Sunday, August 31, 2014

100 Days of Real Food: A Review

Fold massive pile of scrubs or peruse new cookbook? Tough Choice
I first saw Lisa Leake's blog 100 Days of Real Food, probably via pinterest, when I stumbled across a post that addressed packing healthful and varied school lunches for your kids. The topic of school lunches is one that I feel pretty strongly about, but that's for another post.

Leake's blog was full of great recipes, meal plans, product reviews and videos and had a very accessible tone so I added it to my blog roll and started following her on facebook. Be warned, though, people on facebook can get downright nasty in their comments to even the most innocent posts. Like the time she candidly showed her kids taking homemade uncrustables to eat at the airport. Holy nut allergy sensitivity!

As soon as I saw she had finished her first cookbook/guidebook, I pre-ordered it. That was back in January and a whole bunch of life happened in between, so I was pleasantly surprised when it arrived on my doorstep a week ago.

My first impression upon taking it out of the box was that this was no amateur job. There was clearly a ton of work and thought put into the content and organization so that it covers all the bases, gives you the tools and confidence to get started in your own journey to more healthful eating and food-prep for your family, yet still provides references to go out and learn more on your own.

Coming in at 339 pages, not including the reference section, this is one hefty tome. Yet, full of beautiful photos and a voice that is not at all condescending or pandering it invites you to bring it to your couch and flip through while you sip your coffee (with grass-fed cream, of course).

Starting at the beginning of her journey and walking you through the changes she made for her family without getting totally bogged down in the details, Leake leaves you with the understanding that this is not an all-or-nothing proposition. By first simply looking at the ingredient lists of the foods in your pantry to better understand what may or may not have been great choices to using her meal planning (even broken down by season so that you can utilize farmer's markets if you desire) and grocery shopping list templates you can start building your own whole food life. The first 123 pages focus on giving you the information you need, while the second half has the promised 100 recipes, broken into the following categories; breakfast, lunchbox, snacks and appetizers, salads and sides, simple dinners, special treats and, finally, homemade staples.

I love that there are examples provided of what she adds to the given lunch box recipe in order to pack a full meal for her kids.
Pizza bites made on mini whole wheat pitas; H will love these.
Breakfast tacos
Eggs in a Basket
These cinnamon apple chips will make a great addition to the rotation of after-school snacks (and sweet treats for me) this fall!
I know I'm sounding like a broken record here, but yet another thing I really like about her approach is that she does not shy away from the fact that committing to a more healthful way of eating definitely involves planning, organization and work, but that it's worth it.

In reading the book, you better understand that this is not an extreme 'diet'. You aren't ordered to immediately open your pantry and pull out the dumpster to rid your house of these dirty, dirty foods that are clearly killing your family right now. There also aren't a ton of rules to follow, calories to count, or food groups to eliminate, it's simply about understanding what you are eating (and feeding your family) and how those foods can either benefit your overall health, or not, then eating controlled portions of those foods (which Leake also addresses).The guiding principle, adopted from Michael Pollan, is that you should eat foods that are more a product of nature than a product of industry.

Dairy, gluten and legumes are all whole foods and the elimination of them from a lot of trending food plans has been a real turn-off to me. Seeing great whole wheat bread recipes, the use of home made corn tortillas and real cheese made my heart sing.

That said, she also has several recipes that would accommodate people who need/want to eliminate those foods and there is even an index in the back that organizes the recipes by dietary need so they're easy to find.

Don't you just want to sit down at the table with her?
I especially appreciate that she candidly addresses the issue of budget. Her family's second round of the 100 Days of Real Food Pledge, involved her doing so on a budget that was voted on by her readership. For a family of four, she had $125 a week to spend on groceries. In her state, a full food stamp allotment for her family size would have been $167/week, so it was definitely a challenge, but they achieved it! You can read her posts about how she did that in the hyperlink above. A huge, and very real, barrier in a lot of people's minds when they think about making the change. Bottom line: eating whole foods certainly doesn't mean you have to/should shop there.

