Sunday, January 29, 2012

Healthy(er) Homemade Breakfast Sandwiches

I've been finding that I get to be darned near starving by mid-morning these days.  Probably related to the fact that I somehow struggle most mornings to get Logan to daycare by their 9 am cut-off (often, dragging him in at 9:15 with apologies instead).  And this, even if we have been up since 4 am.  Not sure what gives.  In fact, I think that the earlier that he gets up, the harder that it is for me to actually get out the door. 

So never mind finding time to eat an adequate breakfast.  I always eat breakfast.  But these days it has turned into the quickest thing I can find (often a bowl of cereal), which often doesn't have enough protein in it to hold me over until lunch.  I always have the intention to complete the meal with a piece of fruit or whatever when I get back home, but it somehow slips my mind until late morning, when I am starving.  And often, out of the house, with no food.

Plus, I guess the fact that I sometimes eat breakfast at 5 or 6 am contributes to my hunger come 10 or 11.  And yes, I could just have a snack.  But I find that I don't even notice how hungry I am until it's lunchtime and I'm just starving.  I guess that's the nature of the beast of being busy with kids.

So my goal of late has been to have a complete breakfast so that I'm not quite so starving come lunch.  But I needed something quick so that I'd be sure to actually eat it.  And I wanted something with a good amount of protein so that it could get me through much of the morning.

And here came my idea of making these little breakfast sandwiches.  They're nothing gourmet, and again, as with my taco salad, nothing that you need a recipe for.  And the idea is definitely stolen from a variety of fast food chains.  But these are tasty (I'd wager probably tastier than their fast-food counterparts - and definitely healthier!).  And they've been keeping me nice and full all morning (particularly when I also have a chance to grab a glass of milk with it).

And they're super simple to make. 

I just cut a whole-wheat English muffin in two.  Despite what Logan's act at daycare, where he refuses to eat anything but white bread, would let on, I always buy whole-wheat everything.  Last weekend I somehow managed to accidentally buy a pack of whole-wheat and a pack of white English muffins while at the grocery store.  But when my brain is functioning properly (which, admittedly, only seems to be about 50% of the time these days...), they would have all been whole-wheat.  So it just so happens that the ones in the picture were the last two of the white ones.  But I swear they're normally whole-wheat ;)

I then folded a slice of the delicious Chef Georges ham that we get at Costco (tastes just like the delicious ham in France). 

And topped that with a slice of low-fat cheese.

I then poured a bit (maybe 1/4 C?) of simply egg whites into a microwaveable container (with no BPA), that I had lightly sprayed with olive oil using my misto sprayer.  Seasoned lightly with salt and pepper.  And then microwaved them for 1 1/2 minutes, cooking two containers at a time (just play with the time if only doing one - you can always stick it in for a few more seconds if it's not quite cooked).

I popped this on top of the ham and cheese and voilà... breakfast is almost ready.

I then threw it onto our Cuisinart Griddler to heat.  

And then enjoyed.

These can be made in advance and stored in the fridge and then just headed in the griddler right before eating.  If you don't have a griddler, they can also be heated in a toaster oven, the oven, or in the microwave, though the English muffin will be soft if heated in the microwave.

For a dairy-free version, omit the cheese.
For a vegetarian version, omit the ham.

Difficulty level: easy

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Enchilada Casserole

I've been having a fantastic week.  Well, flu aside.  But still, a fantastic week.  I decided early this week, before even getting sick, that I was going to bum around the house all week.  No errands.  No appointments.  Not even coffee with friends.  I'm on strike and only doing the bare minimum this week.  I have so far only left my house to drop off and pick up Logan from daycare.  Well, aside from my quick run to Wal-mart this morning to pick up a new set of knitting needles.  I mean, a girl's gotta have something to do, holed up inside her house all week ;)  I even skipped the daycare board meeting that I volunteer for this week. 

And man, I needed this.

I've loved every single minute of it, despite being sick.  Maybe this is actually why I got sick again.  To remind me mid-week that my intention had been to hang out at home and not to get caught up running the million and one errands that always seem to need to be done.  So for that, I am grateful.

It seems that all of the stars have aligned this week.  The one appointment I did already have booked got cancelled.  Logan finally started getting up no earlier than 5 am, and even treated me to 6:30 this morning (insert huge smiley face here).  Chloé has been back to sleeping through the night, 8-9 hour stretches at a time, which is beyond miraculous.  And she's been a doll throughout the day as well, sleeping insane amounts and being incredibly happy, smiley and full of coos whenever she's awake.  If I had to mail-order a baby, this is what I would order.  In fact, if I could mail-order this kind of baby, maybe there would be no hesitations about having a third.

