. Anyway, because of this fact, I’ve gotten really creative with the breakfasts I make, specifically in the pancake department. I found that I could hide almost anything in a pancake, in a good way. I make a new-fangled pancake batter with some crazy ingredients, I scramble a couple of eggs to go with them, and serve a side of fruit. BOOM! Healthy breakfast, please and thank you.

If you want to know my pancake secrets, here are a few suggestions.

  1. Start with Bisquick (or whatever type pancake mix you prefer). I like Bisquick because it doesn’t have a ton of sugar in it to begin with, but it’s a good base so you don’t have to add things like baking powder or salt. I typically include the ingredients it suggests for pancake-making (a couple of eggs and some milk), then I flavor it with whatever mood I’m in that day.
  2. Add in vanilla extract. I ALWAYS dribble in some vanilla extract to the batter. No excuses not to. I make my own (well, my mom makes it, but I help!) so it’s extra special, but if you’re not a creative guru like my mama, regular vanilla will do.
  3. Get some fruit. Usually, I opt for whatever is overripe/soft/abounding/neglected in our kitchen. Banana works well, but we also like blueberry and strawberry, or a combination of those. Mash it or puree it, and stir it in. Do it before the milk, because it often means you need less milk, because it’s juicy.
  4. Grab some flaxseed. Or chia seed. Or almond flour. Or whatever power powder you have around. Even ginger or turmeric could hide if you have a careful hand. You can likely sprinkle in a couple of tablespoons of the powders (or a teaspoon or two of the spices) without it getting noticed by kids or husbands.
  5. If you’re feeling generous, dump in some chocolate chips. Or if you’re like my family, Craisins. Sprinkles could also be fun if you’re celebrating something! Finely-chopped nuts are good, too, if your family is okay with nuts and likes a little crunch (Banana walnut pancakes, I’m looking at you.)
  6. Mix in some peanut butter or cocoa powder for a new spin on flavored pancakes. Peanut butter adds protein, of course, and makes them wonderfully thick and fluffy. Cocoa powder gives them a chocolatey tone without a ton of sugar… although I find that you need to add a little sugar (if you’re using Bisquick especially), honey, or other sweetener to combat the slight bitterness. I typically go for coconut sugar.
  7. Shape them like Mickey Mouse, snowmen, or caterpillars if you’re feeling fancy, and top them with some pure maple syrup. More flavor than “pancake syrup” (sorry, Aunt Jemima) and no artificial ingredients!

Pancakes please kids almost every time you make them, so I hide all sorts of goodies in there and call them healthy. I’ve stopped measuring things entirely and just go by looks. If the batter’s consistency looks like it’ll cook up on a pan, your breakfast won’t fall flat. BA-DUM, TSSS! (My husband told me that would be funny. If you didn’t laugh, it’s his fault.)

In case you’re wondering, this is just another post about my love affair with breakfast food.

How to Go Gluten Free (Without Hating It)

This post also appeared on the Grit and Grace Project. I’m a contributor there – go check it out!

I’ve gone gluten free for several periods of time in the past few years, and even now, I’m a little gluten-less-than-usual. And guess what?! It’s not as hard – or as miserable – as you might think. Yes, you make concessions. Yes, there are foods that you will probably miss. But depending on the reason you’re going gluten free (allergens, weight loss, or to support a family member who has to make that choice), you might be surprised at how successful and even happy you can be while you’re off gluten. Here are a few suggestions to help you along in the process.

  1. Don’t feel like you can’t eat bread. Or pasta. Or whatever your glutenous pleasure is. There are plenty of gluten free breads, pastas, and even beers out there. Of course they don’t taste the same as your favorite sourdough, but they can be great substitutes.
  2. Make the effort to search for gluten-free recipes. The main reason I suggest this is because it’s much more successful than trying to leave out or substitute the gluten in your normal recipes. There are many substitutes; for instance, flour can be substituted by brown rice flour, coconut flour, almond flour, and others. But those don’t always measure cup for cup, and they don’t always substitute well, especially when you’re baking. There are many recipe bloggers that have already figured out the best substitutions, so why not just use their methods? Don’t reinvent the wheel.
  3. Stick it out. If it’s not an absolute requirement to go gluten free (ie: allergy-related) and it’s just an experiment, then it’s tempting to add gluten back in sooner, rather than later. But my advice? Stick it out for a couple of months (yes, whole months!) before you start adding it back in. Whatever your desired results are, it might take a couple of months to start seeing them.
  4. Be creative with how you eat your vegetables. Lots of types of food (Asian food, for instance) don’t have much gluten in them in most cases. Gluten free doesn’t mean salads only, or that you can’t be full after your meal. But it might mean you’ve got to be a little more creative with what your meals look like. If you usually eat a pasta of some sort with your vegetables, try eating rice instead. If you typically eat a bagel or toast for breakfast, try oatmeal. There are other grains that are just as filling as wheat.

