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.

Eggplant Burgers and Zucchini Bread Oatmeal

This morning I felt like making oatmeal. Not the kind you make from little packets, not even microwaving individual servings of oatmeal. I wanted to cook oatmeal on the stove. Weird, right? I gave the girls two choices: apple pie oatmeal or zucchini bread oatmeal. The unanimous choice was zucchini bread oatmeal. Yay! I’m all about eating veggies with breakfast (and I do pretty much everyday).

The oatmeal has zucchini, chia, lots of cinnamon, pecans, and raisins cooked into it. It really doesn’t take too long to make and was a real hit with the family. It smelled amazing cooking and I couldn’t stop sneaking spoonfuls!

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We added chocolate chips because zucchini and chocolate chips just go together.

After breakfast I packed up leftovers from yesterday and we headed out for a family bike ride. Since the girls are young family bike rides are short. However, we are at a brief stage where Brian and I can actually ride our bikes while Lexi rides with her training wheels and Izzy continues to improve on two wheels. It’s been years since I have been able to get on my bike and ride with them because it seems we are always at a stage where someone is learning. Next year it will be Lexi’s turn to learn on two wheels so I’m trying to fit in my bike riding time during this short season.

We had a nice sunny day and grilling on Sunday seemed like a good choice. I’d bought an eggplant to make these burgers. It’s one of those rare eggplant burger recipes out there that doesn’t require you to add meat. Hello! I’m making eggplant burgers I do not want eggplant on top of my regular burger! I modified the recipe to use sunflower seed meal in place of breadcrumbs. They cooked up beautifully on the grill, nice and crisp.

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We topped the eggplant burgers with hummus, onions and tomatoes. Next to our burgers we had grilled corn and chard. There were lots of ooohhh and ahhhs about this dinner. Lexi even finished hers in a regular amount of time, including the chard. Chard is my current obsession. I wish I had bunches and bunches of the stuff. I’ve been stealing leaves to use in my salad all week and would love to have eaten an entire plateful. We tried really hard to figure out what else I could grill after dinner but came up short. By the time I was committed to something (apple and blackberry cobbler) the temperature was already too low. Oh well, no cobbler tonight! But likely another peanut butter chocolate lettuce wrap. Yum!

No Toast French Toast

French toast, a kids favorite. I have very fond memories of eating french toast for breakfast as a kid and it was a regular on our breakfast rotation in times past. Nowadays the girls will randomly suggest it for breakfast but I often shut it down so we don’t start the day off on a bad note (see: tummyaches before lunch!). I wondered if there was a way I could make french toast without actually using toast and I stumbled upon a Pinterest pin for squash french toast. It’s basically zucchini pancakes but with cinnamon and vanilla to up the french toastness of it.

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The girls called it pancakes but they did really like it. The egg and cinnamon really do add to the french toast flavor even if it doesn’t look like french toast.

For lunch we had vegetable tacos. Cauliflower, broccoli, onions, and peppers with taco seasonings. We ate these in lettuce with a side of lentils and some mango.

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Lunch love! The girls managed to eat these without making a huge mess and Lexi was convinced she needed more.

Over the weekend we camped for one night in Yakima. Since we were in eastern Washington there was a no campfire burn ban in effect. Nobody really talked about s’mores but on our drive home the girls kept playing that they were making s’mores and marshmallows for their toys. I think they realized they had missed out on some camping s’mores. Since then, I’d been thinking how we could recreate them at home (and no, not in the microwave). I searched my recipes and found this for peanut butter s’more bites. It’s marshmallows cut in half, spread with peanut butter, and dipped in chocolate. I coated our bites with actual graham cracker crumbs.

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In addition, I made some apples the same way. These were tasty but maybe a little too indulgent. I guess that is what s’mores are all about.

Tonight was girls only dinner. Brian got Mariners baseball tickets from work so he ate dinner there. It’s been a little while since we had a girls only dinner and nobody had ideas of what they wanted. Eventually, we came up with chicken nuggets. Not just any chicken nuggets, homemade chicken nuggets! The chicken nuggets are coated with almond and walnut meal, flax seeds, and some herbs. Also they were baked and not fried.

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Since I was baking the chicken nuggets I made some kale chips to go with it. Raw vegetables rounded out dinner. The girls have finally come around to homemade chicken nuggets! They used to not really like my homemade ones and preferred the store-bought junk filled kind (story of just about everything!). The less I feed them that stuff the more they come around to the homemade stuff. Macaroni and cheese, though, that is a battle I may never win. Kids and their love for chicken nuggets, macaroni, and french toast. What’s with it?!

