Monday, June 28, 2010

Weekly Menu

You know, one of these days I need to "clean up" my blog. However, I'm a sucker for requests ... so here it is, a sample of my weekly menu-

OK, not so weekly. Weekends are completely spontaneous (and often lazy), but I can give you a basic layout. Note: I stick to the KISS motto with breakfast and lunch. Toddlers in particular are more receptive to foods that Mom eats with them, so I eat what I prepare for him.

Breakfast:  hot cereal. Generally oatmeal made with milk and served with applesauce and sliced bananas. Occasionally brown rice farina, also made with milk; and served with a touch of honey or agave nectar, cinnamon, and raisins.

Lunch:  little E is a creature of habit. So, grilled cheese on whole-grain bread; served with sliced fruit and steamed baby carrots (he still struggles with swallowing raw carrots).

Dinner this week

Mon:  Chili bean soup (vegetarian) with corn bread (made with garbanzo bean flour – this was the best corn bread I’ve ever made!)

Tues:  Petite sirloin steaks sliced over green salad, and served with steamed corn on the cob and fruit salad.

Weds: Mexican gumbo. Essentially taking the leftover steak and slicing it over half a cup of brown rice blend; and then pouring a cup of the leftover soup over that combo. Top with shredded lettuce and pico de gallo. Voila! A one-bowl meal that isn’t exactly a leftover repeat.

Thurs:  Sautéed kielbasa w/ peppers and onions, served up with rice linguini tossed with green peas, fresh chopped tomatoes, and tuscan seasonings. Sounds funny (the rice pasta part), but it was actually quite good. We had company, so no leftovers.

Fri:  was an errands day, so I requested a rotisserie chicken. Tossed together steamed mixed veggies and the rice mix in a 1:1 ratio. Chopped up a simple fruit salad on the side (apples, bananas, and strawberries).

Sat:  shredded half the rotisserie chicken; sliced the corn kernels from a con in “strips”; and sautéed peppers and onions to serve together with corn tortillas, shredded lettuce, shredded cheese, pico de gallo, and homemade guacamole (mashed avocado, chopped cilantro, and lemon juice). Served with another simple fruit salad.

Sun:  folks took us out to lunch after church. Did the leftover smorgasbord for supper.

Essentially I only made two meals that were time-consuming in terms of prep. The rest came together easily, and by finding two or more meals to make from each selection of ingredients, I was able to keep costs down while still intriguing palates

Friday, June 18, 2010

My pantry ...

Lately I’ve been having people asking me 1) how my husband lost so much weight (the answer obviously is exercise and healthy eating); 2) my “secrets” (which they aren’t) to healthy cooking; and 3) what I typically serve for meals. Well, I guess first I need to share how I stock my kitchen … looking over this list retrospectively makes me realize how seriously spoiled we are in this nation – all these food options!

(Key: G-Grocery store, C-Costco, A-Amazon or Manufacturer-direct)

My fridge

Baby carrots –G (or Farmer’s Market)
Bell peppers and tomatoes –G (or garden, Farmer’s Market)
Avocados -G
In-season greens (enough for sandwiches and minimum 2 salads/week) –G (or garden, Farmer’s Market)
In-season fruits (enough for minimum 1.5 servings/person/day) –G (or Farmer’s Market)

Lowfat milk -G
Unsweetened almond or coconut milk (fresh, not shelf-stable!) -G
Yogurt (Greek or fruit-sweetened) -G
Block and shredded cheese –G, C
All-natural peanut butter -G, C
“Simply fruit” preserves –G, C
V8 Fusions –G, C
Butter -G
Dijon mustard -G
Ketchup (generally the lowest in sugar I can find) –G
Unsweetened or “All natural” applesauce –G, C
Lunch meats (generally the “higher end” lower sodium varieties) –C
100% whole white wheat bread
Sprouted grain bread

My freezer

Frozen veggies (generally green beans, peas, broccoli, and sweet corn) -C
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts -C
Boneless, skinless chicken thighs -C
Whole young chickens -C
Ground turkey -G
Extra-lean ground beef -G
Tri-tip or sirloin (generally whatever’s more affordable) –G,C
Turkey ham -G
Turkey franks -G
Turkey Kielbasa -G
Hardwood-smoked chicken sausage -G
Breaded fish fillets –G, C
Frozen blueberries -C
Frozen strawberries -C
Frozen blackberries –garden!!
Slow-churned ice cream (yes, we keep it around) –G