Logan has been blissfully content at daycare, as usual, reminding me continually that there is no reason for him not to spend his days there.  In fact, it is making me start to think about how awful life would be for the little guy if I were keeping him home all day and preventing him from getting the chance to play with other little kids all day.  He was playing in his crib the other morning when I said to him "time to go see Jo-Anne" and he literally tried to throw his leg up over the side of the crib, in sheer excitement, trying to clamber out on his own.  And then yesterday when I went to pick him up, it took 15 minutes to get him to come anywhere near me.  I stood watching him chase non-stop after the other kids, giggling like a little maniac, his eyes shining with pure happiness. And he then howled with rage as I scooped him up, having tricked him into coming over to give me a kiss.  Yes, he's very happy there.  And that warms my heart.

As Lyne stated so perfectly, I need more weeks like this.  And maybe, just maybe, I'm starting to learn how to make the decisions I need to make to create days like this. 

Which reminds me of something else that I've been meaning to blog for awhile, but just haven't gotten around to.  About trusting your gut. 

As those who follow my blog know, Chloé was the most quiet, happy baby ever known to man (ok, at least ever known to me), when she was born.  And she then progressively started getting fussier and fussier, stopped sleeping through the nights as well, wanted to be held all the time, and shrieked bloody murder every time I tried to breastfeed her.  It all screamed reflux to me, having gone through it with Logan already.

I brought this up with the doctor at her 2 month appointment, but he suggested we wait on giving meds.  Two weeks later, it had become a disaster.  It was becoming impossible to breastfeed her, she was fussy all of the time and a quick visit to the CLSC alerted me that she was no longer putting on adequate weight.

So off to the doctor's we went, in hopes of some reflux medication, or some other reason for why she had suddenly had such a huge change in temperament.  I was disappointed when I arrived to learn that we weren't going to be seeing our family doctor (who I've known for years and quite love), but rather, the nurse practitioner.  Fine.  I'm open-minded.  

But he plainly stated that there was nothing wrong with Chloé.  "Babies cry", he told me.  Making me feel like a neurotic mother who can't handle a crying baby.  But that's not the point... she's not just a baby who cries a lot. Or at least, she never used to be.  Which to me, signals that something is wrong.  But that was it.  His point of view was that nothing was wrong and that it would pass with time.  No meds.  Despite my polite insistence.


So I headed off to visit my ex-colleagues, who are all health care professionals, to see if any of them might have some suggestions for me.  And I basically burst into tears because I was so frustrated with the way I had been treated in the doctor's office.

Why is it that a mother's (or father's) intuition isn't trusted?? I remember being at a conference about infant language development years back and the speaker said that when a parent expresses concern about their child's language development, 90% of the time, there is something to truly be concerned about.  90%!!! That's huge.  And yet, we are treated as lunatics when we follow this instinct.

What about the time when we started suspecting that Logan's ear infection had returned, had booked an appointment for the following morning, only to have his fever come back the morning of the appointment???? What can you say to that about intuition?  Parents know their kids better than anyone and know when their behaviour has changed significantly from normal.

I think this is part of why it took so long to get Logan's reflux under control when he was little.  I'd feel like the meds weren't working well enough, but perhaps wouldn't push it enough with the doctors, and consequently, they wouldn't get adjusted.  I'd insist a little, but then basically would just wait until it was so out of control that I couldn't handle it any longer, before going back, yet again, to plead my case.  I didn't want to be that neurotic mother, crying in the doctor's office about how frustrating it was to have him waking up screaming bloody murder every single hour, still, at 7 months of age.  But I'm starting to realize that maybe being that neurotic mother would have gotten me solutions faster.  

So on my colleagues' advice, after having been turned down by the nurse practitioner, I marched back into the walk-in clinic that evening, armed with steel resolution that there was something wrong with my baby and that I wasn't leaving until they suggested something to fix it.  And after a 3 1/2 hour long wait with both Logan and Chloé (past Logan's bed time with no food, no more milk towards the end and only two little cars to entertain him - can you say, extreme torture in the most unfair form???), we finally got a chance to see our doctor.  Who prescribed some reflux meds.  

Thank God.  I think I would have shot myself in the head right then and there if I had waited all frickin' day for nothing.  

But wouldn't this have all been that much easier if I had just been listened to at my first appointment?  Taken seriously?

Yes, this was the day that my facebook status said that I had had a day from hell. Because I did, quite literally, feel like I had been transported there.  All this for some frickin' reflux meds??

The doctor basically said that we'd know in a week whether or not she had reflux, depending on whether or not the meds were working.  And here we are, two weeks later.  Chloé is back to being the calm, happy, smiley baby she used to be.  I went back to the CLSC this morning and her weight gain is back up to normal.  She no longer screams while breastfeeding.  She no longer wants to be held non-stop.  In fact, she's upstairs, cooing away in her swing, as I type this.

