Thanksgiving Mostly Clean Eating

Brian and I have been hosting Thanksgiving and Christmas at our house for a few years now. We have the most space so it just seemed to make sense for us to take everyone in here (plus, we have the most kids and I’m not trying to cart them around on Christmas!). Over the years we have kind of gotten it figured out, as much as you really can. I do a lot of cooking and prep leading up to the day so that I’m not spending all day cooking and missing out on family time. Having half the dishes already made before Thanksgiving is ultra helpful. Also, our meals have gotten a little more complex since we have been on our limited grains and sugar journey. Gone are the days of boxed anything and cans of gravy.

You know how everyone seems to have their quintessential Thanksgiving dishes? Well, we try to accommodate those as much as we can but also add in healthy options for us. For example, Brian is a huge mashed potato fan and we rarely have them so on Thanksgiving and Christmas I make a lot of them. Everyone else seems to enjoy them as well so that dish doesn’t get modified. In case you are wondering the best way to make the mashed potatoes is in the slow cooker.

On the other hand, I do make multiple stuffing versions. One fairly regular version (except that I make my own bread crumbs because that boxed stuff is no bueno!). The second is one for my family and is never quite the same. In the past I’ve made an almond flour bread stuffing, this year I created one with sweet potato, onions, celery, and a granola that I flavored to be like stuffing. The stuffings are made in advance so we’ve taste tested them. After three years of being mostly grain-free I didn’t even like the regular stuffing (where is all the flavor?! Why do I only taste bread?!). I used to be a die-hard stuffing fan. Eat all the stuffing! And the girls said they didn’t care for the regular stuffing much either, except for the veggies in it. =)

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There is always a big salad filled with vegetables. We are also having roasted vegetables. It depends on what I have on hand but this year we are having roasted green beans and chard (so many green beans, yay!). No dinner rolls. It always seems that people get the dinner roll and can’t ever finish it, so I’ve decided I’m not wasting my efforts. I make my own gravy and am still perfecting the recipe. I follow one from Rachael Ray and sometimes it works better than others (I have real gravy issues!).

I married into a family that has both turkey and ham for Thanksgiving and Christmas so we stick with that. It’s a lot of meat and makes me sick to think about it but I fear there would be a revolt if both them weren’t present. To top the meat I’ve become a fan of cranberry sauce. I never ate cranberry sauce when I was younger but once I started making my own (recipe here) I converted to a cranberry sauce lover.

Those are the key dinner items. Occasionally, someone will bring something like macaroni and cheese or green bean casserole. We welcome people to bring whatever they may want and I TRY to limit how much the kiddos get of these other items.

Dessert has always been my favorite part and we don’t skimp here. There are multiple pies and other desserts for the after dinner spread. This year I kept it fairly simple. I made THE Ultimate Holiday Pie, grain-free and refined sugar-free! Using this grain-free honey graham cracker crust, subbing honey for the sugar in the cheesecake layer, this pumpkin pie, and the pecan pie topping from here. The healthy version came out beautifully and I’m hoping for no complaints about the lack of sugar. I just wanted to be able to eat this lovely creation and not feel sick. In addition to pie we are having fruit salad (chopped up fruits stirred in with homemade honey sweetened  whipped cream), and these cake batter truffles (also grain and refined sugar free).

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Before dinner we snack on vegetables and hummus and this year I made spiced bar nuts. The nuts were a huge hit last year and when I made them earlier this week we were loving the preview.

While I don’t necessarily love making the multiple versions of foods I am excited that this year I have converted all the dessert to be edible for my family. And that despite the mashed potatoes and the regular stuffing the rest of the food fits right into our eating style. I dream of the day when I can say that about all the food on the table. Small steps for now. We have come a long way from Thanksgivings past.

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My Kids Rock

….and I don’t when it comes to updating the blog. I’ve been making great stuff and taking pics of all of it but have been seriously failing when it comes to putting a post up. If there was anything that is deserving of a post it is this: my kids are awesome!

Twice now I’ve made a super easy but incredibly delicious one pot roasted meal. This meal seems fancy but is very simple and requires minimal hands on time. I’ve been roasting a whole chicken atop whatever greens and vegetables I have. The greens, collards, or chard are coated with a little olive oil and some spices and then go into the roaster (I happen to have an electric roaster but in the oven would work too). Same thing with the veggies. As always, I slice up onions for good measure. I’ve been seasoning the chicken with the lemon and herb recipe from The Against All Grain cookbook. This dinner tastes amazing and totally cooks itself! Love! The girls like this dinner a lot and ask for a piece of chicken still on the bone. Eating meat off the bone is a novelty to them.