My Pantry

Dinner items:
Whole grain Quinoa -C
Quinoa Pasta -G
Brown rice -G
Low-sodium chicken stock -C
Crushed tomatoes -C
Tomato Paste -G
Beans: black, pinto, cannelini, garbanzo –G
Split peas
Olives -G
Garlic -G
Yellow Onions-G
Sweet potatoes -G

Breakfast grains:
Rolled Quick Oats (serve as oatmeal or blend for flour!) –G
Creamy brown rice farina
Fruit-juice sweetened corn or spelt flakes -G
Fruit-juice sweetened crunchy flax or crunchy brown rice -G
Fruit-juice sweetend millet rice flakes -G
Agave-sweetened granola -G
Note: I make my own granola bars and muesli with various combos of the bottom four ingredients!

Whole-bean coffee -C
Chai tea (bags, emphasis on decaff) -G
Peppermint tea -G
Hot chocolate (see, it’s not all good) -C

Extra-virgin Olive Oil-G
Red vinegar -G
Balsamic vinegar -G
Dry sherry (NOT cooking sherry!) -G
Mid-grade dry wines (generally cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay) –G
Low-sodium soy sauce
Worcestershire sauce
Tabasco sauce (preferably green chili)
Smoked sweet paprika -C
Basil –G (or garden fresh)
Oregano –G (or garden fresh)
Cilantro –G (or garden fresh)
Parsley –G (or garden fresh)
Fennel seed -G
Black pepper grinder -C
Sea salt grinder -C
Ground cinnamon -C
Ground nutmeg -G
Ground cloves -G
Ground ginger -G
Chili powder –G
Cumin -G
Turmeric -G
Saffron –G
Ranch dressing powder –G, C

Strained baby foods: if you don’t have time to make your own puree’s, these can be thrown into various sauces to boost nutritional values!

Brown rice flour (great for bread) -A
Spelt flour (lower-gluten all-purpose flour alternative) -A
Barley flour (lower gluten, wheat alternative, great for cakes and sweet breads) -A
Garbanzo flour (performs well in cookies or mixed with other flours for bread -A
Corn meal –G, A
Potato Starch Flour (works in place of corn starch and arrowroot, gluten-free and Kosher!) -A
Guar gum (or xanthan gum, adds elasticity to low-gluten or gluten-free flours) -A
Blackstrap molasses -A
Honey (hopefully moving to raw) –C, A
Agave nectar –C, A
Lower-glycemic, lower-cal, zero-aftertaste sugar blend (1 Xylitol: 1 Erythritol: 2 Sugar—I blend this myself) -A
Pure vanilla extract -C
Yeast -C
Kosher salt -G
Semisweet chocolate chips -C
Raisins -C
Dried Blueberries –C
Dried fruits (rotating)-C
Extra-light Olive Oil -C
Coconut milk (shelf-stable) -G
Evaporated nonfat milk -G
Pure cocoa powder (NOT Dutch-processed which contains alkali!) -G

What I religiously avoid:
Corn-based oils and sweeteners
Processed soy products
MSG and other preservatives
“White” starches (with the exception of the occasional russet potato)
Pork products (Let’s face it – there’s got to be a reason God banned pigs!)

Obviously other things pass through my kitchen … for instance, I use turnips as a lower-carb alternative to potatoes during stew-season, and I try to use lots of summer squash in-season. I’m currently trying a frozen brown, red, and wild rice mix—just throw a cup into your soup 5 mins prior to serving! The main point is that I attempt to keep is simple with an emphasis on single-ingredient items that I combine myself!

So, what do I do with all this? Typical dinner entrees include turkey-quinoa meatloaf (it really is good!); chicken and sausage paella; split pea soup with soda bread; chili with corn bread; steak fajitas or quesadillas; spaghetti; or mac-n-cheese. Rotisserie chickens frequently serve for our “fast food.”

Bon appetite!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Here's another tasty recipe ...

So, I decided to modify yet another "Mrs. Fields" cookie for the love of my oatmeal-raisin loving husband. 