All this to say, trust your gut.  Not just with babies.  No one knows better than you what is good for you.  Or for your kids.  Don't let others influence you.  What works for you may not work for someone else, so don't let them tell you that you're doing it wrong.  Fight for what you believe in.  

And a huge thanks to my ex-colleagues for giving me the confidence to do so.  I owe you months of not having to listen to a screaming baby all day long.  So thank you.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Today's recipe comes from Crazy Plates, a wonderful, healthy cookbook, that I used to use a ton back in university.  For no particular reason, I have fallen out of making these recipes, but there were several that I used to make very regularly, this being one of them. 

I made this the other morning as Chloé slept in her car seat.  I didn't have any red peppers left, so I just doubled the amount of carrots.  And I grated them in my food processor instead of dicing them, just so it would save some time.

2 1/2 C tomato sauce
1 1/4 C salsa
4 tsp. chili powder
3 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 C each chopped, cooked chicken and cooked brown rice
1 can (19 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed
3/4 C each diced carrots and diced red bell pepper
1/2 C chopped green onions
2 tbsp. each lime juice and chopped, fresh cilantro
12 6-inch corn tortillas (I used whole-wheat)
1 1/2 C shredded, reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 C low-fat sour cream (optional)

1.  Combine tomato sauce, salsa, 2 tsp. chili powder, 2 tsp. cumin, and oregano in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes.

2.  Meanwhile, combine chicken, rice, beans, carrots, red pepper, onions, lime juice, cilantro, remaining 2 tsp. chili powder, and remaining 1 tsp. cumin in a large bowl.  Mix well.

3.  Spray a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with non-stick spray.  To assemble casserole, spread 1 C sauce over bottom of baking dish.  Arrange 6 tortillas over bottom, overlapping as necessary.  Spoon another 1 C sauce over tortillas and spread evenly.  Top with 1/2 chicken-bean mixture and 1/2 cheese.  Arrange remaining tortillas over cheese.  Top with another 1 C sauce, followed by remaining chicken-bean mixture and remaining cheese.  Spoon any remaining sauce over top.

4.  Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees Farenheit for 35 to 40 minutes, until bubbly and heated through.  Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.  Top individual servings with a dollop of sour cream.

For a vegetarian version, omit chicken and substitute an extra can of black beans.

Makes 8 servings. 

Difficulty level: moderate

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

No Peanut Butter Peanut Butter Squares

So I did it.  I broke down and got a cleaning lady.  I saw a facebook status that someone's cleaning lady was coming and there I found myself, a couple of hours later, with the cleaning lady in my house giving me an estimate.  It's a done deal.  And I feel liberated.
No matter how hard I try to leave myself some time at home to get household chores done, there never seems to be enough time these days.  Maybe because I'm too busy cooking and blogging in any spare time I have - and now, knitting too!  (I'm addicted).  And let's face it.  Who really wants to clean their house when they could be whipping up delicious meals for their family instead?
After my 'home day' last Friday, I decided that this entire week would be a home week so that I could nap, fill the freezer, clean and just plain relax.  And here I find myself sick, yet again, derailing any plans to do much of anything (though I do have a boeuf bourguignon simmering on the stove right now, which I will post shortly).  So I think a cleaning lady is in order so that these home days or weeks can actually be spent recharging my ever dwindling batteries, instead of cleaning.

Although I really feel like this money could/should be spent on other things, such as RRSPs, RESPs, or even travel, I have decided that this is what we need right now to buy ourselves a little sanity.  And I'm super happy that I've finally decided to give in a little and do what I need to do so that we can manage a little more easily these days.  She hasn't even cleaned our house yet and I already feel like this is the best.decision.ever.  It will leave me more time to whip up delicious recipes, such as this one.
This treat comes from my friend Cynthia, who makes them every year for her Chrannukah party.  Jérôme tried them this year and taunted me, saying I couldn't try them since they have peanut butter in them (which he knows is my absolute favourite!!).  But I knew better, since she makes them every year.  So I knew she had made them with soy butter.  And they are delicious and taste just like peanut butter.  I highly recommend these for all those who can't have peanut butter but love it to death, much like myself right now.  There is quite a bit of sugar in these, so you will want to cut them into smaller squares.

1 C melted butter
1 1/3 C graham cracker crumbs
2 1/2 C icing sugar
1 C peanut butter or soy butter

2 tbsp. butter
6 oz. chocolate chips

1.  Mix together the first four ingredients.  Spread mixture in a 13 x 9 inch pan.  Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

2.  Melt the butter and chocolate chips in the microwave, or using a double-boiler.  Spread the chocolate mixture onto the base.  Refrigerate to harden.