So when you cook a whole chicken you get a couple of bonuses. One being that you get to make homemade chicken broth with the leftover carcass. Which also cooks itself after you add some rough cut vegetables, water, a touch of apple cider vinegar, and herbs. I get more excited about the chicken broth than the actual chicken. A mug full of homemade chicken broth on a cold day warms me right up. Another bonus is the liver you get from the chicken. In all honesty we usually just toss that stuff (I don’t even like to admit this wastefulness). Not this time, I’ve been hearing all about how nutritious organ meat is. Since I already had some from my chicken I figured I’d give cooking liver a shot. If the family didn’t like it, no loss. Well, I only had a small amount of liver from my one chicken so I bought an additional pound from the store so we could really try it.

How does one cook liver? I was unsure so I did a little research and decided simple was better. Here’s how I did it: I patted the liver dry and then marinated it in almond milk for a couple of hours. I sautéed some shallots in coconut oil until soft and then added the liver (drained and patted dry again). Cooked until the liquid is released from the liver and it’s browned. That’s it, simple no fuss liver.

Now, could I serve this to the fam? Yes, if I was careful to avoid any negative connotations. I dished this up for lunch over some wilted spinach and plenty of other options just in case it was not a hit. Most importantly, I simply called it chicken from a different part of the chicken than we normally eat.

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And……they ate it and liked it! My kids eat chicken liver, no questions asked, how awesome are they?! In fact, Brian had more qualms about it than they did. He said he’d be more ok if it was mixed into something rather than a pile of liver on his plate. Understandable, I guess. We had plenty leftover and mixed some with lentils into our chiles rellenos later in the week.

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Again, no questions asked! Did I mention my kids rock! They are no different from other kids who love pizza, and cake and sugar but when you feed them real food instead they will eat real food! Amazing. Shout out to my mom who fed me liver as a child. I didn’t remember until I tasted the liver and then the memory of eating and enjoying it came flooding back. I was not at all a picky eater when I was little and my parents fed me all sorts of different things, which had led to some funny stories now that I’m grown. Moral of the story: (not about me but about typical kids, I was weird) don’t give up on the picky eaters! They can and will learn to enjoy a variety of foods if you allow them the opportunity to keep trying.

Eating In

Truth be told eating out is not as exciting as it used to be. Because I cook all day everyday I’ve become very accustomed to having my food the way I prefer it. So much so, that when I go out to eat I’m not as thrilled about my food because it’s not as good or how I would do it. Also, we have now become those people who are very particular about their food order. Can I sub this for that and please leave off the bun, dressing on the side, etc.

Well, to be fair I have had some really unexpectedly great meals out to eat and those always seem to come when I am fairly specific about my requests. Hmmm, maybe be an annoying orderer is worth it. I’m thinking specifically of a dinner Brian and I went out to together a month or so ago when I requested that the contents of a mushroom burger or wrap, not sure which, be put on a salad instead. That salad was made for me! It had portabello mushrooms, roasted red peppers, pesto, Dijon mustard, and balsamic. I’ve been recreating various versions of that salad since.

However, for the most part I’d say I prefer to eat in. There are plenty of recipes to experiment with out there that are just as good and better than what you would get eating out. All this came up because we went out to dinner tonight as a family. My food was ok, not amazing, and likely to make me feel not my best tomorrow. And little Lexi, the girl who knows no limits, could not resist a hot dog and fries. She will be a little off tomorrow as well. And funny little side note: Isabelle has outgrown the kids menu. Kid’s menus are always the same: hot dogs, burger, breaded chicken, or macaroni. Lame. I recently heard a thing that most other countries do not have separate menus for the children. “Kid Food” is a totally American thing. So, now, Isabelle prefers to order something off the actual menu that is a little more “real food”. I totally support her not wanting to eat the typical kid food. Her choice tonight? Southwest chicken salad. And with the exception of the little bit I ate she finished that thing! And she was full!

