Thursday, June 9, 2011

Dear Wiener

My open letter to Mr. Weiner:

Dear Senator Weiner,
Really?? With a name like Weiner, you should have known that public office would not bode well for you. I'm sad to have to point this out, but it was doomed from the start. The frat guys got a kick out of voting for your name on the ballot, and many congressman had a good run chuckling each time they asked one another, "Have you met Weiner yet?", but it is now coming to a dreadful end. You were a "victim" of an unforgiveable and unforgorgettably bad name. Hindsight is always 20/20. But, please, don't hold out any longer. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Go straight to the court house and start the name change process. Honestly, we live in a day when people can change their gender for heaven's sake. Would it really have been that difficult?

You will probably need to begin the job hunt now too. Maybe you could apply at Heinz, with a whitty tagline on your resume, like, "Weiner knows ketchup." Better yet, call up the good folks at Oscar Meyer. They can forget the weinermobile. They will now have THE WEINER. Even if they aren't hiring, I'm sure they will create a position for you. Good luck, Weiner.


Michelle Hall

P.S. NO ONE wants to see a twittered Weiner. Dude, what were you thinking??

And, dear readers, speaking of Weiners, do you have any idea how many preservatives and chemicals are in those things? (like that clever segue?) Not to mention the unspeakable animal body parts that are legal to use in hot dogs, but can't be sold as meat on their own? It makes me think twice about feeding them to my kiddos. I have offered them in a pinch, but I no longer buy them or keep them in my refrigerator. I would love to see some "natural" ones on the market, though. (The food variety, not the Senator variety of course. I'm sure he will be back on the market soon, but I would definitely pass on that offer!)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Garden Update

It is June first, and prime time for a summer garden to blossom. What was once only the hope of a garden...

is now flourishing beautifully!

See all those tomatoes, waiting to ripen? That makes me giddy! It obviously doesn't take much to make me giddy!

And my baby yellow squash...this is the point when I go out and check every day to see if there is anything I can pick. We have already eaten a few of these puppies and they were delish! (Way more flavorful than the grocery store squash! In my opinion, home grown squash tastes more "squashy" than the bland grocery store variety- if that makes any sense at all!)

And, my baby cucumbers. I have had the pleasure of eating a few of these already as well- fresh and crisp tasting!

On another note, the girls and I found this book in the kid's non fiction section yesterday at the library.

They are already showing the signs of little foodies in training, so they are just as excited as I am to read it. The plan is to read it and then find a great recipe for homemade strawberry ice cream (their favorite flavor.) My ice cream maker keeps begging to be pulled out and put to use, and since it is already nearing 100 degrees here in South Texas, there's no reason not to! I am thinking of doing a taste test: traditional vs. dairy free (Soy) ice cream. We shall see! When I come up with one that passes the rigorous taste test in my "test kitchen", I will definitely post it!

For now, bring on the Texas heat and summer sunshine. Summer is here!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Fish- the real thing, not the sticks

I just started reading this book:

One of the authors has a great blog (, and she is an advocate for raising children to eat whole, fresh foods...REAL food. In other words, she proposes that we not feed our kids "kids" foods like frozen, processed, and fried meat nuggets, corn dogs, white pasta topped with powdered cheese, french fries, and soda. Let's face it, these fake foods aren't chock full of nutrients and have little substance. So, her ideas are in line with my goal of trying to feed my family whole and real foods as much as possible. Since I started this blog 5 months ago, that has been my aim.

I realized as we sat down to lunch this Sunday afternoon, just how far we have come since January. Big Daddy had grilled up some tilapia and asparagus, and we made wild rice to round it out. We also cut up a fresh pineapple that I saw in the store that day on sale for under two bucks (SCORE!). Ordinarily, I would expect that the kids would not touch the fish, simply because they have both gagged on seafood many times in the past. But, this time they did not follow their "complain, push it around the plate, try a bite and gag" protocol. There is something to be said for the "offer it again and again, and again..and again 12 more times before they eat it" approach!

The kids actually ate every bite of the fish, and even though I put a glob of ketchup on their plate in case they felt the need to drown the fishy taste, they didn't even use it! I was so proud as I watched them munch on spears of asparagus and grilled (fresh caught, NOT farmed) fish. I realized that we have come a long way from our past eating habits. Not only are my kids eating healthfully, but they have sophisticated tastes! They savor freshly picked tomatoes and squash, blue cheese and vinagrette salads, fresh fish, chicken and turkey breasts, and gourmet spinach and feta chicken sausage.