Super Size Zucchini Pancake

We received another Terra Organics delivery today. I’ve got to say I’m just loving it! Getting the veggies with all the greens attached as they were grown is absolutely amazing. My salads are so exciting when I get to add in those additional greens. Regular lettuce does get a little old day after day so adding the green tops from seasonal vegetables really amps up my salads. We got something new in our box today: kohlrabi (with greens attached!!). The girls were intrigued and up for trying it out at lunch time along with some of the carrot greens.

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This is a simple lunch of purple carrots and their greens, kohlrabi, radish, and pears. The main focus was the chicken quinoa soup. I happened to have cooked quinoa, chicken, onions, and broth in my fridge so it was very easy to throw it all together and heat. Verdict on the kohlrabi is: yum! It’s a bit like a radish but not spicy and kind of like a broccoli in texture. We ate ours raw as I’m guessing we will do with the rest of them but you can cook them too.

During my search for what to make for breakfast this morning I came across a recipe for zucchini pancakes with chickpea flour. Dinner, dinner! We just received the biggest zucchini I have ever seen and this recipe called for quite a bit of zucchini so I figured we could put a dent in this mondo zucchini. Really, I think this zucchini was a Veggie Tales cast member it was so big. The recipe is a bit like zucchini fritters but without eggs and with some earthy Indian spices. It’s nice to have a pancake/fritter recipe without the eggs. And I didn’t miss the eggs at all.

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The pancakes are made super size as well. They each take up the whole skillet. Generally I like things like that but these pancakes were a little bit of work due to the batter consistency and size. Next time, if I can remember, I will try them in smaller sizes to see if they cook up a little easier. All in all, they were very good and despite my worries of how they would go over with the girls they liked them just fine as well. I kept thinking the pancakes deserved a sauce, possibly hummus or some sort of yogurt sauce, but in fact they were delicious as is.

Guess what else I did today? I made my birthday ice cream for tomorrow! I got a little preview before I put it in the freezer and mmmmm we are in for a treat! It wouldn’t really be fair to discuss it too much without having a picture to put with the description so you’ll have to wait to see what I did.

 

Double Grill

With the hot weather this week we planned a double grilling night. This means I make two dinners on the grill on one night. Since the charcoal is still pretty hot after grilling the first meal we’ve been creative in using up that additional heat. Sometimes we grill desserts, or toast nuts, make granola or simply make another meal. I opted for the later (and some extra) today.

Tonight’s dinner was grilled zucchini boats, broccolette,  and okra. The zucchini boats were stuffed with onions, garlic, tomatoes, corn, and white beans.

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I did grill some meat for later this week. It’s hard to think outside the box when grilling because meat just seems so obvious. So I grilled some bacon wrapped turkey breasts for Thursday.

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Also, I grilled granola bars (this recipe again). I figured I needed to make some to bring on our vacation and the grill is hot so why not. Must be careful when grilling things like this though, since it’s not as attended as in the oven the potential for burning is much higher.

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I tried a grain-free granola bar recipe from the Wheat Belly Cookbook this afternoon as well. They have nuts, seeds, dates, peanut butter, and milk in them. The turned out alright. I’m not in love with the taste but I think that can be altered next time to add some additional flavor and texture through add-ins. A good starting off point.

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Aside from cooking the girls and I went to the $1 summer movies and watched Despicable Me 2. They love this movie and have seen it tons of times. I was kind of hoping it would reduce some of the Frozen obsession temporarily. Not the case, though, immediately after the movie Lexi was singing Frozen. I tried!

More fun was in store for the girls as we participated in Ihop’s 56 cent pancakes for their 56th Anniversary. They each got a short stack of pancakes for lunch with a side of sausage. Their little tummies were extra full from eating movie popcorn and then pancakes but they were excited to get to do such special things on the same day.

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Now, I get the joy of going to the store to buy a whole bunch of bulk items. I always dread having to bring the girls since the bulk section is time-consuming but I also dislike going by myself. However, for their sake if I can make it work to go in the evening while they are in bed I do that because they would much rather be at home playing than at the store with me during the afternoon.

Summer Please Slow Down!

We had another busy day running errands between going to swim class and nap time. At this rate August is right around the corner! No!