So, eating out is not as glamorous as it’s made out to be. It reminds me of some pretty great dinners we’ve had recently. Dinners that got a lot of yummy noises.

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First up is this one. I actually commented while I was eating this dinner that it was so much better than anything we’ve had in a restaurant. These tacos are made with my homemade tortillas. They have sautéed broccoli, beans, onion, and garlic with taco seasoning inside. As well, as a hint of cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, and olives. Salsa, plain yogurt, smashed avocado, and a little cashew cheeze sauce on top. All those flavors! Next to them we had roasted green beans (my fave!) and cob corn (or corn cut off the cob if you are my husband, he just can’t get down with the corn on the cob).

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This dinner was a snap to prepare. The veggies come in a big fresh stir fry mix filled with chard, carrots, snap peas, broccoli and kale. I cooked up some onions and added the veggies with a homemade teriyaki sauce. Toasted cashews top the stir fry. That little tiny brown stuff next to the veggies is kaniwa. We found it on our most recent trip to the natural market I love so much. Apparently, this kaniwa stuff is related to quinoa and cooks the same way. We call it mini quinoa because that’s exactly what it looks like. Kaniwa and quinoa are both seeds and you definitely get that sense with stuff because of how little each one is. It tastes very similar to red quinoa.

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Stuffed pepper casserole! I used to get so excited to have peppers on hand and want to make stuffed peppers. Then I would make them and we would always struggle to eat them (they just tip over or have the stuffing spill out!). What’s more is that it never seemed like the ratio of filling to peppers was enough. I have learned! Now, when I get the urge to make stuffed peppers I tell myself, no, and make a stuffed pepper casserole instead. Same idea, easier to eat, more filling! Problems solved. I made this stuffed pepper casserole with beans, riced cauliflower, peas, kale, canned diced tomatoes, and, of course, the roasted peppers. Mine and Brian’s got the last bit of cashew cheeze leftover from the tacos above. Mmmm. I can still remember the warmth of this filling casserole in my tummy. Piping hot casseroles in colder weather, yes please!

I’d gladly take these dinners over what I ate at the restaurant today (a lettuce wrapped burger, in case you wondered). However, we didn’t go to the restaurant because we didn’t want to cook or didn’t have the time to. We went, purposefully, to spend time as a family doing something different and going to a new place. The girls look forward to doing these kinds of things and we don’t eat out very often. In the end it’s much less about the food and more about being together. (But darn those kid’s menus!)

Baseball!

I am a lover of baseball, have been for years. A lot of people complain about how slow baseball is and how it’s not much fun to watch but I just love watching it (playing is a whole different story). Unfortunately for me, our lack of real cable means I don’t get to watch much baseball. A few years ago we ditched cable and Brian installed an HD antennae so we could get locally broadcast stations. What that means is I get the basic channels: ABC, NBC, FOX, and a few random extras. Do you know how much baseball they show on those stations? Well, I do, once a week, usually on Saturday they will show one game. Which game? Who knows, not the local game that’s for sure. And to keep it even more interesting, it’s always at a different time. Sometimes, the game will be on at 10 am or noon or 5 pm. There is just no telling. I have a better chance of actually going to a baseball game (I’ll take either the Mariner’s or the Rainiers, both fun to watch) than catching one on tv.

Except during playoff time. Those games are broadcast on the basic channels and that is my opportunity to soak up as much baseball as I can! Baseball Saturday happened at our house. And what says baseball better than hot dogs and french fries?!

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We really jazzed up these hot dogs with cream cheese, relish, tomatoes, onions, and banana peppers. Next to the hot dogs we had peas, sweet potato fries, and roasted zucchini. The hot dogs were leftovers from camping so we only had a few and I supplemented with lentils for the girls and me. That salad you see is actually what I ate. I put all the hot dog toppings (including ketchup and mustard) on my greens. Also on my salad are the lentils and sweet potato fries. I have gotten to the point where it’s just easier (and honestly tastier) for me to just add the things to my salad instead of eating them separately. I’d rather have a salad that tastes like hot dogs and sweet potatoes than eating a boring salad next to sweet potato fries and lentils.

Remember, earlier this year when I had seen my fair share of hot dogs and couldn’t stand the thought of another? Well, I’m still there except that I can tolerate watching my family eat them, sort of. I do limit the girls, they only got half a hot dog, and I definitely don’t give them a whole bun. But the hubby makes his own choice. He is able to tolerate a little bread every now and then much better than me and probably better than the girls. So as long as this is not a daily in our house we’re ok. It sure made for a great baseball Saturday!