Eating out is now a rare event for us because we have come to enjoy cooking and eating at home. Even the kids pitch in with the chopping of veggies and tossing of salads (using plastic utensils of course). We put on some fun music almost every time we sit down to dinner, and just enjoy the time together, discussing the events of the day or future plans. Many nights, we end the evening on the back patio, watching the kids play outside eating frozen fruit bars for dessert. On occasion, we splurge on locally made (and our very favorite) Bluebell ice cream. It's totally full of fat and sugar, but we can pronounce all the ingredients and ...well...all Texans know that there is absolutely no ice cream that tops BlueBell and that's a splurge worth experiencing!

We definitely make different food choices now. Not all are low fat or vegetarian, but they are better than what we used to choose to feed our family. Memories of chicken nuggets and fish sticks are in the almost forgotten past. In fact, if I offered my kids a fish stick, I'm not even sure they would take it, just as they snub artificial fruit juice pouches for bottles of water (most of the time). My family is now used to seeing lots of fresh fruits and veggies on their plates, and that's makes a Veggie Mama's heart go pitter patter. :)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Vegetarian Taco Casserole

I have a confession: I have added poultry and fish back into my diet. I got a bit off balance somewhere along the way and realized that my energy was low and I was basically eating a bunch of processed white flour junk, all in the name of avoiding meat. I was not eating a lot of protein, and the protein I was eating was from the same sources every day: peanut butter, nuts, and soy. For someone like me, who really enjoys variety, I just needing something more. I admit, I just am not a great vegetarian. Some people make it work wonderfully, and creatively. I guess I'm not a member of that club.

I am sticking with my philosophy of eating plant strong, though. I continue to plan my meals around veggies, instead of meat. And, I am constantly adding extra veggies to things. In fact, my cutting board has become my best friend in the kitchen. I add tons of extra zucchini and mushrooms to italian dishes, yellow squash, extra tomatoes, and onions to Mexican dishes, and just generally try to throw in every veggie under the sun into everything that I cook.

For example, last night, I made Averie's Cheesy Taco Casserole, and added yellow squash, onions, mushrooms and zucchini, and served it with a side of carrot sticks for some crunch. It was yummy, and very filling. I substituted light sour cream and cheese to make it low fat as well. I'm all about tweaking a recipe to suit my needs, and make no apologies for doing so.

How about you? What are some of the tweaks you have made to recipes to suit your needs? Post a comment here so that we can all get some great ideas!

Monday, April 4, 2011


Is it just me or is your facebook page filled with Farmville updates and requests? This may be unpopular of me to say, but I don't do farmville. I can barely remember to water my REAL plants. There's no way I can take care of virtual ones. Almost everything I have ever planted has died a long, painful, thirsty death. I've really been quite ashamed of myself...until I started my backyard vegetable garden a few years ago.

It started with a few plants in 4ft by 4ft space in the sunniest part of the yard, and spread to a few pots of herbs. I now grow everything from seed, and my garden has produced beans, different types of tomatoes, gourmet lettuce, squash, cucumbers, peppers, rosemary, onions, cilantro, and basil. It has been awe inspriring to see a tiny seed grow into a waist-high plant in the span of just a few months. It has also been a learning experience for my girls, and they enjoy picking the fruits of my labor so much that I plant a few tomato plants specifically for them to pick and eat from.

Every spring, I have a few friends and family members join with me in backyard farming, and sometimes we even trade produce. Here are a few of our gardens this year in the early stages:

They are all different sizes and shapes, but backyard gardens are so worth it. I find myself in the summer, planning my meals around the produce I have picked that day, and trust me- my homegrown produce tastes so much brighter and fresher than the stuff I buy at the market anyday! If you love to cook healthy food for your family like I do, maybe backyard gardening is for you. And, if someone who lacks a green thumb as much as I do can do it, anyone can!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Dr. Oats is in...

I'm the oatmeal Doctor. I just might hang a sign on my front door and start charging a hundred bucks a pop for an office visit. I love doctoring up my oatmeal, which sometimes makes it slightly (only slightly!) less healthy. But, it is still much healthier than the typical eggs and bacon American breakfast (Big Daddy!!).