Oatmeal Raisin Chews

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

First, combine in medium bowl:
2 1/4 C Flour (all-purpose or whole wheat pastry; I use gluten-free)
1/2 T Baking Soda
1/2 t Salt
1 t Cinnamon
1 1/2 C  Whole-grain oats (quick or old fashioned, but do NOT use instant)
1 1/2 C  Raisins (8 oz)
1/2 C  Walnuts (3 oz); chopped (optional)
Then, cream together in large bowl:
1/2 C  Dark brown sugar (I use coconut palm sugar)
1/2 C  Sugar (I use Xyletol)
1/2 C  Butter; softened
Add and mix on high about 30 seconds:
1/2 C Honey
1/2 C unsweetened applesauce (or 2 4 oz jars strained baby carrots or squash) 
1 t Vanilla extract
2 lg Eggs
Add dry ingredients and mix on low just until fully moistened, scraping sides as necessary.
Note: you may want to chill the dough about 30 mins or until more mangeable--it's stickier and runnier than traditional dough.
Place in rounded tablespoons on lightly oiled cookie sheet.  Bake about 17-18 mins; remove immediately to wire racks to cool.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Beautiful Minds ... and those who treat them

I'm not normally one to rant and typically have issues with those who do (publicly).  However, I've really been struggling on how to address my son further.  We've been in a "frustrated" state for three months now, waiting for his name to come up in a very long list.
I guess I should take comfort from the fact that he didn't show "red flags" in his early assessments.  Even at his two year check-up when I asked about his speech, the doc just responded that he seemed a tad quiet but he wouldn't worry until he was three.  Oh, how I wish I had pressed harder!

Now I feel trapped between the proverbial rock and hard place.  His pediatrician only wants him assessed for speech.  I guess I should backtrack ...

Months ago, I had a conversation with my sister-in-law about little E's speech delay.  As I described to her his paradox of symptoms, she mentioned how similar he sounded to the son of a friend of hers who had been recently diagnosed with a sensory integration disorder (which in turn was treated with a diet change).  Somehow, the dietary/sensory issues were the culprits behind this child's delayed speech!  So, I mentioned this to my son's pediatrician.  She hedged and determined that he should be assessed for speech delay only, stating that if there was more to his delay that the pathologist would pick up on it and refer him further.  She wrote up a prescription for his referral to the adjacent hospital to our clinic, and he's been on the waiting list ever since.  That was in March.

Now, my degree is in anthropology.  I took psychology, and I know we're working with a relatively short window here.  So, I started to fret in confidence with a friend (who happens to have an amazing special-needs son).  She jumped to my aid to the best of her ability, almost overwhelming me with resources (God bless her!) and sharing my situation with her son's occupational therapist (all the while encouraging me to contact her myself).  I got in touch with the OT, who struggled to find a solution for our situation.  Another hospital has a shorter waiting list, but we're still looking at six months, which is presumably when we'll be looking at moving again.  Nuts.  Or, I could go with a smaller clinic, but there's a catch: my son needs a prescription for assessment by an occupational therapist--the very thing his ped is avoiding.

Now here's where it gets either infuriating or maddeningly funny:  I took one of those on-line autism questionnaires (my son was born right at the height of autism awareness, so of course with his delayed speech this has always been one of my nagging fears, despite assurances from friends who work with special needs children that he is in NO way autistic).  Although the OT is not licensed to diagnose, I filled it out and sent it to her just so she could get a clearer feel for what my son and I were working through.  Her tentative assessment?  You guessed it:  sensory integration disorder.  (This could also explain his extreme temper.)  She advised I secure a prescription for assessment by an OT.

So now I find myself at an impasse.  I trust our pediatrician.  She's been great with Wyn (E's baby sister).  I know there's probably a reason she's avoiding an initial assessment by an OT -- perhaps she's seen too many kids go through unnecessary tests, and subsequently been over-diagnosed and over-medicated.  So, do I call her office and press for a prescription for assessment so I can take him to another clinic (or at least get him on a shorter waiting list)?  What if she continues to hedge?  I don't really want to change docs (especially if the next one has the same school of thought).  Or, do I just look for an independent speech pathologist and pray that either this person can refer him over or that his name moves up in the waiting list at the hospital?

On a brighter note, he abruptly began talking more during potty training (blog on that to follow).  Once again, he proved to us that he quite capable of doing anything he puts his mind to ... which is both encouraging and infuriating all at once!  Ah, the joys of parenthood ...