 

Grain-Free Pizza Crust Adventures

I came across a very different pizza crust recipe that used cashew, eggs, almond meal, and coconut flour. I’ve tried my fair share of grain-free pizza crusts and don’t have one that I really love. We usually just try to go for thin crust (or pitas) or use an alternative such as eggplant or zucchini slices. We’ve eaten almond meal crusts, coconut flour crusts, crusts made of beans, and cauliflower crust. They were all just ok, sufficed for the moment but not something I was excited to recreate.

So as I had come across the new recipe I was reminded of an additional recipe that I had pinned on Pinterest awhile ago that was a cauliflower crust recipe without all the cheese and egg needed to bind the cauliflower together. A Seahawks football game seemed like a good reason to test out both pizza crust recipes. My rationale for doing both was that neither crust recipe on its own seemed like enough pizza for the whole family so why not do both for a crust taste-off.

First up, is this crust made with a trifecta of grain-free flours: cashew, almond, and coconut. The crust does include eggs to bind it all together.  The good news is this whole thing can be processed in the food processor eliminating the need for multiple bowls and such. It has some olive oil and herbs for good measure. While the recipe says that you can roll the “dough” between parchment paper there was no way my dough was rolling, it was pretty wet, so I just spread it on parchment and baked it as directed.

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These pizzas have slightly different toppings based on the family’s tastes but essentially they have roasted eggplant and broccoli, sautéed onions, red peppers, and mushrooms, and ham. Topped with mozzarella cheese and some olives on part of it.

The second crust is made of cauliflower. I loved the idea of this one because of the cauliflower and that it doesn’t use eggs. Instead it uses flax eggs and almond meal to bind the whole thing together. While the use of cauliflower seems extra healthy you squeeze all the moisture out of the cauliflower so that pretty much negates that idea. But if we are looking for something better than grain crust I guess cauliflower pulp does it. This one was a lot more hands on (literally, squeezing out the cauliflower) and then mix in the remaining ingredients. I had no problem getting it mixed together and it seemed a lot more “dough” like than the prior recipe.

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The cauliflower pizza crust was topped with pesto sauce and all the veggies listed above. My half did not have mozzarella cheese but a few walnuts instead.

Ok, so to be honest these crusts were a lot of work, maybe because I did both at the same time. As with most grain-free crust recipes you bake the crust first and then add your toppings afterward and cook briefly. Which means your pizza toppings have to be cooked beforehand (more work!). However, the great news about these crusts is they were both good in different ways and I have plenty of pizza leftover for another meal or two (thank goodness, after all that effort!).

Both crusts held up in our hand and came off the parchment after baking with no problems. The nut and coconut flour crust was thicker and a little more dough like. The herbs really came through and were awesome. The cauliflower crust got crispy around the edges (that’s a good thing!) and was more like a thin crust pizza. We all liked both of them. The girls had opposite favorites and Brian and I agreed that they were a good complement to each other because of their differences.

The best part is that neither child had any questions about why the crust was different from what they were used to. That is a big win considering their love for pizza. Grain-free pizza crust that you can eat like a regular pizza, tastes good, and filled with good ingredients, did it!

Fall Grilling

Despite my lack of enthusiasm for the changing season, I enjoyed my evening grilling experience. It just felt different now that it’s Fall. The sun was shining but not in a hot summery way. There was a slight breeze but it was calm. And my girls were in and out taking their art time outside. Early Fall grilling is refreshing.

Isabelle lost another tooth this week (that makes 7!). Her missing tooth has led to a lot of conversations about eating corn on the cob and the difficulties involved with that. Cob corn, as Lexi calls it, is a favorite which is why they were talking about it. Little did they know I had bought some corn on the cob to grill this weekend. So we had the opportunity to see how Isabelle managed (read: corn all over her face).

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In addition to corn on the cob, I grilled green beans (I’m obsessed!) and veggie burgers. We had our burgers on lettuce with some Korean cucumbers (they are fermented instead of pickled) and tomatoes.

For dessert I grilled some sweet potatoes and then mashed them up to make this sweet potato and apple nut crumble. A great Fall dessert!

