A Morning in the Kitchen

Chopped Zucchini

It’s July, so that means the garden is producing.  I spent the morning in the kitchen.  The first thing I did was made 2 batches of zucchini bread.  In the past I used my food processor to chop up the zucchini. It was time-consuming, and I usually ended up with small chunks.  It worked, but once in a while you would find a piece of zucchini in the bread.  I decided to grind it in my Vitamix.  Yes…smooth, creamy zucchini. Perfect for the bread.  It turned out delicious.

For those of you that know that I have reduced my sugar intake, the zucchini bread was my normal zucchini bread recipe with 1 3/4 cups sugar.  I will probably eat a small piece, but it is more for my boys.  They are 18 and 15.  They aren’t on the no sugar bandwagon, so I still make them their yummy treats.  They are making some changes in the diet, but not as much and Big M and I are doing.

Coconut Butter

I had heard about coconut butter, so I decide to make my own.  I used about 2 1/3 cups shredded coconut that was not defatted.  I ground it in my Vitamix.  The butter turned out yummy.

Cashew Butter

Since that was a success I put two cups of cashews in my Vitamix and made cashew butter.  Ok, this was even more of a success. Everyone loved it.

Coconut Cream

I then went back to coconut.  I had just purchased a container of coconut cream.  We are moving away from dairy.  We found a big chunk of coconut at the bottom.  So I decide to try my Vitamix.  Failure.  It ground it up but it made it a very weird texture almost curdled looking.  Won’t be doing that again.  I need to find out why the chunk was at the bottom and what to do about it.  Anyone else use coconut cream?

Ground Dill

Our dill was looking beautiful, so I had pick dill and dried it for a little over 2 hours.  Normally I scrunch it up with my hands and spend time picking out the larger pieces.  It can be time-consuming.  Out came the Vitamix again. I ground it briefly, and it looked like a course powder…no large pieces of stem left. Quick and easy.  Now I have dill for the remainder of the year.

Rainbow Chard

I was done around noon.  I was hungry.  Since I had my Vitamix out I decided to make a  green smoothie.  I had just picked up some rainbow chard from our CSA.  It looked yummy.  Never have eaten rainbow chard before.  I added a couple of leaves without the stocks into my smoothie.

Rainbow Chard Smoothie

 

It turned out delicious.  It was slightly more bitter than kale when I took the first couple of sips. However, I got used to it and enjoyed my healthy, green smoothie.

It was a productive morning in my kitchen. It is official. I am hooked on my Vitamix. It can do anything I seem to need in the kitchen, except the dishes.

Fresh Vegetable Borscht Soup

Borscht Soup bOh how I love this time of year when I can walk into my back yard, pick some yummy fresh vegetables, and make dinner.

Yesterday we snitched fresh red potatoes (I didn’t even peel them, just scrubbed them with a brush and the skins came right off.), beets and beet leaves, zucchini, and dill to make a borscht soup.  I also had some bok choy we added from our CSA that we joined this year.

Borscht Soup a

Oh my it looked good getting ready to boil it in my dutch oven.

Borscht Soup c

It smelled so good that we ate before I remembered to take a photo of the finished soup.  It was simply delicious.  Are you eating fresh vegetables right now?

 

Peach Mango Coconut Smoothie

Peach Smoothie

I still am loving healthy smoothies.  I use my Vitamix at least once a day.  That thing gets a work out.

Most of my smoothies are green. I add spinach, kale or lettuce to my smoothies.  However today I decided to leave out the green and try my own concoction.  It was delicious.

Peach Mango Coconut Smoothie

1 cup coconut milk
2 ripe peaches, with or without skin
1 frozen mango
1/2 cup greek yogurt
1 to 2 Tbsp of shredded coconut
1 Tbsp hemp hearts
2 scoops of Protein Powder
5-6 ice cubes.

Put everything in the Vitamix and enjoy the smooth, creaminess of a summertime smoothie. It made about 32 ounces of pure yum.  Enjoy.

 

Good Books Read – May 2014

We are into our 5th month of 2014 already. The good news is I have made great progress on my reading goals for the year. I have spent a lot of time in the vehicle waiting for my son during his activities which allowed for more reading. I also continue to read before bedtime.  I have read several great books this year.  Here are some of them.

