I’m Back, Maybe

So it’s obviously been a while since I have written anything.  When I expressed in an earlier blog that babies were time suckers I underestimated how much a toddler would steal my time!  I have a great support system here and a great preschool that my little man is going to so I am hoping to be able to get back into the writing game.  We will see.  I will try to be back here soon with more blogs to share.  Of course, you may not hear from me again till next year.  At least this is a start.

I wanted to share my new love of the bread machine with you!  I am crazy about my Cuisinart and have been making a loaf or two of bread a week I love it so much.  I cannot tell you how much fun it is experimenting with new recipes in this machine.  Not only because it is fun but because it is so easy that if it doesn’t come out right I’m not pissed that it didn’t work.  I just compost that sucker and start again (more on my composting at a later date).  The bread machine came with a couple of recipes that are great but I, of course, needed to make them my own.  The problem is making a soft whole wheat or whole grain bread.  So far I have not been successful with a true whole wheat recipe but I am going to share with you my favorite recipe so far.  I am going to keep trying and will share any improvements I come up with.

Multi-Grain Bread for the Bread Machine – 1 1/2 lb loaf

1 cup almond, soy, coconut, real milk (whatever you have in the house)

1/4-1/3 cup water (depending on how dry your climate is)

2 tablespoons butter

1-2 tablespoons honey (I usually don’t measure, just pour in a glob)

1 1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup bread flour

1 2/3 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup multi-grain hot cereal (I use Trader Joe’s found near the oatmeal)

2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten

2 1/2 teaspoon fast acting yeast

3-4 tablespoons seeds or chopped nuts of choice (I use 2 tablespoons of Trader Joe’s super seed & ancient grain blend then add a tablespoon of raw pumpkin seeds)

Warm milk, water, and butter in a microwave safe cup for about 1 minute or until the butter just starts to melt.  Place everything but the nuts/seeds in your bread machine according to the manufacturer’s directions.  I do mine in the order listed above.  Select the wheat setting if your machine has one for 1 1/2 lb loaf with medium crust color.  After the first mix check the bread to see if you need to add more water.  Where I live I use 1/4 cup in the summer and 1/3 cup in the winter.  My machine has a timer to let me know when to add the seeds/nuts but if yours doesn’t add them before the last rise.  Let the machine do the rest.  I do cool my bread with a clean towel wrapped around it to help keep the crust softer.  As tempting as it is to eat this right when it is done it is best to let it cool before slicing into it.

That’s it for now.  Hope you enjoy this recipe and let me know how it turns out or if you have any suggestions to make it better.

 

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Babies are Time Suckers

So it has been a long time since my last blog.  Why, you ask.  We’ve had an addition to the family and he is absolutely the cutest, sweetest little time sucker.

Now you have to know that I have it easy.  My son is probably one of the easiest babies out there.  He is very chill, plays well by himself, and for the most part is a good sleeper (well, now he is).  That doesn’t mean that I have all this time to do whatever I want however.  This blog is going to take me about a week to write as I have to make sure I’m keeping said time sucker alive as well as uninjured, healthy, and happy!  Who knew children were so much work?!?  Oh wait, every person ever who has had children.  People do not warn you, though.  For those of you who don’t have children, this is your official warning.  CHILDREN ARE HARD WORK AND YOUR LIFE IS VERY DIFFERENT WITH CHILDREN!  Please do not take that the wrong way.  I love my little man more than I will ever be able to express.  Just know that everything changes.  Some things are great and some are not so great, but be sure that it happens whether you want it to or not!

Now that I have that off my chest, I did want to share that making food for my son has been an absolute joy.  I have been making all of his food from scratch and when he loves something that I’ve made him it makes my soul glow!  He has been willing to try everything I make him and so far has only a few things he doesn’t like.  For the life of me I cannot get him to like bananas.  What kid doesn’t like bananas?  Apparently mine!  I have to say it’s been amazing to watch him eat foods that are good for him and teaching him (even if he does not know it yet) how to eat.  Vegetables, no problem.  He’ll eat broccoli, spinach, sweet potato, carrots, green beans, artichoke, pretty much anything I make him.  Now I know this will probably change down the line and some of these will become challenges, but right now in this moment I am enjoying that he’s eating so many foods.  I am always looking to introduce new foods, even foods I am not familiar with.  It makes it fun and makes me try new things as well.  If you have children (and the time) I highly suggest getting creative in the kitchen and making some baby food.  It is pretty easy and you definitely do not need any special tools other than a blender or food processor.  I believe those baby food machines are a waste of money!  I happen to have a NutriBullet and that worked great for small batches, but the blender works great too!  When you are first trying new foods introduce one thing at a time and wait 3-5 days before introducing a new food.  This helps to identify any allergies a baby might have.  I started by steaming vegetables and fruits for 20 minutes or until tender and then blending with formula until smooth, then I ran through a sieve to remove any chunks.  As your child gets older feel free to start leaving the food chunkier and using no-sodium stock (with vegetables).  You can also roast vegetables with a little olive oil to give them more flavor as your child gets older.  My little man loves these recipes below so I thought I would share them.

