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Healthy Choices

3 Oct

We”ll just skip the “where have you been” and the “why haven’t you been posting” and other such whining and just acknowledge that sometimes I don’t feel like writing.  After my determination to write one post a day for a month, which I thought would kick start me into a better habit, I realized that being forced into writing only produces sloppy and boring work.  Besides, I write this blog to remember events, and update a few followers, and give an outlet to my creativity.  So, this is the last time I will mention a gap between posts.  Let’s continue…

Last night we were invited to a house-warming party at some friends’ house.  By the time I got all the details, and looked through my cupboards, the only thing I could think of to bring was a chocolate zucchini cake.*

While we were there, someone commented on the cake, and how moist it was etc.   And I replied that it was the zucchini that made it so moist.  He looked at me a little funny, and replied that he didn’t even realize that there was zucchini in there.  And then he asked me if I did it as a way to sneak in vegetables into my kids’ diet.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I have no qualms about sneaking veggies or anything else into other foods, but I also don’t shy away from just, you know, giving them those foods too.  Kids will never learn that they like a certain food, if they only eat it unknowingly.

I like to drink smoothies, and lately I have been throwing a handful of spinach in with the other fruits.  Bronwyn looked at hers one day and asked me, very suspiciously, if there was SPINACH in her smoothie.  I mustered up all my courage, and boldly declared that there was.  She looked thoughtful for a minute, then announced, “I think you have found a way I like spinach”.

So, if I am not throwing random vegetables into sugary treats because I can’t get my kids to eat them otherwise, then why bother?

I just find that adding extra ingredients doesn’t alter the taste or texture (negatively anyway) and adds extra fiber, nutrients, and variety that would be missing otherwise.  So, I guess my question is, why wouldn’t you add vegetables to your baked goods?

Here are my favourite ways to “sneak” veggies into foods:

Add pureed pumpkin, beets, squash, avocado, apples, mangoes etc to a boxed cake mix.  Half the other ingredients.  Bake as directed.  I would advise using chocolate for most of those as it disguises the colour and flavour perfectly.

You can substitute plain unsweetened applesauce for cooking oil in baking.

Automatically use half the amount of sugar called for in a recipe.  I bet you won’t even notice.

Use spelt flour instead of all purpose.  Except for a slightly nutty flavour, you will not notice.

Go ahead.  Give it a try.  And let me know how it goes!

* Chocolate Zucchini Cake

1/2 C butter, softened (or marg)
1 3/4 C sugar
2 eggs
1/2 C cooking oil (feel free to sub equal parts applesauce instead)
1/2 C sour milk (or 1 T vinegar plus milk to equal 1/2 C)
1 t vanilla
2 C grated zucchini with peel (but not seeds)
2 1/2 C flour (I used spelt)
1/3 C cocoa pwd
1 t baking soda
1/2 t baking pwd
1/2 t cinnamon (do not omit!)
1/2 t salt

3/4 C semi-sweet chocolate chips

Cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs. Mix in oil, sour milk, vanilla and zucchini.

Mix dry ingredients (not choc chips). Add to wet. Stir to moisten. Spread in a greased 9×13 pan

Sprinkle with chocolate chips. Bake at 350 for 35 min or until done.




18 Mar

Tonight we decided to use up some leftovers to make supper.  We are still at the Whitman’s, and to make things easier, I suggested we make my favourite “leftovers” recipe.  Ingredients?  Stovetop stuffing (cornbread), leftover meat, leftover vegetables, milk, cheese, and eggs.

“Do you have the recipe?” asks Nicole.

“Check the back of the box.”

We mix everything together, place it in the oven, and take the kids to the pond.  We see two ducks, zero swans, one earthworm, and a whole lot of dirt.

When we return, supper is ready and so are the kids.  Holly inhales her first plate and asks for seconds.  Claire eats with no complaints.  Anna declares she doesn’t know what she likes… “what do I like?!”  Josselyn eats her plate of ham, broccoli and peaches.  And Bronwyn stalls.  Like usual.  Everyone was almost finished when she finally put a piece in her mouth:

“This is AMAZING!  Mom, you have to make this at home!”