The only sections I skimmed (and they were small) were the ones addressing strategies for eating at friends' houses or when you're on vacation, or how to share the whole foods love. I'm just never gonna be the girl who eats before she goes out to eat, or offers to bring something to a friend's house as a guise, or is the huge party buzz kill talking only about Monsanto and GMO's. While these things are important topics to explore and research for your own personal benefit, it's a huge turn-off to me when people are trying to overhaul their eating habits and it's all they can talk about. Blech.

Overall, Leake's book is a great addition to any collection of resources on the whole foods movement, especially because it provides the specific help of meal plans and recipes to add to your rotation so you have not just the research, but the practical application. If you haven't already, definitely read Michael Pollan's books including The Omnivores Dilemma, In Defense of Food and Food Rules. There are additionally some really great documentaries available, most of which you can stream on netflix, such as Food, Inc., King Corn and Food Matters.

Now go forth and meal plan; school starts in two days!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Oh Captain, My Captain

The perfect pool-side project to while away the swim lesson hours.
I had so much fun creating a nursery for Jack, that I couldn't just let the new babe slide into the room I'd created for him (which they'll be sharing) that would be way to efficient and practical. Since it's the first girl, I wanted it to inject some femininity, while still being conscious of the fact that it was a boy/girl shared room.

I love the combination of navy and coral and it's a color scheme that seems to be in vogue right now because Pinterest is full of ideas. Since I wanted it to have some nautical undertones, I've found several fun things to add to the gallery wall that's already there for Jack's room, I'll be repainting his 'J' navy and ditching the aqua and yellow that are currently in the room.

 I finally properly framed the ABC sampler that I embroidered when I was pregnant with Jack, so it'll go up on the wall as well after I paint the frame with my favorite satin spray paint; Rustoleum's Heirloom White.

I had a lot of fun stitching that up, so I searched on etsy for other embroidery patterns and found several that I'll be adding to the wall. Some simple, some with a ton of detail, but still easy for a beginner, like this one from Cozy Blue. At just around four inches in diameter, I stitched on this for about a week in my down time and it was done.

In order to get the most detail possible in the transfer from PDF to fabric, I invested in Sulky's Sticky Fabri-Solvy stabilizer that comes on printable 8.5x11 sheets. After running it through your home printer, you just peel off the backing and stick it on your fabric. I am terrible at applying any of those static cling stickers to phone fronts and I had no problem getting this onto my fabric wrinkle-free.  After you're done stitching, you just peel up the corners and snip off the excess and then soak your whole piece and the extra dissolves. It's not inexpensive, but it was worth it for the amount of detail you get. I would use for sure if I do the alphabet sampler again.

You can see the bumpy texture of the stabilizer. I love how crisply all of the detail prints onto it.

Now to decide between a traditional frame and an embroidery hoop.
Anyhow, this is just a sneak peek of a few of the projects going into the new nursery. I'm forcing myself to get our bonus room in order first because it will be a painful project as it serves the triple duty of office, guest and craft room and none of them very well right now, then I can move onto the fun of the nursery, so stay tuned!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Make You Banana Pancakes...

I recently took part in a five-day clean eating challenge, and had to share one of the breakfast recipes.

During my first trimester of this pregnancy, my established eating patterns of salads for lunch and egg-heavy breakfasts with reasonable dinners went out the window for the stomach-soothing caaaaaarbs. I heart gluten, that's certainly no secret, but I knew that if I stayed on the path I'd started down, they'd have to roll me to the hospital by month nine. 

This time around I'm determined to gain very little weight. Or none. (and unless you are my OB, please save the admonitions, this is not an unsafe thing to do if you're chubby to start with, are eating nutrient-dense foods, exercising sensibly, and your baby is growing at the normal rate)  As I've learned the hard way, the novelty of gaining 800 pounds over the course of a pregnancy wears off pretty quickly when you have to then work off said half-ton with a newborn. And older kids. And a life. On limited sleep.