Carrots, Onions, and Potatoes (Sweet or red potatoes, whichever you like best)

2 onions, quartered

1 small bag baby carrots

1 lb potatoes, cut into 1 inch pieces

Olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Place all veggies on a sheet try and drizzle olive oil over.  Mix veggies to coat every piece with olive oil.  Roast 30-45 minutes or until tender.

Spinach and Butternut squash

1 large bag of frozen spinach

1 butternut squash cut into 1 inch cubes

Steam vegetables for about 20 minutes or until butternut squash is tender.

Prunes and Apples

1 lb apples (your favorite variety is fine, I used Gala)

1/2 lb of dried prunes

Steam apples and prunes together for about 20 minutes or until apples are tender and prunes start to plump.

Black Beans

1 bag dry black beans

Chicken stock or water

Soak beans overnight in water.  After soak, rinse beans and sort to remove any bad beans or stones.  Boil beans for 20-30 minutes or until very tender.  Drain and rinse again.

With all above recipes, let cool, then in a blender or food processor blend veggies with enough liquid of choice (you can use formula, breast milk, or water when baby is younger and any flavor stock when baby is older) to make a puree.  Depending on how old your child is you can make this as smooth or as chunky as you like.  As I stated above when he was younger I would run these through a sieve for my son.  This can make a lot so I divided the mix up between 2-3 ice cube trays and froze it.  When ready to eat, pull out the portions you want and either heat up in a pan or in the microwave until warm.

Protein is super important for a baby and can be a little more difficult to get in.  Here are a couple of ideas I use to help boost my little one’s protein intake.

  • Mix full fat plain Greek yogurt with any fruit puree.  My little man has been eating this since 6 months and he loves it.
  • When making my dinner (i.e. chicken, beef, pork, etc.) I make an extra bit without any salt and give to my little one.  In the beginning I blended the meat with a little water (or if I made a sauce I would make some without salt and use that) to make a puree.  I sometimes blend the meat with a vegetable puree to get an easy one dish meal.
  • Blend tofu with cooked vegetables to give him an extra bit of protein.
  • Do not forget that legumes are a great choice as well.  I know, giving beans to a baby sounds weird, but my little guy loves them.

Thanks for letting me share some of my baby culinary experiences with you.  I hope that if you have a little one some of these ideas help you out.  I know how hard it is to try to come up with ideas for a baby and how overwhelming it seems to make their food on your own.  Don’t be scared!  You can do it and try to have fun with it!

What do you want?

I have decided to let you choose some recipes for me to makeover and make healthier….I’ve already received a request for a pecan pie makeover (which is definitely a challenge)!  We will see what I can come up with for that one!  I am looking for anything that you love but know is not a healthy choice!  I will choose a couple of your suggestions and make them over for my next post! 

Happy recipe hunting!

My New Adventure

Being a dietitian has taught me to how to live a healthy lifestyle with food and exercise.  Luckily it is a natural progression that you also start to learn about how to make your environment healthier!  Through a number of natural and health communities I’ve been learning how important it is to surround yourself with healthier options not only in diet but also in products that you use on you and your children, as well as around your house.  I’ve concluded that I personally need to choose more “green” products to make my house a little safer (and truthfully I hate the smell of those harsh cleaners in my house)!  My sister-in-law was kind enough to point me in the direction of a company called Shaklee and through researching their website I have decided that these are the products that I want in my home!  Their products are all natural and even come with a 100% money back guarantee if you decide you do not like a product.  One aspect of this company that really impressed me is that they are “the first company in the world to be Climate Neutral™ certified to totally offset their carbon emissions resulting in a net-zero impact on the environment.” (http://renateloeffler.myshaklee.com/us/en/whyshaklee_unique.html#/pop_alwaysgreen

As a new adventure for me I’ve also decided that I would love to share these products with others and have decided to sell them as well!   I am in the process of trying out the products myself and I can tell you that I love what I have used so for.  Especially the all-purpose cleaner!  It works on everything!  I also love that they provide natural beauty products like face moisturizer and cleansers!  If you are interested in knowing more about the Shaklee line (which includes home cleaning products, beauty products, and nutrition support) or have any questions please check out my Shaklee website at http://renateloeffler.myshaklee.com.  This is a company that I am truly excited about being a part of and hope that you will be too!

Also, a few of my girlfriends and I have decided to start a clean/healthy living newsletter and would love to add you to our email list.  If this is something that you would like to receive just let me know by sending me your email address and we will include you in our list! 

Recipe Time

Like a lot of you I have been cooped up in the house because of this crazy winter weather.  Not sure how we I can stand to stay inside much longer!  There’s only so much cleaning and reorganizing you can do before going absolutely crazy.  So what I have I been doing?  Reinventing recipes to make them healthier, of course! 