“I have made this at home.”

“Nicole, can you give my mom this recipe, she needs to make this for us at our house.”


“Nicole, maybe you could email it to her so she doesn’t leave without it, could you do that?  Because this is so delicious that I ate the whole thing and maybe if she made food like this at home I would eat more often.”


Shrove Tuesday

8 Mar

Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday (and the first day of Lent).  It is also called Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday.  All these names come from essentially the same practice of using up all your perishable and luxury ingredients (like milk, eggs, and oil) before you were required to abstain from them for the 40 days of Lent.  Pancakes became a popular choice of food to eat because it used all those things in one go.

As one member of our Bible Study this morning pointed out though, you could always make an omelette!

Often this last day of feasting would turn into a celebration or “carnival” which is where Mardi Gras came from, as well as similar festivals throughout the world.

Even if you don’t observe Lent, you can still indulge in some pancakes today, and I am here to reveal my totally awesome, best-ever, protein-packed pancakes.  You will never go back to boxed mixes again.

Side note:  I bought a box of gluten-free pancake mix especially for today and spruced it up with blueberries.  They were edible, but not great.  When I asked Bruce about them though, he pronounced them “not bad”!  I think I am so spoiled with my own pancake recipe that I forgot what regular pancakes taste like!

Julie’s Pancakes*

In a blender, combine:

5 eggs

1 C cottage cheese

1/2 C flour (whole wheat or white)

2 T oil

2 T milk

Blend until smooth and pour onto a heated griddle or frying pan.  Flip when bubbles form.  They will be slightly runny and resemble a thick crepe.


Notes:  Even if you are using a non-stick pan, spray cooking spray over the surface the first time to prevent sticking.  Will yield around a dozen regular sized pancakes.  The extra batter can be refrigerated for 1-2 days and re-blended before use.  If you plan to do this though, I don’t suggest using the whole wheat flour as it gets gelatinous when it sits for too long.

* Original, unmodified recipe can be found in the cookbook, Company’s Coming: Breakfast and Brunch

Cookie Connoiseur

7 Mar

Ok, I have to say it:  MEN!

Ladies, are you with me?

*I apologize in advance to any men who are reading this (it has come to my attention, that although I have a faithful readership, this rarely includes husbands, so I am not really worried about alienating anyone).*

Anyway, Bruce is CRAZY!

Anybody following my random Facebook postings today might have noticed that I was going to attempt to make gluten-free, dairy-free chocolate chip cookies.  I used this recipe (replacing the almond flour with rice flour, the agave syrup with brown sugar, and the grapeseed oil with vegan margarine, and adding 1 c almond milk because the texture was too crumbly).  You might reason, that since I took the time to write all that, I would now proceed to tell you how great they were!

Not quite.

The batter was delicious, the cookies not so much.

It tasted… healthy.  Even though it wasn’t.

And when they finished baking, they crumbled.  Not the texture you are looking for in a cookie for a 21 month old.

On a side note, I think I will try again with an egg, and see how that works out.  Also, I might try the almond flour, as I heard rice flour tends to crumble in baking.  This learning curve is a steep one, friends.

So back to MEN!

After devouring a delicious stew (mostly meat) Bruce flips a cookie off the tray and pops it in his mouth.  He chews for a bit and pops a second.  Having not tried the finished product yet, I calmly ask, “how are they?”

“Well, I ate two”.



So, does that mean you like them, or…. not?

I mean, normally, Bruce would eat half a dozen chocolate chip cookies in one sitting.  Chocolate chip is his favourite cookie (it should be everyone’s, but that is just my opinion), and I don’t make them enough (he says).  His 40 year old waistline will thank me…

But, if they weren’t that good, why did he eat TWO of them?!?!

NB  Normally I let Bruce read any post that is going to be about him before I publish it.  But tonight he has gone to “meat-fest”.  For those of you who are not men, and don’t have a husband, brother, son etc that partakes in this sort of event, it is a get-together that includes food made of meat.  Vegetables are not allowed.  I have been told that onions used for seasoning are tolerated… barely.