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The dish boasts sweet potato, apples, walnuts, and plenty of cinnamon.

Today has changed my mind about the new season. Maybe Fall won’t be so bad.

Double Dinner Bowls

I’ve got some dinner winners! Both are vegetable bowls with very distinct flavor differences. Veggie bowls are just so good and the easiest way to pack a variety of vegetables into dinner. And did I mention they are easy? Yes, yes I did. Brian is out of town for work this week which means I’m less inspired to make complicated dinners that the kids won’t appreciate any more than a simple dinner. At least if both Brian and I are eating dinner we can really appreciate all the work that goes into a more complicated dinner. The girls will either like or dislike no matter how much time I’ve spent making an awesome dinner.

Dinner number 1 is yellow pea dahl. This is one I’ve tried on the girls before and not had great reviews from them. This time around I didn’t add any of the Indian style spices but did a little maple syrup to sweeten the dahl slightly (well for them, mine was filled with all the spices: cumin, turmeric, curry powder, chili powder, etc.). These kinds of dishes are among my favorite. The flavors and the yellow peas are just a great combo.

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I served the dahl with millet and mixed veggies. This time around the yellow pea dahl was well received by the kiddos.

Dinner number 2 is broccoli noodle bowl with homemade teriyaki sauce. Isabelle said, “I feel like we’ve had this before.” Yep! It is one of my newer go-to recipes. The combination of the broccoli and the homemade teriyaki sauce is something I find myself craving frequently, not to mention the carrot “noodles”. I’m a huge huge broccoli addict. Raw, steamed, stir-fried, roasted I love it all the ways. In fact, I just realized since I’ve had a steady supply of fresh broccoli for a few weeks now I’ve eaten broccoli almost daily. Sometimes I have to remind myself to eat something besides broccoli since it’s what’s for dinner later!

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For the girls I do add a small amount of Korean sweet potato noodles to make this an actual noodle bowl for them. For me I, as usual, serve it all over a bed of greens with more teriyaki sauce. There is also some onion, garlic, edamame ,and celery cooked with the broccoli in the teriyaki sauce. Love that I get to eat this for breakfast! Broccoli for breakfast, way to start the day!

Back to School Celebration, Round 2?!

Lexi started pre-k today. She has been very excited to head back to school and patiently waited her turn as she counts down the days and continuously asks when she gets to go. Since we had a special family dinner and dessert last week to kick off back to school, Brian and I decided we would go out to dinner the night of Lexi’s first day of school (also we had a Groupon that was going to expire soon!) to make that day special for her too. We had planned this out weeks ago. Our celebration last week was not intended for just Isabelle but for everyone as a kick off to the school season. Lexi didn’t see it that way I guess. Wouldn’t you know the day before Lexi starts school she provides me with her special dinner and dessert requests for her first day back to school. This was all completely unprompted.

She said she would like lasagna and ice cream cake. Funny enough for dinner that very night I had originally planned on making eggplant and zucchini lasagna but then decided it was too much work and was going to simplify dinner. After she informed she would like lasagna I figured I’d just go for it and we’d have the lasagna a night early and keep our original plan to have dinner out. That meant we had to tell her about our surprise dinner plans for the following night. That girl loves going out to eat so she was not disappointed about having lasagna a day early.

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The eggplant zucchini lasagna is based of this recipe. The eggplant and zucchini is roasted beforehand and then I covered them with, basically, a black bean hummus and some homemade spaghetti sauce with added lentils. For the girls I added a small amount of mozzarella to at least make it seem somewhat lasagna like in honor of Lexi. What better to eat with lasagna than side salads!

Now that we had our lasagna bases covered, Lexi was concerned with her special dessert. She had very specific ideas of what this ice cream cake would entail. I, however, could not fathom making another cake even if it was ice cream cake. I hadn’t planned on making any sort of dessert after a dinner out. But I took her request to heart (after all, it is her first day of school and she does get short-changed a lot being the youngest) and made homemade strawberry ice cream and chocolate chunk cookies. Then I sandwiched the delicious ice cream into the cookies to make chocolate chunk cookie strawberry ice cream sandwiches.