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Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.  Here is my review that I left on Goodreads.  I didn’t realize that this was a British Chick Lit book when I pick it up from the library. All I knew was that my sister gave it a 5 star, so I wanted to read it. Normally I don’t like books set in Great Britain. Normally I don’t like self-centered, non-motivated characters, but Jojo Moyes did a great job writing this book and pulling me into the story. I began to love both Lou and Will by the middle of the book. I wanted to know what happened, so I could put it down. Even though I liked this book from the beginning I continued to like it more and more as I read and decided it was a “great book” when I had tears streaming down my face.
However I liked this book because it made me think of my values and morals. What I believe…and why I believe it. It made me so grateful for my faith and belief in all life is valuable and precious in God’s eyes. So yes, whether I agreed with the ending or not, (I don’t) it deserves 5 stars because of how it made me think and re-evaluate what I believe and know.

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Snapshot by LIs Wiehl.  I have read several of Ms. Wiehl’s book and have enjoyed each one.  This one was great as well.  This is a mystery of a murder in 1965.  It is well written, and it had elements of history woven into the story.  It was fast paced which I really like in a mystery.

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The Calorie Myth by Jonathan Bailor is my favorite health book that I have read lately.  What he states makes complete sense to me about a calorie is not a calorie and that food quality matters.  I have been trying to cook more according to his recommendations and have noticed small differences.  I really do look at foods and think about how SANE it is.  You will have to read the book to know what that means.

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I am continuing to read the O’Malley series by Dee Henderson.  The Truth Seeker was a great one.  All of the books have been good.

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Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson is a young adult fantasy that my son, Z, recommended to me.  It was a good versus evil story that was fun and light-hearted. I can’t wait for the next book in the Reckoners series.

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I have read many more good books, so you can go to my Goodreads page to find them, but the final book I will mention here is Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease by Robert H. Lustig, M.D. I only gave it a four stars because it wasn’t as organized as I would have liked but the information in the book is well researched and interesting.  Mr. Lustig is well-known for being an expert on sugar in a diet.  He knows his stuff.  This book just reconfirmed my goal of reducing, in hopes to some day eliminating, added sugar as well as processed foods in my diet.  If you are interested in health, I would recommend reading this book, or you may want to listen to his presentation, Sugar, The Bitter Truth on UCTV.

Are you finding time to read?  Any recommendations of an awesome books is always appreciated.

Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother's Day

Today is a day for celebrations.  First I want to wish all the Mothers out there a very Happy Mother’s Day.  May your day be special.  I especially want to wish my Mom a very Happy Mother’s Day along with all my friends and family that read this.  All of you are fantastic Mothers, and each of you have shown me something about being a Mom.

However, it isn’t just Mother’s Day.  Today we are celebrating Z’s high school graduation.  We did it.  Together the two of us figured out how to educate Z.  He has grown into a fine young man.  So much ahead of him. It will be bitter-sweet. We are so happy and proud of him, but it is hard to let him go off to begin a new stage in his life.

Today is also JV’s Confirmation into the Catholic Church.  So we celebrate his adulthood in the Church.  He has asked questions and matured in his faith.  It will be a beautiful celebration. So our families are coming to celebrate both events.  Lots of cooking, eating, chatting and celebrating.

Finally, tomorrow is Big M and my 24th anniversary.  I have loved being married to Big M.  We fit together so well.  I love that man dearly and hope to be married to him for many, many more years.

So wherever you are, I hope you have a day filled will love and celebrations because it will be a glorious day here.

Right Now

Finishing up the school year.  JV’s last day is today, and Z has wrap-up work to do along with finishing his AP English class as CHS

Thinking about food and health.  Trying to figure out how to eat well and feel good.

Knowing that I need to get started on Z’s graduation announcements.  We are not having a party because he doesn’t want one, but I want to let family and friends know he is graduating.

Looking forward to Spring, which has decided not to arrive.  We woke to a foot inch of snow today.  Yuck.  It is supposed to be colder than average through June. My bones need some heat and sun.  Edit:  Oops, I meant an inch of snow, but is sure felt like a foot. :)

Working  on next year planning for JV, or I will forget what he has done and where we need to start later this year.

Hoping to really spend time this week on Holy Week with a focus on my relationship with Jesus.  Looking forward to spending time in church during the Triduum.

Refocusing on what foods are causing me to not feel the best and eliminating them from my diet.