So, I was craving carrot cake. Not just any carrot cake. My mother-in-laws homemade-from-scratch-weighs-at least-2-pounds carrot cake. It is the best carrot cake to ever grace my lips, and I could totally eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But, I think it would make a great breakfast, coupled with some hot java.

I got a great idea to "doctor" my oatmeal to mimic the flavor of this delicious cake. It could only mimic it, since nothing could really come very close to the wonderful taste and texture, and I just don't think it's acceptable to put a half cup of cream cheese icing atop my morning oatmeal... but I can at least give it a shot.

So, this morning, I made my bowl of oatmeal and added to it:

One shredded carrot (added to the boiling water with the oatmeal)

A few tbsp coconut

a few tbsp walnuts

a dab of smart balance buttery spread

a tbsp or 2 of brown sugar

2 tsp of blackstrap molasses

It was divine! It tasted similar to carrot cake, but it was really great oatmeal. As I ate it, I came up with some other add-ins I may use next time, including pineapple and raisins.

P.S. I have become acutely aware of my lack of skill in the food photography area. I will work on it!

Do you dress up your oatmeal? If so, tell me about it by posting here!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Hurry up and slow down

The message has been loud and clear to me recently- SLOW DOWN. I am a serial multi-tasker. I talk on the phone while doing dishes, laundry, checking email...I text multiple conversations at the same time. I cook dinner, while emptying the dishwasher, taking out the trash, and loading the the same time. But, who doesn't?? There are only 24 hours in the day, and I need to get as much done in those hours as humanly possible. Right?

After hearing a sermon a few weeks ago about "single-tasking" and being more present in every moment, I have paid closer attention to what happens when I am multi-tasking. I have always been absent-minded, misplaced things, zoned out while people are talking to me, and I am notoriously distractable. Could this all be a result of my multi-tasking ways? Likely...

I can't say that I am yet a recovering multi-tasker. But, I am working on it. Baby steps.

I am aiming to stop forcing my family to join in my multi-tasking by being over-booked and not allowing down time. I mean, what kid wants to rush from school to home, to hurry up and rest up before a rigorous gymnastics class, after which we rush home and eat dinner (hurriedly), and then rush upstairs for bath and bedtime, before which we hurry through a book? "Stop the madness!", I am telling myself. I am trying to relax, because life is NOT a race.

So, ironically, I am bringing you the world's fastest healthy dinner recipe. I love this one because I can step away from the stove and have some down time with my family after dinner. Time for a game of Chutes and Ladders, a bike ride, playing at the park, swinging on the rope swing in the backyard...and I guess we will let the kids tag along too.

The world's quickest Chicken (or vegetarian) tortilla soup
(As always, my measurements are not exact. Adjust to your liking. You know, just eyeball it)

1 box chicken or veggie broth

1 serving cooked brown rice (I use instant)

1 can rotelle diced tomatoes and green chiles

1/2 can corn

1 cooked chicken breast, cut into small cubes (or omit this, if making the vegetarian option)

4 oz. shredded cheddar, colby jack, or monterrey jack cheese

1 avocado, cut into small cubes (to garnish)

a palm full of cilantro, chopped (to garnish)

a few handfuls of tortilla chips

In a soup pot, combine all ingredients (except avocado and cilantro), and heat until cheese is melty. Before serving in soup bowls, crunch a handful of tortilla chips and fill bottom of bowls. Ladle soup over chips, garnish and serve.

Then, relax, since that whole process took only 10 minutes!

We did...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Doctor's orders

Last week, someone had a five year old check up. So, prepared for the worst (vaccinations), we went to our pediatrician. Turns out, someone did not have to get any vaccinations, but did get orders to eat more fruits and veggies.

The doctor instructed my little someone to eat her fruit or veggies FIRST, before even her meat or protein. I was so happy to hear this advice, that I jumped on the bandwagon immediately, and instituted a new household rule. Now, we all have to eat our fruit or veggies first, and it seems to be an easy rule to follow.

On the way out the pediatricians door, I was reminded by two little someones that I had bribed, ahem, promised to reward them with a trip to the ice cream shop if they were quiet and well behaved while mommy talked with the doctor. And, they had certainly earned it. They had been perfect little angels...

So, after a stop by the house to eat lunch (veggies first, of course), we went to the ice cream shop down the street.
Someone ordered strawberry ice cream, commenting to the girl serving the cone, "the doctor said I need to eat more fruit."