Difficulty level: easy

If you liked this recipe, you might also like:

peanut butter chocolate mousse pie:

crumb-top choco-peanut butter bars:

peanut butter and jam sandwich muffins:

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Taco Salad

Wonderful day yesterday.  Wonderful!  Just what I needed.  I was supposed to be at a conference on cleft lip and palate, where I had been the day before.  But I'd gotten up at 4 am for a couple of days in a row.  And then on Thursday, I spent 8 hours sitting at a conference with Chloé, plus 3 hours traveling - how does anyone commute daily to downtown by car???  Followed by a visit to the clinic with Logan that evening.  

And I was just plain pooped.

This followed a week of me running to various appointments every day.  I hadn't been in my house for any length of time the entire week.


So I decided to just skip my conference and stay at home to do nothing!!!!  Imagine that... bailing on a conference to do absolutely nothing...

And it was glorious.

I took Logan to daycare and then napped with Chloé.

Then I whipped up a batch of mom's spaghetti sauce.  I also made double batch of whole wheat yogurt biscuits, which Logan started devouring the minute he got home from daycare.  

And then I plopped myself down on the couch to watch The Bachelor.

Did I say glorious??

And once Logan was home we played a bit and then I knit on the couch while he was still playing.  


Apparently even Logan understood that this was not a day for whining.

I need days like this more often.  I feel refreshed and rejuvenated.

I quickly whipped up this salad for dinner last night.  It's nothing terribly spectactular and you don't even really need a recipe for it.  But I am oddly addicted to it these days.  Oddly because it was minus 27 degrees with wind chill yesterday and you'd think I'd be craving carrot and coriander soup or South American black bean soup.  But nope.  I find myself craving taco salads.  I had one at the mall the other day and have become obsessed with them.  Though I must admit that it is all that much better with the fried bowl it came in at the mall.  But this hit the spot last night.

I never buy iceberg lettuce ever, but felt that a taco salad on romaine or arugula or something of the like was just plain weird.  So I washed and ripped up some iceberg that I picked up from the grocery store particularly for this.

Threw on a good handful of sliced cherry tomatoes.

Grilled myself up a couple of chicken breasts on our wonderful Cuisinart Griddler.  I then sliced them up and saved the extras for yet another taco salad one day.  You could also use ground beef instead, with my homemade taco seasoning.

Dumped a good spoonful of salsa onto the chicken and a small dollop of low-fat sour cream on top of that.

And then grated some cheese over the whole thing. 

Just wish the grocery store hadn't been out of avocados, or I would have thrown some sliced avocado or homemade guacamole on top of this.

Add in a little Italian salad dressing if you're me, or Ranch if you're Jérôme, and you've got yourself a delicious, quick and healthy supper.  

Difficulty level: easy

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Spinach Dip

Gotta hate these kind of days. It is 4:45 am right now.  And I am blogging... having been up since about 4 am already.  Yesterday too.  And I knew last night as I ran around the house until 11pm getting random things done, that I would regret not having gone to bed at 9 pm with Chloé, right after zumba.  And I realize now that I was right.

Why did I chose a clean - well, let's just say cleaner, house, since the word clean certainly could not be used right at this moment to describe my house - over sleep?  You'd think I'd have learned my lesson, with this being my second baby and all.  But the temptation of *finally* not having a baby in my arms until we all went to sleep was just too tempting.

Wishing my dishes were dirty right now and my kitchen floor was unswept and that I had two hours more sleep under my belt to attack the day, right about now...

I suspect that Logan's ear infection isn't quite healed, yet again, as this is what happened the last two times.  The only symptom being him waking up at ungodly hours.  I'm thankful that at least Chloé is still asleep.

So after cuddling a bit with Logan to try to get him back to sleep (we let him cry it out for an hour last night before going to get him and no go), I decided to come down to the computer to book a doctor's appointment for him.  So here we are, blogging, with him on my lap, not quite drowsy enough to go back to sleep, but too tired to do anything independently. 

On the bright side of things, at least we have electricity.  Since it was out last evening until about when we went to bed.  And at least I'll have lots of time to get ready to leave for my conference this morning.  I thought today would be a mad dash kinda morning, since we need to be out of the house by 7am.  But look at that.  It's only 5am, I have already blogged, and still have a full two hours to get ready!!

I made this recipe over the holidays to take over to a friend's house.  Well, to be honest, I had originally bought the ingredients to take to the Christmas potluck of that cake decorating club I had mentioned.  But then I had to skip that meeting, as it turned out to also be the evening of Jérôme's departmental Christmas party.