I love fancy food!  My time in culinary school taught me to appreciate what a respectable dish is and my dietitian skills have let me make my favorites into something I don’t feel so guilty about eating!  I have turned some of my favorite “naughty” foods into some healthy dishes that taste great (at least my husband and I thinks so) and I’m always proud to serve to dinner guests. 

I’ve decided to share with you one of my all-time favorite make over recipes!  This dish sounds daunting but is really easy and tastes amazing!

Coq Au Vin (Chicken in Wine)

-1/4 cup olive oil

-1 whole chicken cut into 6 pieces (2 breasts, 2 legs, 2 thighs), skin removed

-all purpose flour for dusting chicken

-kosher salt

-freshly ground black pepper

-2 cloves garlic, chopped

-2 cups frozen pearl onions, thawed

-2 cups baby bella mushroons

-1 small bag baby carrots

-1 bottle of Burgundy wine (sometimes I just use a bottle of 2 buck chuck Cabernet Sauvignon)

-2 cups low sodium (or if you can find it sodium free) chicken stock/broth

-5-6 sprigs fresh thyme

-2 teaspoons herbs de Provence

-3 bay leaves

-Fresh parsley, for garnish

In a dutch oven heat olive oil over medium high heat.  Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper.  Dredge each piece in flour shaking off any access to have a light coating.  When oil is hot (not smoking) add chicken pieces.  You may have to do this in batches.  Brown chicken on both sides (3-6 minutes per side).  After chicken is browned add garlic, onions, mushrooms, and carrots (and the rest of the chicken and their juices, if necessary).  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Saute until softened, about 2-3 minutes.  Gradually stir in the whole bottle of wine and chicken broth.  Add herbs, stir, and cover.  Simmer for 1 hour.  When the hour is up uncover the pot and let simmer for another 15 minutes to reduce the sauce a bit.  If you like a thicker sauce, remove the chicken and keep warm.  Mix 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of flour to make a paste.  (Note: The calorie and fat count below does not account for this added pleasure)!  Turn heat up and blend flour into sauce.  Let boil a few minutes until sauce is desired consistency.  Taste sauce and adjust seasoning to taste. 

I cut my chicken breasts in half as they are usually pretty big.  This makes them a better portion size. 

Plate chicken with vegetables and sprinkle with chopped parsley.  I serve this dish with mashed broccoli/cauliflower as well.  Fair warning: in my house this serves 6 people.  Portion sizes have gotten a little out of control and some may feel that this is not enough for six people.  Something to keep in mind if you are planning to make this for a crowd.

My Coq Au Vin:                                                          Original Coq Au Vin:

Calories: 362                                                              Calories: 690

Fat: 11g                                                                      Fat: 38g

Sat Fat: 4g                                                                  Sat Fat: 11g

 

Hope you all enjoy this recipe!  If there is a recipe that you love and would like to know how to make it healthier please share and I will do my best to “healthify” it!

Wow, it’s almost April!

So it was just pointed out to me that I have not blogged in a long time!  My, how time flies!  I am working on a new blog now but thought to keep things going I would mini-blog on food safety today.  This is a pretty important topic as food-borne illness is a serious concern and if you have ever had any type of food poisoning you know how much it sucks!   So here are a few tips to keep safe:

1.  Thaw meats in the refrigerator over night (in a leak proof container on the bottom shelf just in case your package leaks).  You may thaw meat under cold running water, just keep meat in the original packaging.  Make sure that raw meat is not at room temperature for more than 2 hours.

2.  Sanitize all areas that raw meat or egg has touched!  Especially your sink.  If you wash your meat off in the sink before cooking make sure to wash all surfaces including the sink, the faucets, and the counter tops around the sink.

3.  Cook meats to their appropriate temperature.  Chicken should be cooked to at least 165 degrees F.   Red meat is a little bit trickier.  Ground meats of any kind should be cooked to at least 165 degrees F while steaks and roasts can be cooked to 145 degrees F.  Remember if you are at a high risk (Pregnant, breast feeding, etc) always cook meat to well done!

4.  Make sure to put leftovers away within 2 hours.  Pack leftovers in as shallow of a container as possible and put immediately in the refrigerator.

5.  Keep foods separate.  Don’t use the same cutting board for meats that you use for vegetables or fruits.  Make sure to clean your utensils if they touch anything that raw meat has touched.  As a personal rule of thumb I always cut fruits, vegetables, herbs, etc. before touching any raw meat.  This makes sure I do not cross contaminate!

6.  When reheating foods make sure they are hot and steaming.  If you have a thermometer, the internal temperature should be 165 degrees F.

7.  I almost forgot this but thankfully remembered!  DO NOT FORGET TO WASH YOUR HANDS!  Wash for at least 30 seconds or the amount of time it takes you to sing happy birthday twice!

 

For more information on food safety you can visit the USDA’s food safety website at  http://usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?navid=food-safety.