We sat out by the lake, enjoying the beautiful sunny day. I enjoyed the entertainment as Addie sang on her "microphone" to the construction workers behind us. Apparently she thought it was their birthday...or that's one of the only songs she can remember all the words to, besides Silent Night. All the while her ice cream melted in the sun.

That's $4.50 down the drain. I guess I was paying for the entertainment.

All in all, it was a wonderful afternoon, and a great way to spend one of our spring break days.

"Look, mom. I ate all my fruit!"

I will let the doctor know right away.

Mac and Balls

Kaley: "Mom, can we go out to eat for lunch today?"

Me: "Where would you like to go?"

Kaley: "The buffet"

Me: "Daddy doesn't like the buffet"

Kaley: "Why not? They have cookies AND candy!"

David: "Because the quality of food there is.......junk" (Good save.)

I had to think fast, so I offered an old favorite, mommy's "famous" mac-n-cheese. Famous? Well, at least to my family. And, it's not made from a boxed mix of orange powder, laced with fake food ingredients.

"Yeah!" (Yells from the backseat.)

"Can we have a dessert too?"

"Sure, why not"

Mommy's "Famous" super simple, but wholesome Mac-n-cheese:

  • Elbow macaroni pasta of your choice (prepared according to box instructions)

  • Two tablespoons of Earth Balance Vegan Margarine or Smart Balance Buttery spread
(both are made with much healthier plant oils instead of butter, but taste buttery.)

  • A few tablespoons flour (you'll have to eyeball this)

  • Milk (added to desired thickness)

  • 8 oz. pkg of shredded cheddar cheese (I've used sharp cheddar and regular)

  • Salt and pepper to taste

Prepare pasta according to package instructions. For cheese sauce, melt the butter over medium heat in a sauce pan. When completely melted, add a few tablespoons of flour and stir, stir, stir. It will be lumpy, but that's ok. Add milk. I usually start with about a cup and this is when you'll really need to keep stirring, or it will burn on the bottom. (I use a stainless steel saucepan, so that I can use a metal whip.) Keep stirring until the mixture starts to thicken. Add milk to give you the desired amount of sauce, and take it off the heat as soon as the sauce begins to thicken. Add desired amount of cheese (I usually use almost the entire package), and salt and pepper to taste (It will need to be a bit salitier than you like because the pasta will even out the salty flavor). The cheese will melt into the sauce and the whole mixture will get creamy. Pour the sauce over cooked and drained pasta and stir. And, that's it!


The whole process takes maybe 15 minutes. Super simple, but super yummy! I chop uncooked broccoli and carrots and add it to mine, in order to mix in some fiber and vitamins. I keep the chopped veggies on the side for the kids, since they don't like the crunchy texture in their pasta. Big Daddy would prefer a side of bacon, but he gets veggies or a salad anyway. Then, we enjoy.

Our lunches are always peppered with questions and comments like, "Do I look like a ballerina in this swimsuit?", and "Our dogs poop A LOT", and " Can we live in Hawaii someday? PLEASE?", and "I have a toot. Never mind, I don't anymore." I wish it could stay this way forever. Food, family, flatulence.

Well, I could totally live without that last part. But, the rest is priceless! And so are my balls. Cookie dough balls, people. Geeeeez!

You can find this recipe for these PB Chocolate chip cookie dough balls on, filed under the "recipeas" tab. Then, you too can have wonderful balls. ;)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Love for Chocolate and Firemen

This morning, I used oatmeal as a peanut butter and chocolate delivery system for the kids. Whatever I have to do to make my kids eat something new and "healthy" (the oatmeal, not the chocolate and PB). I know it doesn't exactly sound healthy, but it was better for us than it sounds. I apologize for the lack of a photo. My camera was upstairs, and I really didn't want the girls to know I was experimenting for the purpose of putting it on my blog. They have caught on to me and know that when I am taking a picture of food, it may be a new recipe, and they proceed with caution. Clever little devils!