In any event, this recipe is super fast to whip up and always a hit.  Perfect for potlucks and the like.  I really only make it when we are entertaining.

1 package (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry  
1 package Knorr vegetable soup mix
1 container (500 mL/2 C) sour cream
1 C mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
1 can (8 oz.) water chestnuts, chopped (optional) (I find these add nice crunch, and wouldn't omit them)
3 green onions, chopped
pumpernickel bread, chopped into chunks 

1.  Stir soup mix, sour cream and mayonnaise until blended.

2.  Stir in spinach, water chestnuts and green onions.

3.  Cover and chill 2 hours (but best if made the day before).  Stir before serving.

4.  Serve with pumpernickel bread.  This looks nice if you hollow out the pumpernickel and serve the dip inside the bread, using out the inside part as your chunks of bread to serve it with.

Makes about 4 cups.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Healthy Homemade Chicken Nuggets with Hidden Veggies

I had a super insightful conversation with a good friend of mine earlier this week about the challenges of raising children.  

I love my children to death.  But there are days when I would give anything to be back at work.  Monday was one of those days...

After Chloé's birth, I had initially been keeping Logan home from daycare every other day.  Within a few weeks, I came to the realization that he was happier in daycare.  Between a new baby and the associated sleep deprivation that that entails, I just couldn't give him the same amount of attention and stimulation that he was used to.  He was just plain miserable being at home with me and it was making me equally miserable.  Since he loves daycare so much, I decided that it was in both of our best interests for me to send him full-time for awhile instead of every other day.

But I thought that this would only be temporary.  I also thought that it was the lack of structure and activities at home that made the day challenging for the two of us.  So I signed us up for a mommy and me circle time class at the West Island Women's Centre.  I thought that having this special time for just the two of us (they offer free daycare for siblings) would lead to enjoyable at-home days with the kids.

Our first class was this past Monday.  And wow! The day did not turn out as I had anticipated.  

I guess I hadn't really thought through the logistics of taking two kids under 20 months out to a 45 minute class in the middle of winter... strollers don't fit in the centre... trying to carry in a screaming 20 month old, a car seat with baby and a diaper bag, all at the same time.  From super far because there are millions of people swarming everywhere and no parking to be found.  And nowhere to sit while breastfeeding Chloé before dropping her off at daycare - while Logan races through the centre screaming, me struggling to follow him through the massive sea of exasperated moms, dressing their children in ten layers for the minus 20 degree weather.  What was I thinking???

As we packed up the kids to leave, Logan screaming that he wanted milk (I had none - are you kidding me?? how could I carry in milk too??), throwing himself on the floor in a tantrum, while Chloé screamed her brains out as well, I looked at another mom from our class and said to her "I should have taken knitting".  She just laughed, but deep down, I really meant it.  What I was trying to say was, what I really need right now is some time to myself, not a massive headache of a morning to take my son to a 45 minute class.

It was only 10:45 a.m. and I was already done for the day.

We got home just in time for lunch, with a starving, screaming Logan, desperate for some food and a nap.  When he was finally asleep (having left Chloé screaming in the swing to feed him and get him to sleep), I plopped down on the couch, exhausted, with Chloé in my arms.  And I didn't move a muscle, or even bat an eyelash, until Logan woke up 40 minutes later (yes, only 40 minutes... my batteries were not quite yet recharged...).

The rest of the day continued on in a similar vein... Bundling both of them up again to go out for a walk in the bitter cold (gotta do something with them to make the day go by).  Logan screeching every two steps home from the grocery store that he wanted more cereal.  I think I started counting the minutes until Jerome's return home at maybe 3pm, even though he doesn't get home until at least 5:30.  

All the while debating whether or not I should truly switch into the knitting class and just send Logan to daycare on Mondays too from now on.  A constant debate playing out in my head.  Over such a silly decision!  Being embarrassed to take him back to daycare and admit that I was giving up (at least for the time being) on trying to keep him home one day a week.  But desperately wanting to avoid having another such day the following week. 

By the end of the day, my patience was at a minimum and I found myself yelling at poor little Logan for the first time in his life.  I couldn't handle the constant whining and screaming any longer and looked at him and yelled "That's enough! You need to stop!".  He stopped on the spot, looked up at me with those beautiful brown eyes of his and burst into tears.  And I felt like crap, knowing that he hadn't deserved to be yelled at. 

The next morning, I was mulling over the day with my friend, both of us chatting about how difficult it can be to remain patient with our kids.  We both know that the key to doing so is taking care of ourselves.  I know that.  She knows that.  We would both immediately recommend to any mom that she needs to make time for herself in order to be a good mom.