Feeling pride for JV.  He has made a goal of making so many baskets during the off-season.  That means making at least 200 baskets a day.  He is tackling that goal, even if he is sore from doing weight training.

Feeling pride for Z.  He started working this past week for 3 hours a day before his AP English class.

Planning our summer calendar. Between planning for Z to head off to college and JV’s crazy basketball schedule, the summer is going to go so fast.

Loving my family; spending time with them playing Settlers of Catan, watching The Voice and eating together..

Thinking through my business.  I have focused very little on my business.  Have had only a few sales the last two months.  Trying to figure out how to fit it into my life and get re-motivated to list.

Enjoying the longer days. Love that it is light out until about 8:30 at night. Just wish we could spend it outside more, but difficult with the cold weather.

Vitamix Blender – Green Smoothie

Kale Spinach Smoothie a

Last November I told you how much I loved my new Ninja blender.  Then in January my friend loaned me her Vitamix blender to try.  One try, and I was sold.  Yes, I love my Ninja, but as I began using it for more and more things, I was finding little bits of kale weren’t being blended completely, or little pieces of almonds were still in a smoothie.  I would have been content with it, but then I tried the Vitamix.

This blender pulverizes anything.  I now use my blender at least once and sometimes twice a day.  This guy gets used.  Today, since it is St. Patrick’s day for I made a green smoothie to go with my red cabbage and jicama.  The original recipe was from Stacy Julian.  Here is what I do.

Kale Spinach Smoothie b

Green Smoothie
7 ounces of coconut milk
4 ounces of water
a couple of handfuls of frozen strawberries
a scoop of protein powder (they all taste different and many have a ton of sugar in it; look for low sugar and high protein; keep trying until you find one you like)
several handfuls of baby kale, spinach and swiss chard that I get at Sam’s Club
Blend till smooth and enjoy.

It makes about 20 ounces of smoothie.

My son still uses our Ninja for his individual smoothies, and we still are glad we purchased it.  However, if you are looking for an awesome blender that will blend anything and everything, I recommend spending the money for a Vitamix.  I know you won’t be sorry.

Just last night I made a snack ice cream out of just frozen strawberries and greek yogurt.  No liquid at all.  No problems for this beast.

Do you have a blender you like?  Do tell.

Julienne Zucchini Noodles

Julienned ZucchiniHere is another way I tried in getting more vegetables in our diet.  I julienned two zucchini squash, added a little salt and let it sick for 20 minutes or about the time it took me to make spaghetti sauce and noodles for the boys.  Then, I heated it in the microwave for 1.5 minutes. We put some “noodles” on our plate and added the spaghetti sauce on top.  Yummy.  Less pasta, more vegetables in a yummy way.

The zucchini was slightly crunchy.  If you want a softer “noodle” just heat a little longer.  Pretty sure Big M and I will be eating spaghetti this way in the future.

If you have ever tried julienne zucchini noodles, what did you think?

Reducing Sugar Intact

SugarSomeday I will have to blog about my journey with my health over the past 3 years, but today I want to tell you about sugar.  Sugar is bad for you.  We all know that, but do we really know how bad it is for you.

Check out this post, “You’ll Stop Eating Sugar after Reading this Post” that lists 25 reasons sugar is bad for you. Or if you want a quicker list of 75 ways it can harm your health read, “Counting the Many Ways Sugar Harms Your Health.”  Sugar really is deadly.  There are even studies that show that sugar lights up the same brain areas as cocaine does.  It is definitely addictive.  If you don’t believe me, go 24 hours without any sugar and you will have withdrawals symptoms.

The sad thing is we don’t realize how much sugar we eat each year.  Sugar is in everything.  I used to love eating Yoplait Thick and Creamy Yogurt for breakfast.  Yogurt, it must be healthy for me, but that little 6 ounces had 28 grams of sugar.  That is the pile of sugar on the left, about 7 teaspoons worth. My stomach hurts just looking at how much sugar that really is.

For more than a year now I have eaten Fage Greek Yogurt, it has 6.5 grams of sugar per 6 ounces or 1.5 teaspoons of sugar.  That is the picture on the right.  Think about it, I would eat a yogurt each day, that means I was consuming 10,192 grams or 2,548 teaspoons a year with just my Yoplait yogurt. Just by making that change for the past year I have reduced my sugar intake to 2,366 grams or 592 teaspoons per year.  That is huge, people.  I am telling you…HUGE.