I have always loved oatmeal, and find it incredibly filling. It's the perfect comfort food, especially when you doctor it up with a little soy milk and blackstrap molasses (Go easy on this though. It is high in calcium, but also can leave your food tasting of cough syrup if you use too much, so experiment with your tastes). I have to admit too that I often add a bit of brown sugar as well. Brown sugar was made for oatmeal. The two should book a weddingmoon to Jamaica or go before the JP and make it official in my expert opinion!
Anywhoo, I was thinking of making peanut butter chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, and thought that I may try adding both of those yummy ingredients to my morning oatmeal and seeing if the girls would like it. They have never taken to oatmeal because they find it "mushy and squishy", but I thought these additions might change the popular opinion. A spoonful of peanut butter adds a bit of healthy fat and protein, and a few semi-sweet chocolate chips aren't too bad either. So, I went for it.

Since my last "luring" went so well, I decided to try this approach again. So, I mixed it all up, gave it a taste and said, "whoa, I think I made that waaaay too sugary and chocolatey. That tastes like a dessert, so you probably don't need to eat dessert for breakfast!". Then....wait for it...wait for it...Score! They immediately picked up their spoons. Wacky said, "Yummy! This is good, mom!" That was totally expected. We all know that K-Picky is the household food critic. So, I waited for her response. She picked out a chocolate chip with an oat or two on her spoon, and said, "well, I like the chocolate part." So I told her that if she really wanted the chocolate part, she would have to take a whole spoonful, since much of the chocolate had already melted in. She did take a few more spoonfuls and said, "I think you need to fix this for breakfast tomorrow too." Man, I'm good!

So, with our full tummies, we ventured on to our Mommy group field trip to our local fire station, which I knew Addie would really dig. A few months ago, we saw the typical fire safety presentation at the library and on the way home, Addie commented, "Mommy, I LIKE big strong firemen, with their big suits and cool gear." Um, be honest, ladies. Is there a girl on the planet who doesn't? (I DO love you, honey. It doesn't take a big strong fire fighter to make me happy.) But, apparantly Firemen are the bombdiggity to my little blonde haired preschooler. And today just sealed that deal, since we were there when they received an actual call, which meant that she got to see them climb into the truck in a hurry and ride off, lights and sirens and all. Ok, I was secretly a little impressed too...ahem, with the lights and sirens, I mean.

Letting the girls climb on their monstrously powerful trucks helped too.

If there are any 3 to 5 year old aspiring firemen out there who know how to make chocolate peanut butter oatmeal, Addie is accepting applications for the position of "Future Husband".

If only this fire cadet were 18 years younger...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Greenalicious juice

My kids are more likely to try something new if it has a super cool name. Hence, the need to name our juice and smoothies. In an effort to get more fruit and veggies into our diets, I often serve these fruity puppies or fresh squeezed juice concoctions with our breakfast or lunch. It all began with strawberry smoothies (frozen strawberries, soy milk, and a banana, blended well), because (hello!) what kid doesn't like strawberries? Though K-picky isn't fond of bananas, I added one in the blender when she wasn't looking, to sweeten it without adding sugar. Due to it's pink color, that smoothie earned the name Pinkalicious, after K's favorite book series.

A few days later, I tried my hand at a Purplicious one, using the same ingredients, but substituting the frozen strawberries for frozen mixed berries. When I saw the dark color, I realized that this was a great opportunity for some of my kitchen trickery, and added a hand full of fresh spinach. Because the berries and banana were so sweet, the kids had no idea I blended those beautiful green vitamin packed leaves into their smoothies. Mission Accomplished. Team Kids:0, Team Mom:1.

So, with that newfound boldness, a few days later, I took out the juicer and juiced a few oranges, a few apples, and a heaping handful of kale. This dark green leafy veggie is even more packed with vitamins and nutrients than it's cousin, Mr. Spinach. It contains calcium, Iron, and Vitamins A, C, and B.

As soon as the dark green juice poured into the pitcher, I knew I was really taking a chance here. There was no getting around it- this juice would definitely be green. So, after a quick stir, I gave it a taste. The girls looked on, horrified that I was drinking the dark green concoction. But, it actually tasted great, so I said, "Wow, that is amazing, but I don't think you two can try it. There's no way I am letting you have any. I am gonna want to drink it all!" Wondering if I had them hook, line, and sinker, I poured the drink into my glass, and then I heard it...."wait, I want to try!" Ha! Team Kids: 0, Team Mom: 2!
Wacky was brave enough to step up to the plate first, but big sister couldn't be put to shame, so K decided she would try some too. K-picky was completely turned off by the color and took a few drinks, commenting, "it really doesn't taste green, but it sure looks really green.". Wacky loved it and drank it all. I asked what we should name this new recipe, and got the expected response, "greenalicious". I've since added kale or spinach to almost every smoothie I can sneak it into.