Why is it so easy to recommend this to other women but so hard to make a decision to do so for ourselves??

We came to the conclusion that society teaches us that putting our own needs ahead of our children's needs is selfish. That sending Logan to daycare on Mondays is perceived as failure. That it is admitting that we can't "handle" our own kids.  That it makes you a bad mom to choose to take a knitting class over taking a circle time class to stimulate and entertain your child. 

Rationally, we both know that taking care of yourself makes you a better mom.  It's part of why I went back to yoga when Logan was only 6 weeks old.  And why I'm doing zumba now, with Chloé in tow, since she won't take a bottle.  It's why I've signed up for the cake decorating club I mentioned the other day.  Why I try to always make it to girls' night.  And maybe I don't feel guilty about those things because they are part of my routine.  Or perhaps it is because they are mostly all in the evening, so it is time that I wouldn't be spending with my kids anyway???

So the more I thought about my day on Monday, the more I realized that I needed to make this decision for both me and for my kids.  I'll admit that, most days, it is too much for me right now to have them both home with me alone.  Logan is still young and needs more attention than I am able to give him with another baby at home.  Sending him to daycare, where he gets to play happily with other kids his age, is probably the best thing that I can do for the both of us.  And taking the knitting class, where I will get two hours of entirely child-free time every single week is probably the best thing that I can do for all of us.  Hopefully, it means that it will be quite awhile before I yell at him again.

Someone once told me the proverb "happy wife, happy life".  Nothing could be closer to the truth.  And I am going to continue to do what I need to do for myself, even if society views it as selfish, since I've evolved to know better than that.  In the end, it will make me enjoy my time with my children that much more. 

Whew... those are my deep thoughts of the week, lol.

And on to today's recipe, which comes from the wonderful cookbook Deceptively Delicious.  I say wonderful, having so far only made this one recipe from it.  But I love the premise of the cookbook, which is to hide vegetables in all sorts of unexpected dishes - even desserts!  We'll get Logan eating vegetables whether he likes it or not!

I tried this recipe, thinking that healthy, homemade chicken nuggets might be a way to get Logan to start eating a bit of meat (another food group he tends to avoid). No go.  But Jerome and I enjoyed them.  And they're a great healthy alternative for kids.

I used broccoli purée in this, as I happened to already have some steamed broccoli in our freezer, that I had stuffed away for soufflés (that recipe to come one day).  The purée is super easy to make.  You just steam the broccoli - either in a veggie steamer, or in a microwaveable bowl, with some water in the bowl and a plate over top.  Steam it until it can be crushed with a fork.  Then purée in a blender, adding water as necessary, until you obtain a thick purée. 

The recipe says to fry the nuggets in a pan, in a bit of olive oil.  Lacking time, I figured that I would just cook them in the oven instead.  But the result was soggy (though yummy tasting) chicken nuggets.  The next night, I reheated the leftovers in the olive oil and they were much better.  So best not to skip that step.

1 C whole-wheat, white or panko (Japanese) breadcrumbs
1/2 C flaxseed meal
1 tbsp. grated Parmesan
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1 C broccoli or spinach or sweet potato or beet purée
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast or chicken tenders, rinsed, dried, and cut into small chunks
1/2 tsp. salt
nonstick cooking spray
1 tbsp. olive oil

1.  In a bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, flaxseed meal, Parmesan, paprika, garlic and onion powder on foil, and mix well with your fingers.

2.  In a shallow bowl, mix the vegetable purée and egg with a fork and set the bowl next to the breadcrumb mixture.

3.  Sprinkle the chicken chunks with the salt.  Dip the chunks into the egg mixture and then toss them in the breadcrumbs until completely coated.

4.  Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and set over medium-high heat.  When the skillet is hot, add the oil.  Place the chicken nuggets in the skillet in a single layer, being careful not to crowd the pan, and cook until crisp and golden on one side, 3 to 4 minutes.  Then turn and cook until the chicken is cooked through, golden brown and crisp all over, 4 to 5 minutes longer. (Cut into a piece to check that it's cooked through.) Serve warm.

Serves 4. 

Difficulty level: easy to moderate

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Applesauce Snacking Cake

So much to post, so little time.  My blog files are getting backed up with recipes that I have made, but have yet to find the time to type up and post... I keep trying to clear out the backlog and just find myself getting further and further behind.  Maybe we should just order pizza for a month so that I don't have any more new recipes to post???