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As yummy as these were I almost didn’t get away with it! Lexi was excited about cookies and ice cream but bummed that there was no cake. We talked it over and she decided that the cookies and ice cream were acceptable. Thank goodness! It’s not as if I didn’t feed her cake just the day before. I’m helping a friend make a cake for a wedding reception so I had to try out a coconut cake recipe. Cake experimentation equals taste testing for the family. Turns out coconut cake is pretty darn good. I tested out this recipe, in mini cake tins. We decided that the cake with a little coconut flakes mixed into the batter yields lighter fluffier cake (in case you ever make a coconut cake) so this is the version I’ll be making for the large cake.

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The frosting was a light and fluffy and coconut flavored and topped with toasted unsweetened shredded coconut. I’m not typically a fan of coconut but the lightness of this had me wanting to keep taste testing (if only I wouldn’t have a headache later).

All said and done Lexi enjoyed her first day back to school and her special dinner and dessert, even if it was slightly different from she had asked for. Plus, as a consolation I will be making more cake in just a couple of days for the actual reception so she will have plenty of taste testing, beater eating opportunities.

Beet Salad and Burgers

I’ve gotten the girls hooked on beets. They will eat them raw or cooked. The other night I steamed them slightly and put them in salads with roasted almonds and kale. For dressing we used a slightly sweet cinnamon apple dressing. Mmmm! The tartness from the kale and the flavor of the beets married so well with the dressing. We also used the last bit of black bean spaghetti and pasta sauce.

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That night we got to go see Lexi’s pre-k class so this dinner had to come together very quickly. It’s hard to not give into the temptation to just eat out on a night like that. In the long run, though, it’s faster and better to just bite the bullet and pull some home cooking together.

I did some super grilling over the weekend. We had all sorts of veggies that I wanted to grill: green beans, chard, and a variety of summer squash. Little Miss Lex was excited about the prospect of grilling and asked for burgers. Personally, I didn’t care about the burgers but she was really excited so I figured making a few turkey burgers for her would be worth it. Yep! She loved it! And we all loved the grilled veggies! I put mine in a bowl with a little Dijon mustard and olive oil and was just as happy with only veggies as Lexi was about her burgers.

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While I was grilling I made an additional dinner of tofujitas. I grilled the peppers and onions with some yellow squash. The tofu was grilled covered in salsa with added cumin and chilli powder. The next day I was so thankful I had grilled dinner and have very little prep to do. I was exhausted from getting ready for the week! Shopping and making lunches for Isabelle and figuring out school snacks for the week, etc.

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Tofujitas are so satisfying. We topped them with green olives, radishes, a little bit of cheese, and jalapeño. Like I said I was worn out from the day and could barely put in the effort to steam some corn and peas as a side dish.

This week is making me nervous since I’m already so tired and it has barely started! There is a lot to do this week! Hoping my hard work early in the week will pay great dividends at the end of the week. Happy Monday!

Football Food

Football season has officially begun (Go Seahawks!). Football season equals football food. And football food is man food, so not health food. Bummer, I’ve forgotten how football season takes over my kitchen as well. Eventually it seems like we are just trying to recover from one game day to the next. However, our football eats are far better than what it could be. Hummus is a must which means there are plenty of dipping veggies, chips and salsa usually make an appearance, and we rotate through some other food items: nachos, chili, hot dogs, etc.

Tonight’s kickoff game was a big deal. Super bowl champion Seahawks versus my dad’s favorite team, the Packers. We invited my dad over to watch the game and have dinner. Some football food was warranted. My family missed chili when we didn’t have any camping so we decided the football game was a perfect excuse to have chili and baked potatoes. In honor of football I didn’t amp up the health factor in this chili. I left it pretty regular (shhhh, there was a little flax in there!) and even added in a little ground turkey. Normally, I throw all sorts of greens into the chili and make it meat free.

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We up the yum factor by topping the chili with a little cheese, crushed tortilla chips, and plain yogurt. Lexi has declared chili as her favorite food so she was excited for this dinner all day. And despite the fact that she snacked on a ton of stuff at the start of the game she polished off her bowl of chili.

Even though everyone was full from the early game spread and the chili, we ate a little bit of leftover piecaken. I don’t know if it was just me or I didn’t remember how good it was last night but I felt like it was even better tonight. The flavors came through even more, something to keep in mind for next time.

Tonight was a great start to the football season! A good game, good company, and good food. I am happy, though, that tomorrow I will be serving a big salad to everyone. =)