K asks, "mom, do you think this juice will make my hair grow long like Rapunzel's?", to which I reply something like, "Oh yes, absolutely". More trickery...Don't judge, though. A mom's gotta do what a mom's gotta do.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sweet AND healthy? Say what?

I have a confession. Veggie Mama has a bit of a sweet tooth. There, it's out, and I feel better for admitting it. So, I have been on a mission to find some vegetarian (preferaby vegan- using no animal products) desserts, that actually don't taste like plain tofu. And, here it is- my new favorite healthy dessert! It's completely fat free, has no added sugar (unless you decide to add it), and tastes, looks, and feels like real ice cream! I have recently discovered the website (from which the above pic was borrowed), which told me to freeze a banana, and process it in my food processor for a few minutes to make this banana soft serve. Now, I have, in the past, been a bit disappointed in vegan recipes, so I was skeptical. So, yesterday, I gave it a try. I was shocked and awed that mine turned out exactly like this! It was sweet and creamy, just like ice cream! There are several variations on this recipe as well. Some people add nutmeg and cinnamon and it tastes like egg nog. Others add a drizzle of dark chocolate syrup. I tried adding cocoa powder and it did give it a chocolately flavor. You MUST try this if you are looking for a healthy alternative to ice cream.

These are my my family's absolute favorite vegan recipe of all time. They are peanut butter chocolate chip cookie dough balls, and I am warning you that you will probably forever crave them after your first decadent bite. You can find the recipe on, under the tab "Recipeas". These, unlike the above treat, are not fat free or sugar free, but they are TO DIE FOR.
Happy eating!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Use What You Have

It was pajama day at K-Picky's preschool today. It should have been easier to get ready then, right? I mean, she was ALREADY in her pajamas. Nope. She insisted on trying on different pairs to see which she felt were most school-worthy. And, she had to have to appropriately braided hair, headband, necklace, bracelet, and sparkly slippers. But, she also had to bring a back-up pair of sparkly shoes in her backpack in case she changed her mind. The girl can accessorize, which is funny because it's not one of my strengths. But, she loves going through her little ballerina jewelry box on the hunt for the perfect star ring or heart necklace to match her outfit. She gets a huge kick out of putting together outfits, using bits and pieces from a few different ones to make a whole new combination. Her eyes light up as she says, "mom, these new leggings from this outfit will go great with my pink sparkly skirt from my butterfly outfit!" And, usually she's right. She has, on occasion, been known to insist that her daddy change his outfit because she knew of another shirt in his closet that would go better with the slacks he was wearing. And, usually, she is right. Again. K-picky is the queen is using what she has in a whole new way. So, I took a lesson from her.

This is the butternut squash ravioli I made last week. This is as homemade as you can get, aside from the jarred sauce. Let's face it, after making the pasta and filling from scratch, I didn't have time or energy to make homemade sauce. Besides, Mrs. Ragu does it so much better than I would have anyway.

I started by cutting a butternut squash long-ways, and placed it face down on a baking sheet with half an inch of water. Meanwhile, I used a simple recipe of flour, water, salt, and olive oil to make the dough, and let it rest under a bowl while I mixed up the butternut squash puree. When the squash softened (after about 45 minutes at 400), I purreed it in my food processor, and mixed in onion, garlic, italian seasoning, salt and pepper, and freshly grated parmesan cheese. I ended up with a ton of this mixture, so I saved half in a freezer bag, sure that I would be able to slop it into something in the future.

Then, I enlisted Big Daddy, because who else would be so good at putting all that strapping muscle into rolling out the dough and cutting the raviolis, using a highly specialized and rare kitchen tool- a glass? He was a great sport, and we started an assembly line to make our crescent shaped raviolis. I simply filled each one with a spoonful of the mixture and folded them over, wetting the edges and pressing them together with my fingers.

Lastly, I boiled them (placing them ever-so-gently in the pot) for a few minutes, strained them, covered it all with sauce, and grated parmesan, and enjoyed this rich, scruptious, yet completely wholesome meal.

Big Daddy Bacon said it was a winner...even without bacon.