I decided early December to join a cake decorating club here in the West Island.  I was looking for some sort of new activity for myself, to help save me from my never-ending schedule of kid-related activities.  My sister mentioned that a friend of hers was taking cake decorating lessons and that seemed to be a great fit for me.  After doing a bit of searching, I came across this club that is cheaper than taking lessons, so I figured I would join. It'll get me out of the house once a month without the kids and will (hopefully!!) lead to me being able to decorate beautiful cakes for my kids' birthdays.  I had attempted my first cake decorating for Logan's 1st birthday and it turned out pretty well.  But I'm excited to learn all sorts of new stuff about cake decorating.

So today I rushed to get together all of the required supplies and then to get Logan fed before I was out the door with Chloé for my first meeting.  All to find that it had been cancelled because of the weather.  Boo!  Such disappointment... so any blogging of beautiful cake-related news will have to wait awhile still.

But at least it leaves me some time to put up another post.  And as a special bonus, I managed to already get Chloé down into bed on her own at 9pm, which is a new record.  So I actually have a bit of hands-free time before bed. Yay!!!

I made this recipe a few weeks back. I had made some Christmas cookies (that I still haven't posted!) and ended up with leftover icing.  And I really don't make much of anything that needs icing.  So I dug through some recipes and decided to make this applesauce snacking cake to use up the leftover icing I had.  So I didn't use the icing I'm including here with this recipe, but the one I used was similar.  

This recipe comes from Canadian Living's Best Muffins & More. I added a bit of ground flax seed to this, just replacing a bit of the all-purpose flour with flax (maybe 1/4-1/3 of the total amount of the all-purpose flour).  I also chose to make this in a bundt pan instead of the recommended pan, just 'cause I thought it'd make it look prettier.  I would probably normally just omit the icing if making this just for us, but it adds a nice touch for special occasions (and certainly makes it look nicer too!).

3/4 C all-purpose flour
2/3 C whole-wheat flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
pinch each ground cloves and salt
1 C applesauce
1/4 C packed brown sugar
1/4 C fancy molasses
1/4 C vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 C raisins


2/3 C icing sugar
1 tbsp. apple juice

1.  In bowl, stir together all-purpose and whole-wheat flours, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt.  Whisk together applesauce, sugar, molasses, oil and eggs; pour over flour mixture along with raisins.  Stir together just until combined.

2.  Pour into greased 9-inch square cake pan, smoothing top.  Bake in 350 degree Farenheit oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until cake tester inserted in centre comes out clean.  Let cool in pan on rack.

Icing:  Whisk together icing sugar and juice; drizzle over cooled cake.  

Makes 16 servings.

Difficulty level: easy

Monday, January 16, 2012

No Bake Homemade Superseed Granola Bars

I had written up a post last Sunday evening (that I had yet to send) about how my gift to myself for the week to come was going to be to stay at home all week to relax, nap, and finally get my house somewhat organized. Ha!  

Raising kids is a bit like going through a minefield.  You have no idea when you're going to get hit.  And despite your best efforts to rest and regroup, sometimes life just takes over.  And that happened again last week.  I ended up getting the flu on Tuesday, the day we coincidentally spent 5 hours in a doctor's waiting room for Chloé. And the rest of the week was pretty much spent napping.  So no posts last week.

We nonetheless had a chance to get out this weekend to enjoy the sun, despite the bitter cold.

This week is super busy too, as I am at a conference later this week, so I am going to save the resting for next week.  Which I am well looking forward to!

Jérôme sent me this recipe for homemade granola bars that he had found on  Clearly, he knew that these would be right up my alley.  Only, sadly, I am not eating nuts these days, since I am breastfeeding.  So he got to be the only one to try them. Wait... it's all coming clear to me now, lol.

I do intend to make these again with sunbutter in place of the almond butter and pumpkin seeds instead of the almonds so that I can actually eat them.  But I wanted to try the recipe as is first, to see if it was any good.  And though I couldn't try them, Jérôme assures me they are blog-worthy.  And they smelled great.  In fact, I had to restrain myself from eating one every time I walked past them.  Maybe it's a good thing I couldn't eat them...

These are a great, healthy afternoon snack.  Or anytime snack.  Full of good energy and all things healthy.  If you're having a hard time finding any of the ingredients, try your local health food store.

oil, for coating the pan
1 1/2 C crispy brown rice cereal
1/2 C raw sliced almonds (I used slivered b/c that's what I had in my cupboard)
1/2 C raw sunflower seeds
1/4 C raw wheat germ
2 tbsp. whole chia seeds (I buy these at Costco)
2 tbsp. flax seed meal
1 C dried Medjool dates (about 6 ounces), pitted
1/4 C natural smooth unsalted almond butter
1/4 C brown rice syrup
1/2 tsp. fine salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 C natural unsweetened cocoa powder

1.  Heat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit and arrange a rack in the middle.  Coat an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with butter; set aside.