I have not stopped eating sugar.  I still like candy, but eat less of it.  I no longer drink Coke. You know I loved my afternoon Coke. That had even more sugar in it.  I have changed to a Stevia or Erythritol sweetener for my tea and I am trying to reduce that as well.

Americans eat way too much processed food, and almost all of it has sugar in one form or another in it.  I have a long way to go to eliminate my processed sugar cravings, but I have made progress.  I am trying hard to eat at least half my plate as vegetables, a fourth protein and a fourth fats/carbs, as well as chose health, low sugar snacks. My health has improved, but I still am working on it.

Do you pay attention to your sugar intake?

The Beginning of Endings

Zachary swimToday my heart is sad. Last night was Parents’ Night at the pool and the last time Z will swim in the Aquatic Center pool as a high school swimmer.  Oh how the saying fits… “where has the time gone?”

As I have mentioned, it has been a busy few months.  Between basketball and swimming, life just is whizzing by.  That is good because I haven’t been able to think about it all coming to an end.  This week we traveled 1.5 hours one way on Monday to watch JV play a basketball game.  Then on Tuesday I was at the pool getting all of the boys to write a handwritten thank you note to their parents.  I really believe that a handwritten note is so powerful and a lost art.  So we decided that the best thing we could do for parents was to have them write a note and give it to them.  For me that is more powerful than candy or flowers.

I had put together a young boy and current photo of the three seniors.  Z’s photo is above. Tonight we had these photos along with the coaches on the big screen while we did the athlete and student introductions.  Turned out cute. So glad I know enough on Photoshop Elements to complete this project.

Last night I got to the pool early to start organizing parents’ night and found out that our team was hosting the dual instead of the other team.  That means we were responsible for 16 timers.  Normally I am the one who is head timer and responsible for making sure we have enough timers for the meet.  I do this ahead of time, so scramble I did.  Kim and I were able to get the cards and suckers together and ready for the intros, and I was able to get the timers all situated.  We have great parents who are will to help when asked.

All this time I refused to think of what my heart was saying.  I was busy, so I was fine.

The coach had Z pick what he wanted to swim.  As a sprinter he loves the 50 and 100 free, but he decided to do the Individual Medley and the 100 Backstroke.  Fun to see him in different events.

One parent asked me if I was sad and I responded, “I am not thinking about it.” Which was true.  The swim meet went well. Z did well and the team won.  I was able to get the timing stuff put away and head out to the high school gym.  JV had a basketball game.

JV Feb 2014Big M had left the meet early to catch JV’s game.  I was lucky to see the second half of the game.  I am so glad I did.  JV has had a tough season.  Teammate injuries have caused the team to be split up for practices.  Basketball is a game of flow, and his team does not have it, but tonight he was determined and did very well.  The team won, JV was happy.

All I can say is I love watching my kids play and swim.

Came home, had a late supper and instead of the Olympics, we caught the Duke vs. UNC basketball game. We are Duke fans in this house.

Finally past 10:30 I lay my head on the pillow, and that is when it hit me, and I couldn’t fall asleep.  This is the first big ending.  My boy is finishing his high school swim career.   He does have two meets left–the regional and state meets, but not in this pool.  My life has revolved around swimming and basketball for years now.  Life is changing and this is only the start.  Z is turning 18 next month, ending his childhood.  He will be graduating in a couple of months.  Too many ending, and I have always hated endings.

Big M reminds me that endings mean beginnings.  True..Z will be going off to college.  He has so many adventures awaiting him.  I still have 3 years of homeschooling left and 3 years of basketball.  Next year I can completely focus on JV and not have to have my heart and mind in two places…well sort of.  It is all good.

But today my heart is sad.  I don’t want this stage of life to end.  I am so grateful that I am sad. It means we have enjoyed this stage. It means that we have participated in something great that we don’t want to end.  I wouldn’t give up these feelings for the world.  I am so grateful to have been able to watch Z grow in his life and swimming had a lot to do with his physical, as well as mental growth.

So today I will let myself be a little sad and tomorrow…I will let tomorrow come and embrace all of the endings, being mindful of the wonderful memories and the new beginnings because….Life is good, it is all good.