Tonight, (a week later), I slopped the tasty orange butternut squash goop into lasagna! I feel incredibly frugal and smart...and sneaky. That's because this was a totally vegetarian lasagna with layers of pasta, butternut squash mixture, finely chopped firm tofu chunks, marinara sauce, and grated italian cheeses. Big Daddy had no idea until he found a piece of tofu, halfway through with his lasagna. K-Picky and Wacky ate it without one complaint. They actually had a few compliments for the wise and tricky chef.

NO one can thwart the evil plan of the sneaky and frugal Veggie Mama! I used what I had in a whole new way.

Now if you will excuse me, K-Picky needs help finding her sparkly slippers. She misplaced them during her last wardrobe change.

And, on a totally different note, I read a great frugal healthy-eating tip today that I will pass on before I go. What do you do with those bananas when they begin to get spotted and brown? Throw them (peeled) into a freezer bag, and use them for smoothies in the future. Guess what's in my freezer, waiting for our morning smoothies?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Forge Ahead!

Big Daddy Bacon ate an apple the other day for a snack! As you might have surmised, this is not a common occurrence. He usually reaches for chocolate (which he usually will not find in the house, so he usually gets in his car, and drives to the store for his snack.) But, I offered the kids an apple in lieu of a sugary snack, and he reached for one as well. I reached for something to hold onto, since I almost fell out of my chair in surprise.

Wacky ate all her asparagus last night at dinner. This was only the second time she ever tasted it, even though I frequently offer it when I have it on my plate. But, by day 5 of our new "you must try everything on your plate" rule, I think it finally sunk in for everyone. (You know who I mean, Daddy.) I put plates of turkey breasts, rice, and asparagus down in front of us them, and looked up to see what would happen. To my utter shock and dismay, Big Daddy suggested that they all try their asparagus at the same time. After a 1-2-3, they each took a bite. K-Picky didn't gag. Progress! Instead, she said. "it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, mom." And, then, she did the unthinkable, and TOOK ANOTHER BITE! MAJOR Progress!

So, feeling that I am on the verge of accomplishing the near impossible, I went out on a limb tonight. I found a recipe for a vegetarian Asian soup, and built a meal around it.

This soup was great, but the salad I served with it was not a hit, because of my choice of sesame ginger dressing. I won't make that mistake again. Big Daddy says he needs meat somewhere in the meal too. Maybe I should ease him into veggie meals...

I started by sauteing 2 tbsp crushed ginger and a tbsp chopped garlic in a tsp of canola oil. I then added some soy sauce and 4 c water to make the broth. (I added more soy to taste). I then added a chopped carrot, some shelled soy beans (edamame) , sliced mushrooms, chunks of firm tofu, and sliced snow peas. I boiled it all until the carrots softened, and served it, topped with sliced green, from my own garden.

Meanwhile, I used indentured servant labor to wash the lettuce. She may be a picky eater but she loves to help in the kitchen. At least someone likes to help. Wacky (being true to her name) rode her new bike through the kitchen, yelling, "I'm the dream fairy. Mommy, say 'hi, dream fairy'. Now, say 'bye, dream fairy' " Odd, you say? I agree. Oh, you mean odd that we let them ride bikes in the house? I agree. Why DO I let them ride bikes in the house??

OK, so we didn't lick our plates clean tonight, but we had fun together in the kitchen, and more importantly, we are making progress. It must be the magical wand the Dream Fairy kept waving in our direction.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Hear Me Roar

I laid down the law last night. The new house rule is: Everyone must at least taste everything on his or her plate. A taste consists of a full size, fork-full bite. Not a lick. Not a sniff. Not a teensy tiny bite off the edge...A full on bite. I am Veggie Mama. Hear me roar. I rule with a nylon spatula. Be scared.

So, tonight I decided to make one of Big Daddy Bacon's favorites- enchiladas. I usually use ground turkey for these, and happened to have one in the freezer, which I had bought on sale around Thanksgiving. So, in true frugal fashion, I butchered it myself. I cut off both breasts, and froze those in a freezer bag. Then, I cut off the two leg quarters and froze those for another meal. Lastly, I cut off all the bits and pieces of leftovers all over the turkey and ground it in my food processor for part of tonight's meal.

I have heard it said that if we all had to butcher our own meat, we would all be vegetarians. This whole carcass cutting experience confirmed the truth in this statement. It is not glamorous or pretty to be elbow deep in a turkey. I will just say that.

So, half of our enchiladas were made with a ground turkey mixture, while the other half were made with a veggie mixture, which I thought was completely delicious.