It’s possible to go gluten-free and love it! Here are three blogs that I like to check out for delicious meals, practical ideas, and even baked goods!

Against All Grain – Danielle isn’t just gluten free, but all of her recipes are! She also has a cookbook, if you’d like it on paper.

Elana’s Pantry – Elana has some great recipes I use often (specifically for sweets/baked goods).

Delightfully Gluten Free – Cassandra is helpful with knowing what products to buy to help out your kitchen’s ingredient stock.

*Also helpful for gluten-free eating are blogs that focus on recipes for those with celiac disease.

Don’t believe all the bad things you’ve heard about going gluten-free. It’s possible to go gluten-free and love it! You’ll never know until you give it a shot, though. What do you have to lose?

Currently: The Thanksgiving Edition

Happy Monday! Are you all feeling as fat and happy as I am? I dressed in my workout attire all day today, thinking I was going to squeeze in a run or something, and nope. Still doughy from the week of indulgence. I’ll get back on the (exercise) horse tomorrow.

I’ve got a nice update full of photos for ya! I hope you had a wonderful holiday whether it was relaxing at home, traveling to see family, or hosting a million people (what we did). Thanksgiving isn’t a huge holiday as far as big get-togethers or high-stress functions (in my family at least) but we still had a big group come up from Georgia and a few friends around – including a “Friendsgiving” last night! Anyway, here’s a little about what’s going on Currently.

Eating || all the leftovers. You can see the menu we had planned here, but then we ended up with desserts on desserts, and then having a get-together with our friends last night, including even more food than we had had on actual Thanksgiving Day. Now our fridge is full of one serving of this and two servings of that, and we’re ready to just clean it out and stuff it full of salad for a while. Yikes.DSC_0033.jpgDSC_0078.jpg

Enjoying || so much time with family and friends! My parents, aunt, uncle, cousin, and grandmother came up this past week, all staying for a few days to hang out with us, which was AWESOME. We also hosted some friends for Thanksgiving dinner with my family, and again Sunday night for Friendsgiving, and frankly, it’s been so nice. It was all pretty low-stress and enjoyable, for which I’m extra thankful.DSC_0053.jpg

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Loving || these placemats I bought at Bed Bath and Beyond just before Thanksgiving. I don’t use placemats all the time, but these were so lovely for a Thanksgiving spread!

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Decorating || for Christmas, of course! I haven’t gotten everything up yet (or even out of the attic) but it’s coming along. For the first time, we strung lights up on our front porch columns today, so I can’t wait for it to get dark and see our work light up! DSC_0325.jpg

Planning || Christmas music for the next few services. My women’s service is having their big Christmas feast and lessons and carols this Thursday, so I’m thinking through what music should be where, etc. And we’ve already begun Advent (I can’t believe it!) so the Sunday services have to include a fair amount of carols from now on, too. I LOVE IT!

Baking || our annual Christmas sugar cookies! We do them every year at least once during the Christmas season, and I’m hoping to get a second time in with some friends in a couple of weeks. I always love how they turn out!

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Well, those are the highlights from our busy week. Who else hosted their Thanksgiving? What’s your favorite Christmas decoration to put up?

Our Thanksgiving Meal

Tomorrow, I’m hosting my family for Thanksgiving. My mom and dad have been here all week, and Mom’s helping Hubby and me get things all ready. It is going to be a beautiful blend of traditional things in my family meeting the gourmet tendencies of Hubby’s family. It’s going to be some kid-friendly items, and some things that my kids likely won’t touch. I’m really  excited.

Here’s our list of things we either have/made already or are making tomorrow:

Prime Rib
Honeybaked Ham
Chicken and Dressing (For you northerners, that is not inside the chicken. The chicken is in the dressing.)
Green Bean Casserole
Potato Salad
Smashed Sweet Potatoes
Onion Pie
Cranberry Salad
Kale (prepared in the southern style of collard greens)

I know. No turkey. But don’t those other meats sound SO GOOD? And a little GBC can’t go wrong, especially coupled with potato salad, and cranberry salad. What’s a southern Thanksgiving without something called “salad” that doesn’t include lettuce?

My aunt is also bringing homemade rolls and various desserts… including her amazing rum cake (yum?!) and at least one meringue pie. FOR THE WIN.

What are your favorite Thanksgiving foods? Are you hosting or traveling? Either way, I hope you have some fun plans!