That said, I was happy to find this protein-rich breakfast that honestly gave me all of the satisfaction of eating actual pancakes. I promise. They're good! I quadrupled the original recipe to feed myself and my three kids, with a few leftover for the next which point they weren't very good. This is definitely a recipe that is better on the day it's fresh and hot. They were super fast, and if you make them small and let them cook long enough on the first side, they flip as easily as traditional pancakes. If you don't, they're an ugly mess, because they're just a smidge thicker than crepes. You've been warned. 

I love using a blender with a lip, because it eliminates the mess going from bowl to griddle with a ladle.

I chose to cook mine in coconut oil, but they would likely be even mo' bettah in a straight-up butter coated pan. Or, if you're boring, a naked non-stick pan. So bust out your blender and heat up your griddle; these babies are even quick enough for school mornings!

Banana Protein Pancakes (quadrupled)

8 eggs
2 bananas
1 c. dry oats
2 t. vanilla
2 t. ground cinnamon

In a blender or food processor, combine all ingredients and pulse until smooth.  Coat pan with ½ t. coconut (or olive oil or nonstick cooking spray...or grassfed butter) and cook just like pancakes.  

Spread with 1 T. almond butter or peanut butter. (make sure it's not straight from the fridge or you'll rip the pancakes). I also added a mix of fresh berries and you can add pure maple syrup or whatever your favorite pancake toppings are-get crazy.

Makes about 32 silver-dollar sized, thin, pancakes.  

Friday, August 22, 2014

Brick House Party

It's been a long time since I've taken time to post, but life, blah blah, you don't care; it's boring. Pregnant again, some more. This time it's a girl. Anywho. I'm back. This summer we were gone for H's birthday and between friends' vacation schedules and other availability I'm having his party a month late. Sooo...I thought I'd finally post about his last birthday.

I had a lot of fun planning a simple Lego-themed party. Pinterest is awash with crazy complex cakes and ideas, but I just don't have the time or patience to work with fondant so the cake I made (following this tutorial) ended up looking really, really sad but the kids thought it was fun. That's what matters, right? RIGHT?!

The Lego Candles really take the cake, right? Punny.

The cupcakes were the Best White Cake {Ever} recipe (and it really is) with simple buttercream frosting, and I made yellow mini-figures using candy melts and these molds, plus pure candy melt bricks out of the second mold in the set. They're silicone so they clean up really easily, which is always a plus for me.

Instead of filling the pinata with candy, I bought the big box of Lego Bricks and filled it with that...which was kind of a disaster when the legos flew everywhere on my patio but, again, the kids loved it and they got them all, so it was fine. It wasn't until the moment right before it busted open, however, that I realized what I'd done by filling it with tiny pieces. Ah well, live and learn.

After gathering their legos with lightning speed and playing outside for a bit, they brought their sweaty selves in for some cake, presents and lego-building with the leftover time. 

The one thing I didn't take a picture of, was the gift bag; it was cheap and easy. Just the way I like it. Instead of buying a bunch of colored handle bags, I busted out my package of 4,000 count brown paper lunch sacks, went through my paper stash and found primary colored card stock (which you could buy and it'd still be cheaper than buying colored bags) and cut a rectangle the same size as the front of the bag and affixed it with glue. Then punch out six to eight 1-or 2-inch circles with a large circle punch like this one, which you can usually find at a craft store with a coupon, and affix them to the front with 3-d foam squares so that they look like the studs on the Lego bricks. Boom, cheapo goody bags. In the bags I put a couple of the candy bricks in a melamine bag and they got to put their pinata haul in it for the rest of the goody. I'm not big on doing a huge gift bag for each person, but it's nice to have the bag for them to put candy or treats in if you're doing a pinata.
My bags were based on this idea...but cheaper ;)
That's really all I did. It doesn't have to be fancy to be fun!

This year Henry has request a Red Velvet Cake with Ice Cream filling for his birthday party. Thank the lord for Pinterest.