For the meat mixture, I browned finely chopped bell peppers (and I mean finely, in order to disguise them for K Picky). I then added garlic salt, onion powder (only because I realized I was out of fresh onions), browned the half pound of ground turkey, and added enchilada sauce, and melted in a fist full of shredded Colby jack cheese. I did use canned sauce, but I chose a can with a list of identifiable ingredients. Nothing on the ingredient list began with X.

I filled the tortillas with a few spoons full of the mixture, rolled them, and laid them in a baking dish. Then, I went to work on my new vegetarian recipe.

For the mixture, I used frozen spinach, frozen squash from our Papa's organic garden, fresh mushrooms, and bell peppers. I sauteed all of this, then added a few spoons full of the same enchilada sauce, and melted in some Colby jack cheese. I filled whole wheat tortillas, and filled the rest of my baking dish.

For the last step, I covered the enchiladas with the remaining sauce in my can, and covered it all with another fistful of Colby jack, and baked at 400 degrees until the cheese bubbled.

And, VOILA! I chopped half of an avocado to top it off. These were, in the words of Dora the Explorer's backpack," Delicioso!"

Wacky liked the "green stuff" in the vegetarian ones. I may have told her that that green stuff would make her healthy and strong (totally true), AND make her hair grow beautifully long, just like Rapunzel's (questionable...).

K-Picky was not a fan of the green stuff, even though I may have used the same lie/promise to persuade no avail. But, she did follow the new house rule, and gave it a try.

We may have had a Godiva chocolate on the table, awaiting all who followed the new rule.

I am Veggie Mama. Hear me roar.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Veggie Mama + Big Daddy Bacon

Let me introduce you to my family.

I am Veggie Mama, a mostly-vegetarian, though I still eat dairy and eggs. My husband, Big Daddy Bacon is NOT mostly vegetarian. He is not even partly vegetarian. The man would eat bacon at every meal if he could. Yes, he knows it is not good for his arteries, and yes, I give him daily reminders of that. But, despite our difference in food preference, VM plus BDB= love. We have been married for 12 and a half years...about 12 years before I gave up meat for health reasons. We have two amazing daughters, K-Picky (Kaley) who is "closer to 5 than 4" (her words), and Wacky Snacky (Addie), who will be three next week.

K-Picky is our completely precious but picky eater, as you have probably surmised. Texture is a big deal to her, so if the food is mushy, or partially mushy, she would prefer not to eat it. (I use the word prefer because Veggie Mama feels strongly AGAINST preparing different meals for different members of the family- which is precisely where my dilemma began a few months ago. More about that in a minute.) She detests onions, corn, squash, raisins and bananas. Nevertheless, she tries new things with great reluctance, and mostly sticks to what she knows she likes, unless forced...

Wacky Snacky (our almost three year old) is our other completely precious daughter. She is also completely nutso. (I have noooooo idea where she gets it ;) Both of our girls have crazy vivid imaginations, but this one tells some whoppers, and I honestly think that she sometimes believes them. She shuns shoes, hairbows, and sometimes even clothes (though I am totally nipping that in the bud!) She marches to the beat of her own drum, and gives me a run for my money on a daily basis. Many people in my family say that is JUST like I was at her age. (I have NOOOO idea why they would say that ;). So, now you know where the Wacky comes from. But, she would also eat all day if we would let her. She is completely willing to try new things, and loves Greek yogurt, lettuce with fancy dressings, blue cheese and celery. Not at all like K Picky...

So, that's my wonderful little family of four. We are weird and fun, and just perfectly awesome if I do say so myself. But, we all have completely different eating styles. Hence, my challenge. I strive to feed my family good quality food, expose them to new flavors and textures, and do it all on a budget. It's not easy, but I like a challenge. I figure things out as I go, which my husband refers to as flying by the seat of my pants. But, it makes life so much more fun. And, in all honesty, I am sure that is one of the things he loves about me. (Don't make me mention your lists, charts, and goal sheets, Big Daddy...which I totally appreciate about you. One of us has to get us through life :)

Here, Big Daddy Bacon and I will catalog our family's healthy eating journey. I will try to convert him to vegetarianism (a HUGE feat, I am well aware), and we will both have fun in the kitchen with our family. We intend to try new recipes, flavors, and probably compromise a bit along the way in order to please everyone in our little family. So, here goes....