(Note: it is important to actually put the oven rack in the middle of the oven - I didn't do this and mine started to burn after just a few minutes!).

2.  Place rice cereal, almonds, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, chia seeds and flax seed meal on a rimmed baking sheet, toss with your hands to combine, and spread in an even layer.  Bake, stirring halfway through, until almonds are fragrant and lightly toasted, about 12 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly, about 5 minutes.

3.  Place cereal mixture in a food processor fitted with a blade attachment and pulse until the mixture is broken up and the largest pieces are about the size of uncooked grains of rice, about 5 (1-second) pulses.  Transfer to a medium bowl; set aside.

4.  Place dates in the food processor and process until finely chopped and a ball forms, about 15 seconds; set aside.

5.  Place almond butter, rice syrup, salt and vanilla in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.  Stir until mixture is combined and runs like slow-moving lava, about 1 minute.  Remove from heat, immediately add reserved dates and cocoa powder, and, using a wooden spoon, stir, smashing down on the dates, until well combined and no streaks of cocoa remain.  Add reserved cereal mixture and stir, pressing as you do, until evenly combined. (This takes some muscle and time, about 5 minutes).  Transfer to the prepared baking pan and, using your hands, spread and firmly press the mixture into the pan.  Let cool completely.

(Note: we added about 1 tbsp. of water to the mixture, as we were having a hard time getting everything to stick together).

6.  Remove the date-seed slab from the pan.  Cut it in half to form two rectangles, then cut each rectangle widthwise into 5 bars to form 10 bars total.  Wrap each bar in plastic wrap.  Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 weeks; let frozen bars come to room temperature before eating.

For a gluten-free version, buy gluten-free crispy brown rice cereal.

Difficulty level: moderate

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Green Monster Smoothie

I will keep this relatively short, as we've had a busy day.  Zumba in the morning and then off to the Biodome for the afternoon.  We bought ourselves an annual pass so that whenever we're going nuts inside with Logan this winter, we can head out there to keep him somewhat stimulated.

This recipe was inspired by both my sister and Heather, who coincidentally, both started talking to me about green monster smoothies at the same time.  My sister had also mentioned that there are apparently lots of good recipes for green monster smoothies on Oh She Glows, though I have yet to check them out. You can check them out here at the Green Monster Movement

This also coincided with another friend asking for more recipes with hidden vegetables in them for her kids.  So it got me thinking that maybe it was high time for me to try hiding veggies in smoothies, given that both Logan and I love them.  Particularly since it's hard to get vegetables in him as a side dish for the time being.
I'm not quite ready yet to do a truly green smoothie like Heather does, with hardly any fruit.  Not sure that I ever will be, to be honest.  But I'll try to sneak more veggies into them over time.

Logan had a blast helping put the spinach in the blender

Though he enjoyed trying to take the strawberries out!

I don't have a specific recipe for my smoothies, but will try to indicate general quantities.  I used a good 4-6 very heaping large spoonfuls (soup spoons) of plain yogurt and then poured in some milk.  Just enough for there to be some liquid for the smoothie to mix.

I then added a frozen banana and a half and two good handfuls of frozen strawberries.  And then filled the rest of the blender with spinach.  Oh, and threw in about a teaspoon of honey, just to give it some sweetness. And this made enough for three of us for a good snack.

It's important that your fruit be frozen, as that's what gives it a smoothie texture.  If you don't have any frozen fruit, you can throw in a good handful of ice cubes instead.  

Ever since my smoothie addiction started many years ago, I haven't thrown out any fruit.  Anything that is going bad gets chopped up and put into little ziploc packages in the freezer for future smoothies. I've tried everything right down to grapes and so far haven't found any fruit that doesn't taste good in a smoothie.  My preference is to always include some banana or pear though, as I like the nice creamy texture these give to smoothies. 

I went through a phase a few years back where I was busting blenders every 6 months or so.  Until I found this wonderful WaringPro blender at Costco.  Just be careful to stay in the room to be sure the blade isn't getting stuck.  And if it is, just pour in a bit more milk or stir it a bit, if necessary.

I should mention that you couldn't taste the spinach in this at all!  This smoothie probably wasn't green enough to really be called a green monster smoothie.  But I'm going to keep adding in more and more greens until you can taste them.

De-li-cious.  Even Jerome drank one and liked it.

Just a little note too that you can clean your blender by putting a bit of dish soap in it, filling it about 2/3 full with water, putting on the lid and turning on the motor for a couple of seconds.  Which makes smoothie making practical even when you have two little ones running around.

And on that note, I'm off to make some homemade chicken fingers with broccoli hidden in them.  They'll be up here shortly if they turn out to be blog-worthy.

Difficulty level: easy