I brought plenty of sustenance on our errand running because I had a feeling we’d be gone awhile. Regular things like carrots, broccoli, and an apple. I did pack a little something special. Yesterday, I made chocolate peanut butter no-bake cookies. You know the kind: oatmeal, peanut butter, chocolate, butter, sugar mixed together and dropped into cookies that set up in the fridge. Well, our no bake cookies did not contain the 2 cups of sugar required in other recipes but they were just as satisfying. I adapted this recipe to include melted chocolate chips and reduce the cocoa powder and sweetener.

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No refined sugar or butter here! These have oats, peanut butter, chia seeds, coconut oil, banana, cocoa powder, honey, and melted chocolate chips.

Thankfully, we had nowhere to go this afternoon (first time in a week!) and the sun was peeking out. I took that as my opportunity to do the grilling I didn’t get to on Monday. Grilled veggie kabobs!! The kabobs were green pepper, mushrooms, zucchini, and onions. I also grilled jicama fries and green beans. Dinner was assembled in a bowl to make kabob bowls on a bed of spinach. To add to the yum factor I topped with a cumin coriander lemon tahini sauce (Oh She Glows).

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Plant strong, baby!

Zucchsgetti

Oh yeah!

Even though we had spaghetti last week when I asked about this week’s menu Brian wanted zucchini spaghetti (zucchsgetti). Sure, why not? Since I make a meal plan every week we don’t tend to eat the same things so close together (ha, except for me and my salad) but there are always exceptions. Ooo, like when I want Mexican twice in one week. =)

Technically this is yellow squash and zucchini spaghetti since that is what I had on hand but I’m still calling it zucchsgetti. To make the meal different from last week I added smashed black beans and mushrooms to the sauce. I also pureed some cashews with the sauce to make it a creamy red sauce. Yum!

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The zucchgetti had vegan cheese sprinkled on top (almonds, nutritional yeast, and salt). Side salads, of course. I can never seem to make enough of the zucchini “noodles” for this meal. Every time I feel like I add a whole extra zucchini and still don’t end up with enough leftovers! Tonight, I used two zucchinis and a yellow squash for the four of us. Since the sauce was loaded with beans, cashews, and mushrooms it was very filling and made up for the fact that we didn’t have a lot of zucchini noodles. Winner, winner zucchsgetti dinner!

Meat Free Monday

We survived the meat filled camping trip! We actually had a very good time, ate way too much, had a few great campfires, got a little exercise, and surprised Brian with a few Father’s Day things (we totally got him his own Razor scooter so he can ride around with Izzy).

This week is going to be meat free all the way. That is until Saturday when we have our super charged Brian-Accomplished-His-Marathon and End of the School Year Celebration. We are giving the girls some Frozen paraphernalia including the movie on the actual last day of school, which is Wednesday. Since Brian has his marathon this weekend we didn’t want to sabotage his efforts with a celebration before so we will combine the two on Saturday. We have planned homemade pizzas (a favorite family night activity), a no bake pie (flavor to be unveiled on Saturday), and movies.

Naturally, following all the camping meat-eating and the celebration to follow this weekend we are vegging it up this week. Currently my dinner meal plan for the remainder of the week has the following: zucchsgetti, tofajitas (that’s tofu fajitas, for all you non-word combiners), roasted veggie bowls, and salad.

Tonight we had an interesting casserole. While browsing around looking for what I could do with lentils I came across this recipe for a Bean and Lentil Casserole. It’s really more of an idea than an actual recipe and would maybe not go over so well in other households. But in our house, veggies layered with bean mush is a total win. In fact, mush like this is one of Brian’s favorite things. He can put it in a bowl and use a giant spoon. Plus it has refried beans in it which is high up on the great-things-you-can-eat-with-a-big-spoon list. I loved it because of, well the veggies, beans, and lentils and because it was baked piping hot and warmed me right up. The girls loved it for all the same reasons. Beware, though, it might not seem like much but it is very filling!

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On the adult portions I topped with a vegan cheeze sauce. The sauce is made primarily of almond milk and nutritional yeast and while I love it, the girls really don’t. And now, I have extra for tofajitas later this week. Yay!

For lunch we had an extra baked potato saved from camping this weekend. I reheated the potato with butter and shoved beans and spinach inside and drizzled homemade “ranch” (vegannaise, plain yogurt, Johnny’s Garlic Seasoning, and Johnny’s Salt) over the top. It was hilarious to see Lexi grab the potato and eat it from her hand as if it was a sandwich. Either way, they devoured lunch quite happily.

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A lovely meat free Monday!